Why is International Women’s Day so Important?

International Women's Day (4 of 10)

International Women’s Day (4 of 10) (Photo credit: pdxjmorris)

In case you slept in this morning, let me be the first to share the news: Happy International Women’s Day!

If you are like me, then you must be wondering why we need a day to celebrate women. I gave this some serious thought.

I realize it was only 100 years ago that women (in western cultures) were not considered people under the law.

I realize that in my lifetime women’s professions went from housewife, nurse, teacher – to anything you want to be – ANYTHING.

I realize that equal pay for equal work is still not happening in many parts of North America – not to mention my city.

I realize that many women are still expected (and do) the bulk of the home stuff, cook, clean, raise kids, make the decisions, work full time and in many cases go to school as well. Although this is mostly a generational thing. It takes a long time to change attitudes.

I realize that many women have been prosecuted for their beliefs and strive hard for the opportunity to have what I take for granted.

I realize that women in other countries are still oppressed and do not get the choice of free will because they are still considered property.

I realized all of this last night when my 15 year old daughter came down to my office to talk to me about her days events. She has been visiting different schools around the city trying to make the right choice for her. I am the one who told her to look at the schools with an open mind and evaluate them on a set of criteria that she has created in her mind.

Now that she has visited the short-listed schools, last night was the time to decide.

Her list of must have for a school were the following:

  1. Excellent Music Program
  2. Great-excellent Drama Program
  3. Opportunities to try new things
  4. AP Math
  5. AP English
  6. An atmosphere where you feel welcome and a part of something bigger that can actually make a difference.

The first school she visited during the week actually offended her. She was angry by the time we had left. There were no welcoming gestures from staff or students and she had a sense that she would be alone yet working along side people rather than in a team atmosphere.

The second school had a great drama department and was welcoming but it didn’t feel to her there were the well rounded opportunities she was hoping for. She talked extensively to teachers and other students and thought – maybe. The location was great and many of her friends had decided this was the place for them, but she wasn’t sold.

After last night’s visit to the last school on the list, she sat down at my desk and looked at me like she was very concerned. I asked her to tell me her thoughts. Her first concern was finding the time to do all the things she wanted to at this school. She was quite sure she couldn’t be on the Cheer Squad AND drama and music. There was no time for guitar class if she was taking photography. The opportunity for learning (yet another instrument – she plays keyboard, guitar, percussion and ukulele) was available if she took Jazz Band. She expressed the desire to play the upright Base. That was 3 separate music classes plus all the other classes she wanted to take. Not to mention the AP courses for core classes. Then there was the different sciences she is interest in like forensic, bio and chem. SHe loved the way the students told her the school wasn’t full of cliques and everyone intermingled and was supportive of each other.

I looked at her and thought she has decided which school she is going to. Then I thought about her grandma’s options and realized this is why we celebrate International Woman’s day.

The achievements from past women are significant – not because of lack of intelligence, but because of opportunity. It does not occur to my daughter that she is not capable of doing any of these activities. It does not occur to her that she wouldn’t be permitted on the basis of gender. She becomes indignant when she hears no on the basis that she is a girl and will argue with intelligent information to make her point. She does realize time is a factor and the ability to keep her marks up are important to HER. Her plans for the future are huge and she doesn’t want to limit her options.

She has OPTIONS. She has more options than I had. More importantly, she has more options than I was aware of.

I’d like to take a moment to thank all the women of the past who forged a path so significant, they changed my daughters world. I am eternally grateful and I can only imagine the good things ahead for future generations.

Suffragette’s, book club and wine

Last night as I prepared for my book club (putting on my boots and walking to my neighbour’s house) my daughter ChatterBox asked me the following question, “What do you do at Book Club?” I gave her my best sinister laugh and replied, “What happens at book club, stays at book club.”

English: British suffragette with a poster, gi...

English: British suffragette with a poster, giving out newspapers Русский: Британская суфражетка с плакатом, раздает газеты или листовки на улице. Позади остановился двухъярусный автобус. Снято до 1919 г. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I then received a history lesson from my 14 year old ChatterBox, “Did you know the Suffragette’s movement started with women gathering for a book club?” That’s my girl! Knowing important history that made her a Person under the Law here in Canada! I always drill into her the importance of Canada’s famous five, the women who stood their ground to change the face of history by getting women the vote. Of course this paved the path for many changes, I don’t want ChatterBox to get too comfortable in thinking this is the end. Human rights shouldn’t have to be fought for, they are a right for a reason.

