Oral History of Schooling in Your Family Assignment
October 17, 2005
PART I: My Personal School Experience
I was born on October 17th, 1982 in a small town called Goose Bay Labrador where I was
also raised until I was 17 years old and left for University. The population of Goose Bay is
approximately 10,000. The community is fairly isolated and basically everyone knows everyone.
The town itself is broken up into several living areas and is very spread out. I lived in the area
of town called Spruce Park. Growing up in Goose Bay was very different from other provinces
and communities because it is so isolated. We do not have the ability to drive to the next town,
and much of our shopping is done through the Sears catalogue or by traveling to other places by
means of ferry or plane.
From Elementary school through to Junior High there were two schools in my area of
town that I attended: Spruce Park Elementary and Robert Leckie Junior High. Following Junior
High I went to the High School that was located on the Base and it was called Goose High
School. My Elementary school had one single hallway and one classroom for each grade, so
basically it was a hallway with six classrooms in a row. There were also two bathrooms and two
extra classrooms, one in which music and French classes were held, and the other was the special
needs classroom. The library was next to the French room and had a couple of computers in it
for use on special occasions. My Elementary school was attached to the Junior High school
(Robert Leckie) and that is where the gymnasium was located and was used by students of both
schools. Outside of the school there was a large playground that both schools shared and
occupied during recess, lunch time, and the occasional gym class. The classrooms in my
Elementary school were fairly small. Each classroom had about thirty individual desks, the kind
that had a little opening underneath the top for holding all of your school supplies. Of course, the
desks were accompanied by chairs and these units usually sat in rows unless the teacher decided
to let us put our desks in pairs. That was always fun and exciting for us. The classrooms had
bookshelves, lots of windows, a chaulk board, lots of pictures and things on the walls, and a great
big desk for the teacher. The floors had carpet, and at the back of the room was the closet area
where we hung our book-bags and coats. Each classroom also had a sink at the back for washing
hands and doing art projects and things. My Kindergarten classroom even had its own bathrooms
and it also had a big sandbox right in the room! When I think back on all of this it makes me
realize that my Elementary school was really cute!
Robert Leckie was a much larger building and the grades ranged from 7-9. It had two
levels with the upper level being primarily classrooms and the lower level containing classrooms
for specialized subjects such as art, industrial arts, music and computers. Upstairs, there were
three home-room classrooms for each grade level which came to a total of 9 classrooms. After
attendance was taken, these classrooms were then used by other teachers as lecture classrooms
for courses. The classrooms in this school were very different from those in my Elementary
school. They were very plain and the desks were the kind that had the chairs attached and had a
little rack under the chair for holding your books. Other than the teachers desk and a few
bookshelves and windows, that was pretty much everything in the classroom. The lockers were
in the hall and we were constantly going from our locker to another classroom, which is probably
why the classrooms were so bare. No single classroom was your own, so there was no need or
way to personalize them.
My High School was a very large, one level building and the grades ranged from 10-12.
There were approximately 20 rooms in my High School which, other than classrooms, included
laboratory‟s (biology, chemistry, computer, foods) as well as the music and art rooms. There was
a large gymnasium as well as an auditorium in the building. The auditorium was not only used
for school purposes, such as drama and assembly‟s, but also served as a stage for town functions
such as art and music festivals. The classrooms resembled those in my Junior High School,
pretty boring and to the point. Other than some desks, a chaulk board, and the teacher‟s desk,
there was nothing in the rooms. Neither of the schools I attended had a cafeteria. We would
always have to bring our lunch or go home for lunch. In Elementary and Junior High I would go
home for lunch because my house was within walking distance of my school. However, when I
went to the High School I had to bring my lunch and eat it in one of the classrooms that was
designated as a lunch room. Once the students were done eating in one of the designated
classrooms the janitor would have to come in and wash the desk and clean the floor, preparing it
for the afternoon‟s classes. This lunchtime set-up was always a controversial issue because
people often wondered how sanitary it was to eat on the same desk that another student was
working at and vise versa. However, without a cafeteria we really had no choice. So, with that
said, I guess you could say that my schooling experience, living in such a small town, was very
interesting and unique and probably a lot different from students who come from larger towns or
From having a Dad who was a principal I certainly knew that getting good marks in
school was important. I was always very dedicated and determined in school and my favorite
subject was math. I would always make sure I took great notes and studied every concept that we
had covered for my tests. I tended to be a very stressful student. In fact, I remember my grade 4
teacher having to take me outside one day because we were having a test and I started to cry. It
was just always important to me that I get the best marks I knew I could, and if I didn‟t, I simply
wasn‟t happy with myself. I am not so sure how healthy that attitude was but I guess it got me
where I am today. I remember that there was always competition between my friends and I to get
the best marks, especially those of us who had parents that were teachers. I also remember that
when I got to Junior High and High School it seemed to be the students who came from unstable
homes and families that had a negative attitude towards school and just didn‟t seem to care.
