The long and winding road
A Journal Entry
By Chris Hibbard
Written September 14, 2007
The long and winding road
(Rather than reflect on the events of the last two weeks like assigned, I opted to reflect on my own personal history, and what I hope I can contribute to teaching.)
What can my personal history contribute to the art of teaching?
As a young boy, I loved to read. I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes to road signs to newspapers, all often out loud and proud. I read so much that I won first place in the Mapleridge Elementary School spelling bees and Read-a-Thons every year. I was such a bookworm in fact that in third grade I was assessed as having a Grade 9 reading level – two years beyond my older brother! As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need many friends, because I had them all in my pocket no matter where I went; Curious George, Willy Wonka, Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys and more. To this day I still love to read and write, and still love all those books.
I also love music and movies and have a comprehensive and passionate knowledge of books, film, and music. As I’ve grown older, my love for language and music has never diminished, and though my grades in mathematics and the sciences were never very stellar, my grades in Language Arts courses continued to be very high all the way through school.
So it seems that certain things really don’t change much over time. During my four years here at the U of L, I have been involved with both the Meliorist student newspaper and the CKXU radio station. The latter is just for fun – I am the host of a weekly radio show that I am proud to say is the most eclectic radio show in Lethbridge. Less talk, more music – and all sorts of music – from blues to jazz to electronica to rap to opera to heavy metal to old country and soul. The show is called The Kitchen Sink for a reason, and its motto is “If you don’t like what you’re hearing – wait five minutes.” I hope to somehow incorporate this love of music into the classroom one day, even if it’s for just two minutes at the beginning of each class, until the students are all settled.
As for the newspaper, I may as well mention that I am trained as a journalist, a Print Journalist to be specific, and I was the only reporter in the community of the Crowsnest Pass for two years prior to getting into the U of L. Once here I became a contributing writer for the Meliorist, then was hired as Copy Editor, followed by the Production Assistant, and for the last two years the Editor-in-Chief, the big cheese as it were, head of a staff of 15. I am proud of The Meliorist, even if it’s a little goofy.
At my high school in Calgary there was a journalism class offered as an elective or option which I took. It was one of two classes in grade 12 that I attended regularly (the other was Creative Writing.) I don’t know how many schools (junior or senior) in southern Alberta offer similar classes, but I can certainly see myself teaching one of those, or if not, at least ‘coaching’ the yearbook committee or something. How this could emerge from a role as a teacher in an elementary/primary setting I am still a little unsure. In fact, I am still a little unsure as to what grade levels I even want to teach.
I mentioned school, so I’ll keep that ball rolling a bit longer. When I was 16 I got involved in a ‘bad crowd’ so to speak, started using drugs and alcohol regularly and was eventually expelled from my high school in Grade 11. They allowed me to return in Grade 12, but I never managed to catch up, and ended up upgrading at Viscount Bennett, now Chinook College in Calgary for a few years beyond my required three in high school.
In retrospect, I did all the wrong things as a youth, up to and including attempting suicide, and I spent many years following trying to make peace with my family, myself, and my mistakes. I have since learned to see them not as mistakes, but as mis-steps, each of which gave me valuable insight into the fallible human condition. These mistakes also taught me about the dangers of addiction, and how easily young minds can be swayed.
I finally got my high school diploma one year after I got my diploma in journalism from Lethbridge College, at age 23. I applied for it over the Internet and they sent it to me, complete with ten additional ‘life’ credits.
As far as being a post-secondary student goes, some of my study and organizational habits are rather lacking (and always have been) which prevented me from getting into the Ed. Faculty as an English major. (A recommended 3.8 GPA? Not a chance for me!) So I switched into the General Humanities program on some lousy advice from an Arts & Science counselor who told me it only required a 3.2. Why was her advice lousy? Because she lied to me! I pulled my socks up (and worked my butt off) over the next two semesters and raised my GPA from a 2.8 to a 3.3, an admirable feat I thought, only to apply to the Ed. Faculty and be told that the GPA required to transfer from Humanities to Ed. was in fact 3.5. Ouch.
This little delay of game, aside from making me very angry with said counselor, and costing me thousands of dollars, pushed me into a last chance play – taking 10 more Native Studies classes in the next two semesters and switching my major to NAS – a required GPA of a lowly 2.5, due to the small numbers of applicants who transfer from NAS to Ed. To make a long story shorter – it worked, I’m here, and as a result I am much more knowledgeable about the continent we live on, the traditional people we stole it from and their cultures, as well as the bureaucracy and politics involved in this country, this White society (a failed multi-culture) and this university. Whew.
