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Robert Gale, Strathclyde PDGE Secondary graduate

Robert Gale, Secondary School Teacher, English

Strathclyde graduate Robert Gale is currently teaching English at Castlebrooke Secondary School in Brampton, Southern Ontario, Canada. After studying a BA degree at the University of Waterloo, Robert decided to travel to Strathclyde - a decision he says was key to him getting job as an English teacher back in Canada. Find out more about Robert and his teaching job below.

I'm responsible for...

Teaching three classes a day (grade levels vary), for covering classes (half periods for absent colleagues), and supervision. We have three formal reporting periods: progress reports, mid-term report cards, and the final report card.

Beyond regular school duties, I run the school paper, and I am part of the Assessment and Evaluation Committee at my school. In a broader context, I feel responsible for doing my best in each class, and for each student. I think creativity is an important part of my practice, and I try to hold myself responsible for reflecting on and perfecting my assignment approaches. Some days are better than others in this regard, but I believe that if I can always bring my 'A game', that’s a good start.

I got my job...

Because I went to Strathclyde. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s true. My contract position came after about three-and-a-half years of long term occasional (LTO) teaching positions. When I had my interview, the principal seemed quite interested in my experience teaching abroad.

Being exposed to a different educational system gave me a broader perspective on teaching, and approaching the Ontario curriculum. Given the diversity in the Peel District School Board, and Canada as a whole, experience in a different country was a great discussion point for me in interviews.

My course prepared me for the working world...

When it came to teaching experience, the practicum placements were great learning opportunities. A key to making the most of the experience was to take on as much classroom time as I could, even if I was a little nervous/intimidated. Even with my mistakes I was able to reflect on my practice and improve it from day to day. I believe that reflection is an important aspect of teaching and learning, and the reflective writing that I did in the course, to this day, helps me tune my practice.

My typical day...

The great thing about this job, is that there isn’t really a typical day! But I’ll try: once I get to school, I usually join the breakfast table in our English department. Many of us make a point to eat breakfast at school before we start our classes, and it’s helped to bond us as a department.

Before class starts, I write the learning goals for the period or unit on my board, and prepare any materials/hand- outs/activities I’ll need for the class. After my first block of teaching, I usually have a supervision or coverage for the first half of my prep period (we do a maximum of two of these a week), and I end my day with a last period class, and potentially time after school working on the school paper with the club.

When I get home (Toronto), I usually take a little time for myself, or I’ll duck into a local coffee shop, and get a little marking done so I can free some time up in my evening. I have always found that marking at home was always much harder than marking away from home.

My most memorable work moment...

I think one of my favourite moments came from a media studies class. It was one of those rare classes where the students were really up for any challenge, and we got to do some great things. We had done a few units: advertising/the PSA, modern media, and current events. When the class was done for March Break, a Tsunami hit Japan – this was 2011. This was something that, unknown to me at the time, affected a few students in my class very personally. So, I decided to change my current course plan (which was easy, as I was the only one teaching the course), and decided that as a class, we would create a fundraising campaign. We had an ad team (print and video ads for our cause), a logo creation contest, an online/social media team, people making gifts to sell, volunteer hours for community connections, school announcement writing, a team to organise a staff versus student dodge ball match at the end of the campaign.

We raised just over $1,500 dollars for Red Cross, and it was a cause that the whole class became quite passionate about. I was very proud of that class, and happy that we got to play a part in helping with disaster relief. For me that was a big educational win.

The worst part of my job...

The marking. Teaching English is one of my life’s passions, so marking is just one dimension of that. The amount of marking actually encourages me to get creative with my approaches to assignment design. With a creative assignment, sometimes you get creative results, which is, from time to time, fun to read. Also, switching up writing prompts and essays questions helps me target different aspects of a given course text, and makes the marking process less monotonous.

The best part of my job...

Is the interaction with people, and getting to work with my subject (English).

Each day is a different experience, and getting to see my students grow, and learn to improve themselves is a very satisfying thing.

My advice for other graduates...

Try to take the initial struggles you may face in your first few years of teaching as learning experiences. Often I would be my own worst critic at the end of a course when I first started teaching, but when I looked back on the class, I realised that both the class and I learned quite a bit.

Also, don’t be afraid to try new things - I find people (I am guilty of this too sometimes) can sometimes fall into patterns when it comes to teaching, so try something different, and always be open to new approaches to teaching. Some of the best assignments or lessons were the ones that involved trying something new, and a little 'out there.'

If I didn't become a teacher I'd be...

A journalist. To satisfy my 'possible life-path' I started a school paper. It is quite a challenge running a club like this, but the passion of the students involved, and that amazing final product (printed on real newspaper), makes it all worth it.

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