My Dad’s Memoirs

Here is the beginning of my father’s memoirs. He wrote down his memories in the mid 1990s, after he had retired from Canadair/Bombardier, where he worked in Experimental Engineering. This story of his early days gives an unusual child’s-eye-view of WWII. Dad was born in 1926, so he was 13 when war broke out in 1939. Characteristically for my dad, he greatly minimizes the impact of his mother’s death — she was struck and killed by a drunk driver a few dozen feet from the front of her house — my dad was only 9 years old. Elsewhere he wrote of her death in more detail and, if I find it, I will post it.



1.1.1 September 1939 to May/June 1940

My name is Ronald A.J. Regan and I was born in August 1926 in Gillingham, Kent, England, where I was brought up and lived until 1947 (my 21st year). I was born on the 8th day of the 8th month and I was my mother’s 8th child. She had three girls and five boys, in that order. I was the youngest.

My father was a teacher in Gillingham at an elementary school called “Arden Street School.”  The school supplied many apprentice boys to the famous Chatham Royal Naval Dockyard, some indeed of a very high standard including some who went on to become Whitworth Scholars!  Many years after his death, a memorial article by some former students of his was published in a local newspaper of which I have a copy.

We lived in a semi-detached house owned by my father at 74 First Avenue in a nice area of Gillingham, backing onto the local golf course. He also owned the allotment next door with a wooden shed on it. With such a large family, my father kept chickens and grew all the vegetables for us — we all worked in the garden and, of course, in Kent, The Garden of England, we had abundant supplies of fruit.

My mother and father were accidentally struck by a car while walking across Watling Street , known locally as the top road (the main Dover Road through Gillingham) in July 1936, when I was 9 years old. My father was relatively unscathed but my mother died that night.

One year later (1937), I completed and passed the 11-Plus school leaving exam at “Barnsole Road Elementary School” and my father decided to send me to “Gillingham County School for Boys,” a secondary school close to our home which my next oldest brother (Dick) had already attended for three years.

I was a happy pupil, interested in all the subjects, particularly English Composition and Literature, Choir, and Games (rugby and cricket) and, although I was shy by nature and very timid in the outside world of strangers, I enjoyed the companionship of my fellow pupils. I also developed in these years model-making hobby interests.

As the war years loomed and I look back, I see another set of circumstances which stood me in good stead for the evacuation experience to come.

My school went every summer to somewhere for a school camp and my Pop decided that I would go to my first one in the summer of 1938. I was 12 years old. It was very primitive by today’s standards: under canvas, sleeping on the ground, no toilet or washing facilities except a tap in a farmer’s field. That year we went to Port Madoc in North Wales for two weeks and climbed Snowdon mountain and hiked to Harlech Castle, learned to pronounce the longest town name in the U.K., got very wet, and had good sing-songs around the camp fire.

The following year, 1939, I went again with the school camping trip, this time to the red earth of Devonshire, Exmouth actually—again it was school chums and teachers that formed our world and made the hard camping life enjoyable.

As 1939 wore on, we were more and more affected by the war-like preparations in Southern England and gradually all my brothers and sisters were mobilized or left home on their own accord. At school my brother Dick and myself were caught up in it — we were given gas masks in cardboard boxes and shown how to put them on. They hung on a string around our necks. The class teacher gave us instructions on evacuation if war came but we were never told where we would be sent. They were strange and, to me, exciting times — a 13 year old county school boy.

My father, of course, was making arrangements to be evacuated with his own school and it was taken for granted in our household that we would all do what was expected of us with the usual stiff upper lip and no tears!!

September 3rd, 1939 was, if memory serves, a Sunday and marked, as many would later observe, by a blood red sunset unusual in Kent. An omen, many have thought — anyway we all heard the Declaration of War and the following week in school we were instructed by our teachers to prepare for evacuation by bringing our gas masks, a case with clothes, and a raincoat to Gillingham train station. This was the start of the so-called “Phoney War” and I don’t think my Pop’s school was evacuated as early as us in Gillingham County School. He said goodbye to us and sent us off as instructed —we all gathered on the platform at Gillingham station, which was already crowded, I remember, with soldiers and sailors. A daily newspaper later was to carry a picture of us county school boys all herded and huddled on the platform complete with gas masks — bound for God knows where!!

