Division in School

12 Feb

Why is that when I write a blog post in my head, it all comes so easily and flows so perfectly together? Yet, when I sit down to put it on paper/screen, I stare blankly for what seems like interminable minutes, wondering why it was that I thought I had anything to say in the first place?

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s get on with the writing.

I dropped my son off at school today, like every day. And as I was standing in the hallway chatting with the other parents and encouraging my son to change into his shoes and put his lunch bag in the appropriate bin, a woman, looking to be past retirement age and wearing a tag that identified her as a supply teacher, said in a know-it-all tone to one of the mothers, “OK, Mom, time to go. He can put his own shoes on. We must leave them alone to do it or they’ll never learn.”

I glanced over at the mother, who, very calmly and in a kind voice said, “Yes, he is doing it himself.” After her statement, she remained firmly rooted to her spot. She knew her place and her role, and that was to support her son.

I’ll mention at this point that these children are not grade-school age. They are kindergarteners; kindergarteners who are capable of putting on their own shoes and dressing and undressing themselves, but still young and still needing support, even if that support is simply mom or dad or another trusted adult standing by in case they need help.

It’s very likely that this elderly supply teacher, who has probably come in from her retirement to help out (with this I have my own set of issues, but that’s for another post), wasn’t going to bend over and help this young boy had he run into trouble with his shoelaces. I’m perhaps reaching, I know. She may have helped him. But I have good reason to believe that she would have more likely stood over him and instructed him on the task rather than get down at his level and do the work of a supporting adult in a child’s learning. I’ve encountered similar scenarios so many times in the school system that my children are part of that I’ve lost count.

And beyond her actions, the problem with what that supply teacher said, though she may have meant it only to be helpful, is that it creates a separation between family and school. Where we should be building and developing a close working relationship between parents and teachers to support our children, we are creating division. The teachers—supply or everyday—need things to work a certain way at school in order to manage the herd. The parents can take more time to support their children. Why not blend those two methods together? We would create a vastly different system in which our children are currently being educated. Continue to create division and we fall short of the goal—raising and educating well-rounded children. Instead, we turn out kids who have learned how to be assembly line workers, following the herd and doing what they are told. True, the odd one escapes this mentality. Those are usually the ones who just can’t conform, never fit into the system and, eventually, with strength, courage and support, beat their own path. Or if strength, courage and support are lacking, they fall off the cliff and get lost at the bottom.

So, rather than rush a parent out the school door in the morning, why not welcome them into the hallway of little kids who need help, support and encouragement to peel away the layers of heavy winter clothing? The kids may not come right out and thank you for it, but they’ll remember the help they got, the warm feeling it gave them, and it will help them through the day when they face other challenges, knowing that adults do care and will not always just stand over them barking instructions that might be hard for them to follow.

I CAN Make a Difference (2014)

23 Dec

I recently had the privilege of reading to my children another great book by Miriam Laundry. I met Miriam about a year and a half ago and was instantly struck by how she exudes positive energy. And her I Can series of books reflects that positive energy in every way.

IcanmakeadifferenceHer most recent edition to the series is I CAN Make a Difference. It’s about a young boy who is tasked by his teacher to use some gifted money to make a difference in someone else’s life. He is less than thrilled with the project, but he’s a good kid and, without realizing he’s doing it, he makes a difference in the lives of his friends without ever spending a penny of the gifted money.

This story really touched my heart. The main character’s personality had such depth, it reminded me of my own children and their struggles with kindness and selfishness. As is often the case in children’s books, the main character is faced with some dilemma and is led, throughout the story, to a solution to the problem and a rectifying of his behaviour. Though this story follows the same dilemma/solution path, we see the main character as much more than just the issue at hand. I have to admit that, while reading this to my kids the first and second time, I teared up a little bit when I read certain parts about how Alex had helped his friends so unselfishly that he didn’t even realize he had made a difference to them.

