Category Archives: Education

Teacher Can You Spare A Dime?

Brian Pallister the Manitoba premier was taken to task last week for offering teachers a 15% tax credit for the first $1000 they spend on their classrooms. Many teachers were insulted saying if education was properly funded by Mr. Pallister’s government it wouldn’t be necessary for teachers to spend their own money on supplies to enrich the education program they offer to students.

Cartoon by Chris Chuckry used by permission.

I was a teacher for 35 years and can attest to the fact that I spent a great deal of my own money to stock my classroom. When I taught elementary school I bought rugs, pillows, puzzles, bookshelves, magazine racks, charts, toys, maps, math manipulatives, puppets and hundreds of books for my classroom. I even had a sand table custom-built.

With a class of my students at Elmdale School in the 1980s

I bought food stuffs for baking projects, gifts for children at Christmas, stickers, craft supplies and in the age before digital photography paid for film and developing hundreds of photos each year.  In one school I kept granola bars and other breakfast items in my cupboards for kids who weren’t getting breakfast at home. I also paid for professional conferences, books and courses.  

Some of my students at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School in 2006

As a high school teacher I bought a huge coffee maker and started brewing coffee and baking muffins to lure late sleepers to my first classes of the day. I invested in magazine subscriptions and bought hundreds of used books for my classroom to entice my teenagers to read for pleasure. I never kept track of how much money I spent on my students. It would have been too scary.

The phenomena of teachers spending their own money on their classrooms is not unique to Manitoba. A recent survey in Nova Scotia showed the average teacher there invested some $500 a year in their classroom and American teachers were more likely to invest double that.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

A Huffington Post article points out that the pandemic has upped the ante for many teachers who have invested their own money in all kinds of upgrades to their technology to make teaching from home or online more effective for their students.

One thing that concerned me as a university education department mentor was how much money my students were investing in their practicum teaching assignments in schools. My students paid for printing costs for learning games, mittens for kids, books to read to students, costumes for plays, writing journals, prizes for contests, art supplies and one junior high physical education teacher bought deodorant for the students who needed it. Most of my university students were already struggling to make ends meet and were working at part time jobs to cover their tuition costs. They couldn’t really afford to be investing money in the classrooms where they were interning.

I spent a great deal less of my own money on my classroom when I left the public school system to teach at a well funded private school in Hong Kong

During the years I was teaching in Manitoba I never got a dime in tax credit for the money I spent on my classroom and most people were shocked to learn how much of my personal coin I was doling out. Mr. Pallister’s recent statement at least recognizes that teachers are investing their own dollars in their students and he is giving teachers some compensation for that investment. But it is not something he should be encouraging teachers to do because in an adequately funded education system teachers wouldn’t find it necessary to spend nearly as much of their own money.

About twenty years ago Time Magazine ran a feature called Teacher Can You Spare a Dime which talked about all the money teachers spend on their classrooms and what could be done to change that. It appears that in the last two decades nothing has.

Other posts…….

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

A Bathtub in My Classroom

5 Things I Believe About Learning

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Filed under Education, Politics

Modeling Career-Different Perceptions

Can you, short of an earthquake hold a pose?  Are you willing to be centre stage for long periods of time? Are you comfortable having your body parts talked about? Can you be the object of intense scrutiny by a roomful of people for at least an hour?

I’ll never forget my first sitting as an art model. Before I took the job I did a little online research. One website suggested you consider the above questions seriously before becoming a model.

Many years ago the art teacher at the international school in Hong Kong where I worked, sent out an e-mail asking for volunteers to serve as a model for a drawing class. I was a little hesitant. Wasn’t I too old?

Then I read the story of Lala Lezli, a former dancer with the celebrated Martha Graham company, who modelled for California artists for fifty years. She was still working as a model when she died at age 92. I wasn’t too old to be a model.

I also found out art students need to learn to draw real people, not just the idealized human form. Models should be of all ages, races, shapes and sizes. Indeed when I hesitantly replied to the art teacher’s e-mail I was surprised by his warm response. He’d be happy to have me, model.

I asked if I should wear a special outfit, but the art teacher suggested I dress in a normal way. I’d read models should come prepared with interesting poses, but the art teacher had a pose in mind. He wanted me to sit on a chair on the elevated platform at the front of the room. He even arranged my feet and hands and told me which direction to turn my face.

 I walked into the class as the teacher was giving final instructions and was quickly seated so the students would have a maximum amount of time to work. It was surprisingly easy to sit still for an hour. I had a good view of the drawing tables and was fascinated by the progress being made on the dozen different images of me emerging on paper across the room.