Those of us who had parents that were teachers, or whose parents were recognized somehow in
the community, were the ones who strived to do the best. The town was small, so if your parents
were really involved or well-known there was no room for messing around because they would
find out, guaranteed. I also remember noticing that it wasn‟t so much that one gender succeeded
over the other, but rather it was one group of students over the other. It seemed that right from
grade 5 or 6 up until High School there was a group of students that always did well and worked
hard and were determined to get good grades in every subject no matter what it was. Then, there
was another group who didn‟t put as much effort into it and just didn‟t really care about school.
The two groups contained both boys and girls and neither gender did better in school than the
In regards to my teachers, I honestly have to say that through all of my schooling years I
have never had a teacher that seemed to dislike their work. Of course there were days where you
could sense some frustration but that was to be expected. I remember in Elementary school every
teacher seemed to be having fun. In Junior High things were slightly different but I am pretty
sure that is because Junior High students are a hard age to deal with. In High School I remember
always being amazed at my teachers because I could just tell that they enjoyed what they were
doing. My High School math teacher stands out in my head because I could tell that he loved
what he did and I always felt that it was because he was confident in what he taught. My favorite
teacher was a lady by the name of Mrs. Bird. She was my grade three teacher and she always had
a way of making school very fun and interesting. Her class was always very relaxed and
enjoyable. In particular, I favored her because she made an effort to form student/teacher
relationships with her students. She was never intimidating and she always made you feel
important and unique. One thing that I will always remember is that she made a cupcake for each
student on his or her birthday and that is something I now plan to do for my students. Mrs. Bird
didn‟t enforce strict rules but still managed to hold an organized classroom and we always new
that she was the boss. Mrs. Bird always had interesting ways of teaching material whether
through art projects, student interactions or hands-on activities. I remember that she didn‟t really
dress professionally but rather comfortably and cute! To put it simply, she was just an overall
In general, I would have to say that I have always enjoyed school. Of course there were
many times where I found a topic boring, hated the homework, or just didn‟t feel like going but
in general I liked my school experience. Having a father who is a principal almost definitely has
something to do with me enjoying school, but there is just something about it that I love. I enjoy
the fact that it is a meeting place for you and your friends; I enjoy the challenges that we face
when trying to learn new concepts; I enjoy the structure of school and how it forces you to be
organized and dedicated and intelligent and; I enjoy the fact that it teaches you about the world
and makes you think about it differently and with understanding and confidence.
PART II: Interview with my Father
Name of Interviewer : Renee Dove
Name of Interviewee : Garry Dove
Schools Attended : Stephenville Primary School ( K - 4 )
W. E. Cormack Elementary ( 5 - 7 )
Stephenville Integrated Intermediate/High School (8 – 9)
Stephenville High School (10 - 11)
Date of Interview : September 22nd / „05
Due to distance and schedule conflicts, I provided my father with a list of questions and issues
for him to comment on and discuss. He decided that the easiest way for him complete the
interview was to type it in essay form while he brainstormed and thought back to his school
years. He felt this format would provide the most detail and description and it was the easiest
method for him because his schedule is demanding and a phone conversation would have taken
too much time. Here is his story.
