He remembered these unexpected answers from kids

From our October 2012 issue

By Sig Ottenbreit – Kelowna, B.C.

I started teaching in a one-room school in Saskatchewan on Aug. 12, 1946. Now, over 65 years I still go into a one-room classroom here in Kelowna, B.C. as a volunteer Heritage teacher to talk to elementary, alumni groups, and other people.

I tell them what it was like to teach in a one-room school. The things I remember the most vividly are the good times – some having to do with the unexpected answers from the students.

Unexpected answers were always given with good intentions by the students. They weren’t meant to be anything but serious I am sure, but what came about because of them was a trunkful of treasures to relish and save. Here is just a small smattering of what happened in classroom situations.

One of my students was absent from class one day. When I asked his reason for his absence he replied, “My mother said I had a headache.” I don’t know if he knew he had a headache or not.

In the same school I asked the Grade 7 class to write out how to make butter. One girl answered by writing this: “You take a clean glass sealer and shake it until it turns to butter.”

I had a class of Grade 3 students once in the old Heritage classroom. On the blackboard I wrote the date of my first day as teacher. It says, “August 12, 1946.”

When I told the class that it was going to be 62 years from that date for my first day of teaching, one boy put up his hand and asked, “Well how old are you now?”

I answered, “How old do you think I am?”

He just sat there with a mystified look. The little girl sitting across the aisle raised her hand and replied, “Are you already 63?”

When I asked my students at school to write something into my autograph book one student wrote this: “To school each day, to school each day, so teacher gets his raise in pay.” By the way I believe that student probably ended up owning a million dollar farm.

After class one day a Grade 8 girl came to me to talk. She was telling me about her old sister. I asked, “You have an old sister?”

She replied, “Yes, she is really old.”

When I enquired how old her old sister was she very calmly replied, “She is already 19.”

As a teacher in a classroom you usually avoided family questions because the answers one got from the naive children were often not printable.

One has to admire the frankness of our young people of those days. Sometime I wonder whether we have lost some of those characteristics in our young people of today. We hear so many stories of our teen population. We may get wrong impressions of them.

I still like what I see of today’s youth. They are facing a world of conflict and greed we did not face.
Have faith that they will become valuable citizens in our world.

Let them have unexpected answers for their peers. Accept them with joy and forgiveness.


Kids sitting in old Heritage classroom in Kelowna, B.C.


Wymer school district 1287 in winter of 1946