Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

The Sunshine Award – Yes, it’s all about me.

Sunshine Award

You like me! You really like me!

It appears I am a Sunshine Girl! A lovely lady over at
nominated me for this blogging award. She follows me, I follow her – everyone wins by getting to read interesting posts on a regular basis.

I’m not really sure what a Sunshine Award means, but it’s a very pretty icon and I guess it’s better than a kick in the pants, so I’ll take it. Hooray for me!

The award comes with some rules that I must follow. They are:

* Make sure to post this award on your blog site. – Done
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers. – Done (see bottom of page and everyone over on the side, as well.)
* Please answer the ten questions. – and…Done-er-i-no.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

I was tired of stifling my voice. As public servants and members of a union, teachers are expected (and actually required, in most cases) to keep their opinions to themselves. As someone who is, how shall I say it nicely, not exactly quiet about her opinions, I needed a place to vent, share and express myself.

2. How did you come up with a name for your blog?

I have always wanted to write a book called, Confessions of a Suburban Princess. I figured this blog would put me on the road to that goal. But the name, Suburban Princess, was already taken, so I tagged ‘Teacher’ on to the end and decided I actually prefered it.

3. What is your favorite blog to read? She makes me laugh with every post. She also inspired me to write this blog. After I read her best-selling book,  I thought, “Damn! That girl is crazier than a cat in a paper bag and she wrote a blog and a book. Maybe I could, too!”  Check her out…you won’t be sorry.

4. Tell me about your dream job.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but my dream job should include beagles, George Clooney, wine and chocolate.

5. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

It’s usually completely empty…I’m a chugger.

6. If you could go anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

Barcelona, Spain.

7. What food can you absolutely not eat?

Liver. It’s disgusting. I had to eat it once a month when I was a teenager because my mother was convinced it would raise my iron levels when I was men-stru-ate-ing. Helllooo? Had we not heard of iron supplements in the 80’s?? There’s really no need to eat an animals’ internal organs.

8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

I’d like to say dark because it’s politically correct and all, but no…I could eat milk chocolate until it flowed from my orifices like lava. Pour it overtop of a soft gummy bear and you have my heart forever.

9. How much time do you spend blogging?

Not a lot. I don’t like it to get in the way of my “Vampire Diaries” watching.

10. Do you watch TV? If so, what are your favorite shows?

Of course I watch TV…what do you think I am? Amish? I LOVE TV and now that I have Netflix, I may never go back to work. I’ll just sit at home, eating my milk chocolate, watching series after series…ahhhh, bliss. Favorite shows? Vampire Diaries, Days of our Lives, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, What not to Wear…yes, I am an intelligent girl.

That’s it for the questions about ME. (Sadly.) And now, for the final part of this assignment: ten of my favorite bloggers. Check them out, if you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with. Also: I love the people down the side of my blog. They are cool, too. Enjoy.












Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Suburban

How to keep your teen from building a pornography bomb in your basement


If your teens are like my teens, chances are they are cave dwellers. And by caves, I mean bedroom or basement inhabitants.

Despite their cocooning tendencies, I know (because the experts have told me) that I must keep the lines of communication open. I need to protect them from all of the evils that lurk on the internet and beyond.

So, when my children shut themselves off in their bedrooms, I like to make numerous visits in order to ensure all is well and everyone is safe.

If you would like to follow my shining example, since I am a self-proclaimed teen-raising expert, here is an example of the conversations I repeatedly have with my spawn. (You’re welcome.)

In order to protect their fragile identities, the Heir (age 17) shall hereby be known as William, while the Spare (age 14) shall be called Harry.

Me: (knocking quietly, then barging into Young Harry’s room) Hey! What are you doing?

Harry: (switching the screen to black) Nothing.

Me: (smiling) You can’t be doing nothing. What were you looking at?

Harry: (not smiling): Just stuff.

Me: You know, honey. There are lots of…bad things on the internet. And sometimes we don’t mean to open them, but we do and then you might see something you don’t want to see…

Harry: (sighing loudly and rolling his eyes): You caught me. I was looking at pornography. Lots and lots of pornography. It’s just a big old porn fest in here, Mom.

