On Disappointment, and other emotions…

Many times I’ve heard it said that anger hides a multitude of other emotions. If someone is really angry with you, then maybe underneath there’s an underlying feeling that’s prompting them to act angrily. Are they scared? Sad? Disappointed?

Normally I am a person who prefers to see life through the lens of the silver lining. Every cloud has one, or so they say, and I can usually find it. Optimism is great! It’s a lot more fun than being bummed out over things you can’t fix.

But today I ran into something that I haven’t been able to shake off, and I haven’t been able to find a silver lining for yet. Well, that’s not true; I found one, but it’s lame, haha.

Without going into too much detail, because it’s work related and I shouldn’t share the whole story for all the internet to read…. Earlier this week I was offered a really cool opportunity. It carried with it this sense of accomplishment and a feeling that the things I have to say in my field are valuable and important, and that what I’m doing on a daily basis has meaning. It might have puffed me up a bit, made me feel pretty great, all that jazz. I was invited to come sit at the table with a discussion group across several different regions who would be able to have conversations about how best to support the particular groups of kids we all work with.

But, rather sadly, today I found out that due to there being a number of people going from my work already, my voice wasn’t needed, and it’s been decided for me that I cannot attend.

The situation itself is not what I’m here to talk about though — because, as I mentioned, I can’t really do that without spilling all kinds of details that I shouldn’t. I’m here because all day, what’s been spinning around in the processing centre in my brain, is the range of emotions that that’s evoked in me, and what that means.

I’ve been waffling all day between angry — at the people who get to make decisions, at the situation itself, sometimes at myself — and sad and disappointed. I think that the biggest place I’ve camped though has been disappointment.

It’s a funny thing… Intellectually, I can reason my way through this. I can understand the reasoning I was given. I can logically work my way into accepting it, and be ok with the outcome. I can tell myself that I know my voice has value in my workplace because most of the time I feel like that’s true. I’ve been told that that’s true. But it doesn’t seem to matter how often you intellectually reason your way through something — sometimes you just have to ride out your disappointment.

The reality is that I’ll probably be fine tomorrow. The opportunity will pass on Tuesday, and I’ll live to tell the tale. I’ll probably even be fine in a couple hours. I have band practice tonight, and that always cheers me up. I won’t end up bitter, and it’s not something I’m going to end up holding against anyone. It’s just that… normally I can shake my way into a “no, it’s fine because ______” but today it feels appropriate to sit with my disappointment, acknowledge its presence, and tell myself it’s completely reasonable to feel this way. One doesn’t always need to be chipper and excited about ALL THE THINGS (this is a hard lesson for the Enneagram 7, 🙂 )

I’ve been learning that when something nags at me, and it feels like I need to write about it, often that means someone else needs to read it. So I’m trying not to ignore that and push away the “I should blog this” impulse. So here I am.

My takeaway from this experience is this: Big emotions can be hard. And the bigger they are, the deeper they…. I can’t think of a word I want to use for this…. the deeper they burn? sting? echo? resonate? I don’t know. I’ll think of it at 3:15 am. But when they’re big, and they’re hard, and in this case… when they tempt you to feel like you don’t bring a valuable skill set to the table and aren’t really needed, it’s best to acknowledge them rather than run for something fun to do to distract yourself from them. If I were to run off and find a distraction right now, Tuesday will still come. The difference will be that I won’t have processed my disappointment. I won’t have reassured myself that what I do IS valuable. I won’t have taken the time to recognize that this feeling is important and meaningful. And then I’ll just have to do it on Tuesday, lest it follow me into Wednesday and beyond.

So, silly meme to lighten the mood aside, tonight I will process. I’ll probably journal where I can actually talk about the details, and I might even cry it out. But I will live to tell the tale. Because I can take the time to process the hurt and the sadness, I’ll be able to be chipper when I’m done. And that’s pretty cool 🙂


Ontario Education: My thoughts in a letter that turned into an essay

Dear Ontario Politicians,

First of all, I want to congratulate all of you on your wins in your ridings and your appointments to your new roles. Welcome to your new positions. Congratulations.

I know you’ve just started your jobs. It is probably overwhelming, as any new job is. It’s hard to start new things. But there are a lot of big changes ahead in this province, and I cannot just sit and hope the adjustment period is smooth for everyone while things happen that I can’t stomach. I did that when Justin Trudeau took office federally, and while not everything he’s touched has been horrible, I wonder if things would have been different if we, the people of Canada, had stood up sooner and voiced our concerns. I did the same thing with Kathleen Wynne, hoping that she could not possibly have as negative an impact as Dalton McGuinty, only to watch her carry on his legacy. I will not do it now.

I am an educator. I have been teaching for ten years, going into my eleventh. This is not a new game for me. To say that in the last few weeks I’ve grown concerned about what education will look like by the time I get back to it in the fall would be a dramatic understatement. In fact, concern isn’t anywhere close to the right word. I am afraid. I do not like to live in fear, but I see a lot of changes coming that are very negative for the children I work with.

This letter is long, so I will add some headings and subtitles, and below I will try my hardest to summarize my thoughts before I go into greater detail. The trouble I’m having with being succinct is that these are complex, difficult issues. They merit more than a paragraph each, and I want to make sure my voice is heard. But in the event that you simply cannot spare the time to read the whole text, please find my summary below, followed by an in-depth examination of the issues at hand.

