Friday, January 18, 2013

A most influential teacher

For some reason, my mind has been spending a lot of time of late remembering my grade eight teacher.
He was without a doubt the most positively influential teacher I had.  (There were many negatively influential teachers over the years but I'd rather forget about them, as difficult as that is to do.)
My grade eight teacher had a truly lasting effect on me -- it was the 1962-63 school year that he taught me.
Besides being a wonderful teacher, he was a true inspiration to me.  I've held fond regard for the man for the past 50 years!
As an aside, he used to delight in giving us oral math drills.  It didn't matter what he threw at us, I always had the answer.  (I couldn't do that today to save my soul!)  He also taught university at night and he used to tape us (just him and me) doing math drills.  As he put it, he wanted to show his night class students that it "really could be done."  Of course, being twelve years old and quite proud of my prowess, I loved participating in those exercises with him.
He also used to allow me to spend certain class time in the teachers' lounge. (I didn't need to waste my time hearing him repeat yesterday's lesson when I had already mastered it.)  He would bring in his record collection for me to listen to so that I would be introduced to the greats.  Hence, my introduction to Ella Fitzgerald; I would sit in the lounge and lose myself in her music!
But his greatest impact was his insistence that we learn Canadian politics and how the Canadian government worked.  
I always remembered the year that Newfoundland joined Confederation because he told us that he was one of "the backroom boys" who helped bring it about (and it happened the year before I was born).  He never expounded on his involvement, he simply told us that he was one of the backroom boys.  But the very idea of working backroom politics intrigued me.
And a political junkie was born!
As I pursued a career primarily as a political backroom girl (and loving every minute of it!), I often wondered if my life path might have been different had it not been for my grade eight year.
Anyway, because he's been on my mind so much lately, I decided to call Google into action to see what I could learn about the man.  I had no idea how old he was when he taught me, whether he might still be alive, etc etc ...
Turns out, he died less than three years after I left his classroom.  The Brandon Sun carried his obituary on 11 Jan 1965:
"OTTAWA (CP) -- Philip S. Forsey, who campaigned with Premier J. R. Smallwood to bring Newfoundland into Confederation and later served in the provincial cabinet died here Sunday following a short illness.  He was 52.

Mr. Forsey, a native of Grand Bank, Nfld., had taught high school in Ottawa since 1957.  He resigned as Newfoundland's minister of health in 1954."
My grade eight teacher was only 49 when he was teaching me?  To my twelve-year old self, he seemed much older! (The reference to his having taught 'high school in Ottawa' is an error; he taught grade eight by day, university by night, unless he had moved to a high school by the time he died.)
And he was not just a backroom boy, he was a Cabinet Minister?  Really?  In the classroom, he never talked about his years as a Cabinet Minister!  (He served in Joey Smallwood's cabinet from 1949 - 1956, in various portfolios.)
The man who so heavily influenced my path into the political world never injected his politics into his teachings.  Obviously, he was a Liberal.  Yet I, the political junkie he spawned, have been a Conservative from the get-go.  (Oh, OK, there was that very brief period in my early 20s when I lost my head and worked for the Dippers.  I got back on course quickly!)
In my poking around the Internet for information about my grade eight teacher, I found a most intriguing clipping:
There is my beloved Philip Forsey, in the summer before I arrived in his classroom.  Perhaps he had more influence than even I realized?
Don't ever doubt the impact a teacher can have on an impressionable young student.
Philip Samuel Forsey
b 12 Dec 1912 at Grand Banks, Nfld
d 10 Jan 1965 at Ottawa, ON.


N said...

That was a fun read!

C. Bonnie Fowler said...

Glad you enjoyed it!