that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.


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taking flight

Articulation. I never thought it would be hard to articulate something. Being somewhat adept at writing down thoughts or situations or stories, it’s a new challenge trying to articulate these thoughts — probably because they are unlike anything I’ve truly felt before and what’s more, probably because I am not quite sure how I feel.

Five weeks have come and gone. I was telling my sister that in one sense, when I think of the kids and the interactions I had in such a short time (and that I will likely never see them again), five weeks seemed to fly faster than I wanted or thought they would. But when I consider the work and the sleepless nights and being evaluated/observed and attempts to make sure every single lesson was creative and inspired and meaningful, five weeks dragged. “They” say student teaching is much more difficult than actually teaching… and I think the newness of it all coupled by the intense pressure to succeed made it a long and arduous process.

Then again, it was some of the best weeks of my life. My dear cousins Derek and Billy once made a rap song that referenced how long I have been in university and to be honest, amidst my laughter, I cringe thinking now that I am almost 25 and this coming September makes it year #7 in post-secondary.  It has all been worth it though, to finally feel like I’ve accomplished something. Maybe that’s the new feeling I have — I have worked harder for this than anything, ever, and the reward of standing in front of a class, knowing I can do this (and do it well) makes it feel as though the last 6 years have flown by as well. It was a wildly successful and fulfilling practicum. Humbling, challenging, entertaining, and character building. I made a lifelong friendship with my mentor teacher while meeting kids that changed me in so many different ways.

What have I learned?

every kid deserves a chance, especially the ones who’ve been given up on
-it
is possible to have all 28 kids respond to me, it just takes a lot of patience, smiles, and positive feedback
-wake up every day as it is a
new day, the day before can’t matter – especially if it was a bad one
kids deserve much more credit, their intelligence at these ages is massively understated
-youth need
responsibility – it shows them I trust them and it gives me a chance to see what they can do
-sometimes worldviews with staff/colleagues clash immensely, there’s
little point getting emo about it – everyone is different
-they (kids) listen to
everything, so much of their feedback to me is a direct result of a response to something I’ve said -therefore, I have way more control than I ever realized
everyone wants to be noticed, sure makes a huge difference when you do
-high school
drama should not be called high school dramait’s insensitive for me not to care about it because it is the biggest thing in their worlds so to simplify it as drama makes me unfit for my job
-I’m so glad I enjoyed my own high school experience, it makes being back in it a lot easier to encourage and challenge these kids to dream and work hard and be their best selves

Among other things anyway. When I had my mentor meetings prior to starting, I was warned about a few key kids based on their older siblings or responsiveness (mainly, lack of) in class. I feel like I learned a lot when a couple of those same kids were the only ones to really make a point of telling me they didn’t want me to leave. One in particular, hugged me and said “Miss Stam, I think you’re the only teacher in this school who likes me”… and more of those comments happened all throughout my last day. Another sweetheart baked me some delicious snacks in his foods class only to come talk to me about his pro-skiing dreams and family during his 15 minute break.

The hardest part? Not the planning or the observations or the meeting kids or remembering all of them, all the time… it’s knowing that if I can feel this valued and this sad about leaving kids after five weeks, how will I survive a career of this? I haven’t laughed this hard or felt so worthy in my entire life. Do you know what that feels like? Now that I’ve tasted it, I can’t get enough of it. Like all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is make a difference, a positive one, in some small way… and teaching secondary school feels like the perfect way for me to do that. I have learned a deeper sense of humility, a high level of grace, a stronger transparency and honesty, and a weakened heart for all those kids whose shy smiles and bright eyes caught me every moment they finally got it and every moment that they tried.

I am blessed by the person God made me to be in preparing me for this career — I am in love with what I get to do, I am excited for the possibility of what this means. It makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something… such as a childhood dream of wanting to fly. I’m flying. And things look pretty cool from here.

Cheers!



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mom

Being home has its perks. My mom, being my biggest fan by obligation of giving birth to me, is home every day when I get back from school to tell my tales of woe and harrowing adventure to (she’s also there to ensure I clean up after dinner and put things away). But it’s all fun and for the most part, probably all of my part, I enjoy being home — especially when it means I have my mom to talk to when I get home. Sometimes Jayme and her friends but this whole “being teacher” and almost being 25 has exempt me from being cool in her eyes. That’s another issue.