We eventually got on a train headed for the Kent Coast, which perplexed smart-alec county school boys like us because, of course, they were taking us closer to the Germans, not the other way. Anyway, our destination turned out to be Sandwich on the Kent coast in the same area as Ramsgate and Margate: one of the so-called Cinque Ports steeped in English history, where our school was accommodated until the Phoney War ended (from September 1939 to May/June 1940, when the Battle of Britain would erupt savagely in the skies overhead, paving the way for the mighty Blitz of London and Southern England to follow later).

My brother Dick was with me and after the train ride we were taken by bus to the foster homes designated. He and I were kept together and dropped at a council house in a typical English small town district. It was the home of a  Mr. and Mrs. Tookey, who welcomed us and made us feel at home — they were young and jolly with a small baby. He was working class but I forget what his job was. They gave us a room with a bed and we were to be comfortable enough there, they fed us as we were used to and we soon settled down. My brother actually looked after me, comforting my homesickness, grief for our bereavement and generally protecting his little brother — Fatso, he called me.

Our school had secured premises to accommodate all the classes required — it was, I think, in the town of Sandwich located in a building which I think had been a Wesleyan Meeting Hall previously. Anyway, we resumed lessons as normal, although us younger ones were intrigued by the slaughterhouse next door. At playtime, etcetera, I remember us climbing a brick wall to watch the cows in the yard being got ready to be slaughtered and watching the meat being loaded onto a lorry.

One other thing happened soon after we arrived. My Pop had bought me a new raincoat — a schoolboy dark English Burberry — and, by accident, I burned a large hole in it by standing too close to an electric fire in the building where we had classes. I did not see it!  Anyway, I hid it as best I could and it stayed with me throughout all my evacuation journeys and it never did get fixed until I discarded the coat many years later!!

My other memories of Sandwich include walking all around the countryside, to the beach which had receded over the centuries, leaving Sandwich high and dry and no good as a port — although the land itself was very low lying and my brother was always trying to dry me out when I came back with my Wellington boots full of water. Also the Rope Walk was a favorite place for me and my school chums — I remember discussions there when as 13-year-old schoolboys, one of my classmates shocked us by saying that it was life that was Hell and we would be released to happier times by being killed and going to Heaven — I am still trying to resolve that philosophical point first postulated to me as an evacuee on the Rope Walk at Sandwich 57 years ago!!

During this period, and all the time I was an evacuee, my Pop sent a letter about once a month with 2/6 (Usually) postal order for stamps, bus fares, and pocket money, which went mostly on “tuppenny bloods” beloved of English school boys — “Hotspur,” “Adventure” and “Modern Boys” magazines were my most popular ones. He also sent our fares to come back home during the Christmas holidays 1939 which our teachers allowed. The family reunion at 74 First Avenue was poignant and the last time we were to see my Pop and brothers and sisters for a long time.

I have no memory of any integration with local schools, except our games periods were played on beautiful playing fields with trees in the English manner which I think we were told belonged to the local grammar school.

As 1940 wore on from winter into spring, the Phoney War was coming to an end and one day in early summer my teacher told us that Gillingham County School evacuee boys were to be moved to another safer place, and that we must pack our bag, say goodbye to the people we lived with, and be at the train station early to go to London the next day. My brother Dick told me that day that his teacher had told them that his class would not be going with the rest of us — he was nearly 16 years old and preparing for the matric and London University Leaving School Certificate (LUGS we called it) to finish school and arrangements had been made for them to go back home to Gillingham County School for the exam. He would be leaving the train at Gillingham.

The Sandwich evacuation had started for me, just 13 years old, with homesickness, self-pity, and grief. But I was now nearly 14 years old, the age of puberty, and growing up quickly. I had learned to keep myself clean (most of the time—after a fashion), stay out of trouble, and I was hardly perturbed that Dick was leaving me. Mr. and Mrs. Tookey were nice respectable people trying to help us evacuees and to do their part for the war effort. I have no bad feelings in my memory.

The next day’s long journey on my evacuation adventures was indeed to end by dumping me and my school chums far from home where we were strangers in a strange land. But that is another story…

Remembrance Day Post

My father was born in 1926 and so he was a teenager during much of WWII. At 16, he joined a “protected industry” making airplanes for the war effort, so he was not called up to fight. He was 19 when the war ended. However, Dad had 3 brothers who did fight in the war and two of them lost their lives. Below, you can read an extract from my Dad’s memoirs, where he describes hearing of the death of his 21-year-old brother.