  1. Please do not cancel the school repair fund. Schools are filled with asbestos, and they have heaters, washrooms, and water fountains that don’t work properly. Humidity makes it hard for students to work. Many aren’t adequately accessible for the needs we have in this province, which becomes a Human Rights issue. Students need to work and learn in comfortable work spaces that meet all of their needs.
  2. Please do not cancel the Indigenous Education addendum to the Social Studies, History, and Geography curriculums. These are important issues that students need to learn about. A great deal of time and money has already been spent on this issue, and it will go to waste if it is canceled. Trust has been built with the members of the Indigenous communities who helped create this addendum to add Indigenous perspective, and scrapping this addendum will communicate a message that money is more important than relationship and trust, adding further insult to injury for members of this community. Please find another way.
  3. Please do not scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum. It is not a good use of money, as a great deal of money was already spent to create this researched, consulted, and approved document. I know there are many concerns from parents about it, but I have read it, and I read it again while I sat to write you this letter. Below I have gone into detail about the issues I’ve heard of. I strongly believe that the issues come from people who either have not read the document, or who believe that cancelling the document can cancel issues they do not agree with. This is a dangerous reversion for students in Ontario who need education on the issues of today — issues such as consent, harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, culture, race, religion, body shape, substance abuse, and weight and healthy eating. The 2015 document teaches proper names for body parts, and proper developmental stages at the time students are developing. It gives students language for issues they face in 2018 that did not exist in 1998 like the internet, easy access to pornography, media, sexting, dating apps, online predators, cyberbullying, cyber stalking, and identity theft. OPHEA and OASPHE, the associations responsible for helping teachers deliver the health and physical education curriculum, are equally disappointed by this regressive shift.

It is my hope that you continue to read below. I spent hours writing this letter (which, admittedly, has turned into an essay), and I hope you will do me the courtesy of reading a letter from a concerned resident and educator of this province.

The School Repair Fund

The first issue that I want to address is the cancellation of the $100,000,000.00 school repair fund. This is a significant blow to students and educators. There are buildings filled with asbestos. There are buildings that are not accessible to those with disabilities, and denying this money to create those improvements is a Human Rights issue. Every student has the right to attend school, and I know of schools where there are no elevators but there are certainly many sets of stairs. There are buildings with leaks, heating that doesn’t work properly, poorly sealed windows, washrooms and water fountains that repeatedly malfunction, and the list goes on. The humidity alone in some of the classrooms I work in is unbearable during the hotter months. Kids try to focus. They try to get their work done. But you and I both know that it is hard to do when you sweat without moving. It is also hard to do when you’re very cold, and that is also a reality in some of Ontario’s classrooms. There is already a backlog of school repairs needing to be completed. School boards will need to draw money out of student programming just to complete necessary repairs. I understand that any work already started will be covered, but what about work that is still necessary?

“’Losing $25 million is a big deal to us,’ [Toronto District School Board Chair Robin Pilkey] said. ‘Our repair backlog is so large that every piece counts. We’ll have to make decisions in the next few weeks whether we don’t do those projects or we take the money out of … other funds and scrap something else.’” (source) This instance is just one example from the Toronto District School Board. This is merely one board of many.

The fund has disappeared because it was revenue from cap and trade. I understand that. What will replace the revenue that Cap and Trade provided the province? Canceling cap and trade because it was what the people wanted only works if we won’t have to lose every program and fund that we rely on as a province as a result. I personally am not interested in saving the expense of cap and trade if this is what it means. Ontario’s schools need investment, not cuts. I am disappointed that education seems to be the first place Ontario’s Conservatives go to make cuts. It happened under Mike Harris and it appears to be happening again.

Readers:  Please click here to sign a petition to stop this withdrawal of funds organized by the Building Better Schools campaign.

The Indigenous Education Addendum

The second educational issue that concerns me is the immediate halt of the writing work and therefore the rollout of the Indigenous-focused addendum to the Social Studies curriculum. I am not Indigenous. But in my teaching role these past few years, I have been involved in significant learning that has shed light for me on why it is so important that our students in Ontario have an education that reflects actual history, and that contains the voices and perspectives of actual Indigenous people. When I learned social studies in elementary school, we barely talked about this issue. I knew there were people here before settlers arrived, and I knew there were problems that came out of settlement, but I came into my role as an educator with a lot of bias that I didn’t even know was bias. It was there because I was ignorant, and I was ignorant because no one had taught me what had really happened. Through the last few years of significant learning, I have developed empathy that has shifted my perspective from that of someone who thought this wasn’t my problem because it happened so long ago, to that of an ally who firmly believes that we need this education in our schools. I work in schools close to a federal reserve, and yet my experience in our schools has been that many students have no idea how that reserve came to be, what happens on the reserves, or how they work. They have no idea the impact that residential schools had on our Indigenous neighbours, and many have the attitude that I once had — “it happened so long ago. Why does it matter?” Well, it matters because the last residential schools closed a mere 22 years ago. That means that people who attended them may be my age or just a bit older than me. That is devastating to me.

The effects of such trauma are long-lasting, and have a major role to play in what our society currently looks like, but by cancelling the work on the addendum to the Social Studies curriculum, we are telling an entire people group that their history doesn’t matter. We have worked hard to build trust with Elders, Knowledge Holders, and survivors of Residential Schools. In order to help us educate correctly and properly, in a way that reflects what actually happened and the impact that it has had and continues to have, that group of people changed a lot of their plans over the summer, and had to drag up old memories I’m sure they would rather forget. This work was supposed to give us the necessary voices — voices of those with lived experience, the only ones really qualified to share their perspective — on issues such as residential schools, treaty issues, Inuit relocations, land sovereignty, The Sixties Scoop, The Millenial Scoop, and genocide of Indigenous people over the years since European settlement.

But the Ford Conservative government, very shortly after taking the reins, canceled all that work. What does that communicate to the Indigenous people who were helping us create an education system for our students that would tell truth, that would help reconcile, and that would create shared understanding? It likely tells them that their efforts do not matter, and that we never really wanted this reconciliation and understanding — that it was all imposed on us by the Liberal government and that now the Conservative government can’t afford it so we will just put it on hold another number of years.

