March Break – a chance for students, teachers and it would seem anyone with a beating heart to dance, cavort and "frolick" as my favourite homeroom teacher Bill Metcalfe would say.
This space is normally reserved for a weekly rant on the latest city hall travesty (see: tax increases, media bullying and conflict of interest) but I'm taking this week off too.
Not literally, of course.
But I bring up Bill Metcalfe's name for a reason – teachers.
They’ve taken it on the chin, as of late. Critics suggest they are greedy (all that time off, solid pay and a pension plan that rivals the GDP of small Caribbean nations) and even some of the most ardent education supporters suggest strike action this year was wrong.
But teachers play a role that is second only to mom and dad for our children.
When you were younger there was likely someone who left an indelible mark on you, when leaving such an impression was difficult given that during our formative years we're ready to scream "black" when any adult says "white" just so we can be different.
I have a metric tonne of favourite teachers, but Metcalfe stands alone, if only because he was so different.
A cherished memory includes Metcalfe - who taught history, sociology and even coached football - stopping mid-sentence during a lecture to sharply turn to the Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School windows facing Sydney Street and wave ferociously. His buddy Joe Sanborn, who retired the year before, was driving by and had beeped the horn.
When I was old enough to visit a bar, I would often run into Metcalfe, who was known to dabble a bit in mixology. He was a great guy to share a drink with and listen to stories. He taught me to smell the roses when they were in bloom and think of better days when they were not.
Before Metcalfe and high school there was one fellow at Central Public School who stands out for me: Gary MacArthur.
MacArthur was my first junior high homeroom teacher and I almost missed him entirely. Quaking with intimidation on my first day at Central I was completely oblivious to him calling my name for his class. Back in those days they would herd new students into the gymnasium like cattle, and teachers would call your name to a specific homeroom. I was left standing alone and eventually corralled by Mrs. Willard and spent all of two minutes in her class.
MacArthur soon showed up at the door to her class, looking for "Todd Lee-hooo." I was terrified. He had a face like an old catcher's mitt and a gravelly voice that commanded respect – which is exactly what he taught me. MacArthur was a stutterer, often tripping over words as he stood at the front of a class.
But he never let it stand in his way. Despite an affliction that many would let dominate them, MacArthur rose above it, and his authority in the classroom was rarely challenged by a group of middle schoolers who ran through seven (!) French teachers that same year.
And if one jumps into the time machine for a trip even further back, the first teacher I would ever consider a "favourite" is undoubtedly Graeme Miltimore.
While Metcalfe and Macarthur find themselves on this list in large part because of the eccentricities and quirks that made them different, Miltimore was in large part a typical elementary school teacher.
You felt at home in his class. Miltimore taught grades 3 and 4 at Memorial Park Public School and he was the first teacher that ever really challenged me. Before that it was all about learning colours and making sure you had the numbers in the right order on your quiz paper.
Miltimore was the first teacher I had that placed more of an emphasis on effort than the end result. In those days marks for elementary students came with two designations – one for the actual grade you received, and another for the amount of work you put into achieving it.
"It doesn’t really matter for me how well you do," he told me once after a particularly gruesome attempt at learning fractions (ugh). "But if you work hard, that's all that matters."
Graeme Miltimore taught me hard work beats any reward.
So as this March Break winds down, and talk inevitably turns to how "lucky" teachers are to enjoy such a thing (and they are) remember they have a tough job, most of the time. They're educating your kid, and a couple of dozen others.
Teachers are looking to create a connection with some of those children – and often they do.