Spark a Conversation

I love books… for many reasons.

One of the greatest appeals is their ability to spark conversation. Whether it be Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, The Giver by Lois Lowry, or The Diary of Anne Frank, books can be a catalyst to deep discussion. Some kids are reluctant or unsure of how to answer direct questions. Some kids have limited exposure and experience. Some kids are isolated from those around them, physically or emotionally. The power of story is the ability to invite, provoke and spark conversation. Literature exposes our students to new experiences and can be an effective tool in the development of their moral compass.

Through their reading and subsequent conversations, children have the opportunity to make sense of the world around them and explore themselves in relation to the world. When my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was a young teenager, my friends most certainly did not understand. I found comfort within the pages of a book. I read and reread the stories to remind myself that I was not alone in my experiences. I found some of my questions answered and was able to formulate others to ask the adults around me.

In 1896, Charles W. Eliot said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”

What books do you find effective with children? Share your favourite… my bookshelf always has room for more!


An Ordinary Miracle

This weekend I was surrounded by nature: the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, the new-growth green on the trees, glacier blue icicles, the shimmering ripples of the mountain lakes, the river rapids carving smooth craters in the stone. As we were driving, we listened to Sarah McLachlan’s “Ordinary Miracle.” The song and the surroundings were a perfect fit.

“The sky knows when it’s time to snow
Don’t need to teach a seed to grow
It’s just another
Ordinary miracle today”

Though my job doesn’t afford me the luxury of working in the natural world, I am reminded to look for ordinary miracles wherever we are, despite our surroundings. A child learning to read. A school day running smoothly. The synergy of colleagues. The company of friends. The embrace of a child.

“Life is like a gift, they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up, and find a way
To give some of your own”

What gift, what miracle, will you open, unravel or discover today?

“The birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It’s just another
Ordinary miracle today”

Earlier this week, I saw amateur footage of a family of ducks crossing 167 Avenue. While they were crossing this busy road, the mom and dad were on either side of the ducklings: one at the front, one at the back. The ducklings squawked joyously upon their arrival on the grass. After crossing, mom and dad both took the lead, the danger now behind them. Truly remarkable.

“The sun comes out and shines so bright
And disappears again at night
It’s just another
Ordinary miracle today”

Miracles surround us: if only we allow our eyes to see.

Ordinary Miracle music video – Sarah McLachlan

A significant adult

I arrived at school earlier than usual this week. Each day, several of our students were already at the daycare – by 6:30 a.m. I also know that those same students are some of the last to be picked up at day’s end. No wonder they are tired and antsy during the school day. This week, I also had tearful visits from both students who lost their mother unexpectedly this year. Three other boys, grades one, four and five, were in the office a few times – not because they were in trouble, but because they were not being productive in the classroom.

What’s the commonality? All are struggling because of circumstances beyond their control and beyond their years. Understanding their circumstances helps us to deal with these students with patience and care.

Today we celebrate mother’s day. For many, this is a day of joy – honouring a significant adult in their lives. For others, this is a day of pain – highlighting what’s missing.

Linda F. Winfield has said, “Resilient children have at least one significant adult in their lives.” Perhaps we are that significant adult in a child’s life. And perhaps we need to convey the same message Christopher Robin gave to Winnie the Pooh, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

As we sat to prepare class lists for next year, the topic came up: what does this child need? Perhaps they need YOU.

Honey or vinegar?

I recently heard the phrase “you attract more flies with honey.” I hadn’t heard it for a while and it got me thinking: imagine watching a video of yourself throughout the day. Do your interactions scare others away or attract people towards you? How do you think others perceive you?

In a moment of joy, excitement or productivity, we are not likely to react unkindly to those around us. However, when three people are simultaneously demanding our attention, or when we are needed in two places at once, or when the hecticness of the day seems overwhelming, our reactions sometimes become snappy or curt. Yet, even when we are busy or stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed, each interaction is a reflection of us as individuals and sometimes also of a school or company. For every negative interaction we have, it takes many positive to compensate – if we are given the chance.

As I said to a student earlier this week, it takes the same amount of time to be polite as it does to be snippy. And which yields better results?

No matter our job, our surroundings, our status in life, human interaction is critical. And really, our interactions are like a boomerang: whatever you throw, tends to come back to you.