Friday, July 22, 2016

10 Crossroads


Many times in our lives, as we travel through the forest of opportunity, we arrive at a crossroad. Often, it is in the dark with little knowledge as to what lies ahead. All we have is a little light, our past experiences, to guide us.

Do we turn back to take the easy road toward the light of the moon and fresh waters that lie ahead, or travel down other paths to the lands unknown, where even greater opportunities (or disasters) could be waiting for us?

Moving to England after Teachers' College was one of these crossroads.

I could have stayed in Canada; Could have found a nice, comfortable, teaching job and made much more money it turns out... but I am getting ahead of myself.   

England offered the opportunity to see another part of the world, and we only live once. My children would benefit from seeing even a small part of Europe and experiencing new cultures. After all, the school only wanted me to work there for two years, and the opportunity to live in a new country seemed too good to pass up. It was a school that taught "years" 7 to 13, which is roughly the equivalent of middle and high-school in Canadian education systems.
Canada may have been a colony of England, but the similarities end with having the same queen. When it comes to the way things are done there is a very large and noticeable difference. Immigration was a lot harder to handle than I thought, and I could almost speak the same language, so I wonder how challenging it might be for others with an even greater language barrier.

Before 3 months were over my wife and I were both waking up in the middle of the night saying we had to go back home where the world made sense again.
The ways things are done there was so very different. Just to get a bank account took four months.  Everything we did kind of went along the same path, in order to get paid I needed a bank account, to get a bank account you need to pay a bill with your name on it. To pay a bill you need a bank account. It seemed to be an infinite loop.

In the end it was the Television License that we had to buy, or pay a fine of 1000 pounds even though we did not have any cable or other means of using the television at the time, that qualified us so we could get a bank account and get paid.  Go figure, the one time in my life were paying a tax helped me.

I hate to say it, but British school kids are brutal to new teachers. It’s not entirely the fault of the students though, as the system changes so much the teachers and students never have time to adjust, and the teachers usually leave so fast the students never build trust with them.

In the seven years I taught at the school in England up to fifty percent of the teaching staff had changed every year, and often teachers would leave half-way through the year (as they could not stand the constant changes and upheaval to the teaching system). It’s no wonder the students behaved the way they did, I immigrated once to this new environment, they had to immigrate to eight times a day and often to a new teacher.

After a few years, I became the one stable teacher in the technology department and developed a great relationship with many of the students who went on to becoming very successful. Students would find it relaxing to come to my class, where they knew how things worked and what was expected from them.  They started to monitor the behaviour of new students for me and helped others to become part of the class and enjoy the safe learning environment. Kids like rules, and they like consistency, it helps them feel safe when they are learning.
Unlike Canada, Technology teachers in England are trained entirely in schools and are not generally trades persons, so they would lack the years of experience that a Canadian teacher in the same subjects would have. This usually means that over time the technology programs have become watered down drawing programs. The teachers themselves sometimes had very little knowledge in the subject areas of technology and required a lot of support.

Every time a new teacher came into the technology program, I usually had to spend a lot of time training them and helping them to teach the level of technology we were offering at the school. I found it funny, I had to upgrade my qualifications to a degree-level at night school to be a "qualified teacher" in England, while the other qualified, "trained", teachers had so little knowledge or practical skill in the subject area(s did I mention that I had taught 4 or 5 subjects within the department?).

When I studied to become a technology teacher in Canada, there where three hundred applicants.

One hundred were allowed to write the entrance exam, and twenty five were accepted.

The minimum experience excepted was fifteen years in the respective trade. I was a tool and die maker.

By the end of the year twenty-three had passed, and became teachers, out of the twenty five students.

...And despite this England had thought I needed to write a half dozen essays to get a "degree in education" to be a qualified teacher. This was one of the many things that still surprises me about teaching there.

Another funny thing in England was when the teachers from academic departments in the school often remarked how nice it must be to "work with your hands".

I always asked them if they "want a tradesman to work with their hands? Or in their heads?", when they fixed and built cars, planes, or nuclear power stations for them.

Besides, most subjects taught in my department had the students using a great number of software tools and mathematics that would be considered "beyond their years" anyway.
 Perhaps a final thing that puzzled me was when the school and education boards would be upset by my students beating their "target" grades. Encouraging all my students to do their best had often lead to more paperwork to prove the teaching and testing methods I used, and even brought up the remark that perhaps the students learn "in spite of me".

For me that doesn't matter though. Looking back on my time in England, it was still a great feeling when almost my whole class had been getting great marks. Sometimes they were even doing better than the higher level "grammar" schools in the area.

That amazement on the students' faces, when realizing they are the ones who achieved the success through their own hard work and effort, was priceless. All they needed was help from a teacher who pushed them a bit harder than they were used to...

No comments:

Post a Comment