I’m in the middle of the connected learning that is happening as part of #clmooc this year and Joe Dillon tagged me in the Google Plus community as part of his #celebrateteachers audio recording about his favourite teacher. The challenge is to make something about your favourite teacher. Teachers are wonderful people and the great experiences I’ve had learning and being inspired by teachers makes me feel honoured to call myself one. I can without hesitation say that my favourite teacher is Miss Croft in grade 3 at Smythe Street School, in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I can vividly remember the moment that set me on the path to be creative and to be a teacher as well.
It was morning in the classroom and a guest was coming in so Miss Croft wanted the classroom to have some art around it. So she asked me if I would paint a picture of a rocket (she remembered that I loved all things related to space and astronauts and science stuff) to put up on the wall. She gave me a big sheet of paper and some paint and I eagerly painted the Apollo 11 rocket and the orange gantry beside it. I felt pure joy being able to make something in the unstructured time before class started. I don’t remember the guest, but I do remember how I felt and later realized how important it was to know and remember what learners love and how encouraging them makes a big difference.
Miss Croft was a great teacher and brought all sorts of guests in to the classroom to help us learn. We did so many projects and made so many things. Lots of stuff that we did probably wouldn’t happen today in the same way because of safety and insurance concerns. We hand-dipped bees wax candles that we put in antique holders on a Christmas tree (we didn’t light the candles on the tree). We also used bees wax and paint brushes and cloth and dye to do batik. The school had a kiln and we did pottery and made mugs and bowls.
There was always a sense of adventure and discovery in the classroom with interesting people to meet and things to do. One of the guests was Peter Paul who told us about the Maliseet people and powerfully influenced my ideas about First Nations people and connections to the land. Later when I joined the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-operative and filmmaking became my passion, I saw the first film made at the coop was about Peter Paul and it was him telling stories and making a birch bark canoe. So many connections forward and back in time between people and places for me can go back to that school.
Another remarkable guest I remember was Alden Nowlan, a writer and poet who was writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick from 1968 until 1983. A big man with a large beard and a booming voice, he spoke a bit and passionately read poems. He cried a few times as well which made our class a bit uncomfortable, but he also laughed. He read his poem The Bull Moose (which was when he cried) and signed autographs afterwards and drew a picture of himself as a moose for me. Experiences like that helped me fall in love with meeting people and asking questions. I often think of how lucky we are to be able to provide the opportunity for someone to share things they care about with our learners. I’m so glad that I had Miss Croft as a teacher.