How long is long enough to go without a solid understanding of this very important issue? What breaks my heart here is the knowledge that we have something almost within reach that will help communicate an Indigenous perspective clearly to students so that they can gain a well-rounded education that is inclusive of a big part of our country’s history, and it is being taken away from them. Students have a right to know what has actually happened in our country. In our province. In their own communities. I have since been on tours of former residential schools and sought to understand, but I feel that the curriculum we currently have is lacking the voice of those actually affected. I am perfectly capable of teaching history — it is what I studied and went to school to do. But I cannot share a voice and an experience that I didn’t live. I’ve taught Social Studies, and while there are currently points in the document that tell us to teach on Indigenous issues, I don’t have the knowledge or the understanding or the perspective to do it well. That is what we were trying to accomplish. Understanding breeds empathy. Empathy creates allies. We need to be allies. There are far too many injustices still occurring to our Indigenous people groups that could be aided by understanding and empathy, and where will students get that understanding if their parents and guardians went to school in a system that didn’t adequately teach the issues? I sure didn’t learn the issues adequately in school.

The Health and Physical Education Curriculum

The last issue — and I’m sure you can see this coming from the way I’ve been writing — I need to let someone know that I am devastated about the decision to scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum of 2015. I need you to hear me when I say that this is not acceptable. The curriculum that was put in place in 2015 took nearly 5 years of research and consultation with experts, parents, educators, and older students to put in place. The curriculum that was put in place in 1998 is not an acceptable fallback. I am sure that it was researched and developed with experts as well, or at least I sincerely hope that it was. I was in Grade 8 when it was implemented. My “sex-ed” experience involved learning about my period, how pregnancy happens, and sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t remember all the details, since it was 20 years ago. My most vivid memories though were of being separated from the boys because it “wasn’t appropriate” for the boys to hear about female development and it “wasn’t appropriate” for girls to hear about male development. I didn’t learn the other side of it until I was in grade 9. By then, I already knew friends who were having sex. My “sex-ed” experience stopped after a two week stint of it in Grade 9 Health (part of Gym class) where I learned how to put a condom on a banana, and my teacher uncomfortably told us that the best way to avoid pregnancy and disease was to avoid sex. But I knew for a fact — we all did — that many in the room were already having sex, yet that is where the conversation ended. We were also still separated from the boys, because it was still “inappropriate” even though kids at this age were sexually active.

The curriculum put in place in 2015 includes elements like proper names for body parts, so that if students are being abused and/or touched inappropriately, they are able to tell a trusted adult in their life what is happening. Certainly not in all cases, but in many abuse cases, the parents or someone very close in a child’s family are the ones committing the acts of abuse. There is an argument I keep hearing that suggests that it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach a child the proper names for his or her body parts. That may be true, but it’s not always happening, and there’s no way to enforce that. There is a way to ensure that students have proper terminology — that is to teach it in schools. It may take a child longer to get the help they need if they don’t have the vocabulary to tell a trusted adult what is happening to them. Court proceedings are difficult if a young child is using vague terms to describe their genitalia, and the child does not know the proper terms. Of course, the abuse cases are not the majority, but I am having a hard time understanding why this is a bad thing.

Please click here to watch a video of a CUPE member sharing her experience about the value of this curriculum.

Another argument I have read against this document is that it encourages gender confusion and confuses children who weren’t already confused. As I have mentioned, I’ve been teaching for ten years. I have encountered one student with some gender confusion in that time. Teaching the students in this child’s class that this exists did not encourage any of the other children in the class to switch genders or to decide that they themselves were also confused. The accusation that teachers are indoctrinating children with a “homosexual and transgender agenda” is appalling and unfounded. That is not what is happening. What is happening is that students across Ontario learn that there are different expressions a person can identify with, and like I said about the Indigenous Curriculum Addendum, education kills ignorance, and the death of ignorance leads to empathy and understanding. Empathy and understanding fight against hate. Is that not a world we want to live in? I don’t need to share my own personal beliefs or feelings on the subject. They’re irrelevant. What students in this province need to learn is that regardless of their personal feelings or beliefs about a subject, every human being deserves dignity, respect, and to be treated well. The language in the 2015 document gives teachers ways to have conversations that are uncomfortable and awkward, and to do so in a way that respects all children. The same argument that goes “shouldn’t parents be allowed to teach their children their own beliefs at home??” is also applied to this topic. I would offer the same response. Yes, parents have every right to teach their children their own belief systems at home, but no child or person has a right to be hated or mistreated or harassed because who they are and what they believe does not line up with someone else’s belief system. There are many people in this world, in this province, in my community, even in my circle of friends whose lives don’t reflect my personal belief system. I still owe them dignity and respect because they are human beings, just as they owe it to me because I am a human being.

I have heard arguments that parents hate the new curriculum because it teaches 6 year olds about anal and oral sex. It does not do that. I am looking at my copy of the curriculum as I write this, and that is nowhere in the print. If a teacher were to teach this to six year olds, I would share those parents’ concerns. That is not age appropriate. The 2015 document does, however, address those concerns in the grade 7 portion of the document, where research has shown that it is happening. I’ve heard similar arguments about drugs — that it teaches six year olds how to do drugs. It also does not do that. Again, I am looking at the document as I write. It does, however, teach students in Grade 3 and older that some substances can be addictive and harmful to our bodies, and what the ramifications of those choices might be. It teaches students that it may be difficult for someone dependent on alcohol to take care of their families. This is truth. And this has been true for many students I’ve taught over the past ten years. This is also something that was never talked about when I was in school, despite the fact that it was happening all around us.

The only way these could have been the arguments is if people had not read the document. This is what I suspect is true of many people who take issue with the document — that they did not read it, and they reacted to sensationalized media (which is pretty much all media these days, on one side or the other) about it.

What the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum does accomplish is to teach Grade 1 students the proper names for their body parts, hygienic procedures, food groups, personal safety (at home and in the community), and how our bodies work.

It teaches Grade 2 and Grade 3 students about allergies, respecting the differences of others, medication, bullying, standing up for yourself in a positive way, the dangers of too much screen time, violence, substance use and abuse, and emotional development and mental health. It highlights cultural food choices, so that an immigrant student in a class isn’t made fun of because her curry smells weird (this actually happened to one of my students in a grade 6 class).

