This is the second of a three-part series focusing on the inner struggle and triumph of one teacher's recovery from a tragic accident. Written as a journal, this true story is an excerpt from her book Tragedy, Truth, Triumph: A Woman's Personal Battle With Loss (PublishAmerica, 2005). Though her journey is personally spiritual, the message of transcending pain and hardship is universal.
Chapter Two: The Encounter
The dream of teaching in Australia and experiencing a different culture, enjoying new friends and discovering a new country hardly had a chance to unfold. My first day at St. Charles school was February 2, 1987. I met the school personnel who seemed friendly enough. The following day was much better because I was introduced to my twenty-eight fourth-graders, a super group of kids. I loved them from the minute I met them. After my twenty-four years in the teaching profession, and being comfortable with the Canadian educational system, I found it a bit unnerving getting accustomed to theirs. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to exchanging teaching strategies. Somehow my dedication and efforts became fruitless. I felt insecure many times; I was rapidly losing my self-confidence, something I had never experienced throughout my career before this time. I prayed and asked the Good Lord to give me the strength and the encouragement I needed to go on. My prayer was answered. I was able to persevere. As I'm reading my diary, most of my entries following that plea with God begin with the phrase, "Another good day!"
Unfortunately, that positive feeling did not last too long. The school climate was becoming a bit too regimented. Being more of a liberal and free-spirited teacher, and one who believes in guiding the student to experiment and to make discoveries on his own, I thought I would introduce some of my own teaching strategies that had proven to be successful back home in Ontario. Paul, the school principal, was very uncomfortable with my teaching philosophy, and he disagreed. I had to do it their way. I tried hard to conform to this new method; after all I was a visitor in the school and had to respect their ways. It was contrary to my training and to my teaching beliefs. I felt I was teaching these students with methods which, to me, were archaic. The dissatisfaction with my work soon became apparent in my relationship with my husband John, with my colleagues, friends and acquaintances. I became disinterested. My days in class felt long and demanding (something I had never before experienced in twenty-four years of teaching). When I had the chance to relax, I preferred to be alone and quiet. The irony of it all was that we were supposed to be living an adventure ... a perfect time to meet new and different people, and to visit as many places as time would allow us. Were we not there to try and saturate ourselves with the country's culture and its customs? This was not happening. I was slowly creeping into a self-made protective shell
Tuesday, March 3, 1987 was a day of revelation for me. I had been asked to be at school that evening to present and to explain to the parents of my students my objectives for the coming school year. I had never been nervous talking to parents or discussing the students with them, but because of the still-existing controversy over some of my teaching tactics, I felt very concerned about how these parents would accept me, first of all as an individual, then as a teacher. As I look back on this, I can picture it so vividly. After my presentation, which lasted over an hour, the parents asked many questions. My first reaction to all their questions was that maybe they weren't totally convinced of these so-called "new Canadian" and "Diane-made" teaching methods. Or was it that they just didn't feel comfortable with my philosophy as an educator? Well, I was wrong.
Once I had answered all of their questions, one mother stood up and started applauding me. …