Introduction

Introduction

Did you recently graduate from teachers college? Determined to get a permanent job so you can “mold some minds” ? Or maybe, you are becoming a teacher because you are not really sure what to do with your life?  You figure, teachers have summers off. You like golfing, so maybe attending teachers college is for you. Perhaps, you have had a teacher who inspired you and you want to emulate what they did for you. Whatever the reason, you have thought long and hard about becoming a teacher and you have decided to begin the journey to share ‘pearls of wisdom with the world.’  

Teacher. When you look up the definition for the word in any random dictionary, you can view a list of synonyms : instructor, schoolmaster, preceptor, tutor, professor, pedagogue, educationist, educator, school mistress. These words are very unclear descriptions of what really happens on a day to day basis. Often the instruction for teachers comes from the little wizards sitting in class saying things that either shock you or touch your heart.

My blog is not full of pedagogical facts that will help you organize and teach a lesson. Nor is it a series of lectures to review the history of teaching.  It is the stories I and some of my teaching colleagues have experienced in their lifetime as educators. Some are hard to believe, while others will make you cry.  I have changed the names of everyone involved, to keep things ethical. If the story sounds like something you experienced then let’s just say you live in a parallel dimension to me.

After I graduated from university, I started working at Olympia Business Machines.  No offence to anyone working in the field, but I was bored to death. I learned very quickly that I could never do a full time job that required me to sit at a desk all day. I stayed at this job for 6 months and then I saw a newspaper ad. Yes, I said newspaper. The job was for an assistant at a daycare centre.  I had a Bachelor of Arts Degree, but I didn’t have any qualifications, on paper, to teach children. To clarify, I had taught dance to children from ages 3-12 at four different recreation centres, so working with children was not a foreign, or fearful concept. Do not laugh, some people find children very unpredictable and scary. I applied, I went to the interview, I was hired and I was inspired.  The sad point was that I would earn significantly less than when I worked in accounts receivable. Well, I loved working at this daycare. It was a special place because it allowed me to observe other educators working with children. I learned so much from the experience and I discovered that my passion was teaching. I began to work towards that goal. This is one story that made me realize that I had a proclivity for the profession.

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Grade One

Mission Possible – Reports

Mission 1- Brain Drain

I am on a Mission. At times, this mission seems impossible. I need to complete this mission by a set deadline. I work through the pain in my neck, literally. I work on this mission after a busy day of teaching. I share positive thoughts about the work completed by my students. I feel confident that I will complete my mission. Yes, I, the teacher extraordinaire, will write 24 to 36 report cards. Well, that is what I hope for, but right now I am daydreaming and typing at the same time.  I only have to complete 24 different comments for Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, and… Drats, now I am feeling overwhelmed.

Fortunately, the library is not terribly busy so there are few distractions.  The air is calm, I am calm and I am focused on my mission. I turn my head to look at my classroom. I can see through the glass wall that the students located in the open concept classroom are working well. They are with Ms. Phelps their Physical Education teacher.  For some reason they are not in the gym today, but I can see that they are active. I bring my thoughts back to the task at hand and focus on clearly articulating the strengths and needs of each student. I toy with the idea that I may be able to get some fresh air on the weekend. I mentally negotiate how I can avoid doggedly sitting at the computer all weekend long. Once again, I am somehow typing and thinking thoughts like: if I get to this point, then I will only have to do this much. I am thinking too much and retyping the same sentence over and over again.  Should I take a break and go for a walk? Maybe I will take a break on the weekend, even if I’m not done.

I suddenly notice Nelson. He is a grade one student from my class. He is waving at me through the glass wall. I wave at him and he continues to walk down the corridor. I talk to myself. “ Focus, focus, you have to get this done.” Type, type, type, type, erase, erase, erase, erase, type the same sentence, erase the same sentence.  What do I really want to say? Hum, it finally comes to me and I am once again focused on my task and typing like a hurricane hitting the shore of South Carolina. This aerobic brain to hand workout will surely help me lose 3-5 pounds. However, I am taking additional supplements. These supplements are vegetables covered in fat with lots of salt. I need these supplements to complete the mission Yes, I need these chips.  

Mission 2- The Awakening

Suddenly, I am brought back to the world of the library by a tap on the glass wall. I imagine the needle on the record player scratching to a sudden stop. What is that sound? It is the voice of Ms. Phelps. “Ms. Dancing Shoes, Ms. Dancing Shoes. Can you come here for a minute?” My calm bubble has just been burst. I look up confused and foggy. “ Huh?”  I get up and leave my papers by the computer. I walk to the doorway and say, “ Do you need me?” Ms. Phelps nods and then says, “ I think you are going to have to log off the computer because this is going to take awhile.” My mind races with what the issue could be and I realize that my weekend is going to be blessed with brain fogging report cards. I log off the computer then I walk to Ms. Phelps and now I see that Nelson is standing beside her. Ms. Phelps points to the class and says, “I have to get back.”  She points at Nelson to indicate that he needs help. I look at Nelson and see that he is smiling, so I wonder what the issue could be. My brain is suddenly snapped into a state of shock. Standing in front of me is Nelson. He is the child who just waved at me as he walked down the corridor. But why is Nelson is standing in front of me with no shoes, no socks, and no pants? Nelson is holding the bottom edge of his hoodie to cover his lower extremities. Okay teacher, what are you going to do about this situation?  No, I’m not really asking myself this question. I have become use to the daily surprises and treats that take place in elementary school. I am actually asking you, the reader, What are you going to do? No, screaming, crying, pointing your finger or laughing are not okay. If you thought, ask questions, then you are absolutely correct. At least that is what I did.

“Nelson, where are your socks and shoes?”

“I left them in the bathroom.”

I consider the next question which relates to his missing pants.

“Oh, okay. Nelson, where are your pants?”

“I left them in them in the bathroom too.”

Let me clarify that there is no free laundry service in our school.  However, our caretaking staff are amazingly caring and hardworking people who go above and beyond. Now I need to know the reason why this has happened, so I ask.

“Why did you leave your socks, shoes and pants in the bathroom?”

“Because.”

I remember answering like that when I was a kid too. Because is a word that says so much, but so little. The investigation continues.

“Because why?”

“Because they are dirty.”

