Friday, 30 December 2011

"To the left! To the left!"

In the past month I have attended various schools for trial lessons/interviews for potential teaching roles in January. During these visits I have observed a vast range in student compositions, leadership and teaching approaches.

It makes me sick. The all-boys school…
… “GET TO THE LEFT OF THE STAIRS!... I SAID, GET TO THE LEFT!!... TAKE OFF YOUR JACKET!” The sharp, booming voice commanded.  Young boys scattered quickly to the left, into file. They don’t dare challenge the authority figure.  Feeling unsettled, tension rising inside of me as my ears are assaulted by the angry, domineering bark, I observe the boys’ faces and body language.  I see confusion, rising anxiety, responding from a place of fear… Sympathetic nervous system response: “Fight, Flight or Freeze”… Their glazed over expressions and startled, unfocused, programmed movements in response to the punitive command look “frozen” to me. Paralytic.
I am horrified. Feel sick as I witness this. I will NEVER teach here.
Later that same day

Sitting in a theatre style room amongst the whole year 7 population (grade 8 in Canada), the composition: a mass of young, energetic boys, still very much children, large ethnic diversity, minority white, a high percentage of Muslim. The student body is informed that they are to be respectful and participate in the practicing and singing of Christmas carols. Highly Jesus-focused, Christmas carols.
Now, I want all the Muslim boys to be respectful and sing today. Last time we practiced I was very happy to see all the Muslim boys participatingTry not to think about what you are saying. Think, ‘it’s just a song’. 

As the practice progressed I witnessed that this “request” was more of a demand, and those not complying received punitive response from angry Mr. Conductor. As I suspected.
This whole scenario might be ok, if the students had the choice to participate or rather if the school invested some time and energy into celebrating the diverse beliefs and cultures of whole year 7 class.  If the student body sang songs in celebration of a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds throughout the year? However, I am about 99% certain this is not the case.
I THINK NOT!!!!!!!!
To make matters worse
An eruption of laughter, fingers pointing, some boys standing to scrutinise their peer in the back row, the target of the outcry, who is sinking into his seat in utter humiliation. The “conductor” stands facing the persecuting mass and the humiliated boy with his arms tightly crossed in front his chest, resting upon his bulbous belly, a smug expression- “that’s what you get”- on his face. Ugly.

Moments ago… Teacher/conductor…oozing with condescension…  Hey you.” The student bodies heads all turn in the direction of his sour, ugly glare.  “Put away your lego or whatever it is you are playing with over there
Complete and utter horror.  Did that just happen?
Boys need to be kept in line
Boys respond to the commanding approach… It’s what they need.
HUH-BLAH!!!!!! *hypothetical vomit in disgust*
This perspective is held by a good number of educators.  Based on the hypothetical vomit, I sure it is quite apparent that Miss Lame’s viewpoint and approach to teaching is NOT in line with the above.

Key Questions to consider:
1.       What is the purpose of this approach? What does it achieve?
The “key-ist” of questions…
2.       What does this approach actually TEACH the young boys?

My new, BRILLIANT book, “Information is Beautiful” shares information through visual representation. I have literally spent over 30 minutes on one page, completely engaged, following the visual leads, drawing connections and understanding concepts through images and their thoughtful placement on the pages- Ideal for Miss Lame’s attention span and learning style. What a GREAT teaching resource.
Interestingly and related to my above mention of teaching style, I came across a page in this glorious book illustrating the contrast between “Left Wing” and “Right Wing” political perspectives and the general attributes and approaches associated with each…  An overload of visual information I have to work my way through the illustration, a sort of mind-map representation. As I decipher the web of information, what jumps out at me is the piece that highlights the role and approach of adult figures in child rearing and education. I quickly placed myself VERY LEFT on the spectrum.
A summary:
The Expectation- A two way street:
·         Giving and receiving of respect
The approach:
·         nurturing love
·         “Relationship built on respect and trust”- mutual respect
·         Education: “Learning- to ask questions, to relate to and cooperate with others”
“THE SELF-NURTURING CHILD” openness, empathy, self-examination
Miss Lame example:
I don’t appreciate the tone with which you are speaking to me (the infamous “crusty senior sass”). I don’t speak to you that way. I act respectfully towards you and should be able to expect the same in return.