I asked ChatterBox where she had learned this information. She replied, “I learned it in school.” Then she looked at me as if I was nuts. “Didn’t YOU learn about it in school?” I can honestly say, if I did, I have no recollection of it. I DO remember learning about it the knee of my great grandmother. She raised her 5 kids, her sister-in-law and looked after her mother single handedly while working full time as a teacher on the prairies of Saskatchewan. This was long before the days of equal pay – who are we kidding, there still isn’t equal pay in most positions. My Gram talk to me about the importance of education and how it can change the way people see the world.

I never got the message that educating women would change the world, Gram didn’t specify that. It was implied that boy AND girls should be equally educated. It was important for her to see her granddaughters go to university, her grandsons too…but a larger emphasis on the girls. What if… was likely poking around her mind What if the girls have to make it on their own as I had to.

It is implied that educated men will have great careers and do great things, while educated women become great role models for their children.

Why can women just be great? Men get to be great. I think we are nearing that precipice, but we still have to vigilant. I want both my children to experience the joy of higher education. It has literally transformed me into person who knows less and questions more. Before University I knew more but questioned less. I want this gift for my children.

So ChatterBox, that is what we talk about in Book club. We ask questions we give opinions and we come away knowing more or less than we did before. Either way it becomes food for thought and starts conversations. We do this to honor the traditions of the smart women who came before us and the smart women who come after….and there is wine. I forgot that part.

Reaching for the Worthwhile

I belong to a fledgling book club – all women and lots of wine. We read books that challenge our comfort zone. We take turns choosing the book of the month and host the meeting in perspective homes. Last night was meeting number 2. I know 2 of the ladies quite well, one moderately well and the other two gals are new to my life. We come from different backgrounds, our children are at different ages and stages, our careers are massively different. Yet we all have 2 things in common:

  1. We love to read
  2. We strive for inner growth and change.

I have been reading 419 by Wil Ferguson. There was a single passage near the beginning of the book that made me catch my breath, the character had the task of compiling information for an obituary:

There were never entries for “memory,” or “regrets,” or even “love,” in the lowercase.
It was always “Education (post-secondary)” or “Awards (see also:Best Debut R&B Country CD by a Female Artist, Solo).” Indexes never seemed to get to the heart of the matter. There was never
a heading for hope or fear. Or dreams, recalled. Smiles, remembered. Anger. Beauty. Or even images that lingered, glimpses of something that had made an impression. A doorway. A window. A reflection on glass. The smell of rain. Never any of that. Just a tally of proper nouns and famous names. And why only one life? Why not the web of other lives that define us? What of their indexes”

This made me think. An obituary is typically a list of accomplishments. I remember reading the Toronto paper and remember thinking this people are success driven, there was very little about love and life and endless lists of job related activities and education. Compared to the obituaries I have read in the Edmonton Paper, it was incredibly different. Edmonton Obituaries are typically a laundry list of who died first and who has survived. It seems to be more of a disaster survival list rather than a compilation of words that describe the person. Rarely do you get a glimpse of the deceased’s passions, hobbies or loves. Ferguson makes the same observation. What are our beliefs and how do we define ourselves?

This topic came up in a round about way at Book Club. A few of us are attending a Belief Re-patterning workshop. From what I understand, we have a set of beliefs that we live by. Good/Bad/Indifferent. It is these beliefs that push us forward or hold us back. The point of all this is to discover what it is we truly belive and then taking steps to re-pattern our habits and thoughts to achieve goals.

The conversation then turned to what is it that we would like to change about ourselves. Good question, where do I start? Standing in the middle of me – I find it hard to see what I am, the real deep me. My friends see it. So then what is my belief and what I am striving for?

Then it hit me…after my friend hit me with it. I want to be accepted as I am and I want EVERYBODY to accept me. I want to be perceived as smart and have it all going on. I like being the star of the Robyn Show! Is it happening for me? No, not really. I see my self taking on tons in an effort to show – I have no idea who, perhaps the world, perhaps my mother – and get the recognition I crave. DING DING – Oprah calls this an “A HA” moment, I call it the lightbulb moment.

I see myself discounting rejection, in both my personal and professional life. If I change then maybe you won’t reject me. Sad isn’t it? In some ways it is very liberating. The point isn’t to dig up all the issues of my past, the point is to recognize the pattern and restructure it. One friend hopes this will be a miracle cure, when I see it as more hard work.

If my life is summed up by an obituary or a funeral what do I hope for? My friend wants a balance between family and work. I have a pretty good idea what I would like, the trick is achieving it. I don’t want to look back over my life and say “I should have taken that path”.

I want to look back and think my life was worthwhile.

