Entertainment

‘Whew!’: Long-time B.C. educator puts his epic story to paper


Hugh Greer is a retired teacher who has written a memoir about his experiences in the classroom at the age of 71 called 11,000 Days at School: From Class Clown to High School Vice-principal. The book launch is Aug. 4

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Hugh Greer typed his 6,000th word, gave a satisfied ‘Whew!’ as he completed his ‘final’ draft, and then he typed another 86,000 words.

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The result — 11,000 Days at School: From Class Clown to High School Vice-principal — has a soft launch on Thursday at Black Bond Books in Ladner.

“I’m just absolutely amazed that it evolved into what it is,” Greer said from his home in Ladner, where he’s lived for 33 years. “I had no intention, when I started, of this happening.”

After a lifetime in education, Greer three years ago decided to write a short memoir for his lone, at the time, grandson. Greer never knew his paternal grandfather and his other grandparents had all passed away by the time he was 14, so he thought his story would be a nice memento to pass on.

But as the number of his grandchildren multiplied from one to three, so did the stories he included in his book.

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“It has been a lot of work, most of the credit goes to my wife (Wendy),” Greer said. “She’s been incredibly patient through the process.

“I started the process four years ago, just a random thought that I should scratch a few humorous things down that had happened at schools.

“Now it’s at 92,000 words. I don’t know, it just took on a path of its own.”

Greer says he was not a particularly good student himself, and that writing for him is a painfully slow process.

“I was a dreadful student and I think that helped me as a teacher because I kind of related to the kids who weren’t just breezing through.”

Hugh Greer, a retired educator who has written his memoir, 11,000 Days at School: From Class Clown to High School Vice Principal, in action in Ladner BC., on August 1, 2022.
Hugh Greer, a retired educator who has written his memoir, 11,000 Days at School: From Class Clown to High School Vice Principal, in action in Ladner BC., on August 1, 2022. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

After high school Greer earned a degree in education and taught high school English for nine years before going back to university to earn a Master’s degree. He then spent the next 11 years as a student counsellor before becoming a vice-principal.

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He retired in 2009, but he still tutors students.

The field of education has changed tremendously since Greer began kindergarten in 1955 and the book touches on things that seemed humorous at the time but that would end up in disciplinary action or a firing today.

One occasion Greer writes about involved the girls’ P.E. instructor bullying, in Greer’s words, the boys’ phys-ed teacher into forcing every lad to sign up for ballroom dancing class in junior high.

“It’s based on the theme I kind of tried to trickle throughout the book and that’s the theme of change in education,” he said. “How you could do things back when I was a student and back when I was a teacher that in 2022 you just wouldn’t dare do.

“The girls’ P.E. teacher was a very forceful woman and our P.E. teacher said, basically, there’s going to be no team unless you all sign up for ballroom dance. You do that now and you’d have the school board, the lawyers and the whole thing going crazy on you.”

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If you ever attended a school dance in the 1960s or ’70s, his depiction of all the girls lined up against one wall with all the boys lined up against the opposite wall will probably bring a smile to your face.

On Greer’s website, testimonials from a former pupil, a board member, a trustee, a local politician and a fellow author applaud Greer’s self-deprecating humour and engaging storytelling.

“With self-effacing humour developed early as a young class clown growing up, Greer captures each moment with straightforward ease reminiscent of the late Stuart McLean,” one reviewer said, invoking the late host of CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe.

“You don’t have to be a teacher or even a vice-principal to appreciate what Greer brings to life, you just have to have spent time in school.”

A full launch will be held in the fall. The book should be available by the middle of the month in local bookstores and online.

gordmcintyre@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordmcintyre

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