Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Importance Of Geography: A Tale Out Of School

For those of you who may not already know, back in another lifetime, I was an English teacher at a school for at-risk adolescents . This school was located in Maine in a place where the people who live in the middle of nowhere consider to be the middle of nowhere.

If you read the title of this blog, you can probably guess why I needed to tell you where the school was located.

And, as working with kids is often unpredictable (wait, did I say often? Because I meant always unpredictable), it sometimes produced some hi-larious stories.

This is one of them.

Our kids came from all over the United States and sometimes came from other countries too. One student flew over from Jordan and had the misfortune of having to have his shoes confiscated by the airline. We had a young lady from the Bahamas who, upon her arrival, expressed a concern that her designer jeans would get dirty on our trail work that day (they did). We also had students from Germany and Thailand and they were the nerdiest little punks you could imagine. And once, we had a student from Canada.

This student was at the program over the summer and, on the Fourth of July, was dismayed by all the American flags being flown all over the place. Well, not dismayed really but it did spark something in him that prompted him to ask his parents to send him several Canadian flags and when they arrived, he proceeded to hang them all over the school. They were in the school building and the main lodge and the dining hall and the dorms. Everywhere the kid could hang one, he did.

So anyway, fast forward a bit. I don't remember how long but the Canadian student was gone but his flags remained. This apparently confused one of my newer students as we had the following conversation during some down time:

Him: Are Canadian schools all like this?

Me: What?

Him: Are all Canadian schools like this one?

Me: I don't know. I've never been to a Canadian school.

Him: But- but isn't this a Canadian school?

Me: Uh, no.

Him: But aren't we in Canada?

Me: We're in Maine.

Him: And isn't that a part of Canada?

Me: No. No, actually, Maine is a part of the United States.

Him: Since when?

Me: Since 1820, actually.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes, really. Maine has been a state longer than your state has.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes, really.

Him: Then what's up with all the Canadian flags?

So I explained to him about our Canadian student and how the school came to be blanketed in maple leafs. And then we promptly took a break from literature to learn a little bit about American geography.

Seemed the thing to do.


  1. Interesting story. What I find most interesting is that the students and school left the flags up. To me, that says a lot about the school, the students and the Canadian student.

  2. I always LOVE that story. I get completely annoyed when people are clueless about geography..but I have to admit it would've taken me more than one try to find Ghana on the map.