Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Deep Thoughts

I'm struggling today. Struggling with why I have this blog and what it means to me.

I started my first blog over 5 years ago. I have been writing this particular blog since 2011. For the most part, I have been happy having the opportunity to share my ideas, philosophy and classroom with so many. And not just parents either! I have people reading this blog from as far away as Europe! 

And, I have to say, that I have never, ever gotten anything but positive feedback from parents at my school and foreign readers alike.

But, this morning, upon arriving at school and finding out that there had been a concern raised about my last blog post (the one on class placement craziness) and, on the advice of my union, I voluntarily deleted the post. 

And, even though I did it voluntarily, I still feel like I have been censored. It feels like, as a teacher, I am not allowed to express my opinion. And I gotta tell you, the feeling really sucks. 

I originally switched to writing a classroom blog (from my previous more personal blog which was more about my art making) because I wanted a way to connect with parents and other teachers on the happenings in our classroom. I wanted a way to share the amazing things that happen on a daily basis. I wanted a way to let others into our daily life and see what we were doing each day.

And, let me tell you, I take the writing of this blog very seriously. There is not a single post that goes out without my having read it, read it again and pored over it some more. (I've reread this one and made changes 6 times already!!!!) I spend hours on my weekends writing blog posts so that parents (and the teaching community at large) can see what is happening in our classroom.

Today has made me question all of that. 

I do have to say that I am filled to the brim with gratitude for the two parents who told me, completely out of the blue, that they appreciated my words in the (now deleted) classroom placement post. You know who you are!!!! Thank you for filling my bucket!

I do know in my heart that most parents at my school who choose to read the blog understand that I am stating my own personal opinion and that I am never speaking about any of them in particular (it is one of the reasons that I use events from long ago years or my other school as examples).

But, today it feels like my right to free speech has been taken away. And, it makes me wonder, is this blog worth the hours I put in to it on my own time, if one criticism can result in the deletion of a post? 

It feels a bit like today deleted a part of me. 

And so, I am struggling. 

Feeling like I can't give one person's negative opinion of a post I wrote, upset the whole apple cart.

Yet, simultaneously, feeling that I am not sure what tomorrow will bring as far as this blog goes. 

Not sure if I should bother continuing to give so much of my free time to sharing what goes on in our classroom. 

Not sure if this blog really matters (or is helpful) to anyone. 

I am feeling very sad about the whole situation. 

Before today, writing this blog has always given me such joy. I love the children I work with and generally spend most of my time sharing the wonderful things happening in the classroom. 

But, on occasion, I do write about something that some might see as controversial. Not often. But every once in awhile. I always try to preface these posts with letting the reader know I am about to talk about something that is a "soapbox" topic for me or that I am about to "rant" about something. I figure the reader has the right to disagree or not read my blog at all. I thought that was what freedom of speech is all about!

Now I feel like I can't do that. I feel like my voice has been stifled. And, I have to ask myself, if I can't be true to myself on this blog, then why have the blog in the first place? 

So, I am struggling with it. 

Not sure where I am going to go with it.

But, if you are reading, and, if you chose to read to the end of this post...thank you. I appreciate it! 

Struggling on....


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Still Waiting but....Ready and Willing!!!! (And a freebie!)

Hey everyone!

How's it going for you on this loverly Sunday afternoon? The sun is shining bright here (not that I've been out in it yet!) and life is good. 

So, good news/bad news. Which do you want first? Bad news? I thought so! It's best to get it over with quick, doncha think? Just rip it off like a band aid!

Okay, bad news is that the strike is still on. There was a glimmer of hope on Friday when our union asked for binding arbitration (which would put an end to this strike) but then the government said "No!" I am beyond pissed about it. Here we are trying to figure out how to end this thing and we put something on the table that could go in our favour or against it. I mean, binding arbitration leaves it up to the middle man. We are willing to gamble and take what we get (good, bad or ugly) in terms of wages, benefits and prep time. This is a pretty big step seeing as how those three things are pretty important items to most teachers. So, we put ourselves out there and showed that we want this over. And what does our government do? They refuse!!!! They keep saying that they want this strike to end but, when asked to walk the walk, they just aren't doing it. I think my first word of the day when we get back in to school should be hypocrite with a big old picture of our premier and education minister beside it. AARGH!!!!!

Now for some good news...because anyone who knows me knows that I always try to see the glass half full (or totally full at times!)... I decided to just get on with getting on in terms of school stuff and spent the morning reworking my assessment pages for basic skills in grade 1 and 2. Now all I have to do is print them out, photocopy them and pop them into the portfolio duotangs waiting at school and I'll be ready to roll! So, I have something off my school To Do list! Yay me! 

