This past winter, I interviewed my father on five different occasions, with each interview taking place at St. Pete Beach, Florida. My intention was to learn more about the moments he felt were significant to him in his work in education. I also wanted to share his work with others, and of course learn more about my father — or “pape” as my sister (view and purchase her captivating photography here) and I call him.
For the most recent iTDi blog issue, Outside Influences, I shared part of an interview I did with my father in, An Outside Influence from Within My Family. However, here on Throwing Back Tokens, I will share shorter sections from those interviews throughout the next few months.
I want to thank my father for being so open with me, and for allowing me to share his story here. It is a sweet privilege.
And here is where the timeline begins.
Morning seashell hunting at St. Pete Beach, Florida
Me: Why did you enter the field of education, and when was that?
Guy: I started teaching a swimming course when I was 16 years old. That was really my first experience in education. And then when I finished college* I had an offer to work in a bank, but it didn’t pay my student loans, so at the last minute (August 15 and the university semester started in September), I decided to get my Bachelor of Education at Acadia.
*This is what we would consider as the final year in high school now. During his teenage years, my father studied at what is now known as Universite St. Anne. Although the community was francophone Acadian, this was the only school in the area where the content and instructions were in French.
Then I taught for two years at the Clare District High School. The formal classroom was never my style. I had always wanted to teach Physical Education (PE). My parents discouraged me because I had a bad back — two slipped discs at 16 or 17 years old. The discs came back into place, but I had a weak back. And so if I took a major in PE, I wouldn’t be able to teach in a regular classroom.
Then after two years at the high school, I decided to go to Acadia to take a Bachelor of Recreation.
Me: Let’s back up here. So you you had been in a regular class, and you taught…?
Guy: …Social Studies, History (what they called back then, History and Geography). We taught Health with a book from 1948, and I was teaching in the 70s. Not one of the profs felt it was right, but because we were in a school that was predominantly Catholic, there were certain things about sexuality you couldn’t talk about with students. There was little about health like we know about it today — like how to eat; how to exercise; how to strengthen yourself and be in better health.
Me: Was that one of the reasons you didn’t want to keep going in the classroom?
Guy: That was one of the reasons. When I was a student in school, I didn’t really like going to school, so teaching in the classroom didn’t interest me greatly. But I loved working with people: with young people. I had always worked with kids in my swimming courses and in clubs for kids.
Me: So you wanted to work in PE because it was more in line with your beliefs; it was more active and more of what you had already done in your life. Then you went to Acadia to take your Bachelor of Recreation…
Guy: …and Physical Education at that time. It was a new program that started. At that time it was strange because they were talking about a “4 day work week”. Everyone was going to have a lot of free time for recreation so it was going to be a growing field. 35 years later, it’s not a 4 day work week but more of a 7 day week.
They wanted to focus on activities for the community, while now it’s about health and staying fit: to keep the mind fit and the body fit. Recreation is an integral part of almost every community. I was the first recreation director in Clare. It was a newly created position, but I only stayed a year (My father describes a controversial moment that occurs that leads to him being let go. The community was upset with this decision because they wanted the position to remain in the community and wanted my father to keep the position. Terms weren’t met and so…)
… I returned to teaching. There was position that opened up to teach PE from grade 3 to grade 7 (8 to 12 years old). I taught PE for 5 to 6 years in elementary school.
Me: I remember because I was really hoping that you would be my teacher. (I was a huge PE fanatic as a kid, and the idea of my dad being my PE teacher was big dream. When I got to grade 3, however, he began his career as an elected member of the Nova Scotia legislature.)
What was one of your most memorable moments teaching PE?
Guy: One of my greatest accomplishments was convincing the school board to teach swimming to all elementary students for 10 weeks instead of the regular PE classes. There were many drownings at that time. Every summer there was a young person who drowned. The predominant industry in Clare was fishing. Everyone spent time around wharves and boats, so for me it was important for kids to learn how to swim. So I was able to convince the school board on the basis that if the kids could take the basics, they would be safer citizens.
Me: What were the basics?
Guy: Some kids could swim, but some kids had never seen a pool and would never see one because their parents couldn’t afford to bring them to the pool at Universite St. Anne. Like this, transportation was provided for the students and the “foyer ecole” (home and school association) raised money to pay for the buses and the school board approved. This way everyone learned artificial respiration and other basic life saving skills, basic swimming skills…if they fell in the water, they learned how to put on a life jacket and save themselves.
Looking back, that was probably one my best achievements at the elementary level.
Part 2 of this interview will come out next weekend. Thank you for reading!