Hello! Thank you for visiting my website and I hope that you enjoy your time here. I am using the Prince Edward Island (PEI) approach to marketing. As those who have been here know, there is no cost to come across the bridge or the ferry, but there is a toll to leave. It is the same here. Entry to the website is free but, as they say in all the museums and galleries, please exit through the gift shop.
This ‘life in five chapters’ provides a bit of an autobiography, a (somewhat sanitized) life story. It does not profess to provide gory details or salacious gossip, interesting though those might be. I’ll leave that to a proper biographer. Here, my goal is simply to give you a sense of who I am, of where I come from, and of why I write. If you would like a deeper dive into my academic life, including publications and an occasional blog, please visit www.timgoddard.ca
Chapter 1: My first life (1953-1974) was a ‘normal’ one of school, friends, and football. That’s soccer to any North American readers. The latter two interfered significantly with my final year of high school, as did the Leonard Cohen set at the Isle of Wight pop festival in August 1970. My post-secondary celebratory hitch-hiking holiday around Europe was rudely interrupted by a letter from my mother, received at the Poste Restante in Amsterdam. She’d opened a letter from the Examining Board and been informed that I had basically failed my A-levels. With university no longer an option, and not really wanting to go out and find a job in a factory or a shop, I applied to and was accepted at Teachers’ College. I found that I enjoyed working with young adults and studied to become a high school teacher of art and geography. Of course, it wasn’t all work. As I focused on large, welded steel sculptures, abstracts in the style of David Smith, wrote poetry and song lyrics, and generally immersed myself in the baby-boomer driven wave of active social relationships, mind-relaxing concoctions and genre bending musical concoctions [AKA ‘sex, drugs and rock ’n roll'], the early seventies passed in a blur. But I graduated.
Chapter 2: In 1974 I found myself in Harlow, flat sharing with a friend in a ‘new town’ built to accommodate the postwar population boom and to rehouse those displaced by the Blitz. Thanks for putting up with me, Dave S. The youth I taught embraced the angry and alienated music of the early punk rock scene, not the hope and idealism of Sergeant Pepper or David Bowie. After a year I ran away, joining friends who had bought an old VW van and were ‘going to Kathmandu for Christmas’. Multiple adventures and vehicle malfunctions meant I only got as far as Isfahan before hitchhiking back from Tehran to London, which I think must be some sort of record for the longest single ride. Thanks for all the raisins, lorry-driver Dave. In January 1976 I exchanged the ‘concrete jungle’ of Thatcherite Britain for the real jungle of the western Pacific, working as a teacher for the government of Papua New Guinea. I arrived with a suitcase and stayed there for eight years, living in the islands and highlands of that beautiful country, learning how to fish in the ocean and hunt cowrie shells, writing letters and some fractured short stories, and publishing a small book of text and photographs about the Trobriand Islands.
Chapter 3: When we left PNG my Canadian wife, Sally, and I, weren’t sure where the future lay. We had various options for ourselves and our two young daughters, Nichola and Victoria. But when we realized that Britain (still) had Mrs. Thatcher, and Canada had Leonard Cohen, the choice was easy. Over the next decade (1984-1993) I had the huge privilege of working for, and with, the Indigenous peoples of northern Canada. My first Canadian home was in a small fly-in Dene community in Northern Saskatchewan. Thanks for reading my application, Chief Danny and Rick! When bureaucratic rule changes dictated that I had to upgrade my teaching certificate for a degree, we went to Saskatoon for a couple of years. Here I had the good fortune to study with Métis scholars like Howard Adams, and our youngest daughter, Kate, was born. A year at Pangnirtung in the high arctic was followed by three years with the Woodland Cree people of central Saskatchewan. My Canada is the north, where I learned how to hunt grouse and ptarmigan, to fish in lakes and rivers, and to write reports, funding proposals, and a thesis.
Chapter 4: In 1993, frustrated by the apparent inability of newly graduated teachers to recognize the unique contexts and needs of northern classrooms serving predominantly Indigenous populations, I decided to try and make a difference by training teachers to think differently. Leaving the real world behind, I joined the academy, work that for the next quarter-century took me to four universities as student, professor, vice-provost, and dean. I learned how to write academic articles and a dissertation, to fish in granting pools and to hunt for funding, and to take photographs to illustrate my conference presentations and keynote speeches. We also lost our eldest daughter, who served with the Canadian Armed Forces and in 2006 was killed during the war in Afghanistan. Thank you to all who serve and who, by their work, made my work possible. As Nichola told me once: “I do what I do so that you can do what you do”. My international work as an educational consultant spanned the globe, but four projects were notable in both their impact and the friendships developed. Thank you to all with whom I worked most closely on these initiatives, especially Bakhshi, Latif, Naeem, Ali and Latifa (Afghanistan), Sherif, Osman, Viktor, Rina and Emina (Kosovo), Viktor, Raymond and Tom (Lebanon), and Olof, Helene, Katarina and Maarit (Sweden). By the mid-2010s I found myself rapidly evolving into the cranky old prof in the corner office. My work in post-conflict and post-colonial education was in conflict with the increasing marketization of post-secondary education. Academic principles were (and are) being sacrificed on the alters of academic expediency. Politicians reduced public funding for public education and adopted a user-pay approach which led students, who paid higher and higher course fees, to expectations that they would pass their courses, preferably with an ‘A’. The notion that if some are ‘above average’ then others must be ‘below average’, otherwise no average can be computed, was discarded in the face of Grade Appeals Committees and individual self-interest. Courses became pass-fail, and nobody failed. By the end of the decade, I had had enough and in 2019 I retired, hoping that a younger, less crotchety person would be hired to take my job. She was. Congratulations, Kathy.
Chapter 5: I had read somewhere that one should retire to something, not from something, and I paid heed to this advice. I wanted to return to the writing, painting, and sculpture which constitute my creative roots. I have constructed a five-acre structured garden, which not only provides food but also the combination of different elements to stimulate the five basic senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. This sensory garden, which contains both formal plantings and ‘wildings’, areas left more or less to meadow but enhanced with the strategic placements of a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers, doubles as an immersive experience, a living piece of installation art. I have started drawing and painting again and used the forced confinements of the pandemic as an opportunity to start writing fiction. I am even learning to live in the 21st century and am on LinkedIn. I’m not yet ready for Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or the myriad of other social media. But it’s a start.
As I write this, in January 2023, I have four books out in the world. I’m working on the third Gavin Rashford novel and hope to have that available in early May. Thank you for reading, even if you have just scrolled down to this final paragraph. I wish you good health and great happiness, and please, exit through the gift shop!