The dreaded first day of school

Today is the first day for school for most kids I know. Children everywhere are missing summer, feeling sick to their stomach and fearing the unknown.

Me too.

When I was in grade 3 I had moved 13 times. This was to be the final home I was going to grow up in. My parents carefully picked my school so I could walk every day and not have to take the bus like they did. My mom made my lunch everyday with fresh, good for me ingredients when all I wanted was peanut butter sandwich and an apple, everyday until I died. Never happened. She insisted on variety. She was concerned about what the other moms would think. News flash moms, other moms don’t come to school to judge lunches.

I had a milk card and could order milk or juice every day for 25 cents.

Hot dog day was the last Friday of every month.

I was sent to school with a new wardrobe and new shoes. My note books were fresh and tidy, I vowed to keep them that way. That vow lasted less than a week. I remember being nervous about not making friends. That was always hard for me. My brother had a knack for meeting kids and being instant best friends. That lasted until he became an adult and didn’t care if people liked him or not. I, on the other hand, worried endlessly over who would like me and who wouldn’t. I blamed my hair. To be fair, it was clown hair.

We all assembled into the music room. I knew not a soul. The teachers up front called out the names of children. I heard “Robyn” but didn’t budge. I looked around the room to see if the hundreds of other Robyn’s stood up to join the teacher. No one did. She looked to the other Teachers and said, “The new girl? Anyone seen her?” That is when I knew it was me. Here I was the new girl…again. Grade 3 and already been to 5 different schools, 2 of those 5 my dad was a teacher in. I typically bonded with the adults and not the children. Weird, still a problem for me. Most of my friends are much older than I. I am sure a psychiatrist will have fun with that one.

We were led down the hall and shown to our class. Ours was the one without windows. Part of a 1970′s fad about fluorescent lights being good for focus. Thank heavens the pilot project on “Open Classrooms” was done. 6 classrooms with no walls. I think the concept was for the students to mingle in non traditional settings but typical administration, you can’t possibly change the way things have been done for a 100 years. I emerged from grade 2 with chronic headaches and glasses. Still, a class of 30, no windows and a teacher who didn’t like her job and thought smiling might kill her was my destiny. I dreaded recess. I dreaded recess every day until Grade 9 when we didn’t have it any more because we were part of the high school.

School is a lot different now and yet exactly the same. Moms take care of details so kids don’t need to. Food is pre-packaged and not as nutritious so kids don’t have the capacity to stay focused. The teachers who now teach, are there because their school experience sucked and they want to make a difference. They become disillusioned with the growing class sizes, inclusion that doesn’t work and parents who are in your face with problems that aren’t really problems.

The culture of school in middle class communities is very different from when I was a kid. Good grades are expected. Children compete with their peers and parents are emailed if assignments are missed. It certainly is a different world. I remembering not caring about marks, some how as if by magic, good ones appeared on my report card.

The parts that will be the same are the kids the will walk into school with a parent, holding their hand and hiding slightly behind their mom’s arm. They will look on a board to discover what class they are in and see if their friends are with them. They will carry their heavy bags to their room and look for a desk with their name on it. Most teachers take away the scary bits by deciding that for you. They will talk about class rules, and decide which ones are important and help make up new ones. This creates a culture agreement they can live with. The younger grades will be paired up with buddies so recess won’t be scary.

Then it is time to go home. I remember walking home from school in grade 3 on my very first day. I lived 3 doors down from the school. I came home and my Grandma was there to ask me about my day, she made me a snack. Then my dad came home and asked me about my day and if I made any new friends yet. I said yes. Her name was Cheryl. We would be best friends for about 5 months until Carrie with the beautiful hair stole her away from me. I realize now, my shyness was the barrier between me and friends. By the time I reached high school, that shyness was almost all gone. I never showed it on the outside. Now, it is non existent. I had to learn the difference between shy and bold and walk the path in the middle. Not everyone figures that out.

Today is the big day for teachers and children alike. 10 months from now, we won’t even remember what the first day felt like because we are so comfortable in our classroom with the culture the classmates built with the guidance of the teacher.

Now if only I had a Muppet Lunch kit like my daughter has, it would be easier.

She Wore Red Cowboy Boots

While I am away, I am reposting some of my olders blogs from 2011. It is interesting to see where I have come from. This is from /2011/01/08.

I was out last night and ran into my Grade 9 Drama and Religion Teacher. I think I had a tiny crush on her in grade 9 – not the “OMG You play for THAT team?” No, the kind of crush girls get on other girls when they are and do so many fabulous things. She was always dressed so stylishly, had a killer figure, was smart, funny and made me think. Reading over this I don’t think you believe me. It does sound like I had the OTHER kind of crush. Not true. She was a significant role model and mentor for me. The year was 1981.

