Sign of the Times

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This my last week of freedom.

Although school isn’t scheduled to start until September 2, we’re back on the picket lines beginning Monday. I’ve drawn the early shift. It’ll be tough answering to the alarm clock, but I don’t mind getting my shifts done early.

What really concerns me is the state of public education in this province.

The government isn’t budging in their negotiations. Well, that’s not actually true. They’re moving backwards, taking things off the table at each meeting. The wage package they’re currently offering is less than it was in May and their signing bonus expired in June.

At this rate, we’ll be paying them if we ever get back to work.

But wait–it’s not all doom and gloom. There is public money available!

The government proposes to pay parents of children under thirteen $40 per day for the duration of the strike/lock out. This money is meant to cover the cost of child care and tutoring or other “educational options.” Apparently only elementary students need to keep up with their studies. High schoolers (you know, the ones preparing for university or trade school entrance) won’t generate any money for alternate educational options.

In a stunning gesture of good will the government has also lifted the lock out to allow teachers to enter schools. Yes, teachers will be able to prepare for the start of the new school year on their own time! I guess they want us primed and ready to go when they finally starve us into submission and we get back to work.

In October, we’ll hear the verdict of the government’s second expensive appeal of the case they keep losing. (Years ago the government stripped class size and composition language from the teachers’ contract. Two different courts have told them this was illegal and ordered them to fix things. Have they listened? Hell no! If you don’t like the verdict, appeal! Then appeal again… and again…)

In an effort to remain realistic, my wish for the 2014/15 school year is something we might actually get…

…new picket signs!

The old ones are pretty ratty after a couple of rainy days last June and it looks like we’ll be wearing them for quite some time.

Father’s Day (Belated Post)

033In honour of Father’s Day: a tribute to my dad.

He was the original strong silent type. Everything he did was for the betterment of his family. I’m sad to say that I didn’t always appreciate him. (“A 10:00 curfew? You’re kidding me, right???”) But the years have taught me that father did indeed know best (most of the time).

Not only did he give me a good start in life and provide (with my mom) a safe and loving home, but he was an example of selfless, caring fatherhood. When I grew up and looked for a husband, I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted–strong, steady and loving.

Here are three life lessons I learned from dear old dad:

1. Put something away for a rainy day. My dad was a cash-only guy. He never had a credit card. The only debt he ever carried was a mortgage and he paid that off as quickly as possible. He tried to instill the value of frugality in me. I didn’t see it then, but I finally get it now. Rainy days can strike without warning and they’re worse if you don’t have a buffer against the elements.

2. Education is power. Although neither of my parents were university-educated, they both valued education and worked hard to give me opportunities they never had. It was expected I would attend university and qualify for a career. Years before RESP’s I had a savings account, and I remember going to the bank with my dad on pay day so he could put a little money aside “for my education.” His actions showed me the value of education.

3. Always dress appropriately. In some ways Dad was very old school. He liked to see me in pretty, feminine clothes. I once met him for lunch wearing a pair of practical leather loafers. He glanced at me feet. “Nice shoes. Are they men’s?” Another time I sent him a photo of my boy and me at the park. I was dressed like a cute young mom on the go (jean jacket, cargo pants and Doc Marten’s). He sent me a cheque for $200 with a note: You need to buy some new clothes. Uh–thanks, Dad.

Wishing all the dads, stepfathers and grandpas out there a very happy belated Father’s Day!

Executive Functioning

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I recently attended a presentation on self-regulation and executive functioning.

Executive functioning is what it sounds like–those “managerial” things our brains do like organizing, scheduling, planning and impulse control.

If my sailor and I were to compete in a pageant, he’d win Mr. Executive Functioning hands down. He’s organized, articulate, analytical and never misses an appointment or misplaces anything–ever. I’d be crowned Miss Congeniality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m able to live, work and raise a child without supervision. It’s just that organization isn’t my strong suit. I’m better at comic relief.

Lately however, I’ve been doing stupid things–things that are negatively impacting my daily life.

