Marsha King will be teaching primary in Pikangikum First Nation starting in September 2019. Marsha has 19 years of teaching experience and she is originally from Burlington, ON.
As the plane landed on the tarmac in Thunder Bay, I felt my breath slowly return for the first time in several weeks. Life had been so busy in the days and weeks leading up to the Summer Enrichment Program I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Between finishing up exams and report cards, packing up both my classroom and my house and tying up the loose ends of my life in the South I was so tired but also anticipating my new life in the North.
The amount of decision making I was doing was sometimes so overwhelming and many times I couldn’t look beyond the next hour. My family, friends and colleagues were all very kind and understanding, but the enormity of the life-change often left me in tears or wondering, “What have I done!?” But the moment I stepped off the plane all previous months of planning and preparation began to release from my shoulders. I could be a student for the next few weeks and my only responsibilities were to learn, grow and challenge my thinking.
Greeting us at the airport were the smiling faces of the Teacher Recruitment Managers and some of the staff of Teach For Canada. Also joining me were my fellow teachers, coming from every walk of life, from Prince Edward Island to Alberta and many points in-between and from many countries all over the world. We were all people who understood the enormous, life-altering decisions that we were making and yet still chose a life of challenge and reward over comfort and stability so that we could go and teach in Northern Ontario. It was almost an instantaneous connection with people I had never met. For the first time, I knew I was with people who truly understood both me and the journey that I was about to undertake.
Although we are only one and a half weeks into our training, I have been challenged beyond measure. I am learning to rest in the unknown and lay aside my cultural biases. I have filleted my first fish, camped out of a tent, gazed at seemingly endless night skies with stars that have stretched beyond the horizon, met with Elders from all different walks of life, cooked bannock over an open fire, learned a lot, unlearned a lot more. I have met people from the community that I am going to work in and I have met people that I wish were coming to work in my community but are going to other points North. Most of all I, have grown, and we are not even through all of the training!
With a week and a half left, the anticipation, anxiety and unknowns have been replaced with an excitement that I can do this with the support of my cohort and the Teach For Canada staff and the support of my friends and family back home. Some of my questions have been answered, but there are some questions that will not truly be answered until I arrive in my new home. I have learned about the complexities, beauty, and resiliency of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and I am looking forward to developing curriculum ideas and learning about resources and teaching that will work with my new classroom.
As I look forward to my last week of SEP, I am again humbled and honoured that this privilege of teaching in the North was bestowed upon me. The time, passion and wisdom that our leadership team brings to us is outstanding. The Lakehead campus is stunning with deer outside my window every day and rivers flowing through the campus. In the midst of one of the biggest life-changes I could ever make, I am finding a cocoon of safety and a place to breathe before I begin my full journey North. In a little over a month, I will step onto a different plane, but this one will take me far from home to places that I have never seen, but I am feeling more ready and hopefully, I will have another chance to pause and catch my breath.