In Grade 4, students begin to learn about puberty (which, for many students these days, is when it starts to happen), smoking, and the safe use of technology. The conversation about bullying increases, as does the bullying students face. When I was in school, our only conversation about bullying was not to do it. We did not talk about the different types. We did not talk about how to handle it, or at least not well. We were told to tell our peers “I don’t like it when you _______. It hurts my feelings.” That may be true, but a bully who sets out with intent to harm me is likely thrilled that whatever they did to me hurt my feelings, so my ‘I feel’ statement was usually incredibly ineffective. It typically increased the bullying and it was easier to just stay silent.

In Grade 5, the conversations about substance abuse escalate. Again, when I was in school, we did not talk about substance abuse. I knew many 12 year olds who were drinking and smoking. By grade 5, this is happening to our children, whether we like it or not. Not all of them, certainly, are smoking and drinking, but some are. And if some would avoid it because they knew what could happen to their bodies, is this not a good thing? The peer pressure may not be as strong for a student who understands the risks and consequences of such behaviour, and children are likely to take bigger risks in their friendships and report risky behaviour in their friends to trusted adults when they know the consequences. All I knew about alcohol growing up was that I wasn’t allowed to have it until I was 19. I didn’t know why. Grade 5 students also learn to discern media.

They are taught about how periods and spermatogenesis occur. This is not developmentally inappropriate. This is when it is happening in their bodies. Students are taught that these are natural processes that are not something we should be making fun of. Once again, education stamps out ignorance and a lack of ignorance breeds empathy. I would love to live in a world where a girl just learning to deal with having her period and new hormones isn’t made fun of for any emotional reaction to anything, and written off as being on her period. This was the argument used against us as children in school. If we were teased or made fun of, and expressed that we didn’t like it, we must have been on our periods because we couldn’t take a joke. The two are not synonymous, and perhaps if students are learning about what is actually happening in their bodies, they will not be so cruel to each other.

This 2015 curriculum gives language to students to help them overcome harassment because of gender identity, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, body shape, weight, or ability. Again, I see nothing wrong with this. And again, anyone’s personal beliefs about or feelings on the items in this list should not be relevant. The fact is that students in Ontario schools are experiencing confusion around gender identity. They are exploring their sexual orientation. They are of different races and religions. They are differently abled. When I was in school, anyone with any type of disability was in a special class. They were not integrated into the mainstream classroom as they are now. My classmates and I were barely exposed to differences the way that students are now. Students must be taught how to handle that appropriately, and the 2015 curriculum does just that.

In Grade 6, students are also learning about emotional eating and making healthy choices around food. Given the rates of childhood obesity in our country, this is something that needs to be taught. They are learning about mental health, which research is showing again and again is majorly affecting children. The 1998 curriculum did not address this. Students learn about specific drugs and their effects. They do not learn, as I have seen suggested, how to do drugs and where to get them. These arguments are coming from people who have either not read the document or are willfully ignoring what it says, and I cannot understand why they would do that. Emotional and mental health become an increasing focus as students get older. This, once again, was not taught when I was in school. Students are given language about how to handle relationships. This was not addressed when I was in school. But students are in relationships by grade 6. Not all of them, but many. And some of those relationships are resulting in sexual activity. Giving students language to express themselves, what they want, and what they do not want is important. Taking the language in the curriculum away will not stop students from having sex at 12 years old. But it might stop someone from going too far without consent, whether that is because the no is clearly understood, or because someone knows they have a right to say it, no matter what. I understand that the idea of children having sex or being sexually active is uncomfortable to many. I don’t like it either. But my not liking it does not mean it stops. The only way to make sure it happens safely is to give students language and information.

Students learn about “the effects of stereotypes including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes.” Again, this is not impacted by my personal beliefs, or anyone else’s. Whether or not we think the things that are happening are acceptable, they are happening. And when students are given language to address them, they can be more successful advocates for themselves and their peers. Taking the language in the curriculum document away does not make the issues students are facing go away.

In grades 7 and 8, students continue to learn about the benefits but also the dangers of technology. The 1998 curriculum did not include things like easy access to pornography, identify theft, dating apps, internet safety, cyberstalking, sexting, cyberbullying, or online gambling because those things did not exist. Reverting to a document written 20 years ago does students a significant disservice because it neglects the world that we live in. The world that we live in now is very different from the one I went to school in. The 2015 curriculum talks about consent, clear communication, and sexually transmitted infections. Again, I don’t remember ever talking about consent and clear communication when I was in school. We were taught that it was best to abstain. And at 12 years old, I don’t disagree. Abstinence is best. But if children are not going to abstain, because some students will not regardless of what we tell them, they need to know what they are doing, what the risks are, and how to do so in a way that does not harm the other participants. They also need to know that they have a right to say no at any time, regardless of what the other person wants. This article tells the story of a Nova Scotia man who believes that if his daughter had received a curriculum like the one that Ontario just lost, his daughter would still be alive.  She committed suicide after the fallout from being raped.  Mr. Parsons says “I really wished there was something like that in Nova Scotia 10 years ago. Because if there was — and if consent and empathy and respect were being taught in schools in Nova Scotia — I honestly believe that I would still have my daughter with me today.”

This issue goes beyond personal beliefs. This curriculum protects children by arming them with important information. The 2015 document talks about harassment and bullying in contexts that did not exist in 1998. To revert to this document is dangerous for students.

Further, Grade 9 is the only year in which physical education is a requirement in high school. This means that at a time when many students are becoming sexually active, they’re not actively being educated about it if they are not taking Physical Education classes beyond the requirement. This makes their elementary education critical on this subject. I didn’t take any physical education classes beyond grade 9, and I know many of my peers didn’t either. I hated gym class. But that was the only place the health was even taught. So if we have reverted to a document that cannot do justice to the issues of the 21st Century, students risk entering a time in their lives when many simply are sexually active without being armed with information to help them navigate it, because we will have used a 20 year old document to teach these issues before they got to high school.

