Friday, June 10, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: The Inspection

Does anyone enjoy being observed as a teacher?
I certainly didn't.

When I read the following letter of my father's,
I had to laugh at how similar our reactions to being observed were: 
from the high energy nerves we shared during the observation 
to the frazzled adrenaline crash that inevitably followed.

He may have taught in an Indian school
in a remote village decades ago in Canada,
while I taught in an elementary school
in a large city recently in the U.S.,
but the feelings were the same!

Dad's Indian School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Tuesday, January 10, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Well, here I am again:
This may very well be an extremely short edition,
because I am extremely frazzled tonight.  
Mr. Foss, the Inspector, was in to my school today,
and spent the whole blasted afternoon in my school.  

It is very disconcerting to have to teach with a stranger 
who is also your boss watching your every move.  
I was so unnerved that if he had asked me my name quickly, 
I couldn’t have told him what it was.

Dad's Oji-Cree Students
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I got along well though.  
Mr. Foss was very pleased with my pupils and said that 
I was evidentially going to be a very successful Indian teacher.  

At least I know that I can still have my job back next year if I want.
He told me that, as far as he was concerned, 
I was doing an excellent job; and after all, 
he’s the only one that I have to please.

He said that to be a successful Indian teacher, 
it is almost essential that the children like you.  
Teaching white children is different.  
It is not necessary that they like you; 
but with Indians, if they don’t like you, you are beat.

Dad's Oji-Cree Students
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


He said that from the attitude of the children towards me, 
both inside and outside the school, 
it was quite obvious that they just about worshipped me.  

I don’t want to sound too bragging, but he also said 
that I must have a God-given gift with children 
to have won them over in such a short time.  
A lot of Indians teachers take over a year just overcoming their shyness.

Well, you’ll have to excuse me for tonight.  
In spite of a successful inspection, I am just pooped.  
As I said, I have been working under terrific pressure all day.

Bye now,
Love, Don.

Heading off to School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1961
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Oh the relief when an observation was over!
Or the "inspection" of a half century ago!
Especially when the feedback was positive and constructive.

Sometimes it would take me hours to discharge
all the nervous energy built up inside me during an observation;
and then I would feel wrung out, like I'd been squeezed 
between the rollers of an old-fashioned wringer washer.

Yes, I know exactly how my father was feeling
after the Indian schools inspector visited my father's school
in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario so long ago. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  The Indian Schools inspector:
      The only information I have been able to track down (so far) about Mr. Foss
      is a reference to him in an article in the September 1960 issue of The Indian Record.
      Mr. F. Foss spoke to a homemakers' convention at the Couchiching Reserve on
      How Parents Can Take Part in Education.  Some things never change!  I've spoken to
      parents about this same topic at workshops and meetings many times.

2.  A Personal Note:
     I'm home again, and one thing I learned on my trip was that I'm not yet skilled enough to handle 
     my blog with my iPhone. 

     Sorry about the scrambled post I published last week.  I was proofing this post on my iPhone 
     and accidentally deleted a photo.  I couldn't get the photo back; so I decided to publish the post 
     I had scheduled for the following week.  I was afraid to double check it for fear of messing it up
     too, forgetting that it was an unfinished draft.  

    I'm happy to be reunited with my computer!  I'll finish the draft I published last week and schedule
    it for next Friday.  It makes no sense without reading today's first.  I'm looking forward to catching
    up on all your blogs and comments! 

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario


  1. No one works well when the boss is hovering. I imagine it was quite nerve-racking. But your father came through with flying colors.

    1. Hi, Alex! You're right, BOS, no fun! I hope all is well with you! It's good to be home and have my computer back! Have an awesome weekend!

  2. Yeah, being silently judged is always tough! I hope you didn't feel "silently judged" about last week's post -- I knew there had to have been some kind of glitch going on!

    1. No, I didn't feel silently judged, Debra, but I was kicking myself for screwing up! Now I can laugh! I hope all is well with you and your rare one! I'll be catching up! Sending hugs your way!

  3. An assistant principal once observed (spied on) me through the small window in the classroom door. Later she told me she'd been watching me. She shook her head and said, You should have seen yourself.

    I felt belittled. I know exactly what I had been doing when she saw me. I was seated in a student's desk so I could be close to my students while they read aloud. That assistant principal was horrible. She gave me conflicting instructions, including orders to disobey state mandated procedure. Now I'm not a teacher, but she became a principal and makes 100k.


    1. Life is not fair, is it? I can so relate to your experience! I'll be catching up in the next few days, now that I'm home. Have a lovely weekend!

  4. Observed would sure be annoying and nerve racking at times. Good that they all liked him fast indeed.

    1. Hi, my friend! There is nothing more nerve wracking in a career than being observed, unless it's taking on the big boss in a public forum. I never could keep my mouth shut! Have a good weekend!

  5. I love your father's school, Louise! And the tiles on the floor bring back childhood memories for me, as those tiles were in many places when I was a little girl. :) I also love the old wood desks and benches. We hardly ever see wood anymore when it comes to chairs, desks or television sets, but back in the day so many things were made of wood. Your father was an amazing man, Louise, and I see his personality shine you. Warm hugs and much love to you, my cherished friend. :)

    1. Much love back at you, Linda! Thanks for always being such a support for me! Those tiles! They bring back memories for me too. I have to laugh thinking of those wooden desks in my father's classroom. When he arrived in Lansdowne House and found not a stick of furniture in his school. They were old desks in Father Ouimet's attic, and Dad ferried them over to the mainland where his school was ~ via canoe!! Have a lovely weekend, my dear friend!

  6. And for you as a map lover, did you know that the size of New Zealand will fit into Ontario about 4 times?
    Inspectors, my Dad had them at the farm, they looked at the shed, and all the milking machinery, and I guess he felt the same back then.

    1. Hi, Nancy! It's do good to hear from you! No one likes being "inspected" no matter the job. Hope all is well with you and Hugh and family. Take care, my special friend. Sending you hugs!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.