Another thing I really like about Miriam’s books in general is, though there is a main character that we follow to the end of the story, she breathes life into the other characters as well, including the adult (the teacher) so that the reader sees into each characters’ personality and is drawn into the story to enjoy the characters interactions and how their paths weave together. And she always shows her adult character learning a lesson from the students. I think this is important for a child hearing this story because it shows that children aren’t the only ones who have lessons to learn. They are also good teachers.

It was a true pleasure reading this story to my children and my children liked it so much it has become a go-to bedtime story or anytime story. It hasn’t made it to the bookshelf, yet. And I suspect this gem will be left out for some time to come. It’s such a great book.

Would you like a copy of your own? Miriam has so kindly offered to give away a signed copy of her book, I CAN Make a Difference, to one of my readers. All you have to do is tell me in the comments how you or your child made a difference in someone’s life, or even how someone else made a difference in your life.

And because it’s the holidays—and we’re all really busy—the contest will run from today until the first day back to school in January.

Cuba 2014 – A Family Experience to Remember

19 Dec

It was so different than last time. Our last visit to Cuba involved very upset children, very tired parents, some limited fun, and a desperate desire to get back on Canadian soil.

Granted, the circumstances were different. We travelled as a foursome. We booked a 3 ½ star resort that was not so new, and our children were younger.

This time, we travelled with extended family; we ran into people we knew from home; the resort was 4 ½ stars; it was newer. It was an all-around better experience.

And since we’ve been back, we’ve all missed it very much. The sun, the beach, the seashells, the waves, the sandcastles, the pools, the restaurants, the ice cream…ooohh the ice cream!

SAM_0614 SAM_0616 SAM_0813

About a week after we got back, it occurred to me that life was carrying on in Cuba. People were getting up each morning and walking along a sun-drenched path to a delicious buffet of breakfast delights, then heading to the pool or the beach with a drink in one hand and a book in the other (or in our case, buckets and shovels and blow-up water toys). And the same staff was serving food and drinks and cappuccinos at the lobby bar while happy vacationers lounged about soaking up the calm day.

After realizing this, that everything we enjoyed the week before was still happening at the same lazy pace while we were back here at home in the cold and damp, trudging through our lives at work and school, it took me a few days to get over how much I missed our vacation.

I’ve been reading a book about how the brain works and how memories are created (The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson, 2011, p. 67). And I know I have created this memory of how wonderful our vacation in Cuba was this time, especially since I’m lining it up in my mind with the not-so-great experience we had two years ago. But our vacation this time around really was wonderful.

Having gotten over how much I yearned to just be in Cuba at that resort with all of my family, enjoying ourselves together day after day, it finally occurred to me that the sameness of it would be its downfall eventually. We would tire of the warm and happy days and nights spent in each other’s company. We would become annoyed and yearn for some greater purpose.

And that’s when I realized that what Canada has to offer—my life here, the kids’ schools, my job, shuttling kids around, cold one day, hot or warm the next, snow, rain, sunshine—was the very variety of life. It is good to have different seasons, to have different things to do, different people to see depending on the day of the week.

It was fantastic to have spent so much uninterrupted-by-life time with my family—immediate and extended—but it is also nice to come back to our lives with these memories and all that they have taught us about being together and making the effort—no matter where we are—to come together and enjoy each other.

To Cuba! SAM_0501

There is no getting through it

11 Nov

Every relationship falls on hard times. Some get through it. Some don’t. I’ve always wondered what the difference was between those who make it and those who don’t. Was there a secret to the “getting through” or a trick that some learn and others don’t?

LoveCycles_coverA couple of months ago, I was sent a book on review. The title of the book: Love Cycles – The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love. It’s by Linda Carroll, a couples’ therapist for over thirty years. In the book, she describes the five cycles that love goes through. Sometimes these stages repeat themselves within a relationship. To me, that’s the trick or the secret to it all. There is no “getting through” it. We are always going through it. At any given time, we are in a different stage. As Carroll writes, “The stages of love do not end at wholehearted loving but rather with an acceptance that the stages form a spiral; different ages and stages continue to bring new gifts and fresh challenges. Over time, we become more flexible and willing to accept the natural impermanence of relationship seasons.”