Let me now shift to family. My father was laid off from AGT in the late 80’s, and since he had received a Bachelor of Education when he was approximately my age, he used it to fall back on, becoming a substitute teacher first, then an electronics instructor at SAIT, and finally was placed in a full-time position at William Aberhart High School in Calgary. Needless to say, I often saw the workload that he brought home, and heard many teaching stories (not many of which were positive I might add) on a weekly basis. It is obvious to me now that this was little in way of deterrent to me. My dad just retired last April.
My mom has been a nurse (a head nurse in fact) in the Intensive Care Nursery/Neonatal Unit at the Rockyview Hospital for over 30 years. She doesn’t bring her work home with her much, but I think that having to deal with babies that are unhealthy, diseased or dying on a daily basis, not to mention the parents of said babies, must take a lot out of a person. For this reason I think my mom’s soul must be made of solid steel, and I have great respect for her. She was planning on retiring this year as well, but then the provincial government gave nurses a raise, and so she has stayed on, but has demoted herself and is now part-time – only 30 hours a week.
My parents still live in Calgary, in the same house I grew up, and we are as close as possible considering the distance between our cities. Actually, that might be wrong. I often think that we have become much tighter since I moved away from home and wasn’t always around to bug and be bugged. My parents are very religious, devout Christians who attend an Alliance Church every Sunday, and hold bible study groups, prayer meetings, and even deliver those Gideon Bibles around Calgary. They still want me to join them to church whenever I go home for a weekend, though I usually turn them down, except for on holidays. There will be more on this topic in just one moment.
When I was 19 years old, my oldest sibling and sister Melanie (then 22) was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and passed away from Lymphoma seven months later. As Melanie was a fine Christian girl who even went away to bible school and became an elementary school librarian (at our old elementary even.) This loss shook me to the core. I had basically given up on faith in God and religion years earlier thanks to my parents forcibly dragging me there every Sunday morning for 15 years, and to me this was another sign that if there was a god, he was not a kind one, nor was he just.
But I am 28 now, and have made peace with God. Though I still do not attend any organized religious building regularly, I believe in him and pray to him occasionally, thought admittedly this occurs mostly when I’m frightened or lonely. Thinking back on it, I guess I came back to the fold so to speak when I had a near-death experience while hiking up a mountain one time. I think I figured that if he saved my life, he must have had a good reason for it; and by that logic, if he took my sister’s he must have a good reason for that too. Needless to say, such personal experience with death may allow me to better help others deal with lives affected by it.
My brother Bruce, two years my senior (I’m the baby,) is a lawyer in Calgary with the Corporate Tax division of the Bennett Jones firm, making more money in his fourth year of it than my dad did when he retired from teaching.
Unlike me, Bruce never got mixed up in drugs and the bad crowd. He graduated from high school with honours in the allotted three years, and was one of the youngest law students to ever graduate from the U of C. He is married to a woman named Emma whom I get along with quite well, and they have a beautiful two-year-old daughter named Victoria Melanie Hibbard who I wish I could see more often. I see my niece so rarely in fact, that the last time she saw me I don’t even think she recognized me.
I suppose what this all boils down to is that life can be very funny, and is good at throwing wrenches, causing us to walk many different paths in the time that we are given. However, one man’s path is not necessarily better or worse than another; it is simply different, and possibly more difficult. But with adversity comes strength and knowledge, and in many ways, I consider myself to be stronger and more experienced than any of my family members, for none of them have lived my particular life.
I give them all the utmost respect and love them dearly, but in many ways I always have been and always will be, the black sheep of the family, who likes to dance to the beat of his own drum, for better or for worse. I might as well admit that even now, in many of these classes, I sometimes still feel like one, considering that I have between five and eight years of ‘life experience’ on many of my classmates and peers. This is not to say that we don’t get along, for on the contrary we do, but I sometimes feel like I’m talking too much, asking too many questions, making jokes they don’t get, and so on. On occasions like that, I just get a little bit quieter.
There. Done. Now you know a lot more about me, and I’ve officially jotted down on paper some of my thoughts about my life, and how it might affect my career some day. Last week I recall telling Professor David Townsend who teaches us Curriculum and Instruction, that I’ve sort of taken a “Long and Winding Road” (to quote Sir Paul McCartney) to get to where I am today.
This is very true, and if I had the chance to do it all over again, I don’t think I would do it any differently. Over the last 28 years I’ve had many jobs, made many choices, laughed many laughs and cried many tears. I have a lot of friends and very few enemies and as far as I know I still have my health and my mind – an open mind even.
I like to think that I’m a lot more well-rounded than some, having had more many ups and downs than the average Joe. I believe that these experiences have made me a better person – a stronger person – and ideally will one day make me a better teacher and father. In closing, I’ll have to wait and see about that I suppose, because, as John Lennon would say, “Tomorrow Never Knows.”