Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wrappin up the week that was...

A pretty long week for me in many ways:

1. This was my first week back in Aurora after leaving New York City. I continue to look for permanent employment in whatever is of interest to me. I am keeping my options open.

2. I am being encouraged to by friends of mine to keep my passion of teaching alive and make sure that I keep on trying to get a teaching position over another job possibililty. I see what my friends observations and take them with great respect. However, all I want is to work with good people, enjoy what I am doing and be able to survive and put some money away in terms of a pay cheque. Besides, maybe there is something out there that will be a better fit for me besides teaching that I will enjoy much more? So in other words I have spent this long week with some good mental contemplation.

3. My parents went away this week for a short vacation up north. My mother warned me about putting out the garbage the night before. She said that if you put the garbage out the night before the pick-up day you will have to pick up the garbage from the street the day of pick-up. Well I went out the door the day of pick-up with about two minutes to spare in order to put out the garbage like had been suggested. I found the garbage strewn in the backyard from our large plastic garbage can that has for years kept the garbage safe. Well, I said forget it and went to work. After all it was just one bag of garbage thats it. I come back that night to find the garbage soaked from the days rain. I easily pick it up and put it in the bag. I come back on Friday to find the garbage pail rolled to the bottom of the hill in our back yard. But at least this time the rascally ones didn't get to open the lid! Apparently some industrious raccoons have moved into the neighbourhood since I had moved to New York City.

4. What is my goal in life? This has become a little fuzzier since I came back from New York City. But I do think one thing has not changed, to remain a hardworking person who tries hard to say "yes" to people in terms of being able to complete the job right! I also love to see childrens or adults eyes light up after learning a new skill or concept. I also enjoy seeing someone receive just what they were looking for in a retail environment or helping someone out when something went wrong with the product and making it work "right" for both the company and the customer. However, I hate working for someone I know or turns out to "screw" me in the end out of employment or lies to me.

5. York Region Transit (YRT) Viva program doesn't make much of difference in terms of relieving traffic congestion. YRT advertised the buses as being able to co-ordinate traffic lights to make the trip faster to get from point A to point B. However, this week I have sat in the perhaps one of the worst sections of traffic lights in York Region. Yup, Yonge Street between Major Mackenzie Drive & Carrville Road/16th Avenue The "VIVA Blue" route inched from traffic light to traffic light from Harding Blvd. to Weldrick and onward. This was morning rush hour which VIVA should be working in its prime. However, what happenned on Wednesday was I missed the connection with the 8:05 A.M. Route 85 Rutherford Bus and nearly was late to work for 9:00 A.M. at Jane & Courtland. The VIVA bus was also late on its schedule, if the new bus system investment included the ablility to change traffic lates so the buses get priority, why wasn't this happenning? What did the Region of York do with the money? Obviously it wasn't on traffic light controls that work. I have heard rumours from other passengers that these new traffic light controls only work if the VIVA route is 3 minutes or more behind. 3 minutes behind? Seems like a waste of money if these buses cannot have advanced priority over that single occupant driving his monster SUV. However I will give YRT kudos for providing the Route 98 bus from Aurora to Bernard Terminal in order to connect into VIVA blue for the handsome cash fare price of $3.25 for a two hour trip. That is much better compared to the one way trip of GO Transit to Finch Terminal for $4.75. That is not affordable considering that if you want to go downtown Toronto and back you will be paying close to $15.00!

6. I have my fingers crossed on a possible job at my church on Sunday mornings. I basically am the morning caretaker and it pays $50.00 a week. Sure it is extra money eventually when I get another job. But right now I am looking for anything I can get my hands on. There are two other people who have applied for the job, but considering I have already done the job once....hmmmm....fingers are crossed.

Well, that was the week that was.....

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back in Canada

I returned to Canada early Saturday morning from New York City.

I went to church on Sunday and met up with some of my friends from Aurora. They were all disgusted with the New York City Department of Education's treatment of me.

On the up side today (Monday) I talked to the owner of Coldex who will at least get me a week of work starting tommorrow (Tuesday). I am looking forward to meeting back up with him tommorrow. Who knows what will happen from here.

I am keeping my options open to both supply teaching, full time teaching, contract teaching and opportunities outside of teaching in both the public and private teaching. In other words I am keeping the doors open for whatever may come my way.

If any of you here about anything that I may be interested in in terms of employment, please let me know!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

That's It, I have had it...BACK TO CANADA!

I haven't posted all week because I have been preparing to carry out a very difficult decision for myself. I will now tell the story of what happenned.