Below is an article written by Linda Carroll describing the five stages of love.

The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love

by Linda Carroll

As a counselor to couples for many years, I’ve come to recognize five distinctive stages we travel through over the course of any intimate relationship: the Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, Decision, and, finally, Wholehearted Loving.

Love Cycles and Choices

The first stage, [the Merge] fueled by a delicious and powerful love potion and marked changes in brain chemistry itself, causes people to become obsessed with the wonder and delight of their new partner. Its as though a veil covers our rational brain, and all we can see is what is magical about this person and the relationship. The seductive power of this stage may also cause us to fall in love with an inappropriate partner. With consciousness and effort, we can choose what to do with our feelings. Do we fan the flames of a potentially dangerous fire, or do we control our passion and turn our attention elsewhere?

Even if our partner is a good match, this will not eliminate the difficulties and annoyances two human beings bring to one another. In this first stage, we tend to see only the best, the possibilities, the magic.

If we choose to move with our partner into Stage Two, Doubt and Denial, we wake up from the trance of infatuation and begin to wonder whether this relationship is really the best choice for us. You find your feelings of love are becoming more conditional, power struggles increase and you wonder if your partner has changed. What now? We can choose to look carefully at our partner and assess his ability to collaborate, manage conflict and disappointment and accept responsibility for his choices and troubles. Can we feel strongly attracted to someone and yet admit to ourselves that this person is not a good choice for us? If so, are we able to say no to the relationship?

During this second stage, the spotlight shines on the flaws of our beloved. We now invest a lot of energy in getting our lover to become the ideal partner we thought they would be. At the same time, we also catch glimpses of our own least likeable parts — for example, how we react when our partner doesn’t agree with us. The research clearly shows that managing conflict effectively requires something different than fighting, fleeing or freezing. Can we learn these new skills?

Each of us is forced to give up our dream of perfect, unconditional love in which our partner always sees the best in us, says the right thing, never embarrasses us and reads our mind so that he or she can please us in every way possible.

As our disappointment escalates, so do our biological responses to stress: we prepare for war, retreat, or don camouflage. Welcome to the third stage: Disillusionment. As differences continue to emerge, our proclivities to defend and preserve ourselves may grow even stronger: we may believe that we’re always in the right and that everything should be done our way.

Alternatively, you may be the kind of person who cannot bear conflict. You shut your ears to every dissonant chord and pretend that everything is wonderful — or at least tolerable.

The point is, you have chosen how to respond. You will continue to make choices as you move through love’s stages. As disillusionment sets in, we can try our best to offer goodwill and kindness, even as tension thickens. As the “Why aren’t you me?” argument gathers momentum, we can consciously decide to loosen up a bit and allow more than one truth to be present in the relationship.

In this third stage, when our brain signals major alarm, it is particularly vital to choose to move from reactivity to rationality. When we are calmly present, we are free to act for the highest good of the relationship rather than out of fear and neediness.

Of course, because we’re thoroughly human, we won’t always respond to our lover from our highest selves. Then what? Can we apologize, make amends and take responsibility for how we’ve behaved, despite what our partner has done to upset or annoy us? We have the power to make that choice.

Let’s say that when we reach the fourth stage — Decision— we make the choice to part ways. Can we wish our former partner the best? If that’s too hard, can we at least not wish him or her the worst?

If we decide to remain together, we have the opportunity to learn the lessons that will help to make us the best person we can be, while also giving our relationship the chance to grow and deepen. This is where we enter the fifth cycle, which is wholehearted loving. No longer two halves trying to make a whole, we are two complete people learning about love. Passion, safety and generosity return to the relationship, along with humor and empathy.

