Pretty in Pink

I work with a little girl each day who would definitely be considered a girly-girl. Before we begin reading she often asks, “Is there a girl in this book?” Her question comes if the book is about bugs or plants, sports or space, pretty much any non-fiction book come to think of it. She frequently asks if we are going to read books about princesses.

Some say that gender differences are created by the society we live in: pre-defined gender roles, gender specific advertising, the tradition of blue for boys and pink for girls, cars and trucks versus dolls and dollhouses. Others believe our preferences are inherent in who we are.

There are certainly no absolutes. I grew up with brothers and older male cousins. My go-to activities were baseball and street hockey. At times, I still enjoyed playing with Barbies and stuffed animals but I don’t think I would have ever been considered a girly-girl.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter what our children decide to play with or what they like to read or wear. They should be accepted for who they are. And though it wouldn’t be my preference, I’ll even pull out a princess book or two…

He changed my life

Last week I spoke to a colleague about the teacher that influenced my life the most. He came up casually in conversation and yet his impact was significant. He was the one who discovered the writer in me: he gave me the gift of language as a way to cope with the realities of teenage life.

All kids need a significant adult in their lives, especially kids at risk: kids who have experienced trauma, kids who have lost a parent at a young age, kids who are vulnerable because of differences. A caring adult is a powerful influence and inspiration.

I sometimes get comments or emails from parents raving about a teacher, explaining how their child’s life has turned around. Those kinds of teachers are the ones we look to hire. A teacher with both passion and compassion: someone who knows that teaching is more than curriculum.

Mr. Jason, you were that teacher for me. Thank you. I write because of you.

A Time of Transformation

At our staff PD day this past week we had time for extended reflection at several points throughout the day. We all had quiet, written reflection time, time watching an audiovisual presentation and also a choice of either Yoga, Clay or guided prayer.

I spent more time on this day quiet and reflective than I have for a long time. Typically, when I do decide to sit still, I am multi-tasking. On this day, I was surprised at where my thoughts led me when I took the time to simply think and reflect with no distractions. I came away feeling healthier, stronger even. My mind drifted from thoughts of my family to thoughts of our students. I contemplated this new year and what I hope to accomplish. I took the time to plan and dream and give thanks.

During my work with the clay, we sat in silence molding and shaping the clay in our hands, open to the creative process. These moments were transformative and theraputic, peaceful and calming.

I wonder how many of our students ever have this time for reflection: an extended period of mindfulness without interference from people, devices or noise? Few I would think. As teachers, how could we foster this time for reflection in our classrooms? How could we empower our students to be more mindful in their lives?

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Mother Teresa

A community in prayer

Tomorrow in a north Edmonton school, there will be an empty desk in grade three. The tragic events that unfolded in the last days of 2014 took Elvis’ life. As I watched the news, I felt the tears well for a little boy I didn’t know.

Actually, there was much heartbreak over the holidays. Some of our district staff and students are returning to school after losing a loved one. And whether under tragic circumstances or expected after an illness, there is always pain.

I am fortunate: I return to school tomorrow excited to see my colleagues and anticipating the hugs from our students. My world is in tact. Yet we unite in prayer, supporting and comforting those in need. We pray for those whose lives have been forever altered. We pray for strength for those touched by tragedy.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:6