Today’s shout-out is for Arthur Griffin. Art was an English teacher and Department Head at Herdman Collegiate in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. That’s where I started my teaching career and Art and I became, and remain, good friends. We directed and produced the school’s first musicals and formed a folk band together. My time with Art, and the wisdom he shared, proved to be valuable throughout my career.
One morning I received a call from the mother of one of our kindergarten students. She called because, on the previous day, her son arrived home and was upset with language he had heard on the bus. I thanked her for calling and assured her that I would deal with the matter. My first thought was, I hope this doesn’t involve a high school student. If it did, then I would have to liaise with another principal and count on his cooperation.
I sat with the young fellow outside of his kindergarten class. When I told him why I wanted to talk he started to get choked up. I assured him he wasn’t in trouble and that it was my job to see that the bad language stopped. I asked him if he knew who was saying the bad language. He told me he did. I asked if he was comfortable telling me the person’s name and he said yes; in fact, he named two grade 1 students who sat behind him. I was thankful for that; ie, that they were students in our school. This made it an in-house matter.
I asked the child, “Are you comfortable telling me the bad word?” He answered, “yes.”
“What did they say on the bus?”
“They were singing, ‘We like boobies, we like boobies’.”
“Boobies? Really, Boobies? Were they saying any other bad words?”
“No”, he said.
I told him that I would deal with the matter and that the grade oners would not know that I had chatted with him. I also asked him to tell his mother to call me if he heard any other bad words. He returned to class.
At the end of the day I called the two grade 1 students off the bus. I said, “Fellows, the word on the road is, you have been singing, ‘We like boobies’ on the bus. Is that true?” After a brief silence one of the boys pointed to the other and said, “He made me do it.”
“I did not. You sang it because you wanted to.”
“Fellows, Relax. I take it then that it is true. Now what would your mothers say if I called them and said that you had been singing, ‘We like boobies’?” They both agreed that they would get in trouble. I said, “I’ll tell you what, if you promise not to speak of boobies or use any other bad language I will NOT call your mothers. We’ll just keep this between ourselves. What do you say?” They agreed and we left it at that.
After I gave up my principalship (another story, another day) I returned to teaching high school. I finished my career at Hampton High, the school into which Macdonald Consolidated students moved. Except for the final year of my six years at HHS I had at least two students in each class whom I taught at MCS and, of course, I was passing former students all the time in the hallway. One day I invited the former kindergarten student to drop by my class at noontime. I asked him if he remembered the boobies story, he said he did not. I asked him to check with his mother to see if she remembered, and he said he would.
Now I should mention that this student turned out to be quite a character and he was well liked by his peers. I told him, “You know, I often tell that story but I never mention your name. I wouldn’t want to cause you any embarrassment.”
“It’s OK”, he said. “You can use my name.”
“Really? Thanks. Because that will make it even funnier when students who know you find out it was you.”
“Not a problem” he replied.
As he was leaving the room I said, “Chase, before you go, I have one more question for you.”
“What do you think about boobies now?”
Without hesitation he answered, “Oh, I like ’em. I like ’em a lot.”
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