Me: Very funny. Can I see what you’re doing? I read that parents are supposed to be aware of what their children are doing. It makes kids feel safer.

Harry: Wow, yeah. I feel really safe right now with you stalking me and barging into my room.

(He turns his screen back on and I see what looks like a regular word document.)

Harry: I’m doing my homework. Are you happy now?

Me: (sheepish now): Yes, actually, I am. Thank you for sharing with me.

(I start to leave.)

Harry: I’ll make sure to add lots of pornography to it before I’m done!

(I race from the room.)


I head down the stairs to check on the Heir, who has been locked in his teen-man cave for hours now. I can hear new age music blasting through the door. I knock and then barge in…it’s my thing.

Me: Hey! What’cha doin’?

William: (Not taking his eyes off the screen) What do you want?

(I look around his messy, smelly dark room and move to open the curtains.)

William: (without breaking eye contact with the screen): Don’t open those. The glare makes it impossible to see the screen.

Me: Your room is like a dungeon. You could be hiding a body in here.

William: You caught me, Mom. It’s under the bed. Don’t look. It’s pretty gross.

Me: Ha ha. It certainly smells like you could have a body under your bed.

William: Why are you here? (Still staring the screen, while simultaneously working a Rubics cube into perfection.)

Me: Did you hear the story in the news about the kids who built a bomb and took it to school? Their parents said later they hadn’t been in their sons’ bedrooms in months. They had no idea what their kids were doing in their own house.

(I start sifting through some of the dirty (?) clean (?) clothes on the floor.)

William: So, you’re in here looking for a bomb? Oh my God! I better hide the pieces. (He shoves the Rubics cube down the front of his shirt.)

Me: You and your brother are horrible children, you know that? I am just trying to be a good mother.

William: You’re a great mom.

Me: (heart lifting) Really?

William: Yeah. (turns back to the screen) Can you shut the door on your way out?

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Why I can’t get cocky about my mental health.

writing34You should never get cocky about your mental health.

I should know. For the most part, I’m a confident, easy-going woman. I have an amazing family and a ridiculous number of incredible friends. My life is full of an abundance of riches.

And yet I’ve suffered from depression.

Mental illness can strike any of us. It doesn’t discriminate.

I’ve seen an 8-year-old boy crawling on the floor, barking like a dog because of a mental illness that has been made worse because of years of abuse and neglect.

I’ve seen a teenager who has suffered with anger issues and hormonal imbalances all of his life, suddenly discover drugs and spiral out of control.

I’ve seen a big, strong, confident man brought to his knees by depression.

Thousands of stories just like these play out every day, all over the world.

And yet many suffer in silence, too ashamed to admit that they have a problem. They are afraid of what other’s might think or how it might affect their position at work. And some of these fears are valid. Individuals still face the possibility of discrimination and recriminations when they disclose a mental illness.

Sometimes though, people do get the strength and the courage to reach out for help for their spouse, their child, or themselves, only to be told that help isn’t available.

They are often told that the wait-time for mental health services is months away. That’s too long a wait when you are on suicide watch for your 13-year-old daughter.

As a teacher, I often hear those in the “back to basics’ camp calling for less focus on helping children understand their feelings, so that more time can be spent on their math and spelling skills. They say it like self-esteem is a dirty word. As any teacher knows, a student with a mental health issue is a student who isn’t learning like they could. Our first priority as teachers is for our student’s well being. End of discussion.

Bell Canada started the Bell Let’s Talk fundraising campaign in 2010 and has since committed to investing $62 million in Canadian mental health initiatives. Some have criticized Bell, saying their campaign is nothing more than a marketing strategy designed to promote their brand and their products.

To that I say, well…duh. It’s marketing 101, not rocket science, people.

But if their program helps reduce the stigma around mental health and the money donated allows more access to quicker mental health services, then I don’t care why they are doing it.

You see, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have the financial means to access treatment, be it therapy, when needed or medication, when necessary. I also have the support of loving friends and family.

