Mike Uncorked: To Learn or Not to Learn

Mike Uncorked: To Learn or Not to Learn
By Mike Butler

It’s October and school is officially underway. I hope everyone had a summer filled with terrific adventures and experiences. Acadia University and the town of Wolfville are buzzing with the returning students asking directions; chatting at the coffee shops; forming lines at the liquor store, drug store, grocery store, and the bank; and hopefully embracing this wonderful town and what it has to offer – including their education! I follow many guidelines in my life, like: always be polite, think positive thoughts, give of yourself when you can, make time for the important things, life should be fun and not work (to name a few). But one of the most important guidelines I follow is to learn something new everyday! I’m 37 years old, and I still thrive on learning new things. Do you?
I kept busy this summer with community theatre projects, working lots, and I took a special camping trip with my sisters, nephews, and my niece. I also went on a long overdue ‘reunion’ excursion with one of my favourite people, and I’d like to share that with you.
Pictured with me is Mrs. June MacGregor-Jain, who I’m sure many of you know, as she’s been an educator and friend to many generations of Valley residents. Mrs. Jain taught me in Grade 5 at KCA and we developed quite a bond that has lasted almost 30 years. Mrs. Jain was the first teacher to encourage my strengths, help develop my weaknesses, and open my mind to things outside of a standard, humdrum, ABC education – including Music, Art, Architecture, Earth Sciences, Politics, and Global History. In Mrs. Jain’s class, I wasn’t just guaranteed to learn ONE new thing everyday, but instead, topics and tidbits of information ran rampant in her class. Even almost 30 years after being her student, I continue to “be taught” by her and learn new things from her whenever we meet up for tea and chats.
When I was 13, in the summer of 1992, Mrs. Jain and I took a 16-day tour of Italy. It was, and remains to this day, one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Mrs. Jain was the perfect travelling companion because I learned and absorbed so much more than what the tour guide was teaching us. She went the extra mile again and again to make sure the trip was educational and also fun. And every August 17, we meet and have a reunion lunch at the Blomidon Inn to reminisce about our European jaunt.
Well, this past summer, it was time to take another trip! I have always dreamed of visiting Stratford, Ontario and watching an authentic Shakespeare play at the Stratford Festival. I’ve heard Mrs. Jain tell hundreds of stories about her early days visiting the theatre, becoming friends with many of the actors, and watching countless performances. Those stories include her very early days as the theatre “Call Girl”, who was responsible for giving the actors their “Two Minutes To Curtain” warning.
The Festival was presenting “Macbeth” and I was overjoyed. We also picked up tickets for a few other productions but “Macbeth” was the highlight for me. And besides going to the theatre, we walked for miles around the beautiful town (gardens, swans, coffees shops) and shopped at all the unique boutiques. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend this treasure of a town and what it has to offer.
Has anything changed since Italy, 1992? Not really. Mrs. Jain and I are a little older, a little chattier, and both a little wiser to the ways of the world. Though I am no longer a teenager but (yikes) nearing 40, I will always be a willing student to this very special teacher and friend of mine. I wanted to hear all about the history of Stratford and the theatre. I wanted to know about the churches, bridges, gardens, rivers, and timeless surrounding towns. We visited London, Ontario as well, and I learned about Mrs. Jain’s early years teaching (visiting her schools and homestead). We even took a side trip to the homestead and to a museum commemorating the tragedy of the Black Donnelly’s. It was such a rewarding trip!
Did you (or do you) have a teacher like Mrs. Jain in your life? I think I can speak for many people (I know I can speak for a lot of her students) when I say that Mrs. Jain was so much more than a teacher for us. She introduced us to grand subjects like world events, classic literature, and theatre – right down to proper grammar, manners, public speaking, and more. She taught ME that a teacher makes other professions possible and I completely agree, for I am still using many of her lessons each day of my life.
This article is for my favourite teacher and for all teachers who make a difference. It is for those who take the time, and the EXTRA time, to mould their students beyond basic education. And it’s for the students who appreciate those teachers who helped them understand how important it is too learn something new everyday, and applied it to making themselves and their world a better place. Thank you Mrs. Jain!