Former Expositor editor relates illuminating classroom moment

Can a field trip to one of the most fascinating places on earth be far off?

To the Expositor:

I live in the west end of Toronto and my nephew, Paul Fairman Jr., teaches at Mary Shadd Public School in Scarborough.

I am a magazine editor and one day per year for the past four I’ve attended Paul’s school, making an idiot of myself as a crazy old man from across town telling the Grade 7s and 8s stories that illustrate just how much fun it can be to read and write for a living.

I look forward to the event with more enthusiasm than even Paul actually realizes. These youngsters are a delight. They’re well behaved and curious and I’m always learning from these young men and women.

The classes are 90 percent non-Caucasian; many of the children are the offspring of new Canadians. The classrooms are colourful and vibrant.

And last Monday’s visit was the best.

When the first bunch of Grade 8s entered the room, I asked if any had not been present a year earlier. (I present to the Grade 7s, too.) Two hands went up.

Two of the young men said they were away. One just moved to the area; the other guy—a sturdily built chap with big shoulders, a zipped-up hockey jacket and a broad smile—said he’d missed the previous year’s class because he’d been home with a hockey injury.

We moved on.

I told the class that as a reporter, all I do is talk to people and write stuff down. And I can ask people all manner of questions.

Then I put it to them, to ask me any questions they want to.

I promise to give straight answers. (Once one girl, looking up from her desk, asked, “Do those nose hairs bother you?” The answer: “Sometimes.” Another girl asked, “Sir, are you afraid of your wife?” After a few seconds, I was like, “yes.” And she said, “My grandpa says it’s a wise man who is afraid of his wife.”)

Last week one of the first questions came from a pretty dark-skinned girl with long hair and big dimples. “Sir,” she asked, “What are the five most interesting places you’ve ever been?”

“Manhattan,” I said quickly. “Most interesting city in the world.”

Then, stopping to consider the very terrific question, I went on: “Manitoulin Island.”

And before I could utter another syllable, I heard “That’s where my home reserve is!”

It was the hockey player. I had no idea.

I took a chance. “Really? You from Wiky?”

And as shocked as I was, he was cool and collected: “South Bay.”

Well now. We never got to the next three places. I told the class that this young man is indeed from one of the most fascinating places on earth; and that they should feel lucky to have somebody like this in their class.

“Wikwemikong has produced some of Canada’s most interesting and accomplished citizens. It’s very historic.” I was about to mention some and then he did—my new friend called out some NHL players he was related to.

Then we talked some more about Canada’s First Nations and we decided that a trip to a the Island would make a great field trip for a Scarborough classroom. I volunteered to lead it.

I’ll let you know how that works out for me.

Peter Carter

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peter Carter is the former editor of The Manitoulin Expositor and the current editor of Today’s Trucking magazine, based out of Toronto.