It was interesting how each of the students perceived me in a slightly different way. No two sketches were the same. Just like in life, I thought. No two people perceive us in the same way and we have to accept and indeed appreciate that.

Other posts …….

Using the Other Side of My Brain

Paint By Number

My Husband is Famous


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Filed under Art, Education, Hong Kong, New Experiences

The Remarkables

I talked to a young mother recently who said her two-year-old son wasn’t learning to talk as early as his sibling had. She wondered if that was because his daycare workers wore masks so he couldn’t see the way their mouths formed words. She was confident that post-pandemic, the speech of her COVID kid would flourish.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

On a walk with a friend, we talked about high school athletes who haven’t been able to participate in the sports they love for the last two years. This has made it tougher for them to earn athletic scholarships for university and has cut them off from the teammates and coaches that played such an important role in their lives. Despite this many have remained devoted to their sports, training on their own. Some people call teens living through the pandemic, the COVID generation.

I was talking with someone, who like me, has had a grandchild born during the pandemic. Our grandchildren have seen very few people besides their parents yet they continue to achieve all the appropriate developmental milestones. Some people are referring to children born during the pandemic as COVID babies.

Photo by Max Fischer on

The media is reporting that kids will be behind academically because their schooling has been interrupted by the pandemic. Luckily my nearly nine-year-old grandson was only out of school for about four months due to the pandemic, but he had such a variety of learning interests before COVID-19. He played basketball and took dance classes. He had a violin teacher and a swimming instructor. In summers he went to art and drama camps. For over a year now he has not been able to do some of those things that enriched his education but when I talk with him and he tells me about what he is reading and shows me his drawings I know he is still learning and growing intellectually. Some people are calling school age kids who are going through the pandemic the children of COVID.

Children born during the pandemic are being given all kinds of labels like COVID babies or COVID kids, or the COVID generation or the children of COVID. In a recent article Neil Renton the head teacher at a school in England talks about the dangers of referring to the current crop of kids with a disease- related label. He says that instead the fact children are actually surviving the pandemic with such remarkable adaptability should be celebrated. We should be calling them The Remarkables.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

Renton believes there is power in words and he thinks using the name of a disease to refer to children implies something negative. It conjures up images of closed doors and feelings of hopelessness. Studies show that the expectations teachers and parents have of children impact their performance. If we always talk about our current kids as some kind of disease generation negatively impacted by COVID-19 we perpetuate negativity and set up a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Renton also points out that science shows us negative thoughts and speech hamper brain performance and trigger stress hormones. We do our kids a disservice if we label them with the name of something negative like a disease and expect less of them because of that.

I am not minimizing the challenge of COVID for kids and their families. There are no doubt all kinds of effects that living through the pandemic will have on our current generation of children. But…………… it is indeed REMARKABLE the way so many children are surviving and even flourishing during this challenging time and in their best interest, we need to emphasize the positive by not labelling them with the name of a negative disease.

Other posts………

God Rest the Children

What is the Best Way to Raise Children?

Meeting the Street Children of Delhi


Filed under Childhood, COVID-19 Diary, Education

Talking to Kids About Wednesday’s Madness

As I scrolled through Twitter on Wednesday afternoon and evening, trying to keep track of what was happening in Washington D.C  I noticed something interesting start happening on my feed  just after the supper hour. I follow lots of teachers, librarians and school administrators on Twitter. I also follow plenty of education publishers and professional groups for teachers.
In the late afternoon and evening on Wednesday one question kept popping up in my feed, “What do we say to the children?”  Teachers and others involved in education were wondering how they would discuss the Washington DC riots with their students the next morning.

It wasn’t long before they began to share ideas.  Some gave tips on how to frame the event for kids in  ways that would reassure them. Others provided questions that might engage children in critical thinking. Some provided links to news articles that described the events clearly and succinctly in language kids would understand.  

Teachers shared the names of helpful books that could be read and helpful prompts for classroom conversations.  One educator quickly set up a zoom meeting so teachers could share ideas.  Teachers reminded each other their primary purpose on  Thursday morning would be to make kids feel safe, to listen to their fears and concerns and to reassure them that things would be okay.

I didn’t envy these teachers the task of having to help their students process what they had seen on their television and computer screens. But these responsible and dedicated educators  were facing reality and trying to prepare themselves for the coming day well aware of how difficult it would be.  

It struck me as I read the teachers’ concerns and ideas that if the rioters and politicians involved in the debacle at the Capital in Washington DC on Wednesday had been forced to stop for a minute to think about how they would explain what they were doing to kids the next morning, it just might have influenced their actions.  

