I try not to correct people on the internet.
Besides the fact that it would be a full-time job for all eternity, there really isn’t a plus side to it. Most people don’t want to be told that they are wrong, and even more will ignore the facts you present regardless of their accuracy anyway.
Darn facts, always getting in the way.
So it’s usually an exercise in frustration that I try to avoid. Except when it involves kids. Then I’m all in lol.
This week, some of the pushback against the worldwide climate protests came in the form of disinformation. The one that showed up on my facebook timeline was a garbage-filled photo, supposedly from a protest, with the caption: “Aftermath of ‘Climate Strike’ yesterday. Yes, listen to the kids, they will guide our planet, I guess they haven’t learnt the basics yet.”
(My first response is always to correct grammar and punctuation, but I resist that temptation too.)
Except the photo wasn’t from a climate protest.
It was from a 420 marijuana gathering in London last April. Not from this week. Not from this country. And not related to kids or climate.
It was a pretty easy thing to fact-check, so I posted the correction as a comment. With citations. Except instead of acknowledging that the meme was wrong, the poster (and other comments) doubled-down on the criticism of kids (and teachers) in the process.
The one that sticks with me is one that we often hear in the comment section of posts: that kids in school are being told WHAT to think rather than HOW to think.
Well, I knew better than to get sucked into that debate. But what I’d love is for people to come into schools more often. Come into a classroom. Talk to kids.
“Yes, listen to them.”
Because although there are aspects like ‘learning the basics’ that will always be a part of education, from a very young age our students are also thinking.
Soooooo many questions! If you work with children and teens, you’ll know that they hold pretty strong beliefs of their own. And they are very quick to question things that don’t align with those beliefs. Cognitive dissonance is a big part of learning.
Or like the quote I came across this week: ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable, because that’s how you grow.’ That feeling in the pit of your stomach doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve learned something but it’s a step towards it, albeit an uncomfortable one.
In a similar vein, an article I read tonight resonated with me. “In a nutshell, the concept of desirable difficulties embodies the adage: no pain, no gain. Just like how taking the stairs is better for our health than taking the escalator, making learning more challenging can lead to better retention…As a rule of thumb, if students aren’t struggling a bit - that is, if their performance isn’t somewhat hindered - they’re probably not engaged with the material in ways that will lead to meaningful, long-term comprehension and understanding.” (Nick Soderstrom)
Kids are up to the challenge. They seek it out. And no matter your personal views on protests or climate change or kids protesting climate change, it’s apparent these youth have questions.
Lots of tough questions.
And they are definitely engaged.
I can’t definitively say what the motivations and incentives were for all 4 million people who took part in the Youth Climate Strike, but I can guess it had less to do with WHAT people have told them about the issue, and more to do with WHY it’s important to them as youth, and HOW they hope to effect change in their lifetimes.
As lifelong learners ourselves, there are a lot of lessons here to learn…from our kids.
I stopped to grab this picture on the way to a volleyball tournament Saturday morning. It was this massive black rain cloud, and in the left corner, the tiniest streak of rainbow. I love visual metaphors, and this one had last week written all over it.
It was a bit of a stormy one.
Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of great things happening! But sometimes it’s good to share when things are hard work too.
Besides being the first full week back, which can feel like we are a month in already, there was a lot of cold and flu and general summer-withdrawl malaise going around. We had a staffing change so the timetable needed revamping, and extra curr commitments began in full swing. It was a busy one.
A lot of emotional energy was also spent in some social justice discussions this week. There were some really interesting thoughts around privilege, hateful and hate speech, and the consequences of the words we use. I’m on Twitter a lot. And I get sucked into reading the comments. So you’d think I’d totally anticipate the strength of people’s responses.
I never fully do.
It got pretty stormy. That little rainbow was hard to see at times.
I’m working my way through the book “Hacking School Discipline: Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice.” In it, the authors say, “Perhaps one of the most valuable traits we can teach our students is how to feel empathy. Empathy is not shaming students or making them feel bad, but teaching them to understand those who have been affected by their actions, as well as the need to repair the harm.”