OPHEA and OASPHE are equally disappointed in the revocation of the 2015 document and the reversion to the 1998 version. Here is just part of their statement.

“Ophea and OASPHE are the provincial subject associations for Health and Physical Education and believe the curriculum has the potential to positively impact the health of 2 million Ontario students by helping them develop the knowledge and skills to become healthy, productive citizens.

Ophea and OASPHE are disappointed with the announcement by the Government of
Ontario and believe that Ontario students have a right to learn from an up-to-date,
research-based Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes human development and sexual health “sex-ed” education.

Sexual health education should address current issues facing students including online safety, informed decision making (including consent), self-esteem, mental health, healthy relationships, respect for others, diversity and equity. The curriculum should reflect all students including those with visible/invisible differences as protected through the Ontario Human Rights Code and related provincial policies such as Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

Sexual health education should be delivered in a developmentally appropriate manner and structured so that it meets the learning needs of students at different ages to build the skills they need to make healthy choices and protect themselves from potential harms.” (source)

Lastly, I understand that the Conservative government is interested in correcting the deficit and wastes of money that the Liberals left behind. This revocation, quite frankly, is a waste of money. This document took five years to create. It was consulted on, there was a lot of research put into it, parents and students were involved. Ontario’s students can’t afford to wait another five years for a new document to be put in place that the Conservatives feel is more appropriate when the current document is already designed to tackle the needs of the world our students live in. And Ontario’s taxpayers can’t afford to pay to do the process all over again when it was just completed three years ago and the document is doing its job. I beg and implore the Conservative government to rethink scrapping this document. Not starting again may even give you the money you need to leave the Indigenous Education addendum alone.


Please don’t think me naive here. I understand that this Conservative government has walked into a deficit and debt load that is unconscionable. After 15 years of Liberal leadership, there is a lot of work to be done. I understand that money has to come from somewhere, but I beg of you, the collective Conservative you, to please rethink what the cuts you make mean to education. What does this mean for the future generation of children coming through Ontario’s public schools? I was in school when Mike Harris was the Premier, and the cuts he made to balance the budget were devastating to my school experience. Programs were cut that I wanted and needed, all in the name of money. Are there not things that are more important than money? I understand that a budget needs to be balanced. Trust me, I know we cannot continue on the path we were on as a province and not suffer dire consequences for it. I know we could not afford most of the things that the Wynne Liberals put in place. I was not happy with that either, but I am not talking about partisan politics here. I am not interested in laying blame. The Conservatives have an official opposition in the NDP. Perhaps rather than seeing each other as working from opposite sides, which I understand that on many issues, you are… perhaps you could work together to find a solution that balances the budget and respects the programs and services you are trying to cut. Is there not a way to work together to come to a solution that works for everyone? Rather than forcing students to learn and work in buildings that are breaking down, can we not all work together to find a solution that stops the hemorrhage of money but also respects the work that was being done? Rather than revoke students’ ability to learn a culturally responsive Canadian history that has direct ties to today, can we not all find another way? Rather than waste money by taking away a document that addresses today’s needs, can we please find another solution? This is where I have to trust you, as our representatives in the Ontario Legislature, to stand up for what is right. I am not a politician. I don’t know what the solution to these issues could be. But I do know that for the sake of Ontario’s children, we need to find one.

Please consider standing up for Ontario’s students in your new roles as representatives of the people of Ontario. These students are under your umbrellas, too. They need you right now, and I hope you can see why.

Finding My Place

I started a new job today.  Well, kind of.  We haven’t met any of our kiddos yet, because it would be really overwhelming to start English Language Support on your first day.

I’ve transitioned from Grade 1 and 2 Science and Social Studies to Grade 1-8 English Language Support.  I couldn’t be more excited.

But with change always comes a bit of trepidation and fear.  As I wrote earlier this week, change kind of terrifies me.  I have to find my place in this new universe.  One where all of a sudden I don’t really know what I’m doing like I have in the last couple of years, but instead I don’t have a clue what I’m doing and I’m by far the youngest person on the team.

Have you ever been the newbie on a team, and found yourself in a position where you’re relying on everyone around you to help you through your new task?  That’s where I feel like I am.

I don’t know what to do in this space — find my place and fit in, I suppose.  I don’t have much of a choice.

But in other, exciting news, I get to meet all my kiddos next week, and while I don’t have any clue what I’m doing, I’m sure I’ll learn quickly!  I miss kids.  I found myself all day today (during the first day of school) being jealous of everyone in a classroom getting to hear all the hilarious things kids come up with!

On Mentorship

I’m not sure when I got old…. but somewhere along the way I guess I sort of did.

It doesn’t feel like it was THAT long ago that I was in teacher’s college, trying to get my feet underneath of me in a pretty challenging world.  I was trying to learn how to teach.  I was trying to learn how to take the stuff that I knew — mostly a compilation of useless random facts that have been filed and categorized into something somewhat mildly useful — and impart it to rooms full of young, mostly only semi-interested minds.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been THAT long since I sat down at my kitchen table in a small little farming community in the Niagara Region, poring over applications to teacher’s college and wondering where I was headed.  Would I be accepted to Western, and move to London?  It was what I wanted.  Would I be accepted to Nipissing, and move to North Bay?  Would I be accepted to Trent, and move to Peterborough?  Would I be accepted at all??  It became this kind of existential crisis where my entire future (or at least, what I thought I knew of it) started to hinge on the essays, the grades (which weren’t great, hence the existential crisis), and the shoddy list of volunteer experiences.  I was afraid I’d end up moving to New Zealand to get my education (because Christmas on a beach), and my Momma was afraid I’d leave and meet a guy at the beach, never to return.  Luckily (for my Momma I suppose), this was not the case, and to Peterborough I traipsed off… flung very quickly into placements where all of a sudden, I was responsible for the learning of teenagers.  Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to teach 14-18 year olds… my how times have changed — My most popular Facebook posts are quotes from my Kinders and my Grade 1s.