The Expectation- Just the way it is:
·         You must respect adult figures… cause…?...?...? Their older?
The approach:
·         tough love”- strict
·         “Relationship built on respect and fear
·         Education: “Skills- to succeed, to compete, individualism
self-defence, moral strength, self-discipline

I get that everyone has their own approach to teaching and leadership and that there is a spectrum between these two punctuated wings.  There are perhaps times which call for reactions and/or approaches that lean left and sometimes which wriggle right. None-the-less, it seems that in Britain, there is a prominence of a right wing approaches.
Expecting respect, just because, is wrong to me. Again, what does this teaching youth? It doesn’t promote empathy and self-monitoring of behaviour. It doesn’t display respect and common decency, which I fully believe everyone deserves. Young and old. If we don’t develop these aspects of emotional intelligence, we are limiting youths’ capacity in the social and work world. I believe that success in career and social/emotional life is linked to ones’ ability to collaborate, empathise and gain respect through demonstrating respect.
The Canadian education system, particularly the curriculum and approach to education in Toronto, is highly forward thinking and quite “left wing” in comparison to the British system.
Common words and concepts used in the Toronto District School Board:

In the wise words of Beyoncee: “To the left, to the left!”

Getting shit done.

The story of Miss Lame’s life.
People often comment on how much “courage” it must have taken for me to pick up and move to another continent all by myself to start up my career, teaching in a new country and culture. To make my life happen. Just like that.
I am proud of the move and my ability to progress and make my life happen as I need and want it to.
I'm sure that confidence and some courage plays into all this, however, I must admit, much of my “getting shit done” abilities have a lot to do with my inability to sit still. I am hyperactive and a tad impulsive. I hate waiting- my impatience and need for things to happen when I want them to drives me… sometimes bonkers!  I like when life is exciting, with new opportunities, people, experiences and I just hate waiting or worse still, missing out. So if I just make it happen, the pay-off is much more immediate. 
Getting shit done- A recent example:
The man who lives above “my” café.
A moment of interaction. A brief smile of acknowledgment and a “Have a very nice day!”
The next day- Returning to my café for my morning coffee before heading to school…
My sweet baristas- Ramona and Nicholetta. Excited: “SOMEBODY HAS A CRUSH ON YOU!!!!!!”… They launch into an eager explanation, informing me that their neighbour living above the café was asking about me.

The weeks to follow… “you tell Rob I say hello…”… “Rob says hello back”…
This can only go on for so long. A week left of teaching before Christmas break and no accidental interactions in the café.
Miss Lame wants a date.  
A scrap of paper, my name, my number, coffee?, smiley face.
The outcome: Flattered café man + Coffee date in the New Year… SUCCESS!!!

Climbing…  In a castle!
Hands shaking, muscles all over my body twitch and fire as I balance and cling to the wall 15 feet above ground. I feel the urgency in my grip and the burn in my muscles as I contemplate the next rock I must reach, thinking, “this vertical route was obviously not designed for a 5’2 woman”. Without complete certainty that I will even be able to reach the next target rock, I go for it. I power up from my legs, extending from my sharply bend knees, pulling through my arms and back to straighten my awkwardly contorted body, driving my hips toward the wall to minimize the Lame bootie mass fighting to pull me down toward the earth. I take a leap of faith as I release my tired, but safe death grip and reach for a rock that is potentially out of grasp.  Momentum, my friend. My strength, my savour. I manage to barely grasp the small piece of rock protruding from the wall and feel my fingertips grate against the rock. Rough like sandpaper. Barely hanging on.  I throw my other hand up. In the nick of time, my other hand contacts the rock, and I use my last remaining ounce of strength to pull myself in and readjust my grip. Stable. My brain has a moment to catch up. The thought: “I’ve made it.” Shaking- The adrenaline buzz. Overcome with excitement. Pride. Grinning ear to ear- The endorphin high. Victorious.

