How Did I Get Here?

Vicky Loras has a challenge on her blog that she calls “What’s Your Story?”  Now, I’m not the story teller around here but I think I have an interesting one.   It’s about how a kid from a small town ended up teaching as a career so far away from home.

I think, like many teachers, once I had decided to become one, my goal was to get a job at my old secondary school.  After all, I knew most of the staff and certainly knew the building and the community. I wonder what the odds are of that ever happening to anyone?  It sure didn’t happen to me.

I was only four years out, having completed my Bachelor of Mathematics degree and working on my Bachelor of Education.  My wife and I were living in Kitchener at the time and I lived with a friend in Toronto during the week while going to school.  Making this weekly trek on the 401 made me positive that I couldn’t live in Toronto with all its traffic.  Of course, the price was to give up everything else that a big city affords.  Maybe even a teaching job?

Times were tough for aspiring teachers.  The common wisdom was that you’d never get a job; there just weren’t any available.  Later on, I came to realize that the same message was given to every student ever at a Faculty of Education.  I think it’s a conspiracy to make sure that only the tough stayed in the job hunt market.  I had done the usual thing; registered my desire to teach Mathematics and/or Computer Science with the University of Toronto and University of Waterloo referral services.  Every day, I would look at the job boards and wonder what it would look like with actual job postings on it.

I was determined to get a job, even though it appeared that none were available.

On weekends, I would go to my “den” where I had my trusty typewriter and a road map of the province tacked to the wall.  I didn’t have addresses for school boards but made the logic that the board office was probably in the biggest community within each county.  So, I would personally type and sign letters of application to places like “Huron County Board of Education, Goderich, Ontario” or “Perth County Board of Education, Stratford, Ontario”.  I would just rely on Canada Post to sort out the actual details.  Needless to say, there were a lot of mistakes made but the good news was that my typing skills got better.  I attribute my keyboarding abilities today to these letters and also to learning COBOL as a programming language.

Still no luck.

It was time to consider a Plan B.  I remember considering all kinds of options, including being independently wealthy, but none of them were working.

One Saturday afternoon though, my wife called me to the phone.

“Hello, Mr. Peterson”

Uh oh.  Nobody calls me that.

It turned out it was a call from a secondary school principal.

“Do you have a teaching job yet?  I got your name and phone number from the University of Toronto.”

Rather quick to the point and, in today’s concerns for privacy, I probably would just have hung up.  But, I was young and foolish.

“No”

“I’d like you to come here for an interview.  I need a Data Processing teacher.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t qualified in Data Processing but I was willing …  (It only took three summer schools)

“Where is here?”

“In Sandwich West Township.  Just outside of Windsor.”

He then gave me driving instructions, none of which sunk in, and I certainly didn’t want to ask him to hold while I got a pencil and paper. If worst came to worst, I could just drive around until I found it.  How much more involved than Hullett Township could it be?

I then said one of the dumbest things ever.

“Can I bring my wife with me?”

Inwardly, I gasped.  What kind of moron would say something like that?

Then, this amazing response.

“Certainly.  She can look for an apartment while we do the interview.”

Did I hear him correctly?

The appropriate response would have been to drop the phone on the floor.  My mind had gone completely blank.  I don’t recall my response or how the conversation ended but somehow we had negotiated a time and the school as the location.

As it turns out, my wife wasn’t able to get the day off work to go with me to the interview but my dad was available.  This was a real win-win for us.  After the interview, we would enjoy some harness racing at Windsor Raceway.  So, off we went.  His car at the time didn’t have air conditioning and we were headed to Essex County in June.  If you know the area, it’s hot and humid.  Tomorrow’s forecast – hotter and humider.

I parked in an area of the school which I learned later was a no parking area, cracked a window for my dad, put on my tweed sports coat (the only thing dressy that I owned) and went in for the interview.  Ah, the school was air conditioned.  I could get used to this!

It was a very interesting experience.  As I found later, he used my resume as fact and wanted to spend the interview probing into character, work habits, etc.  I think the interview lasted a total of 15 minutes and then I was going to get a tour of the school by the vice-principal.  As we stood up, the principal looked out his window and asked “Who is in the car?”

“My dad”.

“Why didn’t he come in with you? It’s hot out there.”

I did the tour and he went out to get my dad and invited him into the air-conditioned office where, apparently, they swapped parenting stories.  My guess is that it was a secondary interview!

As it turns out, I was offered the job after the tour.  I never looked back and still live in hot and steamy Essex County.  It’s a wonderful place; I had the honour of teaching and coaching some of the brightest young men and women, met lots of hard working people and there are a couple of cities within a short driving distance, a great lake, wonderful parks, and so much more.

This certainly wasn’t part of any master plan.  After all, I had addressed the letter of application to the “Essex County Board of Education, Windsor, Ontario.”  The board office was actually in Essex, Ontario; the city of Windsor had its own separate school board.

And another high point of the day?  I hit a Triactor at the races.  1-7-2 in the second race.

Isn’t it funny how you can have selective memory over major life events?

That’s my story, Vicky mou, and I’m sticking to it.

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7 thoughts on “How Did I Get Here?

  1. That’s an interesting premise, Alfred, and makes sense. Here, you don’t get hired by a school but rather by a district. You could be bounced all over the place depending upon enrolment or subject needs. Independent schools (at least the ones I’m picturing in my mind here) are a “one of” entity so school movement doesn’t happen.

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  2. Things are different in the US and Canada. We don’t have Catholic School Boards the same way you have them in Canada. Catholic schools are really more independent and tend to be attached either to a parish or an order of religious men or women. My school is run/owned by the Brother of the Sacred Heart who run a number of school around the US (and I think Canada). We also have a lot of independent secular schools and some attached to Protestant churches. These independent schools have a lot more leeway about hiring teachers than public (government run) schools. I could not teach in a public school without special arrangements involving working toward a certification that I don’t currently have.

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  3. Pingback: “What’s Your Story” Is Up and Running Again! – A Blog Challenge With a Human Touch | Vicky Loras's Blog

  4. You’re correct about that, Alfred. To teach in a publicly funded school in Ontario, you must be a certified teacher. All details are available at http://www.oct.ca. Details about qualifications, as well as investigations by the college, are all there. It was not without controversy when it came into place.

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  5. Pingback: OTR Links 01/13/2015 | doug — off the record

  6. Pingback: Weekly Education Links (weekly) | A Principal's Life

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