The Impact of Teachers

(Fair warning: this incredibly long-winded and doesn’t get to the point until the end — I go on a rant about my life first. Oh, and, it still doesn’t do the justice I was going for when I started. Damn.)

I’m supposed to be studying right now, but I felt compelled to write about teachers.

I am currently in the process of getting my real estate license and I’m over the moon. It provides me with flexibility, growth and security yeah, yeah, I know, trust me though. Right now, it is the best option I have as the course isn’t exceptionally long or expensive. We got expenses, baby (babies)!

How does this relate to teachers? My education was denied as meeting the criteria (there is nothing fun about transferring credits from province to province, I imagine from country to country is worse and even in the same city can be a pain). I contacted a rolodex of people and also followed-up with my teacher from 8 years ago.

She instantly reassured me this issue would be resolved. She told me to provide the licensing board with her contact information, offered to write a letter to go with the other letter my college will provide and, I know, she will also be in touch with administration to make sure everything is in order. All of this within 5 minutes of contacting her.

Pretty unreal, right?

I don’t really like to bring up my past, except with a chosen few and to be honest most of it is hazy (win!). But I remember clear as day, entering the ACE program at Algonquin College, shortly after my Mom died. I was couch surfing as I didn’t have anywhere to live (before my best friend and her Dad took me in), I couldn’t afford a Tim Horton’s coffee, could barely scrape together bus fare and, of course, I was depressed as hell.

She was the co-ordinator at the time. She came to work with a smile on her face every single day, somehow got to know each one of us, actually made us laugh in class and never missed an opportunity to encourage us. Entering that environment, when I had hit a great low in my life, was exactly what I needed to keep hope alive. I had something to work towards, some place where I looked forward to go and best of all, it was filled with invested and supportive teachers.

I’ve been on the flip side of this experience, too. The ACE program provided me with a Grade 12 Equivalency (similar to a GED). I had attended regular high school but I continuously got harassed and assaulted. There, they also failed me the entire first year because I didn’t have enough hours even though I had passed each of those courses (it’s not fun going to school when you’re being bullied and impossible to make up hours when the punishment for missing school is suspension).

The following year, I was failed in science with a 49 (thanks Science teacher). I passed in math with a 50 (actual thanks Math teacher). The bullying got worse — I went to alternative school. I did very well in my courses but my attendance again, sucked. My poor Mom tried to make me go, I didn’t listen. I don’t know why. Unresolved fear and resentment of her terminal illness? Free-floating anger from when my Dad died? Awful self-esteem? Just a kid taking advantage of her tired Mom and rebelling for no other reason than sheer stupidity? Who knows?

When I decided to attend, I couldn’t pick up where I left off. I remember my social studies teacher saw my duo-tang that she filled in with my marks (high 90’s) but couldn’t honour them as I hadn’t finished the course. I would have to re-do that, too. Looking back, that one was fair. But I was so fed-up from having to re-do an entire first year already. I had felt like I was falling behind before I got there, that I was falling even more behind after I got there. This made me overwhelmed and I just sort of gave up. I then adopted the belief that I was stupid and didn’t like school.

I’m not stupid and I love school.

I traveled overseas for modelling (the agency pays for it upfront then deducts it off your earnings), came home, lost my Mom, went back overseas to escape the grief and came back with even less than I had before (I went into consolidation and ruined my credit by not returning her Rogers box after closing her account among a bunch of others, on my own — no one told me about this requirement. The letter came in the mail when, you guessed it, I was overseas). Enter ACE Program…

Wow, this is getting long. But it’s to illustrate the point that I:
1. struggled with grief
2. struggled with poverty
3. was initially screwed royally by the school system
4. had major issues with self-esteem and depression as a result
5. did not have a basic support system

You know who got me through a lot of that? My teachers. You know who made things so much worse for me? My teachers. There are bad apples everywhere, but if you are a good teacher or aspire to be a good teacher, know this: you will change people’s lives in ways you don’t recognize but that your students will never forget and always cherish.

Teachers make an impact on all of their student’s lives. I think there is a special connection, a need they fill that they may not even see, especially for those students who are at a disadvantage. Those with physical or mental disabilities, students living in poverty or have lived through abuse. The ones who don’t have a huge family or support network. You become that network and help them see possibilities they may have otherwise never thought possible.

Your encouragement may be the first a student has ever received.
Your ridicule may shock you if you dig a little deeper.
Your commitment is not in vain.
Your job IS the most important.
Thank you for your long hours, digging into your own pocket, taking the emotional toll.
I’m sorry you’re not adequately supported by the society that needs you and undervalues you.
But your students — they do.
If they don’t, it will click. They will get it. I didn’t always get it but I get it now.
I know this has all been said before but I wanted to take the time to say it myself.

You rock!

Also — special shoutout to French teachers, I’ve never had one I didn’t like. What’s up with that?