Friday, November 20, 2009

Second-Career Teacher

@msjweir posed the question the other day. Second-career teachers. Why did you do it? Why are you still in it? It being the education profession.
My quick Twitter answer that day was that, unlike school, it is not BORING.
A lot of people thought I would choose to become an English teacher but the thought of teaching the same units year after year was abhorrent – units that I’d hated anyway – one novel, one Shakes, one poem, one short story, exam. It amazes me to think back to those days, when I was going to the public library and devouring several novels a week but rarely ever read an assigned text. Never completed a Shakespeare play, never finished up Great Expectations or The Scarlet Letter. Lots of BS at exam time, and an A on the report. But rarely an A+. On my own, though, I roamed around the library and read tons of mystery books. I had a lengthy phase of reading classic and contemporary Black American authors. I did author binges on people like Marge Piercey, Joyce Carol Oates, or Margaret Laurence. Margaret Atwood. Herman Hesse, and Tolkein of course. But only at home.
So you can imagine that I get the whole thrust towards differentiation. I like that the students are going in different directions and at different levels and that makes them interesting to me.
At first, creating units satisfied the strong organizational streak in me that led me to manage non-profit groups and projects in Career #1. Now, making up the new units is combined with designing, managing and carrying out research projects like our Boys’ Literacy Study and the recent TLLP Blogging extravaganza.
I like the independence of planning and teaching my own courses by myself, and apologize for not being much of a team-teacher type. Sorry.
I also like the workplace. I am very lucky to have many generous, friendly and supportive colleagues and, so far, two good principals. This is in stark contrast to the private sector, believe me. I worked in one place where the boss regularly summoned one of the copy writers by shouting down the hall, “Numb nuts, in here.” No verbal abuse is a good thing.
I get paid regularly and I don’t have to raise my own salary or worry that my employees will suffer if our campaigns are not as successful as we might wish.
Which brings me to Day One at Nipissing University, where all of us Fac of Ed students were assembled in the gym for a talk. This woman, whose name I have blocked because she annoyed me so greatly for a whole year (and not you, Heli!!)… Shirley something or other…She stood up and sternly told us that if we were there for the money or the vacation time, to just leave because we would never be successful.
Spoken like a true career civil servant. I’m here to tell you that raising a child on no money and two weeks holidays a year is a crappy way of living. (But still a good life, because I liked my jobs and am blessed with a great son and a multitude of happy memories – it’s just a stressful way to get through the years.)
So yeah. I like the salary grid and the benefits and the time off. As well as the great teachers I work with, the endlessly fascinating students and the daily liberty to learn new things and put them into action.
Too bad I waited so long to give it try!

1 comment:

Ross Isenegger said...

Hi Anne,

Nice to keep up with you this way. Do you think that your school assumed that you needed it to force you to read? Do we still basically assume that our students won't have a mathematical thought or an interest in reading or history if we are not there to impose it?