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Tutor Zach McLaughlin 's Column

An unexpected journey

Weekly Topic: My Unforgettable Journey

Mittwoch, 16. Juni 2021, 05:34

Photo: Friday graduation ceremony at my old school

Being a teacher has been a rather unforgettable journey for me, one that I never expected to take when I left home at 18. I originally went to school to become a technical illustrator, and during the summers I worked as a tractor driver at a strawberry farm. After my third year in the illustration program, I injured both of my wrists and was no longer able to draw or use a computer. 

I couldn’t finish the fourth year of my program, so I spent some time in physiotherapy and thought about my future. I took a year off school and worked with an archaeology team, which was interesting but very hard work. It was tough to live and work without a toilet, bed, or shower, camping in forests or on islands for weeks at a time. There were no days off, nothing to do at night, and the food was, obviously, not great. 

So, the next year I returned to school, determined to finish my illustration program and earn my degree. It was a huge challenge because I still couldn’t use a computer, so every project took twice as long as it should have. I finally finished it, though, and then completed an internship as an entomological illustrator at the University of Toronto (dissecting and drawing insects). However, not being able to use a computer was too frustrating, and eventually I gave up my dream of being an illustrator. 

At that time, English was my second passion, so I went back to school to become an ESL teacher. I applied for a job at the same school where I did my training, and fortunately I was hired right away. Starting as a new teacher was quite difficult. There was no training, no mentor, and almost no resources. On a Friday I was given a single textbook and told to show up for work the following Monday with 30 hours of lessons prepared (which is what we call a “trial by fire”). One good thing for me, though, was that the previous teacher of my class had been fired because he was so terrible, so no matter what I did, I was at least better than the last guy! 

I worked very long hours in my first few years, and the school where I worked also required teachers to volunteer for student activities, like parties and tours. The years flew by, though, and I met (and had to say goodbye to) so many interesting and wonderful coworkers and students. More than ten years have passed since I started teaching, but I still remember my first class and so many other things between then and now that have shaped my life and my career. 

It’s been an unforgettable journey and it’s not over yet. My school closed last March, and while it was sudden and sad, it gave me the opportunity to start teaching online and continue meeting interesting people here on Cafetalk. In September, I’m returning to university to complete an MA degree in Applied Linguistics, so the journey continues! To all of my students, thank you for being a part of it!

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