“We have two choices: try to correct behavior by continuing to punish, or spend time building relationships, getting down to the root of issues, and helping students repair the harm they caused…Punishment might be quick and easy, but the Band-Aid effect is short-term. Restorative practices take effort, but the effects are long-term.”
It also made me think about my beliefs in the classroom. There were a couple of times this week, even knowing that the benefit would be short term, where I wondered if I should just take the quick and easy path.
To lock my door and shut out late students.
To move out my tables and bring back desks and rows.
To stop randomly assigning groups.
To plant myself as self-appointed expert at the front of the room.
To remove the messages and symbols of inclusivity.
To assign books to kids.
To assign marks to reading.
But I didn’t. And I can’t.
Why not? Because it goes against everything I believe in. Like the restorative practices above, a podcast by Peter Block says that “the determinant of wellbeing is our connectedness to each other and our willingness to do this thing together…there’s a misbelief that more control leads to better outcomes. It’s true on a manufacturing line. But we are not manufacturing. Don’t call children products.”
If you’ve listened to Sir Ken Robinson, you’ll know how he feels about that factory model.
Knowing that I shape the conditions for learning in my room, I make deliberate choices. “I don’t care what the world looks like. I always have the capacity to create a future in whatever room I enter in.” (Block)
And I will always make choices that foster growth, not compliance.
I want the room students enter in, to be one that is glad that they are here. To support them and help them to learn courtesy and responsibility.
I want to foster conversations. Encourage ideas. To disagree but with respect. “Unpopular opinions are welcome; impoliteness isn’t.” (Weinstein)
I want students to listen outside of their immediate peer group. To collaborate and work with a variety of people. As Block says, “All transformation occurs in a smaller group.”
I want students to be confident in their ability to think and discover ideas on their own, and not rely on someone else to do the work of learning for them.
I want students to see themselves, and the whole of our society, reflected in the flags on the walls, the books on the shelves, and the messages spoken and written in our room.
I want them to choose for themselves. To be self-aware enough to reflect honestly, and to push themselves outside those comfort zones.
I want them to read for the enjoyment it brings. To write to express themselves. To represent an idea in a creation. To speak up and be heard.
To see the big picture…the little rainbow too, and not just the storm.
I don’t want them to take the easy way out, any more than I could.
So we will continue to get to know each other, to build relationship, to ask questions and to really listen to the answers: ‘How is this year going? What’s working for me? What am I frustrated with? And what can we do together to make it different?’
Looking forward to some sunshine to get harvest going again! Have a great week everyone.
On the Friday before school started, we invited our new grade 7 students and their families to come and move in to their lockers, practice with their locks, and just generally reacquaint themselves with the school before the big day. We weren’t able to access any student information this summer, so we had to rely on the power of the local town Facebook discussion page to spread the word, and I was happy to see as many families as we had!
It was an awesome opportunity to take away some of the stress and anxiety of a pretty big change.
And not just for the students.
I heard several parents say that they were more nervous about their kids coming to the high school than their kids were. I come from a long line of worriers. I get it!
Fear is a funny thing. As humans, it’s kept us alive for millennia. It helps us recognize danger, and then to run from it! Athletes and performers know that the feeling of fear is a natural thing. I always told my kids that if you’re at the starting line, or ready to go onto stage, and you DON’T feel anything…then that’s when I’d worry.
Managing that fear is something that we need to learn to do on our own. Of course, it doesn’t happen instantly and it doesn’t happen without support. Like I wrote last week, we weren’t helicopter parents hovering over our bubble-wrapped kids, and we didn’t lawnmower down every obstacle in their path. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t help them manage their fears. I crawled in with them when they were scared of the dark. I talked kids into the pool for swimming lessons, onto the ice for CanSkate, into competitions and music festivals and at starting lines on the track. And we weren’t always successful. There’s the year we got kicked out of the parent & tot swim group because the fear was just too strong! (That was a little bit embarrassing.) Into adulthood, those become more figurative than literal, but the support is still there.
