Teachers like to Talk

Especially on the picket line. What else is there to do when you have 4 hours to kill while marching on the sidewalk? You can only eat so many donuts…

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My main man Mr. Pugi, who knew he wanted to be a teacher at an early age.

So I started talking to my colleagues. I asked them a simple question:

“How did you get into teaching?”

The answers I got were interesting and as expected, long. I asked over 16 teachers (1 for every day of the strike) and most answers belonged in one of four categories that I’ve created. There were some hybrids but for the most part, these are the four:

Lineage

The family of teachers. With so many “teacher couples” on at school, I can only imagine how many more teachers are ‘created’ through lineage. Are there any other professions where there are so many in the family that are involved? I have heard stories of a colleague resisting teaching for most of her life but still ended up being one! I envy these teachers because teaching is part of their life. I always feel bad for my wife (who’s not a teacher) when I have my teacher friends over and the conversations inevitably veer towards teaching. I love talking shop with my colleagues but I’m sure it my wife is tired of hearing the same conversations again and again. Imagine if all your family dinners have years of teaching experience to draw from? All the questions that can be answered because you literally have hundreds of years of teaching to draw from? This is just what I imagine a family of teachers would do. Who knows, perhaps they hate it when that happens!

Career Change

Most of these teachers didn’t stumble into teaching from a previous career. The colleagues I talked to all had some connection to teaching before they switched. I did find some similarities to the ‘teachers of lineage’ when asked: “Why did you switch to teaching?” The answer from each career changer at my school (albeit a small sample size) was family. “My work would not give me the kind of schedule I want for my family” was a common reason. These teachers who changed careers (I’m generalizing) are the most diligent and “realistic” people in our school. I think it’s because they’ve experienced the ‘real world’ and understands that there are some things in education (and life) we cannot control. They also know that teachers (and any worker, really) are replaceable, so they roll with the punches when they’re being told what to do. I find that the most common teacher complaint is when we’re told what to do. We’re so used to ‘being our own bosses” in our own classroom we forget that yes, the principal (or whoever that has the power)’s job is to tell you what to do. My best student teachers were the ones who have had some experience in industry and treats teaching as a job, not an extension of school.

The Calling

The most noble of the four. “I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was (insert absurdly young age).” or “I had a great (insert favourite subject) teacher and I wanted to be just like him/her”. These teachers love what they do and exudes it everyday to their students. Students revere these teachers at my school (They would walk on glass for these colleagues of mine). These teachers knew exactly what they wanted to do at a young age and planned their life to achieving that goal. There was an example of a colleague who quit, then came back to teaching because she hated the (much more prestigious and higher paying) job she switched to. Now that’s admirable.

The Falling

This is the most touchy group of the four. Some other names for this category:

  • Plan B (too negative)
  • I have no idea what I’m going to do so I’ll trying teaching (too long)
  • Those who can’t do, teach (too close to home)

Yes. There are teachers who fall into teaching. No, it’s not because they can’t do anything else. Many found what originally planning to do was not what they envisioned themselves to be doing. There were many different paths: lawyer, veterinarian, doctor, scientists, the list goes on. It doesn’t mean they love teaching any less, or are any less capable. Every single teacher in “The Falling” group already had seeds of teaching in their life: Piano tutors, life guard, coaching, referee… etc. All of these teachers had experience working with younger people, helping them learn. After they ‘fall’ into teaching, they were so glad they found it again.

Of course after talking about themselves, the immediate question my colleagues have is: “Now it’s your turn, how did YOU get into teaching?”

If you’re interested, here’s my story.

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Teachers walk the picket line

Some thoughts and stories from the picket line:

My favorite part of the day is when I arrive, I try to meet everyone and say hello to each of my colleagues. It was quite wonderful to actually see everyone that worked in the same building at the same time. We’re normally so busy that we only get to do that for 2 days in a school year: The first staff meeting before school starts, and the end of year luncheon on the last day of school.

Time seems to go so slowly when you’re walking on the picket line. It goes to show how crazy a typical school day is. It’s not uncommon to hear these things in school:

  • “What? It’s 3:30 already? I forgot to eat my lunch! Again.”
  • *Bell rings* “Nooooooo! I’m not finished yet!” (You’d hear this in class or during prep)
  • “I haven’t peed since this morning, when I ran in from the parking lot.”

