Rants, Teacher

Dear Mr. Lapierre, VP of the NRA – I’m a teacher…so, where’s my gun?

A fourth grade teacher receives firearms training in West Valley City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
A fourth grade teacher receives firearms training in West Valley City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Hi, Wayne…may I call you Wayne? You don’t know me, but I’m a teacher. And I gotta tell you, you’re starting to scare me.I know you have the best of intentions. Like all of us, you don’t want to see anymore children killed because some lunatic with a gun was able to get into a school and go on a rampage. So far, I’m with you. And I even agree that some schools would benefit from having a trained police officer in their school. Some of the high schools in my area have one and it’s great. They offer all kinds of services besides standing armed guard.

Where you lose me is when you suggest that perhaps school personnel ought to be armed.

When I was a kid, my father hunted and he kept two shotguns on the floor of his bedroom closet. My brother and I knew they were there and we also knew where he kept the ammunition (in his sock drawer). We also knew that if we went anywhere near the guns, we wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. And so we didn’t. To be honest, they scared me to death. My dad tried to teach me how to shoot. The first (and only) time I fired off a gun, I just missed hitting one of my grandparent’s cows.

So seriously, Wayne, no one wants to see me with a gun. No amount of training in the world is going to turn me into a sharpshooter. I know you would offer to give me training and such, but really, it’s all I can do to keep up with the new math curriculum.

And even if I wanted one, I can’t imagine that my school board would allow me to keep a gun in my desk. For gawds sake, I’m not allowed to use Lysol wipes to clean the children’s desks because of the chemicals. Liquid Paper is a no-no because someone might try to sniff it. Even plastic knives in lunchboxes are taboo, because someone might accidentally cut their finger or god forbid, wave it around near another child.

Finally, I have no idea where I would keep a gun in my classroom. My desk is overflowing and my cabinets are full. I’d have to keep it well hidden, because these kids are like monkeys! They can get their hands on anything and I sure as hell don’t want them getting a hold of a loaded weapon. These kids are experts at Call of Duty IV.

I know you’ve offered to put one of your 4 million NRA members in our school and I thank you for your generous offer. But, no offense or anything, how do I know one of your well-armed men or women isn’t a raging lunatic under the surface? I mean, really…do you know ALL 4 million of these people personally?

There are crazy people everywhere who look and act just like you and me. Giving one of them a gun and inviting them into my school just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

So, thanks, Wayne, but I’ll pass. I’ll pass on the gun, just like I’ll pass on the bunker in case of a nuclear attack and the body armor to protect myself from a zombie apocalypse. Instead, I’ll support stricter gun control laws and increased mental health services. That should help keep the crazies out of my school and let me get back to my real job of teaching.

Pop Culture

“Merry Christmas! The shitter was full!” And other great lines from Christmas movies

Cousin Eddie - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Cousin Eddie – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

During the Christmas holidays, there’s nothing better than spending a day in your jammies watching Christmas movies. Some of my favorites have the best lines…some are touching, some are sad, but most are hilarious. In no particular order, here are my favorites.

7. Elf  – In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years or you’re Amish and don’t own a television set, the premise of this hilarious movie involves a man named Buddy who has been raised by Poppa Elf in the North Pole. When he suddenly realizes he is actually human, he leaves Santa’s workshop in search of his “real” father, who lives in New York City. Needless to say, Buddy has a few difficulties fitting in. The movie works because Will Farrell plays Buddy like an innocent. He is Buddy, the wide-eyed elf. I love the whole movie but these are two of my favorite parts.

Buddy: We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

I love when Buddy realizes the department store Santa isn’t the real Santa.

Buddy: You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa…You sit on a throne of lies!

I also love when Buddy tells his new dad about his plans are for their first day together.

Buddy: First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle. 

Will Farrell in Elf - enjoying the four food groups.
Will Farrell in Elf – enjoying the four food groups.


6. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charles Shultz was the master of pulling at our heartstrings, while at the same time making us laugh. A Charlie Brown Christmas has endured since 1966 because we feel for Charlie Brown (well, that and the great jazz soundtrack and the funny lines…). One of my favorite parts is a small exchange between Lucy, the director of the play and Frieda, who hasn’t yet grasped the true meaning of the Christmas story.

Lucy: You’re the innkeeper’s wife.

Frieda: Did innkeeper’s wives have naturally curly hair?

Damn, I love Frieda. It’s all about the hair.