We are all afraid at times.
All of us.
And not just the spiders, heights, and public speaking ones.
Afraid that we aren’t smart enough, or good enough, or patient enough, or interesting or funny or likeable or significant or understood…
Oh yah. Fear is helpful, until it isn’t.
As part of a class discussion this week, we were talking about our fears. And I was pretty shocked at two things: almost everyone felt safe enough to share their fears out loud, and as much as teens may come across as fearless, they aren’t. I didn’t write our list down, but suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have guessed ‘dying alone’ would have been on it.
So how do we mitigate these fears? Keep them from dominating our life? From limiting us?
To keep our fears from being the only voice we listen to?
I was so proud of the kids that day. By putting their words into the air, trust was built. And that’s likely the first step. To realize that we are all just people, and that everyone else has fears too. Some of their fears will require seeing beyond the group to the individual. Relationship will be the key, and there will be more days to manage those fears, and to learn, and to grow.
The discussion also gave me another opportunity to use my favorite quote: “There is no courage without vulnerability.” Thank you Brene Brown! That gave them pause to think.
I follow the work of the Walk Alongside group, and how they advocate for relationship building amongst students, families, and schools. I think, for me, these ideas also help to take away the fear of the ‘other’ and to make meaningful, personal, connections with parents.
It also made me think of how we need to walk alongside our fears.
I mean, it’d be really cool if they all just went away and we left them behind in the dust. But yah. Ain’t gonna happen.
Acknowledging that our fears are there is certainly better than ignoring them. And when they start to drag us along for the ride, there are others walking alongside us for support to help rein them in.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Walking alongside you this week if you need me!
I’m not always great at heeding advice.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always welcoming feedback and truly am continually working towards improving and learning in all areas of my life.
But when my gut (heart? brain??) doesn’t agree with something, I listen to my body parts.
When our daughter was a baby, the big push was the Ferber method of sleep training. Letting your baby cry it out and eventually “self-soothe” themselves to sleep.
For us? Garbage.
We tried it once and it tore my heart to pieces. So it was short lived, and our daughter slept with us for most of her infant months. She also hated her crib. Hated it. So when she was about six months old, we laid a futon mattress on the floor in her room, and that was her bed. Because the stress of being confined was gone and she could come and go to us as needed, sleep (for all of us) wasn’t an issue.
We always knew that communication was key. My husband is fluent in sign language, so when they were toddlers, we taught both kids some simple signs so that they could communicate before they could talk, which meant fewer frustrations for us all. Before the ‘baby Mozart’ craze, I had a university prof who told us his pregnant wife would straddle a speaker and immerse their babies in music, in utero. I wasn’t quite that committed lol, but believed in the power of music and words, and sang and listened to music with both kids, both before and after they were born. One of the kids’ favorite memories was running around the kitchen island, as I would play “She’d Be Coming Round the Mountain” on the piano, steadily getting faster and faster until they’d slide and crash into the cupboards, then laugh and laugh.
We didn’t spank our kids.
Never swore at them.
Didn’t yell, because I didn’t want to have the day come where they swore and yelled back.
For people who did those things with their kids? You do you. It just didn’t feel right in my gut to do that with my own.
A lot of parenting columns say that you need to take care of yourself first. The whole ‘put your oxygen mask on before your kid’s’ analogy. I get that. Over the years there were things I did on my own, but the vast majority of our activities were tied to our kids and their activities. Which meant our social life was mostly visiting with other parents at the pool and rink! And there was nothing wrong with that.
We made the choice to include our kids in everything. We took every vacation as a family, except for one, and saw 15 states, 6 provinces, and 1 territory. We were fortunate to have schedules where we were able to make it to every synchronized swimming practice and competition, track meet, hockey and football game. But we also included them in difficult conversations. We never shied away from talking about hard family histories that included alcoholism and abuse, or topics like residential schools and estrangement. We modeled that tears were okay.
