Be Brave, education, Humour, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Teacher

Show Me How BIG Your Brave Is: Why Sara Barellis’ “Brave” should be our new national anthem

For a group of people who talk all day for a living, teachers are often a very silent bunch. We save our comments for the staff room and then grumble about how no one listens to our opinion.

Teachers across the United States are in crisis. Morale is at an all time low. Politicians are treating teachers like children who need to be monitored and disciplined with threats of job loss and salary reductions.

It’s disgraceful.

As a Canadian teacher, I know that we have it better than our friends to the south, but I can see us headed in that direction and it scares the hell out of me.

Business people with no links or background to education are being tapped by politicians to find ways to “fix” our education “crisis”.

Forgive me, but we are neither broken nor in a crisis. Yes, there are things we can improve upon. And guess what? Most of us know exactly what needs to be done. Most of us have multiple degrees in everything from child development to curriculum and evaluation. We do regular professional development on everything from reading and math to bullying and nutrition. We can help make things better. We need money and time to make positive changes, not outside “experts”.

But before we can help others, teachers need to find the courage to stop whispering and start speaking up. Our students want to look up to us. They want us to be role models. We need to model bravery so that they can grow up to be brave as well.

We live in a world where people overshare all the time. Videos and pictures that you might have once only shared with family and friends are now put on the internet for the world to comment on. But despite all of this new ‘openness‘,  I don’t think it’s made us any braver.

We still watch what we say and worry about what people will think, what they might say. What if someone doesn’t agree with me or doesn’t approve of what I say? What if they get mad at me? What IF not everyone likes me???

Guess what? The world will keep spinning. You will continue to breathe. Life will go on. And you will be better for having spoken your mind. The world will be better.

Being brave doesn’t mean you have to rescue a baby from a burning building. It could be as simple as standing up for a colleague when they are being harrassed or supporting a student when they need someone in their corner. Bravery often shows itself in simple acts of kindness.

I stopped watching music videos sometime after Michael Jackson’s Thriller because I have no interest in seeing women dance around half-dressed while men sing about degrading them. But this? Brave is the best video, the best song, the best…everything I have seen in a long time. 

It’s not deep or complicated or edgy. It’s just honest and true and fun.

If this song can’t be our new national anthem, let’s make it our new mantra.

Watch it, love it, live it.  I want to see you be brave.

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just want to see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

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Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Why We Should Abolish Grade 8

Let the cats and the grade 8's roam free.
Let the cats and the grade 8’s roam free.

I have long proposed that Grade 8 be abolished.

Sort of like the 13th floor in a hotel. Just skip over it. It’s bad luck. No one wants to get off on that floor.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying kids in grade 8 are bad people. It’s just that when they hit grade 8 they become afflicted with a condition I have coined Grade-Eight-I-Tis ©.

Grade-Eight-I-Tis, or G.E.I.T. for short, causes the adolescent brain to stop working, allowing the puberty hormones to take over.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what are the side effects of this dreaded condition?

Well, since you asked, let me give you an example of G.E.I.T. in action.

***************************************************************************************

Yesterday, as I was driving through my neighborhood, minding my own business, I saw one of my former students coming around the corner of the little side street where I was about to turn. He was with three other boys, all in grade 8.

I taught him three years ago when he was in grade 5. He was a cute little kid then. Nice, friendly, helpful.

I waved at him but he didn’t wave back. This was odd because he always waves at me. In fact, the other day, he actually stood in the middle of the road so that I would stop my car and talk to him.

That little mystery was solved in a matter of seconds.

As soon as I rounded the corner, I saw the fire.

I have no doubt that this former student of mine started the fire with his empty-headed buddies and then just sauntered away. There was no one else around and the flames were pretty high by the time I started beating them out with an old hat I found in the trunk.

Between my hat beatings and the man from across the street who came over with a bucket of water, we managed to put the ditch fire out pretty quickly.

But I was mad. I called 911 and told them they needed to send someone over to spray down the grass, just in case there was a rogue spark lurking somewhere. Then I told them to have the police call me. I was on my way to have a chat with a few budding arsonists.

I caught up with the boys pretty quickly (athletes they are not). The three I didn’t recognize took off running. My former student walked over to the car.

Trying to be cool, he leaned over my window, “Hey, what’s up?”

“You’re busted, buddy,” I told him. “Get ready for a chat with the police about the fire.”

“I didn’t light any fire,” he said, trying to look cool as sweat beaded on his forehead under his stupid backwards baseball cap.

“Whatever. Tell it to the police.”

Now, I know the worst thing that will happen to this little dumb-ass-kid, and his equally dumb-ass friends, is that they will get a slap on the wrist. Even if they are charged, the Young Offenders Act in Canada protects kids from their own youthful stupidity. And I suppose that’s a good thing. I can only hope that their parents will realize that unless they want to visit their kid in a juvenile detention facility in a few years, they need to step up and nip this problem in the bud.