Frieda is the good looking redhead at the back. Check out her naturally curly hair.
Frieda is the good looking redhead at the back. Check out her naturally curly hair.


5. It’s a Wonderful Life

I’ll leave this one to Clarence, the angel who shows George what things would have been like if he had never been born.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Clarence's gift
Clarence’s gift


4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Best Christmas-themed rant EVER!  

Clark Griswold: [Once he realizes his much expected bonus is actually a jelly-of the-month-club membership] If this isn’t the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got, GOD DAMN IT! Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

A membership to the Jelly-of-the-month Club will not pay off the pool Clark has promised.
A membership to the Jelly-of-the-month Club will not pay off the pool Clark has promised.

Check it out on youtube.



3. The Polar Express This was a favorite book of mine before it became a movie. My father read it aloud to my boys for the first time when they were very young and when he was done, he shook a little bell he had hidden in his pocket. My boys’ eyes just about popped out of their heads.

 The Boy: At one time most of my friends could hear the bell. But as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found, one Christmas, that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me… as it does for all who truly believe.

Can you hear the bell?
Can you hear the bell?


2. The Sound of MusicI realize that this is not, technically, a Christmas movie but they always air it at Christmas time, so I think it fits. Love, love, love this movie. I mean, really…how DO you solve a problem like Maria? Oh, Julie Andrews! I wanted to be you so badly. I still do. The world’s spunkiest nun with the voice of an angel. She even made me want to be a nun for awhile…of course, a nun who eventually marries a rich Captain…and without the seven children. This is a scene from the very beginning when Maria has been called to the Reverend Mother’s office for what she thinks is a reprimand.

Maria: I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am. And what’s worse, I can’t seem to stop saying things – anything and everything I think and feel.

Mother Abbess: Some people would call that honesty.

Maria: Oh, but it’s terrible, Reverend Mother.

I hear ya, Maria. I have the exact same problem.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with doe, rae, me.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with doe, rae, me.


1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss sums it all up.

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.

wahoo dorey, da who dorey, welcome, welcome Christmas cheer
wahoo dorey, da who dorey, welcome, welcome Christmas cheer

Feel free to share your favorite Christmas movies or movie quotes in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.

Raves, Teacher

Feelings of awe, admiration, gratitude…but surprise? Not at all.

Like the rest of the world, I am in awe of the heroic actions of the staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, but surprised? Not at all. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Teachers everywhere know the drill. A few times a year, we practice, in anticipation of the unthinkable. The principal comes over the intercom and tells teachers to secure their classrooms. We immediately go out into the hall and hustle any child out there into our room before locking the doors. We tell the children to get away from the doors and the windows and get down on the floor. We stick together. You don’t have one child across the room and another under his desk. We’re all in this together. The drill is a balancing act between having the children take it seriously and not scaring them.

The teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School no doubt practiced these drills, the same as teachers all over North America and beyond. Despite the fact that a gunman on a mission of evil was able to enter the school, the lockdown procedure was executed and school staff immediately moved into action. They locked down their classrooms. Those who couldn’t lock their doors hid their children in closets or bathrooms. According to reports, the gunman had enough ammunition to cause countless deaths. Many lives were saved that day because procedures were followed. They say practice makes perfect. And I agree. When you are in a terrifying situation, it’s important that you know what to do automatically.

The media coverage has been highly complimentary of the way the staff at Sandy Lake handled the situation. And I agree with everything they are saying: that the staff was admirable and heroic and amazing. But it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think society as a whole realizes how much teachers actually care for their students. When I get my class at the beginning of the year, I become their De facto mother for the time they are in school. Yes, I teach them new math skills and help them with their reading and writing, but I also get them Kleenex when they have a runny nose. I am the one who is called when they throw up in the cafeteria. I hug them when they are crying about a fight they just had with their best friend. I ask them why they aren’t eating their lunch or why they don’t have a lunch at all. I know when their cat has died and when a raccoon ate all of the bird eggs out of the nest under their porch. My heart breaks for them when they don’t make the hockey team or when they screw up at their piano recital. Our class laughs together and learns together and fights and argues, just like a family. We have inside jokes and traditions that only our class does. And trust me…I’m not unique. My colleagues do the same thing everyday in schools across the country.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear that the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary sacrificed their lives for their students or put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect them. Because when you’re a teacher, these children become your children, whether they are 5 or 15. When they are in my room, they are my babies. I know that you trust me to care for them and keep them safe. And I know I won’t be perfect, every day, in every situation. But it takes a village to raise a child. And just like in the lockdown drill, we’re all in this together.

