Guest Contributor Ed Hicken Tells Educators ....
Why Everyone Wants to Work In Your Department
Administration/Front Office: The office does control the world. Our world at least. We have democratic processes and committees, but honestly, if anyone in the office wants to make an announcement, call a meeting, cancel a meeting, ring a bell to end class 5 minutes early or whatever, they could just do it and we would follow along (grumbling, but obedient nonetheless).
That is power. You are all better people than I am for handling it with such aplomb. I would be a corrupt monster, ringing bells and calling meetings haphazardly. And yes, this is an email where I am going to use dorky words like 'aplomb' -buckle up!
Arts: This is the only subject students actually try to do in the rest of their classes. Seriously - kid not paying attention in class? They’re either doodling images, listening to music or acting out. But what about kids just looking at their phone, you say? Memes? Spotify? Youtube? TikTok? Instagram Photos? ART! ART! ART! Do kids in music class secretly balance chemical reactions when their teacher is teaching? Does a drama class teacher ever need to stop students from solving a linear system? See - it just sounds absurd. But doing art everywhere else is Banksy and subversive.
Business: The curriculum is so old it has Yellow Pages references in the exemplars. And yellowing pages. Business skills (up until shockingly sooner than you’d think) included typing. Despite all this outdatedness, somehow almost everyone ends up working for businesses at some level someday and politicians describe the skills as ‘crucial’ and ‘21st Century’. Mostly it’s ‘common sense’ and you can talk about almost anything going on in the world and relate it back to curriculum.
EAs and Life Skills: You have the student:teacher ratio that we all envy but it comes with the emotional price tag we are wary of. But your success stories! - the wins you get are so much more meaningful than when I finally get the kid with an 87 to reach a 91... You’re also probably described as a ‘saint’ or ‘angel’ at least once a day and we are a secular school.
English: Just like every villain in a school movie is a gym teacher *(sorry Mark Harmon) **(and sorry Phys Ed Dept), every hero is an English teacher. You have to think that there is something to that. Also, you can legit just sit and read as part of your lesson plan and it’s not only fine, it’s modelling great habits. Professional ENVY.
Family Studies: Whenever a parent/someone not in education goes on a rant about what “really matters in the real world” and “what they should really be teaching” the answer is almost always: The Family Studies curriculum. Everyone sees the value in these classes. And as coworkers, we all know it. You’d think that would be enough, but no - they still get to make the school smell like cookies or soup or some other comfort food usually reserved by real estate agents to get people to buy a house. Embarrassment of riches, I say (jealousy).
Geography: Literally every field trip is fair game. Trip to China - Geography! Kensington Market - Geography! Walk outside on a sunny spring day - Geography! And don’t get me started on the sheer volume of great, curriculum relevant films. You could just show complete seasons of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and parents would be hard pressed to find fault. You also get all the terrible/cool natural disasters like floods, volcanoes and earthquakes (/movies about these things).
Guidance/Counsellors/CYW/: Have you ever seen the look on a kid’s face when they either get a slip or an intercom page in class? When their expression changes from thinking it’s the main office calling to realizing it’s guidance? That look holds all you need to know about what guidance means to students - you’re the best-case scenario place for kids to go in the school.
History: Want to know where the coolest classroom models are? Not science or tech or even fashion (Dress-Form reference!). History classrooms have trebuchets, trench, and fort models. Pyramids! The Parthenon! It looks like Mythbusters or a movie set from Harryhausen but they’re actually all student exemplars. Any time a subject area inspires student work like that, you have to be impressed.
Languages: You know how we get summer’s off? You remember that right? Languages is the one dept (sorry Geography) most well equipped to take full advantage of that travel window (whenever Travel is a thing again). Every single time I’m in a Spanish or French speaking city, I envy this dept. While I gesture with my hands while pointing and English-ing loudly, I imagine a Language teacher smoothly passing for local and getting the real travel experience. They handle 1P French classes and still smile - there’s something there…
Library: A quiet room filled with books and students working. I can feel my blood pressure drop just typing that description.
Math: This is the one public teaching job that universally commands respect when you tell someone you do it. In fact, I sometimes still tell people I’m a math teacher even though I haven’t taught it in years. It is like telling people you’re a marine biologist; everyone has only a vague understanding of, but nonetheless, a very deep respect for the job. Science teachers have the archetypes of both Bill Nye (zany) and Walter White (evil) looming over the public consciousness but tell someone you’re a Math teacher and they just nod solemnly.
Phys. Ed: I joke about Phys. Ed. teachers being movie/tv show villains, but we all know that’s just because English majors wrote those scripts. Ask a student? Phys. Ed is almost universally a favourite course despite it being the one where you could use corporal punishment and accurately call it a summative evaluation. In fact, other students might even join in and call it a contest. When was the last time your class just started a pickup game of ‘curriculum’? Wait, let me guess? NEVER, because you don’t teach Phys Ed.
Resource: You’re the other location kids love to go. You make the tough days of EQAO and the exam schedule work by sheer force of will (and probably coffee). Those are two pretty incredible claims to fame. Also, something about a chocolate fountain.
Science: Is it unfair that I’m lumping very different disciplines like Biology, Chemistry and Physics under one title? Probably, but I did the same for Art and some other subjects, so suck it up. If you teach a Science, you have likely been referred to as “one of the smartest people in the building” or “one of the brightest people I’ve ever met”. You may not know this because we don’t say it to your face, but we say it. Frequently and with conviction. You’re the person we get to settle arguments because your opinion is the correct one.
Tech. Imagine teaching a course where no one ever makes that “Those who can’t do, teach” crack? Tech teachers have that gig. If teaching was made obsolete overnight, these folks would be the first to find employment again - likely by the end of the week and probably fixing whatever technology replaced the rest of us. Ask yourself - when something malfunctions in your life, who is the first person at work you ask about it? Exactly.
Written By Ed Hicken