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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Science and Scientists

I've had a lot of thoughts swirling around in my brain that I've been tempted to share here, though I've hesitated for many reasons. Timing, fear of sticking my neck out too far or perhaps standing on my soapbox to a crowd of none, these have held me back. But, right now I'm sitting in a Biology 12 class I'm covering for a friend, the students are working away in groups, and I find my brain resting on the topic of science.



Oh, science... I love science. I have a chemistry and math degree, and I have always loved science. I remember thinking throughout school that scientists were pretty cool. And, of course, my idea of a career in science involved visions of tromping around in nature checking out ecosystems and newts, or perhaps wearing a lab coat and developing a new form of energy, or maybe being an astronaut out in space. So, while I'm thinking these thoughts, blissed out on the fun of learning science for the heck of it, I think about articles I've read lately (and some from a few years back). Articles talking about Federal cuts resulting in loss of jobs for scientists, and muzzling of scientists. Locally, we had the recent closure of The Centre of the Universe, which has done science outreach to local schools for years, but, you know, hasn't been making any money.

I remember reading somewhere that the Harper government was only interested in supporting science that resulted in economic growth. Not sure if I can find the article, but I remember thinking, boy, that's short sighted. How often have I read or heard of scientific discoveries that came about from mucking around, or trying things for the heck of it. Stumbling upon a realization through trial and error or taking a fresh look at the picture. Yes, technology is important and extremely useful, and progress in science can be directed to an extent through specific funding and support, but science for the sake of science is what really gets us somewhere.



So, while I sit here overseeing this Biology class, here's what I think: through all of these actions, we are telling kids in schools today something. We are telling them that instead of being led by their curiosity and passion, they need to be led by the economy. In essence, there are only certain fields of science that are lucrative, that are worth it, so those are the only ones you should learn. How messed up is that? Don't get me wrong, sooner or later you need to be able to sustain yourself as an individual and make a living, so to speak. Keeping sight of the economy and trends in job availability, etc, can be important. But, I also believe that if we value something, we will make it valuable. If we value science, truely, and the importance that it plays in our development as a society, and in our understanding and interaction with the world around us, then we won't just think about it as a lucrative tool.

I call bullshit, Harper. I hope to still pass my passion for science on to my students. Hopefully, there are still avenues for these passions to exist, other than teaching.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Time for a change?

I'm nearing 5 years in the teaching field, and this is how I'm feeling.

There are a number of things bringing me to feel this way:
  • My family. I love my son and my family time, and teaching can easily eat up all of your time, energy, and good graces.
  •  Lack of job security. Every year, usually twice a year (every semester), I pray and hope that I have a job. I pray and hope that I have a good job... one teaching just the right amount of classes (not just one class a day, and hopefully not four completely new preps). I scan the district site all the time catching the contract postings as they come up, and then sit by the phone when they close hoping to hear that I got one. How many more years am I going to go through this? Some stability would be really nice. Knowing what courses I'll be teaching with more notice than just a few days would be nice. Being able to prepare (without futility) ahead of time instead of going about it like a madman would be nice.
  •  Political climate. In my day-to-day interactions, I truly feel that the people around me value teachers and the job we do and see it as important and worth investing in. But, somehow that doesn't seem to trickle up to government. I don't feel valued by the government and I don't feel valued by my employer. I feel like I have to fight all the time to voice what we need and what our rights as workers and as professionals should be. I'm tired of fighting and it's only been five years. I also know myself well enough to know that I wouldn't be happy just laying down. Is there another option?
I love my job and it's challenges, but I sometimes wonder if I could find something that provided me with the same dynamism without so much cost. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. I feel so passionate about what I do, and I feel energized when I'm working with students. I feel like I'm in my place. All of this has made the cost worth it so far, but now I'm wondering how much longer I'm going to be paying. Am I a sucker for punishment? Am I not thinking outside the box of teaching in public education? Am I missing some other opportunity, some other vision?

Part of me feels that if I continue to press on, things will begin to fall into place. I do believe that will be the case eventually. Sooner or later I will get a continuing contract and sooner or later I will be senior enough to have some say in what I teach, and will teach courses that I have prepped already. I really am okay with working hard for something, with delaying my gratification because something is worth the investment. It's just that I'm beginning to question it all. If someone farther along than me could tell me that, yes, they had felt that way too, but then they pushed through and found a place to belong and settled and things worked out... I think I could focus on that light and get myself through this tunnel.

Any takers?

