Faithfully yours - Peer support made simple


By Neil Strohschein

Neepawa Banner & Press

My final year of high school (1969) was not an easy one. Halfway through the year, our teachers went on strike.

When the strike ended and we returned to class, many of my classmates were absent. They had transferred to a neighboring division, where they finished Grade 12.

This was actually a blessing in disguise, as the smaller classes allowed for more “one-on-one” time with teachers. Since we had a lot of catching up to do (first semester departmental exams were less than a month away), this proved to be very advantageous.

To graduate, I had to pass six of seven 30-level (Grade 12) courses in order to receive a Senior Matriculation diploma from the Province of Alberta. English, Social Studies and Math were required; as was one language—in my case, French. I also had to pass two of three science courses. My choices were Chemistry and Physics. I deliberately took extra electives in Grades 10 and 11, so that I could concentrate on my “Sr. Matric” courses in Grade 12.

In those days, my final grade in each course was the grade I received on one final exam. The exam was put together by officials in the Alberta Department of Education (hence the name, “Departmental Exam”) and was to be written on the date and at the time set by them. So we worked very hard to ensure that we knew the course material well enough to get at least a passing grade (which, as I recall, was 60 per cent) on the final exam.

We were fortunate to have teachers who were eager and who, except for one, were suitably equipped (in other words, they knew their stuff) to help us achieve this goal.

The exception was our Physics teacher. He was familiar with the subject matter, but he hadn’t taught a Physics class in years and, thanks to a terminal medical condition that no one (including him) knew about, his ability to communicate with a group of students in a classroom setting was significantly impaired.

So we took matters into our own hands. We asked our Principal if we could get copies of the Alberta Correspondence Course for Physics 30. We would continue to attend classes and complete assignments; but we would use the Correspondence material as additional work which we would do on our own time. He agreed. The course packets arrived that week and the next day, our teacher found out what we had done.

To his credit, he agreed to let us work through the correspondence material in his class time. He graded the chapter quizzes and regular exams and was available to help us if we got into trouble. This proved to be a good arrangement for him (he was an excellent tutor) and for the six students who spent time in his class.

In addition to learning the material ourselves, we spent a significant amount of time helping one of our number, Aaron (not his real name) master the material. He was a good friend and we desperately wanted him to succeed. Our efforts were rewarded. Aaron’s final grade was 68 per cent; which was better than anyone, including him, could have ever imagined.

My high school didn’t have peer support groups in those days. We didn’t need them. We just saw a need and, with our teacher’s encouragement, did what we could to meet it.

That’s peer support made simple. It works in the classroom, in the home, in the church and in the community. I’ll have more to say about it next week.