Mission 3- It’s A Total Cover Up

I consider that we better walk away from where we are standing and get Nelson covered up. Now my teacher mission is to shield him from embarrassment. I happen to be wearing a jacket so I place it over his shoulders like a cape, just in case his hoodie doesn’t completely cover him.  We walk down the hall and around the corner. The entire time we are walking I am scoping out the passageway for bystanders.

“Roger we are walking down the hallway, and the coast is clear. Oh no, wait, no false alarm. Everything is fine.”


Around the corner we finally make are destination and move into the Vice Principal’s office to take cover. She is presently talking on the phone, so she raises her hand to indicate that we need to avoid talking. When she observes the situation, she tells the contact that she will have to get back to them and hangs up the phone. I relay what I know to her and she calls the caretaker to inform him of the situation.  

The new mission is to get Nelson covered and recovered. I ask Nelson. “Do you have any extra clothes in your backpack?” He nods so I go get his backpack from the hooks and return to the office. You are probably wondering, how I know which backpack belongs to Nelson? If I told you that, I would have to call Interpol. Okay, okay, there is a numbering system on the wall. I have located number 21’s backpack and now I have quickly returned to Nelson and the scene of the mission. I tell him to go change into his clean clothes. I also give him a plastic bag and tell him to put the items that are dirty in the bag. The last reminder is to tell him to make sure that he washes his hands with soap and water.  I wait outside of the washroom until he is done. He exits the washroom with a big smile on his face. I smile back at him and then I ask him. “ Nelson where did you put the bag with the dirty clothes?” His expression changes and he tells me that he left it on the floor in the washroom. I send him back in to the washroom to retrieve the bag. When he comes back out, his eyes are welling up with tears. I take a deep breath and say, “ Nelson, you know that it’s okay to have accidents. You were very brave and I will talk to your mom about what happened. Please don’t be afraid. “ We walk back to class and the rest of the day moves along with other events, episodes, daily experiences and learning. At the end of the day, I dismiss the children by the school doorway and when I see Nelson’s mom, I wave for her to come into the school.

Mission 4- Mom
Mom seems displeased and demands to know why I have asked her to come into the school.
She looks at Nelson and angrily say,“ What did you do Nelson? I keep telling you to behave.” I calmly ask her to sit down and say that Nelson hasn’t done anything wrong.  Nelson seems relieved to hear me say that, but I can tell he is worried about what will happen when his mom hears about his accident. I calmly talk to his mom to let her know about the wonderful things he has done throughout the day.

“ Nelson had a great day today. He was sharing information during math and he read aloud in class. Unfortunately, he had an accident during gym class.  He went to the washroom, but couldn’t get his pants down in time. We solved the issue and now everything is fine. I hope you understand how brave he was today.”

Nelson’s mom appears annoyed, but understands that the accident wasn’t his fault. It was just an accident. They leave together and Nelson waves goodbye.

Mission 1 – Back to the Future

I walk back to my desk and remember that Mission 1 has not been completed. Here we go again. Ahhh, does anyone have a bag of chips?

The valuable thing you can make is a mistake.- You can’t learn anything from being perfect. Adam Osborne.

special education

Phone Alert

The joys of technology seem infinite.  Emails, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Skype……. I’m sure that there are many others, but I did not grow up in the generation of ultimate technology.  When I started teaching, we had to write our report cards with cursive print. We did not write a great deal of detail and often the words we used were “fluffy.” Yes, it’s true. The computers that were in the classroom had floppy discs and were generally big and bulky.  Needless to say, as a teacher we went through many changes over the years and learned many lessons about the pros and cons of technology. I will share one story about technology and the reason it should be stored in a safe place.

Flip Phone Flip Out

In my special ed classroom, there is not a great deal of space so I do not have a “ teacher desk”  I have a student desk for my day book and a few personal items. Today has been a very busy day and I have carelessly left my flip phone on my desk.  There are approximately 10 students in my class ranging from grades 2-6. At the present time, students are working at various learning stations and I am walking around to help them with their individual work.  Do not assume that they are all sitting and working diligently, some get up and walk around to talk with others. Some need constant redirection and support. Some need support to pick up their pencil and some just need a smile. While I circulate around the class I suddenly hear a noise coming from my phone. At first I think I’m hearing things.  “ 911, 911, can we help?” The students are now laughing and I’m looking around the room in shock. I walk to my desk and pick up the phone. I open the flip and I step with one foot in the hallway and one foot out. I talk into the phone.

Hello, can I help?

This is 911, did you call?

What? What? No, I did not call. I think one of my students used my phone to call.

Well,Ms. I would say that you need to be more careful.  This is not a laughing matter. If this happens again we will have to send the police to charge you with mischief.

I’m sorry, but a student must have taken my phone from my desk and called. I know that it is not a laughing matter, and I will do my best to make sure that it does not happen again.

I am rather surprised that the 911 dispatcher is so angry with me, since I am apologizing for something I did not do.  As I am talking I notice that Jumpster is looking at me with a guilty smirk. The other students are not really interested in what I am doing, but he is pacing and looking at me to hear the conversation. I hang up the phone and talk with him.

Jumpster, did you call 911?

Yup.

Thank you for being honest Jumpster. Why did you call 911?

I just wanted to see what would happen.

Jumpster, they were really mad at me and I am disappointed that you did that. Do you like it when other people touch your things?

No.

Well, I do not like it either and you should not have touched my phone. Do you understand?

Okay.

That is all you can say?

Yup.

I do not want to escalate Jumpster, so I drop the issue and tell him that we will talk about this with his mom and dad when they come to pick him up. Jumpster does not seem too worried and he goes back to work. I put my phone away. Out of sight, out of mind. I then continue doing my circulating and the day goes on as usual.  At the end of the day, I talk with his dad and we chuckle over his 911 call.

This seems like a rather mundane story and in many ways it was.  It is a lesson to remind you to put away all of your personal items.  I’m visualizing a new invention in the future for personal items. It is called The Teacher Box. The teacher locks themself in the box and uses a microphone to talk and direct the students. Ahhh, that would be awful.

