1.16 Back to School
TORONTO, ONTARIO: Perhaps it comes with age and the idea that you are wiser and have gained knowledge through experience, or something to that effect, but I definitely have a different perspective towards going back to school. I recently started a college course after several years of being out in the real world. Granted, it’s in creative writing which is neither practical nor going to land me that great job. It’s more of an experiment. I went through university not really understanding the actual implications of my actions. It was a lot of fun, I met a lot of weird people and discovered myself in many new ways. Everything went according to plan. I was not the best student through my teenaged years – there were other things on my mind. I actually did pretty well in university, landing decent grades and experimenting creatively.
I had a creative writing professor named Bruce Powe who recognized some kind of potential in my writing and encouraged me – for better or worse. He was one of those teachers that, for lack of a better word, inspired. In an English course, I met a teacher named Dunja Baus who challenged us to write something personal, give voice to our thoughts and not be afraid of them. We became friends after the class was over through a shared desire to do something, anything that was truthful.
This is what I remember, what I take away from those years. I don’t want to get into the individual ramifications of teacher strikes. That being said, I will mention my experiences with two strikes in four years. Strike one was not very damaging to me as it was during my first year. Strike two, however, was during my last year and went on forever.
I was already working as an editor during this time and had been learning more on the job than at school. It was through no fault of the school, I just had a great practical teacher at my job who was willing to work closely with me. I learned all the things they didn’t tell you at school. I came up with this idea that since the school was operating like a corporation, I would treat it as such.
So, when the strike was over, I went to my professors and negotiated. My plan was I would take the hit for attendance but hand in all essays and assignments. Simple enough and everyone went for it. Everyone except one professor. I started with an email that clearly displayed my intentions. This particular professor wrote back an email and explained how she was insulted over my disrespect towards this institution of higher learning, towards her as an educator and my lack of appreciation towards education in general. Okay, so maybe she was right but I was in my twenties at the time.
I went to her office to discuss the issue, figured this was an adult thing to do. I remember standing in the hallway waiting for her to arrive. The hallway was a long one and when she turned the corner and saw me, she froze. All of a sudden she started looking through her purse. She motioned the old, ‘ah, stupid me, I forgot ------‘, turned around and left. I must say that I was shocked. Maybe she really did forget something but I have my doubts. I wanted to pursue her, confront her in the parking lot, make demands. Instead I just left, a stubborn student turning into a stubborn adult.
I felt triumphant that day – I was the one that wanted to discuss this problem like a grownup. However, I was defeated when it was time to get our marks. It was too late in the year to drop the course without a grade and there it sits, amongst the other decent ones, a benign tumor.
It still affects me today. The tumor is benign but it has had indirect side effects. The college course I got into this time was judging me on my work experience since university, the writing and creative opportunities that have essentially made me into the, ahem, responsible adult of today. I am taking education more seriously. Perhaps the professor that did not agree with my negotiations had a positive effect on my outlook.
Or maybe I came to the conclusion that all this growing up is more complicated than one can imagine. I am just attempting to reclaim some of my youth, grab on to those lost opportunities and make amends for the mistakes I have made in the past. And maybe I’m just reading too much into all this.