5 Significant Influences

My last post on 5 significant events had me further reflecting this week.  What 5 significant events or people have influenced me as an educator?  How neat would it be to do this in a room full of educators and see what commonalities come out?  What would that say about where we are in education?

Here are mine:

1. My husband.

He’s a great influence in helping me understand the kids in my class that just didn’t want to be there.  Peter didn’t like everything about school. He’s a smart and opinionated guy who loves to read and is a model life-long learner.  For example, he has built his own motorcycle, learned to play the bagpipes, and is now learning about beekeeping.  He is a person who talks the talk and walks the walk by backing up what he says with action.  He’s a critical thinker with an extremely well developed BS meter.  Sometimes I fall for the BS and he’s good at calling me out on it!  Next, he would like to learn French which is music to this French teacher’s ears…

Knowing Peter makes me think about how to reach kids like he was.  How can you engage them and make school better for them?

2. (Almost failing) an exam and almost not getting into teacher’s college.

I went to the University of Ottawa for teacher’s college.  I was in the French First Language program and found out when I got there that I had only passed the French entrance exam by a half a point with 8.5 out of 16.  This came as a shock to this French Literature graduate.  Because I didn’t get 13 out of 16, I was assigned an extra grammar course and scared out of my wits.  If I didn’t pass the same exam twice with 13 out of 16, they made it clear that I would not get my degree.  I looked around my classroom and I was the most anglophone.  If the French people from Quebec sitting around me couldn’t pass, how would I?  The exam was tough – 40 blanks in sentences testing all of the toughest French grammar exception rules.  Plus a 400 hundred word essay.  Four points out of sixteen were just having an essay between 390 and 410 words.  So instead of checking your actual grammar, you mostly just counted words!  I think I cried for three weeks.  Then I got down to work.  I only made French friends, went to the French bars (hard work indeed), hired a tutor, read French books (Harry Potter in French!), listened to French tv etc.  And I did it… passed both exams!

This experience makes me think about fair assessments and the lessons I learned from almost failing.  I have definitely had other failures that have taught me so much.  So, the whole action-oriented approach and goals of FSL learners to feel confident and to be able to use the language in real life strikes a chord with me.

3.  Great teachers that I had.

Mr. Nobes, Mrs. Wharton, M. Desjardins, Mme Beauchesne, Mr. Schofield, just to name a few.  I was lucky to have teachers that had high expectations but that were also caring.  They cared enough to ask me about my University plans, spending extra time making sure I understood fully, had great senses of humour and made learning fun and engaging.  They were my coaches and lead extra curricular activities too.

If I even emulate some of these teachers even a little bit, I’m in a good place.  I hope someone else would name me in a similar list one day.  They taught me so much but also that a lot of learning happens beyond the classroom too.

4.  My first jobs.

I worked at Baskin Robbins from the age of 15 until I was 21.  Aside from really strong scooping arm, I learned about customer service.  I learned to deal with a wide range of people, often that you are meeting for the first time.  I learned how to communicate and work with others.  I learned how to deal with complaints, acknowledge a mistake and apologize (even when you know you are not wrong).  I learned how to deliver bad news!  Let me just tell you that people do NOT like hearing you are out of maple walnut and NO… butter pecan is not the same thing!  I got to the point where I could tell if someone was a Mint Chocolate Chip, Bubble Gum, Daiquiri Ice or Tiger Tail regular.  But I digress…

I also volunteered in the “Child Life” department at London Health Sciences.  Here I learned that even very sick children just want to play and feel “normal” for a bit.  I had to learn to put my feelings aside and just focus on making some time fun for the children that I worked with.  I had to quickly develop a rapport with them and see past their illness.

Aside from learning that we all have different tastes, I learned how to deal with people and how to work fairly with others.  I learned that people want to be treated with respect and kindness.  I learned that smiling can cheer another person up.  I learned to see past a diagnosis.  All of these skills have helped me deal with parents and students.  I learned some soft skills here.

5.  Great principals.

Several administrators have helped me navigate and have given me good advice.  I’m lucky – I have worked for wonderful administrators that have taught me to make decisions that are based on the best interests of the students, have supported me when making difficult phone calls or dealing with difficult people and have encouraged me to make good career decisions even if it meant I needed to move on to a new opportunity.  I have been fortunate to work in many positive school cultures where both teachers and students thrive.


I could probably list a whole bunch more and maybe some are just too personal to share on this blog.

And so I challenge you.  Please send me your blog with the 5 events or people that have influenced you as an educator.

I would love to read it.

4 Responses

  1. Lisa Noble at |

    thanks so much for this. I needed it this morning, and I shall try and accept your challenge (maybe this weekend, when the marking stack is hopefully smaller).

    So much of what you wrote resonated with me. I wrote that exam at Ottawa, too! Don’t know what I scored, ’cause I didn’t get in :), but I did do my translation degree at Ottawa, and was told by a prof that they accepted me by the skin of my teeth, because my French was pretty close to the line, but my English writing was of very high quality (and I’d need both). We won’t talk about the number of times I failed my driver’s license before eventually succeeding (made me a way better driver!)

    And we are sisters in ice cream as well! 4 summers at the Sauble Beach Dairy Queen (including during the stretch, little-known, when DQ decided to try serving hard ice cream as well as soft – I know what you mean about those scooping muscles).

    This was a lovely piece, Jen, and it really made me think – I also very much appreciated the fact that you started with your spouse. Mine is my rock, and I learn a ton from him.

  2. Kevin George at |

    1. Nanny Whyatt ( My mother’s mother – a woman of Great faith and determination.)
    2. Bob George (My Dad – simply the greatest man I ever knew – he gave his complete self to his family)
    3. Vivian George (My Mother – She is her mother’s daughter. No one will ever know how hard she worked raising a large family)
    4. Catherinanne George ( My Wife — she always looks for the best in another human being – even when they may be a source of great hurt to her. Her faith is a gift to me)
    5 John Marsh ( My Supervisory Priest when I was a student 20 years ago. He has become my mentor, my friend, and a strong support)

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