For those of you not up on where I have been or what I have been doing for the past year the following posts will more or less put things together over the fun and tribulations I have been having. You will find them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Things have only gotten much worse from the ups and downs. I think New York City is nothing but a huge drama that brings you up and down.

On Monday August 29th, after a nice weekend of what I thought was my last days off before starting at a new school, things only went from not so bad to completely worse!

I walked into my school shortly before 9 A.M. and waited for the Principal to arrive in order for a group of teachers to head upstairs and start setting up our classrooms.

The Principal arrived and looked at me and said "What are you doing here?"

I replied, "I came to set up my classroom."

"There was a problem with your transfer, so I had to hire someone else for the job," the principal said. She suggested I should visit the Region 8 offices and talk to Leona Johnson who had sent the e-mail to the principal of my supposed new school that the transfer was late in going through from my previous region.

I was seething as I left the school and headed to the subway. I decided instead of going to Region 8 that I would go to the administrative head offices of recruitment because if I tried Region 8 I might kill somebody.

Why would I kill somebody? Because I have had some administrative fun with them as well. Lets take a time out from the story above to explain. I got the letter of nomination back at the end of Junish. I took it to the Region 8 offices to have myself placed into the position. With lots of experience from a recent transfer from a previous region only to be excessed because of low student enrollment, I knew how the transfer should work. However, I was told the letter of nomination was all that was needed and everything was fine.

A couple of days later I did an online search seeking to see if my application for the job had gone through or not via the Department of Education's website. The results showed there was a problem with my application. I printed off the results and took it in. They got me on the computer to do an RMS application (some sort of board computer stuff) only to find that that was already done. I then filled out a couple of other forms (which I had recognized from before because of my previous transfer). I was then told everything was decent about my application and there everything was fine and I could start at the end of August. I double checked with someone at Court Street who I had filed paperwork with, and she said everything was fine as well. I checked in a day later with the principal and she said it was fine as well because she had signed off on my transfer as well.

Now back to the story, apparently everything was not fine. Leona Johnson, of Region 8, used the excuse that the transfer had not gone through in time for me to get the job. This was according to the principal's e-mail that she received from Ms. Johnson. But apparently she did not have the kindness of calling myself to let me know. So here I was thinking I had a job in New York City for September when I did not.

I told this story to the wonderful people of the Recruitment office at the Department of Education's administrative offices. They quickly nipped this excuse in the bud by setting me up with a recruitment officer. Why did they have to set me up with a recruitment officer? Because Ms. Johnson never picks up her phone! However, the recruitment officer at Administrative Offices is persistant and talked to the receptionist at Region 8 and said to put her through to the nearest phone to Ms. Johnson.

The end deal was that Ms. Johnson would call the school and give me the Grade 7 English job that I was originally hired for. I received a note from the Recruitment officer. I was overjoyed!

However, things turned ugly again when I arrived at the school. Ms. Johnson never called the principal. I was forced to tell the principal what was going on. The principal tried calling Ms. Johnson, but again, Leona Johnson would not pick up her phone.

So back to the Administrative Offices I went. The Recruitment people managed to have the person excessed and sent me back to the school after the principal would not pick up her phone.

At the school the principal told me to wait in another room while she called the people at recruitment and the Region to figure out what was going on. After 15 minutes, the principal told me that I was no longer hired because I had an "unsatisfactory" rating from my previous school and that she could not have a teacher at her school with an unsatisfactory rating. I protested saying that wherever she got the "unsatisfactory" rating was untrue. But she said there was nothing she could do.

So I returned to recruitment who said that I had never told them of the "unsatisfactory" rating from my previous school. I protested saying that my evaluation had recommended a "discountinuance" of service from my previous school but a "continuance of probationary service." I had to bring this evaluation into the administrative offices in order to prove my point. In hindsight, I am wondering why copies of this evaluation was not at the administrative offices or the Regions offices.

So I went up the immigration lawyers office the next day (Tuesday) and picked up the evaluation form. By this time I had done some soul searching and decided that no matter what I was returning to Canada. I had been shafted and screwed by the New York City Department of Education one to many times. I had had enough. However, I was going to make sure that I did everything in my power to make my name in New York City the best it can be. So I waited two hours to have the "Unsatisfactory" changed to a "Discontinuance" which apparently allows me to still teach elsewhere if so needed.

Before leaving, I told the two people at Recruitment that I could not on my conscience recommend anybody coming down to New York City to teach for this Department of Education.

I then headed home to apartment dreading having to tell my roomate. We both cried after I told my parents what had happenned that day. It has been a tough past two weeks for me and my roomate. My roomate will be o.k. as we had achieved a lower rent on the current appartment (almost half the price of the one I was living at before).