From the Inside Out

Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy a strong connection with the same partner for a long stretch. But regardless of the quality of our intimate relationship, our emotional and spiritual life journey begins and ends within us. In this sense, every relationship is an inside job. Inside us is where it starts — and where it finishes, too.

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

LindaCarroll_author_LoveCyclesLinda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lovecycles.org.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll. Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

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Ms. Carroll writes about this topic with compassion, great understanding, and eloquence. Her book was not only interesting and helpful, but enjoyable to read and an intriguing look into how people love. If you’re looking for some inspiration to help you along the path you and your partner are travelling, I recommend Love Cycles.

As I’ve learned, it’s not about getting through it so that everything will be alright on the other side. It’s about going through it together and each person working from the inside out.

The Walk and Talk Recess

8 Nov

In an age where families are crunched for time because both parents are working and the prevailing parenting mentality is to register kids for as many extra-curricular activities as possible so that they experience different things and are constantly supervised, some schools in my area have decided to institute what they call a “walk and talk” recess and limit the amount of good ol’ fashioned physical activity that kids get during the school day.

This type of recess prohibits running, chasing games (which include running), ball playing, touching, playing with any kind of equipment, and basically, fun.

So what’s a kid to do?

Act out and be rambunctious in class the minute they hang their coats up back inside.

And is it any surprise? Most teachers aren’t surprised, from what I can tell. The administration seems shocked, though. Odd.

According to one website, walk and talk recesses (in their varying degrees) “IMPROVE the behavior in the classroom”. Maybe, but only because prior to implementing the walk and talk recess at that school it sounds like the students were denied recess altogether.

I’m more of a free-range mom myself. Say what you will. But I grew up in a time when we played outside on the street (for all you helicopter, bubble-wrapping parents, I grew up on a dead-end street with very little traffic, so calm down, my parents were excellent parents (my mom especially)). We played in the neighbourhood…somewhere, usually not within sight of our parents (or any other parents). We had freedom. We learned how to get along, how to sort ourselves out, and how not to complain at every little scrape or booboo. Now, if someone was gushing blood, we sent one of the kids to get a parent. We knew how to take care of each other. And we learned that from each other, from our group. Because that’s what we were; a group of kids who played together and stuck together. We had our own lives away from the adults. And that’s important. And my kids have that, too.

Back to the recess thing. Kids develop that group mentality when they are engaged at recess as well. But we have to allow them that space to create the group and to engage their creativity. The walk and talk recess in my opinion is not the way to do that.

This article from columnist Anne Jarvis at The Windsor Star talks about a school in Auckland, New Zealand that does recess right.

And this is what was learned from doing recess this way:

“And after recess, “when kids have had the opportunity to have heaps of fun and be engaged and motivated in what they’re doing, they come back ready to learn,” he said.”

And what about current playgrounds in general? One word: boring.

Do you know what my kids do on the standard issue, colourfully designed, but super safe playgrounds in Toronto? They climb as high as they can on the outside of the structure and then either swing by their knees from an available horizontal bar or jump off to see if they can stand the thrill of the drop to the ground below.

And once they’ve conquered that height, they look for the next challenge. They are just being kids.

When they were really little and discovering their natural instinct for climbing and testing their limits, I let them go. And do you know what I discovered? Kids will never push themselves beyond what they are comfortable with at any given stage.

If I stood under them, ready to catch them if they fell, they would climb higher, yes, but it was obvious to me that they were not comfortable with their newly attained height. If I told them to try it on their own, eventually, after many park visits, they made it to the top of the climber…when they were ready.

And with all those attempts under their belts, they could own it. They had accomplished the climb themselves. It’s a confidence builder, a skill builder, a strength builder, and a bravery builder.