But I know how privileged I am.

Many Canadians don’t have that. Which is why we need to be there for each other.

So, thank you, Bell.

And Canada?

Let’s keep talking.


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.

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Dallas vs. Dukes – A Friday Night Dilemma


Larry Hagman died last week.  He was 81 and, by all accounts, was as nice a person as his alter-ego, J.R. Ewing, was nasty.

Coincidentally, also last week, my dad bought a new TV to replace the old one he had in his basement. Now, when I say old, I don’t mean 10 years old, I mean 1975 old! This was the very first color TV our family ever owned. We got it when I was in junior high. It only got the first 12 channels because there were only 12 buttons next to the screen. (You had to get your butt up off the couch if you wanted to change the channel.) But that was OK if you were living in New Brunswick in the 1970’s, because we only got two channels.

Every Friday night, my family (Mom, Dad, little bro, the beagle and me) would gather in our tiny family room to watch TV. We would break open the one bag of chips and the one bottle of pop. It was my mother’s job to divide the chips evenly into 4 plastic bowls – one for each of us. We couldn’t just share a bowl. That was crazy talk. And we’d each have a small glass of pop. I think we shared the same amount of pop among the four of us that I got at the movie theatre the other night for myself. (Hellooooo? people? When did we forget about portion size?)

Like I said, we only got two channels and for some reason unknown to anyone with a clue, the great programming gods of the day decided to put the two most popular shows of the time on opposite each other. So, every Friday night we had a dilemma.

Dukes or Dallas?

Usually we opted for fairness and equality. One week Dukes, one week Dallas. But remember, this was before DVRs, YouTube and even VCRs. If you missed a show, you missed it, unless somehow you were lucky enough to catch a repeat of the show months later and by then it didn’t matter. You already knew what happened.

Mom and I were already fans of Dallas, thanks to the casting of Patrick Duffy – the Man from Atlantis. (He was so cute with those little webbed feet.)


My brother and father were big fans of the Duke boys and their crazy uncle, the evil Boss Hogg and, of course, Daisy Duke in her little jean shorts. (The dog was good either way. She was just happy to be inside, on the couch, with her peeps.)


(Sorry guys, no short shorts, but at least you can see the car!)

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate it when we had to watch D.O.H. Them Duke boys was awful cute and the show was funny, in a hillbilly sort of way. They were the original Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo family.

But I loved Dallas. I loved the theme music and the fact that everyone was so rich and beautiful. J.R. was the man you loved to hate. He said the most vile things with a smile on his face. And he was funny – wickedly funny. When J.R. was shot in Season 9, we spent months waiting and debating with the rest of the world about Who Shot J.R.?  On November 21, 1980 we gathered in our little family with our chips and pop and watched, with the 350 million other people who tuned in, to see who the culprit was. (In case you were living in a cave during that time, it was his mistress, Kristen. No wonder. He was really, really mean to her.)

Dallas started when I was 12, a dorky girl with a pageboy boy haircut, and wrapped it’s finally episode when I was 25, a married woman juggling a job, a husband and a house full of pets. Dallas was a part of my growing up.

jr ewing

“I know what I want on JR’s tombstone,” Hagman once said. “It should say: ‘Here lies upright citizen JR Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.'”

Rest in Peace, J.R.


If you only had two channels, which would you have picked? (Remember: you’re only 12. You got nothin’ else to do.)

Dukes of Hazzard opening sequence:

The best of J.R. If you were a fan of Dallas or you just like funny stuff, check this out:

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Suburban

Pears vs. apples – Why you should never ask a woman if she’s eating for two

When is it OK to ask a woman if she’s “eating for two”?
a. Never
b. When hell freezes over.
c. When you see the baby’s head crowning.
d. When she’s eating.

