When last we spoke, it was August, and I was gearing up for my eventual return to university. For four months, time managed to pass at a reasonable pace. In Korea, weeks would fly by and months would finish just as they were about to begin. Before I knew it, I would be extending another contract and getting ready to spend another year abroad. 2015 was the first Canadian spring and summer I was able to enjoy in their entirety since 2006, and they passed by at a leisurely rate.
Prior to the start of university, I was perusing my schedule and thinking it didn’t look too intensive. I had one three-hour class on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. On Fridays I had two ninety minutes class. Wednesdays were reserved for our community service learning. By comparison, my Dalhousie schedule seemed a lot more intense through 2003-2007. I wasn’t going to complain though; free time is free time. I could easily use it for a part time job.
The faculty warned us on the first day when we were all gathered together in a theatre auditorium how intense the programme was going to be. I didn’t pay it much heed at the time. However, now it’s a different story.
The workload isn’t destroying my brain by any stretch of the imagination. I was able to get a really good bit of schooling in at Dalhousie that helped me prepare in a lot of ways. It’s not particularly difficult, and I don’t find myself in the position where I can’t comprehend what to do (most of the time). Despite having what seems like an inordinate amount of free time on my schedule, a lot of that time gets eaten up quite quickly.
Every class has a series of readings that needs to be read prior to entering it at 8:30 AM. Some classes have mandatory reflections on those readings you complete online. In other classes, you must give a brief presentation on the readings. Other classes have assignments where you must collaborate with other classmates for one-off exercises, or projects that are huge chunks of your final grade. Finding the time to meet up on campus to collaborate is another consideration. Then there is the research you need to do for projects that are coming up.
Not to mention the prep work that goes into your community service learning (which includes a 75 minutes bus ride, and a 4:30 AM wake up call for yours truly).
Now, a lot of this is by design. The programme is trying to teach us how to manage our time, so that when we become full-fledged teachers, we can handle the work that comes with the territory. At this point in the game, I seem to be just about as busy as I was in Gangneung. I’m not staying as late working on lesson plans and stuff, but all the commuting is adding up. Fortunately, there’s no real comparison when it comes to stress. My full time teaching gig(s) in Korea were a lot more stressful than this.
As I said above, even if the work isn’t breaking my brain, it is time consuming. Usually when I get home I spend 3-5 hours studying and doing “homework”. I then spend several hours at night catching up on other class stuff. There are so many different assignments, it is difficult keeping track of them all.
That being said, I am learning a lot. Korea taught me how to conduct myself in a classroom, and how to prepare in order to be successful. We haven’t really gotten into that aspect yet, as most of us are new to “teaching” (a lot of the other students are fresh from their BAs and BScs). The pedagogical stuff is interesting, because as an EPIK teacher, I never had the power to get into the guts of the curriculum and approach it from a very critical stance. Here we’re getting into the hows and whys we’re teaching what we’re teaching, and questioning everything. All this critical thinking is making me a happy camper.
I’m in the junior/intermediate programme, so that means I will teach grades 4-10. If I teach the lower elementary grades, then I am a full-blown elementary teacher, and have to teach all those other subjects. If I teach the upper grades, then I get to do my teachable, which is history. I would teach a lot of science and social studies when I was in Korea, but it’s nice to get into how to do it properly. Math muscles I hadn’t flexed in over fifteen years are snapping back into place.
Lately we’ve been dealing with the fallout of the residential schools. I guess I’ve been bashing away at them for a while now, but it’s refreshing to see other Canadians come to terms with the cultural genocide our ancestors had a hand in. There has been a lot of disbelief and anger, and many of the other students couldn’t believe they never learned about what had happened in school. I guess because of my homeschooling, I was less susceptible to government mandated history books. In university I had great history and political science professors to explore this topic more in depth. I was in Korea when Idle No More began, and I followed it closely. I also smacked down ignorant trolls on news articles. I posted a lot about it on my personal Facebook feed, but I don’t recall any Canadians ever commenting on the stories (be they family or friends). It’s mainly my international cohort of expats I surrounded myself in Korea (thanks to our YouTube channels). It saddens me that so few of the Canadians in my life even choose to acknowledge the atrocities committed. I mean, some of these schools had a mortality rate of over 70%. Some used electric chairs on little children as punishment. The government used the children to conduct science experiments by intentionally starving them to test theories on nourishment. Kids were forced to eat their own vomit as punishment for throwing up when sick, or whipped to death, or paraded around with their urine soaked bedsheets tied around their heads. That’s before you get into any of the sexual abuse and pregnancies stemming from rape. Parents couldn’t see their own kids, because the schools were days away, or they couldn’t get government permission to leave their reserves.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released this summer, and not a single Canadian friend or family member posted it on their social media feeds. Outside of my own posts, no one was even discussing it. Same for the Idle No More stories. Although it shouldn’t surprise me by this point, it’s disheartening to see systemic racism creep up right into your own “social” circles (quote marks because it’s mostly relatives who make up my Canadian Facebook contingent). I know not everyone has time for “social justice”, but pseudoscience gripes about GMOs, hysterical mania about ISIS infiltrating refugee intakes, and empty slacktivism platitudes don’t seem to have any problems cropping up.
To be perfectly honest, I think the history teachers of this country should be held accountable for their shoddy work. If they got a history degree at an accredited Canadian university prior to their BEd, then they should have run into the systemic abuses of indigenous Canadians. There’s no excuse for not stumbling upon it as a history student. Once discovering the injustices, they should have been teaching it to their students after they got their teaching certificates. The fact so few Canadians know about this dark chapter of Canadian history means the teachers were complicit in the cover-up… or were ignorant themselves. If you can go through four years of Canadian university history, and not investigate residential schools, then you hardly deserve to call yourself a historian. If you did learn about it, but chose to ignore it or downplay its importance, then you’re not a history teacher, you’re a propagandist.
As an EPIK teacher I was always rocking the boat by being critical of the government programme that employed me. I guess some things don’t change.