Twenty-six lanterns are seen in the village near the Sandy Hook Elementary School following a shooting that left 26 people dead, 20 of them young children, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Princess, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

UPDATE: Peter Speight: We are never, ever, ever getting back together…like…ever.

UPDATE – Peter Speight, the sex-offender/former teacher in the New Germany, NS area, has agreed to resign and give up his teaching licence in exchange for a big whack of cash. The amount is confidential but it is on top of the $150,000 in back pay that he says he deserves. Whatever. He’s gone and the community of New Germany can breathe a big sigh of relief. Read more at: http://ckbwnews.blogspot.ca/

lemonadeDear Peter,

Seriously, dude? Did you not read my last letter? What are you doing?

I get it. We all get it. You want your teaching job back. The same job you had before you pleaded guilty to sex charges. You want to come back and teach grade 3, in your old school, like nothing ever happened.  And you want your money back. The money you didn’t make…because you didn’t work…because you were fired…for pleading guilty to sexual offenses. (Do you not hear how crazy this sounds?)

If you had any doubts as to how people felt about you coming back, I would hope last night’s (court ordered) restorative justice session at your old school put those notions to bed. I read in this morning’s paper that more than 100 concerned citizens showed up to say they do not want you teaching their children – ever. The goal was to come up with a reintegration plan to bring you back, but as the coordinator of the session said after it ended, “we couldn’t get to that point because they were too heated about the fact they don’t want him back in the school.”

Peter, Peter, Peter. I’ve taught Grade 3 and let me tell you something about grade 3 students: they aren’t stupid. They hear things and they sense things and they will know on Day 1 that you are the guy who did that weird thing in his car with those ladies. And trust me: their imaginations will make what you did freakier than anything you could ever imagine.

They also aren’t wired to understand that you did something gross and weird a few years ago, but now you’re all better. Their sense of time is a little warped. To them, five years is like five days.

They may also be frightened of you because sex is something they don’t really understand yet. We don’t teach the ins-and-outs of sex until they are much older because most of them aren’t ready for that kind of discussion. What in the world could their parents tell them if they are placed in your class? “Well, dear, if he reaches for his zipper, grab your things and get the hell out of there.” Not a discussion I would want to have with my eight-year-old.

But I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You should already know this because you are an educated, experienced teacher. This leaves me to conclude that you are not rehabilitated. If you were truly sorry for what you had done to your community, especially the children, you would not be putting them through this shitshow. This quest for your old job has become a weird obsession that none of us understand. And we all know where your last strange obsession led.

Memoir, Princess, Suburban, Teacher

Puppies: Better than Booze

Puppy RoomDalhousie University has just introduced a puppy room to help its students deal with the stress from Christmas exams. I’ve watched a few of the videos on-line. These stressed-out university students look like little kids.  As soon as they reach out to the dogs, their smiles and giggles become completely genuine. You can just see the tension slipping away from their backpack laden shoulders.

I know I would have been a frequent flyer at the puppy room if they had had one when I was at university. Just before I started my second year, my parents packed up our house, gave away our dog and moved 4,000 miles away. It felt surreal as I moved into an apartment downtown with my best friend. I went from being a very sheltered teenager to being a scared little college girl overnight. I was going on the world’s longest sleepover and my parents were never coming to pick me up.

We didn’t have a puppy room at my university. We did have a pub, though. And that’s how most of us dealt with stress. Trust me. There were many mornings I wished I had spent the evening at the puppy room instead of the pub. Sadly, I was not unique. University students are well known to be heavy, binge drinkers. Some of that, no doubt, is due to the excitement of having the freedom to do whatever you want without your parents looking over your shoulder. But a big part of it is because alcohol is a stress releaser. After a few drinks, you stop worrying about your assignments and your exams. You forget about your money problems and your relationship issues. Life’s a party when you’re loaded! Unfortunately, the next day, those good (albeit: fuzzy) feelings are gone, often replaced by feelings of embarrassment over last night’s actions. Once the booze wears off, the stress returns, often with a vengeance.