The 911 phone incident was interesting and I probably would have forgotten it completely if it hadn’t been for the fact that Jumpster’s parents did not respond in a nice manner.   Dad had chuckled with me about the incident and made an Academy Award performance telling Jumpster that he should not have called 911. However, that is not how the story ended. They did not walk home into the sunset and remind their son to keep his hands away from things that do not belong to him. They claimed that the whole incident was my fault because I did not put my phone away. Yes, I forgot to put my phone away because I had a call from my dad about my mom and I was a little out of sorts, so I forgot to put it away. I was not Super Teacher of the World on this particular day because I was thinking about people outside of the school. Jumpster’s parents decided to take the matter further and requested the principal meet with me to, “ Tar and Feather” me. I found this out when I received an email from the principal. I basically sent her an email to let her know that I had already taken care of the matter. Yes, I avoided personal contact and sent her a polite, crisp email.  If you knew my principal at the time, you would have understood my lack of caring. Let’s just say, she was very forgetful.

So why did I share this story?  Basically to let you know that sometimes the strangest things will happen when you are teaching. Be careful and keep your personal items in check and do not be surprised when you are blamed for things that are not your fault. You can’t be Super Teacher everyday because you are human and humans are not perfect.

Grade One

Hockey=Cake

I love the innocence of children. I love how they speak their mind. I love how they innocently manipulate a situation for their own interest. Let’s face it, they are adorable.

In one of my grade one classes, There was a student who played hockey. This story could be repeated throughout my career, but this particular moment was memorable.

It’s a cloudy fall Saturday. I am up early, as usual.  Today, I am going to watch a student play hockey at the local arena.  He has invited me and has talked about the event repeatedly for a week. I have dressed myself to bare the cold air that circulates throughout most arenas and I’m fully aware that I’m likely going to “freeze my butt off” for the next hour.  I pick up a coffee and drive to the arena. When I walk in the door you can literally feel the excitement. You can smell the sweat and of course you can feel the blast of cold air. As I walk around the perimeter of the arena, I look at the people in the stands to see if I can recognize Beaudry’s mom.  Mrs. Chandler called me two weeks ago to ask if I would consider watching Beaudry play hockey. I was surprised and thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with people in the community outside of the school. I see Mrs. Chandler waving at me in the stands, so I walk over to sit with her. As I’m walking, I can hear multiple students from the school yelling ,”Hi Ms….” “ Do you remember me?” “Hi Ms..” You would think I was a celebrity. Ego check, full stop, they are the celebrities.  Before I get to the seats, I stand by the glass to watch some of the players. They are so eager to skate around the ice. Some children are so engaged with the game and they diligently chase the puck. I mean altogether they chase the puck. They are not playing positions. It is similar to watching a three ring circus. Some are rubbing ice off their skate blades, while players race around them to catch the puck. Some are licking ice off of their glove, some are making snow angels on the ice, and some are skating around oblivious to the puck.  One particular student is skating around the ice and every time he passes me he yells out , “ Hi, Ms. ….! Look at me!” It is so sweet I have to hold back my laughter. The game continues and I go to sit with Mrs. Chandler. We talk about general things happening in the news and fortunately she doesn’t ask me questions related to school. Phew. When the game is over, Mrs. Chandler says Beaudry has something he wants to give to you to say thank you for coming to watch him play hockey. So I say, “ Oh, you didn’t have to do anything like that, it was so much fun to have the opportunity to watch him play.” I wait by the main door and they soon come to see me. Then I ask Beaudry about the game.

Beaudry, you are such a good hockey player. Did you have fun today?

Yes, I love playing hockey. I get to see all of my friends and now we can go eat cake.

Oh? Is that what happens when you play hockey?

Yes, everytime I play hockey, we go home and then we get to have a cake or a different kind of treat.

Mrs. Chandler then says, “ That’s the gift Beaudry wants you to have.  He told me that you want carrot cake. He told me that I had to give you a piece of carrot cake.”

I think about it and then I ask Beaudry, “ How do you know I like carrot cake?”

Beaudry smiles and says, “I don’t know you like carrot cake.”

Well, then why did you tell your mom that I like carrot cake?

I know that I like carrot cake, so that’s the cake I wanted to have today.

Mrs. Chandler’s eyes go wide with surprise, we both look at each other and smile and laugh. I then say, “ Beaudry, I know you are going to be successful in life because you know what you like and you know how to get it.”  Beaudry smiles at me and say, “ I love carrot cake.” So just like that we walked to eat the cake, chit chat, and laugh and then I left to spend the rest of the day in my warm house. When I see Beaudry the following Monday morning, I tell him that I had a nice time watching him play hockey and eating carrot cake.  He smiles and says “ Yep, I knew you would. What could be better than hockey and carrot cake?”


I wish I knew where he was living today, because I would share this story with him.  I bet you a piece of carrot cake that I was correct. He was successful.

Grade One

Liar, Liar….

Do you remember the phrase, “Liar, liar pants on fire….” ?  Words chanted using a sing song sounding voice made to warn you and to make one feel the wrath of shame. Well, there will be students who lie.  There will be students in your class who are chronic liars, and unfortunately, there may be students who lie in ways that blow your mind. Brainy Quotes list a variety of quotes about lies.  Some are funny, such as Lucille Balls,” The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” While other quotes paint the clear message of how lies negatively affect our lives. “ Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Yet, we have all lied about something at some point in time. According to Psychology Today, there are 6 reasons why people lie. As I am not creating a thesis paper, I will precise it to one word. CONTROL. The individual who lies, feels like they have no control and want to gain control, or they feel the need to be recognized and therefore take control of the situation to weave it in their favour. Today, I will share two stories of students who felt the need to gain control through lying.

Master of the Circle

Blue Jay is a student who loves to embellish stories he shares during our Monday sharing circle.  This is a small special ed class with 10 male students. Every Monday, we begin the morning sharing information about the weekend.  Did we have a good time? Did we do something different? Did we go anywhere interesting? At times, it was interesting to notice how some children spent their entire weekend, according to them, playing video games. Other students enjoyed going to a friend’s house to play, or going to the arena to play hockey.  Blue Jay seemed to think that it was his job to surpass his classmates comments and would share interesting tales which became more embellished when his friends realized that he was lying.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Does anyone have anything to share? I scan the room to see who would like to start sharing first. Stable seems to be very eager, so I pick him first. Stable what would you like to share?

I am so excited because my mom told me that my dad is going to take me to Florida for a week in February.  We are going to go to Disney and we are going to go swim with the dolphins and…

Blue Jay interrupts.