That tears are okay.
From the time they were babies, we told them we loved them. As they grew and the words caught up, it was reciprocated. No conversation ends without them now.
We were always our kids’ parents, but they turned out to be good humans, and also our friends.
Advice columns will tell you that’s bad too, but my heart says otherwise.
Lest I give the impression that we lived in a laissez-faire utopia, it wasn’t. I love this meme that says: “I never realized how annoying I could be until I made a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it.” Truer words have never been spoken. But I often wondered if we just lucked out and had really easy kids to raise, or whether the conscious decisions we made in our home helped to shape them into those people. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
As we pulled away from the driveway in Calgary, leaving both kids behind for truly the first time, of course it was really emotional. I was literally leaving pieces of me behind, pieces that I have had with me forever.
Sad doesn’t quite do it justice.
(Okay, I looked that one up because, by coincidence, it was in a novel I was reading today!)
But I also was really proud of the strong, independent young people standing there too. I know it would be easier, and substantially cheaper, for them to stay with us here. To go to school locally. To have mom and dad right here to problem solve for them. Lots of families do it. Again, you do you. But I also believe strongly that you won’t learn to ‘adult’ until you actually have to act like an adult. Make decisions like an adult. Feel the responsibilities of an adult.
Be by yourself, and be okay with yourself. Like an adult.
And as we come to grips with the empty nest ourselves, it’s advice I need to heed myself.
I know that a lot of parents are feeling that same stress, as their children move onto different stages whether it’s starting Kindergarten or their Grade 12 year. A lot of those kids will be in my classroom tomorrow morning, their first day in the ‘big school’ in Grade 7. And although there will be sadness as one time period ends and another begins, I hope they feel that same pride and know that I’ll not only be listening to my gut/heart/brain on what is best for their child, but listening to what they know is best for their child too.
Have a wonderful first week everyone! Welcome!!
It’s the last day of holidays, and the last chance to grab some extra sleep, so of course I am awake and up at 6am. Haha.
There’s always a lot of back-to-school stress and excitement on a subconscious level. My brain is busy planning and making lists even when I sleep. And if I don’t get up and write them down, they’ll be gone, with no amount of coffee able to retrieve them later!
So I’m up lol.
There’s a lot of changes happening for me this year, so I’m going to have to be more cognizant that they are going to affect me, even if I don’t feel it on the surface level.
The big one, of course, is my empty house. Both kids at Mount Royal University in Calgary and a shift-working spouse, means there is going to be a whole lotta silence in places it has never been before. I’m still in denial about this, so I don’t even want to write/think about it right now.
But I’m sure it’ll come up here repeatedly this year!
I have new courses to teach, new students to meet, and new colleagues to work with. Schools are a continual change agency, and I love it. Literally, no two days, hours, or even minutes are ever the same. I always think of the quote by Dr. Tina Boogren: Teachers make more minute by minute decisions than brain surgeons, and that’s why you are going home exhausted each day.” Thank goodness our decisions don’t require fine motor skills, that’s all I can say. We were playing Star Wars Operation as a family the other night (yep, four adults playing a game for eight years olds lol) and I got demolished! Damn buzzer every time.
As I get older, the hard part is not change. It’s that there isn’t enough time for all the changes I want to have happen.
Sometimes I get mired in that.
I’m a live-every-moment, leave-nothing-unsaid, sits-and-stares-at-sunsets person. But the other thing I’ll be watching for this year, is keeping that growth mindset afloat when I feel frustrated by time.
One way is by remembering what we “get” to do each day. Our division talks about this a lot, and I love that.