Flash forward to 2011. She has GOT to be pushing the other side of 60. She was wearing knee-high red cowboy boots, a really cute cut above the knee denim skirt, a great rust red short jacket and she had a blonde bouncy pony tail. Clearly she has grayed but dyes it blonde. Same fabulous smile, and same great relationship with her students. I’m crushing again.

As mentors go, I never once saw her sad, angry or depressed. I knew plenty of teachers who were. I loved it when I could please her or make her laugh and it killed me the day I disappointed her. It was wonderful to see her still reaching out to her students and making them WANT to do better. I bet she has touch a 1000 lives and has no idea how she truly affected them in the long run.

Alex Anderson, a man who also had a profound influence on my life so far, explained to me about the ripple effect. A tiny pebble drops into the water and creates a ripple, many ripples grow from there. Each one affecting the before and after. The pebble is you or me. Think about how many lives you have touched. Good, bad or indifferent.

After seeing my Grade 9 Teacher, I thought about how she made me think, and how she may have been disappointed with path my life took after High School. I really hadn’t thought about her until yesterday when I saw her again. Now she is all I can think about. I am thinking about the choices I made and how the ripple effect touched the people around me.

2011 is laid out before me. I have some big choices to make. I hope I make the right kind of ripple.

Maybe I should buy a pair of red cowboy boots.

Have you hugged a Teacher today?

Summer Solstice Sunset

Summer Solstice Sunset (Photo credit: erik9000)

Today is Summer Solstice, 17 hours of sunshine in my home town of Edmonton. I may complain about the cold winter on a daily basis for 8 months a year, but once a year it all becomes worth it. Today is the day of endless sunshine, the promise of summer vacation and everyone sings Alice cooper’s ode to all things summer. Sing it with me “Schooooooooools out for summa!” Okay, so it is not quite out for summer. While I am laying in bed, trying to sleep with the sun blaring into my eyes, I will be counting down until I say good-bye to my little lovelies for this year, and begin the process of fearing the next round. That’s right, FEARING. September always means starting from scratch. The life of a teacher is, well, exhausting mentally.

Yesterday I wrote a blog with the intent of supporting my friend Joe who is running 12 marathons in a year. He is actually running 14, because 2 are for other charities he supports and is in final race is called The Dopey. Aptly named for those who run a 5k Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday at Walt Disney World in January. That is a whole lot of running. Now here I thought I was being supportive but actually I was being controversial. Look at me I am controversial! Well done Tourist! Making a name for yourself!!

I wrote about a colleague who I ADORE, we just talk smack at the photocopier and at Starbucks when I run into him there. We all have that friend. The one who is a fake enemy but is really your best pal through thick and thin. He worships the Maple Leafs, and I think that is a mistake. He was misinformed as to the distance of a marathon and mistook it for a fun run. We cleared that up. By no means are we enemies. He is too hilarious for me dis and dislike. On top of that he is one of the finest teachers I have ever worked with and a compassionate human being.

There was an unfortunate event with a reader, who happens to be my uncle. He commented on the intelligent level of this teacher and generalized it into many teachers. I could launch into a rant here, but I received no less than 60 emails and blog comments from friends and  strangers who are, know or love a teacher. My blogger friend SD, came to my rescue like the superhero he is and eloquently defended teachers. There are a few sad facts that surround this controversy.

1. I come from a long and prestigious line of Teachers (my Dad and my beloved Great Grandma) who, in my humble opinion are the finest teachers to ever grace a classroom. (I will explain later what makes a great teacher)

2. Betrayal by a family member is hurtful and shocking. Although I do not feel slighted personally, I truly felt I needed to defend the honor of my colleagues, Father, Gram and every other teacher who made a difference to someone.

3. Intelligence is not the measure of how much information you can store in your head (because I would win that in a kickass Trivial Pursuit game). Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge. Having knowledge doesn’t do anyone any good if you are not a critical thinker. Knowing fire is hot is useful on a science quiz. Using fire as an element in your plan for world domination is intelligence.

I heard a voice echo in my head during my swim today. It was the voice of the finest teacher I know, my dad. Take the High Road Robyn. So I am.

Let’s talk about Job qualifications both spoken and unspoken in a job interview for the position of Elementary School Teacher. This applies to most of the people I work with except me and my team. We are Early Education, that falls under a different category. See…we have learned something new already!