The following spring (1945) as the Burma War front was coming to an end and it seemed that the allies were heading for total victory, I experienced one of the most poignant moments of my life.  I was 18 years old and when I arrived home one day after work as the evenings were staying lighter late, my Pop greeted me very quietly.  He was sitting in his usual arm chair in the front room beside the fireplace smoking his pipe.  When I asked if something was wrong, he said “there’s a telegram on the desk, it came just now, I want you to open it son”.  I knew that could mean only one thing, in those days, and my thoughts instantly made me fear which one of my remaining brothers.  The telegram carried the large O.H.M.S. on the outside.  I opened it and said to Pop — it’s Dick, he has been killed in action, his effects will be sent later.  “Poor old chap”, he said and was silent for a long time.  Then he said you must go and tell his fiancee before she hears outside of the family.  Dick had been going with this young lady since he was in the A.R.P. and I think they had become unofficially engaged while he was overseas.  He was just 21 years old when we got the news.  I took my bike; she lived in Wigmore in the country outside Gillingham.  As dusk approached I rode through the hop fields below the Darland Banks (The North Downs).  The “Darling Buds of May” Kentish people called the hops.  Thinking how I would tell her.  Reaching the front garden gate, I pushed it open and wheeled my bike in and rested it on the side fence.  She must have heard me because she came out of the front door with a radiant smile, half scolding that at last I had come to visit her.  I stood rigidly by my bike as if turned to stone with a straight face.  I could not muster any greeting or anything.  She stopped abruptly with hand to bosom for an eternal moment.  I said,  “It’s my brother Dick, he’s been killed.  We just got the telegram”.  Before I finished her face had collapsed in tears and sobs.  Her father came out at that moment and mercifully she fell into his embrace and he led her back indoors.  My job was done.  I quietly wheeled the bike out of the garden and made my way thoughtfully home.

One head cannot hold all wisdom (Maasai, East Africa)

Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer (Norwegian)

Better to suffer for truth than to prosper by falsehood (Danish)

Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan (American)

Children have more need of models than of critics (French)

Liberty has no price (Spanish)

Doubt is the key to knowledge (Iranian)

Postpone today’s anger until tomorrow (Tagalog, Filipino)

Prayer only from the mouth is no prayer (Jamaican)

There is often wisdom under a shaggy coat (Latin)

A good example is the best sermon (English)

What one hopes for is always better than what one has (Ethiopian)

Promise little and do much (Hebrew)

It is better to prevent than to cure (Peruvian)

Spending is quick, earning is slow (Russian)

People show their character by what they laugh at (German)

You can’t see the whole sky through a bamboo tube (Japanese)

Don’t let grass grow on the path of friendship (Blackfoot Indian)

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance (Socrates)

Let him that would move the world, first move himself (Socrates)

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world (Socrates)


Education. Like religion and politics at an Irish family dinner, education is a topic that everyone has an opinion about. I don’t think that, in a crowd, you’d find a single person with an unequivocally good opinion of the education system. There don’t seem to be too many people who enjoyed their educational experience, few who can even find minor good things to say about it.1

Teaching is probably one of the only jobs that most everyone feels confident they could do better than those folks who actually get paid to do it. Do most people think they can perform brain surgery better than a brain surgeon? Litigate better than a lawyer? Design a plane better than an engineer? Clear a toilet blockage better than a plumber? I don’t think so.

Why is this? Where does the negativity come from? Is it because most people have direct experience with education and teachers and found something to dislike in both? Because our society “doesn’t value” education (and it bears looking at — what type of a society would not value education)? Because looking after children isn’t seen as a profession but a privilege? Because teachers are not seen as authoritative through the possession of an arcane body of knowledge, even in their content areas? Because even teachers know the truth — that they don’t have the foggiest notion how to do this job? Why do we tend to remember and talk up those nasty experiences more than the good ones?

As individuals, we struggle between the demands of authority and the pursuit of ‘our own way”. Education is undoubtedly piggy-backed on some heavy psychological issues concerning the controlling roles of both (male) parent and super-ego. The need to hand down a legacy from the past is at odds with the need to cast off the tyranny of the parent and start anew. When education was closely linked to survival, as it still is in many cultures, it was easier to see its direct value.

There have been many attempts to justify education. It’s surprising to realize that none of these attempts work. I might as well make my own bias in favour of traditional liberal education overt right now. Yet even I cannot buy into the elaborate justifications of liberal education presented by great philosophers of education like JS Mill, RS Peters, EB Hirsch, and xxx. By and large, members of our Canadian society agree that a traditional education in the nineteenth century mold is unnecessary today. We (government, philosophers of education, parents, teachers, students) are not quite sure what teachers and students should be doing in schools. In fact, education is far easier to critique than to exalt: it’s much easier to say what we don’t want education to do.

