Tuesday, 16 July 2013

TCH: Yi Teach

It's my Yi series, installment 3. Why am I a teacher? Ha. Funny story there. Here, I'll even give you a soundtrack for it: Click Here


Because I figured it's all I was good for.

Fair warning, this isn't going to be a very inspirational post. Bear with me as I recount my history, on the off chance you'll see a bit of yourself in parts of it.

I scored a 97 in OAC (Grade 13) Calculus and 98 in OAC Finite. Algebra and Geometry, euh, well, over 80. Damn vectors. So naturally I'm thinking Bachelor of Mathematics, major in Pure Maths. Second year University, I realize that's a bit too pure... I look for an out. Which I KNOW isn't Applied Math or Stats. (Yet now I teach stats.) Combinatorics is tempting, but I settle on Computer Science, my lowest mark in OAC. Go fig.

...and then go ask the TA (Teaching Assistant).

In fourth year, I take theoretical courses. You want a finite state machine? I got you covered. You want an operating system? Good luck with that. I'll sing you a sad song - I'm doing a music minor too. It's also in fourth year when I get my first real taste of teaching, hired on my co-op to be a TA for first year CS courses. Interesting. This, I think, I like.

I graduate after over five years (co-op and music extended the degree), using grad requirements from third year (another fun story), and start throwing resumes around. My parents helped with tips. In August 2001, the first positive response: I get hired to teach math and science to ESL students at a private school. Note I'm limited to the private sector, I do not have a teaching degree yet. And yes, my second week of classes (ever) in September 2001 was... interesting.

That year is what sort of crystallized things for me, made me certain I wouldn't be happy merely sitting behind a desk. There was even one girl I never taught, who was totally into anime, found out I was, and who used to come by my class. I also helped with yearbook. If you want, here's A DAY IN THE LIFE (2001 edition). In a sense, I saw the career as jack of all trades, master of none, which sums me up pretty well. So I applied for, and got into, Teacher's College. I still have a box of memorabelia from that school.


Came out of Teacher's College in 2003. Coincided very nicely with the elimination of OAC (Grade 13) and Ontario's double cohort graduation. Thus, there are no jobs. First extended occasional teaching in Spring 2004, in Tech. Not hired for continuation. Shorter stint in Fall 2004, maths. Then Spring 2005, my first extended occasional full semester maths timetable... 3M, 2P, 1P.

It killed me.

Three new courses, depriving me of sleep as I taught to students who (unlike the ESLs) mostly didn't listen to me. After two months, I had a decision to make. Somehow scale back, or at midterms, cut and run. I talked to admin. We agreed that scaling back would be problematic for the students I wasn't teaching, who would still see me in school.

I cut and run.

I suspect that's where the story would end for most people.

Foolishly though, I really had no backup plan. As I said earlier, "master of none", so I didn't see myself as having employability in any other job. I went back on the supply teacher list. I got a day of work the following week. On that day, I had to break up a fight in my class. Not even kidding.

What. The. Hello.

Still, too late to reinvent myself, right? Keep going. Fall 2005. Not hired for anything. Again, I don't have anything else, unless RolePlay counts as a skill. Day of work here and there. And then, as tends to happen in my life, I snare a position because I had been the runner up interviewee, and the main guy had to go. This time (unlike in 2004) it led to a 0.33 contract for Fall 2006, literally about two weeks before the Board closed the door on new hires for something like two years.

By the way, the contract was in tech. I took an Additional Qualifications (AQ) course as a condition. I really have no desire to weld anything in my life ever again.

Fall 2007, a 0.66 contract, with some math. Fall 2008, full time. Still going today, all in maths.


Sometimes, that's what it feels like. So many teachers have grand stories of how they got into teaching, saying it was their calling, how the students make them want to come to work every day, and how it's changed their life. Which isn't to say there isn't any of that in me... yet it's more that teaching IS my life. My default. As I said in Yi, installment 2.

At least I'm not a hologram, just a hologrami.

If I wasn't teaching students, I'd probably be running tech seminars, or tutoring professionally, or editing stories, or doing whatever I could to pass my knowledge and experience on to other people. Because looking BACK at my life, I dare say I know just enough of everything to be able to push the rest of you forwards. Into the places that are beyond my reach.

That's why I teach.

I also find it a bit awkward when people ask me how long I've been teaching, because officially in 2008, my record had less than two years seniority. Soooo, since 2001, it's been seven years then...?

You may now wish to check out Why Did You Want To Be A Teacher, Sir for a much better account, by a different Mr. Taylor.


  1. Very honest, was it hard to write? What do you think made you turn the corner? It seems the 33% welding course led to the math courses, which is your steady job now. How do you feel about teaching? It does seem to be the constant thread, and you obviously enjoy communicating about math, AND you're good at it. But does it inspire you the way your serial does?

    1. Actually, no, not hard to write at all. Pretty much just putting the facts down on the page. It's often like my emotions are a switch that's either on or off. I'm not quite sure what you mean by turn the corner, but if you're referring to why I cut out the first time, then didn't the next time, it was mostly a different set of courses in a different environment. Maybe experience helped too?

      Clarification: I didn't actually teach welding, only computer technologies, because of the way the school shared out the TTI course. But the AQ requirement involved a technologies/shop course.

      Thanks for the compliment... and now, those last questions really do cut to the heart of it, don't they? Mmm. I feel that teaching allows me to do good, and inspire others (students and colleagues alike). Does it inspire ME? ...

      Okay, you brought up the serial, let me dwell there for a moment. My serial gives a focus for pretty much everything I'm passionate about, from mathematics to writing to science fiction to pop culture references. If teaching is my life, the serial is my escape from life. But they're co-dependent. The research I do for my serial affects my teaching, and school events affect my writing.

      As such, I'm not sure teaching inspires me any more or less than the other elements around me. I'm more inspired by individual interactions than the profession as a whole, if that makes any sense? I think? Thanks for the food for thought...