30 September 2006
I remember the early 70's. We got 2 tv channels. Black and white at our house. I remember playing outside with the neighbourhood kids until after dark with no adult supervision. I remember spending hours playing on the tire swing Dad put in the big maple tree for us. I remember trusting all my neighbours. I remember never being afraid.
I remember my great aunt didn't get electricity or a phone until 1973 because there weren't any lines outside the village limits. She didn't have indoor plumbing either, so I remember outhouses. I remember party lines. How do you think people got their gossip?
I remember walking 2 miles to school every day with my brother, regardless of the weather. I remember having the time to play outside after school, and still get all my homework done. I remember that almost everybody who lived in our village had a job there - at the mill, at the gypsum mines or on the oil hills.
I remember having one AM radio station that played every kind of music, from rock to country to jazz to classical, and the one that was all talk shows and news. I remember get-togethers in the kitchen on Saturday night to play music or cards or board games.
I remember summers without sunscreen or bug spray, without responsibilities or worries, without ever turning the tv on, without video games, without ever being bored. I remember riding to the beach in the back of Dad's pickup truck. I remember cars that only went 50 mph and had no seatbelts or airbags or baby car seats.
I remember winters of sliding, skating on the marsh and snowball fights. I remember the wood stove which warmed us, welcomed us, fed us and protected us during frequent power outages. I remember nights under homemade quilts with no heat on, seeing my breath sparkle like diamonds in the dark.
I remember having to keep my room clean, help with dinner, wash dishes, rake leaves, shovel snow, weed the garden, feed the dog and and a hundred other chores without expecting to get anything for it. I remember caring what my parents and other adults thought of me, and behaving accordingly, because I knew I would be held responsible for my actions.
Damn it, I remember being a kid. And I feel sorry for kids today. They may have all sorts of stuff, but look at everything else they missed!
29 September 2006
28 September 2006
27 September 2006
Why is it that the "Powers That Be" always believe a mere underling should invariably be thrilled and honored when they decide to bestow the privilege of even more work, along with an impossible deadline, on the poor hapless one?
Of all weeks, why would the Department of Education decide that this is the one where they can't wait to find out about my strategies for working with "at-risk" teens? And what would possess them to make it, sight-unseen, a province-wide workshop for teachers of level three students. with me as the presenter, and only three days to prepare?
Folks, if it seems like I am complaining, dammit, you would be right on the money. Not only am I pressed for time in getting this thing done, I am also expected to continue with my regular work load, prepare lesson plans for a supply teacher who is familiar neither with my students nor my classroom and course materials, parent my poor, neglected son and prepare a media statement for a task that I did not volunteer to undertake. I am strictly a behind-the-scenes type of person, and I resent this to the soles of my shoes and the marrow of my bones.
I realize that it is indeed an honor to be "chosen", but truth of the matter is, I have no idea what I am going to tell these people on Friday. The situation of my teaching post is extraordinarily specialized. What works in my favor is the familiarity I have with the students under my care. I grew up in this community. In many cases, I know their parents and their families, some very well. I begin teaching them music in grade six and have them in my classroom every subsequent year until they graduate high school. We have developped an atmosphere of trust and respect among ourselves. The students know that I understand them and care about what happens to them. They know my expectations and quirks, as I know theirs. Most parents tell me I know more about their child than they do.
How can I teach this to a group of my peers? I have been assigned the fabled impossible task. Tomorrow, I must present my "thesis" to a group of local administrators, who are looking for an answer to the "troubled teen" problems facing them. I can only tell them what I have learned through working with my kids. Friday, my peers will be seeking enlightenment. I hope they will not be disappointed, but I doubt that a workable solution will be brought to light.
My apologies to the friends who have, through sheer necessity, been neglected this week. I have not forgotten you, and I will be back as soon as I can.