I went to Florida on the weekend to see the baseball team playing.  We had popcorn and…

Blue Jay, you know you shouldn’t interrupt.  It is Stable’s turn right now, you will have your turn in a minute. Stable looks at Blue Jay with a disappointed look.  It is very similar to the look that teachers and parents give to children when they have done something they were told they should not do.

Stable looks at Blue Jay and says,

As I was saying, we are going to have a great time, and I plan to bring home a souvenir for everyone.

Blue Jay interrupts once more.

I did buy a souvenir for everyone, but I forgot it at home.  I met all of the baseball players and they signed my hat.

Stable is now standing in front of Blue Jay with his arms crossed.

Why do you keep interrupting me?  It is very rude. Anyway, we all know that you are lying.  I know that you did not go to Florida on the weekend because I saw you at Costco shopping with your mom.

A few of the boys are shaking their head in a agreement.  I notice that Blue Jay is looking uncomfortable, but I am more concerned that his discomfort has the potential to change to anger.  I ask Blue Jay, “ Do you want to go for a walk and you can finish telling us about your time in Florida when you get back?” Blue Jay nods his head and leaves the room. The second that he leaves the room, three boys are talking about why Blue Jay lies. I encourage them to be understanding and suggest that they leave it to me to talk with Blue Jay. We continue our sharing circle and then Blue Jay returns to the room.

I thought about my time in Florida and now I want to talk about it more.

All of the boys groan and yell, “ Stop lying!”

Blue Jay storms out of the room and I spend a great deal of time calming him down.  

Later that same day, I see his brother in the hallway and approach him to talk about the situation.

“ Hi Simon, I heard from Blue Jay that you all went to Florida on the weekend and met the baseball players.” Simon laughs and says, “ We can’t afford to go to Florida. The only thing we did this weekend was go to Costco.” He walks away with his books in his hands and shakes his head about what his brother has said.  I smile and walk to my next class.

Blue Jay continued to lie about events in his life and on many occasions his peers would point out his false statements/fake news. Blue Jay would defend his stories and often left the room in anger.  Some teachers suggested that I discontinue using the sharing circle. However, I felt that it was an opportunity for all of the students to learn about talking, honesty, social skills and active listening. The sharing continued and I continued to work with Blue Jay to help him realize that his truthful stories were more interesting. I would like to say that it worked, but that would be a lie.  He is still telling lies today.

Melting Ice Cream

During my second year of teaching, I booked a trip for my grade one class at the Ontario Science Centre.  The children in my class were very excited and fortunately, lots of parents volunteered to help, so the ratio of adults to children was 5: 1. We went on the trip and had a wonderful day.  Following the trip, I was sitting in my classroom, feeling exhausted, but satisfied that everything went smoothly and everyone seemed happy. Suddenly, the floor fell out beneath me.

“ Ms. I need to talk with you right now about something that you did during the trip!” This sentence should be typed in CAPS because she was yelling, big time yelling.  I look up in shock, to see that Mrs. Petals standing at the doorway. Her nostrils are flaring and she looks like she wants to rip me to pieces. I am honestly confused, so my mind is swirling with what I should say. I then notice that her daughter, Siren, is with her and she is standing at her moms side.  She looks like she would love to put her hands on her hips and stick out her tongue at me, but she is not at the present time. I take a deep breath and ask her mom to come sit in the room.

“ Mrs Petals, please come have a seat at the table, let’s talk about what has upset you.” She paces back and forth, as I walk to sit at the conference table. She continues to rant.

Siren came home from the trip and the moment she walked into the house, she started crying.  I tried to get her to tell me what was upsetting her and she just kept screaming. Finally, I got her to calm down and then she told me that you bought ice cream for everyone in the class, but you did not buy any ice cream for her.  

I put my hand up and say,

What in the world are you talking about? WOW!

While I do not recall the exact words I said to Mrs. Petal, I do know that I was really taken aback and surprised that a child could be so vindictive. I had experienced one challenging event with Siren, at the beginning of the school year, which I will share at another time. However, I personally thought she was a great kid.  I also think that I surprised Mrs. Petal with my response.

Hold on a second,Mrs. Petal. You are telling me that Siren came home and told you that I bought ice cream for everyone, but I did not buy ice cream for her? Mrs. Petal, I cannot believe that you would think that I would ever consider doing something so mean to a student in my class.  I love the children I teach and I want their experience in grade one to be positive. I did not buy ice cream today. I did not have Siren in my group with me today. I did not spend two minutes of my time talking directly to Siren today. She was in a group with Mrs. Founder and I know that Mrs. Founder did not buy ice cream either.  There was a private school in the cafeteria and their teacher bought ice cream for 10 students. I am disappointed that you came here was the assumption that I could ever do something like that. Siren has obviously lied to you.

Mrs. Petal’s face gradually changes as I share my information about the situation and Siren’s composure changes to fear.  She realizes that her mother is now angry with her for lying.

Mrs. Petal then turns her anger towards her daughter.

Siren, how could you do such a thing?  I believed you and you lied to me. Why did you say that about your teacher? You are going to be grounded for a week and we are not going to go to the park tonight.  What you did is unforgivable!

At this point in time, I feel sorry for Siren, because it becomes apparent to me that she is looking for attention. Be it negative or positive, she wants attention. Mrs. Petal looks at me and shakes her head with disbelief. I consider how to resolve the situation in a positive manner.

Mrs. Petal, I do not think that Siren wanted to harm anyone.  I think she probably wanted an ice cream and was disappointed when she saw it in the cafeteria, but could not have any.  I also think that Siren has a knack for stretching the truth, so I would suggest that in the future, you research the situation further before taking action. I think you should talk with Siren further when you get home and decide how to solve the problem. I do not think that grounding her for the week is necessary.  I’m just glad that everything is okay. I would like Siren to apologize when she is ready to find the words.

Mrs. Petal then starts to push Siren towards me and forcefully tells her to apologize.  

You heard your teacher, Siren, APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW ! You heard me Siren, APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW !  But, Siren is not ready to apologize so Siren shakes her head to say no.

