Monthly Archives: January 2013

Failing to plan is like planning to fail..

.. or so one of my students quoted to me a few days ago.  He was referencing one of his favorite teachers from his elementary days.

Until that moment, I hadn’t thought he had taken any stock in his education at all.  I was sorely mistaken.  But I was very glad that I had not given up on this young lad.

What had brought him to a place in his life where he was so suspended – literally – from learning?  The schools had rejected him – many times over – and it appeared to be legitimately so at first blush.  The question that needed to be asked, though, was, “how can we help”?  Maybe I jump to conclusions.  Maybe the question was asked and this young man just did not know how to answer.

We learn to communicate from our parents – well – at least initially.  I know that my parents always stressed to me, “Stacey, communication is one of the most important skills we can have.”.  My parents taught me to communicate through my intelligence (IQ) – but in those days what was missing was the emotional (EQ) communication.  In the sunset months of my Dad’s life he confessed to me that I had taught him how to speak with his heart.  I wish this had really been my doing – but quite honestly it was something that I had learned from a very dear friend of mine – my emotional mentor.  Without her, my mentor, I would have not known that to speak always in IQ does not the soul sooth.  EQ is the language of the spirit.. the essence of what makes us human.  Scary?  You bet.  As Dad used to quote, “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.. booaahhahhhhhh…”.  Dad used to listen to this famous radio broadcast when he was a kid.  But seriously, EQ is down-right scary.

What would have happened with this young man had he been able to speak through his heart – rather than his mouth.  What words would have been able to ease his troubled soul?  Musicians are so blessed in that their emotions roll off their tongues to connect with the listen’s soul and forge a story that creates unity and peace with its audience.  But what of those of us who are not so musically gifted?  Who wants to listen to a story that is choppy, somewhat covert, and definitely full of flats and wrong notes?

So it would seem that I made a connection with this young student of mine finally – after I inquired about “him”.  I learned about him and tried to speak his language.  I learned that he had made connections to teachers in his life many years earlier and then, for some reason, got lost.  He didn’t have the vocabulary he needed as a maturing young person to express his troubles – and so his troubles were expressed through profanities and anger. 

What will become of this young person?  I don’t know.  What I do know, however, is that he, as every other young person in this world, is a person with feelings.  Given proper care – these feelings will serve him well. 

I plan to help him along his journey – with my colleagues – and together we will help him succeed to plan and hence.. plan to succeed. 

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I don’t think Dad would be happy about that!

“Dad”, I said, “Why did you want to be a part of the war?”

“It was exciting, Stacey.  Everyone wanted to make a difference in the world and we were young enough and cocky enough to think that we would never die.”

I guess doing things because you want to make a difference is an eternal theme.  That’s why I teach.  I want to make a difference in my students’ lives.  I want to help them realize their full potential so that they can make a life for themselves and for their children.  And, in some cases, I do think I make a difference.  Although, it is not always immediately evident.

I, and my colleagues, find ourselves in a bit of a pickle these days.  We are busy getting on with our making a difference when – bang- we are side-lined by criticism and judgement.  And it has nothing to do with our own ability to teach.  It has everything to do with perception.  The labour dispute between teachers (the teacher’s unions) and the Ontario government has become an elephant in the classroom.  It does not belong there – there should be no dispute.  The pickle part of the matter is that I feel caught in the middle and am being split and quartered by both union and government.  What’s worse is that media has not even recognized that I am being so severely severed.  I am being painted with a brush that labels me “greedy” for more money.

I am happy, in this economy, to have a job.  I am more than happy with the salary and benefits I receive.  I have worked for nearly 25 years in education and have earned by “wings” per se.  New teachers have to begin at the bottom and through hard-work and energy and love, will learn skills that will make them become better teachers – worth more pay.  This is the way it is.  And I don’t know anyone I work with that begrudges this process.  I remember as a beginning teacher struggling to make my rent, car payment, and student debt repayments month to month.  School was expensive and long.  I did the time.  I paid my dues and now I am entitled to enjoy what I have worked so hard for.

What I am not thrilled about, however, is that it seems the institution that guarded our rights as workers in the past, has lost it’s ability to negotiate rights.  This is not through their own doing, rather, a government that has disenfranchised the very people who forged it’s election.  How did that happen?  How is it possible that, in Ontario, citizens are worried about losing their democratic rights?  It is more troubling to me that the climate is one of distrust than anything else.  This is not the same government that my Dad put his faith in – and fought overseas for.  It can’t be.  Dad wanted to make a difference and the government supported him.  I am saddened by the fact that I too feel my work is important and I too can make a difference, but mis-representation by government and media has mitigated my abilities.

My purpose in the classroom each day, is to help students find ways that they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses, to find their way in the world so that they too can feel purposeful, respected, and worthy.  That is why I teach… not for money, as the media and government have claimed.  I know Dad would not be happy about that lie.   Nor am I.


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Trees Are Freaking Awesome!

Trees Are Freaking Awesome!.

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Apartment 1001 in 2013 – nothing new

There is a showing tomorrow in apartment 1001 and so I needed to be sure that it was in good shape and I needed to pick up the mail.

I went this afternoon for a “check-up” and to wish Mom and Dad a Happy New Years.

I don’t know what I expected.

I walked in and the room was dark.

I turned on the light.

I looked around.

It smelled fresh.

The place was empty.  Mom didn’t say, “hi”.  Dad didn’t say, “hi”.  What did I expect? I knew they were both at a better address – yet, I felt their “hello”.  I felt their “excitement” to see me.  They were always excited by a surprise visit.

I went to the pantry to check things out.  Nothing new.

I went to Dad’s room.  Nothing new.

I went to Mom’s room.  Nothing new.

I poured myself a glass of wine to cheer them with.  Nothing new (grin).

I cleaned the glass.  I had a cry.  Nothing new.

I left and locked the door behind me.

I opened the door – half expecting to see them giggle sitting in their chairs – as if they really had not passed away and they were just checking to see if I’d say, “TTFN” and “I love you”.   But, there was no one.  Nothing new.

What had I expected?  I don’t know.  This is a new place and space for me in 2013 as it is for my departed parents.  It is new – but there is nothing new.

And as I exited the building – and apartment 1001, the reflection of the sunset caught my eye.  It was Dad – I know it was – saying, “TTFN”.  “I love you, Stacey.” And delightedly I thought, “nothing new”.  Thank God.

The Setting Sun - nothing new

The Setting Sun – nothing new


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