Devotion to Students

Spring break is a reprieve from the routine of work. Whether it means an opportunity to check items off the to-do list, a get-away, or simply some down time, Spring Break should be just as the name implies: a break.

As we venture back into our classrooms tomorrow – hopefully a little more rested than ten days ago – let us remember the reason we are in this profession: our students! They deserve respect, enthusiasm, and devotion from us, their teachers.

On a broader scale, we want our government to have the same devotion to students. In Alberta, we are approaching a provincial election; the ideas about education shared by some candidates concern me as they do not seem to have our students at the centre of policy. The other day, when I spoke to someone in another province, she shared her frustration with their current government and the impact they’ve had on education; she heeded a warning to those of us in Alberta.

It was a good reminder: our voices matter. Be sure to vote!

More than simply entertainment…

As circumstance would have it, I have seen a wide variety of performances over the last ten days – both children and adults, amateur and professional – in combinations of dance, song, and various genres of music.

Regardless of the age, the type of performance, or even the venue, the common threads were the dedication and discipline that went into each of the performances: the hours of preparation and practice, all to entertain an audience.

But can dance, song, and music be more than pure entertainment?

Last Sunday I was fortunate to see Come From Away: the broadway musical about 9-11 and the days that followed in Gander, Newfoundland. It was here that 38 planes were grounded and nearly 7000 people were stranded when the airspace was shut down. You wouldn’t think you could make a musical on a topic so solemn, so tragic. You wouldn’t think you would find yourself smiling, and even laughing, during a performance such as this. And yet…

Come From Away showcases the good of humankind. During the days following 9-11, the people of Gander welcomed and embraced those affected by this event that rocked the world. The residents of this community put their own grief on hold in order to meet the immediate needs of those on this unexpected detour. In doing so, profound goodness was uncovered and unlikely friendships were forged in the face of catastrophe.

So… can dance, song, and music be more than pure entertainment? Most definitely. This performance inspired and informed, moved and motivated. Ultimately, this performance celebrates the goodness and hope in our world.

Within Our Control

Many years ago, I was filmed while I taught a variety of lessons. These videos were for no one other than me: a tool enabling me to watch, observe, and reflect on my own practice.

Although nerve-racking, it was fascinating to observe myself in this way; I became much more aware of my tendencies. I remember noticing that there were words I repeated unnecessarily. I also noticed that I often chose the same few students to respond to my questions and that my wait time generally wasn’t long enough. This experience created an opportunity to improve my craft.

As a positive reflection, I remember being surprised by my enthusiasm and energy. I was quite animated with my students and I watched how their enthusiasm and energy mirrored my own.

Since then, I have noticed this tendency in other classrooms as well. Teachers enthusiastic about teaching tend to create students enthusiastic about learning. Teachers who dwell on the negative unintentionally invite more negative behaviour. Teachers who remain calm encourage the same in their students.

We cannot control which students are in our classrooms. And of course, there will always be students whose behaviour is more challenging than the norm. We can choose to be negative, frustrated, and apathetic. Or, we can choose to be positive, enthusiastic, and calm. Our energy and demeanour in the classroom most certainly affects the way our students feel.

The choice is yours. As Carl Buechner once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”


As I walked my dog this weekend, for the first time in a long while, we weren’t hurried to get back home because of temperature. We walked considerably further, enjoyed the warmer temperatures, and welcomed both the drip-drip-dripping and the puddles indicating the beginning of a large melt.

Imagine that you arrived in Canada in November or December for the first time. What then would you know of our weather? Only cold and snow. And this year, extremely cold and a lot of snow! Imagine. You wouldn’t know what our city or country looks like without it. You may not believe that there is grass underneath that snow, that flowers bloom, and our trees really do grow leaves.

Yes, we have a ways to go between the mounds of snow and the green grass. But it’s coming… it always does.

Kids… gotta love ’em…

I always enjoy teachers’ convention. I appreciate it more now that I know that we as Alberta teachers are fortunate to have dedicated days for this professional development. Most teachers in Canada do not.

In addition to the learning that occurs, it is also a time to reconnect with our colleagues, to reignite the spark, and reaffirm our purpose. (Not to mention actual bathroom breaks and a sit-down lunch!)

I often try to take in at least one of the keynote speakers. This year it was Rick Mercer. As you might expect, I found myself laughing at his wit and humour, and feeling proud to be Canadian. What I didn’t expect was an affirmation of my choice in career. Near the end of his session, he talked about the Spread the Net challenge that he put out to students in 2007: the school raising the most money winning a visit. The fundraising challenge continued each year with the goal of purchasing hundreds of thousands of bed nets to reduce malaria in African nations.

As I watched the videoclips of the students involved in their fundraising efforts, I couldn’t help but feel proud and humbled by kids. Students, young and old, were passionate about the campaign: raising money through bottle drives, bake sales, and the selling of candy-grams. Some teenagers even donated their entire monthly paycheques to the cause.

As teachers, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by the enthusiasm, hope, and innocence of children. Kids speak their minds. Kids react in the moment. They add humour and fun into each day. As demanding as our profession can be, kids make it worth all the effort.