Having been invited to write this blog for the Ontario Home Economics Association, I thought I’d start by sharing a sample of fond memories of my 30.5 years in the classroom. After a frenzy of reading memorabilia back to 1971, I had material for multiple pages. Yes, I AM one of those teachers who saved every thank you card I ever received. Thank you to all my former students!
Let’s start with “ Parenting” (now “Raising Healthy Children“) .
I taught the grade 11 Parenting course at least 35 times and loved it. It was our most popular Family Studies (Social Sciences) course and attracted large numbers of males and females. The first day in class was memorable. This is a True Story! The students would come to class wanting to know when they would get their assignments. Seriously.
In the parenting course, simulations that put students in the role of partner, parent and/or caregiver are effective teaching tools, popular with parents ( I still have a picture of the proud “grandparents” to their daughter’s “egg baby”) and excellent exposure to the rest of the school. I have been told that asking for assignments on the first day is unique.
A few years ago, I met a former student (now a lawyer) with his son and daughter. They were about 8 and 10. After the usual introductions, I asked them how their Dad was doing as a parent, since I had taught both their Dad and their aunt, his sister. As their Dad grinned behind them, they thought for a minute and then gave me a careful and positive evaluation of his parenting skills: “ firm and fair, follows through on discipline, plays with us and reads to us every night. All in all, he’s a pretty good Dad”, they said. I loved meeting the three of them. Big perk of the job.
Anyone who has taught high-school students knows that being the “big tough guy” is part of the developing persona of young males. Since a number of them took Parenting, it gave me an opportunity to see them in a different role, that of a loving uncle or big brother to a small child.
Having a children’s party as part of the curriculum was one of the assignments the students enjoyed. They would have to plan games, food and décor for a children’s party. And they could bring a small child ! I have to admire the parents of the pre-schoolers for allowing them to spend part of a day surrounded by teenagers. But they did. Perhaps too many regulations would prohibit this activity now, but these parties were a huge success. As the teacher, it gave me a chance to see my students as loving people; hugging and comforting their small charges. This interaction revealed teenagers for the wonderful people they are. Reports in the media don’t tell these stories enough. When our son was about 9 months old, I took him to a party with “ mummy’s “students. He immediately attached himself to the toughest young man in the class! I think he was attracted to his hair and jewelry! An awesome time was had by all. I was so proud of both of them. Our daughter, 4 years older and in regular school, was jealous.
Which leads me to our two children, who in their words, had the “best baby-sitters ever”. They wanted a “real” babysitter when we went out; “ real” by their definition being one of mummy’s or daddy’s students, not a grandparent. “They play games with us, build legos and teach us gymnastics and football ‘n’ stuff.” Our children are in their 30’s and still remember their favorite babysitters.
Family studies, unlike other subject areas, deals with the daily patterns of families and as such can promote a closer bond between student and teacher. Normally quiet students feel more comfortable sharing life experiences in class. How their parents met, how long their Mom was in labour before their birth, how much they like being with their nieces and nephews, and their plans for the future are comfortable topics for discussion. Frequently they stayed after class in groups or individually to talk about personal problems and ask for advice. Many Family Studies teachers are also qualified guidance counselors. It is a natural fit.
Over the years I was able to help a grade nine student learn some quick and easy meals to prepare for his younger siblings because his Mom worked nights. I had the honour of becoming a sort-of-Mom for a young man who had lost his Mom. We had “Mom and son” chats daily. Some of my “Families in Canada” students participated in the “Canadian Living” TV show to give advice to parents on the rearing of teenagers. Another great memory! And I’ve had to say good-bye to several of the “ best ever” who lost their battles with cancer. Devastating. Never forgotten.
I’ll end with a very special meeting at McDonald’s with a student I taught in my first year of teaching. She was in my “Housing and Interior Design" grade twelve course. Since I’ve always taken the word “Economist” very seriously in my teaching, I included money related skills in most classes. I had developed a “ How to Buy a House” game. That was what I called it so the students wouldn’t realize that math, real estate and legal jargon were part of the “game." Working in pairs, they “bought” a house, learned new words, did the math calculations up to and including “closing costs."
So here we are, both parents of adult children in line for a coffee. She said, “ I have been meaning to thank you for that great “buying a house game” we did in class years ago. It helped my husband and I when we were buying our house AND I passed along your advice to MY CHILDREN. That “game” was really helpful. THANKS. "
Best day ever. Forty-five years later.
Who wouldn’t want to teach Family Studies?
The Ontario Home Economics Association, a self-regulating body of professional Home Economists, promotes high professional standards among its members so that they may assist families and individuals to achieve and maintain a desirable quality of life.