As for those misguided optimists who think education is a science (the French translation of Concordia University’s education department is “departement des sciences de l’education”), I’m sorry but that’s simply a non-starter. Plainly, education is not a science. If it were we would have, for example, some idea how people learn. We don’t have a clue. In fact, we don’t even know how simple organisms like earthworms learn. There are some time-honored teaching methods: verbal explanation, learning through experience, following procedural instructions,  and so on. Many have learned through reading, some through writing, few through introspection. Is it possible to know which methods work and which don’t? Does it depend on the person being taught, the person doing the teaching, the thing being taught? Attempts have been made to measure these things. Attempts have been made to automate them – CAI has been a failure until now but, given the new direction of re-defined education in Canada today, it may be only a matter of time until the Internet replaces the classroom

After all, the traditional classroom is expensive. Too expensive, everyone agrees. And it’s not accountable. And it doesn’t train students for 21st century jobs. And teachers are incompetent. And they’re racist, sexist, and too old. And they can’t reach or teach the kids – teachers are boring, they way they talk on and on and prescribe drill exercises. And the kids act out, naturally – wouldn’t anyone? –  and drop out. If education and teachers were only fun, and interesting, and fair… If we had good teachers and if success could be measured objectively, the way it is in factories, the paying public could be sure it was getting its money’s worth.

There’s a large school of educational thought predicated on the notion that, if we could only get rid of teachers, we could perfect education. Break down a course (even a discipline) into “competencies” that “clients” want to “acquire”, develop specific formative experiences that ensure “mastery” of each “competency”, set “objective” “benchmarks” that allow clients to test (and retest until successful) whether they have “mastered” the “competency”, and then carefully replicate the entire experience so that each cohort of clients is processed through exactly the same steps to achieve the same outcome. The course is programmed to such an extent that anyone could deliver the material. In fact, it could be argued that a computer is the best provider of competency-based education — infinitely patient, tolerant of repeat errors, immune from contaminating the competencies with personal anecdote, personal prejudice, personality. The teacher’s role is reduced to the mechanical/clerical one of measuring “objective criteria” and checking off competencies.

I taught part-time in a department of education for eight years, actively participating in the education of future teachers. There I encountered (and challenged) a list of compulsory (if unstated) shibboleths uncritically absorbed by new teachers: testing (indeed any form of com  petition) is pernicious, children are pure moral beings, given equal opportunity all children can perform equally well, children can learn from each other better than from a teacher, and so on. I have taught in a vocational program at the community college (cegep) level these past 19 years. I’ve seen my college change from the university model to the high school model, motivated by financial necessity to “keep bums in seats”.


Why is there such pervasive dissatisfaction with the status quo in education? Professional critics of education like John Holt, Would it be possible to sit down and design a optimal curriculum and the best-of-all-possible teaching methods to convey the content of this optimal curriculum?  Does “society” care enough that it would even listen, let alone act, if some best possible school could be postulated?

I picked up a book for $8.99 (reduced from $23.50 Canadian) from the remaindered book shelf at Chapters last year simply because the title intrigued me: The Educated Child. My, I thought, who today still believes that an educated child is a laudable aim?  What would we want educated children for?  Aren’t children supposed to be natural, spontaneous, simple, joyful, and unfettered?  All those adjectives that don’t jibe with what we think an educated child would be. Reading books and reciting facts like a tiny Ken Jennings isn’t the ideal twenty-first-century parents hold out for their children. I dare say that to today’s average parent, an educated child would be a freak of nature, like those genius children occasionally featured in the lifestyles section of the newspaper, going off to college at 16, playing with the Boston Philharmonic at 8.  In fact, we seem far from certain that educated adults are necessary for the good of society or, indeed, good for much else (except for a few eccentric souls somewhere in academe working on the cure for cancer, the less-expensive plasma tv, or a pleasing legal solution to the Napster problem).  Society could do quite well without the rabid archaeology buff, the keen theologist, the obsessive art historian.  In fact, we question the mental health of such arcane passions.

It’s four years to the day since my beloved Dad died of pancreatic cancer on Nov 1, 2008. He was a thoroughly good, wise, gentle man — yes, a true Gentleman.

Orphaned young, he survived and succeeded in this difficult world, remaining devoted to his wife and family until the end. I sit here crying because I miss him. Our relationship changed over the years until he became something like a friend, something like a role model, something like a touchstone or reminder that there is goodness in some people. Not that he didn’t irritate me and even bore me from time to time.