Other posts………..

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Getting Him Out of My Head


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Filed under Education, Politics

A Different School Year

This is the first September in sixty years I can’t say I’m genuinely excited about school starting.  

I was thrilled about my first day of kindergarten in 1958 at Laura Secord School in Winnipeg. Who would be my teacher? What books would we read? Who would I play with?

 I was the editor of my school newspaper.

I was eager to start high school in 1967.  I could hardly wait to get involved in all the activities the Steinbach Collegiate offered. I sang in the choir, was the editor of the school paper, served as student body vice-president, and went to New Orleans on a senior class trip.

University Graduation

I was enthusiastic about entering Canadian Mennonite University in 1971 and later the University of Manitoba.  My high expectations were met by the challenging classes I took, the interesting friends I made, and the certainty of knowing I’d chosen the right profession while getting my teaching certificate.  

With my Advanced Composition class in Hong Kong

I was happy each September of my thirty-five- year career in education. As the first day of school approached, I could hardly sleep my head was so full of plans, and projects, and possibilities.  

With a group of my student teachers and the staff members who supported them.

I was invigorated every fall for the last eight years as I began my job mentoring university students studying to be teachers. I learned so much while visiting the diverse public schools where my students served as interns. I loved helping them work through their challenges and encouraging them as they honed their craft. 

But…… this fall I have to admit I am not as excited about the start of school.  Instead, I am nostalgic, concerned, and hopeful. 

I am nostalgic because for the first time in sixty years I won’t be going into the classroom. I’ve resigned from my job as a university mentor partly because of the COVID-19 risk for someone my age and partly because I wouldn’t want to carry COVID-19 to my father who I visit at a seniors’ facility several times a week.  

I am concerned because I have a son and a daughter-in-law who are educators.  I know due to the pandemic they will need to reinvent the way they teach, implement strategies to keep children safe and help their students make sense of the world’s new realities. I am concerned about their health and well-being although I know they are both wonderful teachers well equipped to take on the challenges they will face.

I am hopeful because I have two grandchildren who are starting kindergarten and grade three next week.  They have bought their new backpacks, pencil crayons, sketchbooks, running shoes, and masks. They are curious about who their teachers will be, which of their friends will be in their classes and what new things they will learn in the coming year. For their sake, I hope the school year will be successful and a wave of COVID-19 won’t shut schools down again. 

I know children need to be in school for many good reasons. They need to be there for their mental, physical, and emotional health and for their academic futures. They need to be there so their parents can go back to work.  

School has been such a positive experience for me throughout my life and there is nothing I want more than for all our country’s children to have a similar experience. So, despite the fact that the start of school this year is nostalgic and concerning for me, I hope it will be successful. 

Other posts………….

Watch Schools and Daycares for A Sign Things Are Returning to Normal

Visiting a Quaker School in Costa Rica

Popping In and Out of Schools

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Education

Universal Child Care-A Wise Investment For Canada

This was my Carillon newspaper column this week.

My Member of Parliament Leah Gazan recently asked me to sign a petition calling for the establishment of a universal childcare program in Canada. I not only signed the petition I also agreed to make regular donations to help see universal childcare become a reality. It is something I have long believed is a wise investment for our country. It would make Canada a better place for everyone.

Photo by Naomi Shi on

Ms Gazan who is the families, children and social development critic for the NDP party is adamant the Liberal government needs to invest 2.5 billion dollars for universal childcare and an early learning system in Canada. The pandemic has only served to highlight the reasons why a universal childcare program would be good for Canada.

First of all, we need parents in the workforce. According to Statistics Canada data, daycare closures due to COVID-19 have created a significant exodus of parents from the ranks of the employed. This has impacted women more than men. A recent article in the Financial Post provides clear evidence that making it possible for parents to return to their jobs is vital to the recovery of the Canadian economy and providing childcare plays a vital role in that happening. 

Photo  on

Women are most highly represented in essential service jobs and in the health and education sectors of the economy. Canada needs them. 2019 reports from Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Public Service Alliance suggest that providing quality daycare to every family in Canada could boost the country’s GDP by between 8 billion and 13 billion dollars. It could help raise many families out of poverty and off of welfare.

Photo by cottonbro on

Secondly, a universal childcare program would make childcare accessibility more equitable. The current hodgepodge of provincial childcare programs in Canada disproportionately impacts poor families, indigenous families, families where parents do shift work and in particular those living in rural or northern communities.