To be a Teacher in Alberta (I cannot speak to other provinces, states or countries – I am a prairie girl) You must posses a valid teaching certificate issued by Alberta Education – this is the government of Alberta. They are bossy and have rules. One of those rules are to receive this accreditation – yes ACCREDITATION – you must have a minimum 4 year bachelor of education degree or B.Ed. from an accredited University, not college, not technical institute, not an on-line diploma from Sally Struthers. To receive this degree you must have done reasonably well in high school, apply to the university and give them all your money.

Now, the University does not care which degree program you apply for, but they do care if you don’t pay. It is pretty much the same cost for a B.Ed as a B.Com. Thus when a teacher graduates, they are called a PROFESSIONAL. I know! Now you learned another new thing! Professionals range from Doctors to Lawyers, to Pharmacists to Compliance Officers. All over the country, these professionals are regarded with respect from peers and clients with the exception of the Lawyers and that is for other reasons, but lawyers work their asses off, as do teachers. Yet the average teacher in Alberta makes $50, 000. Lawyers make way more. Remember, professionals do not get overtime. They are salary.

To get a school board to even LOOK at your resume, you have to have an excellent teacher practicum, done volunteer work and a pile of substitute teaching gigs. Those are NOT PLEASANT people! Then they ask you the scariest possible scenario to see how you would handle it. You pass or you fail – none of this no zeros allowed crap because this is the real world!

Once you are installed in a school, you get you room, your list of children. This is is a minimum of 27. There are bright kids, average kids, special needs kids and the dreaded behaviour kids who ALWAYS end up being my favorites. If you are lucky you get an assistant, but you must have a special circumstances to qualify for that. Then Alberta Curriculum sends you the course requirements for the year. Everything you must cover for these children to pass into the next grade. At no point in time was your intelligence ever in question. These people know you can write papers, answers questions, ask thoughtful questions, problem solve, and follow directions. No one ever gives a Doctor an IQ test before he opens up his private practice. It is ASSUMED he/she knows what he/she is doing.

Then why are teachers expected to know every tiny bit of knowledge available to the human race?

If you expect that from a teacher, you had the worst school experience ever and I am sorry for you.

Teachers come to work as early as 6:00 am (my kindergarten teacher friend does that) and leave long after 5PM. Lots of professionals do this. Do not for one minute think your child’s teacher leaves school when your child does. This does not include the work the Teacher brings home, lots of other professionals do this too. I remember my dad having stacks of essays, tests, papers just sitting by his chair. Every night he would plug away at marking.Not one of these people complain. It is understood that a teacher will put in an extra 40-70 hours a week EXTRA over and above the regular school day.

Teachers stay late to coach, drama, music or any other extra curricular activity your child wants to be in. Then the teacher has MORE work to do, marking, grading, preparing for the next day, planning field trips, planning for YOUR child to go on a holiday (for the record, your child is missing out on instruction time. This cannot be made up from “extra work sheets”. This will affect the final body of knowledge you child gleans from the year. Make the trip a good one and worth your child’s time.)

Now, a teacher rarely stands in front of the classroom yammering about facts. Your child would fail. Teachers need to now teach to all learning types, the doers, the lookers, the listeners, the repeaters and THIS does not include the special programming that is required for special needs, gifted, ESL, other differences that would blow your head off.

A teacher’s role is to take the curriculum, design a program that will be adjusted to the individual needs of their classroom. Encouraging, guiding and supporting your child into finding the information they need, applying it to other situations and retaining this information. Spewing facts has nothing or very little to do with a teachers job, remember google is your friend.

A teacher needs to be a social worker because a child confessed that their dad climbs into bed with them at night.

A teacher needs to be a nurse because your child can’t follow directions and climbed up on the shed roof and fell on their face and split a lip.

A teacher needs to be a police officer because your child took rum from the kitchen in YOUR house and put it in a coke bottle to share with their friends.

A teacher needs to be politically correct and up on every nuance of every culture known to mankind because you might be offended if they touch your elbow.

A teacher needs to be a security guard because lunatics sneak into the school and hide in the girls bathroom.

A teacher needs to be a crossing guard because you can’t make your child’s school safe for them to walk into the school, you create a traffic jam because you are to lazy/busy/hurried to park across the street and walk your child to school.

A teacher needs to run a food bank because you didn’t send lunch or feed your child breakfast. This causes them to not pay attention and your child gets labeled a BEHAVIOR.

A teacher needs to run a clothing shop because you send your child without mitts/hats/socks/shoes/boots/underwear. You have it, but you are in a rush so your child goes without.

A teacher needs to be compassionate because if they do not make a connection with your child, your child cannot learn.

