Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning - Part Three

I don't think that's possible," she explained to her gregarious young students.

After she spoke, the wheels started turning. COULD they? Would it be possible? Would it be permitted by the school principal, by the board? Was it even considered an educational outing?

After much research, discussions, e-mails, and phone conversations the enthusiastic teacher came to the conclusion that, yes, the class had worked hard to earn that money and they could do with it whatever they liked.

Her stomach tossed and turned and did flip flops and she didn't sleep a wink that night in anticipation of telling the class the words that she knew they wanted to hear.

She and twenty-five grade four students were going to see a movie! At a movie theatre!

The timing would be perfect. Finding Nemo was opening in a couple weeks and there was a 12:10 p.m. showing that would enable the class to view the entire movie and return back to the school in time for dismissal so they could get on their buses. The students were beyond ecstatic. A frenzy enveloped the classroom over the next few weeks and the teacher watched in awe as the excitement grew within each of her students. At times she thought they just might explode.

She arrived at school on the morning of the planned movie outing. The school principal was waiting in the office for her. She examined his facial expressions and then felt something in the pit of her stomach . . . something that told her there was bad news to come.

"There's a problem with the bus you ordered, " he told her point blank.

"What kind of problem with the bus?" she asked, cautiously.

"Well, it seems as if it's not coming," he said.

This young teacher couldn't believe that all her hard work and planning - and far more importantly, her students' dreams to go see this movie were going to be flushed down the drain just because of a problem with the transportation department. She had permission slips and volunteers and expectations and most importantly an intense desire not to let her students down.

And so the teacher managed to find a drive to the movie theatre for all twenty-five students. In order for a student to be allowed to drive in a non-board vehicle they needed permission from a parent. So the kindest office administrator in all the world looked up twenty-five home phone numbers and helped that teacher telephone each and every one of her students' guardians that morning. By some miracle she managed to receive permission for every single student to be driven to the theatre. (But get these same parents to show up for a report card meeting? That she couldn't manage.)

The teacher chose Belle and two other students to ride with her in her tiny little Volkswagon. The other students rode with the school principal and the parent volunteers. When they arrived at the theatre, the teacher was greeted by two of her close friends who she had privately begged to come meet her that day in case something went wrong. While the teacher had grown and flourished and come a long way after a year of teaching, she was not bold enough to believe she could handle twenty-five students in a dark movie theatre on her own!

The teacher had added a chunk of her own savings to the movie fund so that there was ample money available for each student to to enjoy his/her own popcorn and drink. Within minutes, the teacher and her twenty-five students exhaled and relaxed back into their huge, movie-theatre seats. They had done it. Here they were . . . reaping the benefits of all their hard work. The young teacher couldn't help but smile to herself as she heard the boys a couple rows back giggling and making farting noises. She glanced knowingly at the little girls whispering among themselves, chattering so quickly only they could understand their seemingly foreign language. And as the lights dimmed and the music began to overwhelmingly take over the walls and the floor and the ceiling of that theatre, she stopped; not to watch the screen but to carefully analyze the faces and expressions of all the children around her.

Her heart ached as she watched so many of these little people who had terrorized her last September, who had made her doubt her own abilities and even her choice to become an educator, shed tears down their soft, round cheeks as Nemo's mother was killed by the shark in the very first few minutes of the film.

Little did those students realize the impact this little orange clown fish named Nemo would have on the world of animated movies and pop culture in the weeks and years to come.

And little did that keen and ambitious young teacher realize the impact this event would have on her for the rest of her life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WW - "Winter"



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Learning - Part Two

That keen and ambitious young teacher made it her goal to make sure that the new Iranian student felt at home and became comfortable with her new classmates.

On day one they got down to the business of figuring out the one word in the English language that she needed to know immediately.

"Washroom"

And so, when she needed to be excused to go to the bathroom, the young girl (we will call her Belle) meekly raised her hand and whispered, "washroom?" with an air of uncertainty, to the teacher. And the teacher would give her an enthusiastic ear-to-ear grin and nod her head in approval so that Belle would know that she was pronouncing the word properly.