I was born in Twillingate, Newfoundland on June 8th / 1957 and in September of that
same year my mom and I moved to Stephenville, Newfoundland to join my dad who had secured
employment at the Ernest Harmon American Base. With the town divided between the
Americans and the local residents, Stephenville was growing with lots of employment
opportunities. The community was thriving until word came in 1967 that the Americans were
leaving. That was a very sad year as many people scrambled to find work in the local area. To the
disappointment of many, outside work was their only opportunity. Many left for Toronto and the
surrounding area. Some were fortunate enough to move with the Americans to maintain
employment and work towards a pension.
The community was certainly enriched by the presence of the Americans because the
community was given a golf course, school, airport, housing, warehouses to name a few, when
they left. The school was later named W. E. Cormack Elementary.
Stephenville had a very diverse population that was influenced by religion. The
community had three school systems like many other larger centers within the province of
Newfoundland. In our community, the Catholic school system was the largest, then the
Integrated and the smallest was Pentecost. Eventually, with population decreases and school
consolidation the Pentecostal school and Integrated School united. Now the community, like all
other provincial communities, has one school system.
Stephenville did rebound with the construction of a new Paper Mill, a Heavy Equipment
School, a Community College and other infrastructures that complete the above. Now I hear on
the news, that hard times are on the way again as the Abitibi Price Inc. has announced the mill‟s
closure for October.
The schools that I attended in Stephenville along with the grades were:
Kindergarten to grade 4 - Stephenville Primary; Grade‟s 5 to 7 - W. E. Cormack Elementary
(we were the only group to do grade 7 at this school becasue there wasn‟t room at the
Intermediate/High School so a classroom was attached for one year only); Grades 8 to 9 -
Stephenville Integrated Intermediate/High School; Grades 10 to 11 - Stephenville High School
(This was a new state of art school with a drafting room, carpentry shop, mechanic shop, home
economics room and a cafeteria. Unfortunately, we never had the population to warrant enough
teachers for all of these specialty rooms).
My parents moved to Stephenville in 1957 and took up residence in an apartment. Dad
moved in early 1957 to work with the Americans and stayed in a residence until my mom and I
arrived. Dad worked with the Americans until 1967 and mom was a stay at home mother, with
three young children. My brother was born in 1959 and my sister in 1962. In 1967, the
Americans pulled out and my dad and uncle purchased a motel, restaurant, and club complex.
This business last until 1974, when dad found employment with the paper mill. During 1967
through 1974, mom took on some catering jobs and this lasted until the early 80's. The business
was sold in 1975. Dad‟s work on base was warehouse manager and with the paper mill, he took a
job at security. He has since retired and moved to Twillingate with mom. My parents, whom both
attained grade 9 (graduation only) and my grandparents, much less, always preached that
education was the most important thing that you could obtain and did everything possible to
promote that for all three of us. I graduated from university in 1981 and have been employed in
the field of education ever since.
My employment education dates back to 1972, where I worked at the grocery store
stocking shelves. I have been employed with numerous summer jobs including Household
Movers, Labatt‟s Breweries and Stephenville Recreation Director.
Teachers and Your Schooling
Being a person quite fond of mathematics and an area of concentration that I pursued in
university, I would have to select Mr. Don Janes, our math teacher, as my favorite. He was a
teacher who had a good tone, presented the classroom rules, and was consistent with his
discipline under these rules. He had a good sense of humor, and was always there to help when
any student had trouble. Ironically it was Mr. Janes who ended up being my cooperating teacher
when I did my teaching block in Stephenville.
School began at 8:30 a.m and finished at 3:10 p.m. We would walk to school in the early
fall and spring, but were allowed to ride the bus in the winter. Our recess was 20 minutes and
dinner was 70 minutes, which allowed for intramural‟s at lunch time. Each period was 60
minutes long and we had 5 a day.
School was a lot of fun for my friends and I because it was time when we could hang out
and socialize- something that was not really possible with the distances we lived from each other.
Our school had much structure, was highly spirited, and had an environment conducive to
learning all within a fun-filled atmosphere. I really enjoyed school and I think it had a lot to do
with my friends, the caring and devoted teachers, as well as, a solid administration.
As I reminisce about school, I do feel that I was most successful because I learned the
importance of education, achieved well and formed life long friendships. Although the course
material taught was department written the teachers did put their own slant on it, and this usually
made it most interesting. Ok, there were classes that we certainly kept checking our watches, but
in general most all were good. Most of the subject material was and has been useful, but there
was a lot that was left within the four wall of our classroom. Is today different? Possibly not.
