Teaching Out of Bounds (Part 2)

by Marie-Beth Wright

George Cross of Badgers Quay represented a small number with university training in the early 50s, after attending Memorial for one year. Through a conversation with Fred Kirby at the Department of Education, he was offered principalship of a two-room school in 1952 at Leading Tickles, Notre Dame Bay. Being Anglican was vital as he soon became responsible for all facets of religious services there. Typical of the times, reference books were non-existent, outhouses were the norm and there were paths, not roads. George traveled to Lewisporte on the S.S. Glencoe to begin his assignment. The Board Chair was quite inventive regarding days taught; “long as you teach your required number of days, it's fine”, he admonished. Forfeiting some teaching days allowed students and their teachers to take advantage of birding and swiling season, come spring.

Agnes Hopkins and Rowena Harnum of Green’s Harbour, Trinity Bay, like most prospective teachers who started with minimum training, were teenagers when they attended Prince of Wales in 1964 and recall how naive young ladies were matched up to schools and school boards in need. Agnes recalled, “There was no actual recruitment. I remember gathering with my fellow students in the school auditorium or gym on the last day of summer school. Our names were called, and assignments announced. I do not know how it was decided who went where. They may have picked names out of the hat for all I know”. Her teaching destination- a new United Church school in Little Bay-was out a branch road from Springdale, 400 kilometres from her hometown. She adds, “The degree of isolation was overwhelming at times”.

Like her friend Agnes, Rowena was directed to a specific teaching position without input. Rowena states, “I met with someone in the Department of Education who assigned me to an elementary position in the small community of Pool’s Island in Bonavista North”. This entailed a journey by train and taxi over dirt roads and since Rowena was Anglican, she was posted to an Anglican school.

This is just a small cross section of the many educational matchups that occurred within the province from the mid 1940s to 1969. Little had changed in travel or resources during that interval. However, after Premier Smallwood's push in the mid 60s to increase the number of university-trained teachers, those with the six-week basic preparation now had to accept postings that were more isolated and more difficult to find staff. The Probationary Summer School Program was disbanded after summer 1969.