Affordable, quality childcare services should be uniformly available across Canada. For some children whose home situations are in crisis for a variety of reasons, daycare provides them with the support and early learning that are so important to their future health and wellbeing.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Writing in the Calgary Herald last week Catherine Ford said it is incumbent on wealthier parents who can afford private childcare arrangements or afford to have one parent remain at home, to fight for quality care for all children because it helps create a healthier society. In many cases, the pandemic has placed wealthier parents in a situation where perhaps for the first time they are able to see how difficult it can be for lower-income families to try to balance work and parenting. Hopefully, they have come to realize that universal childcare is not a luxury or convenience but an absolute requirement.

Our son with two of the child care workers in the Headstart program in Kykostmovi Arizona where we lived for a year

As a young mother with a busy career as an educator in the 1980s, I relied on a variety of childcare arrangements for my two sons, but both spent at least one of their pre-school years in daycare. My grandchildren have also benefitted from the services of childcare facilities. I know firsthand the importance of universal daycare.

The value of quality, affordable childcare for Canadian families was the topic of a letter to the editor of The Carillon I wrote in 1985. It led to me being hired as a regular columnist for this paper. Sadly, thirty- five years later it is still a topic I need to write about.

Other posts………..

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

The Work My Mother Does

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist For Decades

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Filed under Canada, Childhood, COVID-19 Diary, Education

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

dad mci grad class - Version 3

My Dad in 1947 – he is in the centre in the first row of men

Although my father Dr. Paul Peters enjoyed a long career as a family physician, his first job was not in medicine, but education. He was a permit teacher.

Manitoba employed permit teachers during the 1940s and 1950s. They were new high school graduates hired for one year, to fill vacant teaching positions in the province. There was a shortage of educators because of the many male teachers who had gone to serve overseas in World War II, as well as women who had left the profession to assume jobs vacated by soldiers.

MCI Grad Class 1947 Mennonite Collegiate Institute

The Mennonite Collegiate Institute graduating class of 1947- a number of the graduates became permit teachers -my father is sixth from the left in the first standing row of men

When Dad graduated from Gretna’s Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in 1947 he agreed to take a permit teaching position. His only training was a six- week summer course at the Normal School in Winnipeg. Here he was introduced to basic teaching methods, shown how to write lesson plans, and was taught square dancing, a skill he never got to use in the small conservative Mennonite community of Silberfeld where he was hired for $90 a month and given the use of the two-room teacherage. silberfeld schoolHe had thirty- four students from grades one to seven and a grade nine correspondence student to supervise. After Easter three little kindergarten students were added so they could get introduced to school before beginning grade one the following year.

Besides teaching reading, spelling, math, writing, history, science, religion and German, Dad had to stoke the stove with coal on winter mornings to warm up the schoolhouse. He needed to attend to this early enough so the ink in the ink wells could thaw before the students needed it.

Dad’s first task after firing up the stove was to write the assignments for each grade on the chalkboard, except the group first on his teaching agenda for the day. That way the other students were kept busy while he worked his way through the rotation of all the grades.

the old silberfeld schoolAlthough twenty- five of his thirty-four students consisted of a pretty lively group of boys, Dad told me discipline wasn’t really a problem. He decided on the rules for the classroom together with his students. Sometimes he made kids shovel snow or stay after school as a consequence for misconduct. He does remember spanking one boy who didn’t follow the rules. The young man’s father came to see Dad the next day and told him not to waste his time spanking his son. He knew from experience that it didn’t help.

mom and dad0024_2

Dad’s family lived in Gnadenthal but that was too far for him to go for regular visits

It was too far for Dad to always go home to his family in Gnadenthal on the weekends but sometimes he walked the ten-mile round trip to Gretna or Altona to visit friends.

Dad started out cooking his own meals in the teacherage, but then a Mrs Braun who lived nearby invited him for supper one night and told him she’d be happy to make his dinner for 25 cents a day. He figured it was a good deal. In spring he organized inter-school soccer and baseball games with his fellow MCI graduate Mary Regehr who was permit teaching in Gnadenfeld.

Although an inspector came around a couple times to check up on Dad he was basically on his own. Dad still has a copy of the final report that he had to send into the Department of Education in June of 1948. He has very good memories of his permit teaching year and looking back marvels how he was so confident that he could do the job right from the start.

dad and fellow hospital workers

A part-time job as a hospital orderly with his good friends Frank, George and Bill helped Dad decide to become a doctor.

Dad did consider a long- term teaching career, but after landing a part-time job as an orderly at the Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg during his college years, decided he was more interested in medicine.

At one time Manitoba had as many as 250 permit teachers. They served an important role in keeping the province’s education system functioning during challenging times.

Other posts………….

Dad’s Medical Bag

90 Years

My Dad Is…….