This summer, I ‘got’ to do a lot of things. I learned how to do beading. I read a lot of books. I shingled my first roof. I completed the accreditation seminar. I crossed the wake and back in wakeboarding. (Okay, it was only twice, but it still happened.) I got to see old classmates at a 30 year reunion. I went camping. I spent time with our families and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
But I also said goodbye to my closest cousin, who died of cancer this week: a teacher, a coach and athlete, a wonderful mom, and just one of the kindest, sweetest people in the world. She was anticipating getting back in her classroom in November after her treatments were done. All the amazing things that she was yet to do in her life…it leaves me bereft and so, so sad.
And so I’m remembering all the things I get to do this year:
I get to meet new people. Whole class sets of them.
I get to coach and play a game that I love.
I get to believe in people.
I get to make music.
I get to read and write with students, and share my love of both.
I get to run. As much or as little as I want.
I get to go to a job that doesn’t feel like work.
I get to look at as many sunsets as I can, and fill the storage space on my phone with essentially the same picture every day.
I get to love and be loved.
And I’d say that looks like a pretty great list of things I get to do.
As we head back tomorrow, I’ll see you soon. Meena kawapimitin. Nähdään pian.
I finally get it. The “fuck cancer” T’s and memes and pins.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Of course I got it before. I’ve known people with cancer. Even relatives. But none like this. None where it came and ripped the heart out of my chest. None where it snuck into our lives and stole away one of the most beautiful souls ever.
Mom. Sister. Cousin. Teacher. Daughter. Friend. Athlete. Colleague. Coach. So much more.
Lisa, you and Lori were extensions of the three sisters in our house. The five girl cousins, with the two boys as male bookends: Ian, always the oldest, and Andy, a few years later. The play forts we built, bikes we rode, and of course, every single Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, and birthday together. Six months older than me, we always celebrated your Boxing Day birthday with your Grandma Henderson…and tile rummy. There was always tile rummy! Crokinole at our house, tile rummy at yours.
It was always just us.
Those summers of our childhood and teens, spent in Outlook, living with Mummu, watching soap operas, and running down the crazy-steep snake path to the pool. So many sun-baking hours in the water. Half-and-half swirled soft ice cream cones just down from your house at the Red Wheel Inn. Sleepovers in Mummu’s basement. Running around and playing hide and seek in Mummu’s basement. Okay, pretty much everything happened in Mummu’s basement! Plus the sauna. The fact that we all have one in each of our houses means that the Finn still runs strong in our Pajunen veins.
God, did we all love that sport, although none of us ever came close to matching your skill. I was always so proud to tell people that you had the highest vertical jump in Canada for your age group that one year, and when you and Lori played Huskies, well, I still tell people about my two cousins who played two different Huskie sports! With your Jeux Canada Games team winning in 1989, it was so cool to see that you were all inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame this spring.
I loved to talk teaching when we got together. It feels like last October was so long ago, when we were chatting about taking on interns. And kids. And courses. And educational change lol. It was always obvious how much you loved being a teacher, and I know that you made a difference to so many kids and their families over the years.
You were an amazing mom. And wife. Just a wonderful, kind, hard-working family, with two wonderful, kind, and hard-working kids. And I feel absolutely gutted when I think how much they will miss you in their lives.
How much we will all miss you.
That was not enough. Not even close.
But when I think of all that you did with those 48, you spread so much joy and love and happiness to other people. Joy and love and happiness that will continue to spread because you lived.
There’s a song that I love that says, “Depth over distance every time, my dear. This tree of ours may grow tall in the woods, but it's the roots that will bind us here to the ground.”
The distance of time was not to be, but the depth of your life, lived to the fullest, has roots in so many different places and people. If we had to choose depth over distance, then depth it is.
Fuck it, depth it is.
Lisa, you will be treasured and remembered.
Today, I got to tell you that I loved you cousin. You kissed my cheek.
Tonight, you were gone.
You will always be a part of me, and I won’t ever, ever forget you.
“I've been sleepless at night, 'cause I don't know how I feel
I've been waiting on you just to say something real.
There's a light on the road, and I think you know
Morning is coming, and I have to go.
I don't know why,
I don't know why we need to break so hard.
I don't know why we break so hard.
But if we're strong enough
To let it in,
We’re strong enough
To let it go.