I have read that there are two types of bodies – pears and apples. Pear shaped women are apparently the lucky ones, despite the fact they sometimes seem oddly out of proportion. They look like “real women” – all hips and boobs and tiny waists. We are told that this is also good thing in terms of health. And of course it is. Because I am an apple shape.  Us apples carry our weight around our middles, much like pregnant women. Apple men can rub their bellies and say, “This is one nice belly. Yup, I earned this belly.” A woman does that and everyone assumes there is a child nestled in there. And god forbid if there isn’t. Then she’s just a slob. The pear shaped woman can just smile and wiggle those ample hips of hers. That doesn’t work so well for the apple woman. Shaking my ample belly doesn’t have quite the same womanly affect.

All of that said: what on earth possesses people to ask a woman of ANY age if she is pregnant? Seriously. As an elementary school teacher, I have worked with hundreds of women of child-bearing age and it has never occurred to me to ask any of them if they are “with child” or “eating for two”. Or even worse, pat their belly and say, “Congratulations!” And yet I’ve seen it happen (and had it done to me) on many an occasion. It is horrifically embarrassing for everyone involved when a mistake has been made. The poor (usually apple-shaped) woman has to smile, say no, and make some joke about having eaten too many donuts that morning. The person who has made the faux-pas, hopefully, feels mortified and starts to stammer, “Oh I’m so sorry. It must be that blouse you’re wearing…” The people within earshot immediately have something else to do that requires them to leave the premises as quickly as possible.

Here’s a fact: sometimes women have bellies that protrude. It may be their body-type, monthly bloating, a tumour, or just too much cake going in the cake hole. Or they may actually BE pregnant, but not ready to share that information with the world. Whatever the reason, your mouth should stay shut until you get the birth announcement in the mail.

So, the answer to the above question is of course: a. Never, never, never. I don’t care if you see that baby’s head hanging out from below a lady’s skirts. I don’t care if you have just come back from hell wearing a toque and a parka. Don’t ask, wait to be told. And if (god help you) you ask a woman if she’s eating for two when she’s actually eating?! I’m sorry. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Suburban

I was a pregnant angel: Why Halloween is still my least favorite holiday

This is what I “might” have looked like if I hadn’t been forced to wear my winter coat under my costume.

Trick or treating was banned in the village where I grew up. It was sort of like that Kevin Bacon movie, “Footloose” where the town council bans dancing after some kids are killed returning home from a dance. Rumour had it that one year a little girl in our neighbourhood had been hit by a car and killed while she was out trick or treating. The community leaders met and decided that letting children go door to door to beg for candy was too dangerous and was henceforth outlawed.

Instead, all of the parents (read: moms) gathered together the week before Halloween, with their assigned treats, and stuffed large paper bags with all sorts of Halloween goodies – chips, chocolate bars, cans of pops, even the yucky stuff like candy kisses made into those bags. They filled enough bags so that every kid in the village would get one.

Then, on Halloween night, all of the kids would get dressed up in their Halloween finest and go to Rec Centre for a two-hour ‘party’. The party was the same every year. March in, sit down, listen to a speech about how much fun we were going to have. Then the musical chairs portion of the evening would be begin. We all got in small circles and marched around to the music, while the judges fluttered in and out of our groups. If they tapped you on the shoulder, it meant you had to sit down because your costume was lame and you weren’t going to win the costume contest. By the end, there was only one boy and one girl left standing – the winners of the Costume Contest! Hooray for them! Then we would play some spooky games until it was time to get our treat bags. Once we got our bags we were put out of our misery and allowed to watch a movie, while we ate as much candy as we could shove in our faces.  For some reason, the movie was always, Ed, The Talking Horse, a rather bizarre Halloween choice I always thought.

One year, in a fit of Halloween frenzy, my mother made me an angel costume. I had long blonde hair then and when my mother put the halo on my head, I felt like I WAS an angel. Unfortunately, that was also the year the community decided to combine the annual Halloween party with an outdoor skating party. Halloween night arrived and it was about -20 degrees outside.

My father insisted I wear my winter coat.

“But it will cover up my costume!” I protested.

“Well, just put your coat on under your costume.”

I figured this was better than hiding my beautiful costume, so I put my puffy coat on first and then had my mother wriggle the dress over my head. She adjusted the halo and stepped back.

