Thursday, April 22, 2010

On my most important teacher

Nonno Joe, my grandfather, was probably the most important teacher in my life. Nonno Joe didn’t speak English very well, but that didn’t stop him from delivering long lectures to me after our Sunday family lunches and a few glasses of wine. (We’ll have to forgive Nonno Joe, a working class Italian immigrant who didn’t have the benefit of an OISE education, for not using a wider variety of teaching models.) Nonno Joe’s sermons typically focused on three subjects: 1) The difficulties and challenges he’d endured in his life; 2) The dangers of drugs; and 3) The importance of education.

Nonno Joe had very little schooling himself; he broke his back as a construction worker and was forced into retirement before he turned 40. For Nonno Joe, education represented the only path to success. He’d often say things like, “The school is important,” “No forget the school,” “If you want to be a man, you need the school,” and “People who don’t go to the school are the bums.” I believed him and I took school seriously because of it.

Two months into my first year as a journalism student at Ryerson University, Nonno Joe died of an aneurysm. At Nonno Joe’s funeral, my godfather, Peter, told me that the last time he’d spoken to Nonno Joe, my grandfather had said, “Marco is now a man.” I never felt so proud.



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