Because I went to teacher’s college in what’s called the Consecutive route, I just did one year of schooling focused solely on teaching.  There’s also this deal called concurrent education, where students take education courses interspersed through their undergraduate work, and do placements on Mondays until the end of their time in school, when they start to do multiple week blocks instead.

My first placement was a tutoring block where I spent 3 weeks working daily with a few different kids, pulled out of their classes, to focus on reading skills and help them with writing.  I was privileged enough to work under an amazing mentor.  She was my first associate teacher, and she and I developed a solid mentor/mentee relationship in just under a week.  It was Cindy who I felt was the only one I could go to to ask questions like “how do you be a Christian and work in public schools?” when all my professors were making it sound like it would be impossible.

My next was teaching Grade 9 Core French.  My associate teacher in that one helped me SO MUCH in understanding that there’s more to teaching French than being able to speak it.  She gave me the skills I needed in three short weeks to help translate more than the language — she showed me how to translate the passion I had for kids to learn it, both in how she taught and in the feedback she gave me.  I truly valued her mentorship.

Being in a consecutive program, we had “extended blocks.”  I had 10 weeks in one placement.  Over an hour from my house in Peterborough.  My associate teacher and I clashed in nearly everything we talked about.  Her ideas about how I should be teaching were not mine, but I assumed I just didn’t know better.  After all, my knowledge base in Grade 11 Anthropology and Travel & Tourism was non-existent, so I assumed I just didn’t know what I was doing.  I felt like I tried to be what I was being asked to be, and it wasn’t working.  I was miserable, and I almost dropped out of teacher’s college during that 10 week placement.  It took many, many tearful conversations with my Mom on the phone to convince me to just stick it out and if it wasn’t what I wanted after all, I’d at least have my expensive piece of paper.

I didn’t realize it then… in fact, I didn’t realize it until last year… but our mentorship relationship was not well suited.  We didn’t fit.  While she was a fantastic teacher, she wasn’t the teacher that I saw myself being, or that I thought I even could be because our personalities were so different, and so I had a difficult time learning from her.  I had the feeling that she expected me to teach like her.  That may not have been her intention, but I felt intimidated.

Fast forward a few (*cough* 6) years, and now all of a sudden, somebody somewhere considers me old enough, experienced enough, and mature enough to mentor others.  I started last year with my first student teacher, and it took me a while to feel comfortable in that role.  Mentoring someone else… teaching someone how to teach…. when did I become responsible enough to pull this off?

At 3:30 this afternoon, I said goodbye to two more student teachers.  I took on a 3rd year student teacher in October, and then when the opportunity arose to take on a first year student who would be mentored by the third year (and by me), I signed up.  It was an incredible opportunity for me, and, judging by the difficult goodbye the three of us experienced this afternoon, I suspect it was meaningful for them as well.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the value of a solid mentor in the last few weeks, but particularly in the last week as they finished up a solid week block (instead of just being in on Mondays).  It just hadn’t occurred to me that I could be seen as a solid mentor.

I don’t feel old enough, responsible enough, mature enough, or experienced enough for this to have happened…. but somewhere along the line it seems to have.

What about you?  Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you were mentoring someone?  Have you been mentored?  How was that experience for you?

photo 3(5)I nearly wept…. couldn’t even handle it… I’m gonna miss those girls.



I like my milk tye-dyed

I felt like I had nothing to write tonight.  But… then I remembered that this past week in Grade 2 Science has been the most fun I’ve ever had teaching, and I think I’ll do a strictly teaching post today.

We’ve been learning about really great things — viscosity, transparency, absorption, dissolving, saturation…. it’s been great.

We started off mixing water and vegetable oil.  I coloured the water with food colouring so they’d get the full effect…

Then, for kicks, we made a lava lamp.  I love teaching grade 1 and 2 because every experiment just blows the lid off their world, because they didn’t know this stuff was possible before!  air bubbles in vegetable oil just makes them lose their minds.  All I hear around the classrooms some days are “whoa!”  and “oh my gosh!  look!”  It’s the most rewarding feeling EVER and I think I want to teach science for a really long time.

Yesterday, we dissolved different solids in water — sugar, salt, sugar cubes, sand (didn’t dissolve), flour, corn starch, a rock (didn’t dissolve), a nickel (didn’t dissolve), and my favourite — a jolly rancher lollipop.  That one took overnight to dissolve, and my kids talked me into trying to drink it…. I will never listen to them again.

My favourite part of yesterday was while we were learning what saturation is (adding solids to the point where no more solids will mix into the water), and we made a highly concentrated salt water mixture….. I let two of them taste it… one before it was fully saturated, and another as salt was settling on the bottom.  The looks on their faces were priiiiceless.  Priceless.  I don’t even have words.

But today was my absolute favourite.  We tye-dyed milk today.  I had those kids’ full attention for an hour straight.


Procedure (for those who want to try this.  It’s really cool!):

1.  Pour milk to the rim of a bowl (clearly I used an aluminum pie plate).
2.  Add several (I used 6-7) drops of food colouring of each colour.  Put them far enough away from each other that they don’t blend in together and change to secondary colours.
3.  Add 2-3 drops of dish soap.  The food colouring will flee to the edges of the dish as the surface tension of the milk breaks and the molecules can move more freely.
4.  I added about the same amount of food colouring again, again also keeping them separate.
5.  I added way more dish soap this time, swirling it in a circle as I went.  Because the surface tension of the milk is broken by the dish soap, the food colouring doesn’t mix together and you end up with tye-dyed swirls.