“Does it look OK?” I asked.

“Now you look like a pregnant angel,” my father said, starting to laugh.

This set my younger brother off and soon they were both howling at the 10-year-old pregnant angel.

My mother fussed with my outfit and whispered, “Ignore them. You look lovely.”

I did not look lovely. I looked like an albino penguin and skated like one, too. Thanks to my brother, all of the other kids called me “the pregnant angel” within minutes of my arrival. And I didn’t win the costume contest. I think the judges thought there was something unseemly about a pregnant angel.

Eventually the ban on trick-or-treating was lifted but by then, I was too old and ‘mature’ to go door to door. It left a bad taste in my mouth…one that I have tried to get rid of for years by eating numerous tiny chocolate bars and small, air-filled bags of chips. But I still do my civic duty and hand out treats to the youngsters when they come to my door. And when I see a little girl who looks miserable because she’s been forced to cover up her costume with her coat or even worse, jam it on underneath her costume, I give her a little extra treat. Eat up honey…it takes away the bad taste.

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Teacher

“OMG – What are those things?!” – Why teachers should always preview the class movie.

I popped the DVD in the machine and turned out the lights.

“Is everybody ready?” I asked.

The kids had moved all of the desks to the back of the room and pulled their chairs to the front. Some were less than a foot away from the big screen TV I had managed to snag from the AV room.

“Move out of the way, Josh. I can’t see!” one of the girls yelled.

“Move your own chair,” Josh said. “What? You got a piano tied to your butt?”

Josh’s friends laughed.

“OK, enough,” I said. “Remember. I can turn this off anytime. I need you to cooperate with me. I have to finish these reading assessments by the end of the day and the only way I’m going to do that is if you all watch the movie and eat your snack and be quiet. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah,” they all grumbled.

‘This movie is called Babies. It’s about one year in the life four babies. One is from Mongolia, one is from Namibia, one is from San Francisco and the other one is from Tokyo. You can see how babies are raised in ways that are very different from here.”

“Have you seen it, Mrs. H?” one boy asked.

My heart stopped a little bit. No, I hadn’t. I had meant to preview it during the week but other things kept bumping it off my to-do list.  I figured: it’s an award winning documentary, rated G…what could possibly go wrong? It’s rated G, for heavens sake. Most of these kids had already seen movies that I still couldn’t watch for fear of nightmares.

“No, I haven’t but it has won a ton of awards and I think it will be great. You will learn about babies for health class and about different countries for social studies. Two birds with one stone! Hooray! Now, when I call your name, I need you to join me in the hall for your reading assessment. It will only take a few minutes and then you’ll be right back at the movie. OK?”

“Yes. We promise,” said the one girl who might have actually been listening to me. The rest of them were trading snacks, whispering to the friends, and moving their chairs to get a better view.

I hit play and called the first name on my alphabetical list.

“Ryan, my friend. You are first.”

Two chairs were set up in the hall perfectly so that I could see the class (but not the movie) and they could see me but not the reader. It was a delicate balance of supervision and assessment and doing these two things at once was challenging, to say the least. It would be a wonder if I didn’t have a split personality by the end of the day.

Ryan read his piece smoothly and quickly, while the rest of the class was immersed in their snacks and the movie. One down, 29 to go.



I had six students done when the buzzing started.

“What is that?”

“What is she doing?”

“Is that a…?”

“Oh my God! That’s her boob!”

The class went crazy.

“No way!” somebody shouted.

“Yes, look at it. It’s huge! It’s bigger than that baby’s whole head.”

“Oh my god. That’s sooo gross.”

The giggling had reached a peak and could be heard in the hall and beyond.

I dropped my clipboard of reading scores and raced into the room. The student I was reading with somehow made it there ahead of me.

Sure enough, there was the Nambian mother, completely topless, feeding her baby. Her heavy breasts hung almost to the ground and two babies were simultaneously sucking on them and playing with them.

And then, as quickly as it started, it was over. The film moved back to the California baby demurely drinking formula from a bottle fed to her by her father. I paused the movie and considered my options.

