I’ve neglected you, oh faithful reader, and I’ve neglected something that was such an exciting project for me. I’m talking about this blog. I have not, however, neglected my Bucket List. And that’s where this post begins. I have crossed off three items from my list since my last post. Read about one of them below. More on the other two later…
Last year I waited in anticipation for April 1st. A relatively arbitrary day by any account – unless you are an April Fool’s Day enthusiast – but for those of us who aspire to be teachers, at least where I live, April 1st is D-Day. Our applications had been processed and we were all awaiting the verdict: did we make the cut? Did they hear our teacher voices within our applications? Do they have faith that we can shape and guide the youth of Canada?
On that day the admissions departments at three separate teachers colleges told me that they believed what I have believed all along: I’m a teacher at heart. Aside from landing a place in my dream school I beat out thousands of other applicants from across the country. I was going to become a teacher!
At least on paper. Context: where I live has over 35,000 unemployed or underemployed teachers who are struggling to get work – even supply work. It is an absolutely dreadful situation made even more complex and difficult for starting teachers with the institution of Regulation 274 under Bill 115 (which was originally passed as part of the new Education Act without any indication of this to constituents, I might add…) but it was later enforced as a Regulation for very complicated reasons that I won’t go into here. Reg. 274 effectively restructured hiring practices in Ontario and the boiled down version of this story means that seniority within the system is what matters. I have numerous problems with this (are the most experienced teachers in the system necessarily the best teachers for the job? No. Is there a reason that many teachers – though, not all – have been lingering in the system for as long as they have? Probably.) This enforces inequitable hiring practices that leave new teachers in the dust. The already existing bottleneck of teachers in Ontario in conjunction with the new Regulation 274 is a recipe for a lengthy unemployment as a teacher.
I digress. I was over the first hurdle and I was to be an official Teacher Candidate come September 2012.
This past year was a year of exponential growth for me emotionally, intellectually and certainly, politically. I was forced to face a lot of unfortunate realities in education and had to both learn and unlearn a lot about myself and the system within which I live and operate. It was a challenge – but it was very necessary. I spent the year feeling very sorry for myself that I hadn’t learned a lot of what was being presented to me sooner and I also felt very sorry for myself when my ‘radical activist’ classmates and colleagues expected so much experience and knowledge from myself and others like me (ie. New to the world of political & educational activism). At times it was a most isolating experience. I did, however, meet some extraordinary people who made wonderful friends and allies and who will make remarkable teachers. And that’s what I learned to focus on.
Student teaching was not the beast that many of my TC predecessors made it out to be. In fact, I relished in it. During my Bachelor of Education I specialized in inner city schools. And, though I recognize how problematic that term is it was one of the most rewarding and validating experiences of my life. Inner city schools are typically very racialized and quite poor. They are the schools that typically underperform on standardized tests and that are located in developing neighbourhoods. (I do realize the problems inherent in all of these characterizations). The students have a number of issues they are working through both at school and in their lives outside of school. But, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. The students that you meet have such a wealth of experience and knowledge and they are often some of the most kind, considerate people you will ever meet. And they need – and deserve – quality teachers who actually care.
I felt reinvigorated after both of my student teaching placements. I had spent approximately 6 months being told both directly and indirectly that if I wasn’t a qualified and experienced ‘radical’ – if I wasn’t actively involved as an activist – that I had no place in an inner city classroom. Or, any classroom for that matter. I realize now how wrong this is and I take a lot of pride in my skills as a teacher.
Yesterday, actually, I received the email that I was officially a member in good standing with the Ontario College of Teachers. And, not only have I been working as a summer school teacher already, but what’s even more exciting is this news: back in February I received a job offer to teach in Kuwait for ten months this September.
And so, I hope that you’ll find it in your heart of hearts to forgive my negligence. Sometimes you never really know where the Bucket List will take you.