Our teachers, the majority anyway, did not discuss much sex education. Whenever this
assignment was given, the public health nurse was contacted by the teacher right away. Unlike
today, teachers did not discuss drugs that much either. Surprisingly, though, there were some
good talks on nutrition and healthy activities.
I can honestly say that the teachers that I had as a student, seemed to enjoy their work and
this is evident by the fact that they retired from their profession. On occasion I still bump into a
few and conversation still goes back to “remember when...?” The teachers were quite good and
many obtained their masters before retiring. On another note, most of my teachers who initially
moved to Stephenville to take up employment, retired in this community.
Since the new school was my favorite, I will answer my questions as they pertain to this
building. The Intermediate High School was located at the northern end of the town‟s boundary,
near the river that divided the town. It was located at the end of a huge field that now is home to
the town‟s mall. The school was a brick structure with a state of the art design. It had all the
bright colors, a cafeteria, a huge gymnasium with a stage and two laboratories comparable to any
university. There was a teacher‟s lounge with work stations and some rooms that I did not have
the opportunity to be instructed in. These rooms were the carpenter shop, mechanics shop, and
home economics room. Eventually, with enrolment increases, students did get to use the home
The school had teachers parking, a fire lane, new landscaping with newly planted trees, a
circular driveway to the main entrance, and a beautiful track/soccer complex. It was as nice as
any other community could lay claim to. The school was maintained by 3 janitors and a
maintenance person with their own two workrooms.
As you entered the school you would have the secretary‟s office with the principal and
vice principal‟s office attached. The floors were shining and the display cabinets were full of
awards and trophies. The smell was new.
Standing in the classroom door, you had a double black board to your left, a room full of
new desks, a big window, with blinds, directly across from you, a double storage closet to your
left and shelving in the back right corner. The floors still had the shining look on them and the
teacher‟s desk was located at the front of the classroom, near the blackboards and a new swivel
The school was fully equipped with the latest tools and technology. The basket in the gym
was electronically raised and lowered; the fire alarm system would automatically close all the
doors when set off; and the lab‟s equipment was all new, as were our bleachers and gymnasium
equipment. Each classroom had pull-down screens and a storage closet. As already refrained, it
was a school that every student, parent/guardian, teacher, and support staff worker felt proud to
be a part of. With the pride that surrounded our school, volunteers were most easily attracted. It
still, after attending a 25 year reunion, maintains a lot of what is described above and promotes a
real warm feeling as you walk though its doors and corridors.
Success at our school meant working and achieving to one‟s potential. Of course high
academics highlighted a student‟s success, but even these students who completed each grade
with averages that matched their ability were considered most successful. Awards were presented
in front of a packed house on a special night to honor the top achieving students. Donald McKay
was a very successful student within our school and more specifically, within our class. He
always obtained the highest average and still managed to socialize with a large circle of friends.
He participated in the extra curricular program and served on the school council, yearbook
committee and graduation committee. He certainly contributed in and around the school while
maintaining a 90+ average.
Families, who supported their children both at home and in school, seemed to produce
children who did well in school. They were usually two-parent families with at least one working
parent. Children from broken homes and/or low social-economic backgrounds didn‟t seem to
achieve as well. Families with structure and discipline seemed to produce the better achieving
In regards to one gender being more successful than the other I would have to say that it
was mixed. Although in our class two males were usually first and second, the girls weren‟t too
far behind. In other classes the females were on top. I „m not sure if gender really matters, and I
think it had more to do with support, attitude and effort.
Surprisingly, prejudices at this time did not seem to impact students like it does today.
Maybe this had a lot to do with the transient nature of the people who lived within Stephenville.
Parents had relatives who lived all over North America, especially within the United States and
this certainly allowed people to have open minds about all community visitors. The American
presence certainly helped in this area. I must admit our generation was most receptive to people
with different disabilities and treated them with the utmost of dignity.
Stephenville Integrated High had a discipline policy that was well written and most
clearly explained to students and parents. Under the umbrella of this discipline policy, teachers
developed their own set of classroom rules/guidelines that were posted on the bulletin board.
