Books·Canadian

You Suck, Sir

A memoir by Paul Bae.

Paul Bae

What happens when a stand-up comedian teaches English in Vancouver's largest public school?

During his student-teaching practicum, Paul Bae assigned weekend homework to an English class.

A student muttered, "You suck."

Mr. Bae turned on his heel, approached the student, and sternly asked, "What did you say?"

The student replied, "Sorry. You suck, sir."

Mr. Bae promptly returned to his desk, took out his teaching journal, and wrote down the exchange. That would become the first entry of hundreds of encounters with students.

Paul Bae is a B.C.-based comedian, writer, actor and podcaster. Over twelve years of teaching English, Paul Bae — known simply as "Sir" or "Mr. Bae" — kept several journals in which he recorded conversations he had with his students. You Suck, Sir presents the best of those conversations. Ranging from outrageously funny to touchingly poignant, these vignettes are full of heart.

Paul's stories are an irreverent, honest glimpse of teaching and learning and an inspiring peek into the connection one teacher has with his students. Both educators and anyone who has ever been a student will see themselves and their daily triumphs and struggles reflected here. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)

Why Paul Bae wrote You Suck, Sir

"One of my professors, during my student teaching practicum, told us to keep a journal of our experiences. She said it'll become invaluable later on to chart our growth. Her big thing was that all great teachers are great learners. 

"I took that seriously. I started a journal. I was journaling anyway, but up to that moment it had just been road maps to private fishing spots I'd discover around B.C. I thought, 'I've got other pages to fill, so might as well keep a teaching journal!' 

I wanted to be a teacher and was there to be their teacher, not their friend.- Paul Bae

"Student teachers are told not to assign homework on Fridays if you want them to like you. But I didn't care if they liked me or not. I wanted to be a teacher and was there to be their teacher, not their friend. So I assigned homework, and as I walked away, I heard a kid mumbling under his breath, 'You suck.' I turned around on my heels and I said, 'Excuse me?'  He said, 'Oh sorry, you suck, Sir.'

"I kept a stone face. But I quickly turned around and wrote it down in my journal because I knew that was hilarious."

Read more in his interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Paul Bae

The comedian and podcaster Paul Bae on his humorous memoir, You Suck, Sir: Chronicles of a High School English Teacher and the Smartass Students Who Schooled Him. 20:43

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