24 September 2006
I am dedicating this blog to my beloved friends of the Soul Patrol. How many times have I written in emails, in chatrooms, on forums, what the Soul Patrol has meant to me? Countless, I'm sure. And I know my friends will have heard many of these sentiments from me in the past. Heck, I'm not exactly known for my ability to restrain my thoughts and emotions here, am I? How things have changed in a few short months, because before this, I was remarkably closemouthed about myself and my life.
Before ... it was a lifetime ago ... I remember that night so clearly. I am not a tv person, but that night ... I turned it on to keep me company while I finished up some laundry. I hated AI at that point - the auditions in particular, because I can't stand seeing people be humiliated in the manner that the show seemed to relish. It may be the teacher in me, or perhaps personal experience, but it just rubs me the wrong way. I remember I was folding one of my husband's workshirts when I heard the voice. It was not just any voice. It called to me in a way only a few have in my lifetime. I froze, straining to hear from the next room. I listened until I heard that he had been given a gold ticket, then I shook it off and went back to work. But it didn't end there. Oh no, it was only the beginning.
A couple weeks later, during my preparation period at school, I found myself looking at the American Idol website for the first time in my life. I was wracked with guilt at doing it during school hours, but there was a force stronger than my will pulling me to it. I had missed the Hollywood rounds and I didn't even know his NAME at that point, or what he looked like, only that there was someone there who was worth listening to. And I needed to find out MORE!
There was no guessing. It was almost eery how I knew, the minute I saw his picture. No one else fit the voice. That voice never left my head in all the weeks that followed. In mid-February, I discovered the message boards, and on Feb. 28, I signed on for the first time. I didn't waste my precious time looking at anything else. I was a woman on a mission. I needed to know there were other people out there who had heard what I did. I went straight to the Taylor Hicks forum, and there I stayed.
Boy, did I find them! The boards were a fascinating blend of people from everywhere. I got so caught up in them sometimes that I forgot there was a reality waiting for me when I left them. And gradually, I got to know some of the people. By mid-March, I was a regular, although I was involved only during the day, because we had no computer at home. By the time the show was over in May, I had made some close, lifetime friends, the likes of which I had not known since high school, or university days. As time wore on, I found myself growing closer and more open with these people than I could ever have with my friends in real life.
Here, I need to clarify something. I was, at the time, living an existence that was, at best, less than I had imagined for myself. Don't get me wrong, I have a child who is everything a mother could dream of, a job that is fulfilling and rewarding, two beautiful, soft-hearted dogs and a comfortable home. Unfortunately, there was an axe hanging over my head that, although I had learned accept and to live with it, caused me great stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Many women live in much worse situations than I, though, so I had resigned myself to it, believing it to be my lot in life, my cross to bear for being so lucky in other things. See, mostly, I counted myself fortunate, and if I had to adapt my life to it, well, it could be worse.
Well, then, of course, it did get worse, but I had fooled myself into believing that it was my fault that it did, that somehow I had caused it to happen. I didn't know what to do. No one here at home knew of my "domestic situation" so, in desperation, I "talked" to someone online. That person (and you know who you are) changed my life. I had never told anyone before of the fear that was a fact of my daily life. And once I told that one person, it was easier to tell another, who convinced me to take action. The road to my emancipation has not been an easy one. My parents still question my decision. Some of my friends here have chosen to withdraw from the unpleasantness. My husband has not been ... cooperative. At times, the odds seemed overwhelmingly against me. Sometimes I thought I would completely alienate the friends whom I had grown to love because, frankly, I have been an emotional mess. But they stood steadfastly at my side through the worst of times.
The battle is far from over, but I am strong now, and my friends are still there helping me every day. Sometimes it's just an offhand comment on the Yahoo group, on my blog, or a mention of hitmen on chat ... but I rarely get an opportunity to tell them what it has meant to me. So now, openly and baldly, on this, a turning point in Taylor's career, I would like to state to a very special group of friends: you were not only there giving me your support whenever I needed it, you were the actual catalysts for the changes I have made in my life. Some of you mean more to me than you will ever know, because of the role you have played since we met. I feel very passionately that I owe my life to those of you who have helped me through this. To think I might never have met you if not for that voice I heard on the tv ... and couldn't forget.