Diagnosed officially on August 24, he died on Nov. 1.

My sister and I had suspected Dad was ill around the previous Christmas. He began to shrink away in front of our eyes; his voice became less vigorous; his steps slowed; I said to my husband that Dad was moving further and further away. My Mum had died 4 years previous and Dad was living by himself in an over-65 apartment building, but we saw him in the neighbourhood all the time as well as getting together regularly at my house for fish and chips.

At the start of August, my husband and I went for a weekend escape to Vermont… I couldn’t stop thinking about Dad. I remembered how he had begun to sit with his hand inside the belt of his trousers, pushing the belt away from his stomach. It started to worry me. He looked so thin, almost transparent! My sister called me and said she was beginning to be very concerned about him.

On the way back from Vermont, I dropped my husband at home, and went to get milk and bread at our local grocery store. Dad was there, as he often was, sitting in the sunshine outside the mall, watching the world go by. I drove the car up to him and said, “Dad, we must take you to the hospital tonight.” He smiled, and said, “Okay, Susie.” He must have been feeling so sick — he hadn’t wanted to bother me or my sister, but he knew it was time to find out what was wrong.

We waited all night in the Emergency Dept, Dad on a stretcher and my sister and I sitting/sleeping on the floor. Eight o’clock the next morning, the Emergency Dept came to life, suddenly doctors appeared, ordered tests, and told us our Dad had pancreatic cancer, with 3-6 months to live. My sister and I cried. We cried until he died, and after. We didn’t want Dad to go. He was loving, dignified, stoic, and calm all his life, until the moment it ended.

He came to live with me and my husband for 2 months. We had some wonderful days and some difficult days. The palliative care nurses were very good. As autumn arrived, he sat on the deck in the uncharacteristically warm sunshine, looking up at the airplanes taking off from Montreal Airport about 1/4 mile from my house. You see, he had helped design many of those planes: the Canadair Challenger, Bombardier Regional Jet, Airbus…

On Canadian Thanksgiving, I made a big turkey dinner and my sister’s family came over… what was left of my family was all together eating around the table. Dad became very ill for the first time — he could not tolerate the smell of the food, and we knew he didn’t have much time left. He became less and less able to eat and even those things he could previously tolerate (a little glass of beer, for example!) had to be left behind. Some days, he would hardly eat, and I could not warm him up no matter what I tried. He shook with cold. He could hardly brush his own teeth, he was so weak. He resembled a skeleton but, at the same time, his face grew younger and almost beautiful. The day he vomited unspeakable substances, I knew he had to go to Palliative Care. I thought he would choke to death in my arms. He didn’t want to go, but went bravely. I moved in too and slept on a cot next to his bed. I don’t know how, but I also taught College for 4 hours a day!

They were great at the hospice — Dad even rallied and ate a cookie. All this time, he had never allowed himself to stay in bed: He’d get up with me at 7 am and go to bed at 11 pm. He dozed in his chair and told me he hoped to pass away sitting in his chair listening to his music that he loved. At the Palliative, he spent the first 6 days in his chair, watching DVDs of the old British shows and listening to music. It rained every day. The leaves fell from the trees. The Palliative doctor called me aside and said, “Your father is a dead man sitting in a chair.” The doctor had never seen the will not to give up that my Dad displayed: he was determined not to lie sick in bed.

But there came a day when Dad could not get up and get dressed, even with help. He dozed and slept in bed all day. That night, I heard my Dad stop breathing. I counted to 120 and he started again. He hadn’t taken a breath in 2 minutes. Suddenly, I was terrified. I felt ghosts all around me. I jumped up off my cot, put my coat on over my pjamas and drove home. I couldn’t take it any more. I was back again before Dad woke up, but he knew I had gone and I know he was sad about that. I said, “Dad, I haven’t been back to my own house in a week. I will stay with you all day but I have to go home at night.” He smiled and let me know it was okay.

From that point on, his sleep deepened and his drugs were increased, and there were several times when the doctor counted 2 minutes or more between his breaths but, incredibly, he would rally enough to give us the “thumbs up”. Friday night, my sister and I knew death was very close. Dad hadn’t been able to eat for a week. We spent the evening writing Dad’s obituary. He passed away the following morning. I’m not young, I’m 57, but life has not been the same since Dad left. I think of him every day. God bless you, Dad. You are loved and missed.

xoxox Hugs and peace to everyone touched by this disease. xoxox

Rules for the Classroom – and for Life

I learned a lot from reading a little book about teaching elementary school, called The Essential 55 By Ron Clark. New York: Hyperion Press, 2003. I teach college-level students, but many of them could learn from Ron Clark… You can tell that I slightly adapted Ron’s text for my own students at John Abbott College.

