Monday, February 24, 2014

Eighteen fine years

Standing in front of a class of students for the first time is intimidating, even if you’re wearing a suit.

There I was in November 1996, perhaps looking like an instructor and even sounding like one but definitely not feeling like one.

Two weeks earlier Red River College phoned me, asking whether I would like to teach.

Having been chewed up and spat out six months earlier by my bosses in corporate journalism, I said, “Sure.”

So I found myself standing in front of students in such programs as Culinary Arts and Business Administration, teaching how to write reports and letters.

I learned to teach – to get to know students, to respect their knowledge and interests, not to treat them like employees – by doing it in those classrooms. Thank you, students, for putting up with me.

In 1998 the job I really wanted, teaching journalism full time in Creative Communications, became available when Donald Benham left the college for CBC Radio.

I was ready and willing to step in. Able? That could come later.

Now, after 16 almost completely happy years teaching journalism, it’s my turn to leave.

In May, at the end of this semester, I plan to retire. My wife and I plan to move back to Toronto to be closer to family, but I know I will miss students and colleagues.

Many instructors have guided, corrected and amused me, none so memorably as the bitter veteran, one of the first I met, who slammed her papers down at the end of each day and exclaimed, “This job would be great if it weren’t for the students.”

She glared at me and I stared back, and I resolved never to be that person.

For me, it’s been the students, with their energy, their individuality and yes, their enduring capacity to be exasperating, who have made each day an energizing prospect.

The students, and the discovery that I don’t have to wear a suit every day. Or any day.

37 comments:

  1. Thank you and congratulations - the journalism program and CreComm as a whole will not be the same without you!

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  2. Duncan!!!

    I'm so sad to hear you're leaving! You may remember me, graduate of 2008. I'm now living and working in Edmonton full time as the host of Shaw TV and loving every minute of it!

    You are such an inspiring teacher- thorough, direct, thoughtful and kind. Thanks for helping guide all of us crazy CreCommers on our own journeys! :)

    Enjoy the big smoke!

    Dana

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    1. Thanks, Dana. I still remember your personality profile assignment.

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  3. Congratulations Duncan!

    There are more competent, and punctual, journalists in the world because of you.

    All the best to you in Toronto.

    Trevor

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  4. Congratulations, Duncan, on all you've accomplished at Red River College. A dedicated, energetic and creative educator, you've inspired countless colleagues and students, encouraging all of us to reach farther, to try harder. It was a distinct pleasure to work with you, albeit for a brief period. I benefited greatly from your good humour, perspective and respect for the craft journalism can be when practiced with integrity. All the best in your retirement. And hey, I hear there's some pretty good theatre in Toronto, too.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. Your comments mean a lot to me.
      Re Toronto theatre: Yep! Opera, too.

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  5. Duncan- Congratulations on this happy news. Thank you very much for teaching us everything you did during our time in CreComm. The program will not be the same without you.
    I also want to extend my thanks for teaching me to spot the screw up in every day life... all the time :)
    Congratulations again!

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    1. Thanks, Sara. I'm trying not to put any screwups in my replies here!

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  6. Atta boy, Duncan! Many of us are all the better off having been your "exasperating" students. All the best in T.O.

    Go Leafs go!

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  7. I'm sad to hear you're going! Who else will teach Crecomm newbies that Broadway is neither a street nor an avenue? (That has been stuck in my mind for 14 years.)

    Thanks so much for everything you've done for so many of us, and best of luck in Hogtown!

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    1. Thanks, Julie.
      Happy book reviewing from Broadway -- or from any avenue you choose.

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  8. I enjoyed your class very much, Duncan. Here's to a good time in Toronto!

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    1. Thanks, Zach.
      All the best in the world of cyberpunk.

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  9. Wow Duncan, I consider my time with you as privilege. I thank you sir that you shared so much of yourself and experience with us students. I wish you and your family the absolute best in Toronto!

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    1. Thanks, Richard. Long may you strut the stage.

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  10. Duncan!

    I've just shared this news with my two co-workers - Karen Christiuk and Adele Novak - who were also taught by you.

    I mean it when I say the Creative Communications program will not be the same without you. Your replacement instructor will have big shoes to fill.

    Enjoy your retirement and Toronto!

    All the best,

    Camille

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  12. I hadn't realized you were only a couple years into teaching when I started the program in 2000 - you were already a pro by then. Your "tough love" prepared us well for the real world. Thanks for all your help along the way. Enjoy your retirement - hopefully it won't involve too many deadlines!
    Andrea Slobodian

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    1. Thanks, Andrea, and thanks for coming in to speak to today's students.

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  13. Congratulations, Duncan. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to have you as an instructor and so many of the lessons you taught me in the newsroom are invaluable and will stick with me forever. Next year's J majors won't know what they're missing and I echo the sentiments in other comments: the instructor to replace you has big shoes to fill!

    All the best to you and your family!

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  14. Duncan, your editing class changed my life and my professional career forever. Thank you for being so good at what you do. I feel privileged to have attended classes with you at the helm. My best wishes to the next chapter of your life and I hope to run into if I am ever in the east! :)

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    1. Thank you, Glenda. Perhaps I will see you in The Centre of the Universe!

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  15. Congratulations! That is so fantastic. Although it is a shame that future students will not be able to have you as their instructor, it's so good that your family gets to have you back. :)

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  16. Without you, I'm certain my IPP wouldn't have done so well. I'm so thankful that I not only had you as an instructor, but as my advisor. I also owe my first - and current job - at Canada's History to you. All the best Duncan!

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    1. Thanks, Maria Cristina. You got where you are because of your smart, hard work. All the best!

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  17. Congratulations Duncan! I'm sorry to hear you're leaving, but also very happy for you. Wishing you all the best in Toronto!

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  18. Thank you for everything -- I appreciated all the instruction and advice that you gave us in J, and truly wouldn't be the (fresh) journalist I am today without it. Especially your editing class! Good luck in the future.

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    1. Thanks. Allison. Fresh is good. Don't get stale!

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  19. "Get out your annotated Caps and Spelling. It's time for a journalism quiz."
    "Alright, it's 9 o'clock in the Big City. Time to commit to some journalism."
    "BFCC: Best Friends From CreComm."

    Thanks for making journalism such a memorable experience, Duncan. You're the best.

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