“Nooo! Turn it back on!”

“Don’t stop the movie just for that, Mrs. H! It’s no big deal. It’s natural, right?”

If I stopped the movie now, there would be no way I would finish the reading assessments by the weekend. And besides, they were right. Breastfeeding is natural and there was nothing gratuitous about the scene.  Next year they would all get the “sex talk” despite the fact that some of them still played with dolls and action figures.

“Do you think you can handle this maturely, boys and girls?” I asked, pretending like I trusted them to act more mature than my husband would if he were watching the same movie.

“We promise!”

“Pinky swear!”

So, I turned the movie back on, crossed my fingers, and called the next name.

The lesson I learned that day? Well, that previewing a movie before showing it to 30 ten-year-olds is not just a “good” idea, it’s essential. I was lucky it was just a little boob on display. Amazingly, I didn’t get any flack over the movie. I don’t know if the kids just didn’t tell their parents or if the parents agreed with me that it wouldn’t hurt them but I know I lucked out. So, do yourself a favour and watch the movie first and if you see boob or hear cursing, you might want to put it aside and find yourself a new electronic babysitter. Just a tip.


Memoir, Pop Culture, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

Children do not fall off turnip trucks. It’s time for parents of bullies to get their heads out of their posteriors.

Children do not fall off turnip trucks. (I mean, I suppose literally, some do, in rural Mississippi or southern Ontario, but really, those things are freak accidents.)

Children do not come to school, empty vessels, only to be filled up by what they learn from teachers and peers.  As the old saying goes, children learn what they live. Don’t get me wrong: I know that sometimes, despite everything we do as parents, our kids will go off the rails. But then it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to get them back on track again. Sticking your head in the sand and saying, “Not my kid!” only makes things worse.

The issue of bullying has once again reared its ugly head with the recent suicide of BC teen, Amanda Todd.  This poor child, already suffering from depression, was bullied on-line, in school and out. Despite desperate interventions from her parents and her school, she still felt powerless and alone and eventually took her own life.

There is no doubt that schools have an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of bullying. Teachers and administrators see kids at work in the classrooms and at play on the school ground. And here’s a little secret: most of the time, teachers already know who the bullies are. There are a few, usually the charming kids who are good are being sly and flying under the radar, who come as a surprise but most teachers can tell within the first month of school who is being mean to whom without anyone having to come tell. And teachers deal with small acts of meanness and bullying everyday. It’s a fact of life when dealing with people in groups – kindness and nastiness will occur and hopefully the kindness will outweigh the nastiness.

The problem occurs when schools attempt to deal with the bigger issue of bullying. Bullying is not a one time thing – like two friends having an argument over what to do at recess. Bullying is when a person or group of people targets an individual repeatedly over time using aggression to humiliate or hurt their victim.

Parents are always very willing do anything they need to do once they find out that their child is the victim of bullying. But the scenario changes greatly when parents are told that their child is the bully.

“No. Not my child. My child wouldn’t do that,” they say.

 “I know it’s difficult to hear, Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” the principal tells the stone-faced parents. “But the other child said that your child has been taunting him, pushing him and stealing his lunch treats for weeks now. We have witnesses who have verified this.”

 “They’re lying. I asked my son and he said he didn’t do it and my kid doesn’t lie.”

 “Some of the witnesses are teachers and lunch monitors at the school. They said when they confronted your son he admitted it. He actually confessed everything to me and wrote a letter of apology when he was brought to the office.”

 The principal hands the parents a letter which they refuse to take.

 “I don’t care what that says,” the mother snips. “You forced him to write that. He said you bullied him into doing it.”

 “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I know this is difficult,” the teacher begins. “But some of these incidents have been recorded on the school’s video cameras. We can show you those now.”

 “Those things can be faked!” the father sputters, turning red in the face. “I saw a thing on it on 20/20 about it last week. You people have had it out for my kid ever since he started at this school. All of his teachers suck and the other kids are mean to him. He doesn’t do anything. He’s the victim in all this.”

 At this point, the principal looks out the window and sees the child in question on the playground. She points this out to the parents and everyone in the meeting looks out the window.

