James Bartleman

James Bartlemanís Remarkable Teachers:

Madaline Roddick and Helen Foreman.


"Remember, every challenge that you overcome makes the next one easier."

James Bartleman adopted the words of his Grade 13 English teacher, E. Madaline Roddick, as his life motto. And those words have taken him far from London Central Collegiate and even farther from the tiny Port Carling school he attended until Grade 12.

"I have always been offered difficult jobs and I have always accepted them and found that it was possible to master them and then move on to the next. I always take that back to what Miss Roddick said," he says.

Ontarioís new Lieutenant-Governor has been Canadaís ambassador to the European Union, Australia, South Africa, NATO, Israel, Cyprus and Cuba. Heís also served as foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister and assistant secretary to the Cabinet for foreign and defence policy.

Just getting to Grade 13 had been a challenge. Bartleman, the first of his family to go beyond Grade 8, grew up in the village of Port Carling and attended the school there, which had 12 grades in four rooms. To go to Grade 13 meant moving to the big city. Fortunately, a wealthy American who summered in Muskoka and on whose property Bartleman worked,provided the funds to send him to London for Grade 13 in 1958.

Bartleman lived on his own, going to a school that had four Grade 13 classes. There were as many students in his new class as there were in his entire former high school.

He remembers being chewed out in phys ed class because he didnít know how to dribble a basketball. Bartleman recalls, "I didnít say anything, but in fact I had never held a basketball in my life. I donít think people realized in those days what diverse backgrounds students could come from. So I was quite shy and introverted I guess, but it was necessary I think to make a transition from a small northern community to what to me seemed to be the naked city with a thousand stories and a hotel on every street corner. But it was just good, old London, Ontario, really. But for me, taking a bus was a big deal. We didnít even have a street light in Port Carling."

After two weeks, Bartleman hitchhiked home, but when he got there he said, "What am I going to do here? I was not a very good carpenter, not a very good electrician. I certainly didnít like digging ditches for a living." He hitchhiked back to school, made some friends and finished the year.

He graduated, with 86 per cent, he thinks. In those days, the results appeared in the Globe and Mail and he remembers receiving a note from Miss Roddick.

Bartleman does recall with fondness one teacher from the Port Carling school, Helen Foreman, who taught Grades 1 to 6. He reports, "We received Ė all four Bartleman children went through her hands Ė a no-frills education from her. She was very serious about her work and never abusive. Because in those days it seemed to be common to strap students, and when strapping didnít work Ė I have seen a few occasions Ė in high school the teacher would have a fist fight with the student and beat him up and throw him out the door. It was a terrifying experience. That was an Ontario I hope that no one will ever see again.

"But Mrs. Foreman was this gentle woman who taught us properly and we never had to fear from her that we were going to be unjustly treated as we were by some of these other brutes that we had as teachers in those days."

It was different in Grade 13, especially with Roddick. He says, "It was a class where you were allowed a certain freedom for the students to communicate with each other and to exchange views and learn together. And she was always willing to talk to you. Coming from a small village school, I didnít talk very much. I was rather overawed by it all. But she took a personal interest in everybody."

Bartlemanís French teacher, Antoinette Gilles, asked him what he wanted to do after high school. He said he wanted to teach elementary school, which in those days did not require university. Gilles said, "Oh no, be a high school teacher and go to university."

With the backing of his American benefactor, Bartleman did that, graduating in 1963 with a BA (Honours) in history from the University of Western Ontario. From December of that year to June 1964 he taught geography and history at Lambton Central Collegiate and Vocational Institute.

Then he went off to Europe, where he taught a variety of subjects at the American School of the Hague.

He returned to Lambton, where he taught for a full year. "I really enjoyed teaching," he says. "I had difficult classes but I had good classes. I got along with them well. I followed the principle that Miss Roddick followed. You allow constructive discussion in the class; you donít try to have everybody sitting there like frozen automatons. When you hear a nice hum in the class you know that learning is going on. I really loved it."

Bartleman wrote the foreign service exam but wasnít sure if he wanted to leave teaching. "But I did, the lure of adventure around the world attracted me and I left."

He found that his experience teaching gave him a great advantage over many of his colleagues. He says, "I had actually stood in front of classrooms of 40 or more people and gone through the Socratic approach of trying to draw knowledge out of a student and create an atmosphere of knowledge. I would use this technique in briefing parliamentarians."

He also says teaching gave him confidence: "When I was ambassador to NATO, for example. Your colleagues are the top diplomats from the western European countries and the United States. To be able to explain issues to them and provide a perspective without looking at your notes Ė all that came from Lambton Central Collegiate, just without the chalk in my hand."

Bartleman found himself using the Socratic method he had learned from Roddick during diplomatic lunches and dinners. He says, "I think people found it a bit surprising to come to dinner and instead of having just a chat about this or that, I would have them talk about what they knew about the big issues of the day, whether it be U.S. relations or Middle Eastern affairs or apartheid or the condition of Aboriginal people."

Bartlemanís current challenge is being Ontarioís 27th Lieutenant-Governor. He says, "One of my themes is going to be Ďstay in schoolí. Maybe it sounds dťmodť, but I think for young Aboriginal children it is extremely important. If you donít have training in this era of e-commerce and globalization, youíre going to end up being the hewers of wood and the carriers of water. Of course, teachers have been saying for years, but it is really important that young Aboriginals stay in school to be equipped to deal the modern world and maintaining their cultural identity."

Bartleman hopes that his example will make the message stronger. "My father never encouraged me to stay in school. Not that he didnít love me. Iím sure he did. My mother, who is Aboriginal, was more interested.

"You never know, I guess, with a child whether or not they have an aptitude for education. I think I was fortunate I had this early teacher who didnít beat us. Also important in those early days were the school library and the village library Ė to have access to this entire universe of literature and history. And when I managed to get to Grade 13 and see another world and then have teachers who were able to convey their wisdom and you listen to what they are saying. They may not even know that you are listening."

The young Bartleman listened, learned and put the lessons to good use throughout his life.


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