Getting my basic skills assessments done may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things (and, really, it is) but I am going positively stir crazy not teaching. I can't believe I am saying this but I am actually tired of reading! Since the strike started in mid-June I have read 48 books. Yep, 48!!! Maybe I'll have to switch over to education texts. Hmmm....there's a thought!

So, anywho, not sure if my skills assessment would be useful to anyone else but thought I'd send it out there just in case someone could find a use for it. Help yourself! Remember that it is an assessment to be used all year. Some of the skills on it are what a student is expected to know at the END of the year in my district.

Oh, and, please leave me a comment if you download it. And if you think of anything I can do to tweak it. I'm sure I missed some things! Just click on the link below to go to it.



Saturday, September 6, 2014


I know it is a week into September but I am just getting back to using the office downstairs in our house. 

It was transformed into a bedroom for near on 3 months while our daughter's friend visited from Indiana. 

Now, with our daughter's friend gone back home, my hubby has started to organize and clean the space. Yay!

So, here's my Currently for the month....

So, going through the topics....

Listening....I live in a house where there is almost always noise going on. My hubby can't stand quiet. I like quiet. I savour it when I get it. I can hear the tv blaring upstairs but down here it is calm and peaceful.

Loving...I have had a list of things I want to do to this place since we moved in almost two years ago. Hubby is the love of my life but not exactly Mr. Handyman. I am thrilled that he has taken it upon himself to get going on some of the things on the list. He even made another list with his ideas!!! Since we are now empty nesters (yep, my good egg is 3,000 miles away at university) we are going to work together to make this the house WE want it to be for the two of us.

Thinking....well, this one is pretty self explanatory. We've been on strike since mid-June and there just doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Our teacher's federation has called for binding arbitration but it does not look like the government is going to go for it. Damn them! I just want to be in the classroom teaching. Oh, and being able to afford groceries would be nice, too!

Wanting....see above (sigh)

Needing....when I was away at university (many moons ago now) my best friend and I exchanged care packages. I loved them. And I loved getting real mail. So, I am going to be doing the same for my daughter. I've been buying goodies to put in them since she got accepted to university 9 months ago. Going to bake a batch of peanut butter cookies so I can mail some homemade goodness to her as well. 

3 Trips.... Australia....I have wanted to go there FOREVER. I lived there as a wee babe and have no memories of it but have been talking about going there since I was about six or so. One day I will take  a leave of absence from work and go on a walkabout. One day...

River trip...there is a company that does river cruises through the south of the USA. I want to take the one that goes through South Carolina and Georgia ending up at the beach our family has gone to for over 75 years. Maybe next time we plan a beach trip we'll get there via river cruise.

Scotland & Ireland....these are just two places I have always wanted to go. My family comes from there originally (think back about 300 years!) and there is just something magical about them, isn't there? From the green hills to the lyrical accents they just call to me.

So, there you go. That's where I "currently" am! Hope all is well in your world!



Monday, September 1, 2014

Long Time No Write!!!!

Hello all!

(I am going to warn you now that this is pretty much a soapbox post. So, if you aren't in the mood for a rant, just move on to the next blog you like. I won't be mad. I promise! But if you are so inclined, just scroll down past the picture and start reading! Oh, and word of warning, this post is looooong!)

Life Quotes

I have been away from this blog for much longer than I intended. I would love to be able to say it is because I have been so busy living my incredible life that I just haven't had the time. Not that I haven't been living my incredible life... I have! I've had a wonderfully relaxed summer filled with reading, yoga and family time. Interspersed with a few stressful moments dealing with my mother who has Alzheimer's. But, overall, things have been good...really, really good.

No, the reason I haven't been posting is because my heart just hasn't been in it. My heart has been heavy. It still is.

I need to say upfront that I love teaching. And when I say love, I mean L-O-V-E teaching.  

I love working with children every day.

I love that I can be creative in how I teach concepts.

I love writing here about the students I teach and the wonderful things that happen on a daily basis. 

Teaching is in my blood. 

Teaching is deep rooted in me. 


But these past few months with our contract negotiations and job action have been tough. As in T--O--U--G--H...

Without teaching it is like a part of me has been cut off or taken away. This leaves a hole. And it leaves me feeling sad and not a little angry at the reasons I am not allowed to teach right now.

It was so depressing and heart wrenching to not be in the classroom at the end of June. To have to finish off what was a wonderful year with a wonderful group of students by going on strike and walking the line. Having to spend hours walking around my school with a picket sign on instead of being in the school teaching the children I love. Thank goodness for the students who came to visit and give hugs. They made it all more bearable.

It was depressing not being able to spend my own time in the summer setting up my room for September. Most years I would have gone in for a bit every week to clean, organize, plan, and decorate the class. (Don't even get me started on the primary book room which has not been cleaned or inventoried yet. Something else I do in my free, unpaid time every summer.)