I can see that this is going to take a negative turn, so I suggest it would be best if we left the apology for a time when Siren is ready to say it on her own. Mrs. Petal seems flustered and looks like she is lost for words. They gradually move toward the classroom door and into the hallway. I wish them a goodnight and go back to my desk.  As they walk down the hallway, Mrs. Petal continues to shout, “ I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU DID THAT!I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU DID THAT! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”

After they left, I sat at my desk and was perplexed with the whole situation. If anything, it taught me to “Cover my ass” and make sure that I documented events. For future trips, I would always have a trusting parent teamed with me for support.   Today, I would probably look up lying on Youtube to see if there was information to clarify Siren’s intentions. I would also check Google to reference Behaviour Modification Strategies. In 1989, the source of information I used was talking and sharing with my colleagues.  These were the comments and suggestions they gave me:

1. Siren wanted ice cream.

2. Siren wanted attention and got attention.  

3. Siren needs support in the school to help her understand the impact of her actions.

4. Mrs. Petal loves her daughter.

5. Mrs. Petal is embarrassed with her daughter.

6. Mrs. Petal should be invited to join the class on the next trip.

7. Siren has an active imagination.

8. Do not buy ice cream for your class on a trip.  It causes problems for other schools.

9. Siren needs a friend at school and at home.

10. Mrs. Petal seems to get angry very quickly, but there may be a reason for this.

11. Don’t put Siren in my grade 2 class.

12. Don’t take Siren on the next trip.

13. Why didn’t you buy all the kids ice cream?

14. Mrs. Petal needs help.

15. I’m glad I’m not you.

What is the main message?

Lying is going to happen.  Sometimes it is not for personal reasons. Sometimes it is a cry for help.

Just like lying, some advice is not beneficial.

Curriculum Thoughts

In Your Eyes

Have you ever encountered someone who seemed to dislike you without knowing you? Your mind races to think whether you have met them before. You then think maybe you have something on your face, or perhaps you are wearing clothes that they feel are inappropriate?  You cannot put your finger on the issue, but you have a strong sense that this individual hates you. The next thing you may try to do is ask them questions like,” Have we met before.?” You try to be pleasant and in return they are either rude or say nothing. I experienced this several times in my life, but one experience really opened my eyes to the dark historical past of Residential Schools.

It is a beautiful fall day in 1992.  I have met several parents at the school where I work.  This school is in an inner city neighbourhood. The children often come to school hungry.  I love working with these children and I continue to learn about circumstances in their life that I have never had to deal with in my life. 50% of the children attending this school are aboriginal.  The interviews with the parents and caregivers have been insightful and at times difficult. To be blunt, some of the parents need help themselves, but as I think this in my head, I feel that it is not my rightful place to judge. I have not lived their life and they have taken the time to show up for the interview, so I chase the negative thoughts away.  I will continue to focus on what can be achieved for these children, rather than feel hopeless. As the next student arrives, they introduce me and tell me that their grandmother wants to meet me. I smile and put out my hand as a gesture to shake and welcome them, but they look at their shoes and sit down on the chair where we are meeting.

I begin to say,“ You must be very proud of your granddaughter because she works very hard and does her best all of the time. She is also very talented at sharing during class.”

I continue to share positive information and ask if she has any questions. Her grandmother looks at me in the eyes and asks me,

“ Do you know anything about Residential schools?”

I apologize and say,

“ I know that they were horrible, but to be very honest, my knowledge is limited.”

At this point in time, she begins to share her life and some of the terrible things that happened at the Residential school she attended.  I am flustered and uncomfortable with the situation, but continue to listen. Some of the information is unspeakable criminal acts.

Suddenly, I realize why she looks at me like she hates me.  I represent the monsters who tragically destroyed her family life. I represent the physical and emotional abuse experienced by her and by her family. The Aboriginal community had no way to escape this horror. I manage to hold back my tears because I do not want to upset my student.  She is noticeably uncomfortable with how her grandmother is talking to me, but she is respectful and remains quiet. As she finishes talking I manage to find my own voice and state,

“Thank you for sharing this information with me. I understand that I cannot take away these wrongs and make them right. I really want you to know that I care deeply about educating children with understanding and support.  I’m not perfect, I will make mistakes and when I do I will apologize and correct them. If your granddaughter ever comes home and shares information that you question, please feel free to come and talk with me.”

She nods her head to let me know that she heard me and appears less upset with me.

Her glare of hate gradually changed and she accepted me as her granddaughters teacher. I continued to read and learn about Canada’s historical transgressions. My eyes were opened to a history that I needed to know and understand. As the year progressed, she started to volunteer in the classroom and we baked some yummy food together for the children in the class.

What is the Lesson?

1. You do not know everything.

2. Never judge a book by its cover.

3, The only person you can control is yourself and how you respond to the behaviour of other people.

4. Keep learning.

5. Educate yourself about your country.  Here are a few of Canada’s past mistakes:

Residential Schools, Japanese Internment Camps, Chinese Head Tax, Africville,Home children, Mistreatment of Irish and Italian workers on Welland Canal. Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion.

6. Keep trying to connect, sometimes it doesn’t happen the first time.

mental health

Something is Wrong with My Mom

As a teacher, there were days when I found it very difficult to function and do my best job.  I was an amazing actress at school. Things could be going well or crazy and I would generally go through the motions of solving and teaching like nothing was wrong. I often put on the happy face to fool my teacher friends into believing that everything was hunky dory. It was anything but great because my mom had Alzheimers. Today, I wish that I shared my worries, but I tried to be the so called “professional”. I also did not think that anyone would be able to understand what was happening.  I have written this story to honour my mom.

Alzheimer’s Sucks

Alzheimer’s Sucks! Yes, I said it.  Alzheimer’s Sucks, dementia sucks, any word you use to talk about it, It sucks! I know you do not have a great deal of time to sit and read about Alzheimer’s.  This disease sucks up everything about the person it attacks and leaves the family praying for a future without more hurt and pain.

The person with the diagnosis suffers when they know that their cognitive level of ability is fading fast. They experience different emotional turmoil and fear for the memories they cannot retain.  They experience anger when other people cannot understand what they know is true to their perception. They feel so much and yet are sometimes unable to articulate words that used to roll off the tip of their tongue with eloquence and grace.  They become a prisoner of their mind and sometimes a prisoner of their financial circumstances.

The caregiver wishes and hopes for a future cure.  The caregiver wants things to be as they were because it breaks their heart to watch their loved one change.  It breaks their heart to make decisions and choices that they wouldn’t wish for themselves. The caregiver is left feeling empty and guilty because there are times when their mind reveals ugly thoughts that they cannot believe they would ever think.  The caregiver sometimes wishes they could give up. May you be blessed with the patience and the fortitude you need throughout your journey.

