Damon Forster

Teaching at Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College
BEd Elementary 2-Year (Intermediate/TESL, 2003) | Diploma in Special Education (2008) | Essential Skills Practitioner Certificate (2013)

damon_forster_portrait550Teaching was a career change for me. That change has never stopped. I’d been in marketing and wanted to do something that had greater meaning to me, which connected me more with people. I was in my early thirties. I had good hair.

Ever heard the expression, “It was a long day with short people?”  I heard that on my way into the profession in 2001. I understood it after my practicum. When I look back on my few years teaching in the K-12 system, I think I felt like that a lot. I remember teaching some units that were hits and out of which great things came. I remember units that just got us all from A to B. With some kids there was amazing progress or a great rapport. With others I felt I was merely advancing the puck only to have it dropped. The daily grind of being a classroom teacher got to me. But I loved the planning and working with the determined, inquisitive, or determinedly stubborn. I found working one to one or in small groups magic could happen.

I wasn’t done my BEd before I realized that what I found rewarding was working with students with learning differences and started on a diploma in Special Education (SPED). Jobs were scarce in 2003. My first SPED courses got me into a district after a stint at ESL colleges downtown. I liked working with adults, but didn’t realize how much until I’d had a few years in the K-12 system. After a couple of years as a TOC, I was restless; I wanted my own classroom. I was also broke, struggling with student debt, in my late thirties and had less hair. I lit out for China, first taking a job at a university, then at an off-shore BC certified school. It was a great way to get teaching experience, save money without trying and a great opportunity for travel. It’s rock-star livin’.

damon_forster_tugboat_72When I got back from China in 2009, the job market still wasn’t great. I couldn’t get back into my old district. Because of my BEd TESL Certificate, SPED Diploma and experience with adults, I got an interview with a degree-granting college to teach in adult upgrading. There were 8 people on the hiring panel. I now do a mix of contract and TOC work in three departments. In each department, I work with individuals and small groups who are returning to school to make big changes in their lives. The majority are highly motivated. It is an honour to help them. They make the days short. In the third department, I help unemployed individuals with workplace readiness, communication and job search skills as they enter new fields. This meant another certificate for me, but I have started to get referrals for outside contracts.

I’m not broke, do not have debt, a regular contract nor anyone to tell me when I can take vacations. My sage advice? Keep your eyes on what you want, but take a leg-up wherever you can get it. Keep upgrading. Surround yourself with those who want to build you up, and resolve differences with others before they get you down, despite the discomfort. Finally, if you go to China, take your own shampoo. We all lost a lot of hair.