It was dark when I arrived in Waterloo, but I recognized my old workplace: the Equitable Life Insurance Company of Canada. For five years I was a systems specialist. In that role, I wore many hats--from being a one-woman software support hotline to quality control of data files. I taught myself to code in VBA and created custom solutions for my team. I really enjoyed creating GUIs (Graphic User Interfaces) that were dummy-proof. Using my little apps, it was impossible to make a mistake or wrong decision. The programs I wrote shoehorned the user into right decisions. I didn't have any formal I.T. education, yet they allowed me to do that.
Driving past the unassuming headquarters of the life insurance company with its darkened windows late that night, I could almost not believe that the memories flooding into my mind were MINE, memories of my own life just twelve years ago. This English teacher used to write code. I used to joke that I could make MS Excel do just about anything shy of going to the corner and bringing back coffee.
The next day I rose and drove the rest of the way into New York state, passing turn-off signs for Niagara-on-the-Lake. Once again, the memories astounded me. Could it be that I had once stayed overnight at the Pillar and Post because our clients there needed a custom solution to a data upload problem? Yes, my employer had sent me (a lowly liaison to the I.T. team, not even a member of I.T.) to figure out a way to get data out of their payroll system and modify it in all the ways necessary for upload to our system. It took me an afternoon, but I found a way. I made the impossible possible.
|The Pillar and Post, Niagara-on-the-Lake|
He was (still is, I'm sure) a man of few words, so his vote of confidence has stuck with me all these years. I call those words to mind when my self-esteem needs a boost. Yes, damnit, I'm smart and very capable. I'm a hard worker. I study on my own time to be the best I can possibly be at what I do.
Why am I reminiscing tonight? You can probably guess.
When I first arrived on the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) scene, I had a lot of the same feelings as I have at all the jobs before this one. I felt my superiors--from my boss and her director all the way up to the folks at IRCC who pay them to employ me--trusted me and believed in me. I felt seen, my gifts recognized and put to good use. Have you heard about Google's 'genius hour?' I have been blessed to almost always land in jobs where I'm given leeway to use at least some of my on-the-clock time to experiment. No employer has ever regretted giving me that play time. It has been during that time that I've solved long-standing problems for my employer. I believe that every language teacher also needs time and room for 'principled eclecticism' and action research.
The cheerleaders of PBLA who leave comments on this blog have more than once accused us of just whining or being negative. I have a whole video percolating in my mind to answer that accusation, but meanwhile I would like to suggest we do something here and/or over on my The Joy of ESL Facebook page. I'm not normally one to dwell on the past or live in the future, but just as an exercise, I'd like to ask if anyone wants to talk about joy on the job. Do you find your job to be a source of joy in your life now? If not, was it before? Or could it one day be--even hypothetically?
If you feel like it, tell me about a time you were happier in your job than you are now and what it is that made the job fulfilling at that time. OR tell me what you dream of as the ideal classroom space or SPO. If you could wave a magic wand and have MCI and IRCC direct the taxpayers' money the way YOU ask them to, what would that look like? I have some ideas of my own, but I'd like to hear from you first.