Did they fall? Yes. Did they get hurt? There was the odd scraped knee; maybe a few tears. Did they learn how to fall to limit the impact? Yes. You cannot get through life without falling. Falling teaches us how to limit the impact for the next time we fall. And we will try again. It’s in our nature.

As stated by Globe and Mail columnist Alex Bozikovic in a recent article, “Given today’s hyper-protective parenting norms, changing playgrounds means changing the culture.” Newer designs for playgrounds are making child’s play fun again. But our culture still has a long way to go to get to a place where kids can just be kids.

naturesplayground

 

My daughter the mover

7 Nov

Told Big Sister she couldn’t re-arrange the furniture. To say the least, listening is not her strongest skill.

She moved all of the toy bins from where we had them arranged under the breakfast bar over to where she wanted them near her chalkboard.

Her dad came home at the end of the day and moved them back while the kids and I were at the park.

hell hath no fury

Great and limitless

16 Sep

Each day in my Inbox, I receive inspirational quotes, poems and sayings.

Today, I received this one: Continue reading

Slowing down, slowed down, stopped

13 Aug

So, I haven’t been around in a while. I kind of gave up. I got tired. I was overworked (in every area of my life) and now I think I might be a little bit ready again. I miss this space. But this space is going to be a slow space now.

I learned a lesson recently. I won’t go into details. Life presents so many lessons. But I’d like to share this post that I read this morning from UnTangled that kind of frames the lesson I learned…http://drkellyflanagan.com/2014/08/13/why-you-should-unsubscribe-from-my-mailing-list/.

Bacon wrapped onion rings

30 Jul Featured Image -- 5569

Nancy:

Absolutely had to share this from my friend dusterbed…this is what I’m doing for dinner this weekend!

Originally posted on What have you done NOW?:

Whilst browsing the internet for several hours one day, I came across what I thought looked like an AMAZING idea. It was posted on Facebook by someone or other, and when I saw the description, I knew I had to try it! Bacon wrapped onion rings??? YES PLEASE.

I did some Goozling and found the recipe. Then something happened and I got distracted… and I forgot about it for about three weeks. The delightful photo and recipe appeared again in my news feed (thank goodness for the repetitiveness of sharing on Facebook) and reminded me that I was due for a food adventure!

Being the lazy lout I am, I was happy that I did not have to go to the grocery store for ingredients. In my fridge were two fresh packs of bacon (yes, I used both), lots of onions for ring-making, brown sugar,and Sriracha sauce! I had…

View original 486 more words

Reflecting

15 May

I haven’t written in this space for a while. Life has taken over again.

But this I must put down in writing somewhere and I do not have my notebook with me today.

On the way to daycare drop-off this morning, my sweet little girl was in one of those moods. She grumbled and whined all the way to her babysitter’s house. She wouldn’t let go of whatever it was that was turning her beautiful smile upside down.

Normally, this would irk me. I would let it get to me and it would force my smile upside down. Which in turn would make my daughter worse and my little boy a grumpy or sad mess.

I’ve read tons of parenting magazines, books, articles, blogs, etc. Many of them give fantastic advice. Some of them are ridiculous (they’re good for a laugh, though). But one piece of advice that I have read over and over in my lifetime (and not just from parenting “experts”) is that how other people treat you is not a reflection of you, it is a reflection of them and their circumstances.

Until this morning, I never really applied that to my children. I often think of it in terms of the adults in my life. But I have always taken more of a I-control-how-my-kids-feel attitude toward the little people in my life.

But today, my little girl was grumpy and whiny and I looked up at the grey sky and thanked God for her, grump and whine and all. And my gratitude reflected back to me and I felt good. All the way to daycare.

And when I dropped them off, she gave me a wonderful kiss and a hug. And she walked happily over to her friends. Perhaps my gratitude for her shone some light into her and cheered her up.

Whatever it was, for the first time, I did not feel like her mood was my problem. People get grumpy sometimes. All we can do is stand by and be there when the sun comes out for them again.

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