What is it that makes this a favourite time of year? Is it the crunch of leaves beneath my feet? The crisp, cool morning air? The vivid fall colours of the tree-lined streets? As appealing as these are, for me, even more exciting is the celebration of books and literacy during Read-in Week!
Read-in Week celebrates a skill, an escape, an accomplishment, an indulgence. Last week, I stumbled into a classroom during story time. As their teacher read aloud, I watched the reactions of the students: the raised eyebrows, the grins that erupted into giggles and the exclamations of delight.
In our literate dependent world, the inability to read is debilitating. By contrast, the ability to read – especially for new readers – is empowering and exhilarating.
During Read-In week, engage in the power of story… lose yourself in a good book… be thankful that you have the ability to read these words.
No matter how old we are, story touches the soul.
This summer the issue of gender was thrown at me from several directions: I read a book entitled Secret Daughter… I heard a program about gender selection making its way to Canada… women are now allowed to become members at the Augusta National Golf Club… and for the first time all countries entered in the Olympics had women compete, albeit forcibly.
This combination of events led to a four generation discussion about gender. My 90 year old grandmother remembers both churches and bars segregated: men on one side, women on the other. In my mother’s high school days there were separate entrances for boys and girls. When she finished high school, women were not encouraged or expected to go to university.
In some ways then, we’ve made progress. I can sit where I’d like to in church, my stepdaughter is planning for university without a second thought, and a Saudi Arabian woman has sparked conversation and change in her country by competing in the Olympics. And yet, as far as we have come, I was reminded that we still have far to go when I was sent this video: Miss Representation. It’s 8 minutes long but worth a watch.
Consider the young girls within our schools. What images are they bombarded with each and every day? How do they determine their self-worth? How do we counter the messages they receive through the media? How do we value each of our students, regardless of their gender, for who they are?
When I think of Peter Lougheed, I think of my father.
Nestled in the trees of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, there is a haven: William Watson Lodge. It is a modest group of cabins but there is magic within. The magic is quite simple really, but life-changing for some. These cabins were designed for people with disabilities: wide doorways that easily fit the width of a wheelchair, accessible decks off each cabin, wheelchair accessible showers, kilometre after kilometre of paved paths right down to the water. This lodge was established to be an affordable experience for those with disabilities and their families.
Peter Lougheed and his wife, Jeanne, are credited for the idea of William Watson Lodge.
When I was growing up, our family spent countless days camping. I have vivid memories of my father chopping wood or tending to the steaks on the hibachi, of my brothers, my parents and I standing at river’s edge skipping rocks, of all of us sitting around many a campfire. When my father became quadriplegic, one of the many losses we faced as a family was the loss of the outdoor experiences we once so enjoyed.
And then William Watson Lodge changed all that. Suddenly we had a place where we didn’t have to raise the bed to fit the Hoyer lift underneath. Suddenly we had a place where we didn’t have to struggle to push the wheelchair over the gravelly ground. Suddenly we had a place where disabilities were common and those around us understood the daily challenges we faced. Suddenly we could be a family enjoying the natural world once again, for a few precious days forgetting the sadness and loss.
Because of Peter Lougheed, I now have memories of my stepdaughter hanging off her grandpa’s chair on a mountain trail, I now have memories of our entourage – homecare workers included – sitting around a campfire, I now have memories of my father, though rendered immobile, once again at water’s edge relishing the fresh mountain air.
I never met Peter Lougheed, but he certainly changed my life. Rest in peace, dear sir. I imagine my father was waiting to greet you.
I recently listened to a Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He spoke about people who enjoy their work and those who simply endure their jobs, waiting for the weekend to arrive. I can honestly say, I have never been bored at work.Time passes quickly when we are doing something we love. Each day is an adventure and a challenge. I love what I do.
It is wonderful to be surrounded by our students once again. One student on the first day of school, enveloped me in a hug and said, “I missed you every single day this summer.” Another on Wednesday morning rushed to me and exclaimed, “Guess what? I woke up today!” And yet another, new to the school, announced unprompted, “I can tie my own shoes!”
How can our days be anything but enjoyable surrounded by such innocence and delight?
“If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.” Cavett Robert
Despite facing the end of summer, I have always enjoyed this time of year. Purchasing new school clothes, cracking open a new book, organizing school supplies, planning for the year ahead: the back-to-school buzz.
But as our district administrators joined together on August 22 at our opening meeting, it dawned on me… what I really enjoy is the sense of community the school year brings. As we come together as a staff, both old and new, and as we gather with our students on the morning of September 4, our family is reunited and our sense of purpose confirmed.
Together we will touch the lives of our students… together our enthusiasm and passion will generate momentum… together we will journey through the highs and lows of the upcoming school year… together we will teach more than the curriculum…
In Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Together, we can move mountains!