As the days gave way to weeks, Belle became more and more confident in speaking and began to learn more and more English words. One day while the teacher was painstakingly trying to demonstrate the joys of multiplication tables to the group of twenty-five students in her class, she glanced over and noticed that Belle had completed all her work way ahead of the rest of the kids. It soon became evident that Belle was extremely proficient in mathematics and was a whiz at long division. She soared through most of the grade four math curriculum in a couple of weeks.

The teacher, not one to miss out on a potential learning opportunity, put Belle in charge of tutoring some of the students who were struggling in math. Belle soon found herself highly respected by her peers and no longer being teased for her weakness in English.

As the snow melted and winter gave way to spring, the teacher decided that it was about time she and her class celebrate the fact that they had nearly survived an entire ten months together. She, with her first full-time class, and they, with an inexperienced teacher with very little expertise in curriculum and behaviour management but a heck of a lot of heart.

But field trips cost money, and the school had very little of that. The teacher, passionate for all things sweet, promptly decided that she and her grade four students were going to hold a bake sale. They would use the money they raised to go visit one of the national museums in the area. They would need enough money to pay for transportation and for a class museum pass.

And so they baked. They baked in the little kitchen across the hall from her classroom. The teacher baked at her home late at night. The teacher's mother-in-law baked for the sale. Some of the students baked for the sale, and a handful of parents baked for the sale. The class painted signs and made posters and there was not one metre of school property not adorned with "Grade Four Class Bake Sale" paraphernalia.

On the day of the bake sale the teacher opened her classroom doors at lunch time to a line up of students that reached all the way down the hall and then snaked itself up around the other side of the school. The bake sale was an overwhelming success. Those cookies and tarts and cakes and muffins and loaves and cupcakes earned those grade four students and their keen and ambitious young teacher nearly four hundred dollars.

And she knew the amount was correct, of course, for she had made sure it was Belle who counted all the coins and bills at the end of the sale.

The teacher took half of their savings and booked her class an educational trip to the national Museum of Nature. They took the bus downtown on one beautiful spring day and lined up in single file as they entered the building. They acted respectfully and they didn't yell or run or curse and they made that teacher overwhelmingly proud. For many of those students it was the first time they had stepped foot in a museum, and they had the time of their lives.

With the educational component of their fund-raising efforts covered, the teacher needed to figure out what to do with the second half of their money. So later that week she launched into a lesson on democracy and had her students vote on what the class would do with the rest of their earnings.

She was stunned by what they chose.


To be continued . . .

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning - Part One

Once upon a time, in Canada's national capital, there was a keen and ambitious young teacher.

As a result of a stroke of luck and and an accompanying qualifying teaching degree, she found herself gainfully employed within a year of graduation. She was teaching grade four students in a lower-income inner-city school.

She had some apprehension before the first day of school, as she had done supply teaching at this school the previous year and had been smashed in the head with a basketball by one of the very "unique" and special students in a grade three class. During a math lesson.

It turns out her apprehension was merited. This school was tough. The students were merciless. She came to school some mornings completely terrified. By early October this group of nine-year-olds had gotten the best of her. She was ready to quit the job she had only weeks earlier been so thankful to have received.

One cold morning in November she decided it was time to turn things around. She sought help from some of the absolutely amazing, caring, and experienced teachers in the school. (Most of whom still work at this school today.) They were more than happy to assist her.

They opened up their vaults of experience and helped her learn how to handle this behaviour-challenged class. Within weeks the eager 20-something teacher had regained her composure and was back on top. She had those kids lined up silently in the hall. She had them quietly reading books in the library. She had instituted a reward system in the classroom for good behaviour which seemed to motivate every single one of them.

And before she knew it, she was learning about each and every one of them. She came to understand the complexities at home that fostered the students' "difficult" behaviour. That many of their parents were unemployed. Had drug and alcohol problems. Were not reachable for her to communicate with because they couldn't manage to pay for phone service. Could not afford lunch or snacks for their children. Which then led this young teacher to walk into the giant, gaping doors of Costco to buy her very first membership, just so she could purchase some bulk foods to keep in her desk and slip to the children who didn't have a lunch. Which most definitely garnered some eye-rolling from her husband.

