Musings Thoughts upon Thoughts

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This page is added to every few days. The most recent thoughts will always be at the top. At the bottom of this page, you will find a link to another page where all of the outdated, old musings are located.

July 25, 2021: Pantsuits and Feminism

The simple definition of feminism is "the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes." As a young woman in the 60's and 70's, I found that labeling myself a "feminist" could be difficult: many people didn't like the radicalism of some feminists. But when I was a young female teacher in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1970, I came right up against this and found myself advocating for my rights. The label didn't matter.

Female teachers were not allowed to wear pants -- no jeans, no trousers. We were expected to wear a dress or skirt. And this was the 70's when hemlines were getting shorter, though the mini-skirt wouldn't arrive for another decade.

More importantly, it is cold in Ottawa. I had playground supervision at least once a week, and I also had a classroom right near an entrance/exit door. So it was cold to go outside on supervision and it could be cold just standing in the hallway while students came into the building. I asked my principal if female teachers could wear pantsuits (a new fashion trend) when they had supervision. He said flatly: NO.

I was not willing to take "NO" for an answer. I wrote a petition and got the signature of every single teacher on staff and took it to the principal. I handed it to him and said, "Every teacher disagrees with you, including the male teachers." He gave in and said 'yes' to wearing pantsuits on supervision days. As you might guess, we female teachers quickly just started wearing pantsuits whenever we pleased!

July 20, 2021: Existential Analysis

Many years ago I read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and I have read it several times since. There is no other non-fiction book which has had more influence on me.

Frankl, who died in 1997, was a well-known neurologist and psychiatrist who endured the Nazi death camps of World War II. Experiencing great suffering, and watching others suffer, Frankl eventually developed a new approach to psychotherapy; he called it logotherapy. (It is often referred to as Existential Analysis.): Paradoxically complex yet simple, the core of his theory is that the primary motivation in our lives is a search for the meaning of life itself.

Frankl argued that we need three things to make life meaningful:

Frankl observed people in the Nazi death camps and realized that those who survived did so because they understood the greater meaning of life: how we suffer is as important as what we suffer.

For a more detailed review of this book, go to *Man's Search for Meaning*.

July 12, 2021: "It's the right thing to do"

I taught school for 32 years. Half of that time, I taught secondary school — mostly English, but sometimes Social Studies for Grade 7's — for fourteen years. Occasionally, a student would pull the emergency fire alarm and we'd all file outside and wait for the "all clear" to return. This experience always permitted an interesting conversation afterwards. I would always ask the students if they knew who had pulled the fire alarm, would they turn their name into the office.

Many, many times I was told by my students that they would definitely not "snitch" on a fellow student. I grew weary of hearing this remark over and over again. And then one day, one of my Grade 11 English students quietly said, "Yes, I'd turn them in." There was silence in the room. I asked my student why he would do it and his response was, "Because it's the right thing to do."

That student remains in my memory always for his ability to rise above his peers and understand that there was a greater and higher morality than "snitching."

July 11, 2021: Teaching Phonics to First Graders

Sounding out words helped children to learn to read.

I taught school for 32 years. During my first five years, I taught Grade 1's. This happened in somewhat of an unplanned way. I was only 17 when I reached my senior year in university and was asked what grade I would like to do my student teaching in. The thought of teaching high school students petrified me — after all, I was the same age as they were! So I picked the youngest — first graders.

Many teachers do not want to teach first graders. Six-year-olds still need a lot of help: buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, opening thermoses. But watching children learn to read was always rewarding. Teaching phonics has been out-of-favour and in-favour over the years, but I was taught to use it and I always found it effective in teaching children to read. If they could sound out the words, their vocabulary increased quickly.

Older posts can be found here: Musings 2

★ ★ ★

  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. ↩︎