Something is Wrong with My Mom

My mother has always been the one person I could count on to lift my spirits and inspire me to achieve greatness in all of my daily events. She has been the “Wind Beneath my Wings.” Now the roles have been changed and I find myself in the role of comforter explaining to her who she is and what her purpose is.  “ You are _____.You are married to______. I am your daughter.” After that, she smiles at me with a sudden element of recognition that was not there two seconds before. Since 2002, my mother’s health has been changing and creating moments of anxiety and stress for everyone in my family. When I initially decided to share this I began to chronicle incidents that happened over this period of time. In truth, I wrote approximately nine pages of information about dealing with doctors, disappointing neurologists, siblings, denial, cops, and long term care caseworkers. I thought that I could share how this impacted my life and my desire to have control over an illness that is out of control from the moment it arrives to the final days. Then I realized that I was not giving my mom due diligence by talking about her illness. She has Alzheimer’s, but that does not mean that she is Alzheimer’s.  The question I am now asking is, who is my mom when she is not my mom?

Who is my mom when she is not my mom?

I recall a time when I found it difficult to accept the fact that my mother had more talents than just being my mother. On a sunny summer day in 1969, we were heading for a surprise I didn’t really like. “ Okay, everyone it’s time to go!” my mother calls up the stairs to my sister, my brother and I. I hear my brother mutter something that sounds like, “ Why do we have to go to the show we were already at church this morning?” Regardless of his comment, he puts his blue canvas running shoes on his feet and runs down the stairs. “ Do I look okay?” I ask for my sister’s approval.  I twirl in front of the mirror and my red polka dotted dress swirls around me. It’s a good thing that we get along so well because we share a tiny bedroom covered with pink flowered wallpaper. My sister brings me back to earth, “ You look great, she confirms, now come on, we have to hurry or dad’s going to get upset.” We both run down the stairs and out the front door to find our spot in the pale blue Pontiac where my dad, brother and mom are waiting. After my mom reminds my dad to lock the front door, we start our journey.

The red brick church is actually only 5 blocks away from our house, but because the event will likely end when it is dark out, we have taken the car. When we get there my parents are talking and greeting everyone with silly comments and hellos. I wave at a kid I know from school, but I’m too shy to go over and talk to them. “ Let’s go get a seat,” suggests my sister. Then she leads my brother and I downstairs. “ What about mom, and dad, where are they?” I ask. My sister explains some reason to me; I cannot really recall what the answer was, so we find our way downstairs.

The small rectangular basement is presently lined with rows of wooden stackable chairs facing one end of the room. The stage area has a piano, chairs, decorations and an electric fan, which is oscillating from side to side. There are a lot of people walking around talking to each other, kids are running up and down the aisle, until the priest enters and asks everyone to settle down. He makes a welcome speech and tells us that everyone has worked hard to prepare for tonight. As I am only 7, I am not really paying attention to all of the comings and goings on. I poke at a piece of gum on the bottom of the chair in front of me. Then my sister whispers in my ear to stop. Suddenly, I hear people singing a song that I don’t recognize and they’re shaking musical instruments. The thing that really surprises me is the fact that both my mom and dad are in the group. Why didn’t I know that they were doing this? I can’t recall if they told me, but then it really isn’t any of my business. They probably did tell me, but I probably was not listening. I decide that I will watch and enjoy the show. The next person to perform is a magician who pulls a white bunny out of a hat. How did he do that? I don’t remember all of the acts to follow, but I do remember one act because it’s my mom.

My mom walks up to the front of the audience and asks if everyone is having a good time. Then she starts singing some song about a frog called Jeremiah. At first, I’m not too surprised, but then I begin to feel embarrassed because my mom is dancing and shaking her hips. I don’t mind her singing and dancing at home, but I do not think it is appropriate for a mother to be wiggling her hips while she sings a song at Church. My sister and brother are laughing and shouting, “ Go mom!”  But I have decided to cross my arms and pout. How could she embarrass me this way? When she finishes her number everyone claps and cheers, but I just want to go home. When the final performance is over I’m still sulking and annoyed that my mom could be so selfish. People come up to me after the show and tell me that my mom did a great job. I nod politely and follow my family to the reception area where several tables are covered with all kinds of sweet treats and my favourite, orange pop. I do not know if my family is choosing to ignore my sullen attitude or if they have not noticed because they are having a good time and feeling proud of their efforts. We eventually go home and I never mention the moment of my embarrassment to my mom or anyone in my family.

She is a person who loves life

Today, almost 40 years later, I am embarrassed by my embarrassment. At that moment in time, my mom was being the person who she was before she became my mom, an entertainer. A person who loves life and is such a loving individual that she sometimes appears to be bubbling over with love. There are times when my mom hugs one of cashiers at the Tim Horton’s Coffee shop my parents visit for their daily social time. It’s not because she likes the coffee, it’s my mom’s way of saying thank you.  

Now, as I reflect, I realize that I am more like my mom than I previously thought. Age has brought me the knowledge and sense to see that my mom is cool. She has so much talent and she doesn’t care if other people are watching her have fun. This reminds me of the saying, “Dance like no one is watching.”  Does that mean that wiggling one’s hips should be included? Yes, it does, because your hips are merely one aspect of the human body and hips naturally have a tendency to move when rhythmic music is played.

At one point during my mom’s illness, I went to the Alzheimer’s Day Centre with my mom and dad. I introduced myself to some of staff at the Alzheimer’s Centre, a few of them told me that my mom often has fun dancing and entertaining the other patients. “Perhaps, I should quit my job and become her talent scout?” I joked with the staff, to mask my real emotions when I talk about my mom’s illness. At that moment, I didn’t connect my past judgments with my mom’s present day talents. I just thought it was another bizarre behaviour she was exhibiting, but did not really want to admit to myself.