Filed under Education, Family

Graduation Photo- Dad’s Treasures

dad's graduating class

The 1959 medical school graduating class from the University of Manitoba. My Dad Paul Peters is sitting the farthest right in the front row right beside his good friend Al Propp who would later join Dad’s practice in Steinbach.

When I went to visit my Dad last week he was looking through a book assembled in 2009 for the 50th anniversary of his medical school graduating class from the University of Manitoba in 1959.  It included this photo taken at the gala celebration staged for the graduation.  What struck me most about the photo was that only one woman graduated in 1959. Now, some sixty years later nearly 60% of family physicians in Canada under the age of 40 are women. A growing body of research shows that female physicians care for their patients in ways that leave them more satisfied and with better health outcomes.  I wonder how that lone woman felt in that sea of men in 1959.  She was a pioneer.  

Dad was a much-beloved and respected family physician in Steinbach for more than four decades and by the time he retired from the profession, he did have several female colleagues. 

mom and dad at dad's graduation

Mom and Dad ready to head for Dad’s graduation party. My mother was all dressed up and looked so glamorous to my five-year-old eyes.

I was five years old at the time of my Dad’s graduation and I still remember the beautiful dress my mother wore to the party where the photo above was taken.  She and Dad had been living on the proverbial shoestring to get Dad through school.  Dad worked all kinds of part-time jobs as a train porter and a cab driver while he studied.  Mom helped bring in money by running a boarding house for university students, doing the cooking, cleaning and laundry for them, all the while caring for her three children plus another little girl, the daughter of a nurse who was single parenting and needed child care.  Although Mom isn’t in the graduation class photo she was an invaluable partner in my Dad’s achievement in 1959. 

Other posts about my Dad’s treasures…….

A Cowbell

The Fern

A Tender Photo?

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Filed under Education, Health

Freedom’s Child

“I like me!

No doubt about it.

I like you.

Can’t live without out!

We are free!

Let’s shout about it!

Hooray for freedom’s child.”

i am freedom's childThat mantra is adapted from the book I Am Freedom’s Child written by well-known children’s author Bill Martin in 1970.  I learned its words at an educational conference I attended in 1979 at the University of North Dakota.  Bill Martin was the keynote speaker and he led us in reciting a longer version of the I Am Freedom’s Child chant antiphonally every morning of the four-day conference. The poem’s words promoted values of self-worth, appreciation and acceptance of others and the protection of liberties and freedoms that should be the right of every person in a democratic society.

Me and Bill Martin in 1979

For a week at that conference in 1979 children’s author Bill Martin and his colleagues introduced a cadre of more than a hundred teachers to poetry and music and wonderful books written by exceptional children’s authors. One of the things they emphasized was how good literature could change children’s lives by making them more open-minded and caring, and giving them a window into a world where people accepted themselves and accepted others, even if they were very different than they were.


Member of Congress John Lewis

As I look at what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement and as I learned yesterday about the death of the great civil rights leader John Lewis the words of I Am Freedom’s Child came to mind. We all need to take to heart, as Lewis did, the poem’s message that loving and appreciating ourselves and loving and appreciating others is necessary to overcome our differences and make freedom’s dream come true. 

Other posts……….

What Would You Be Willing To Die For? 

Inspiration from Maya Angelou

Five Things I Will Remember About the Movie Selma


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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education, Politics

Fish on Friday

My class at Marion School with our teacher Ms Bourreau.

I’ve been working on a short story this week set at Marion School in St. Boniface. I was a student there for one year in the 1950s. Almost all of my classmates at Marion School were Catholics and I learned from them that you were supposed to eat fish on Fridays.  I remember the other kids thought it was strange my family didn’t eat fish on Friday. It was just one of many ways I stuck out and was considered different than all my classmates, who spoke French at home, made the sign of the cross after they prayed, went to Mass on Sundays and stayed in our classroom for catechism instruction with the priest while I sat in the hall. 

Marion School in Winnipeg

I’ve found out since that the reason behind that tradition is that Christians mark the death of Christ on Good Friday, so abstaining from eating red meat on Friday was a kind of penance to mark the solemnity of that day.  Apparently, in 1984 the rules were changed by the church hierarchy so other forms of penance could be performed on Fridays.  But in 1960 when I attended Marion School eating fish on Friday would have still been mandatory for Catholics. My Mennonite family did eat fish on occasion but it wasn’t my favourite because I never liked picking out all the bones. 

Other posts………..

Riding the Bus Alone at Age 5

The Children are Watching and Listening and Wondering

The Clapper

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Filed under Education, Religion