Teaching as a Profession

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In my first posting I wrote about the remarkable distance my father travelled, from a tiny village in the north of Engand, Cambo in Northumberland, to Toronto, Canada, son of a gamekeeper and a housemaid to an eye doctor. My father credited part of his success to his junior school teacher. It was a single room schoolhouse in the village and the teacher taught the children up to their capacity, which for my father meant calculus, among other things. Outlier moment (from Malcolm Gladwell’s book): the lord of the manor was a liberal intellectual with a deep interest in education, so it’s not surprising the school teacher was excellent.

Many people can credit their success to a given teacher. My wife received incredible support during her high school years. My son loves his high school, and has many talented, supportive teachers. My high school experience was not the best, but that was on me. I was capable but socially awkward and lived through books. I lost interest in what seemed like jumping through hoops.

After I got to university I imagined I would become an English prof. It seemed like the top of the heap, but it was also because I simply didn’t know what else was out there. I’m not an English prof, but more about that later.

We know a number of teachers, so I took the liberty of interviewing Margaret, a teacher from a small town on Georgian Bay and a friend for many years.

Margaret on being a teacher: It takes tremendous energy. It’s like a performance. You have to commit to the work and discipline required to be a good teacher and hold the class’s attention. You also need patience. Kids learn at different speeds. You have to respect that. I love the performance aspect, that feeling of connecting. I think about my students. I enjoy bumping into them when they’re adults, seeing what they are doing in the world. It’s a great feeling.

Two things about being a teacher today: first, the bachelor of education degree needed to teach in a public school is now a two-year program. And, second, there are not a lot of jobs right now. Margaret knows any number of talented young teachers who are having difficulty landing full time jobs.

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