A teacher needs to smile even when their dog dies.

A teacher has to listen to YOU yell at them because your child won’t do their work in school and has to bring it home, now there is homework and you don’t have time to make sure they do it.

A teacher gets labeled mean because they see potential in your child and will demand your child does better.

A teacher will cry every June because your child will make it in the world or not.

Tomorrow when you go to school or even tonight as you reflect on the teachers of your past or the teachers of your present, think about these things that make a great teacher. I am willing to bet you know a teacher who does at least most of the things on this list. If that is the case, you are lucky and did not receive a human to teach your child, but a bonafied TEACHER.

  1. You notice older students coming back to talk to your child’s teacher. This means these children connected with the teacher and have a special bond that was ripe for optimum learning.
  2. Your child’s teacher knows the names of the parents.
  3. Your child’s teacher will take time out of their day to make sure you are having a good one.
  4. Young kids will want to hug the teacher. Older ones will want to “hang out” and talk.
  5. You are welcome into the classroom at ANY TIME
  6. You see the teacher sitting beside a student helping them figure out a problem.
  7. Your child’s teacher is always available via email and will return a phone call on THEIR lunch break.
  8. Your child’s teacher will call or send a note home because something has changed and they just can’t put a finger on it but something is not right. Their spidy sense is tingling and they are concerned about your child.
  9. Your child’s teacher greet’s your child by name as they walk into the classroom.
  10. Your child’s teacher laughs every day.

Did you notice not one bullet about intelligence? Or marks? Or attendance?

If your child’s teacher makes a lasting connection with your child, the bond will never be broken. They will be set for life for learning and always will want to make their teacher proud. Sadly we don’t reach every child, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

So for all of you who know a teacher, go thank them. You are the great human you are today because you responded to one teacher in your life and they made a difference for you. If you cannot recall this ever happening in your life, I’m so sorry, but we tried. Trying is a two way street.

I am proud to be called Teacher. I stand proudly with my peers and together we know we make a difference in the life of a person, big or small. I go to sleep every night know I matter in the life of someone. Can you say the same? You can if you had a great teacher in your life.

That Goes Well With Rice and other M-isms

Geek Squad logo

Image via Wikipedia

Genetic Offspring has a group of friends who refer to themselves as “the Geek Squad”. The say things like “be nice to me, I will be your boss one day.” They are funny x10. They call themselves Wilson (he’s mine), M, Burn A Cabbage, and Yak. There are many others I call Skippy and Sparky – I refer to all of them as Skippy and Sparky – those fellas are on the fringe of the core group of friends.

M is my favorite. He makes me howl with laughter. He is smart – brilliant actually, dedicated to his family, artistic, and creative x10. His motto is “it goes well with Rice”. M claims everything goes well with rice. Being the token Asian guy in the group (his words not mine) he feels it’s his duty to impress upon the importance of rice. One day he helped bring in my groceries and he offered to carry the rice, so I gave him my tiny 3 cup bag. He ranted and raved and was shocked … “That is it? WE have enough rice in our basement to feed all of Africa.” I often grill him about our cultural differences and what it was like to move here from the Philippines at such a young age. Bottom line is, Wilson did good picking his friends.

M came over last night because his ride abandoned him. He had cousins that live by us, but he chose to seek out Wilson’s family for help. First of all, that made me feel great. Secondly, I love it when he visits. He is very charming and charismatic. He needed a ride home because dodge people hang out in the creek at night and didn’t want to walk that far alone. So Wilson and M piled into my car for the 5 minute drive.

He began chatting about how hard it is to find a suitable pompom.

Huh? What for?

For a hat he MADE for his GIRLFRIEND – well, she isn’t his girlfriend yet, there has been no official asking, but they talk every night. I pumped him for all the important info, like…

1) Where is she from?

2)What school did she attend?

3)Is she smart?

1)She is from South Africa but Chinese.

2)She was home schooled and is in school for the first time.

3)Ummm she is Chinese.

Then they fellas talked about how cute she is. So I said, tiny with long straight black hair? M asked if I knew her… HAHA Just your “type” M.

I then changed the subject and said, make a pompom.. His response was YOU CAN MAKE A POM POM? I explain how and invited him over if he needed help.

Wilson doesn’t want me to help. He doesn’t want M to have an official girlfriend. He made a bet with the Geek Squad that all of them would have a girlfriend before M. The bet is a slap – that’s right a slap bet. My son is book smart not street smart….oh the shame.

Wilson, Why would you think M wouldn’t have a girlfriend before you guys? Answer: because he gets carried away and doesn’t play it cool. Yak isn’t there anymore to hold him back and advisehim because they are in different schools.