 Young Billy is walking around the playground alone. Suddenly he walks over to another student who has his back to him and pushes him to the ground. The teacher on duty runs over and pulls him away just as he’s about to kick the other child.

 The principal gasps and shakes her head.

 “This is exactly what I’m talking about,” she says to the parents. “So what can we do about it?”

 The parents stand up and walk towards the door.

 “This is harassment,” the mother says.

 “You’ll be hearing from our lawyer,” says the father.

 They nab their son as he’s being brought into the office and tell him that he’s coming home with them.

“Wahoo! Freedom!” he shouts.

 As he’s going out the door, the kid turns around and yells, “See ya later, suckers.” And gives everyone the finger.

 Until the parents of the bullies take their heads out of their proverbial asses, the problem won’t get better. The most schools can do is implement short term suspensions. In reality, this usually means the kid gets to stay home and play video games all day, while the parents complain that once again their kid is being punished for nothing.

I used to work for an amazing woman who believed that, “everyone who is a pain, has a pain.” Kids who are happy and content with themselves don’t bully other kids. If your kid is bullying, you have a problem. Put your ego away and deal with it. Your child, and mine, is counting on it.

Memoir, Teacher

“You smell like fruit” and other compliments from my students

Marshall was an odd boy, by any definition of the word. He didn’t have an official “diagnosis” but he was definitely…outside the norm. For one, he talked like a robot and two, he was little obsessed with aliens and anal probing.

I started teaching his class late that year. My mother died on the first day of school, so I was in Ontario when they all arrived. Being the conscientious teacher that I was, I gave the eulogy, packed up some of her things, gave my father a fortifying hug and was back to work within the week. (Ed. note: yes, I know. Craaaazy!)

It was a new school for me and starting late did nothing to ease my angst. My large class of grade 5’s was well known for their “specialness”.  When I arrived at the school, I was told, “Oh sorry. You have that group. Good luck.” There was something in the water the year those children’s parents got together and it’s quite possible that “thing” was alcohol. (I’m not accusing anyone but seriously ladies: put down the wine glass until after your kid is born. There’s plenty of time to drink once they’re teenagers. And trust me, you’re going to need it then.)

Anyway, that year was a hard one for me and, no doubt, for Marshall. As I said, he was odd and he didn’t have a lot of (read: any) friends. This didn’t seem to bother him though, as he spent all of his time reading. He read in language arts class, math class, science class, lunch…you get my drift. And whenever I tried to get him back on track, he would just sigh and say in his robot voice, “I’d rather not.”

Of course it was my job to push the issue, so everyday, he and I would meet to re-do the math lesson from the morning – this time, one-on-one.

“So, today we’re looking at long division, Marshall,” I flip the textbook open to the section we just covered in class while Marshall was reading about aliens.

“You smell like fruit,” he said.

“Oh,” I reply. “Um…thank you?”

“You smell like oranges.”



“Do you like oranges?”

“Not particularly. But you smell like them.”

“OK-dokey then.”

Another day.

“Today we’re working on double-digit multiplication, Marshall. Do you remember what we talked about in class?”

“Are you familiar with anal probing?” he stares at me with a serious look. He’s not trying to mess with me…he’s really just curious.

“Uh, yes, I’ve heard of it. But we really need to focus on math right now,” I say, trying to divert the conversation.

“Aliens use these probes to find out information about the human race,” he says. “It’s quite a popular method of information gathering among aliens.”

“Alrighty then.”

Another day.

“So, Marshall.  Today we need to find the area of this square. Do you remember how we figure out how to do that?”

“Area equals length times width,” he intones right away.


I can’t believe it. He’s on track. He was listening today! I am making a difference. I am such a good teacher.

“So, can you show me how to find the answer to this question?”

“Of course,” he says.

He puts his head down, writes down the formula, fills in the blanks and comes up with the correct answer.

“Excellent,” I crow. “You did it! You are one smart cookie, Marshall. What do you think about that?”

“You smell like the soap from my campground.”