Friday, June 13, 2014

Misadventures in Labelling

Have you ever had the feeling that the purpose of your life was to serve as a warning to others?  Or at least to make other people feel better about themselves and their abilities relative to yours?

Just me?

I have many faults, among them - not labelling things I put in the freezer for later consumption.  I overinflate my mental abilities when Josh asks me - everytime - "Are you sure you don't want to write down what that is?"  And I look at him like he just landed here from Ork and cheerily quip : "Nah, it'll be fine" and chuck it in the freezer completely confident that I will a) remember what said nebulus reddish/orangey/saucy dish is in the ziploc bag relative to all the other nebulus reddish/orangey/saucy dishes it sits beside in the deep freeze and b) I will accurately recall how well the original dish was received by the whole of Team Loewen and if it needs any adjusting the next time around.

Truth alert:  I rarely remember either.  And yet I'm not sure after nearly 20 years of married life I'm apt to change this habit.

So for your viewing pleasure - I give you a shot of the mystery dinner I just plunked in the crock pot.  Does it need rice, noodles or bread to go with it? Salad or hot vegetables? Is it spicy or sweet?  I think Gus Portokalos put it best when he said:  "I don' know, I don' know, I don' know!!"

I need help.

Anyone want to come for dinner?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Teachers

Hey there.

I'm not sure where exactly to start.  Our province is in the middle of some nasty negotioations with your union.  As parents we are stuck in the middle of a maddeningly toxic game of "he said-she said" with no happy conclusion in sight.  I don't know how to solve the problem, and I suppose at this point if it were simple, a deal would have been reached already.  It seems both sides are yelling at each other while covering their ears and assigning the worst motives possible to their adversaries.  I don't like it, nor do I understand a way out.

So what I want you to know is this:  I believe you when you say you don't want the kids to get caught in the middle of this - even though, they essentially are.  I wonder, if you aren't a little caught too? What else can you do that might maybe, somehow, get boths sides to actually begin to do what you try so hard to teach your students- our kids- day after day:  to listen, to believe the best in each other, to put aside differences, find common ground and try to work it out.  I know how frustrating it is as a parent to have each week look different because of job action- but how much more is it for you? A day of job action is an inconvenience for me, but it actually messes with your whole learning plan, and yet - you manage to find a way, even with limited planning and communication time.  You are rock stars! Seriously!

I think perhaps if I was in your shoes, I might be doing exactly the same thing.  Your working conditions are my kids' learning conditions.  So they matter. The number of students in a class matter.  Proper special ed support matters.  That you get paid enough to live comfortably, so you can be well-rested, well-planned, and well-equipped to do what most of us cannot imagine doing day after day is important to me.  I don't think I have to agree with the way either side is going about this whole thing to say that I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish on behalf of yourself and my kids.

I do know a lot of you who are with our kids for 30-plus hours a week and I have to say, I haven't met a bad one yet! :) I want to step outside of this conflict for a moment, and just speak to you -YOU- the very real person who is in the middle of this day after day.

I see you and I want you to know - you matter!

I see you each morning, despite all the limitations and rhetoric from both sides that you have to wade through, open the doors to our kids with a smile.  "It's gonna be a great day! Welcome here!" You say. And I know you mean it.

I see you still putting out your own money, despite pay cuts, for extra-special crafts and gifts made with love to be sent home with our kids. I know you believe in teaching them that creating art is important. I see that you notice how they run to us with faces beaming because you believed they could make something fantastic- and they did! Thank you for that.

I see your love for your students come out in the way you plan units that are so much more than just "fill in the blanks" and "copy questions 1 - 12" because you care so much that our kids actually LEARN something, not just become proficient regurgitators for high marks on mandatory testing. That time you spend makes a difference to their learning and I know it takes much more than a few minutes a day to make that happen.  I see the effort you put into it.  Again - I thank you.

I see you, despite the many distractions, notice my completely average kid who is having a hard day and magically find time to help him see where he can improve and where he is having success.  You walk this tightrope between molding their abilities and encourging them to be their best without breaking their spirits with such finesse because you are skilled at this - this is what teaching is all about, isn't it? That tightrope walking is a skill that we as parents try and walk ourselves - we appreciate that it isn't always easy - but you do it, and we notice.

Is see that this teaching and shaping of growing minds and characters is what you love, it's what drives you to do what you do with such care and concern for our kids.  It's why you're willing to put up with so much crap and bad press because you believe your job is not in vain.  I'm here to stand with you today, and agree - you are important.  Our kids are learning because of you not in spite of you! You do so well what so many of us cannot or would not do.  You do it despite the mudslinging and political spin from both sides of the fray.  I want you to put a gold star on your "yay me!" chart tonight because you totally deserve it! This letter is me cheering for you from the sidelines!

I see you despite all that is going on, still trying to find ways to do the impossible - to still pull off the year-end musical, to do those extra-special projects, to start new learning initiatives, to meet learning outcomes in ways that are meaningful to your students.  What you are doing is difficult - but you ARE doing it.  So I want to say - Well done.

I see you also doing the back and forth dance of balancing the time spent planning, reporting and communicating on behalf of my kids, while trying to have a life of your own.  You have relationships, kids, parents, friends -lives outside of teaching that also need care and attention in order for you to be a balanced and well-rounded member of society.  I am thankful that you do not eat, sleep and breath education exclusively, thought I know you do it a lot.  It's important to me that you take time for your life as well as what you do for a living.  This is a good thing, and I hope you find joy in all areas of your life!

I know you aren't perfect.  I want to extend grace on those bad days, just like you try and extend grace and compassion to myself and my kids when we are less than our best.  I promise I won't define you by the worst of your profession, I know you do the same for me. I will believe and promote the best of who you are because I see it over and over again, in classroom after classroom, school after school.

I don't know how this is all going end. I am a little concerned that the worst isn't over yet. But I never want to forget that you are a real person and you are trying in an imperfect system to do the best you can for the benefit of my kids.  I want you to know no matter what happens, I believe what you are doing is important and I believe in you!

Hang in there teacher-friends! We need you!

*i have disallowed blogger comments on this because I want this only to be an encouragment to my many friends who are teachers or are married to them, I have no intention of having politcal commentary play out in the comment section!  I can't disallow the FB comments, but from this post they will be moderated! Happy Friday everyone! :)