In early November the teacher answered her classroom door when she heard an abrupt knock. She opened the door to see a mother and father and a small girl. The mother didn't speak a word of English, and neither did her daughter. The father spoke choppy English, and the teacher was able to understand from him that they had arrived in Ottawa from Iran the previous day and wanted to enroll their nine-year-old daughter in school. He didn't have a job, and they had three children. The mother had tears in her eyes as she peered into the brightly-coloured classroom full of hand-made art and sticker charts and word walls and dusty chalk and seemed fearful for her daughter. Against all "no touching" rules the young teacher put her arm around this woman to assure her that her little girl was in good hands, and would do just fine. The woman smiled knowingly at the teacher, and nodded her head as if she understood.

The father said, "thank you", and they left.

To be continued . . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hand-made Valentines a Success

My Valentine's class last weekend went quite well! I had some lovely children register and we had a total of eight little crafters with us, keen to create their Valentine masterpieces. Each child was to make 20 Valentines - some of the younger crew didn't quite make it to 20, but I think everyone had a good time and there were a couple of very creative little stampers in our midst.

Creating your own Valentines is easy and usually cheaper than buying them at a store. (And a hand-made touch is always much nicer, in my opinion.)

I used regular card stock, but construction paper works just as well. I cut each card so it measured 4x8 inches - then folded them in half so I had 4-inch square, folded cards. To save on wasting extra paper, we didn't use envelopes, but I had the children close their cards with a cute Valentine sticker after they had signed their names.

We used a variety of Valentine stamps and craft ink to design the cards, and I had lots of embellishments laid out for the kids to use on their cardstock. . . foam and felt hearts, lots of punched out shapes, glitter, markers, crayons, ribbon, etc.

And, voila! Simple but gorgeous stamped cards to give out at school or to friends and family! Things 1 and 2 took their cards in to school today for their Valentine celebrations, and it was heart-warming to see the joy and happiness in their faces as they printed their name on each hand-made card.

I've had a lot of inquiries as to future classes, and yes, I will be holding more classes (for a variety of ages) and stamped projects are also a fabulous birthday party idea for boys or girls ages 5-12. Stay tuned for upcoming schedules!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sick Kids and Mothers

It appears it is nearly impossible to get through a winter without getting sick in this household. I get it. I have two kids in kindergarten . . . a breeding ground for germs. A dirty, sticky, germ-infested little haven where small people all share pencils, snacks, glue, and every other sort of magnet for parasites, viruses, and bacteria of all description.

My oldest son, my dearest, first-born Thing 1, still has tendencies to put "stuff" in his mouth. He'll often bite his nail, lick his thumb, or just graze something that he sees is dirty. He is predominately our (what I like to term) "plague carrier". In simple terms, he brings the germs home from school, and subsequently we all get sick.

2010 is no different than last year. In early January he contracted a mild stomach virus which trickled through our house over the course of three weeks, causing both my boys to miss a total of six days of school. And we no sooner bid the tummy bug farewell when we were smacked with a miserable cold. The kids came down with horrible coughs, mild fevers, and runny noses. Thing 2 - who always manages to get colds worse than anyone in the house - missed an additional three days of school from the aforementioned illness. While missing school is not a big deal in kindergarten, the transition back to school for my shy and withdrawn little four-year-old is a much bigger issue.

This past Saturday Thing 1 was having trouble getting to sleep. He tossed and turned for several hours, often crying out in pain. After a good two hours of him yelling and crying, I decided to take him into the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital (which is very close - less than five minutes). Although I am not typically a run-to-the-hospital type of mom and am usually more relaxed about my kids' illnesses, he was complaining of ear pain and I could tell there was going to be no peace in our future. I suffered from pretty severe ear infections as a kid, and I can vividly recall the searing pain one feels inside the ear. If you've never had one before - it's downright horrible.

So I packed up my sickie and drove to the ER. On Saturday. At midnight.