Finally, I am looking forward to coming back to live with my parents for a short time while I take time to find full time employment. I look back at this past year in New York City as one of a bureaucratic nightmare. I talked to the immigration lawyer and he noted that at least 2o other Canadians alone from the international program had left in very similar disgust and that it had cost the New York City Department of Education dearly in lost money for processing the work visa applications alone and getting nothing in return. So to any of you considering New York City for a career, I would think again.

I'll be back in Aurora by Saturday to start again. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my friends and family again, see you around. To those in New York City who I was friends with, best of luck in the future and hopefully our paths will cross again. To the New York City Department of Education at the Administrative Recruitment Headquarters: Keep up the good work, I appreciated your energy and effort in trying to get me a new job after my first year didn't work out. To those of you at Region 8 offices of the New York City Department of Education: Get some gumption and call people if there is a problem with their jobs and not hand it off to someone else...Also learn how to do your jobs, I was basically telling you how to do a transfer in one day yet you wouldn't listen to me and I ended up doing the exact same process over two days....I do hope heads will role at Region 8 for this mess. Back to Aurora I GO!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Why Canadian Banks Suck

Why would anyone want to charge you a fee to hold onto your money? That has been my question about the Canadian banking system for quite sometime. Why wouldn't the Canadian banks be fighting amongst themselves to attract new customers and hold the customer's money until the customer requires it?

Instead Canadian banks have service fees for banking at the ATMs, banking with the teller, making transactions, looking at the teller with one eye closed, looking at the teller with one eye closed and standing on one foot...well you get the point.

While I was working in the United States for the New York City Department of Education I loved the American banking system. Not once during the year I lived in the United States did I pay one cent in banking fees. No I didn't worry about how many transactions I made a month in order to avoid banking fees like I do with CIBC. In fact I could use my bank card anywhere Mastercard was accepted because the American banking system has figured out that the more versatile you make the card the more people are likely to use it. Also, when you walk into the front entrance of any American bank, as one Chase commercial put it, "you fall over ATMs". In fact the most I have ever lined up for an ATM in the United States was just less than a minute.

In contrast, I have to wait in line to use the CIBC ATM machines because the bank refuses to install more ATMs at their branches. I also must pay fees through the nose in order for the bank to hand over "MY" money when I need it.

Add to this the fact the Canadian banking system pays zero percent interest after the service fees have been taken out, it only frustrates people even more. You can save more of your money by hiding it in a dirty sock underneath your bed than by having the bank hold onto it for you. Figure that one out. You would think Canadian banks would want to hold onto your money in order to be able to have cash to loan back out in the forms of lines of credit, credit cards and mortgages in order to make large sums of money. Nope, not the case. The only thing Canadian banks are interested in are nickeling and diming Canadians to death.

Contrast that with my experiences with the American banking system. I can go into any branch of a bank where I have an account and ask any question and get a straight out answer at no cost to me. I can do things online, at the teller and/or at the ATM while not paying a dime in service fees. Add to this the fact that the banks pay interest rates, even how low they are, on the savings accounts only adds to the competition between the banks. However, the interest rates on your savings accounts increases with the larger the balance you have in your combined accounts with the bank.

Need a teller service? I hope you have time to spend fifteen to thirty minutes in a long bank line in Canada. At Citibank in the United States? Maximum 5 minute wait to see a teller! So why are Canadians paying service fees? I don't know considering in comparison to their American counterparts, who pay nothing in service fees, Canadians seem to get poorer banking services in terms of numbers of ATMs and longer bank lineups.

The issue of bank mergers amongst the Canadian banks have come up in recent years. But why should Canadian banks merge and reduce competition in the banking industry in Canada? American banking firms have strict guidelines for operating in Canada, so there is really no competition there within the county. Canadian investment firms with ties to Canadian banks do operate in the United States (e.g. CIBC Wood Gundy, TD Waterhouse, ScotiaMcLeod, etc.) Thus, I believe if Canadian banks want to merge in order to become "more competitive in a worldwide market" let them. However, the newly merged banks should be prepared to face competition in Canada. That means removing the required laws banning foreign competition and letting the likes of J.P. Morgan Chase and Citibank to operate branches in Canada.

Perhaps, following the mergers and the new competition, maybe the Canadian banking system will finally get the clue that their customers have had enough of paying service fees on everything. Then perhaps the Canadian banks will also smarten up and learn to value their customers hard earned money and not try and figure out new and innovative ways of taking their money while providing worse and worse service levels. Besides isn't that the job of the government via the taxation systems to rip off Canadians and mismanage operations?

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