For eight years, from 2005-2013, I was a teacher at the men's correctional centre here in town. I never talked about my work while I was employed, for fear of getting my hand slapped. I once wrote a rebuttal to the local newspaper when we were on strike in 2006. That was a giant no-no and my higher ups slapped my hand while patting me on the shoulder :) Lesson learned!
I convocated from College of Education in May 2005. I worked at Sylvan Learning Centre for the summer and in October of that year, I applied at the men's jail. I was hired! Huzzah! To say I was terrified was an understatement BUT I was being hired to fill in for a woman going on mat leave. If she felt comfortable enough working there pregnant, how dangerous could it really be? My first day, I was totally pumped to put on my standard issue uniform (I wore the same thing that the guards did). I was shadowing another teacher for the first few days and then was set to take over his position and he would technically fill in for the mat leave.
My first year of working at the jail entailed working with the inmates in remand and secure. Guys on remand are awaiting their trial. That meant murderers and rapists, along with petty thieves and everyone in between. In remand, I taught a group of guys at one time. In secure, I could only teach one at a time. Guys would get pulled from their cells and spend about ten or fifteen minutes with me. I'd correct their old work and assign them new stuff.
To test their levels, we used the good old CTBS tests that we had to do in school…anyone remember those? The scantron sheets? Anyways, we tested vocabulary, reading, grammar, spelling and math. Based on the outcome, we would assign the guys work. Reading labs, World of Vocabulary and good old math text books are what the guys used. Down in secure, everything was photocopied…no books allowed. Later on in my years, they even switched the guys over to golf pencils and no erasers as a safety precaution. I remember one of my students making a stabbing motion and complaining, "How the fuck am I supposed to stab anyone with this?!?". Ah, good times…
Come summer time, there were no holidays for this chickie. I took over the main GED classroom (which was combined with the early literacy classroom) so the higher ups could have their holidays. My only complaint was how hot it was in those gall dang uniforms and plus 30 temps! Not comfortable! While I was in the GED classroom, two RCMP officers were shot and killed while on a chase. Constable Robin Cameron was related to one of my students. Because they were airing the funeral on TV, he asked me if we could cut class short and watch the funeral. I said of course. What I didn't expect was to find myself in a room full of crying men. As I sat at my desk, I choked back a couple of tears myself. I got up and stood at the back of the class so the guys wouldn't see me crying (show no weakness!). A memorable moment, to say the least.
There were four of us teachers in total. When the one lady came back from mat leave, she took over her spot in the early literacy class. She didn't want to work full time, so I job shared with her. Being in the early literacy class (LRC) was a nice change. The guys who were in there WANTED to be in class and actually learn something. For the most part, it was a good bunch of guys with only a few bad eggs mixed in there. I felt safe enough, although I never turned my back on the class and always had my radio on me.
There are only two incidents that stand out as scary to me. In one instance, a guy in remand was pissed off that it was either school time or lock up time - no free time. He took that anger out on me and came at me with an empty coffee pot, making motions like he was going to hit me. A guard luckily intervened. Another time, in LRC, a guy was pissed off at something a guard had just said to him and when I asked him to start working, he started throwing his books around and just about flipped the table. I called for back up and they were there within seconds. Not gonna lie…I was so scared I cried (not in front of the guys). It just rattled me at how quickly someone can turn. I was pissed off at the guard who riled him up and then sent him to class. He should have just kept him on the unit.
Even though I was employed there for eight years, I ended up having a fair chunk of time off. I was forced to take from January-June 2008 off because the woman needed to top up her hours before she went back on mat leave. Then I took December 2008 off for in vitro trials. Then I had from January 2010-2011 off because of mat leave. In January 2012, I went on disability from work due to my mental health (pregnancy really did a number on me). I never did work again. In September 2013, I officially gave my notice and then opened up my kids' used clothing store. I've never regretted leaving the jail.
And so it goes...