doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Refresh and anxiety

I’ve always maintained that teaching is the best job in the world because you get to restart and reinvent yourself every September. It might be a change in grades or subjects or a complete change in schools. Personally, before I ended up working in the Program Department, I only had one school but it was different every fall.

As the computer science/ data processing teacher, there was new equipment or a new language or two that needed to be implemented and tons of new stuff to learn. Professionally, I became an assistant department head and then a Business Education Director. So, there was never a dull moment, I’ll tell you. Schools only exist because of paperwork.

As a computer teacher, you actually only teach a subset of the school population and it was marvelous to see the students grow as they moved from Grade 10 – 12 and then the OAC years. As I think about it, it was rather remarkable that I was fortunate enough to teach some of the same students for up to four years straight.

There were never dull moments and all were refreshing.

There’s the other side of the coin too. As a student, I remember the anxiety of those first days at school.

For Kindergarten, we actually lived completely on the other side of town and had to cross two major highways to get to the school. My mom had worked an arrangement with some older kids in the neighbourhood to walk me to school. To this day, I still remember the conversation about how Mr. Gray, the principal, would strap all the new Kindergarten kids to whip them into line on that first day. They advised me to cry the first time otherwise, he’d strap me again. I was a basket case by the time we got to the school and didn’t go in but rather ran all the way home. According to Google Maps, it’s 2.3km. I don’t think I could run that far without stopping these days! Of course, as it turns out, that was just one of those school myths that existed just to scare us Mr. Gray, once I got to know him, was a great guy and a heck of a mathematics teacher.

Secondary School
At secondary school, which was somehow different from high school and were told to appreciate the difference, things were different. We were cool and just took things in stride. My biggest fear was forgetting the combination to the lock on my locker! As it turned out, you didn’t need a lock to get into any of the lockers in the “new wing” of the school. Angling the lock and then kicking it in the right position could always open it! It wasn’t the same but could land you in a world of problems if there was a teacher in the hallway at the time. It was a terrific experience with kids bussed in from other elementary schools to make for a big population, I remember the number 1200 for some reason. There was a “unique to us” situation. Some of the school had three floors and other two. There were actually UP and DOWN staircases. Someone should make a movie – wait – they already did. Going the wrong way, even if it was expedient was a school criminal offense. Imagine being a teacher and having staircase assignment. As I think about it, I wonder if schools will be using this as a COVID spreading technique?

The beginning of university was a humbling experience. While most of my classes were in the M+C building at Waterloo, there were times when we had to exit the building and take a class somewhere else. That somewhere else might have been somewhere across campus or up the street at Laurier. It was a real learning experience too – I’d never lived on my own before. We had a two bedroom apartment off campus with a couple of second year guys who laid down the law. Tuesday was Ponderosa Steak night because it was $0.99. Where can you get a meal like that these days? Every month end, there was an accounting session at the kitchen table where all the bills were presented and we divided things equally, even if you went home on the weekends, you still had to pay for hydro. Who knew? The fall started out interesting and then got sickening. One of our roommates lived on a farm and would bring back a trunkful of squash and we had squash every night. (Except for Tuesdays…) Have you ever thought of all the ways you could cook squash? It was intimidating in class with all these mathematics and computer studies students from across Canada and the world. At times, I felt like the slowest learner in the bunch.

Faculty of Education
At the Faculty of Education in Toronto, school started interesting and kept getting more interesting. I never realized that I had an interest in psychology or philosophy until I was there. The computer science and mathematics courses were a breeze for my best friend at the time. My biggest learning experience there was learning how to use the subway. The best piece of advice; if you miss your stop, just get out at the next station and cross to the other side and the next train will take you back. Or, if you’re really bored, go right to the end of the line and ride back. The worse experience was being stopped at the Bloor Viaduct for what seemed like forever. My friend rationalized it at the time “must have been a jumper”.

As school starts today, there are three guys who hang out around here that will be going to a new school building. They’re not actually new students to the school though. They transferred last Spring Break but have yet to physically step inside the building. The school was contacted back then and they were invited to show up 15 minutes early on their first day for a tour. The school was asked again and they were told it couldn’t happen. We watched a YouTube explanation from another school in the district and hope that the routine is the same. This makes so much sense and should reduce anxiety for all…unless it rains.

For today, it is indeed a time to refresh and there’s a lot anxiety going around. There’s probably a whole lot more anxiety this year than most but the nice thing is that we can rationalize it and know that there are things that can hopefully mitigate things.

To all of you who are returning to classrooms in one shape or form today, I wish you all the best. Enjoy, remember, and hey with your phone even document it. I would love to have videoed myself running back home on my first day of Kindergarten!


2 responses to “Refresh and anxiety”

  1. […] Refresh and anxiety – doug — off the record […]


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