I've said it a few times to various friends. I just don't want to be having this same conversation with myself 5 years from now, or 10 years from now. Life is too short.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cherish

There are days when I remind myself: this is what I'm here for, this is why I do it. I get to play with my son, have fun with him, be patient with him and instruct him (or at least try). I get to love him unconditionally and watch as he figures things out, gets excited by things and frustrated, I get to watch him be sneaky and hide around corners. This is why we had him... to be present with him and enjoy (or at least experience) the moments as they come.

When Z was just a few weeks old

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm off on Spring Break. The combination of that and my daycare provider being sick has thrown upon me the opportunity to hang out more with my son. I was looking forward to that during my two weeks off anyways, though I must admit that I originally intended to send him to daycare for part of the first week so I could get some projects done. But, life throws little bumps, including, for him, a double ear infection. Poor little bean. He's definitely been wanting me more, so it's good that I haven't had to work. Today, we went to Canadian Tire to pick up a few things, and it basically turned into a session of follow the adventurous toddler around, and try not to lose the shorty. Honesty, my arms were so tired from carrying the not-so-light little guy, that I didn't really mind. We found a bin of inflated balls, and task transformed into chase-around-the-balls he kept dropping (he did most of the chasing). It wasn't that taxing... he was really just playing, and not running, and he was having so much fun. And in the process, his attention was fixed (so he wouldn't take off) and I was able to scope out most of the store! I managed to sneak the balls back to the bin before we left. We picked up one of these for Z. I think it'll be a great addition to our yard as the weather gets better.



The moments, they slip by one by one. I chose to be in them as often as I can, because I know they are precious. I'm really hoping I will remember them, because I don't always record them... choosing just to enjoy them instead. When he kisses us (or the phone, or his bear), when he dances a jig in one place to music, when he sports his playful "angry" face and I do it back and we touch foreheads. I just love him so much.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Coming out of hibernation

The sun is out, and I am on day one of a two weeks Spring Break. Hallelujah! Yesterday, some of the staff and I went out for lunch, and as a fellow teacher and I walked from the school to the pub (yes, a pub is the best place to go, because you're guaranteed NOT to run into any students, as long as they're diligently checking IDs) we both breathed a sigh of relief and instantly felt lighter at the thought of not teaching for two weeks straight. I took some marking home with me. I may or may not get to it... we'll see how the time goes. I'm not setting it up as an actual task on my to-do list because I don't want it hanging over my head. Marking is always hanging over your head when you're a teacher... it's like homework that never goes away.

Instead, I've made a little list of appointments and trips already planned (we're going to Vancouver for a friend's wedding - sans baby!), so I can see where my time lies (I think it's "lies" and not "lays" because "time" is not a direct object... please correct me if I'm wrong). As for the rest of my time, I have visions of spending extra time with my little one, organizing around the house, maybe some gardening, and hanging out with friends. Because one of our weekends will be spent away, I'm planning on leaving our other weekend free so that we can have some unadulterated family time. I'm really looking forward to having some playdates with friends and their kiddies. Having a little one means you can only plan so much for a day, and it's hard to fit it all in on a weekend when you're working the rest of the week and you need to get laundry, meal-planning, grocery shopping and general tidy-up to happen. I'm looking forward to not being so rushed for these next two weeks, and I'm planning on keeping that in mind as I set up my expectations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keep on Truckin


I haven't added to this blog in a while, and there has been good reason. A lot has happened in the past two months. The most major occurrence was a student of mine passing away. He was struck by a truck as he crossed the street, was in the hospital for a few days, and then passed away. He was young, and vibrant; very impulsive (what 13 year old isn't). Two of his brothers (including his twin brother) are in my classes as well. It was a very sad experience, one that left me and the school with a lot to deal with, and a lot that we're all still dealing with. I had occasions where I considered expressing myself about it on this blog, but it just didn't seem right at the time. My first student to pass away. Horrible milestone.

Our little family is doing well though. The picture above is of me and my son, out for a walk with my momma. I recently bought him a Muddy Buddy suit, or as I like to call it, the baby hazmat suit. Best $37 I ever spent! It rains a lot here on the West Coast. I mean, that's pretty much the substance of our winter, though we usually get a few snowy days in every year. Even when it's not raining, the ground it still wet. And, like any other 15 month old, even though Z is fairly good on his feet, he still tumbles or intentionally sits in the wet grass or mud from time to time. This way, I don't even have to worry about it! Plus, he looks super cute in it! Z is a very adventurous and curious toddler. I still like to refer to him as my baby, but he's pretty much entered into the realm of toddler-hood now. No longer can I plop him down on the front lawn and still run back inside to grab a forgotten item. The little dude books it fast, and usually for the road. He doesn't quite understand "stop" yet (or maybe he does, but chooses to ignore). We're working on getting him to hold hands when we're close to traffic. Like everything, it's a process!

