Maggie arrived that year, the new head of curriculum planning. She loved meetings because there was food and idle chitchat. Maggie told me that she was very excited about my plan to take a group of teachers to the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) for workshops on film and how to apply media to a variety of curriculae. I enlisted a dozen teachers and was making final arrangements when Maggie emailed me: You will have to cancel. Next time! M.
I went to her office, which could have been a good idea but was not. “You can’t cancel now, Maggie.”
“Well, I am afraid that I already have.”
“You should have spoken to me. I’ve made all of the arrangements.”
“I’ve booked our workshop. It’s done.”
“Be that as it may, the plans have changed.”
“It’s a reflection of complete incompetence, Maggie.”
She stared back, mouth open, as I left. At least I had stood my ground. That was the thought in my head. Stupid me.
In the midst of the second draft of my teaching autobiography, Fuck Pedagogy, I am having to kill scenes that don’t support the theme of engaging students or knowing subject content. And so I axed this sordid tale from my student teaching days:
I became so relaxed in my teaching practicum that I went out late one school night to see a band, Snowpony at The Starfish Room in Vancouver. Not only did I stay to the end but was brazen enough to wander backstage after the show, sit down with the band and explain how they had to try to the oysters in Portland, the next stop on their tour, drunken advice I am sure they could have done without.
I woke early the next morning and looked out the window to see that my van was not there. Given that I was responsible for driving three other student teachers out to Maple Ridge for our practicums, this was a problem. I called everyone to say that my van had been stolen and that we would have to rent a car. I lay back down and only a moment later remembered that it hadn’t been stolen. I had left it at my friend’s house. In other words, I had done the right thing and forgotten that I had.
I picked everyone up and raced out to Maple Ridge, getting there just in time for my 8:30 class and announced the Free Write prompt (“I remember…”) before going down the hall for a long drink of water from the fountain. As bad as I felt, I had the revelation, as I returned to the class, that I could teach hungover.
After spending a strange fifteen months applying to schools – 100+ rejections in the end – and a temporary contract online, I’m back in the classroom. It’s a good place to be, not only for me but for my book, Fuck Pedagogy.
As I have mentioned previously, the book is my autobiographical take on education, how many in the industry have no idea what they are doing or if they do, not giving a shit about the students.
I’m not a pedagogical person – “listen to the students and offer what I know” sums up my practice neatly – and I have had my issues with the powers that be. That’s what I’m working on now – the drama of my three dismissals – so that I can focus on what the book is really supposed to mean.
15 years later, it came as a great surprise when I went back as a teacher. My relationship with my fellow teachers was much improved, and my students too. It was the administrators who I despised this time. They made me think of getting the hell out again.
I was removed from my teaching position three times by my administrators – told to resign, fired and laid off. I have mixed feeling about all of this. Having never really wanted to teach nor ever having worked with a competent administration and yet having enjoyed working with my students – and some colleagues – it is a bittersweet thing.
As I said, teaching was a fallback position. I am writer. And it’s time I wrote about this teaching thing. Fuck Pedagogy. That’s what the book is called. And that’s what it’s about.
As much as everyone likes to moan about the Trumps or Kim Jong-Uns of the world, it is more about those who allowed them in, not the bullies as it were but the crowd that watches. In other words, our essential malaise is not the jowly hate-filled monsters but the chubby ones who do what they’re told so they can rule their sector.
Franz Kafka, best know for elucidating what is to be trapped in this all-too-real dystopia, put it like this in The Trial:It’s no use. The Examining Magistrate has sent for me. What are you thinking of? It would be the ruin of me. Let him alone. He’s only obeying orders of the Examining Magistrate and carrying me to him.
I have begun the outline for my auto-biography on my days as a teacher, Fuck Pedagogy, which has a similar grim focus. Although lacking Kafka’s literary acumen, it does focus on the same ilk in the education racket, the ones who love the seminars and hate the kids, whose lives are ruled by machinations and maneuvers and who are quietly destroying our world. And like Kafka, it’s supposed to be a comedy. Ha ha.