As a child of seven years of age, I was afraid to accept my mom as anything other than what I wanted her to be. As an adult, seeing her experience changes and dealing with her memory loss I have once again found it difficult to accept her as anything other than what I want her to be. I have been so intent on telling my mother who she is to me and I have not allowed myself to see her in a different image. I barely even know who I am, so what right do I have to tell my mom who she is or is not. If she wants to be somebody different than whom I think she is, do I have the right to tell her that she’s wrong?  I feel guilty for the many times I talked to my dad about my mom in her presence, as if she would not be able to understand what we were saying. I sometimes wonder why my mom did not tell me to be quiet. Is it possible that she was dealing with her own fear, confusion, anger, denial, over the fact that she could not do the same things she used to do? The reality for me is that there are times when I get frustrated with myself because I have difficulty recalling a certain fact verbatim. I experience severe anxiety attacks when I have common moments of memory delay. I almost feel of sense of relief when other people around the same age as me, experience the same difficulties. Once again, I can see that I want to control the speed of my brain, regardless of whether it is tired or in a reflective mode.

I have learned that forgiveness is easy because my mom taught me that when I was a child. Perfection isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, particularly if it leaves someone feeling like they are worthless. I have learned that sometimes the best things in life are not carefully choreographed in perfect time to the music of life. Some of the best things that happen, happen just because they are suppose to happen. As the character in the movie, Forest Gump says, “ Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get out of them.” Finally, the most important lesson that I have learned is to forgive myself. I know that I will likely continue to find it challenging and tempting to control situations around me, however, my eyes have been opened.  Now, I must be careful to see through them with the vision of love my mother has for all who come her way.

My mom’s  journey with the disease called Alzheimer’s stopped on her birthday in 2014. My mother, father, sister, brother, husband, son, daughter, and I have experienced many emotions throughout this experience. When I first wrote the above sentence, I left out my mother. My mom was the one person who experienced most of the horrors that come with this disease.As a family we honour her memory by sharing her stories with our friends.  I smile every time I hear the song, Joy to the World because I know my mom is dancing in heaven. Love you and miss you everyday mom.

Curriculum Thoughts

Chances Are…

If you are a teacher, chances are: 
You have worried about how you are going to motivate a student in your class.
You have tried a variety of strategies to motivate this student.
Chances are, you will eventually be successful.

Chances are, you have had to ask another teacher to watch your class
while you run to the washroom.
You have watched another teacher’s class

while they ran to the washroom.
Chances are, you wish you had a washroom in your classroom. Maybe not.

Chances are, you have picked up a hot drink during recess
and the hot drink is now sitting on your desk getting cold.
You have reheated the drink several times.
Chances are, you either end up throwing it out, or drinking it cold.

Chances are, you have counted down the days to the holidays.
You get sick on the holidays and spend most of the days in your bed.
Chances are, you need another holiday.

Chances are, you have had a parent tear a strip off of you
for something you didn’t do.
The parent has never apologized for tearing a strip off of you

for something you didn’t do.
Chances are, you make sure you never act like that parent

when you meet with your own child’s teacher.

Chances are, you have given your lunch to a child who is hungry.
You have bought supplies and materials with your own money.
Chances are, you pray that Dollarama never goes out of business.

Chances are, you have had to call the Children’s Aid Society.
You worry that you may be jumping to conclusions.
The child’s life may change in a positive way because of your call.
You wish that you could adopt some of the children that you teach.
Chances are, some of you will adopt .

Chances are, you have wished that a certain student would be absent,
just for one day. Just one day.
Your wish has never come true.
Chances are, you take a day off.

Chances are, your own child is sick so you take time off
You spend 2 hours preparing your daybook for the supply teacher.
The supply teacher doesn’t follow your plans.
You are up all night long with your sick child,

but this time your spouse will stay home with them.
You go to work with 1 hour of sleep.
You get sick and you should stay home in bed.
Chances are, you go to work when you are sick

because you need to keep your sick days
in case your child gets sick again.
Chances are, you have neck and back pain from writing report cards.
You have carpal tunnel syndrome from writing report cards.
You think report cards are irrelevant.
Chances are, you hate writing report cards.

Chances are, at a social gathering, someone has said,
“ Oh you are a teacher, it must be nice having your summers off.”
You have lied and told people that you work for IBM

so that you do not have to hear teacher stories.
You have avoided going to a mall near your school.
Chances are, your spouse thinks you are a Rock Star

because everywhere you go, former students say, “Hi Mrs.__________”
or “ Hi Mr. ________.”
Chances are, you have prayed for an Educational Assistant.
You do not know how you could survive without their help.
You sometimes feel like your Educational Assistant

is more qualified than you.
You are frustrated that the government is threatening

to take them out of the classroom.
Chances are, you need to rally for Educational Assistants.

Chances are, you have been hit, kicked, or punched by a student.
You have had materials stolen by a student.
You have had materials broken by a student.
You have been sworn at by a student.
You have sat in a meeting with the parents

and principal regarding these issues
and in some cases there have been no ramifications for the student.
Chances are, you now have a list of twenty steps that you need to try.

Chances are, you have lost sleep over an issue at work.
You have heard someone say, "You should try working 9-5.”
You try to explain to the individual that you work

longer hours than the actual school day.
They will never understand this unless they try your job for a day.
You have a long list of To Do Jobs

and your brain is always thinking about the next task you have to do for your job.
Chances are, this list will continue to grow.

Chances are, you have heard negative news reports on the tv about teachers.
You have told yourself to ignore the comments.
You have watched a movie portraying teachers

and you have thought, "That would never happen.”
Chances are you are misjudged by society.

This isn’t the 1950’s people, so we do not teach like it is the 1950’s.
We do not teach like it is the 1980’s.
Chances are, you have wished you could go away on vacation.
You have wished that you could pick your holiday times

and just go away like people who do not work in the field do.
Yes, you are jealous.
You have gone away during March Break and the resort was jam packed.
You have gone away during March Break and the return flight has been delayed.
This plane delay has caused you tremendous anxiety

and now you need another vacation.
Chances are, you have gone directly from the airport to the school to teach.


Chances are, you have made special wishes.
You have wished that you could give to the children

and families who really need financial help.
You have given them a pot of gold.

You have given them an education.
That can never be taken away.
Chances are, you have taught many children new information.
You have taught children who were difficult to connect with,

but you did connect with them.
You have taught children to believe in themselves

and to keep trying even when things seem impossible.
Chances are, you continue to learn things just like your students.
Chances are, you have received gifts.
You have received gifts of caring and love just for doing your job.
You have given lots of gifts to students to show you care.
You love your job and all of its challenges.
Chances are, you are a teacher.