Let it all go, let it all go.
Let it all out now.”
This is going to be a short one. I’m in the midst of marking tests, writing report card comments, and finalizing field trip details. Our hot water heater had to be replaced on Friday and I know there is a skunk living in our backyard. I have a list with 14 items on it to be done this week, most of it in preparation for our son’s grad on Thursday.
So, I’m a bit of an emotional trainwreck right now, cars off the tracks and buckling one after another. The caboose just hasn’t felt it yet, but it’s coming.
Not sleeping. Up at 4am most mornings, not able to talk down the stressors sounding off in my mind. Making lists. In my head and on paper!
June is usually an intense time of year, but this one is exceptionally tough.
I found myself with tears at the Pride parade on Saturday, seeing some of my students walking, and former students and colleagues too. I think it just overwhelmed me, the pride part for sure. So happy we live in a place that people can be who they are. Love who they want.
And then thinking about people in other countries who don’t have those same rights. Which starts me thinking about the kids incarcerated in the USA who aren’t being given soap or toothbrushes…or access to their families. Kids forcibly separated and isolated.
And then I think of our own SK kids in poverty and our foster kids and the article about babies being taken right from the hospital and about how lucky our own two children have been and how we’ve tried to raise two good humans and how lucky I've been that they were so easy to raise….and then a full-speed-ahead emotional runaway begins.
It’s a good thing holidays are coming, because as the expression goes, when it rains it pours. I’ve felt that literally and figuratively recently. (And if it does rain on Thursday, that’s another worry as we live in sand and our road will be impassable for family to come and visit…argh!!)
We had grad set-up for several hours today. I think I’m in denial and am trying not to think about it, but it’s not a great strategy. Because as we set up the stage and the decorating committee started to do their thing, I could see it coming together.
I thought of how cute they were.
I thought of how much these guys have grown. What they've accomplished. Where they are headed.
I thought of the little curly-haired girl who isn’t going to be there. How her future was cut short and how much that still makes me sad and angry and so so so helpless.
I know it’s going to hit me hard that day if I don’t let myself have a few tears beforehand.
Plus, he’s my baby. How can I not?
And that’s not the only chapter that’s ending. But I can’t think about that yet either.
Nope, not right now. Because I’m going to hit send on this blog, confirm our numbers for the Tunnels in Moose Jaw, and then try to be in bed by midnight. 4am comes pretty early lol.
It might take till next week, but a better blog will be coming at some point. Hang in there everyone and enjoy these last few days with our colleagues and kids!
I've literally written and tossed out a dozen attempts at this blog last week and tonight.
Start and stop. Start and stop.
My mind is in too many places, with too much going on. Everything is disjointed, and in an attempt to do everything and be everything for other people, it can only leave you feeling like you aren't doing enough.
Or worse, being enough.
With our son's graduation in 10 days, our daughter moving home in 5, plus every possible school commitment that June presents with field trips, assemblies, parent nights, exams, and preparing for each and every one of these....June is tough on teachers.
Throw in my birthday, and as someone who feels a lot of angst at growing older, an existential feeling of running out of time, and June is a long month for me. There's a meme that says most months have 28-31 days, except June which has 1,478. And there are days that felt like it had 1,478 hours. Which would be cool, with all of the things that need to be finished before it's all over.
So yah, this song sums up how I'm feeling right now. That's all I've got for you this week, and it's playing on repeat in my ears right now as I'm finishing up some marking and planning for the last few days.
Like a lot of you, the world isn't going to be still for me until June 29, and there are a lot of emotional peaks and valleys in between now and then. But I'm hanging on! And like the song says, if we need just enough dark to see the light poking through, that's okay, because then we know that the light is still there. This week there's a lot of good ahead: we get to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday, share the last school day for the last of our kids, and a chance to spend some time with colleagues and friends. (I just won't think about the saying goodbye part. Yet.)
Focusing on the light over me and around me this week. And love you mom!!
