More Lingering Lessons From Grade 4

by Helene Louise  

As I wrote in September, I loved my grade 4 teacher. She didn’t smile much and she was very stern but I thought she was wonderful. Back then, in the late seventies, her stories about “the good old days” included anecdotes about how it had been when she had gone to school in a one-room school house. I was completely fascinated by the idea that the person standing right in front of me could have actually gone to school like a “pioneer girl”.

We all thought it sounded so terribly old-fashioned and that the kids back then, or “children” as she insisted on calling them, couldn’t possibly have learned as much as we were learning in what clearly seemed like such modern times. After all, they hadn’t had all of the fancy stuff that we had—cassette tapes for listening to music, walkie-talkies for talking to a friend, antenna TVs for watching our favourite shows and digital wrist watches for keeping track of time so we didn’t miss our show the only day of the week it was on.

To our surprise, however, our teacher believed that the kids back then might have actually been learning faster than we were. She said that because all the grades had been together in the same room, the younger kids learned the more advanced concepts along with the older ones by just being in the same room with them. Nothing fancy, just looking, listening and being part of what was going on around them.

Sometimes I wonder if with the ubiquitous presence of technology in our lives, we sometimes forget that there are also simple ways of learning and doing things. I’d be absolutely lost without my iPhone. It has replaced almost everything…the cassette tapes for listening to music, the walkie-talkie for staying in touch with a friend, the antenna TV for watching my favourite show and my watch for keeping track of time, even though I can now essentially watch my favourite show any time and place I like, day or night.

However, I still appreciate the inherent value in the “older ways” of doing things. And, I regularly seek out opportunities to hear live music, talk to a friend in person, go for a walk rather than watching yet another episode of something I find entertaining and while out, not worrying too much about the time.  And, looking back on about a decade and a half of helping my daughter with her rehabilitation after a childhood stroke, I’d say that playing with her older sister in the park when she was younger, seeing other kids swimming, skipping or doing anything at all that she hadn’t yet learned, has often been equally effective as anything I’ve tried to do to help her—learning and inspiration can still come from the simplest of sources.

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