Happy 7th anniversary of moving to Canada!

Today marks the 7th anniversary of our move from Singapore to Canada. What a journey it has been! Little did I know our bold move on April 28th 2016 would change our lives so much. I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on what I went through, what’s happening and what’s lying ahead.

It was not a smooth path if anyone is curious. I had a very difficult time securing a teaching job when we first moved here, even though I had a full year of teaching training in post-secondary education, four years of experience in teaching in higher ed, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from a renowned university in Singapore. To Canadian institutions, these almost felt invalid as many new immigrants to Canada can relate. It took me a couple of months to finally land my first teaching gig at Seneca College (thanks to the new immigrant service at Toronto Community Employment Services) and the University of Toronto Mississauga. I considered myself lucky because it only took me a few months instead of years. I taught at a few different institutions from 2016 to 2020 until I finally received a full-time teaching job offer at the University of Manitoba.
I have always loved what I do. Being able to connect with my students and share my excitement and appreciation for mathematics gives me tremendous joy. Few people are able to turn their passion into a career, and I’m grateful that I am one of them. I have learned a lot about teaching and learning from the many people I have met on Twitter, at conferences and seminars, and during casual coffee chats. I have become a better educator through the kindness and generosity of numerous individuals in higher education whom I have had the privilege to know over the years. I will always be grateful for their sharing of knowledge and wisdom.
At one point, I was teaching at three different institutions in a single semester and had to commute an average of three hours per day to get to my classrooms. Here are a few unforgettable moments: once, on my way to an 8:30 am class, I had a flat tire while driving on the 401 and had to stop at a Costco Tire Center, leaving my car there in the hope that they could fix it. I barely made it to class on time, and in the evening, when I was finished, I was told that they couldn’t fix the problem but had pumped in enough air so I could drive home. It was pouring rain, and I could barely see the car in front of me, making that drive truly terrifying.
Another time, during the final exam period, I was scheduled to invigilate at the UTM campus when a snowstorm hit GTA. Terrified of driving on the 401 in such weather conditions, I decided to take the shuttle bus from St. George campus. However, when I arrived at 6:30 am, I was informed that the next bus wouldn’t leave for another half hour. Fearing that I wouldn’t make it to the exam venue on time, two undergraduate students who were also taking the exam and I decided to share an Uber to avoid being late. Needless to say, it was a stressful and terrifying ride through a whiteout. Looking back now, I realize I could have informed my colleagues that I might be late since there was a large team of people invigilating the exam. However, for some reason, I didn’t consider it as an option back then.
There have been many joyous and memorable moments since I started teaching in Canada, but these experiences have left a deep impression on me. I’m not someone who is used to sharing struggles and challenging moments, but I’m learning to do it more. If you are reading my post and find it resonates with you, know that you are not alone.
Even though I didn’t have a stable position, I was still able to complete a few projects that I’m really proud of. I co-wrote a few papers with people from OISE at UofT about active learning and learning communities. I also took a few online courses to learn about Universal Design for Learning and Indigenous culture in Canada. Additionally, I adapted an open textbook and became a strong advocate of OERs, all of which helped me reshape my own courses and teach better. Now that I have a stable job, I am able to plan better and conduct educational research projects that span over a longer period of time.
I’d like to thank the following individuals for supporting me and guiding me to where I eventually am in various ways since April 2016.
Tania Koraian (Toronto Community Employment Services): as the very first person who helped me with my job hunting in Canada, I’m forever grateful to your help and encouragement. TCES is amazingly helpful for new immigrants!
Rosa Cortez (Seneca College): thanks for believing in me and connecting me with people at Seneca College.
Jeff Mccarthy (Seneca College): thanks for being my mentor as I’m looking for my first teaching position in Canada.
Stojanovska-Pocuca, Frosina (Mohawk College): thank you for sharing your passion about math teaching with me and always excited about my ideas when it comes to math teaching.
Jenni Hayman (Conestoga College): thank you for introducing OERs and open educational practices to me. It has changed my own teaching philosophy and reshaped me as an educator.
Rubaina Khan (University of Toronto): thank you for being such an amazing friend in both Singapore and Canada. Your dedication to better engineering education is truly inspiring!
Amy Lee (LMU Munich): thank you for being an amazing collaborator and sweet aunt to my little one. You are such a strong woman that I’d always look up to you.
James Slotta(University of Toronto): thank you for sharing your educational research expertise with me and welcoming me to ENCORE family.
Ann Gagné (University of Toronto Mississauga): thank you for being who you are! Your brave fight for a better higher education for all is appreciated by many of us. I feel so fortunate to know you and call you my friend.
Sheryl Darlington (The Compass Foodbank): thank you for accepting me to The Compass family. What you are doing is life-saving!
Brian Mcgoey (The Compass Foodbank volunteer): thank you for listening to my struggles over that breakfast by the lake and sharing your thanksgiving dinner with us all.
Mee Park (loving neighbor and auntie to my daughter): you are an amazing person and I’m so glad we got to know each other.