I took a video of this to post.  I was going to post it on YouTube and then link it to here… but to do that, I told my kids that no names were allowed to be mentioned and I couldn’t show any of their faces…. Of course, though, one of them said my name, and then I said his in response… haha… so it’s staying on my phone.  But you’ll have to try it for yourselves!  It’s easy, and it’s super fun!

I’m the Worst Blogger EVER

So this is a NaBloPoMo Month… and I haven’t written a single thing in just over a week….

Except, you know, the 30+ solid hours I’ve spent writing report cards (that’s a rough estimate… I lost count somewhere over the weekend).  I had reservations about starting a NaBloPoMo in January, knowing that report cards would do me in…. but I thought nah, I can pull this off.

Well, I’ll be back in full force tomorrow, because I’m happy to announce that as of 7:30 pm EST this evening, I finished writing my report cards!!

Hopefully tomorrow’s prompts are fantastic, because my brain is officially fried.

Anyway…. I’ll be back.

You’re Loved.

So for a little while, I’ve been following this fantastic blogger (and I now own a couple of her books) named Holley Gerth.  She’s another one of those who writes into my heart.

She’s started “Coffee For Your Heart,” which allows those what want to join in a chance to be encouraging (with prompts she sends out) every Wednesday, whether through their blog, their Facebook, or a Tweet.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I was apprehensive about whether or not I’d join in on this… but I’ve decided that it’ll be good to be stretched beyond a random prompt and into one that is kind of serious.

So today’s prompt is simply “You’re Loved.”

I’ve decided to write a letter to all my students.  I understand that they won’t see it, but I find that when I really focus on the reason that I keep teaching, even on the hard days, it makes me better at what I do, and that helps me encourage my students by extension.

So here it goes.

Dear Kidlets:

I want you to know that the reason I drag my butt out of bed on weekday mornings is not just because I have to and because they pay me to.  I do it because you make me laugh with your antics, with the way you see things, and with the things you say.  It’s because I’m not succeeding unless you’re succeeding, and so neither of us can succeed if I’m not there.  It’s because when I see you finally get something that you’ve been struggling with, your persistence makes me beam with pride.  It’s because I’m watching you grow up before my very eyes, and I’m so proud of the people you’ll become some day.  You’ve all got potential to be someone amazing, and I truly hope that each one of you harnesses that potential and soars.

Some days it may not seem like I love you that much.  You see, sometimes love from a teacher looks tough.  Sometimes I say no to things you really want, or I make you do things you really don’t want to do.  Whether you’re 6, 10, or 14, I promise I’m doing my best to make decisions that are best for you, even if they seem like I’m out to make you miserable.

Sometimes you may think my rules are stupid, but they’re there to keep you safe.  Like this morning in gym when I said we’re going to do a relay where we have to hold hands, and so I said NO RUNNING because when we run holding hands, it’s really really dangerous and we can fall and hurt ourselves… I was doing it not because it’s less fun to walk, but because I didn’t want you to get hurt.  It nearly broke my heart when one of you wiped out and bumped your head, and that’s why I ran to you to help you up and scooped you up to get you some ice.

I want you to know that the reason I’m there every day is so I can teach you about more than just what’s in the books.  I want to teach you how to handle conflict.  I want to teach you how to get along with each other, even if you don’t like each other.  I want to teach you how to be kind to one another, show compassion, and to accept people’s differences so that we can all live together peacefully.  I know these are lofty goals, but if I can be an influence in even one of your precious lives, and make an impact that years from now makes you remember me and smile, I’ll know I’ve done my job.  I’ll know I’ve done it very well if you can remember me and smile, and then remember an important lesson that I taught you.  Hopefully it’ll have nothing to do with curriculum.

Kiddos, I know this has been sappy, but I have to tell you… that even when you’re challenging to teach, I still love you.  Without you guys, I wouldn’t have a job to do at all, but you certainly keep it interesting.  Keep it up.

Collecting Details

I like the idea of this prompt, because there’s a whole lot of truth there.  I spend a good chunk of my day wandering from task to task, collecting details in my brain about what I’ll write next.

This week’s challenge

To recap, here’s what to do for the challenge. As always, feel free to adapt the challenge as you see fit. The object is to get you writing:

  1. Pick three original details from encounters during your day or your week that you’ve observed.
  2. Once you’ve collected your details, your “glimmers of a beginning,” write at least one paragraph containing your original details.

Last night, I stood outside walking my dog for the last time before bed, and I was struck by something I’m not usually struck by — the snow is beautiful.  (Back story — worst Canadian ever.  I hate winter and all that comes with it… the cold, the snow, the ice, the slippery-ness, the shoveling, the scraping… it’s not my favourite.)  It was crisp bitterly cold outside, and the moon was full, shining enough light through the complete lack of clouds in the night sky that my front porch light was completely unnecessary.  Over the weekend, we were dumped on by about 15cm of snow.  I know that for some, 15cm is really not a lot of snow.  For where I live in Ontario though, we tend to get avoided by pretty much all weather, and so to have it snow for 24 hours straight…. I freak out a little bit.


The sheer amount of snow that piled up, combined with the chilly temperatures means that while I’m teaching Kindergarten in the morning, I have to have them back in time to have 10-15 minutes to bundle up before eating lunch so they can be warm going outside (or going home at home time).  Today, I had Kindergarten right before first recess as well as last period at the end of the day.  One of them comes to me as she’s finally finished bundling up (all but one mitten), and asks me to help her with the last mitten.  She says “I’m a big girl, now!  I can do up my own coat!  But… the other mitten is hard.”  I agreed with her, and asked how old she was.  She holds up one mitten covered hand and announces proudly, “I’m THIS MANY!”  Helpful, haha.

The prompt asks for three details, so I guess… I dunno… I’ll share my favourite Christmas song right now, because when it’s on in the car I belt it at the top of my lungs.  I love everything Sugarland has ever done, so it’s not a stretch that I love this, but the incredible voice on Jennifer Nettles just adds to the beauty of this song.