  • When responding to any adult, you must answer by saying “Yes ma’am” or “No Sir.” Just nodding your head or saying any other form of yes or no is not acceptable.
  • Make eye contact. When someone is speaking, keep your eyes on him or her at all times. If someone makes a comment, turn and face that person.
  • If someone in the class does something well, we will congratulate that person. Claps should be of at least three seconds in length with the full part of both hands meeting in a manner that will give the appropriate clap volume.
  • During discussions, respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas. When possible, make statements like, “I agree with John, and I also feel that…” or “I disagree with Sara. She made a good point, but I feel that…” or “I think Victor made an excellent observation, and it made me realize…”
  • If you win or do well at something, do not brag. If you lose, do not show anger. Instead, say something like, “I really enjoyed the competition, and I look forward to playing you again,” or “Good game,” or don’t say anything at all. To show anger or sarcasm, such as “I wasn’t playing hard anyway. You really aren’t that good,” shows weakness.
  • If you are asked a question in conversation, you should ask a question in return. If someone asks, “Did you have a nice weekend?” you should answer the question and then ask a question in return… It is only polite to show others that you are as interested in them as they are in you.
  • When you cough or sneeze or burp, it is appropriate to turn your head away from others and cover your mouth with the full part of your hand. Using a fist is not acceptable. Afterward, you should say, “Excuse me.” Use a tissue to “trap” your sneeze. Throw used tissues in the garbage immediately upon use.
  • Do not smack your lips, tsk, roll your eyes, or show disrespect with gestures.
  • Always say thank you when someone gives you something… There is no excuse for not showing appreciation.
  • When you are given something from someone, never insult that person by making negative comments about the gift or by insinuating that it wasn’t appreciated.
  • Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness. Go out of your way to do something surprisingly kind and generous for someone at least once a month.
  • Answer all written questions with a complete sentence. For example, if the question asks, “What is the capital of Russia?” you should respond by writing, “The capital of Russia is Moscow.” Also, in conversation with others, it is important to use complete sentences out of respect for the person’s question. For example, if a person asks, “How are you?” instead of just responding by saying, “Fine,” you should say, “I’m doing fine, thank you. How about yourself?”
  • You will make every effort to be as organized as possible.
  • When work is assigned to you, there is to be no moaning or complaining.
  • We will follow certain classroom protocols. We will be organized, efficient, and on task. In order to do so, we will follow these rules:
    • Do not get out of your seat without permission. Exception: If you are sick, leave immediately.
    • Do not speak unless:
  • You raise your hand and I call on you.
  • I ask you a question and you are responding.
  • It is a lab period and no lecturing is going on
  • In the classroom, you may bring a bottle of water and leave it on your desk.
  • Learn the names of other teachers in the school and greet them when you pass them in the hall by saying things like, “Good morning, Jan. How was your weekend?” or “Good afternoon, Chantal. Isn’t the weather lovely?”
  • Flush the toilet and wash your hands after using the rest room.
  • We often have visitors to our labs. Remember that you are a PDHT ambassador. Visitors should not observe game-playing, loud talking, music-playing, or any other behavior that is not characteristic of serious students.
  • Do not save seats in the lab. If someone wants to sit down near you, let him or her. Do not try to exclude anyone. We are a family, and we must treat one another with respect and kindness.
  • If you have a question about your homework, you may telephone me at school. If I am not there to answer the phone, please leave a message in the following manner: “Hi, Susan, this is ________. I need help with the ________ homework. You can call me back until _________ at number ________. That’s ________ (repeat the number, slowly). Thank you.”
  • After we work, we will clean up after ourselves. This includes cleaning off the tables and making sure we haven’t left any trash on the floor or around the lab. It is important to be responsible for your trash no matter where you are and to be sure not to litter.