A dog never makes you regret patting it the night before. You could pat a dog all night long and never wake up feeling guilty or stupid or regretful. Unfortunately, we don’t all have 24-hour access to a soft, calming animal. That’s why it’s important for our children and our students to know how to deal with stress so that it motivates, rather than paralyzes them.

As an elementary teacher, I’ve tried to help my students see school as something they can enjoy, not dread. Part of my job is to help them feel comfortable with writing tests. I emphasize that tests are just one way to show what we know. We talk about how to read the directions. We practice examples. We write practice tests that look exactly like the real test, except with different questions. We have discussions about how stressing over something doesn’t make you do any better. In fact, it often makes you do worse. I also tell them that in the big story of their lives, one math test is not going to make or break them. If you bomb the test, it doesn’t mean that you will end up living like a hobo in a ditch somewhere, while all of your friends go off to be doctors and lawyers. All it means is that for some reason you didn’t get what we learned this week in this particular area. No worries. We’ll work on it. Just breathe.

To paraphrase the great philosopher, Steven Tyler, I want my students and my children to know that  “life’s a journey, not a destination.” Live in the moment. Learn from the bad times and move on. And if you have the choice between cuddling a puppy and chugging a six pack, you’re better off with the puppy every time.


Rants, Suburban, Teacher

An Open Letter to Peter Speight, former South Shore Regional teacher and admitted sex offender

Dear Peter,

I have been reading in the paper that you are trying to get reinstated as an elementary school teacher. As a woman, a fellow teacher, and the mother of two school-age children, I have a favor to ask of you.

Please. Stop. Now.

From what I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong, you were fired from your teaching job in New Germany in 2008, when you admitted to committing indecent acts. In an article in the Chronicle-Herald, you said you had gotten into a “strange habit” of masturbating in your car and then calling women over to watch. (http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/207214-ns-court-rules-teacher-guilty-of-sex-charge-must-be-rehired)

You said you never targeted children, which I’m sure was a relief to the parents of the children in your class. I also read that you were given a conditional discharge in 2009, which must have been a big relief to you. The South Shore Regional School Board fired you but you appealed that decision. An arbitrator was called in and said that you should only get a one year suspension without pay. The school board challenged that decision in court but, once again, the stars and the law were on your side and a Supreme Court judge ruled that no errors had been made in the original judgment. If I understand correctly, you are looking to get not only your job back but the money that you lost during your time off without pay? About $150,000, I read?

Now, I agree with Pierre Trudeau’s philosophy that the nation has no place in the bedrooms of Canadians. But, seriously dude, you left your bedroom, went out in your car and got busy in public. That’s not cool. And then purposely calling women over so they could see what you were “up” to? That’s less than cool, that’s against the law. And it’s nasty.

As a fellow elementary school teacher, I want you to think about what you’re asking here. Do you seriously expect parents to trust you with their children? It’s hard enough for teachers these days to earn the respect of parents without asking them to trust an admitted sex offender. I guarantee you, if you win this fight, it won’t end in the courts. When the class lists go up in September, your fight will start all over again.

As a woman, you should know that your story creeps me out. Not because you enjoyed sitting in your car, alone, pleasuring yourself. That’s icky but when you called unsuspecting women over to watch? That’s when you crossed the line into scary territory. I enjoy walking or jogging by myself during the day and I’ve always felt safe doing so. If I had been one of the women you had called over to your car to shock (?) surprise(?) scare(?) that sense of safety would be forever ruined for me. And I guess that’s my biggest issue here: we don’t know why you did it. What did you get out this? Was it a power issue? And how do we know the next time the urge hits you won’t grab the woman who comes over to your car? Just because no one was physically hurt, it seems that a legal slap on the wrist was enough. But trust me, those women who trusted you and came over to your car, no doubt thinking you needed help, are now less trusting and less secure when they are out alone. You did that.

Finally, as a mother, I know I couldn’t in good conscience send my child to your class every day and just cross my fingers that you were rehabilitated and that no other “stange habits” would pop up during the school year. I don’t know if you have children but there’s nothing more important to a parent than your child’s well being.

I am guessing that you became a teacher for the same reasons the rest of us do – you love kids and teaching and learning. And I get why you want your job back. No doubt you worked hard to get it and, by all accounts, you were good at it.

But, if you truly care about children and the teaching profession and your community, please abandon this quest to get your job back. You may have the law on your side, but it’s not right. Teach adults who can make an educated decision about whether they feel they can trust you.

Let it go, Peter. It’s time to move on.