No offense to Yak – but if you guys WANT girlfriends, listen to M. He has it all figured out. He is charming, goofy, funny, brilliant, kind, thoughtful AND attentive. He will be the richest one of the group because he doesn’t hold back. He is a risk taker. Wilson looked at me and thought….hmmm..

I guess we shall see who is right, me or Yak. Meanwhile, I will wait with ice for the results of the slap bet.

Things I learned This Year in Pre-School

Most of you know I am a teacher of young children 10 months of the year. Summer vacation is around the corner and I am very excited! Teachers are often more excited than children when summer break arrives. True Story.

Every year I learn a thing or two to add to fountain of useless knowledge. This year is no exception. Remember Kung Fu with David Carradine? And how he, the Grasshopper taught the Master and something new? Well, my dear readers that is exactly what happened to me. My young padawans became the Jedi Master and I learned many new things from them. So much, in fact, I wish to share some incredible lessons from my grasshoppers.

Things the Edmonton Tourist Learned in Pre-School

  1. You won’t die if you eat food found in the playground, on the bus, in the hallway or even on the bathroom floor. But fresh broccoli will kill you.
  2. Children have zero feeling in their faces from the nose down. It is completely numb. This is the reason their nose is constantly dripping. They have no idea slimy, colourful streams of mucus is always running down their faces.
  3. You can go all year without having soap touch your hands and NEVER get sick or miss a day of school.
  4. Wearing underwear under a dress or skirt is a good idea.
  5. It is socially acceptable to lick the bathroom floor. Your peers will not think it’s odd.
  6. If your bum is itchy – scratch it. If you can’t reach it – your friend will help.
  7. Closing your eyes makes you invisible.
  8. If an adult asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say 4 and walk away.
  9. When you paint a paper gingerbread man and glue REAL candy to it, the grade 5s down the hall will eat all the glued candy off.

And the # 10 thing I learned?

      10.  Your mom doesn’t work at school, you have to wipe your own bum.

 

Note to Self:

Have you ever sat back, thought about things and thought “hindsight being 20/20 I wish I did…” Me TOO! Here is my chance. I am writing a letter to 20 year old self. She was pretty smart for 20, she was pretty stupid for 20. She needs my help.

Dear Edmonton Tourist,

I am writing you this from March 22, 2011. I know for you it is March 22, 1988. You are only 20 and in your last year of college. You leave in a few days to embark on a life changing experience. Before you go, trust that you will make good choices, because you do. You are smart, you have good values and you are a lot of fun. I am going to share with you what will about to happen. I wish someone had done this for me when I was your age. I would have made some different choices. The good news is, knowing what you are about to know will make life easier when you are 43 and having to make tough choices. I trust you. You will make the right decision.

You found a job as a Spring Break Camp Counselor at a lake in Alberta. You will learn skills that put your Post Secondary learning to shame. You will have the most extraordinary week! It will be so incredible, you will talk to the camp leader before you head back to school, asking for another position in May. You are very charming and convince him he needs you for the last position. Good move! You will look back at this year and remember activities that will make circle time the most amazing experience for children and their mothers. You will meet people who will teach you life lessons that you will never forget. You meet a boy who tells you how smart you are. This will be a new experience for you. Never before have you ever met a boy who thought you were smart, had potential or expected great things from you. You two will talk endlessly into the nights of summer discussing plans for furthering your education. tapping into that brain of yours. You will love being around him because he challenges you to be more than you ever expected. Your room-mates also have high expectations and tell you so. When you choose to leave the brains behind and explore fun, your best friend will look at you like you broke her heart. Her disappointment will be something you think about for a very long time.

All is not lost, the boy convinces you to apply to the University of Alberta in the Bachelor of Education Program. Of course you get excepted! You are a smart girl! Why don’t you believe it? I think I know why…

There was a toxic influence in your life. You broke up with this toxic influence before you left for camp. He poisoned your family. He made them doubt you. You knew you were doing the right things. Your family wanted the best for you. He was cunning. He convinced everyone you loved that he was a better choice and what you were doing was reckless.

That August, when you turn 21, you will go home and visit everyone. It will be a painful experience. No one will understand your choices. You are unable to articulate your needs. You will seem confused. You won’t understand why people you love are angry at you. Some won’t even speak to you. So out of desperation, you go back to the toxic influence. He makes you quit school. You can’t be smarter than him, he can’t win that way. You just want people to love you. You think this is the only way. This is where I wish you trusted yourself. Such a smart girl. So sad that you never thought you were.