Can you see where this is going? If you do have to take a child to the ER at some point, I urge you NOT to do it on a Saturday night. At midnight. EVER.

The triage nurse took his temperature, weighed him, and took a deep breath before she gave me a sympathetic glance.

"The wait time is at least three hours," she said.

"Okay, thanks," I gulped.

While my gut instinct was to get the hell out of this place and run and never turn back, my five-year-old still grimacing in pain reminded me that as a parent it was my job to make the best decision for him. Within five minutes, we were called forward to see a nurse who administered some pain medication to Thing 1. I had already given him some Tylenol at home, and it hadn't seemed to help, and I think they then gave him some Advil. We were then ushered back into the endless black hole known as the ER Waiting Room.

I sat down, Thing 1 draped on my lap, and inspected the crowd. There were other children - one small baby about seven months old with a horrendous sounding cough - a number of elderly people, a handful of loud drunks, and, what I can only kindly refer to as a couple "weirdos". We no sooner got comfortable in our new setting when a paramedic wheeled in a 20-ish looking guy. This man was alert but his white t-shirt was covered in red blood - and he had extensive white bandages all over his head, blood leaking from some of them. Upon closer inspection I could see he had bruises on his face.

Thing 1, wide-eyed in amazement at the scene before him, looked at me and stated,

"I think he had a bad day skiing, mommy."

As I bit my own tongue to stifle my emerging giggles, the man's parents entered the waiting room and rushed over to their wheelchair-ridden son.

"What happened?"

"Are you okay?"

"Who did this?"

"Did you get a good look at the guy?"

"Are you going to press charges?"

The mother, clearly frantic with worry and angst, finally composed herself and bent over to give her son a big huge hug.

"You really had me worried," she said.

"I'm sorry, mom," the man offered.

Since we were sitting directly beside this group of people, I was soon able to learn that the man had been hit over the head with a beer bottle and, then, while he was still stunned from the impact, he was punched several times by a guy who had been at the same party as him. Over the course of the next few hours, I got the impression that the man was a very nice kid, who had innocently been at a party with his friends (his friends showed up at the emergency room shortly after his parents arrived) and gotten attacked.

If one of my good friends weren't an ER nurse, I might not believe stuff like this happened. But it does. All the time.

As I watched that mother take care of her injured son . . . wiping blood from his neck, wheeling him to and assisting him in the washroom, and fetching him water while never once allowing her hand to be disconnected from his, the realization struck me.

It never ends. A mother caring for her sick children, worrying, supporting them, loving them. Unconditionally.

After three hours and fifteen minutes of waiting in that spacious, yet packed room and never being seen by a doctor, I finally picked up my tired little boy and drove him home. I paid my $15 for parking and took him inside our house and slipped him into his cozy, warm bed. Alternating Tylenol and Advil over the next 12 hours seemed to help ease the pain, and we never did end up going back to the hospital.

When I woke up the next morning after a much-too-short sleep I thought not of the young man with the beer bottle gashes in his skull, but of his soft spoken mother and the connection I felt with her.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

WW - The Valentine Edition

Are y'all tired of the cards yet?

I'm planning on setting up a different section of my site for my craft and business stuff, so I won't bog down this area too much. (Anyone know somebody who could help me with that?)

But for now, I'm going to leave you with a few Valentine cards I've worked on this week.

This is a simple and clean card using Stampin' Up's With All My Heart stamp set and the new Sending Love DSP (Designer Series Paper) from the Occasions Mini Catalogue. I found the cute little rhinestone brad on sale at Michael's.

This card was made using a Valentine stamp I've had for nearly ten years. I embossed it with red embossing powder and then sponged some red ink around the sides. The white background is embossed with a template from my new Big Shot.

And this last card is my first foray into the world of vintage stamping. I have always been a bit afraid of the gorgeous "antiqued and distressed" look of so many vintage cards. But I gave it a try and realized it's not so intimidating after all. I'm really pleased with the look and am definitely up for trying this again.

All my cards are not listed in my etsy store, but if you are interested in buying any of the Valentine or other cards, you can contact me directly. All of the designs are usually in my flickr account.

 
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