Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Minor Job Shifting

I have been asked how my work/career may have shape-shifted over time. The answer is that it didn't shift or at least didn't shift much in the sense that I was always a secondary school teacher. However, the place and subject did shift about.

I taught secondary school for 30 years, and while I changed schools a few times, it was always between the same 2 schools. I was at school A for 10 years, school B for 6, A for 1, B for 6, and finally A for 7. There were other secondary schools in the system, 6 others at the height of enrollment in the early 70s, but I was always between those two, school A being a somewhat affluent suburban school and school B being a country school. All but the first shift were strictly my choice.

Back in university, I had majored in geography and took enough English courses, so that I would have a teachable minor, which was required, or so I thought. I specialized in geography mainly because I found it enjoyable and could also do it well. I could always pull off better marks in geography than English or even other subjects.

When I went to teachers college, the English prof  who interviewed me, advised me to switch my second teachable to Elementary rather than English because I had only taken the bare minimum of English courses. As it turned out, I should have stuck with English, for in my 11th year of teaching, I was transferred to not only a different school in a different environment but also asked to teach some English. After that from years 2 through 6 at that school, I almost exclusively taught in the English department.

Amazingly, I loved it. Something about my personality seemed to do even better in an English class than in geography. I think it was because there was more discussion of ideas and not so much disseminating of information. I was a pretty good listener and liked to hear the students' opinions, and they seemed to like my way of encouraging them share.

I taught English to grades 9 through 11, but despite my enjoyment, I always had the suspicion that I was a fraud because my background in the subject wasn't as strong as it could have been. This is despite being spoken of highly by students, department heads, principals and supervisors. In fact I got more positive feedback in those years than in my geographical years. Go figure.

Without fussing over the details, I ended up back in geography for my last 14 years, 12 of those as a department head. But in retrospect, my favourite years were the English years and I certainly had never seen that coming. That was my personal career shape-shifting although not as dramatic as many people experience.

If I had seen back then what I see now I would likely have made any or all of the following choices:

  1. taken a few more English course in Uni;
  2. insisted on taking English as a second subject at teachers college;
  3. and/or chosen to continue teaching English rather than switching back to geography in the last half of my career.
Or at least I think I should have made those choices, but it is what it is. I had a good 30 years on the job after all, but the best were those 6 years as a English teacher.


Marie Smith said...

Sometimes we surprise ourselves with what we can do and enjoy! It sounds like a wonderful career at such a difficult job which not everyone can do well.

Today, when we are out and about and there are children or young people misbehaving, I always think of the teachers who must deal with those kids on Monday morning. Once a teacher...

Vicki Lane said...

I was an English teacher too -- long ago. My career lasted only 9 years, during which I taught from seventh to twelfth grades. I always enjoyed it, as you say, for the discussion of ideas.

Jim Flack said...

I loved teaching English. Grammar was my forte,and I still cringe at its misuse. Math was my downfall. I was asked to teach a basic math class one term at the small junior college where I taught. I did it, but I felt not adequately. So, the next time they asked, I politely refused. (I wonder to this day why they even asked the second time.)
At the middle school where I taught, I loved the 7th grade classes. More emphasis on grammar and less on literature. Those were the days!

Tabor said...

Regrets. We all have them. Just need to be careful we don't dwell too much on what might have been.

KGMom said...

Great response to the question about a job "shape-shifting." It seems that you also brought English lovers/teachers out in the comments.
As you know, my major was always English...but when I get to writing my blog on this topic, you will learn I had an altogether different destination in mind as a youth.
Do you have any thought as to how GPS has made a difference in teaching geography? I would imagine that you were one of those teachers who taught the connections between geography, history, literature, politics etc.

Shammickite said...

30 years on the job and being highly commended by both students and teachers is a great achievement to be proud of. And isn't RETIREMENT a terrific word????

troutbirder said...

Interesting. My career had a similar social studies/history/English connection with a twist. I taught 12th grade social and 11th grade World History for a number of years. I had always stressed story telling in history with novels instead of dull textbooks. And then... The English teacher and I created a sequence of two hour team taught Humanities classes combining history, literature, with some science, art and music included. My part in that program lasted about a dozen years till I volunteered to instigated a similar program in our newly consolidated Middle School and also took up coaching basketball for my last ten years in the classroom. But that another story...:)

The Geezers said...

I"ve heard it said that life is what happens to you while you are making plans.

Doesn't sound to me like you have serious regrets. Any teacher with great language skills is a treasure indeed, and certainly you've been that.

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

I wasn't so keen on English, but I did love history. I ended up teaching first grade, so it ended up being the best decision for me because I could teach all subjects. Congratulations on your teaching career- that is really something to be proud of!

Ginnie said...

Did your love of photography come after you retired? I can see where you were an English teacher by what you share in between photo shoots.
If the students approved you must have been good.

Haddock said...

Amazingly, I loved it..... that is the key word. One should enjoy what one is doing.

Mary Gilmour said...

I can easily picture you as a cracking good English teacher. So was I. Only my teachable Minor was, um, Latin. I taught one year of Grade 10 in that.
In my book, the best English teachers encourage discussion, in spite of the Principal's wish for quiet, gum free classrooms.

Kay said...

30 years? Wow! That's very impressive! I was in the same 1st grade classroom in the same school for 19 years. You'd think I would have gotten tired of it, but it was like home to me. I can see why you'd be an excellent teacher of everything.

Ruth said...

I have always enjoyed reading and writing but English classes in high school were never inspiring and I hated the essay questions on exams. I always had trouble guessing what the teacher was looking for in themes, especially with sight essays and poems. You describe yourself as a teacher who listened to students- no wonder you excelled. ( I always enjoyed geography as it was concrete)