Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Good Garsh and Good Job

Being nothing if not an imitator, I am forthwith ripping off Ruth's idea to roll two prompts into one post: first job and memorable teacher. I know that I am very late to this particular party, but I've been posting a fair bit on my own and was too addled to think on these themes at the time.

Better late than never. Right? But as one professor said with eyebrow raised when I walked into a seminar a titch late, "I wonder."

Here's the background to my teacher of renown; Mr Garshewitz (I don't know after all of these years whether I am spelling it right).

I had gotten off to a very poor start in Algebra. I was in a bad, all-boys class with a teacher who didn't handle this trying group very well. I think I tuned him out which resulted in missing a heck of a lot of core concepts.

When I changed schools and even school systems in the next year, I found myself even further behind than I would have been in my old school. I can still recall scoring a remarkable 4/25 on the first test. I remember the teacher, Mr Bookman, having me up to the front to work out some problem or other and one of my classmates muttering, "What a dummy!" as indeed I was at the time.

Perhaps it was that humbling experience that served to motivate me, but by the end of the year, I had my average up to 70%, which was a pretty good achievement considering my abysmal starting point.

But the best was yet to come. Back in the day, we had a grade 13 in our province, which was pretty rigorous and considered to be the equivalent of first year university in other systems. It included province-wide exams that were worth the majority of our final mark. Essentially we went to school all year and that 2 hour exam decided whether we failed, passed, flamed out or excelled.

Under Mr Garshewitz'es tutelage, I left of Grade 13 Algebra with an 85%, which in the days before mark inflation and universal passing, was quite a good result.

Garshewitz, was an extremely effective teacher because one lived in fear of being humiliated at the board in front of the class, something like what had happened to me in the previous year under Mr Bookman. In that case, however, it was just something that happened to me due to my own stupidity and not Bookman's mendacity. Garsh, however, was good at making you feel like looking for a hole to crawl into.

It wasn't that he was mean-spirited or vindictive; he just had a way of grilling you up there at the board in front of everybody, so you had better have your homework done.

The tie-in to my first job is that I met Garsh one day on my lunch hour when I worked at ITE Circuit Breakers in my 'gap' year. This was before I had received my exam results by mail (do you recall waiting for mail?). He told me something to the effect that I had improved even more although he either didn't recall my final mark or didn't wish to share it ahead of time.

Days later I had my result and was quite impressed with my 85%. Ironically, my lowest mark was in geography, which turned out to be my major at university before teaching that subject exclusively for 25 of my 30 years in the classroom.

So, that was my experience with Mr Garshewtiz, and now for a little about that first job.

I was hired to be a Production Clerk at ITE, a company that made a number of heavy duty electrical products. Specifically, I broke down the job processes for switches: the kinds of things you see at the top of poles and at power stations. What this meant at that company at that time was that I would take blueprints from the drafting department and issue work orders for the factory. I would break a blueprint down into specific tasks that had to be done and make a ticket for each part of the whole job, whether it be fabricating a piece or assembling pieces together.

I spent 14 months there before going on to university and saved enough money for my first year: tuition, books, supplies, residence and meals.

Those two years — grade 13 and my year of work at ITE — changed my life. I hadn't planned on going to university, but in grade 13, I realized that I might be bright enough to do it. Then, my work year gave me the resources to get started in higher education. My family wasn't exactly well off and didn't have the resources to send me, or at least it would have been a great burden on them, so I did it on my own and never asked them for a dime. After the first year, I did get loans and grants which took me a few years to pay off afterward, but it was important for me to become self sufficient to begin with.

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As an afterthought, I am posting a photo of the electrical station in town, complete with the kind of switches that I was partly responsible for in that year. ITE would have made all of the products that you see here, but I just did switches: the things at the top and partway up on the side.






7 comments:

ADRIAN said...

I once started training as a draughtsman but was it tedious, mind numbing work. I enjoyed the first two years of my apprenticeship as a toolmaker but that drawing malarkey almost killed me. I ran away to sea.

Marie Smith said...

Such an interesting post! I love how you linked the parts into one story too.

My husband says a job such as you had after high school is to show you how important an education is...

Great teachers have a variety of ways to inspire their students to do better. You had a great one for sure!

Ginger said...

I don't think we who are teachers understand fully the power we have in the lives of our students--and often in the lives of the students we don't expect. We're not good at predicting success or life change. Fortunately (for the most part) those students occasionally come back and let us know what has stuck with them and made life different for them.

Haddock said...

Good write up.
Even though I am an engineer, Electricity and Electronics was one subject that I would give a miss :-)

Tabor said...

We are complicated by our history. You know a lot about electricity that would leave me lost. Teaching is an art and the object is to get the students to do better and not intimidate them into panic.

Ruth said...

I enjoyed your story. Your first job and your teaching career were certainly dissimilar. I paid my own way through university too and it took several years to pay off my loans. I did my best to get good marks because of my investment.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Wow. That's a story. Sadly, we only hear about the horrid teachers we've had who break us. My grandie is having the same teacher as last year who gave her grief. I think only horrid nurses have as bad an effect on humanity.