Sunday, 11 September 2011

I need a bottle

Naw ... I've got no plans to return to those foolish halcyon days of my first university degree.  We're talking one of those Jim Croce bottles that save moments complete with the emotional underpinnings required to recreate that feeling of 'wow' when I'll need it in the future.

Stepping back a few days, I was facing another "why do you want to be a teacher" icebreaker moments.  My love of problem solving, along with a Brock seminar induced love of hearing my own original thoughts expressed to a group, always creates an overwhelming (and frequently troublesome) desire to express a different and new response to any question that I'm asked more than once.  Wouldn't it be nice if I could be satisfied with Beach Boys-style rephrasings of my overwhelming desire to inspire students with my love of history and mathematics.  Sadly, I'm one of those introverts ... the ones that employ the coping mechanism of quasi-theatrical / shock appeal responses as the means to deflect attention from me to what I've said.

My response:  "after 20 years, I couldn't avoid becoming a teacher any longer."

Now, before you think that this is a facetious response, well, it's one of the most honest answers that I could give to the question.  Back a quarter-century ago, one of those employment interest surveys that were tossed around by guidance counselors told me that I should look at math / science teaching.   Given that the other field the test said that I would excel in was as an IRS agent, I was easily able to discount the results as inaccurate.  Upon hearing this my step-mother (who recently retired from the YRDSB) confirmed that it would be an excellent field for me to explore.  Oh yeah ... my step-mother's confirmation helped my teaching career as much as The Odyssey's sirens helped sailors. So as much as I'd like to say that my nascent introspective talents steered me away from teaching, as I definitely wasn't ready, it was more my teenage rebellious side that steered me towards the right decision than realizing that it was not the right time for me.

Through the next 15-20 years, plenty of teaching opportunities came up within my various jobs.  So I wrote and presented a successful 10 week commercial underwriting course during my insurance days.  I frequently trained co-workers on new systems or different ways of using the existing systems ... but in my mind these were just part of my regular job and not evidence of me having any teaching skills.  And once I returned to university, it was because I was a mature student that people came to me for help, and definitely not because I was able to teach.  Even when I gave successful seminars or pre-exam reviews for a group of classmates, well, it wasn't anything that I did.

Overall, my decision to enroll in teachers' college started by accident.  It was getting to that 3rd year decision point ... the 'what am I actually going to do with this liberal arts / history degree' moment.  When it came to application time, I started considering masters' programs, tossed in a couple applications for history masters' programs, and got a 1 way ticket to physiotherapy courtesy of a transport truck and a surprisingly secure Ford focus at 100 km/h.  With my plans put on hold for a year, I considered graduate work a bit more and I came to the realization that I was a little old to be starting on the road to tenure.  I enjoyed writing, but I had no desire to do the exhaustive research necessary to enter the publish or perish world.  Overall, I realized that the part of being a professor that was exciting me the most was the teaching portion.  In addition, a year and a day after our car accident, my father died.  One of our last conversations came back to the inevitable "son, what do you want to do with your life."  And, I was finally able to answer him, "dad, I'm going to become a math teacher."

So, after a 20 year wait, I finally started down the road to teachers' college.  Each day of classes, I wake up at 6am and put my dad's watch on my left wrist.  I can't say that I see 6:00 daily due to the alarm clock - it's set at 7:00.  I just find on a daily basis that I can't sleep any longer.  Why? ... Because I can't wait to start teaching.  Every day I wake up with my brain in excitement-fueled hyper-drive and filled with 'what if,' 'what about,' and 'I wonder if this would work.'  And that's really why I want one of those bottles.  I know that there will be days when I might be feeling a little down and not feel that level of passion necessary to inspire my students.  And, for those days, it would be nice to just be able to open a bottle of now to remind me of these times when I couldn't wait for my career to begin.

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