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JuicyLesson 296 : Some memories of a successful but crazy teacher … Music by Fleetwood Mac and the spinning Stevie Nicks … Along with a sprinkling of cartoons form Dan Piraro

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We start today’s JuicyLesson with our feature, a number from Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham et al – Fleetwood Mac – “Everywhere”, a catchy tune indeed.

My Life in the Public Sector
First of all I have to say that public sector teaching is no bed of roses. Both in terms of classroom management as well as in the context of their collective agreement, public sector educators are in tough.

In terms of the collective agreement, something which we Jewish School private sector negotiators – Marcy Fewkes, Gertie Shuster and the like – would have died for, not so fast I would argue now. On more than one occasion, I recall us stating to the other side during the conduct of negotiations, that we would be prepared to sign the public sector (state schools as opposed to independent schools in the vernacular of the educational system presently in force in the United Kingdom) contract lock, stock and barrel, at the drop of a hat. Just lay it on the table, we used to say.

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Well now, as stated, not so fast. Any contract which allows for an almost arbitrary increase in the work load of any teacher, subject to certain conditions, has to be investigated more seriously before being jumped at as a panacea. For if your number comes up, you risk being approached by administration just prior to the start of classes in late August, and being told that they are sorry but you’re gonna have to take on three or four extra periods per cycle even though you are already carrying a full complement of classes.

I would go on to say “whether the teacher wants these classes added to their schedule or not” but what teacher in their right mind would want additional work, without a corresponding increase in pay. No one. That’s who.

I began today’s Juice with my remark that life in the public sector is no bed of roses both in terms of classroom management issues, challenges, call them what you like, I call them discipline problems because that is what they were, and in the context of their collective agreement. Having just dealt with the second, a few words on the first seem to be in order.

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As I have just said, I refer to these classroom management issues as discipline problems because that is what they were, both for the students involved and for the poor, long-suffering teacher. Before arriving in the private sector, I spent twenty-four years at the same private school and I used to scoff, in my mind that is, at teachers there who had discipline problems. If you can’t stand the heat, I thought, get the hell out of the kitchen. Poor quality work ethics coupled with a negative attitude and a lack of both passion and a caring and conscientious approach are what cause discipline problems along with a few ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – Phew! That’s a mouthful, right there. – students, the latter seemingly randomly scattered throughout the mainstream) or so I thought. Then. Well I was wrong.

‘Til I actually tried to work at Laurier Senior High School and to some extent, at Lake of Two Mountains H.S. (hence referred to respectively – not “respectfully” in pedagogical as opposed to financial terms – as LSHS and LTM), I didn’t have a clue what teachers in the public sector are up against, starting with seniors reading at below high school levels and administrations seemingly concerned only with saving their own asses as opposed to with “supervising” not “evaluating” but rather, supervising, their teachers.

To complete today’s JuicyLesson, an anecdote or two from my four month experience as a contract sec. 1 English teacher at LTM, where I landed a long term substitute job replacing a teacher on sick leave, would seem to be in order.

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How about the tough kid, a student repeating sec. 1, already with a cast on his right wrist, putting said wrist through the frosted glass window in the classroom door, from the outside, while class was going on.

I had been working with kids in small groups when I heard the unmistakeable sound of glass being broken and looked up to see Marc, through the above-mentioned shattered window, blood streaming from his hand.

I grabbed his other arm and took off to get help from the vice principal, who was a nice guy. Last I heard he had landed principals jobs somewhere in the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB, another mouthful). Anyway, the aforementioned adminstrator takes complete charge of the situation and, after hearing what had happened, took the time to tell me not to worry about it, that things like this had happened before and would likely recur, unfortunately.

I headed back to class, mulling his words over in my mind and wondering, for the first time in my life, whether teaching was really what I wanted to do. Holy. Freaking. Shit.

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What about the principal of LTM while I was there? Put it this way. She dissed me so much that when I applied for a math position on offer for the following term, I didn’t even get an answer. Not no, yes, come to the office for an interview, I’ll file your application thanks for submitting it, nothing. Zero. Nada. Hear she directed adult ed. for a while. She may even till be there for all I know.

That’s it for today’s JuicyLesson. Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading it while grooving to Stevie Nicks and the rest of Fleetwood Mac.

Peace out.

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