22 September 2006
1 Congratulations to my dear friend Bond, whose baseball team won something (still not sure what it was, but good on them anyway).
2. A multitude of friends have caught the blug and started blogging. Looking forward to getting the news from your perspectives! (and I promise to post links as soon as I figure out how!)
3. Taylor's band LiMBO has a new webpage. Check it out at www.littlememphisbluesorchestra.com. Apparently the next big thing for the Soul Patrol and LiMBOmaniacs.
4. It has been brought to my attention that SOMEONE has been keeping a mafia-style hit list ... and to this I would like to state unequivocably: Beware the Jabberwock, my son; the jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Jub-Jub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!
5. Our dear Dana has been visited by a nasty gremlin this week. Don't worry, dear. You will always have our support and unconditional love.
6. Officially missing my Sue. I needed to throw that one in, as we always seem to just miss each other in chat.
7. From my end, Meet the Teacher went well last night, even though I was sporting a temp of 103 and sprained tummy muscles from puking my guts out all morning (sorry - that's TMI, I know). Had an alltime record of visits - 11 parents showed up to talk to me about the courses their children would be taking this year. *stops briefly to wonder at the lack of parental involvement when it would be the most beneficial to the children*
8. Feeling marginally better today. In case you hadn't figured out, I'm one of those annoyingly anal persons who doesn't like to give up control of their classroom. Besides which, the kids actually get upset when I'm not there to browbeat them into submitting to my unbending will ...
9. I am still on a music-induced high from the jazz and blues festival last weekend. Who knew a little bit of blue could color the world so rosy?
That's about it for today, boys and girls. Have a marvelous weekend. You are never far from my thoughts, even when I'm not with you. Love and hugs to all.
PS - just got paged - a former student has arrived to visit me ... I am Godmom to her daughter. She claims I saved her life by stopping to talk to her at the mall one day after she had dropped out of school, and that our conversation convinced her to give high school another go. Funny that I had thought nothing of the encounter until she told the guidance counsellor why she decided to return to us, and the story got spread. It was one of my proudest moments as a teacher and as a human being to be asked to hand Shannon her diploma two years ago. Uh oh - teary-eyed at that memory ... Proof positive, folks, that the smallest of gestures can have a profound impact on someone. Oh well, gotta go see my girls. Hugs - until later.
13 September 2006
My ace reading student: Whadda ya mean, I haveta read in this class? I ain't readin', Ms. M.
Me: It's called Reading Comprehension, Joe. The whole idea is to get better at reading. I'm here to help you do that.
My ace student: I don't need no help. I just don't like readin'.
My ace reading student: I hate readin'. Nobody can make me do somethin' I don't like to do.
Me: Would you like me to help you pick out some reading material, Joe? We have some interesting Car and Truck magazines over here.
My ace reading student: Ya mean those count? Ok, I might not mind looking at one of those, but I ain't readin' nuthin'.
Me: That's fine, Joe. Why don't you look at the pictures? Then you can try and find out a little about the cars. My first car was a '74 Dodge Swinger. There's one in that magazine. I'd love to know a little about it, if you don't mind helping me out.
My ace reading student pores diligently over a stack of Car magazines for the entire 60 minute period.
My ace reading student: Hey, Ms. M. I found out about your car for you. See, (brandishing magazine under my nose) here it says: "the '74 Dart Swinger sat atop a 108 inch wheelbase which was shorter than the other Darts. Available in two trims the standard version came equipped with a 198 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine. The 340 cubic-inch engine of its predecessor was replaced with a 360 cubic-inch engine that was emissions friendly but still retained about the same horsepower rating, an astonishing 275 horsepower. Also standard was a three-speed fully synchronized floor shifter, sport suspension, dual exhausts, and Rallye instrument cluster. It was a full-size, it was a compact; it was a daily driver, it was a high-performance racing machine. It could be had in two-door, four-door, convertible, hardtop, fastback, and even a station wagon."
