Teachers say Goodbye

In lieu of using up everyone’s attention and time at a meeting, I have written this goodbye post for my colleagues.

I have worked at Glenforest Secondary School for 11 years. It’s a pretty long time. I’m guessing it’s probably about 10% of my life expectancy. There have been many days when I spent more time in this building than in my own home, many weeks when I see my colleagues more than I see my own wife. I’m not alone, I know many colleagues who have been at work before sunrise, and left at night without ever seeing the Sun during the day because there are no windows in the offices or classrooms at Glenforest. I have witnessed full-out-high-volume arguments about the day’s weather between colleagues:

  • “It’s so gross outside”
  • “What are you talking about? It was beautiful when I walked in this morning!”
  • “Not anymore!”
  • “NO WAY!” (Without any tangible method to verify the statement)

These types of exchanges sometimes goes on for several minutes before someone checks… the internet (again, difficult access to Windows). I will miss those arguments. But not as much as I’ll miss the people.

Schools are just brick and mortar without the people inside it. Without the people I have met at Glenforest, I would not be the person nor the teacher that I am today. There are so many people to thank, and if you want to skip to the part about you, just hit CTRL+F and type in your name to get to your paragraph (which can be risky…) If you feel neglected, just know that I probably didn’t have anything nice to say about you — (I’m kidding!)

I have written about Karen Marsh here, without adding that she was the one who spearheaded my nomination at our union’s Teacher Recognition Awards. That gave me the motivation and drive to improve myself. Another person who did that (and more) was Anya Marin. I always imagined that I would be giving a farewell speech to her for leaving our school, not the other way around. Alas, life has a funny way of ruining our best laid plans.

To my friends the Bertovics, one of the first people I spoke to when I left the hospital after the birth of my first child. Both are excellent teachers and always thinks about what’s best for the students, even at the expense of their own time and energy. One of the most difficult days of my life was when I decided not to use movers for my move to Mississauga. You know you have a good friend when they willingly agree to help you move. Thanks, Drazen. And thanks for all the clothes and toys for my kids!

Kirsten is the consummate professional. Teacher’s colleges should invite her to give talks to teacher candidates about what is required to be a professional teacher. She respects the job and shows it in all the different ways she approaches teaching. I learned that it’s okay to love teaching from Kirsten, even if everyone else is telling you that teachers are not worthy, you keep on working and doing your best at your job, no matter what.

Aylisa is the easiest-going person I have ever met. Just so great to be around and work with. She is the person who planted the idea in my mind that change is good. Doing the same thing over and over is boring, one should seek challenge in order to be truly fulfilled. Thank you Aylisa!

Duncan is a master coach of rugby and uses those skills daily in his classroom. I wish I had an opportunity to learn more about coaching from him. Thank you for making me laugh, D.A.! Too bad “The Prosecutor” nickname never stuck.

I nicknamed “Hurricane Diana” because her projects and ideas picks me up, drops me off in different places and doing different things, and leaves me confused and alone afterwards because she’s on to the next huge project to do, hopefully picking someone else up and dropping them off somewhere they’ve never been. Those experiences were truly memorable, I wish I could match her tenacity in pulling such huge events off, and doing it so well.

Natalie and Jason are wonderful young teachers who have bright futures ahead of them. It was a pleasure to teach with them as a team, and I learned so much from each of them through our conversations. Both Jason and Natalie inspired me to work hard to keep up with them or I risk being left behind! (I will never forget Reading Rainbow)

I was also able to learn from teachers outside of my department. Harry is a fantastic coach and another excellent leader in our school. As branch president, he navigated us through our labour issues and even bought us ice cream! Harry’s generosity, and the way he helps with the issues our fellow colleagues encounter are something I aspire to get better at. He is a also terrible poker player.

When I volunteered to work on the photography parts of the yearbook, I didn’t know what I was getting in to. I was lucky to learn from the very detail oriented Barbara who is really good at organizing things. She is an amazing math teacher and it’s too bad that my children won’t have a chance to be in her classroom in the future.

In September, I’ll be teaching at a new school, I’ll be meeting and working with new people, I’ll be navigating new norms in a different place. I feel excited and nervous whenever I think about going to The Woodlands, but I will take all the wonderful experiences at Glenforest with me, it is a place I will not soon forget. I grew up here, first as a young, single new teacher, became a husband, then a father (twice) while working at Glenforest. I have experienced so many changes in my life for the past 11 years but the constant, the thing that grounds me, will always be the students. I was blessed to work with such a diverse group of young people at this school, I have learned so much from them. After 12 years of teaching, I have learned that many teenagers have the same issues, no matter who they are or where they’re from and I’m sure that it’s the same for all adolescents everywhere in the world. It gives me comfort to take that knowledge with me to my new school, and if I miss Glenforest, I’m not worried…

The new school I’m going to also has no windows.

IMG_20160627_155356

Thank you, Glenforest. It’s been a great ride. New adventures await!

 

Teachers saves lives

I have realized that teaching is my calling. I love it. It is my life.

It hasn’t always been that way.

About 5 years into my career, I was starting to feel comfortable with the job. I have some experience and developed confidence in myself that this is something I can do for a long time. I could have (and was heading towards) a teacher’s equivalent of Groundhog Day. My lessons were set, on PowerPoint, I had different versions of similar tests, and I could see myself plateauing and coast for the next 25 years to retirement.

And then Anya Marin became my colleague, and she saved my life.

Anya came into my school as I was reaching a crossroads in my career. What do I want to be? How was I getting there? Do I like this job? Is it okay to like it? Why do I get a feeling it should be something to be ashamed of when it is the most noble of professions? I had worked with many different colleagues, some who loved teaching, some hated it, and being a new teacher, I found myself being influenced by the negativity that can come with the job.

Anya is a veteran teacher of 25 years, so she knows what she’s talking about, and she also has the pedigree. Her father was an university professor and she already had her principal’s qualifications when I met her almost a decade ago. Anya chose to stay in the classroom instead of “ascending” because she loved teaching so much, and she had a profound effect on me. The most impressive skill Anya has as a teacher is her ability to read people, then empathize with them if the situation warrants it. I’m always shocked by how often she is correct when analyzing what people are like, their personalities/traits, and then treats them according to what is necessary.

Through a stroke of luck, I was able to carpool to school with her everyday for over a year and we became close friends. We had great talks on those car rides and I learned so much about life, people, society, and of course, teaching. Through those conversations, it became obvious to me that Anya has a love of learning, I love that she is never ashamed of her ignorance of something new. At school, I got to watch how she interacted with students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Her easy going personality and positivity was infectious and our science department was better for it.

Anya made me want to improve myself as a teacher. She did so by example. You’ll rarely hear her complain about a new initiative, or some change that was occurring in the school. Anya embraces everything teaching throws at her and always does it with a smile on her face. Her work ethic is second to none, her endless energy amazes me, and her love for her students, limitless.

If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be anywhere near the teacher I am today. Teaching is my life and Anya inspired me to make it so. When I first met her, she was the sista that I worked with. Now, I consider her a sister I cannot be without. As I move to a new school next September, I feel like my 14 year old self, about to enter high school for the first time, on the cusp of a new adventure. I’m also extremely nervous that I’ll be doing it without my mentor, my guide, my friend. I’m going to miss her so much. Thanks for always laughing at my jokes.

IMG_20160326_152201

Me and my big sister