*********************************************************************************************************

This incident just reinforced my belief that G.E.I.T. is a burning problem (no pun intended) that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

In my little fantasy-world, students in Grade 8 would not be in the classroom.  Instead, they would be out in the community helping: helping people, helping animals, helping the environment. This would help grow the parts of their brain that have been stunted by G.E.I.T. They would learn empathy, compassion and respect.

There would still be grade 8 teachers but their job would be to coordinate and supervise the work placements.  Yes, it would be like herding cats, but seriously, if we’re being honest here, isn’t teaching grade 8 like herding cats anyways?If you’re going to let the cats out of the bag, you might as well give them a wide open space in which to roam.

And who knows?

Perhaps if you’ve just spent the week cleaning out the ditches around your neighborhood, you might not be so quick to light them on fire.

I’m just sayin’.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Checkin' for monkeys right now.
Checkin’ for monkeys right now.

UPDATE: I heard from the police this evening regarding our little junior arsonists. It seems three of the boys threw the fourth one under the bus and said that he lit the fire without them knowing. Apparently, this one rogue trouble maker ran off to the ditch (alone) to pee and then he started a fire. That makes sense to me. I always light a fire after I pee in the ditch. Yeah…and then monkeys fly out of my butt!!! Amazingly, their parents apparently bought this big stinking sack of doo-doo and all four got a “stern talking to” from the police.

I must say, I am a little concerned. I believe the United Nations puts “firm talking to”s in the same category as waterboarding. I hope the boys can get past this.

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.

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, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

No one told me I’d have to raise my own children!

Response to Brenda MacDonald’s Oct 15, 2012 column: Two Cents Worth

I’d like to add my two cents worth to Brenda MacDonald’s recent column in the Bedford-Sackville Daily News. In this week’s column, she laments the fact that she can no longer trust her sons’ teachers to teach them “the moral, value, life lesson, don’t-miss-a- deadline stuff”. Wow. My heart goes out to her. I mean, as a parent, I didn’t know either that I was actually expected to teach my children morals and values. This wasn’t in my “What to expect when you’re expecting” book! I mean, I understood that until they started school, I would have to teach them certain things like, “Don’t touch the stove or you’ll get burned!” and “Don’t flush your dinky toys down the toilet or we’ll have to pee in the yard!” But I felt safe in knowing that once my boys started school that responsibility, that heavy, heavy burden, would be lifted off my shoulders and placed on the backs of those miracle workers known as teachers. And when the last of my (two) children got on the school bus to begin his first day of school, I heaved a heavy sigh of relief. I felt light. No more worrying about educating my children on life lessons or morals or values. That job was now up to the teacher. I now have one child in grade 9 and another in grade 12 and I’m afraid I have a lot of catching up to do. You see I trusted their extraordinary teachers to teach them all of the morals and values and life lessons they would ever need. Thanks to Ms. MacDonald, I now realize how wrong I was.

Sarcasm aside, Ms. MacDonald’s initial concern that her child was given a 5-week extension on his middle school project and was not docked any points off his final grade is certainly valid. None of us likes it when we work our butts off and get our work done on time and the person in the cubicle next to us does the minimum amount and still gets paid as much or more than we do. (Yes, real life sucks, too.)

Ms. MacDonald admits that schools across the country have adopted no-zero policies, which means students can’t be penalized for what is considered a “behaviour issue” such as handing in a project late. Some parents and teachers are currently banding together to protest this new rule. The most high profile case on the books right now involves a teacher in Alberta who was suspended for going against the rule and assigning a child a zero. Ms. MacDonald dimisses the rapid spread of this policy across the country by saying, “I have no time such nonsense.” Nonsense or not, it is here, and teachers are required to follow the guidelines set forth by their provincial departments of education, their school boards and their school administrators. Shaming and blaming teachers (“I no longer totally trust them to teach my children anymore.”) is shifting blame to an easily identifiable group and allows Ms. MacDonald to ignore that other “nonsense”. A backhanded compliment like “don’t get me wrong, teachers are an admirable bunch” is as insulting as saying, “That dress is lovely. It really hides all the weight you’ve gained.”

Teacher responsibilities have grown over the years to include much more than the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic. The obesity crisis, the bullying crisis, the identity crisis – all of these things are now being placed on schools. Fix our children, parents cry! Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure they can still read, write and do math better than children in other countries.

I did not, have not, and will not ever expect my child’s teacher to prepare my child for the “real world”. I want my child’s math teacher to teach him math and his biology teacher to teach him biology. I can handle the life-lessons, the morals, the values and “don’t miss a deadline” stuff. That’s what I signed up for.