Me: Wow, thank you, Joe! I have often wondered about that. Now, can you please explain what all of that means? Because I only understood about one in four words.
My ace reading student: Geez, Ms. M. You're the teacher. You oughtta know important stuff like this. It means ... (explains car gibberish to me).
Me: You know, Joe, you are a very good reader.
My ace reading student: Nah, not me, Ms. M. I hate ta read.
Me: Today, I'm going to read aloud to you from a novel by S.E. Hinton. You probably remember the novel you studied last year in English class by the same author, called "The Outsiders". The book I'm going to read from today is called "Rumble Fish". The main characters in it are called Rusty James and his brother Motorcycle Boy...
My ace reading student: Ms. M., where'd ya put that book? Ya know? The one ya was readin' from yesterday?
Me: Here you go, Joe. I thought of you as I was reading it yesterday, and thought you might enjoy it, so I laid it aside just in case.
And so it goes. I idealized the action somewhat for the faint-of-heart, but gradually, the hard cases are coming around. I do love my job, and I do love all my students ... even the ones who give me a hard time. Now, if I could just get Joe to write in his journal ...
11 September 2006
Today, five years later, I am no more equipped to answer that question than I was on the day I was originally asked. What belief system leads a person to believe that the mindless eradication of thousands of innocent bystanders is ok? There is no reasoning behind such an act. There is no justification.
I, a proud Canadian, stand beside my American friends today, mourning, as they mourn, for the losses incurred on that heinous day five years ago. We lost so much. Lives, trust, security, belief in the good of mankind, tolerance, innocence. The list is endless. I can only pray for those of you who lived that nightmare, and continue to live it. God bless you all.
05 September 2006
03 September 2006
Why is it, by the way, when you are anticipating an event with pleasure, the minutes preceding it tick by with excruciating slowness, but if it's something you would preferably put off indefinitely, the days whiz by like a sugar-infused kid on a trike? I would also like to take a moment to congratulate (?) Staples Business Depot on having created the most annoying advertisement for back-to-school ... and to ask them, with all due respect, for whom exactly is this "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"?
Even the weather seems to be in on the joke. End of July? bikini weather. A week into August, the temperature plummets and we break out the flannel jammies and sweatpants. At least, it's that way where I live. If anyone had bothered to ask my opinion, I have always thought that summer weather should be sunlit and balmy till the last day. First week of school, let there be an arctic mass descend, with rain, hail, sleet, frigid temps, high winds, whatever they please to throw at us, since we're stuck inside from dawn till dusk anyway. But don't mess with my summer vacation. It's sacred.
This year, school comes at me with talons unfurled and fangs bared. I love my job most days, but when you're just not ready, there ain't nothing can make it seem more appealing than a festering, gangrenous wound. Here I pause and contemplate the merits of one over the other ... nope, the jury's still out on that one, folks. So you may begin to understand my dilemma.
It's a mere two days away. Here I sit, Sunday morning, with all this dread anticipation clogging my throat. I'm not ready, but on Tuesday morning, I must once again open my barbeque-laced heart, my cloud-gazing soul and my summer-stagnated mind to a group of children who range in age from a barely potty-trained 10 to a barely house-broken 18. Over the next 10 months, it will be my duty to inspire these cave-dwellers to feats of mental adequacy or, in a few cases, excellence. Not only that, but I must teach by example that kindness, generosity of spirit, and a sense of responsibility are desirable traits that will get them much farther in life than the ability to bellow curses, or to beat the snot out of every person who crosses their path.
So, why do I do it? I'm smiling as I respond to this. It's simple, really. Regardless of how bad it gets, underneath it's pretty damned good. I've been in the game for 14 years now, and I have yet to be untouched by my kids in some miraculous and inspiring ways. It doesn't happen every day, but when you reach inside a kid and bring something up to the light, it's like a beacon shining all the way to heaven. That's it. I believe that kids are the ultimate surprise package. You never know what's in there, but when you open them up, you are never disappointed.