Students who acted outside the rules were dealt consequences as outlined in the policy. Yes, in
the 70's the strap was still used, but not like in other schools. Oh yes, we did have a Truant
Officer who visited the homes of students who refused to attend school or missed a lot of school.
There were in-school suspensions, detentions, out-of-school suspensions, removal of privileges
and expulsion but not many students knew the consequences that accompanied the inappropriate
The students who seemed to get in trouble the most were those students who experienced
difficulty with school work, were in trouble outside of the school and basically those who had
trouble operating within a disciplined setting. Remember Pathways, ADD, ADHD, FAS, ISSP‟s
and learning disabilities were not so identified as today, so all students were kept in a classroom
setting, however, the classes were streamed.
With regards to bullying and intimidation, most all these were dealt with off school
grounds by the students/groups involved. Isolated in-school incidents were dealt with by the
guidance counselor. Unlike today‟s schools, there did not seem to be many incidents of bullying
within the building. Students basically take care of themselves and parent involvement, at least at
the student level, seemed to be minimal. Yes, there were incidents of teasing and there were
pranks, but they were often reciprocated. It seems that students were tougher and more mature in
our school than those today. Maybe parents have become over protective and students are softer.
In our school there were seldom fights or any real squabbles that were evident to the
teachers. Students understood the rules and settled their differences off the school grounds. Now
incidents are made more frequent within the buildings themselves and the administration are kept
very busy dishing out suspensions, phoning parents and setting up meetings. The RCMP are
involved way more today than in the past. Some schools have top of the line security systems
with cameras to help with maintaining a safe environment. Yes, schools today have more
incidents of bullying and are considered more violent especially at the High School level.
PART III: Interview with my Grandmother
Name of interviewer: Renee Dove
Name of Interviewee: Pearl Hulan (Grandmother)
Schools Attended: McKays school house
Date of interview: September 23, 2005
My Grandmother was born on November 7th, 1931 and raised in a small settlement called
McKays. Mckays is located in western Newfoundland and has a small population 150 residents.
She explained to me that because the town was so small everyone knew everyone, and it was
hard to keep things private. She told me that while she was growing up in McKays her family
and friends had to make their own fun as there were no facilities like there are today. They
played games with sticks, played ball, and played house with broken dishes, tin cans, and used
rocks and leaves as pretend food. After recalling these events she finished by saying “we had a
lot of fun”. My Grandmother said that she spent a lot of time at home and that no one in the
community was out after 8:00 p.m. Everyone was at home by then, getting ready for the next
day. She stated that there were no such thing as television, only the radio, and they spent a lot of
time listening to that for entertainment.
My Grandmother lived in a family with 10 children. She had 4 sisters and 5 brothers.
Her father farmed and fished and her mother passed away at the age of 40, leaving behind her 10
children ranging from ages 3 to 19. When her mother passed away, her oldest brother was
married and out on his own, but the other nine still lived at home with their father in there small
house on the hill. She told me that her and her sisters would knit the socks and mittens and hats,
cook the meals and clean the house. The boys, on the other hand, would help their father with
the outside chores including helping with the cattle, chopping the wood, making hay for the cattle
to eat, and bringing in the vegetables from the garden. She went on further to say: “we all took
care of each other in order to help our father out as best we could. We were a very happy family
and my Dad lived to be 86 years old.”
In the next part of the interview I asked my Grandmother about her actual school
experience. She told me that her school was a one room building. It had no name, it was just
known as the McKays school house. The grades ranged from 1-11 and all grades met each day in
this one room to learn their subjects. She said there were approximately 35-40 students in the
whole school room, which is roughly 3-4 students per grade level. She went on to tell me that
there was only one teacher in the room and he or she would teach all of the grades. With each
new school year the possibility of having a new teacher was good, but there was never more than
one teacher each year. She told me that the teachers she had didn‟t have any University, rather
they had probably just graduated from grade 11 and went through summer school and then
became the teacher. When I asked her how the teachers behaved toward the students she said
that she really liked her teachers, and that they were definitely strict but generally very nice. The
teachers ensured that they devoted equal amounts of time and attention to each student of each
grade, and interacted a great deal with them. She went on to say that they were expected to be
very quiet and obedient and most children were because the strap and wooden spoon were typical
forms of punishment back then. I asked her how the teacher dressed and she said they wore very
casual clothing such as cords and knitted sweaters. Never suits or dress shirt and tie. She also
said that she clearly remembers them wearing warm winter jackets, knitted mittens and hats, and
nice footwear that kept them warm and protected from the harsh winters they faced back then.