All is not lost. That little voice in you will make you cry every day until you are sick of crying. Finally, you will do something about it. You will leave. You will tell your family, tough. Only you aren’t quite tough enough. Still not able to think you are smart. It will take you decades of doubt and self soothing behavior before you believe in yourself. You turn to food as the support you never felt as an adult.

Then you will turn 43.

You will be sick of being  smart and not being recognized for it. So, you will go back to University. You will still be apprehensive, not knowing if you could handle the courses. You will be nervous handing in your first paper. Don’t worry, you will be an honor student. You will see things in a unique perspective that will have your instructors praising your insight.

Then you will be tired of not doing things that feed your soul. So you will start doing things that you love. Regular visits to the Art Gallery will just be the tip of the ice burg. You will find people who read the same books as you and love to discuss them. You will let your children make their own important choices. This will be more fulfilling then you ever would have imagined. The pride from watching your children make great choices for themselves will move you to tears.

Then, around Christmas, you will realize you are no longer the same person on the outside as you are on the inside. Off you will go to change that too. You will have a million balls in the air, not one will fall. You are capable enough to accomplish these amazing feats. Your only regret will be you didn’t believe in yourself sooner.

Later on in your 43rd year, you may find you need to make choices that not everyone will agree with. You have learned that lesson already. While it is true that being sensitive to others is important, remember not to lose yourself again.

You matter. You are important. You count.

Don’t forget your Yoga intention.

Love Self

If you can remember those two words, you will make the next 43 years count.

Love Me

xxxx

 

You are Welcome! But seriously, Thank You.

I have had a very interesting week. Stars are starting to align for me. A friend today said, I’m not superstitious but I think something amazing is about to happen for you. Really? I hope so. I don’t want to jinx anything, but damn it universe, I am DUE!

This may be old news to some of you but new to others. 20 some-odd years ago I was a Pre-school Teacher in an Edmonton Suburb where BMW’s and Audi’s were way more common than Escorts and Civics. I learned many, many things about myself, both good and bad. I had made huge mistakes but also made enormous good choices. I was in my early twenties. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, I loved my job. I loved my students. I made amazing connections with these young 4 year olds. They taught me plenty. Many times over the recent years I thought about what a different world I work in now, yet still thought about these individuals and wondered how their life turned out.

Studies show by having a positive preschool experience can lead to success later in life. These children are more likely to stay in school, and move on to secondary education.

Over the past little while, former students have been showing up in my life. I am taking a class with a mother of a former student. How did I remember this mom 21 years later? Her child had a profound impact on me. We connected on a level that I cannot explain. I have thought about her many times over the years. I even considered naming ChatterBox after her. I discover she is about to graduate from a university program and about to become the type of professional I work with everyday. How surreal would it be if she ended up in my staff-room? Secretly, I would love that.

Yesterday I went to my Pharmacy. The Student Pharmacist had her name embroidered on her lab coat. I looked at her face, and knew who it was. I hadn’t seen her in 22 years. Her brilliance as a four year old astounded me then. Yet here she was explaining to me about possible side-effects. I said “I think I was your Pre-school Teacher” She looked at me as if I was bonkers. I said, “you were allergic to milk and peanuts. I could only give you rice products for dairy and I wore an epipen everyday – just in case” She became all excited and said “I out grew the milk allergy!!” YAY! I told her to say hi to her mom for me and was  happy she had been successful at school. She replied with, I really loved preschool.

That made me smile.

I have met several other children over the past two weeks that I use to teach, about 7 in all. I love the way their face lights up as they remember me.

Yesterday I registered Genetic Offspring for High School. He had a grade one teacher who made tremendous impact on him. She loved science, taught my son why you should love science, and he never looked back. Talking with the school counsellor yesterday, she convinced him he really needed AP Science, then she would let him take Chem 20 as an option in his second semester. My little boy man-child went to bed incredibly excited to start grade 10. His head swimming with plans to study math so he can succeed beyond expectations in physics. He will do it. He has had some amazing teacher mentors that inspire him.

Thinking about the effect one person can make in your life can be overwhelming. For me personally, there is one. This is person I will be eternally grateful for. They taught me I matter, my feelings are important, and showered me with all the support and comfort I needed during a time when I really didn’t think I mattered all that much. I haven’t spoke with this person in a really long time. I need to send them a note to let them know how grateful I am. I challenge you to do the same.

Meeting past students brightened my days this week. I know I didn’t get them through University, but I like to think I may have helped. Actually, I know I helped one in particular, because she told me so.

Next stop on the Edmonton Tourist Journey…Thank-you-ville