Six reasons

An unfair summary of Richard Ford’s Canada: it’s about becoming a teacher. At least that’s how I read its 400 pages, until Dell Parsons says “as I taught my students,” on the last.

So, what draws a boy like Dell to this profession? I found six reasons, echoing my own.


1. For the smell of it…

I never wanted school to be over. I’d spend as much time inside school as I could, poring over books we were given, being around the teachers, breathing in the school odors, which were the same everywhere and like no other.

2. For a sense of belonging-in-transit…

No matter if I didn’t belong in any of those places, I did belong in their schools.

3. To share wisdom…

Along the way I tell them if not the facts, at least some of the lessons of my long life: that to encounter me now at age sixty-six is to be unable to imagine me at fifteen (which will be true of them); and not to hunt too hard for hidden or opposite meanings – even in the books they read – but to look as much as possible straight at the things they can see in broad daylight.

4. To complain about the curriculum…

(These books aren’t taught now to high school students in Canada. Who knows why?)

5. For its impossibility…

I’m a teacher, where you’re always acting but trying not to.

6. For love…

It’s then that I’m tempted to tell them about my young life in its entirety; to tell them teaching is a gesture of serial non-abandonment (of them), the vocation of a boy who loved school.


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