Adversity reveals character, and nowhere is one’s character more visible than on the picket line. There are rule followers, rule benders, and rule breakers amongst us. An overwhelming majority of our staff are wonderful, diligent in fighting the good fight. Others disappoint, but that’s because my standards are probably too high. Teachers, after all, are people too.

Although it’s not as bad as prison, picketing with no end in sight can get you down. I was walking alone a lot at the beginning, many told me to “cheer up!” as they walked by. Some colleagues started walking with me, and we would have nice chats as we walked the picket line. After consoling each other about the strike, I would then ask them a simple question: “How did you get into teaching?”, with a follow up of: “How did you get to Glenforest?”

The answers, as you can imagine, are fascinating (for another post).

The public? During the past 3 weeks, it’s been (mostly) positive. We’ve encountered the occasional “Get back to work!”, or “Lazy teachers! Greedy!”, and my favorite, one hand out the car window, pointing at the sky as they drive by. (I always look up and find nothing of interest. What are they pointing at?)

Of course, NOTHING beats a student visit on the picket line. I’m not ashamed to say that we have the best students at my school!

Have a look at all our visits!

Teachers are on strike

Heather summed up many teachers’ feelings on Friday.

And this is how we all felt late Sunday night/early Monday morning:

And here we are.

Starting today until the end of the strike, I will head to the picket line, reflecting on what I’m missing everyday…

  • I will miss holding the door for students as I enter the school
  • I will miss watching students hurry inside, to hold the next set of doors open for me
  • I will miss students saying “Hi”, or “Good morning!” and waving to me as I walk through the halls to the office
  • I will miss exchanging head nods in the hallway with the “cool kids”
  • I will miss seeing my mailbox empty in the morning (no “On Call” sheets)
  • I will miss trolling my students
  • I will miss smart pranks played on me by my students
  • I will miss figuring out the pranks
  • I will miss making up silly rules for my class
  • I will miss ranting off topic during lessons
  • I will miss looking for the ringing phone in the middle of a lesson
  • I will miss suppressing laughter when students say inappropriate things
  • I will miss the times when students stay in their seats even when the bell rings because they were concentrating on their work
  • I will miss when students start packing 15 minutes before the bell rings
  • I will miss making students unpack their stuff again until the bell rings
  • I will miss “Have a nice day, sir” as they walk out the classroom
  • I will miss the different time zones and climates in our (almost) 50 year old school
  • I will miss students pretending to put their phones/hats/food away in the hallway
  • I will miss pretending to not see them do it
  • I will miss learning from my students
  • Most of all, I will miss providing the best education possible for my students

But the proposed changes by the government and school boards threaten the working and learning conditions for myself, my colleagues, and my students. That is unacceptable.

And that’s why I’ll be on strike, focused on my goals amid the chaos around me.

Teachers are ….

I don’t know how to finish the title. Weird for a teacher to be speechless, isn’t it?

We (our board/district) are about to go on strike for the first time in over a decade (and the first time in my 11 year career). I have never been more stressed about work than I have in the past week. I can’t sleep. I have no energy. I’m always hunting for any sliver of good news on the internet, sometimes late at night, because I can’t sleep.

After being unfairly treated during the government’s legislation of Bill 115, I was angry. I continue to be angry about the way things unfolded. I thought striking was the only way to show our anger and displeasure. I was actually looking forward to go on strike to let people know how poorly and unfairly we’ve been treated. I was ready to picket & march on the sidewalk, whenever, wherever. Rally at Queen’s Park? No problem. I’ve been angry for so long. It’s time to fight back and go on strike until we get the respect we deserve.

I was wrong. So wrong.

My life isn’t at stake, but I feel like a soldier on the brink of my first battle. I’ve been psyching myself up for months, years even. Now I’m sitting in a truck, getting ready to start this battle and I’m thinking to myself: “No. This is bad. I can’t pull the trigger and shoot someone. None of this is good for anyone.”

I don’t want to go on strike. I want to go to work. I enjoy it, and (I think) I’m good at it. How often have I told students to find something they love to do and be good at it? All the time! Why did I ever think going on strike is a good thing?

Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

I can only hope that the strike doesn’t happen. Because a fictional movie character once said: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of good things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I will do whatever it takes so that I can continue to love what I do. If we have to strike, so be it. I will be out there. Whenever, wherever.