On Being a Teacher in 2019

On June 26th 2026 at precisely 15h10, when the final bell of the day rings at my school, I will walk out , and never look back. You see, that is my retirement date . It will be a celebration, a bittersweet moment of a professional life gone by too quickly, yet that at times will have dragged on seemingly in a sea of never ending seconds. If you’re reading this, on my social media page, you likely know me, or know ‘of’ me. I grew up in my little community, the daughter of extremely solid parents. My dad worked at the mill while my mother was the principal of a local elementary school. I’m lucky. I grew up comfortable, educated and encouraged to live a good life – the best one that I could. As life progressed, I had dreams (we all do ). The ‘plan’ was to become a concert pianist and a writer and to travel the world. The universe chuckled and had me fall in love with my incredible husband instead. Together, we have two incredible grown children, fur babies, a beautiful home and many opportunities. I like to think that at some point in our lives we understood what the meaning of life is – and that we give back , as best as we can, to those around us.

So what happened career wise ? Well, I became a teacher . Yep – a bachelor in Music from the University of Ottawa led me to become that person who would eventually dabble in the language arts, special education, guidance , spend time at the school board and on provincial committees to further the cause of autism, run a very successful autism center in our local high school – and then see me going back to a regular classroom. If you’re reading this – chances are that our paths have met: either you were one of my teachers, the parent of a child whom I had under my care or a student. Why am I telling you this ? Well because, a few weeks ago we went ( and may go again soon ) back to war with the provincial government – about this and that … about changes that are going to be occurring in the very near future. As a teacher, I can tell you that I am exhausted and frustrated with everything that is going on. What is even more debilitating to someone such as myself is that now, at times, I sometimes almost feel ‘shame’ – admitting that yes – I am A teacher … one of ‘those’ … Truth of the matter is, I feel that we are being painted , like other professions IN FACT , very unfairly. When I retire in 2026, I will have spent 34 years in an education system where, even though it wasn’t my initial plan to do so, I will have spent my life giving the best of myself to students in my care. I figure that by the time I end my career, I will have met thousands of students. At times, these meetings will have been simple. I teach you – you leave my class – we’re done. Other times though, things will have been more complicated. In my career, and because of my personality, I attract the students who need a little more help – and a lot more love. I have saved numerous ones from self-injury. I have prevented countless suicides. I’ve spent hundreds of hours before and after class listening, holding space, handing out tissues and hugging those who had nowhere else to go. I have spent countless hours debriefing, thinking, figuring out how to reach all of my students because I know that far more important than a set curriculum, connections are what make Life better. I’ve made toast. Buttered bagels. Given my lunch. There are nights that I go to bed sobbing. I worry. I wonder if and how I can make a difference, how to change society’s perceptions … all in the hopes that somewhere, somehow, I make a difference. I like to think that I do – because it is they, the students, who have, over our encounters, shaped me to be the human being that I have become. Oh – and I calculated that I have spent more time with other children than with mine … Mind-blowing

A few weeks ago , thousands of my friends and colleagues were in Toronto – fighting for your children’s rights. I wish I could have joined them – but I also have autism – so crowds make me very ill…. However, my heart was with them. On that day, I thought: there is a difference. People are looking at ‘us’ differently. I am going to be ‘seen’. as one ‘of those’ teachers … and you know what ? I hope you look at me and smile because I will be. Forget what you read in the media and in the comments of stories by the Naysayers. You want to know what it is to teach ? Ask me . Ask any of us. Come into my classroom and spend a day with me. Heck – give yourself a break – and spend a full week. You’ll see that most of us are there every day, trying to make a difference, trying to change a little bit of the harsh realities of the world around us. At least I know I am. I am a teacher. #PROUDTEACHER#WATCHME#ICHANGELIVES

*Postscriptum: September 2019 will see me as the Special Education Resource Teacher in our high school’s Learning Assistance Center . I will also be a member of the part-time faculty at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University , NB , ON. I continue to smile at the fact that I was never supposed to be a teacher. Clearly, I was to become one and will be for a very long time …

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