In the next part of the interview, my Grandmother shared with me some memories of her
schooling that made me realize just how different school really was back then. Her school was
located in the center of the community. The school wasn‟t very far so the students had to walk to
it and sometimes it would be hard because of all of the snow. There was no bathroom inside, it
was outside. The students would have to ask permission to leave the room if they wanted to use
the bathroom. The school had a wooden floor and a lot of windows. There was a pot-bellied
stove in the middle of the room and that was how the building was heated. The students had to
take turns bringing in the kindling for the fire, but the wood was always provided. They each had
desks, and it was one student to a desk. The teacher had his own desk and he had a chaulk board
which he used to write down notes and help students out with math problems. She went on to
tell me that a list was made which paired up the girls and everyday two girls would have to stay
behind to sweep the floor. Outside of the school there was grass, a few trees and a couple of
houses. The citizens of the community were the primary caretakers of the school and if there was
a problem with it, such as a leak, the men of the town would come together to fix it voluntarily.
Furthermore, my grandmother told me that for the most part everyone in the town liked the
school and there was never a complaint about the teachers and how they went about doing their
For the next part of the interview, I asked my Grandmother to describe to me a typical
school day. Here is how she described it:
“we went to school at 9 and came home at 4. We would get out your scribbler or slate out and
our teacher would assign some arithmetic. Then we would have a spelling test in which we
would have to spell out loud for the teacher. Next, we would have to read out loud in front of
the teacher. Then we would have our recess. After recess we would study geography and
history. There wasn‟t really such a thing as science or anything; it was mainly English,
geography and math. Then we would have a lunch break and we would stay there and eat our
lunches until it was time to start working again. Then we would begin the afternoon by
reading more and having the teacher ask us questions. He would then set our homework and
at 4:00 it was time to walk home again.”
I decided to ask my Grandmother some more general questions about school. I asked if
she enjoyed and she said she really did. She said she considered herself to be successful in
school and that what made her happy was receiving a passing grade. A passing grade when my
grandmother went to school was a 50 and, just like today, they would always get a progress
report at Christmas and a report card at the end of the year. She remembers that no one was
anymore successful than the other, or at least not much more. She said that she remembers the
girls doing slightly better than the boys, but not by too much. In the interview I got the
impression that she really did love going to school and she wishes she could have gone right up
until the end. However, she was forced to stop going to school after grade 9 because it was her
turn to help take care of her family. She needed to be home as often as she could now, ensuring
that the necessary tasks to maintain the household were completed.
Finally, my Grandmother went on to give a more detailed discussion of the discipline in
the school back then. She told me that things were very different compared to now. She said
that if a student were to disobey the teacher, do something to another student, chew gum or
anything that was considered to be inappropriate behavior for the school room they would be sent
to the corner with a book on their head. Moreover, if the incident was severe, such as fighting or
scrapping in the schoolyard, then the student would be punished with the strap or wooden spoon.
She stressed the fact that it had to be pretty bad to get the strap or spoon though. She then went
on to explain that school behavior is much worse now than back then as well. When she was in
school, my Grandmother said she can hardly remember any incidences of bullying; there were
rarely incidences of talking back to the teacher and; there was no such thing as drug use. She
explained that the parents of the children were very strict back then too, and if someone was
known to have gotten the strap at school then chances were they would be getting it again at
home. This was certainly enough motivation to promote good behavior.
Clearly, things are really different now than they were when my Grandmother went to school.
Things are even different now compared to when my Dad went to school. With that said, it was
very interesting to learn about the way schooling was back then and compare it to now. It really
provided a sense of the historical background behind school and gave me some perspective on
the advances we have made and the things that have changed. The school system has come a
long way since my Grandmother went to school. I am interested for my future grandchild to
interview me about my schooling in forty or fifty year‟s time. I wonder how different it will all
be by then.