Guest Writers

Opting In: A Guest Post by Wayne Borean

I met Wayne Borean after I decided to try my hand at Twitter. I tweeted for help, and Wayne was there with the assist.

Wayne has eleventeen-seventy-hundred blogs, but his writing blog is called Through the Looking Glass. I try to stay off it because if I leave a comment, he yells at me and tells me that I should not be reading and commenting on blogs, but rather I should be working on my own book. He is right of course.

Check out Wayne’s post Doing The Password Polka. Twitterstalk Wayne at @WayneBorean. I’m so glad that the Twitterverse exists or I might have missed him altogether.

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Opting In

Mr. Field was one of my Grade 13 math teachers. In 1975 there were three Grade 13 math classes, all of which were first and second year University math classes by American standards.

Mr. Field was a card. He was probably one of the funniest teachers in the school. He was also one of the hardest working, and he made us work hard through a combination of charm, humor, and energy. No one ever skipped one of his classes. No one ever wanted too. All of the Grade 13 classes were full year courses.

Mr. Field gave us an exam at the end of January, and we were all getting ready to start a new module in the first week of February, when Mr. Field told one of us near the back of the class to close the door.

He sat on the corner of the desk staring at us for a minute, with a funny smile on his face, and then announced, “I want to tell you that you’ve completed the entire years course of instruction, ten months worth, in five months. All of you have passed. Congratulations.”

There were a series of thuds as jaws hit the floor all over the room. He then continued. “In September I looked at the class, and it seemed to me that you were far more capable than the ministry thought, so I decided on a test. I’ve been feeding you the course material at twice the pace that the ministry thinks right since the first day we meet. Yes, you really have finished the entire course. You now have a choice. You can show up for class every day, we’ll discuss a mathematical problem, and then have an open discussion. We won’t be taking attendance for the rest of the year. Or you can take the class as a spare period. It’s up to you.”

The entire class decided to show up for class every day, and we did for the rest of the year. A couple of times when people needed to take time to study for tests they asked permission to “skip” the class. Mr. Field was quite amused. Each time this happened he pointed out that he wasn’t taking attendance, but everyone kept doing it anyway.

Great teacher, Mr. Field. Great teacher.

If a teacher told you that you did not have to come to class anymore — that you had passed the course — would you still attend? And if you could audit one class “just because” and not have to worry about grades, which class would you take?

11 thoughts on “Opting In: A Guest Post by Wayne Borean

  1. You had an enjoyable time in Maths? That can’t be possible! I was pretty studious child, but soon came to the view that since I was never going to pass Maths, I might as well take the time during those lessons to catch up on chat, do homework for other more (to me) meaningful subjects, and generally mess around. More than 50 years later, though my Arithmetic has perforce, improved, I still fail to understand how anyone could tolerate,much less enjoy Maths. My loss, obviously, and I wonder if even Mr. Field could have helped? By the way, dear American and Canadian bloggers, could you explain to your English readers what Grade 13 etc. means? Thank you!

    1. Um, I’ll ask my wife. She’s a transplanted Brit and knows the differences between Forums and Grades. If it helps, I was eighteen years old in Grade 13, had my driver’s license, and was old enough to drink. Next year I would have gone to University or College if I’d chosen.

      Grade 1 starts in the September of the year you turn six years old. Each year the grade number increments by one.


    1. What was really hilarious was that none of the kids who didn’t take the class believed us. They thought the entire class was lying when we told the story, especially since everyone passed.

      So a couple of them skipped, and sat outside the class for the whole period listening to a discussion about Renaissance art, or something else that had nothing to do with math. They did the same thing the next day, and heard another discussion, which again had nothing to do with math. On the third day, they decided that they believed us.

      Of course this put them behind in their classes…


  2. I have taken a class even though I had passed it just because–because the teacher was so good and the subject material was so good. In fact I have taken two such classes. I have even audited a class for my fiance to take notes and got so wound up in the class that I was actually glad I was there. That was a history of the Soviet Union after World War II. The classes i took that I had already passed were an anthropology course and a social psychology course.

    1. Never had the time to do that. There are classes I would love to take though. I took a course on water colors, and was never able to follow up on it.

      And I’d love to take some more writing courses. I need to stretch my brain further. Even if it hurts.


  3. What a wonderful teacher! It is amazing what one does when given the choice. Wayne, I have been a loyal twitter follower and now I am off to check out your eleven-seventy-hundred blogs!

    1. Susie,

      You don’t know the half of it. Mr. Fields was Australian. He’d only been in Canada for about five years, and was astounded to find out that he knew more about Toronto than any of his students (we lived in a small town twenty miles north of the city).

      So he annoyed the school board into giving us a field trip (yes, a field trip with Mr. Fields) to study Toronto architecture. We took a school bus to a bunch of the biggest architectural landmarks of the day, including cathedrals, the Provincial Parliament, Toronto City Hall (both of them), and he showed us what we didn’t know.

      Needless to say this gave this kids who weren’t in his class, which was 90% of Grade 13 something more to be envious about.

      When I said we had three Grade 13 Math Classes, they were divided up into Algebra, Calculus, and Vectors & Equations. Most people took Algebra, I think there were four classes. Some took Calculus, I think there were two classes. Only the crazies took Vectors & Equations, there was one class. Us.

      So yeah, there were about 80 envious Grade 13 students, all wishing they’d taken Vectors & Equations, so that they could have gotten a neat teacher like Mr. Fields. Of course they didn’t realize how hard they would have had to work…


  4. I had a history professor who told the class straight up, first day – “I don’t care if you are here or not. You will be graded on the exams and final essay, and if you feel as though you learn better on your own, you need only show up on the exam dates.” I think most the class showed up after that, even knowing that they weren’t being graded for it. I know I did. Being taught something is one thing. Being taught something by someone who endeavors to understand and respect you is a complete other. I dropped German the next semester just to take another course with the same professor, and I think I learned more from him than I did from the rest of my professors that year.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. The professor was making a point. You, and only you, are responsible for your marks. But by that time you are an adult.

      That was the advantage of having Grade 13 in Ontario for as long as we did. It was still a High School setting, but the classes were taught much like in a University. It was up to you, and was a good learning tool. I knew people who flunked Grade 13 miserably the first time, then aced it the second. And because it was High School, there weren’t tuition fees involved, so it made things far more affordable.


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