In my last post I mentioned how Al Purdy‘s poem The Country North of Belleville reminds me of my Grade 4 teacher. To every pupil in our class she handed out a map of long, narrow Hastings County with all the townships and towns marked on it, and she insisted that we memorize the names of the townships in geographical order, though I forget whether it was north to south or south to north. (Maybe both.) And such great names! (As Al Purdy recognized.) Faraday and Grimsthorpe and Hungerford and Dungannon, Elzevir, Wollaston, Tudor and Cashel …
I wonder if Grade 4 kids these days memorize the names of the townships in the county where they live, or the boroughs of their city. In geographical order.
That teacher was one of the best I ever had. She is at the far left in the back row of the photo above, and her name was Mrs. Carman. She was reported to be very strict, and I remember having misgivings in the weeks and then days leading up to Grade 4. But while she was certainly no-nonsense, she was kind-hearted and she had a way with kids. In her class, you learned stuff, that’s for sure.
The school was Madoc Township Public School, which I’ve mentioned before. I started there in September 1966, only five years after it opened as a central school to replace all the small one-room schoolhouses scattered throughout Madoc Township and beyond. The staff photo above was taken in my first year (Grade 1; no kindergarten then).
Those women were extraordinary teachers, every one of them, and Madoc Township was a very fine school. Legendary founding principal Florence McCoy, who had immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland as a single young woman many years previously, was respected and loved by everyone. She expected and demanded that we all do our best. I have the fondest memories of my days there, and of those teachers.
By the looks of things – Raymond and I, along with my brother John and my sister, Melanie, attended the school’s 50th-anniversary celebrations this past Thanksgiving (which didn’t make me feel old at all) – it still is a very fine school. But those eight women were the ones who set the standard.