Oh, and while I’m here, here’s the song that’s been in my head for two days, because Charlie Worsham might be the most talented artist I’ve seen in a looong time (check out his youtube channel and watch his covers — he lets his fans pick one song on his Facebook page each week, then he learns every single part on various instruments/implements, and plays/sings every part, recording it in just 24 hours for our listening pleasure.  Amazing.  Anyway, here’s Could It Be.

The 10 Greatest Things About Being a Kid

I have not been a kid in 20ish years, but I teach them every day.  I think, if I could give up my independence and go back to being a kid for a day, these would be the 10 reasons I’d do so.  Probably the only 10 reasons though… cuz most days I just don’t think I could deal with the drama that accompanies being a kid.  (Inspired by my two kindergarten classes and the prompt found at Mama Kat’s Losin It)

Anyway, here’s the list — Letterman style — last to greatest.

10.  You don’t have to do up your own coat or tie your own shoes (until you prove once that you’re capable, then you always have to do it).

9.  Your lunch is packed for you, and an adult will open the hard-to-open wrappers and containers for you.

8.  When someone’s reading you a story, it’s expected that you’ll call out in surprise at the idea of things like alligators living in the sewers.

7.  When you miss your Mom, it’s ok to cry.  People will even hug you for it.

6.  You get invited to everyone’s birthday party, and celebrate pretty much every holiday during school time with parades and wicked fun crafts.

5.  Everything you’re learning is new, so pretty much everything’s exciting and mind-blowing.

4.  Along with # 5, the adults in your life are very quick to praise you to no end for every simple discovery.

3.  Your laughter is intoxicating and makes others laugh with you.

2.  You can say and do really cheeky things and get away with it because you’re unbelievably precious.  (e.g. kids saying things like “point taken,” “my listening ears are broken,” and “my thinking cap fell off,” and when you win a game and do the biggest gun-show ever)

1.  It doesn’t matter how ridiculous you look in your class picture, the picture is still absolutely adorable.

Also, while I’m here, PLEASE read this post by Angelina at The Road to Roma called “An Open Letter To God (re:  online dating).  It pretty much sums up my feelings about online dating right now.  Angelina… it’s like I could have written it myself.

Daily Prompt: I have Confidence In Me

Today’s Prompt:  Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?

Simple answer:  Yes, I’m good at what I do.

Long answer:  I haven’t always thought that I was good at what I do.  My first year teaching was loaded with tears.  I’d come home nightly sobbing because I felt so horribly inadequate at it.  Through the next couple years my skin toughened, and I stopped crying about work (most of the time), but would I say that I loved it and felt good at it at any point?  Looking back, I can’t say that I ever really felt that way.

When I stopped coming home crying, I also stopped caring a little bit.  I actually stopped caring a lot.  I hardened up and I checked right out.  I was teaching Grade 4-8 French, and it might be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  I thought I was pretty good at it, but I had many kids who didn’t care regardless, and I couldn’t decide whether it was my teaching or the subject material.

This past spring I went to my principal and begged for an open primary prep (Kindergarten gym and library, grade 1 and 2 science and social studies and some music and dance) position.  Thankfully, he granted my plea, and I transitioned to a brand new world — little kids.  Trust me, having gone to school to teach Grade 7-12 French, Grade 1 Science has been this whole new world that I just did not see coming.

On the first day of school this September, to say I was terrified would be a complete understatement.  I had to spend ALL day with little little kids?  How would this go?

Well, by the end of the first day, when I left smiling and laughing at the ridiculous things they say and how they see life, I knew this could be good.  By the end of the first week when, despite it being September, I didn’t go home exhausted and wishing for June, I knew it could be really good.

And now, by the end of November, when I still laugh heartily at all the ridiculous and adorable things they say and do, and I’ve had Grade 1 kids correctly use words like reproduce when talking about characteristics of living things (they’re learning!!  and they love it!), I finally feel like I’m good at what I do.  This is year 6, and it turns out all it took was to get out of French.

Now, this is not to say that French can not be taught well.  I’ve seen many who do it well.  It turns out that, even though this is what I went to school for, it’s not where I belonged.  Those of you who stick with it your entire careers have more respect from me than you can ever imagine.  I’m not good at it, and I fooled myself for five years into thinking that it was going to get infinitely better.  You know what though, sometimes it doesn’t, and I think that’s when it’s time for a change.  I had friends who recommended that maybe teaching itself wasn’t for me.  I promised them and myself that if a switch of positions this year didn’t help, I would look for other options.

Thankfully, a switch was just what the doctor ordered, and I can’t imagine doing anything else right now.  I LOVE MY JOB!  I look forward to going to work.  I don’t cry on Sunday nights and at the end of breaks like long weekends, March Break, and especially summer.  The entire month of August used to be filled with dread.

Before I talk about what I’d like to be better at, can I strongly encourage that if you’re reading my account of what I was doing and how I was feeling, and you’re thinking ‘that’s how I feel about MY job!’ …. can you promise yourself that you’ll take steps to make it better, in any way you can?  And if that doesn’t help, can you promise yourself that you’ll evaluate whether it’s the right choice for you?  I hate seeing people miserable just because they hate their jobs.  I know that sometimes it’s the only available option, but barring that…. well, that’s all I’ve got to say on the matter.

What do I wish I were better at?

Cooking.  I’m not awful at it.  I can cook when I put my mind to it.  Things don’t burn, I cook them for the appropriate amount of time… all that jazz… you know…. people even rave about my pulled pork.

But I loathe it.  I hate cooking for myself when it’s just me, and I’d so much rather just get Subway, or Wendy’s, or pizza, or Pita Pit, or Chinese… or… anything, really.  I guess I don’t wish I was better at it as much as I wish I enjoyed doing it so that I would.

Any tips?  What do you do to keep cooking interesting and make sure you enjoy it?  Do you cook for one or many?