A summer that will never be forgotten

As we are three months into self-isolation and social distancing, I feel it’s time for me to write something to remind the future me what this time period is like, and for anyone who’s in the similar situation with me, this is for you as well.

First of all, it is not easy. I’m having a difficult time due to many reasons: I lost a close family member in May, and we are still mourning. The grief will never truly go away. It’s more like tidal waves and I’m learning to live with it after losing my mum last year. It dawns on me that adult life is not getting easier, quite the opposite to what I believed growing up. Then it’s my job situation: it’s uncertain to me whether I will have my current teaching job when September starts so I have been applying for teaching jobs, as well as education developing jobs, and some other seemingly interesting admin jobs. As anyone who’s experienced job hunting, it can be soul-crushing: I usually spend hours on one job application, and sometimes I don’t even get a rejection email. I learned recently that 75% of resumes never landed in a real person’s hands thanks to AI so I’m learning how to beat the machine and trying to match the key words in job descriptions. But I more or less accept that the whole job hunting is more about luck: knowing the right person, applying for a job at the right timing is more important than what I’m actually capable of doing. That somehow helps me cope with the frustration and move forward. Then it’s home-schooling my little one. She just turned six a few days ago and it’s getting almost impossible to get my work done and keep her entertained/cared for on a daily basis. We have agreed on a daily routine which helps to certain extent: every morning she reads 3 books on Tumblebooks: https://www.tumblebooklibrary.com/TumbleSearch.aspx followed by piano practice. Then she listens to audio books on Audible stories: https://stories.audible.com/discovery?ref=adbl_ent_anon_ds_ds_vn We usually go for walks in the afternoon, either in the neighborhood or drive to Oakville/Halton conservation parks. Then more stories for her before bed time. I also need to cook, clean, do laundry in the middle of all these. The arrangement is not the best if I want to get more work/reading/meetings done. She pops up more often in my Zoom meetings and please do not be surprised if she becomes a regular soon.

So any good news? What am I doing these days? Well I still manage to get a few things done. We(Ann, TJ and I) are writing a paper for OTESSA 2020 conference now that our presentation won’t happen due to COVID-19 and it feels good to put our ideas down in written form. I’m taking an online course now: Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom on edX from Columbia Univerity and thoroughly enjoy the course. I’m at the last module and you can see my notes and reflections on this google doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N9d8lCSVd4dx_gLu2xxV-Ntl99XAHFg-456-9vITJvk/edit?usp=sharing I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my own teaching practices and plan for future. If you teach in higher education and are new to the idea of UDL, inclusive teaching, equity and accessibility, this course is for you. You won’t regret the time spent. I’m also organizing a reading club MEdJoC with Sarah Mayes Tang from UofT: we want to read education research papers and learn how to do proper ER in mathematics. So far we’ve met twice and had great discussions. If you are interested, you can find more information in this google doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wd3p_YLECruhAd3WRTNpsytdL2CjPw_qOYlSwRyMmRk/edit?usp=sharing I’m constantly attending Zoom webinars to learn about teaching online, how to engage students, how to design assessments, and best practices shared by colleagues from other institutions. Learning new things is always exciting to me, and this is one of the best part of my job besides having wonderful students to teach. I’ve been brushing up on my H5P skills. You can find a lot of wonderful examples at eCampusOntario’s own H5P studio: https://h5pstudio.ecampusontario.ca/ I also put together a list of OER for online teaching purpose: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JEzG-iQo0M6rda1uirTXGAlY-3DWCZtgEzk-Fz051sU/copy I’m about to start another reading group with colleagues from UTM and we will be talking about Small Teaching Online. I’ve always enjoyed these reading clubs and I’m sure this one will be just as good.

Do you see a silver lining in your life during this challenging time?