  • When you are on stage or volunteering at a school event (Trade Fair, for example), you will meet different people. When you are introduced to these people, make sure that you remember their names. Then, when they are leaving, make sure to shake their hands and thank them, mentioning their names as you do so.
  • When we are in school, if someone drops something, pick it up and hand it back to them. Even if they are closer to the object, it is only polite to make the gesture of bending down to retrieve the item.
  • If you approach the door and someone is following you, hold the door. If the door opens by pulling, pull it open, stand to the side, and allow the other person to pass through first, then you can walk through. If the door opens by pushing, hold the door after you pass through.
  • If someone bumps into you, even if it was not your fault, say, “Excuse me.”
  • When we are on a field trip, there will be no talking as we enter a building. We will enter the building (or room) so quietly that no one will even notice that we are there. This rule applies to entering any place where people are gathered, whether it be the movies, a temple, a theater, a place of business, a church, or any other venue.
  • When we are on a field trip, it is a good idea to compliment something about the place where we are visiting. If we are visiting a museum or a theatre, it would be nice to comment on how beautiful the architecture is or to tell the guide that you think the facility is very nice.
  • When you answer the phone at home, you must do so in an appropriate manner, so the caller forms a positive image of you, your family, and your home.
    • First: Say, “Hello” or “Hello, this is the Lapointe residence.”
    • Second: The caller will ask if someone is there, and you should say, “Yes she is, may I ask who is calling?”
    • Third: Tell the person, “Hold on, please, I’ll get her.”
    • Fourth: Place the phone on mute or cover the receiver with your hand and tell (don’t yell) the person who is on the phone for her.
    • Fifth: Tell the person on the phone, “Hold on, please. She will be right there.”
  • At the end of an event or a field trip, shake the hand of the organizer and everyone who helped with the event. Thank the organizer and helpers for taking the time to organize the event, and let them know that you appreciate their efforts on your behalf. It is appropriate to show appreciation when someone has gone out of his or her way to help you.
  • When you have to go upstairs, use the right-hand side of the staircase. Do not stand and chat. Do not sit on the stairs, as this puts other people in danger. Do not block the handrail, as this puts other people in danger. This also applies to escalator (in some countries, people will get angry if you stand on the left side of the escalator).
  • Wait for people to exit a classroom before you enter.  This also applies to the Metro and to buses.
  • In the corridors, stand to the side when you stop to talk with friends. Be careful not to inconvenience or hurt others with your backpacks. Understand the importance of respecting others’ space and their right to a safe corridor.
  • Never cut into line in front of anyone.
  • Stand up for what you believe in. You should not take no for an answer if your heart and mind are leading you in a direction that you feel strongly about.
  • Be positive and enjoy life. Some things just aren’t worth getting upset over. Keep everything in perspective and focus on the good in your life.
  • Live so that you will never have regrets. If there is something you want to do, do it! Never let fear, doubt, or other obstacles stand in your way. If there is something you want, fight for it with all your heart. If there is something you want to do, go for it and don’t stop until you make it happen. If there is something you want to be, do whatever is necessary in order to live out that dream.
  • Accept that you are going to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
  • No matter what the circumstances, always be honest. Even if you have done something wrong, it is best to admit it. You will be respected for your honesty.
  • Carpe diem. You only live today once, so don’t waste it. Life is made up of special moments, many of which happen when caution is thrown to the wind and people take action and seize the day. Appreciate each moment.
  • Be the best person you can be. Make sure there are seven things in your life at all times:
    • Laughter
    • Family
    • Adventure
    • Good food
    • Challenge
    • Change
    • The quest for knowledge


