Here are the kids I chaperoned during Malaysia Week – a 5-day middle school endurance challenge that included camping, hiking, biking, rafting and pooping in the jungle. I’m proud to report that no one died or even got bit by a snake. Some of these kids were carrying packs that weighed more than them and didn’t complain once – impressive 12-year-olds.
In a previous life, before journalism school and PR and travelling and my salt and pepper temples, I thought about becoming a teacher. Not really a serious thought, just an idea of what I might be able to do if nothing else panned out.

But once I got accepted into j-school in 1999, the teaching idea vanished and I never really thought about it again – until I moved to Malaysia and nothing was panning out on the job front.

And so I thought, hey, how about that teaching thing? Trina makes it look easy and I could use 4 months off a year. It also helps that teaching at an international school is much easier than a public school in Canada. Generally speaking, the families are solid, the kids are motivated (and don’t threaten to stab you) and the school actually has resources like paper and pencils (and doesn’t threaten to cut your salary whenever the government runs low on funds).

Even knowing all that, I started out slow last year by only coaching a few teams and leaving the teaching to the professionals. When this school year rolled around and I still didn’t have a permanent gig, boredom and loneliness were taking over my mind, so I decided to throw myself into all things school.

This year I’ve been a coach, an advisor, a team leader, a supervisor, a contract writer, a consultant and most recently a substitute teacher. That was the biggest leap for me. It’s one thing to yell at a kid to run faster, it’s much different to teach them about quadratic equations, or even better, how to speak Spanish, when the only phrase you know is “cerveza, por favor.”

Thankfully, I’ve come to realize the bar is set very low when it comes to subs. So if I manage to stay awake and simply follow the teacher’s plan, I get labelled as a star sub and can get classes everyday. A great racket except they pay me in gas money and $3 lunches. Ah well, can’t have it all.

My line that works the best with the kids – “Guys, the teacher left us this work to do. If you don’t get it done, I’ll get fired and sent back to Canada.” Works every time.

And the experience is greatly adding to my resume. I think they call it flexible and adaptable in the HR world.

Am I considering a complete career change? Not yet.

While I enjoy being around the kids, I’m under no allusion that I’m operating in a normal school setting. This is a bubble-wrapped environment that’s perfect for a raw rookie and might just ruin me for teaching anywhere else.

For now, I’m enjoying the change to my substitute life.

See you in detention (they call it Study Hall at ISKL).