 Rock climbing- applied to life…

1. take risks.

2. if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

3. when you make it to the top it feels fucking great.

A TRULY Miss LAME moment…
Feeling quite confident in my preparedness for my early departure from the “Chaudrey” homestead the next morning, bound for Canada for the holidays, I decided to go for a drink at the local pub on Broadway with those flatmates whom were still around.
A lovely little visit: some laughter, smiles, cheers, a tame drink or two.  All the while, my head is in this lovely haze of excitement as I think about the first moment I see Mom, the first instant I see Dad… I see my dear brother- Erik…. My sister, sunshine- Kate.
12am, perhaps we should head back home now… The remaining folks, “the cool kids”, flatmate- Rachel and her boyfriend Dave and I, venture towards home. As we approach the front door, I am suddenly overcome with a sinking feeling as I contemplate seeking my key, which I instantly know is sat in my floral, vintage purse, safely locked away in my bedroom along with some fairly key pieces required for my trip home… You know, luggage… passport… No biggy.
Panic stricken, I launch into a tizzy of “shoulda, woulda, couldas” and “self-bashing”…
If not for Rachel and Dave, I would have been a LAME, useless puddle of tears on the floor… They kept me grounded… Together we worked out the steps we must take to ensure my departure for Canada only hours later.
Firstly, with very little expectation, I called douche-bag landlord, hoping that somewhere deep down inside his sexist, dick-ish soul he will find in his heart to help Miss Lame out… Nope.

Next step. Break into my room.
Option A) Attempt to break in through the window.
*Risk factors… This approach may be seen by neighbours and either encourage their attempt to break into my room or may result in a little phone call to the local police department.
Option B) Break down my bedroom door.
*Risk factor… I will DEFINITELY be required to replace the door. Any damage would come out of my pocket.
...A wonderful realisation.
Option C) Unfasten the excessive amount of screws stubbornly holding a haphazardly placed plank of wood across the sliding doors dividing my room from the kitchen/lounge. The ultimate security frontier!
*Step one- obtain a screw driver at 12:30am…
·         Check with a neighbour. Result- grumbly, displeased neighbour- “no, I do not have a screw driver. It’s kind of late you know.”
·         Back to Broadway Market. Corner shop. Just in the nick of time before closure. Miss Lame purchased a set of 4 screwdrivers.   


*Step two- break into room.
·         Miss Lame still a little flustered and useless is asked to make some hot chocolate and a snack of toast, while Dave and Rachel tackle the inordinate amount of screws standing between me and my departure for Canada 5 hours later. So lovely.
·         1hour later… Success.
·         Miss Lame can breathe

Home- Through a new lens
The View
The country side as we travel, London Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment, has never looked more gorgeous.  Things are so spaced out, vast.
Heading home from Collingwood, a stark contrast from the drive up. Two days of heavy snowfall between drives. I was worried I would return home to the other London without the good ol’ Canadian winter wonderland experience. But it came. I am taken aback by the Canadian beauty. New found love and appreciation. A new lens. Coniferous tree branches bow and lull under the weight of fluffy heaps of soft white. Rolling hills, soft cotton blankets, patched with old farm houses, standing peacefully. Calm.
I am grounded.
Family and old friends bring me back to earth. Not that Miss Lame struggles with being herself. I am very comfortable in my own shoes and don’t pretend to be anything but me, however, going home to Canada has brought out, highlighted, parts of me that I haven’t paid attention to or appreciated for some time. Being with those who know me to my core. Love me unconditionally. A refreshing, revitalising experience. I'm more ready than ever for my continued Miss Lame adventures in London England.  

NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.
Sometimes you just have to swear.

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