I'm just a dreamer but I'm hanging on
Though I am nothing big to offer
I watch the birds, how they dive and then gone
It's like nothing in this world's ever still
And I'm just a shadow of your thoughts in me
But sun is setting, shadows growing
A lone cast figure will turn into night
It's like nothing in this world ever sleeps
Oh sometimes the blues is just a passing bird
And why can't that always be?
A toss and sigh from your birch’s crown
Just enough dark to see
How you're the light over me.
When I’m out running, there are signs of things everywhere. We have had a whopping ¼” of rain this entire spring, and because we live in the sandy-forested area by Pike Lake, tracks in the sand are impeccably kept. It’s constantly surprising how many other creatures are travelling the same road I am.
I’m no expert, but there are deer, cow, horse, dog/coyote, rabbit, cat, and bird tracks, in addition to the gopher holes along the edge of the road that I try to avoid stepping in.
Sometimes their pattern makes me envision grand tales. Deep deer tracks show a quick scamper. The cows meander along the grassy edge. A horse and rider, the dog diligently in tow behind.
I swear the birds are drunk. Or they’ve had a heck of a huddle!
There are times that I stumble across the animals themselves too. The cows have been out of the pasture down the road on an almost daily basis. First it was just one. Then a couple. Tonight the whole family was out there, calves and all. Usually I just sneak slowly past, but there were a couple mamas in there that didn’t look amoosed. (Sorry, couldn’t help it!)
Lately I’ve been braver and send them scampering back to their pasture. For the most part, the animals I encounter are just as startled by me as I am of them. Like the skunk last night in the ditch beside me. I swear we made eye contact before we both jumped backward and ran the other direction…unscathed. Whew.
Thankfully, as humans, we don’t have to just read each other’s body language and look for clues in the dirt as to what we are thinking and feeling. We can just communicate.
Talk to each other.
Like, not just text. Or message. Or snap.
You mean that doesn’t happen all the time?
What possible miscommunications or misunderstandings could possibly transpire as a result?
Answering my own sarcasm: lots.
I’ll be the first to admit, I get caught in just doing the quick and easy communiqué. Literally most of my texts are just emojis and gifs! But I know that’s not enough. Sometimes we have to hear the words.
We need to hear the words.
Although I quote Brene Brown all the time, it’s usually about courage and vulnerability. But she has another idea that I keep to the forefront: clear is kind, unclear is unkind. We don’t do people any favors (our spouses, families, students, colleagues) when we don’t say what we mean or mean what we say. As we delve more into parent engagement, and I’m thinking more consciously about jargon and eduspeak, it’s something I need to continue to work on.
We also need to talk to each other to hold each other up. Because lord knows that at this time of year, we are all faltering, and likely on more than one front.
One of the popular inspirational memes that pops up periodically on social media goes something like this: a person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.
We all have people that we care about, that we know are working hard, that could use a little extra encouragement to get them through the next few weeks.
You could leave tracks in the sand per se, and leave a note. Or email.
Or say the words.
(*They’re just words. Your mouth makes more.)
But they impact the listener not just at the surface, but in their heart. Immeasurably.
My goal for the week is to be brave, and vulnerable, and each day to say the words that someone needs to hear. To use those words to lift them up. Remembering that clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. I see you. I hear you. You are powerful and amazing and talented and inspiring.
And you matter.
It’s almost the end of May, and every teacher knows what that feels like. It’s like my computer looks right now…I’ve got seven tabs open, and I’m bouncing back and forth between catching up on reading emails about field trip planning, the Social 7 curriculum, twitter, and trying to write this blog since I didn’t do one on the long weekend and felt guilty, and I’m going to be in Regina this next Sunday so the odds are against getting one written that day too.
Yep. Something like that.
There are so many things competing for our time and energy and attention. And that’s before we factor the kids in!
So when successes happen, you hang on to them.
Cling to them.
Today had a few of those moments, which is almost statistically impossible when you teach middle years. So bear with me for sharing!
