Donalda Tibbett (English)
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada
She, like all the Normal School students that year, had to work in a class alone for two days while primary teachers of Winnipeg, Manitoba, attended a teachers’ convention. Why would that little boy jump up from his seat and wander? Why would he not sit down when she spoke to him? How frustrating this was! Finally, she decided to read a story to the class. Everyone at least sat down and listened while she read to them. That worked for a while. She felt maybe there was a lack of discipline in classrooms of that school. How happy she was when she had completed her assignment!
Donalda was born in a farm house nine miles north of Treherne, MB, and graduated from Treherne Collegiate in the same community.
Immediately after high school, she attended a six-week Normal School summer session. Following that, she taught for one year on permit at Rosehill School, south of Baldur, MB. Fourteen students in grades 1-4 and 7 greeted her on the first day.
At the back of the room was a pail of water for drinking. A grade seven boy would bring the water from a well on a farm across the road. Also at the back of the room was a stove fuelled by wood, which provided heat on cold days. Neither teacher nor students had to tend to it as somebody from the district lit the fire early before the students arrived. However, teacher and students were responsible for other janitorial work, which included dusting, sweeping, and keeping the school tidy. The children helped by picking up things. In the school yard were outdoor toilets.
The children had access to a few free reading books, which were mainly older. At the time, the district did not spend much money on buying new ones.
Donalda attended normal school in the Tuxedo area of Winnipeg, MB, the next year. Practice teaching was not a favourite activity for her. At that time, there were only three weeks, but now the period is much longer. The regular teacher, to whom she was assigned, left her in charge of a grade 2 class that appeared to be unfamiliar with following orders. That teacher was usually in the classroom observing the work of the student teacher. This author was one of the other two students who were assigned to this school.
Her first school after teacher training was at Wingham Consolidated School in the country, about eight miles north of Elm Creek, MB. Grades 1-12 were taught here. There had been a population explosion, thus two new classrooms were being built; but they were not completed when school opened. Two teachers taught grades 1-3 in the gymnasium with a curtain separating the two groups. The grade 2 class was split. Grace Gorrie, from the same Normal School year as Donalda was, had grade 1 and part of grade 2, while Donalda had the rest of grade 2 and grade 3. The children could hear what was being said in other class and often would take time to listen. It was noisy, but manageable not an ideal situation. This was similar to open air classrooms which became popular a little later. However, the concept did not last long in Manitoba.
There were six teachers at Wingham Consolidated School. They lived in duplexes nearby on school property. Children arrived for classes in horse-drawn sleighs in winter and by other vehicles in warm weather. In winter, the drivers would stay all day in the teachers’ room and visit with each other as work on the farm was slow at this time of year.
She played softball with the High School students at Wingham, including inter-school games with Elm Creek and a few tournaments elsewhere. At one tournament, the students did not know what to call her. They did not want to call their teammate Miss English or Donalda at tournaments. Therefore, they decided to call her simply, English. This followed in other games. Later, at Elm Creek, she played on the post High School team for a few years.
Donalda spent two periods of time at both Wingham Consolidated School and Elm Creek School. The first three years that she taught in Elm Creek School after leaving Wingham the first time, she had grades 5 and 6. For the first one of those years, she began with 38 students her largest class. After that, she returned to Wingham where she taught grades 5 and 6 for six years before returning to Elm Creek to teach grade 5. What a pleasure it was to be in charge of only one grade!
She enjoyed good times with her grade 5 classes at Elm Creek. Her classroom had a blackboard on each of the four walls, which was useful, especially for arithmetic and spelling. The children often dictated spelling quietly to each other there. Donalda had no trouble with any child. Although her classes may not have behaved well in other grades, it seemed as though they thought they had to do so in her room. She is happy to report that she never strapped a child in her career. She believes that a teacher can be friendly with children, but not be a friend or one of them.
She had good teachers with whom to work. However, she was nervous when the inspectors came calling without warning; but they were all very good and helpful. Although she liked all of her inspectors, Mr. Moore was her favourite. He set a high standard for the teachers to maintain.
For years, Donalda was involved in Christmas concerts. It was an exciting time, especially for the younger children. These concerts were held in the school in the smaller communities but in a hall at Elm Creek. They consisted of drills, plays, songs, and for smaller children, recitations.
At the conclusion of every school year, picnics, planned and handled by the parents, were enjoyed by young and old alike. Wingham and Elm Creek people attended both as the schools were only a short distance apart. The teachers did not have to assist. Since the people went back and forth between Wingham and Elm Creek, the events would be held on separate days. Participants would enjoy potluck dinner, games, and softball. Ball games were very competitive. It was a sport she thoroughly enjoyed and played in for many years. Not only the children but also the adults would take part. As might be expected, picnics were well attended by residents of both districts.
Her teaching career lasted for 31 years:
- 1 year at Rosehill on permit;
- 8 years at Wingham – 2 years in the grades 2 and 3 classroom and 6 years in grades 5 and 6;
- 22 years in Elm Creek – 3 years in the grades 5 and 6 and the last 19 years in grade 5, which was her favourite age group.
The three weeks of practice teaching aside, Donalda can say that she really enjoyed her time in the profession.
She would tell student teachers embarking on their career always to be honest with their students. For example, if you do not know something, say so, and suggest that all look up the answer with the teacher.
She and her late husband were grain farmers in heavy flat land. In the wet years, they had drowned-out crops; but, overall, it was a good life. She would take lunches and suppers to the field and also would haul grain when she was available. Their daughter was an outdoor girl and took over many tasks as she grew older and before she began her nurse’s training. Because their garden was huge, there were ample supplies of vegetables to freeze or can and pickles to make.
They had always gone to old-time dances, but after she retired, they were able to become involved in patterns as well as square and round dances. She also toured the British Isles, Alaska, Hawaii, the Maritimes and eastern states, the western states, and Mexico. Now, she spends her summers golfing and the rest of the year participating in Tai Chi and floor curling. Casino trips are also enjoyable.
Currently, Donalda is living in a life lease apartment in Portage la Prairie, MB.
(This page was updated in September 2012.)