Grade 3: 1974, Van Bellingham Elementary School, Winnipeg, MB Teacher – Mrs. Delaquis
We moved in the summer of 1974, from a townhouse in East Kildonan to a duplex in Southdale. Complete suburbia, right down to the white fence. The school was right at the end of our street, so now I could walk to and from as much as I wanted (I wonder if that was a factor in the location, “now Robyn won’t get lost!”). Van B was also typical – a K-8 school, as was the norm back then – it would eventually become the school for my sister and brother. For now it was just me.
My class was a split grade 3/4, and Mrs. Delaquis had to juggle two curricula between the smallish groups of kids (about a dozen) in each grade. You can see in the class picture the much wider range of ages and heights across the students.
The other thing you can see in the picture – my hair. Welcome to the era of the Toni Home Perm. Thankfully, the era was short.
The school had its modern touches. The desks were trapezoid-shaped, so two kids could sit on the long side, or one on the short side. They could be lined up or arranged in U’s or squares. They didn’t have drawers, but these plastic trays that held your supplies, and so you could be moved from spot to spot, depending if you’d been naughty or nice. I recall one Grade 4 boy (Derek) getting moved a LOT.
The building was “open plan”, so the walls between classrooms were those flexible ones that can be folded away when you want to open up the space. There was no wall or door to the hall, so the classroom was open to that and the library beyond. Looking back, it must have been incredibly distracting for 7-year-olds to learn while watching people walk by throughout the day, but my experience was one of openness and socializing with the other grade 3 kids from the other side of the folding wall.
It was during one of the frenzied exits to recess that I met Angie. She was in the other class, she and her (then) best friend Darlene. They came up to me in the hall and said (this is how I remember it) in unison, “you’re new here. We like you.” It was the start of something good. Angie would become, and still is, my oldest friend – 43 years and counting.
Grade 3 was my first experience of a student teacher. It was fascinating. First it was a man – all other teachers that I’d seen or experienced thus far had been (older) women. Mr. H. was funny, dynamic, interested, firm but fair, and caring. He just seemed to get us kids. I really only remember learning two things in Grade 3 – multiplication tables, and fractions. Mr. H. taught us fractions in a way that stuck with me; he had red shoestring liquorice, and he would go around the room and ask, “do you want one-half or three-quarters?”, and then give you the length you asked for. Again, this would never happen today, unless the liquorice was organic and vegan and guaranteed peanut-free, and even then I’m sure he be derided for using food to entice learning. But it worked. And I have that delightful memory of him and fractions and liquorice. So there was a method there.
The rest of it was a bit of blur. Before I knew it, it was summer again, and time to get ready for Grade 4.