Grade One

Angel’s Protector

As a teacher, you build connections with the students in your class. Sometimes you are very protective of them and resent other staff members who just do not get them.  They do not have that connection. I have had students tell me that they wish I was their mom. There have also been students who would have preferred to be in the “ fun class” down the hall.  However, some of these students would come back to tell me how they enjoyed this or that. We are generally only a passing thought in most of their lives, and it is hoped that their memories are positive.

When I was in my third year of teaching, I had a grade 1 and 2 class which was packed to the max.  There were a total of 33 students in the class. The principal advocated on my behalf to get additional support but the superintendent said, “ Oh, she, meaning me, can handle it.” I did try my best, but eventually the school board realized that I needed an Educational Assistant.  What I was not aware of was the fact that I had a little girl in my class who was living in a highly toxic environment. She was waive like, quiet and shy. She had a brother in grade 5 and a sister in grade 3.

Angel

We have started our school day with the usual routines, attendance, Oh Canada and morning greetings. The class is working at different activity centres, when Angel arrives at the classroom door.  She is holding her brother’s hand and seems attached to him. I greet them and he quickly waves to travel down the hallway to his classroom. Angel comes in and plays quietly with her close friends.  I haven’t noticed that she is not herself today. She is not feeling good and she is very tired. We then move to the carpet, during which time Angel falls asleep. Francis, and I decide that we should just let her sleep and we ask the other children to just let her rest. The day continues as usual. During recess the principal asks to see me and tells me that Children’s Aid will be coming to pick up Angel and her siblings.  The principal tells me that the older brother never went to class and reported to the principal what had happened at their house. The three kids had been through a scary evening as their dad had consumed too much alcohol and was hitting their mom. Angel’s brother had tried to fight off his father, but his mom told him to run. They went to a 24 hours McDonalds and sat there until it was time to go to school. I’m kind of surprised that the staff in McDonald’s didn’t ask them why they were not at home. Maybe they did and the brother had a good answer.  Angel was exhausted and scared. Her sister was trying to be brave and her brother was protecting all three of them. As I reflect on the situation, I am odds with the fact that I did not see that something wasn’t right. Why did I miss it?

The Children’s Aid Society arrived, talked with the principal, called a family member and Angel and her siblings left the school.  At 12:30 Angel, her sister and her brother left, and they never returned. I was shocked and had to muster up a story to let the kids in the class know that she said goodbye. We didn’t even have time to make a card.

poetry

Protection of Innocence

Sleeping child

Upon the mat

Tired

From all the shouting

At home

The fists

Flying

Words spray and lacerate

You have gone

To another

Away from the classroom

Never seen again

Sister and brother confessions

How is your family?

How are you?

We miss you.

So tiny

Only 6

You’ve lived too much

Seen too much

Pain

No resolution

No words can explain

Where are you now?

We do not know.

Peace be with you.

Love be with you.

Hope be with you.

Grade One

Little Girls Do

It is not my intention to offend anyone. If you do not like reading about bodily functions, then you may want to pass on this story. Notwithstanding, it does have a positive message.

I mentioned before that children are amused with the human body, and bodily functions.  They are curious and ask lots of questions related to why the body does certain things. On one occasion they were not curious and I really had to hold myself together.  Why? You ask. Because I am a professional. Well, I tried my best.

It is a typical day in grade one.  I am reading a story called, “ The New Baby Calf.” I am sitting on the rocking chair, the children are sitting on the carpet with their legs crossed, facing me.  Well, most of them are. I am holding the book so that the pictures are facing the children and I am looking at the words and reading the story aloud. Jessica puts her hand up and asks,

“ Why is the baby calf having a hard time?”  

I stop reading and answer her.

“ The baby calf is new and is learning how to use his legs. Everything is new to him, so it is sometimes difficult.  Remember when we were learning how to plant the seeds in the pots for the first time and some of us had a hard time?”  

The students nod their head, so I continue to read.  Suddenly, there is a very loud sound, but I do not really think too much about it.

( It’s natural gas from a child) Okay, someone has farted. This is not a laughing matter. For teachers, we are expected to take the high road and continue acting like nothing has happened.  At times, it takes a great deal of control because the children will often start rolling on the floor. No, Not because they are passing out! It’s not a first aid issue, they are rolling around on the carpet because they are laughing. As the teacher, you say things like, “ Okay, let’s settle down now.” Sometime, we ask the student if they are okay. That is if we know which kid farted, and most of the time we do. How do you know? We know because  every kid is holding their nose with one hand and pointing at the kid with the other hand. Well, the reason I’m telling this story is because what happened was not the predictable routine for farting in school. This group of students changed the code of conduct. ( In case, you don’t know, there is no code of conduct for farting.)

Back to the story:

There’s a loud sound. I continue reading the book to the children, but they have all quickly got up and have moved to the other side of the carpet.  They sit back down cross their legs and look like they are listening to the story again. With the precision and the ease of a spy they have moved in unison. Similar to some recent children’s movies, the next words they could say may be,” Smile and wave boys,” or “ You didn’t see anything.”  Mission accomplished! When I look away from the book, and look to see what has happened I’m in shock. Everyone except one girl has moved to the other side of the carpet. This little girl is all alone sitting on the other side of the carpet. The sweet darling is wearing a lovely pink dress looking at me with tears in her eyes.  Her face is red and I can tell that she is overwhelmed with embarrassment. I think carefully about my next decision. Should I just continue reading? Should I make a joke of it? With some kids, they may work, but not with this angel. No, I grab a piece of paper and write a note to the secretary. The note basically is telling the secretary to pretend that the note is very important and special. I also ask her if she can help our friend in pink feel better.  Then I say, “ Sweety, can you take this note to the secretary?” She stands up, takes the note from me and leaves the room. Just in case you are wondering, the office was right next to my classroom. All of the grade one students know how to locate it, so they do not require a friend to help them walk there. I finish reading the book and the kids spread out across the carpet. Once again, they have not fainted. Although they have made a few comments about the smell. Thankfully, they do not tease the little girl when she returns from the office. I made a point of giving them some centre time when we finished the story. This meant that the little girl could return without too much attention or comments about her fart.

Future story times brought different events with different students.  Today, I can’t read that particular book without having a little chuckle, and I can still visualize the students fluidly moving across the carpet.