In the hectic swirl of our high school lives and our all-encompassing stress over classes, we tend to see ourselves as the victims of a teacher’s will. Once every other day we are taught by people that most of us know nothing about. While we encourage teachers to know the ins and outs of a student’s life we seem to know nothing about the mysterious, friendly faces that will dedicate themselves to our learning. It is time the enigma of a teacher’s life be cracked and clarified. This being said it is easy to overlook or adulate our educators, however there is a balance that must be reached, and ultimately they should be viewed as respectably human. Mr. Venables the literature teacher, softball coach,impromptu coach, and feminist club supervisor (to list a few of his commitments) is just that–human.
Naturally in order to truly know Mr. Venables we must begin at the beginning. When his 10 year old daydreams led him to want to become ‘a marine biologist or a lawyer’. These perhaps polarising professions originated from his ‘love of fish’ and the animated arguments that lawyers could have. However as time progressed he saw himself involved in various different jobs that would culminate in his return to college at 23.
At the age of 12 he ‘started working in orchards because I was part of a blue collar family and we didn’t have much money. If we wanted anything as kids we had to go to work.’ He then reflectively added ‘I find that time was the most peaceful time in the world for me– in and around trees.’
After some janitorial work in high school ‘I left home, bought a car, and just drove north for 900 miles’. Finally stopping to work as a firefighter in ‘the Bush’ fighting against forest fires. This was then followed by some smaller jobs until he returned to his studies. After majoring in English and Philosophy it became clear to Mr. Venables that he would pursue a career in education. He explained how for 5 generations, at least, his family has a history of teaching. ‘I have a copy of my great grandmother’s lesson plans. She taught in a one room school in Northern Alberta. On her lesson plans she has her daily schedules and she has it for grades 1-12 because she was the only teacher.’
Despite having a full time job and a plethora of activities to take part in, Mr.Venables still manages to find a balance between his work and family life. He explains how raising his kids in a city is a completely different ‘scene’ from a childhood in the country. He also mentioned that ‘they go to a much better school than I went to. I went to a catholic school but we didn’t have any facilities, my kids have wonderfully small class sizes. I mean I liked school a lot, but my kids just love school.’
While teaching and raising kids are different tasks there are similarities in terms of lessons being learnt. Mr.Venables explained how the teaching he does as a coach is remarkably similar to what he would teach his own children–particularly the concept of honour. ‘Thats a life lesson that I would love for my kids to understand. The idea of honour in life is underrated and we need to live honourable lives. This doesn’t mean you’re perfect but have the sense of honour.’
His involvement with the work he teaches is ‘honourable’ and perhaps gives students a peek into his life and passions. He discusses how his favorite texts to teach, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ are also the most challenging ones. ‘It’s such a wonderful thing to struggle with them every year, those are my two sacred texts. I will always keep them because I continue to struggle with them but I love that intellectual game that I have to play to give them the respect they deserve.’
Watching this literature teacher teach only indicates to his love of words. Part of the mystery of the man becomes unraveled–the enigma cracked, just a little bit…