April Then and Now

Cliches are frequently used because despite being tired and worn, they ring true. I often do wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  I teach my students to read between the lines. Hindsight really is 20/20.

Hindsight, you fickle thing. Our current state of shelter-at-home has given a completely new lens with which to view our present circumstances as well as perspective on our past. If January me knew what was coming, she would not have gotten so upset about the mess in the basement or the piles of laundry needing to be folded. She would have spent her time hugging friends and buying stock in Lysol.

Alas, we do not have the ability to truly view our alternatives and their consequences in the moment, but we can learn from them. Our mistakes, disappointments, failures, successes, joys, and triumphs all shape us.

Today’s post is penned by a guest writer, my friend, Charmaine. We all have our “then and now” moments and I’m grateful she has allowed me to share hers.

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“April 1992 included the wedding day I remember in vivid detail. I give it the place of honour and respect it deserves because it changed the trajectory of my life.  Now that date has a new importance. While It still reflects change, it also mirrors growth and healing. April 2020 me is okay. More than okay.

The 1992 version of me could never have imagined the Covid-19 reflections of the 2020 me. Then again, none of us were prepared then or even a few months ago for our current daily lives.

Now some people I love are on the front lines, at risk every day to help and support our communities. Others are at home, minimizing risk. Some of the people I love are out and about with little concern for risk while some live in almost constant fear of this unpredictable virus. People I love are dealing with significant health concerns unrelated to Covid-19, while others are battling anxiety, depression, and loneliness as a result of it. Many of the people I love are healthy and thriving – well, most days.

Hey, 1992 Me, did you know that in twenty-eight years people I love will include educators doing a crash course on distance learning? Not likely. People I love are students doing what they can (sometimes) to keep up. They are pastors shepherding their communities and law enforcement officers keeping us safe. People I love are essential workers doing their under-appreciated jobs. They are engineers developing new technologies to assist in crises and scientists researching and recording Covid-19 data. And there are skeptics in my circle, too.

1992 Me could not have predicted that people I love are now struggling to provide services and keep businesses afloat due to a pandemic. Some are unemployed and under financial strain while others are unfazed by current economics. I care and weep for those who are grieving loved ones they could not say goodbye to in meaningful ways. We reach painful milestones of past losses without the presence of friends and family.  People I love are displaced due to border closures and immigration bans.

People I love are living fretfully and in tension with the restrictions imposed on their lives, waiting anxiously for a return to normal. Some live chaotically with more responsibilities than before. Some live in resentment and defiance of current restrictions and legislation. People that I love are also living calmly in spite of restrictions and promoting peace.

Some believe these are the end times. Conversely others believe that the future will be a better normal than the past. How do I respond to these polarizing and painful perspectives? I don’t need to convince anyone of my version of truth. I don’t need to have all the answers about science, eschatology, human behaviour, politics or grief. People wouldn’t listen if I did.

Instead I choose to live gratefully for every day I am given; for people I love whose life experiences are different from mine, who challenge my perspective and check my privilege; for God’s grace to cover my mistakes, His abundance to provide for my needs, His presence to give me peace, His blessings to give me joy, His promises to give me hope. I choose to be kind and generous, humble and forgiving, faithful to my Creator and to those entrusted to me.

We are lonely, at times. We are scared, at times. But we are not alone.

I am grateful for all these people that I love. Thank you for influencing my life and shaping me into this 2020 version.”
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A note from Charmaine:
Jan is an unsung hero of mine who I met teaching Bible stories to 2&3-year-olds. She was the voice of intrigue behind the puppets. I was the arm of comfort to the kids afraid of them. Okay, that sounds worse than it really was, but I think she would say “just go with it”. Please don’t blame her. Another spring day while I navigated my squad to hockey games, she enlisted her’s and mulched my flower gardens. In exchange for pizza that was more than 30 mins late. She drew the shortest straw that day.
There are lots of things we don’t know about each other, but they probably aren’t important anyhow. Mostly we share a virtual friendship, as old school as virtual can be. Messenger and email are just fine for us. I rarely process my thoughts on paper, and if I do they are awkwardly penned and endlessly critiqued. She creates delightful works of art that bring healing to my soul and normalcy to my life. Even now, during her own reflections of loss, she graciously offered to turn my left aligned bullet points into her signature style. She transformed them into another gift and drew the short straw once again.

Everyone Matters

The school my husband and I teach at has an unofficial motto, “Everyone Matters”. We encounter situations and behaviours daily that can challenge this credo. Recently, Bearded Husband wrote a journal entry for a course he is taking. He was asked to respond to his quote:

“Creating a non-threatening environment in which students are emotionally and physically safe has a significant impact on student learning and achievement.” Marzano (2003)

I’m proud to teach with this man and to have his words shared here. Thank you to my fellow teachers for the dedication you bring to your job, even when it’s tiring, even when you want to give up. You matter.