It is depressing and infuriating having to listen over and over to government rhetoric about education and all that they are already doing for it. Feeling frustrated and angry that we have won a court case against the government's illegal stripping of our contract not once but TWICE and yet they still will not step up and admit that they were wrong and take steps to right that wrong. 

Your value doesn't decrease based on someone's inability to see your worth. / Image via 24.media.tumblr.com / #liveinspired #inspiringquotes

It is frustrating and saddening to know that tomorrow morning I will be back on the picket line and not back in my classroom. More so because I don't see an end in sight. Not with a government that doesn't see the worth in funding our future. That doesn't see the value in funding, not just the people educating, but the children receiving that education. 

But I know my value. And I know the value in providing the children in this province with the educational setting and supports that they not only need but deserve. I know the value, not only for those individual children, but for our society as a whole. And I believe in that value. I believe that our children deserve to have someone see their worth and back it up with action.

Stand Up For What Is Right Even If You Are Standing Alone.

It is hard to feel so strongly about my chosen career, so strongly about advocating for the students I see and love every day, the students who struggle to learn and those that need enrichment to push them further. The students who find at school the love, support and routine that they desperately need in their lives. It is hard to feel that and to know that the people running this province do not seem to care about these students. 

When the government keeps saying that they don't have the money to fund education they speak of education broadly, as pretty much a service that is provided in our province. It is a concept. Our premier, Christy Clark, and our Education Minister, Peter Fassbender, don't see the individual students who are impacted by their decisions and lack of willingness to do what is right. Or, if by some miracle they do (I wouldn't hold my breath), then they just don't care. Which, in my opinion, would be even worse.

Great quote to help motivate you to get your projects done.

Education may be a service but it is a service made up of individual real people, real children with real needs who have the right to have those needs met. 

I see the results of decisions made by government. I not only see but I KNOW the grade 3 student who is reading at mid-grade 1 level because life got in the way of his learning in grade 1 and he only got 50 minutes of resource teacher support a week in grade 2 because extra staffing has been cut so much over the years that there are too many students who need help and not enough staff to fully help them. Is this his fault? No. Is the "system" failing him by not meeting his needs? Yes.

I know the students with fine motor difficulties (a growing epidemic in the early grades by the way) who struggle to print but haven't got an OT (occupational therapist) to come in and work with them since they were cut too. Is this their fault? No. Is the "system" failing them by cutting services? Yes.

I know the student who I think may have a reading disability but who will sit on the wait list to be tested for close to THREE YEARS because budget cuts have made it so only a handful of students get tested from any one school in any given school year. Is it the student's fault that they learn in a different way? No. Is the "system" failing them by making them wait years for help? Yes.

I know the student who has a very hard home life, who comes to school each day angry at the world and feeling like no one cares but who can only see the school counsellor once a week for 20 minutes because that counsellor works at three schools each week and has over 50 kids on their caseload. Is it the student's fault that his family life is in turmoil? No. Is our "system" failing him by not helping him learn to deal with his emotions so that he can begin to learn? Yes.

I know all of these students and many others with a variety of needs. I know them because I live with them each and every day. I watch them struggle. I see how little support we are able to provide and how that support has diminished a little bit more every year. I know this system and I have been trying to do more with less for years and years. All teachers have. 


Enough is enough.

This system that fails these students (and many others with a variety of needs) is the system created by our now premier, Christy Clark. She started the downward spiral when she was Education Minister and stripped our rights to negotiate fully and she has continued to create a system that is failing students by refusing to fund education properly.

Enough is enough.

I know each and every one of these students up close and personal. I struggle each year, on a daily basis, to provide the children in my care with everything that they need emotionally, intellectually, physically to be better people. I bring these struggles home with me. I dream about certain children I am having trouble reaching (just ask my husband!) I worry about children in my care whether I am at work or not. 

Enough is enough. 

How many times is Christy Clark going to have to be told that she has behaved unconstitutionally and has acted illegally where our contracts are concerned? How many more cuts do our children have to take before the people of this province stand up and say "No more!!!"?  How many more children have to fall through the cracks that our government is busy cutting in our education system? 

Enough is enough. 

I am not on strike for me. I am on strike for the children I see day in and day out who are being shafted by a system that cares more about money than it does about people. I am on strike against a government that has shown time and time again that it does not want to follow the letter of the law. 

Do I want to be on strike? NO! 

Did I ever want to be on strike? NO again! 

Do I wish we could have resolved this without ever having to strike? Double YES!

But, will I remain on strike even if it means losing salary and worrying about how to keep a roof over my head and food on my table? YES! 


Enough is enough. 

Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to the answer to all questions.  - William Allin

So, if you're in my 'hood tomorrow, and see me circling the school, give a honk and a wave. And if you live in BC and haven't written to your MLA's and premier's office, please do. Whatever your point of view (you don't have to agree with me!) your voice matters. Together we may just be able to end this strike and get on with the classroom learning.