The first was in my period 1 split class of grade 7 and 8. It was a beautiful morning and I haven’t done as much with the walking classroom philosophy recently as I’ve wanted. So we walked to downtown Delisle (yep, there is one!) to a lot with some benches, rocks, and old farm equipment, where the town sets up seasonal displays.
Before we left the classroom, I described our activity. I often explain how we differentiate activities between the two groups, as the 8s don’t like to do EXACTLY what the 7s are doing all the time. So I explained how the ELA 8 course asks us to work on describing a landscape whereas the ELA 7 one suggests describing a character, but that today we were all just going to go out and describe a scene. Surprisingly, it was one of the 7 boys that wasn’t happy with that arrangement and said, “But that’s not our curriculum!”
I lol’d a little bit to hear a student use the word ‘curriculum’ but it got even better when I explained that the 8’s were staying out for the second hour for Social Studies to take pictures of private and public businesses, and the 7s would come back to the classroom. The same boy piped up that they should get to stay out too, and I got to use his line: “But that’s not in your curriculum!” We did a quickwrite before we left, and despite his grumbling, this student called me over to say, "Mrs. Landry, this is the most I've written this year!" Small victories.
Our time outside was awesome. We worked on our descriptive writing out there with all the sights and sounds of a small town on a double lane highway. At one point, one of the students said, “We should be out here everyday.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The second success happened in the afternoon. My Arts Ed 7 students are working on small passion projects in their choice of music, art, drama, or dance that we plan to perform in a few weeks. One boy brought in his electric guitar that he wanted to learn how to play, but he didn’t know what to do, and it had never worked properly. So two days ago, a former student who now plays in his own band came by to look at it for him. He made some adjustments and fixed it right up.
That was a generous enough gesture for me to feel good about. But today it got even better. As I was helping my student find some youtube tutorials (I really suck at guitar!) I asked a grade 11 student to help out. I knew that this boy didn’t have a period 4 class, as he sometimes pops in to demonstrate something on the guitar or ukulele for the kids, and he gladly agreed. Knowing the two personalities, and their shared short attention spans, I wasn’t sure if it would last much more than a few minutes or a couple of riffs.
But when I introduced them, the older boy held out his hand for a handshake, and then they were off. At the end of the class, my student had already put his equipment away but stayed to grab a ukulele to show me what he had learned. He was proud and excited. When I asked if he’d be okay if the two of them kept working together, he said yes. (My inner voice? Yessss with a fist pump!) Small victories.
I also had a group of three girls who are working on a dance. They had come at the beginning of class wondering if it was possible to video their dance to present instead of doing it live. When I asked for more details, one of them said she didn’t want to perform. She’s a strong athlete, and not in dance like the other two. I broke out my usual Brene Brown pep talk about courage and vulnerability. But I also said that the feeling you get when you finally score a goal in hockey, happens every time when you finish a live performance. The rush of adrenaline, the faster heart rate, and the shaky hands all remind you that you’re alive and that you just did something really, really cool.
I also let them know that I would be performing too, but I just hadn’t decided how vulnerable I wanted to be yet! I can do music easily enough, drama with a little trepidation, but if I’m really going to practice what I preach, then I’m most vulnerable with dance. I said that it’s important for me to model what I’m asking them to do, so I’d be doing something for sure.
At that point, I got pulled into a half-hug.
People that know me….not a big hugger lol.
But it was when the student said, “That’s how a teacher should be!” that I think I got something in my eye. Small victories.
Like I said, it’s the end of May. You hang on to these moments.
You need them to balance the rest of the day out. Trust me. There’s a whole water-bottle story in there today too.
If I don’t manage to get back on here on Sunday, have a great weekend everyone. And with June around the corner, here’s a reminder that I totally stole from a friend’s timeline!
Remember, you are doing important work.
Heck, YOU are important,
simply being you.
On the days that life hits
you hard, remember this:
You are enough.
You are kind.
And you’ve got this.
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