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.