Sydenham High School Magazine December 1925
News of Old Girls
Miss Raymond has kindly sent the following:-
Old girls will be interested to read the following excerpts from letters of Dorothy and Winifred Galbraith to Miss Sheldon. Winifred’s letter, from Palo, Saskatchewan, was written in January 1925, after a short visit from Dorothy on her way to China ------ “I don’t know how much Dorothy told you about my school. This is so like a book – one of those American school girl stories, that I often think I must be dreaming. My first impressions were of dirty windows, broken desks, pail and ‘dipper’ for water and a large Union Jack upside down on the wall, the sole ornament being a large ‘strap’ hanging on the door. I have forty children, 6 to 16. And I have to teach them everything, History, Geography, Agriculture, Arithmetic, -- things of which I had only the haziest recollections or had never known at all – as well as impossible things like Drawing and Music. And added to that were the High School subjects for the older ones – Latin, French, Algebra, Geometry, Science. I think I could write a very glowing report testimonial as to the excellence of the instruction at S. H. S. (Dorothy and I always say that the more we see and hear of other people’s schools the more we think or our own). I am amused to find how things come back, and I know that verbs of fearing take the subjunctive because I hear Miss Millington’s voice saying it or remember the French sentences that engrained it in our memories. Of course, my sufferings over Mathematics are extreme. For the first two months I sat up half the night feverishly working sums. To add to my trouble I had no Answers Book, and one of the boys had. I think Miss Raymond would smile if she saw me trying to teach Binomial Theorem and Tangents. If anyone had said when I left England that I should be teaching Mathematics I should have turned back at the dock.
“One’s class management has to be agile in the extreme. Grade I , comes up for Reading ten minutes; Grade II, for Arithmetic ten minutes; then Grave V, for Geography; Grade IX, for Latin; and so on all through the day, and even while teaching one has to be on the look out for all the nine other Grades who may be idling. It is a great life.
“I admire the Canadian women very much. They turn their hands to baking, churning, paper hanging, plastering and all sorts of odd jobs, and their lives are certainly very narrow,”
Dorothy says of her journey last December, “We had a terrific crossing of the Atlantic. I’ve never even pictured such enormous waves, fierce and cold. The whole of the front part of our ship was frozen hard and white when we landed at St. John’s. We pitched and tossed and rolled and swayed, but I loved every minute and was the only woman who turned up at all the meals. . . .
“The school is a little wooden building and on the N. E. side is a lean-to room built --- Winnie’s home. There is a door in from the exterior closely barred, with a second door on it, but even so the snow blows in. All the coldest days, stoke as we would, we could not get the temperature in her room up to 32, freezing point. There is a cupboard at one side in which we keep milk, butter, cream, etc., -- all frozen solid on to the bottom shelf.
Outside there is the barn – the stable for the horses, and then nothing but white snow as far as one can see. No roads, no trees, no hills. The roads are generally marked by a slight line of telephone poles, for nearly everyone has a telephone. All is wonderfully white and quiet and peaceful, while the sky phenomena are wonderful, -- Northern lights, -- ‘sun and moon days,’ strange kinds of rainbows, but vertical instead of arched, the light from the sun and the moon going upwards to forma a cone.”
From Palo, Dorothy went over the Rockies to Calgary, Banff and Vancouver, and from thence to China, via Japan. When she arrived at Shanghai, she heard that two of the doctors, husband and wife, had to go home suddenly owing to serious illness, which meant that she would have to run the Women’s Hospital and the Maternity Hospital at Hong Kong on her own. She adds : “And I don’t know a word of Cantonese, -- there are adventures ahead.”
Since these letters were written Winifred Galbraith has left Canada and is on her way to China, to teach English in a school for high-class Chinese girls at Changsha in Central China.
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