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The Long Journey

At the end of this week, I will have completed my fourth year teaching. I've taught in  Edmonton, Alberta for three years now at Inner City High School and I taught for a year in Halifax, Nova Scotia at a school for students with learning disabilities. I could have never predicted back in 2009 that my teaching career would take me across the country in my journey to become a teacher.

Before I get to that, I should mention that my aspirations to become a teacher started specifically in grade 10 as a 15 year old kid in Math class. Historically, I never loved Math. To this day, looking at numbers causes me confusion and insecurity and despite what my former Math teacher said, I have yet to use Pythagorean Theorem in a grocery store. However, my grade 10 Math teacher was awful. He had little inspiration to teach but he did end up being my main motivation to become a teacher. Let me explain.

After failing the first test of the year (33%!!) he pulled me aside and told me to just drop the course. He explained that I didn't have the skills and that I'm most likely not going to make it anywhere in an academic program since I lack the drive and competency that the other students have. To say the least, I was pretty pissed off. I didn't drop his course at first out of spite. I stayed in it just to piss him off and cause disruptions in the class. Not the most mature move of my life but give me a break, I was a bratty 15 year old.

Shortly after this, during parent-teacher interviews, my father was informed of my current grade in the class. When he came home after the meeting I knew he was upset with me and I could tell that he was disappointed. I couldn't explain it then, but I always felt "stupid" and insecure in class. Any time I acted out in class was to hide my lack of skills. I believed what my grade 10 Math teacher told me. I thought I wasn't going to be able to succeed in high school and achieve what the rest of my friends we're going to.

Fortunately, my father was a huge advocate and supported me during this time period. Everyday after my father came home from work, we would work on Math problems for 2-3 hours a night for two weeks until the next test. After all this preparation, I took the next test and got 76%. I felt extremely happy to achieve this after my "disappointing" 33%, but soon felt inadequate again when looking around the room and seeing my friends, who didn't put as nearly as much effort into studying as I did, get 90% and above (I had some really smart friends).

It was this moment specifically that I thought to myself that teaching should be more than just sitting at a desk and telling students to work on problems by themselves. It took me a long time to overcome my insecurity in the classroom and to let down my walls to hide any deficiencies I had. I felt that I was always trying to hide from people that I wasn't smart. I didn't realize that I actually had something to offer until I was in my early twenties.

As badly as I wanted to be a great teacher, it did not come easy to me. My first experiences teaching were awful. I failed miserably with terrible lessons and generally just not knowing how to teach. I had to fall down over and over again to learn the style, technique and format that would become my teaching practice.

After completing my practice teaching in my home province of Ontario and unable to find a job after the 2008 recession (or maybe it was due to my bad practice teaching?), I decided to try my hand at grad school. I wanted to achieve a M.Ed to not only prove to myself that I could do it (Still trying to overcome my academic insecurities at this point) but I was absolutely intrigued by the theories of Friere, McLaren, Kincheloe, hooks, Steinberg and many other educational theorists.

I not only wanted to learn more about educational theory in obtaining my M.Ed but I also wanted an adventure. Along with my partner, we decided to move to Halifax, Nova Scotia to go to school at Mount Saint Vincent University. We spent two great years there where we both got our first "adult" jobs. While completing my M.Ed I took a job at a school for students with learning disabilities. It was an extremely challenging position but the students there taught me so much about teaching and how learning can take place for all different styles of learners.

After this experience, and a chance move to Edmonton (long story), I took a job at Inner City High School where I work with "at-risk" youth. It was this experience where I learned how to be a true critical pedagogue. I was able to have the creative freedom to experiment and incorporate elements of social justice and democracy into my teaching. But more than that, I was put into a classroom with a group of students who had even less confidence and belief in themselves than I did when I was in school.

This experience has made me realize that my purpose in the education system is to work with the students that are struggling, that people gave up on, that no one else wants to teach. These are the students who I was meant to teach. Together, after three years, we've been able to build each other's confidence and abilities. I just hope I have given them half of what they've given me.

My journey to be a teacher has taken me from Ontario to Nova Scotia and all the way to Alberta. I have learned a ton and luckily been put in a situation where I am able to be the teacher I want to be. However, it hasn't been easy. Leaving home has put a strain on old friendships and it's never fun being so far away from my family. What makes this journey worth it is that I have my loving partner with me supporting my dreams and by my side ready to tackle the next adventure we decide to throw ourselves at! I wouldn't have it any other way.

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