In late 2019, in celebration of my 20th entrepreneurial year, I very excitedly put an offer on a building to purchase for my business. This goal had been on my vision board for quite some time and considering I had started my arts education business from a homemade flyer and a laundry basket full of props, this was a big deal for me. Life was good and I felt sure that the year ahead would bring a brilliant new chapter.
Until 2020 actually started and my life got flipped upside down.
To be fair, everyone I know got flipped upside down in 2020, but my flipping started with a pre-pandemic warm up. In January 2020, my husband and I made the very difficult decision to separate. This was followed by the worst experience of my life, which was telling our children about this decision. Within weeks, we were putting our family home up for sale and I was buying a new house to live in while simultaneously closing the sale on my business space. I spent 12 weeks drowning in real estate legalese and raw emotions before we all got news of COVID.
In what felt like 60 seconds, a global pandemic sent both my business and my nervous system into a tailspin. My livelihood was essentially brought to its knees as every school booking we had fell off the calendar. I knew I had to act swiftly to pivot (bleh) my business, my finances, my children’s education and my sanity.
I watched many of my colleagues leave the arts industry since work had dried up. I sat virtually across from fellow business owners who sobbed about having to close down. I tried to be a calm harbour for my kids, who were in pain, while simultaneously planning my next visit to an empty parking lot where I regularly sat in the car emoting, screaming and honking determined not to fall apart.
I let go of all office employees except one (more on Awesome Amy later) before renting out my new building since I couldn’t afford to be in it. I essentially put my business on life support hoping for the best and turned my attention to what I would do to get myself and my children through this.
I had lots of work experience, but because I’d worked as a performer and entrepreneur for so many years, it felt like I wasn’t actually qualified to do any of the job posts I was coming across. I needed to find something that allowed me the flexibility to be there for my kids and for my business in hopes of recovery.
It was my sister, a school teacher, who first told me about uncertified teachers being hired to help fill the massive needs in Ontario schools. There was a growing need for classroom supply teachers due to COVID, stress leaves, retirement, recently extended teacher certification requirements and people simply leaving the profession because they’d had enough. There were many empty desks to fill and there weren’t enough qualified teachers to cover, so boards were looking for unqualified teachers.
I drove past the board office to see it for myself:
NOW HIRING UNQUALIFIED SUPPLY TEACHERS.
Let’s examine that for a minute.
UNQUALIFIED [ uhn-kwol-uh-fahyd ]
not qualified; not fit; lacking requisite qualifications: unqualified for the job.
not modified, limited, or restricted in any way; without reservations: unqualified praise.
absolute; complete; out-and-out: an unqualified liar.
I was hired on the spot and offered my first assignment within hours.
What I’ve experienced as a supply teacher has been eye opening, heartbreaking, thought provoking, maddening, entertaining and curious. The experience has brought me a newfound sense of purpose and a respite from everything else around me.
It’s also inspired me to write again, which is something that has fallen by the wayside the last few years.
So put on your seatbelt (unless you’re on a school bus) and get ready for The Unqualified Adventures of Ms. G.
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