My experience is the public education system

December 2017 · 5 minute read

This text is purely about my experience. I do not intend to represent anybody else’s experiences with what I say, although I do suspect that nothing I lived through is isolated to myself. I do not intend this to be a critique of anything either, I do not have all the facts to do that fairly. I intend this for myself, and only for myself, as writing about what I felt is my best way to figure out how I feel now. This text came out far more negatively than I would have liked, I would like to call it ‘healthy cynicism’ without the ‘healthy’ part.

I came to Canada at the age of 6; just in time to go to first grade in an Ottawa public school. The school was called RBC, short for R. Byrns Curry. I have very little complaints here, as I do not remember a lot. From what I do remember however, it was good. I have met a number of great teachers which I would have definitely wanted more of in later years. After 2 years there, the school closed it’s doors.

All the years between then and 2011 are not very important and can be summed up as a couple of facts: we moved a few times and I couldn’t make friends very well because of it, I was forever an outsider to existing cliques.

The above didn’t change much in 2011 contrary to what I may have pushed you to believe. In 2011, I went to high school to the Polyvalente de L’Érabliere. It was not a good time. I would really like to name teachers by name but that wouldn’t do anything, so why bother. Some of the teachers at my school were, plainly said, bad people. Starting with my very first year, I started feeling as if the name of the game was me against the teachers, that teachers wanted little more than fail me with the oh-so-funny trick questions on exams.

I signed up to go to a CS-based program. What I got instead was a massive disappointment. We did everything except what mattered. It was a waste of time. Myself, being lazy but never unproductive, did the bare minimum in those classes to instead focus on learning actual skills. Such behavior could have made my perceived teacher-on-student rivalry a reality. The teacher, thank god, did not see my behavior the same way I did. She saw it as me wanting something more. While working an FTP web server with Filezilla (we were suppose to be doing some photo manipulation with photoshop), she leaned over my chair with a chalant “what are you doing?”. One thing lead to another, and I became the person responsible for a school website (this speaks magnitudes about the skills of the technical personnel there).

The work was simple, forward, with unclear requirements that I somewhat ignored due to having figured out what the school actually wanted. I lost money working on it, I did not get paid, though part of my expenses were covered. I did not mind, I was learning, I was happy. It gave me a worthwhile occupation that ended up teaching me PHP as well as other, less significant technologies. With that, I was a webdev and sysadmin at the age of 14.

It is worth pointing out an irony: I learned the basic tech skills that got me there because I expected it to be in the program and wanted to be on top of things. My assumptions were not out-of-the-blue either: A decade ago, the program had a deep partnership with Cisco. Good things cannot last forever it seems.

I do not wish to leave the misconception that all my teachers were terrible. That would simply be a lie, what sort of hell-hole would I have to have been going to? No, I did have good teachers. The math teachers were always the best – something I failed to appreciate in proper time and place. They were the people I could have connected with and yet, I did not. I missed out on a lot of great relationships like that, but I rather not turn this into an even greater “woe is me” than it already is.

Fast forward to secondary 4, I started to have a tangible group of friends. They were not good friends, but they were the best I had.. it was good enough. I had an illusion of solidarity that I chose to maintain because it felt better than not to. Disregarding this pesky little detail, I finally had someone I could talk to. I discovered a certain charismatic power within myself, my isolationist musings gave off some semblance of wisdom. I also knew how to argue properly. Those two things together made me seem as an intellectual authority. I am not stupid, but I am not as smart as I appear.

By secondary 5, I started seeing the utter toxicity of the little community I have become a part of. Between the lies and deception, there was little sparing for plain hypocrisy. Once again, eventually, I found the few who I could indeed rely on and know to keep them close. It was then that I established a relatively close rapport with the co-founder of Étudie ÇA! (Which may or may not be a thing at the time when you are reading this). Classes were far more relaxed and left room for a much starker contrast between good teachers, and bad teachers.

Bad teachers, were not always bad people, often times, it was mere incompetence. Good people were sometimes bad teachers, but bad people were always bad teachers. Do whatever logic puzzles you want with this.