After nearly 2 years of struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, things are slowly shifting back to normal. In school, students are beginning once more to take the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). In light of this returning exam, Ms. Patricia Brennan was quick to take initiative in preparing our students.
Q: What are your thoughts on the OSSLT this year? What inspired you to start a club in preparation for it?
A: The OSSLT came all at once this year, like a roll of thunder. I feel for all of the students that have to write and may feel unprepared or under immense pressure. As an English teacher, my primary goal is to strengthen students’ literacy skills by helping them find joy in reading and writing. This is the primary reason I started the Literacy Club. I wanted to create a space where students could learn and refresh some of these skills in a safe and fun space. Oh, and of course, the Kahoots. It’s always about the Kahoots.
Q: What inspired you to become an English teacher?
A: It’s funny that you ask this question, as I was just having a chat with my daughter about why I became an English teacher this past weekend. As a child, I always loved to read. Books were my escape. My dreamworld. My home. My mother tells stories about how I would sneak out of my bed at night into my older sister’s room and take coveted, strictly-off-limits books from her shelves, only to be discovered in the morning with them strewn across my bed. So, books were it. They were EVERYTHING. It seemed only natural that I would figure out a way to make them a part of my always life. Combine that with being able to be around the best people in the world—young people—and I knew I had won the lottery.
Q: What struggles did you face on your journey?
A: I began my career SO many years ago. I was young, impressionable and teaching in a way that I felt instinctively was wrong for students. I knew things had to change, but could not figure out how to change them. And so, after years of having doors close before me, I left teaching. Discouraged. I knew almost immediately I had made a huge mistake. But sometimes it takes leaving a thing you love to discover how much you actually love it. When I returned to teaching the second time around, I promised myself that it would be different. This time I knew how to use my voice to advocate for students. This time I knew that students would always be first. This time I would stick it out. It was the best decision that I have ever made.
Q: What are some of your hobbies and favourite pastimes?
A: Reading. Hello? Besides that I have come to accept that my love of fashion is an acceptable hobby. Years ago, I interned at Fashion Magazine and came to understand that while I do not want to write about fashion every day, I do want to immerse myself in it on occasion. Oh, and I love to cook. No baking (all of that science!). Cooking. Pastas, shakshukas, curries, falafels, soups, salads, noodles. All of it.
Q: The pandemic has brought a lot of changes in everyone’s lives. What would you like to say to students during this challenging period?
A: If I could say anything to my wonderful students during this most challenging time, it would be to please go easy on yourselves. We have never experienced a world like this. Everything is topsy-turvy, so it is perfectly okay for you to feel topsy-turvy, too. So, ask for what you need. A break. An extension. A helping hand. We will get through this—together.