Going into this school year, a few of us were aware that the numerator of Mr. Hussey’s teaching career was thirty-eight. It was not until recently that we were made aware that this number will also serve as the denominator. Mr. Hussey, now retiring, speaks to us about his years at Garneau.
How did you get into teaching?
Partially because I could not stand the sight of blood. I’d always known that it would be teaching – it was just kind of there, in my bone marrow. I also knew it would be English. But when I hit university, I discovered remarkably that I was good at the maths, and I seemed to have a gift for psychology. So that turned me a little bit towards Life Science. An experimental program at McMaster recruiting potential doctors from the Liberal Arts contacted me, so for a bit, I gave a really good look at medicine. That is, until a few good friends reminded me that I’d pass out if I cut my finger.
There were other, more serious things as well. I didn’t really want to spend a lifetime putting back together things that had been torn apart. Teaching seemed more like a “building” profession, and it had been the first choice from the start.
What is your favourite thing about teaching?
There’s a moment where a student will express a desire to speak. Not with raising the hand, but something happens to the face. And you know that at that moment, they’re experiencing an epiphany. Somehow, whether by design or by serendipity, what I have done in the classroom has created this. The face just lights up, and I know that that is the time to allow the student to speak in some way. My favourite thing in teaching has got to be that – creating epiphanies. The students can’t hide them – they just spread right through the face and out the eyes.
What is your favourite memory from your years here at Garneau?
There would be so many around Dramatic Socratics or Pinecrest, or “Oh, Oh, Othello”, classroom debates and discussions, but I think I’d choose the demonstration at the TDSB, where close to two hundred students and parents were there in one of the most creative expressions of public will that I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to demonstrations in the past, and there’s often a nastiness to it. You’ve got professional agitators. You’ve got classic losers with no life so they run around being profoundly committed to things they don’t understand. You’ve got people with ulterior motives and hidden agendas. You’ve got people who just love violence.
This was so different. You had people playing parkour. You had music. You had dance. You had all of this going on, and all of it going on in support of the right to have a public education that is more than mediocre. That would be my favourite memory, of many.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
The exposition of the nakedness of the TDSB, for enormous crimes against humanity. Also travel, writing, and expanding my wine collection, which is now becoming really respectable. One of the retirement gifts I received was a wine chiller which is taller than I am and holds one hundred and eighty-six bottles. I also received a bike, so… drinking and driving (he laughs). Believe it or not, I’m going to miss the marking, and obviously the teaching itself.
What are the TDSB’s “crimes against humanity”?
Some are inadvertent. They do not set out to hurt young people. But too often, in the name of expediency or because of political cowardice, they make compromises that contradict the basic tenets of education. Some collection of voices needs to stand up and say: “expediency is not the god that you have made it.”
Then there are the ones that are openly political, and who manipulate people, resources, ideas, to serve their own ends. And there are far too many of them. It is a combination of the inadvertent and the deliberate that has entrenched mediocrity in public education and replaced it with the worship of false gods like diversity and equity, which mean nothing. They are superficial window-dressing put forward in place of real achievement. Have you ever heard of the old fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? That’s what’s needed.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the students of Garneau?
Yeah, there is. And it’s not going to be clichéd. During the recent incident over whether TOPS would stay here or go somewhere else, politicians and self-appointed community leaders referred to TOPS as the “heart of Garneau”. The first thing I’d like to say would be to the TOPS students: it is not your duty to be anybody’s heart. You are not there to be used as some sort of symbol. As we said last summer, you are nobody’s trophy. Do not allow yourselves to be used in that way, either by the community or by the political structure, or by individual teachers. You are nobody’s trophy.
And to the mainstream students of Garneau: anybody who suggests that TOPS is the heart of this school insults you in a way that should not be allowed. You do not need TOPS. You’ve never needed TOPS. You are a force all on your own, and it’s time you made that clear.