The other day, a student and I were discussing the issue of individual teachers (in the same department) having distinct (and sometimes contradictory) requirements for assignments. I remembered that I had written something about this on the welcome booklet that I give first year students, and thought I’d quote it here because it’s worth re-reading as students progress through their three-year course of studies in Design.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I finished my doctoral degree when I was over 40. I spent more than 20 years going to school. In that time, I’ve had some amazing teachers and some real duds. Surprisingly, some of my worst teachers taught me the most stuff. The moral of this story is, if you have a teacher who you consider to be less than perfect, don’t let it throw you. You may have to learn something despite the teacher. That’s okay. Not all bosses are great either. In the long run, it’s up to you to do the learning even if your teacher provides little help.

Plus, you might be surprised to find out that a teacher you think is bogus, your best friend thinks is fantastic! We all have different tastes when it comes to teachers.  Some people like a very structured class, others prefer a California-style laid-back class. Some people want a lot of hands-on, other people like to know why software behaves as it does. Some people want to be challenged, others prefer it when the teacher tells them exactly how to do things.

There are thousands of acceptable teaching methods – and PDHT teachers know and use most of them. Most of us have advanced degrees and several have Master’s degrees in Educational Methodologies, so we are all up-to-date with proven teaching methods.

We try to use a lot of different teaching methods in PDHT because our students have many different learning styles. Some teaching methods may work well with you, some may drive you crazy. Go with it. You’re learning about yourself in the process – your own strengths and weaknesses, and your personal likes and dislikes. Jan, Ginette, Jane, Rick, Homa, Eric, Liliane and I all have different teaching styles. We also choose different types of projects for you to do, based on our expert opinion, our extensive professional background, and our design experience. If we all taught the same way, we’d be robots rather than the real human beings we are.

While I’m on the subject of teachers, I’d like to mention something else. All your PDHT teachers really know the graphic design business very well. Over the past few years, some of the students that come and talk to me in my office or stay after class have been struggling with one of the central issues of education: Who do you believe when you get contradictory information from your teachers?

Welcome to the world of higher education. Things are complicated here!

It might be quite self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 (and you’d kinda wonder if your math teacher taught 2 + 2 = 5) but in the world of web design there are few hard and fast rules. For example, one of your teachers may state “NEVER use DIVs to organize a page” while another may say “You must ALWAYS use DIVs to organize your page” and a third may say, “DIVs are so yesterday — use classes exclusively to organize your page.” One teacher may state that Dreamweaver is the best automated page layout program for the web, while another may hate Dreamweaver and adore Amaya. Another teacher may refuse to use any software and instruct you to build all sites in Notepad with CSS. One teacher may tell you to scan at 72ppi for the web, while another may tell you to scan at 96ppi, and yet another teacher might insist on 150ppi. There are good reasons for all of these statements.

As the Buddha himself said, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

A big part of your job and responsibility as a student is to make a serious attempt to sort opinion from fact. There’s at least one JAC Humanities course dealing specifically with this topic (Violaine Aries teaches one, or used to teach one – my daughter Amanda took it four years ago). That is not to say that your opinion as a student trumps the opinion of a teacher with years of experience in design, in education, and in study at the highest academic levels. Keep an open mind…

Like the sign says, “TEENAGERS! Tired of being harrassed by your parents? ACT NOW!! Move out, get a
job, pay your own way while you still know everything!”

Your teachers are in the position of being able to offer you both fact and expert opinion based on their education and experience. You are in the beginning stages of a long and difficult process of developing your own set of expert opinions. Eventually, you may choose to disagree with some of your teachers. If you do this “authentically,” by which the existential philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus mean through serious and thoughtful deliberation (sometimes a painful, earth-shaking, mind-troubling process), and after a few years of challenging experience in the field, you will be building something precious and important. Your own intellect.

I’ve been teaching technology since 1978 — since the days of room-sized mainframe computers that inhaled thousands of punch-cards and churned out reams of printouts to perform the tasks we now do on our laptops in a couple of seconds. Put it this way: I’ve been teaching technology since before there were mice, coloured screens, small floppy disks, and pictures on screens. Dot commands, line commands, DOS commands, I’ve seen them all. Sometimes it seems like I’ve been running as fast as I can to stay ahead for the whole 30 years.

On the plus side, it certainly keeps me interested. I’ve been working at my College for over 25 years and not one minute has been boring or dull. I never run out of stuff to do. It’s hard for me to relate to teachers whose field hasn’t changed in centuries. My husband retired from teaching Calculus a few years ago. That’s a field that hasn’t changed much, if at all, in 400 years. Theoretically, he could have used the same handouts for his entire 32 year teaching career.  Another good thing is that I love the internet. I was on-line as a Concordia teacher as soon as that was possible and I was one of the first Montrealers to sign up for a dial-up internet account, after fooling around with bulletin boards and Compuserve. Because I read and surf voraciously, I have an excellent grasp of where the net is going and how it is developing functionally and aesthetically. This helps me in my job

One of the more difficult things I have to deal with is a weird combination of sexism and ageism, that calls my credibility as a web design teacher into question. Time after time, I have to prove myself against people with big mouths and little
knowledge, and I find it tiresome. At a meeting last year, a twentysomething characterized everyone over 30 as web-ignorant. She asked, rhetorically, what the older people were doing instead of surfing and playing with technology 30
years ago. Her not so subtle message was that oldsters were constitutionally incapable of understanding and effectively using the new technologies. In response to her question, I answered, “We were inventing the computer systems that you’re now using.” Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are exactly my age.

This repost from my old livejournal blog “not_your_day” is a quickie way to activate my new wordpress blog. It’s Saturday night, near the end of the term, and I’m figuring I might as well learn about wordpress so I can pass my knowledge on to my students next term, while at the same time kicking my brain out of end-of-term freakout mode and setting fingers to keyboard to let my opinion on education, civilization, and the whole “hell in a handbasket” thing be broadcast for the first time in a long time.