“The important thing is no child is a number in this school and I think this personal contact is an important part of a rural school that is difficult to obtain in an urban area.”
October 30, 2014
I am not saying that the school principal is making an incorrect statement about the small school that he led.
It is just reminding me that when I went to an elementary school in a community with a tiny population, I often felt that I was very alone, very disconnected from everyone else. I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling in this atmosphere. It was when I went on to schools with bigger populations that I opened up and socialized much more.
Still, I understand a bit about what it means to hail from the huge city of London, England to reside on the Prairies where there is often lots of breathing room between people. The first time I visited London, I arrived at one of its core underground stations during rush hour. Such a throng of people were pushing in different directions in order to board the trains on time that I suddenly had to stop, take a deep breath and collect my thoughts (much to the chagrin of those streaming around me). I then swallowed my fear and plunged in to the cosmopolitan world of London town.
Now, back to the swirling winds of Saskatchewan:
October 5, 1982
For teacher: Subway ends in Mossbank
by Tanya Lester
Graham Rees, Mossbank School principal, started his 27 year association with the Assiniboia School Division when he read a newspaper advertisement for teachers in Saskatchewan while riding the London, England subway.
Hailing from Wales, Mr.Rees attended teachers college in that country and taught school for seven years in Dagenham, a city east of London, well known for making Britain’s Ford cars.
On the day Mr. Rees saw the ad for teachers in Saskatchewan, he had already been offered a job in Africa and was on his way to find out about a teaching position in Australia. He decided to come to Saskatchewan instead because he had always wanted to see Canada. At the time, The British School Broadcast had a film out on Western Canada which highlighted the beautiful prairies. Mr. Rees claims he has never regreted his decision to move here.
But Mr. Rees and his wife, Gaynor, did not have it easy when they first moved to the Prairies. He said the teacherage they lived in at Mitchellton was similar to the one shown in the Canadian film, Why Shoot the Teacher. There was no power and life could have been very rough for the couple if it had not been for all their kind neighbours.
Although, at $3000 per year, Mr. Rees’ salary was twice what it would have been in Britain at the time, it was his new friends who helped ensure his stay in Canada.
“The main reason that we stayed in Canada was that the people in Mitchellton were extremely kind to us,” Mr. Rees said. “We were invited to their houses. We were often invited out for supper. We had an active home and school organization at that time and whenever we asked for help with school projects, they responded most favourably. They would do anything for us.”
Having opened the present Mossbank School in 1962, Mr. Rees knows all the students who have since entered and left its doors. His own children, Megan and Huw, have gone through the Mossbank School system and are now training to be doctors at the University of Saskatchewan.
Mr. Rees has nothing but praise for the rural education system. “I really like this school,” he said. “The reason for this is because I can know every student in the school and I know the parents of most of the students. I have few illusions about the kinds of social lives led by the students because my own children went through the system. The important thing is no child is a number in this school and I think this personal contact is an important part of a rural school that is difficult to obtain in an urban area.”
Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Rees have upgraded their own education by driving back and forth to Regina where they have taken many university courses. Two years ago, Mrs. Rees graduated from the College of Education as a distinguished student. She teachers Senior English at Mossbank.
Mr. Rees now has Bachelor of Arts and Education degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and a Masters in Education from the University of Regina. Besides being principal, he teaches mathematics and computers.
This is the second year the school has offered computer courses. Mr. Rees feels it is important for people to become familiar with how computers work. “We should have an understanding of the impact of computers on society if only in the area of personal privacy,” Mr. Rees said. “You can’t write a cheque, mail a letter, or use the telephone without having computers involved. Movies and science fiction give people strange ideas about computers. It’s called the Frankenstein complex.”
Mr. Rees believes anyone pondering the idea of becoming a teacher should do some serious thinking.
“A person who goes into teaching must analyze their motives,” he said. “They shouldn’t go into teaching by default. He or she must have some worthwhile knowledge or skill. A teacher must like young peole. They must have a sense of humour. That person should talk to teachers and find out what the job entails.”
Mr. Rees says there are still jobs available for teachers if they are willing to go somewhere else than their hometowns to work. According to him, there are jobs in northern Canada, one the national defense bases in Europe and with Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO). He speaks from his own experiences because he has also taught in the isolated areas of northern Manitoba and Quebec.
“Teaching areas in which there are still some shortages are in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science. Mr. Rees says there are shortages in these areas because young people specializing in these skills are often siphoned by industry.
Mr. Rees says people should not go into teaching if they want to make big money but there are several other rewards in this career.
To read the first posts in this blog, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the author and title name — to read the first few pages and buy it — at amazon.com
Tanya Lester’s other books are Dreams & Tricksters, Women Rights/Writes, and Friends I Never Knew. These books can be found in some library systems and at the Provincial Library of Manitoba.