Norton CoverOn my desk in my little cubicle at Taylor’s College sits a battered two volume edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. I bought it used in 1973 in my second year at Guelph University, and it has been by my side ever since. It is a plain grey cover, unlike the Turner illustration on this picture. Its leaves are well paged, and its binding sags, but it is a dear friend and companion, and I would be loathe to lose it.

When I graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Ed. in 1975 I intended to be a high school English teacher. But life is what happens while you are making other plans and I was desperate to get out Toronto and took the first job that offered me that chance. It happened to be a position teaching Industrial Arts in St. Thomas, Ontario. Shop had been my minor at OISE, something I took more for my own personal interest than any serious thought of teaching it, but it was a job, and I always figured that once I had a permanent contract, I could switch to high school, and my first love, English.

But I loved teaching Shop, and held onto it long after I could see the writing on the wall that it was on the way out. It gave me an opportunity to work with my kids, who loved coming in on the weekends and building things with their Dad. The facilities helped me renovate two houses, and the expertise stood me in good stead on the third. The kids I taught were always enthusiastic about the subject, and loved building skateboards, stools and baseball bats. I felt that what I did helped to keep them motivated about coming to school.

When the shops were closed there was a position in my school across the hall in Science. It seemed to be a good fit, and with a back door on the classroom and access to a conservation area where I could take my classes for samples, I enjoyed another good fifteen years of doing something I really enjoyed. The learning curve was steep, but by the end of my tenure I was teaching seminars on the technological aspects of the Science curriculum and driving computer driven robots across remote locations.

My present position as a high school English teacher is the third phase of my career, and finally I am getting to use that old Norton Anthology that I have been lugging around all these years. My lessons are invariable Power Point presentations and my writing projects are web based and interactive. But there at the core is this deep love for literature and the intricacies of human understanding that I am finally getting to explore and present, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I am just so eternally grateful to God for seeing me through all the changes of my career that have given me such tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment. Each phase has had its purpose and its joys, and I still go to work excited about what I will learn, and how I can help my students to learn. And when I am unsure about a reference, there is my Norton beside me to help. That’s what old friends are for.