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It can be a tough process in life. We all have a basic need for it. Identity issues or a negative sense of self can arise if we don’t have a deep sense of it. Without it, we don’t function as we were meant to – we fall apart; we ache; we hurt others.

A sense of belonging.

If one lacks a feeling of belonging, it can negatively influence who we are, how we act, how we treat others. As educators, we are called to ensure that students in our care feel safe, secure, and valued. That they belong. We want students to have the courage to be authentic and put themselves out there. To feel like they’re allowed to be imperfect, that they don’t always need to be right. To realize that it’s okay to struggle, to feel imperfect. That’s important. We foster that attitude through our actions, words and beliefs.

Teachers matter to student achievement more than any other aspect of schooling. Us. We matter. Our knowledge, our skill, our leadership, our commitment to students. We develop students’ potential to become contributing citizens of our society by modelling care, trust, respect, and integrity. We are called to ensure our learning communities are safe. We want students to see themselves as an important part of a diverse community of learners where differences are valued – where it’s okay to display our strengths and needs. We all want to feel included. To belong.

Coming to this realization has made me a better teacher. It’s a tall task to meet a child’s basic needs. I encounter children daily who may not feel safe for several reasons: they are bogged down with problems related to financial distress, family dysfunction, health and well-being concerns, and neglect. I’m proud to say I’m part of a school team that does our best to alleviate these worries by providing programs beyond the call of duty. Attendance is a real issue for some. But we know that students are less likely to miss school if they feel safe. A big part of that is up to me.

Through reflection and dialogue with colleagues I continually refine my teaching practice. I try to be sensitive to the factors that influence student learning. As a teacher, I do my best to provide a non-threatening environment to relieve students’ anxiety and tension. I encourage students to take risks, to speak their ideas, to feel like they belong and are valued.  I foster this through my actions and words – by modelling it. We engage regularly in class meetings, we set fair but firm expectations together. We seek ways to put others first by volunteering our time and effort. But ultimately, it’s up to me to set the tone. So I establish high expectations and insist they be met. I treat students equitably and with respect. I take time to establish a sense of trust. I ask students to focus on what we can do for others rather than on what we can “get” from doing something. I find effective resources to plan for and respond to the needs of individual students and learning communities. I provide whatever accommodations necessary to enable them to succeed. I do these things because I want my students to grow and learn and achieve more. I want them to have a chance to succeed in life. So I do what I can to create a sense of belonging.

We’re all in our own little communities with people who aren’t the same. Being different needs to be seen as a good thing. We all have strengths and needs different from each other. Everyone matters.

We are all worthy of belonging.

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Local Mom Under Scrutiny

Dear readers,

Today we feature a submission by rookie reporter, 8-year-old Moyer. He is an up-and-coming journalist with a knack for digging deep into his topics. Mr. Moyer is not afraid to tackle any subject, no matter how sensitive or inaccurate.

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In addition to being a crackerjack writer, he also does his own illustrations.

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Editor’s note: the views expressed in the above article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Tough Bananas, Jan Moyer, or most Starbucks consumers.

 

Create Your Own Village

This post has been on my mind for months and I finally put it into words. Honoured to have it posted on BonBon Break (a new community I am excited to join). Click here to check it out and while you’re there, get inspired by other posts. Stay a while.

A big thank you to all the friends, neighbours, and coworkers in my life who inspire and encourage me. And thank you to this month’s theme sponsor, OurPactApp.

Happy Anniversary TB – a working title

Today marks two years of blogging. That’s kind of a milestone, right?

Thank you everyone who takes time out of their lives to read Tough Bananas, comment, and share. I never thought that blogging would introduce me to so many great people and new friends, but here we are. And aside from teaching, marriage, and parenting, I think this is longest I’ve stuck with anything. And coffee. And chocolate. You get the idea.

You can find me over at MomBabble where some of us moms share how we knew we were pregnant. Even though I did that four times, I only have one exciting backstory. Enjoy.

Pretty big for a single serving, but you can do anything if you believe.
Pretty big for a single serving, but you can do anything if you believe.

And thanks. Seriously.

Double Double Guest Posting

It’s a two for one!

Today I’m guest posting at the always delicious and freshly-brewed Coffee Shoppers again. It’s fun and delicious. Ever wonder what people really mean when they ask you to go for a coffee? Wonder know more – I explain all over there: Let’s Have Coffee. If you like that, take a minute and read past guests posts, a review of “Balzacs“, and some thoughts on Tim Hortons.

And, I have a post up on What the Flicka for the first time. I have four boys and find I get a little punchy when it comes to stereotypes about “boy” and “girl” toys and stereotypes in general – you can read that right here: But That’s For Girls.

As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.