A couple of weeks ago I lost my house key somewhere. I know I had it when I left for work because I locked the door behind me, but that’s where the trail goes cold. Despite retracing my steps and searching the front yard and interior of the car, the key’s location remains a mystery. I had to call a locksmith to get us inside and re-key all the locks.

Last week I locked my keys in the trunk of my car. In all my years as a driver, I’ve never done that. When I realized where my car key was my first thought was expressed in language far too rude to share on this blog. My second thought was–What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?

At my seminar, I learned that anxiety floods the frontal cortex of the brain with chemicals which hamper its performance. You guessed it–the frontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls executive functioning.

In terms of education, anxious children are less likely to be attentive, well-behaved students. This will impact their school performance.

In terms of me, this is very good news. I’m probably not suffering from early onset dementia. I’m just anxious.

It’s also good news for my local locksmith, who’s getting some extra business because I worry so much.

Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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“Balance teaching methods to serve all the kids in your class. Extroverts tend to like movement, stimulation and collaborative work. Introverts prefer lectures, down time and independent projects. Mix it up fairly.” (348)

My boy is quiet. That’s the way he is and there’s nothing wrong with it.

He has a teacher who seems to disagree. The few times we’ve spoken, she’s commented on his personality.

“He’s a good student, but so reserved.”

“He seems to be settling into my class even though he’s quite shy.”

Every positive statement is followed by a qualifier implying she’s assessed my boy’s character and found it lacking because it doesn’t match her own, more gregarious one.

Her job is not to judge my son (or any other child). Her job is to get to know each of her students and teach to their particular strength.

In the old days kids were fed information in a top-down model from a teacher as expert. It was pretty much a sink or swim experience. The kids who did well in this highly structured environment were successful at school. Kids who needed a different approach, not so much.

Teaching has gotten more complicated as we’ve learned more about the brain, how we learn as individuals and how experiences like poverty, abuse or neglect can impact learning.

If this teacher opens her eyes and sees each student as a unique person, she’ll discover my boy’s not the only introvert in the class (studies show one third to one half of us are introverts). She’ll employ strategies to enable him and his fellow quiet kids to reach their potential. While doing that, she can’t forget the extroverts and must also plan activities to tap into their particular strengths. It’s a balancing act that good teachers seem to get intuitively.

She should read Quiet, not just so she can better understand my son, but all the introverted, thoughtful children with whom she will come into contact through her career.

It’s given me lots to digest as a mother, a teacher and an introvert who has always felt like a bit of a loser because I’m just not as social and charming as some of my extroverted friends.

Five Signs it Was a Good Reunion

007The big high school reunion was Saturday. I had a hoot! I connected with people I haven’t seen in years, made some new Facebook friends and got a chance to wear a pretty dress and high heels.

For anyone else with an upcoming high school reunion, I’ve compiled the top five indications of a great event.

5. You tell everyone they haven’t changed a bit and by the end of evening you realize it’s true. We’re all a little older and dumpier, but everyone still has that special spark that makes him or her unique. After a few hours and a glass or three of the questionable house white, you see their inner teenager emerge.

4. One of the cute boys you were way too shy to talk to back in the day says he’s sorry he never dated you in high school. Yess! My mom always said it would happen and it’s better late than never–I’ve finally bloomed!

3. You can’t wait to Skype your sailor about the reunion. Even while you’re there, you’re making a mental list of everything you want to tell him so he can share the experience secondhand.

2. You get home so late you hear this: “You were supposed to be back hours ago! Why didn’t you answer your phone? I left four messages and texted you. This behaviour is unacceptable!” In a weird circle of life way, it’s your son telling you off for missing curfew, not your dad.

1. You decide you want to move back to your hometown. The people are so friendly and you’ve known most them since you were six years old. You have history in this place! Your roots are here! The feeling is so strong you start looking at MLS house listings and telling the boy how wonderful the local schools are. You’re not sure what kind of job your sailor will be able to get in this isolated spot, but he’s so talented it’ll sort itself out. You’ll happily give up work to be a housewife. The feeling lasts until you get stuck in the ferry line up and realize why you left in the first place.