Conversations on Education // 2


At the expense of being right it is always best to be fair. This maze of education has many turns and students come into our lives for a relatively short period of time. In that time, the impact of fairness can literally transform the student from sad to happy, cynic to believers and underachiever to a hard-working young person. I was "that student" that left home at sixteen, many years ago. Industrious by nature and a fighter by choice as well as necessity, I needed to stand up for myself at a younger age than conceivable. Kicked out of the house by an alcoholic father and on my own, I went to a gentleman who owned an apartment complex and for whom I had been cleaning hallways and empty apartments as a summer job."Do you think, if I worked very hard, that you could sublet an apartment to me while I finish high school?" I inquired. His answer was a resounding yes. 

I moved into nice two bedroom apartment, with little furniture, no food and an ambition to get the job done. Life had NEVER been fair! Fortunately, the teachers at school became my surrogate parents. There was little Mr. West, my high school biology teacher. Each day I heard, "How's my girl?" and knew he watched out to make sure my questions were answered. Mr. Goble was the Social Studies teacher who gave consistent kindness, his winning a smile and a quiet assurance that life would become better. My basketball coach, Mr. Brian Clarke, worked incredibly hard to check in, coach me and finally in grade twelve help me to obtain a basketball scholarship for Mount Royal University. With their constant support and my own ambition, I won the top academic student award for grade twelve. Although hatred for my dad still deeply affected me from time to time, I had seen a speck of light in a very dark tunnel. 

At home the word "fair" had not existed. At school though, I was on equal footing with my classmates and this awareness freed me to excel. Since then, I attended university to follow in those teachers' footsteps and have been teaching "that age" of student since 1979. It is still my purpose in the short time that a student is in my class, or on a team I coach, to exhibit fairness and trust even if it means I must retreat from being right, from 'academic' protocol or take that extra time to try to understand what I might never fully know about a student's struggle. A word, a smile, an acknowledgement, an extra chance, a re-write, a listening ear, or any gesture that lets each student know that they will be treated with dignity and fairness speaks louder, much louder than any other thing you will ever teach them. 

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