I am so excited that it is almost December. For one, I love Christmas, it means time with family (especially a certain brother who lives out of town), and time off from work to relax at home and spend time with my hubby and son. It means Christmas songs long ago memorized, twinkly lights, and rich foods. I am so excited about it this year with Z being 16 months old instead of 4 months old. Only three more weeks of school before Christmas break!

Oh crap, I better get knitting. Oh, and I'm planning on sewing up some stockings this year!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Parapraxes (Freudian slip)

Oh-ho-ho...

So, I just started this new job two weeks ago. It's a doozy, teaching at an alternative high school where the majority of the student body don't work well in a traditional school setting. I'm finding myself teaching students that would normally be kicked out of my classroom, and having to manage their behavior and their abilities in a more flexible manner. Every day I walk the fine line of balance, trying to help motivate students and work with them where they are, while still trying to maintain (or establish) a respectful working environment in the classroom. It is trying. I come home mentally and emotionally exhausted every day. For the past two weeks I've focused on building relationships with my students, learning the ropes of what I do through trial and error (no training here!), and documenting, documenting, documenting! Because of the nature of the work that we do, everything needs to be documented for communication purposes, legal purposes, and in case we get audited in regards to our funding. It is crazy.

Needless to say, I have not done a whole lot of marking since my contract began two Tuesdays ago. I teach the self-paced math class. Normally math is not that bad for marking - students check their answers for homework assignments, I mark those for completion, as well as quizzes and tests. But the way the class is currently set up (and because I'm coming in partway through the school year, I'm keeping it as it is, at least for now), workbooks have been photocopied for students, and when a student has completed a package they hand it in and I am the one to check all of the work. Considering I have 5 different courses running, and students working within the same course are at different places, my marking load is very broad. Anyone who is a teacher knows that this is a huge time suck. For those of you who have never marked anything, I'll give you this one key point: it is far more efficient to mark 50 papers of the same assignment by marking page 1 all at once, and then page 2, etc, than it is to mark separate assignments in their entirety. As the marker, you start to form what is an acceptable answer, what you will give part marks for, and you're able to mark with consistency and be very quick. I look at my pile of marking and all I can think is, this is going to take me two whole days :P And, by a whole day I mean 8 hours of uninterrupted marking.

So, on Friday afternoon I got all my marking piled into one container. I placed on top my special colourful marking pens (hey, you got to make it enjoyable somehow) and my marking guide binders. Then I got my things together and left with only my lunch kit. The realization that I left behind my marking didn't hit me until 930pm that night, and I don't have after hours access to the school yet. Can we say Freudian slip?

Oh, and I left my knitting at my parents this afternoon. I think this evening I'll bake some muffins and cast on a new project. Goodness knows once tomorrow comes I'll be using any spare time to chip away at that marking!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Grocery Fun!

Little Z is getting bigger and bigger and has now entered into a whole new stage: the Toddle Stage. He is walking, more than ever, tottering around with his hands waving to help keep him steady. He is oh so very cute, as all who spend time with him will attest. But, with this new stage has come the standard headstrong will. Now when we go grocery shopping, he does not want to sit in the cart (there's no action there!). No, he wants to walk, securely between mom and the grocery cart, pushing the cart around with such strength for such a little guy. We literally walk laps around the grocery store, me grabbing items from the shelves as we pace by, trying to keep him from running us into other patrons. Every once in a while when I need us to stop, I lodge him into a corner, which he has quickly adapted to by pulling the cart back and turning it a bit and then pushing again... repeat until that works! The alternative is me lodging my foot under the cart wheel so it can't go anywhere, which results in Z pushing with all his might (think practically horizontal baby) and crying out in frustration. Part of me thinks that he sees pushing the cart as his very important job in our grocery shopping endeavor. Unfortunately, he just doesn't know when to stop, and things always go south when we reach the check out line and the time for pushing has come to an end. Then, I'm stuck juggling pulling items out of the cart, while making sure Z doesn't shove the cart into the person in front of us, or while holding a squirming, very unhappy little boy. Yup, checkout cannot go fast enough. We may have reached the stage where little Z will have to stay home with one parent while the other shops... at least until he's old enough to run down the isle to fetch items for me - another adventure I'm sure. I must say though, it is pretty cute seeing him put all that effort into pushing the cart. So much gumption for such a little person!