Anyway, I took my mom to school on Monday. Yup, show and tell of the greatest type. She just sat in the back of the room, walked around and took pictures, and then smiled a ton. Harmless. I introduced her as a “special guest — my MOM” which was met with excellent comments like

Ohhh Miss Stam, you needed your Mommmmmmmm to hold your hand and bring you to class?
Yes K. Just like I saw you kiss your Mom goodbye in her van in the parking lot yesterday.

That wasn’t his mom Miss Stam.

Uh oh.

🙂

Still, other questions about “Hey, are you bringing Daddy tomorrow now? Or your little sister? Or the rest of your parents’ kagillion (?) kids? Bring your nephew Weston (yup, he’s famous Jes), although you might have to hold his hand? Can’t your friend that…” just went on and on and on. Either way, it was pretty cool to have my mom come to work with me.

Another thing about going to high school again brings me a little ways back into the archives of my own experience. An exceptional perk of being home is…yup…Mom makes my lunch. And they aren’t heinous lunches, they are epic — with tupperware containers filled to the brim of watermelon and other fruits I love, sandwiches I can’t fit my mouth around, homemade cookies, and the list goes on. When I was in high school, my lunches were coveted. I remember Suzanne creeping through my backpack to take food while my locker stood open during the lunch break.

Every so often, Mom would leave us treats or, my favourite, little notes of encouragement so that when we went for our snacks or lunch it would be a SURPRISE! Mom is thinking of me (Or in my case, SURPRISE! Mom is checking in on me and making sure I am staying out of trouble)! Anything from bookmarks to little toys to notecards with blessings and sweet love on them. Sometimes she would mangle with our food, like heart-shaped sandwiches for Valentine’s Day or taking a bite out of a sandwich and wrapping it up so I wouldn’t notice. The most hilarious one was a sandwich that she put all the grossest condiments on accompanied by lunch meat, some veggies, and a lollypop. That’s right, I didn’t know what was coming when I took a bite, it tasted worse than anything, and I all but broke my tooth on the lollypop stick.

Thanks mom.

Anyway, yesterday I was minding my business in the staff room when I sat down with my lunch and found a sweet little note of encouragement from my mom. My food was not tampered with but receiving the note felt a little like transference or a time warp… only instead of standing in the hallway with Jocelyn and whoever else, being obnoxious, I was sitting in the staff room, on a comfy couch, drinking my coffee with my legs crossed and glasses on my nose, perusing a (WICKED!!) new resource for teaching, overhearing (and sometimes adding to) a conversation about American Foreign policy from the other side of the room… thinking, oh wow…have I arrived?

Yup. And I still need my mom there with me to hold my hand. That’s alright, isn’t it?


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me and the[ir] world[s]

Building community. Below is one of my community building stories from my gr 9 class. I tried to take notes on it all as it was happening because it was so amazing and I wanted to share it with you because it’s pretty special and to say that this is why I am going to be a teacher well, take a look and you might be just as awestruck as I am:

My first day with my grade 9s was on Tuesday. As an intro activity, I had the kids draw a timeline that looked something like this:

world

______________________________________________________________

me

and for the next 10-15 minutes they had to predict future events of the world and furture events for themselves. There was no time limit, they could predict as far into the future as they saw for both timelines.

Once they filled in their timeline, I drew a long line on the board and each person came up and wrote one thing from each portion of their timelines. As you can imagine, they dreamt up some pretty inspired goals and predictions for themselves — everything from getting their driver’s licenses to writing bestselling books to becoming snowboard champions and prom queen.

On the other hand, their predictions for the future were very dismal…running out of water, wars over resources, wars period, the world spontaneously exploding, people assassinated, hate crimes, amalgamated religions into one dominant ideology, and the list goes on and on and on.

YES.

So we spent the next ten minutes looking at the board and discussing what was on the timeline. I asked them if they could see any connections or reasons for what they saw. They were pretty chatty and all over the place but I finally laid the teacher-Kate-discipline on and all but yelled:

WHY… (they stopped talking)…do you think that our predictions for our own futures are positive and exciting and filled with hope, dreams, and ambition BUT our predictions for the future of the world are dismal, dark, scary even?

It was dead silent. The room went from entirely rambunctious and frustratingly loud to stone silent. At first, I thought it went totally over their 28 heads and I started mentally punching myself in the head when one girl slowly raised her hand and said:

I think it’s because we are selfish and we can’t see outside of our own little bubbles.

And thus, I realized they weren’t confused…they were thinking and engaged and the answers began to flow:

because we don’t think that we play a role in anything going on in the world…

we don’t like connecting ourselves to something if we can’t control it…

the world has so much hate in it, why does it matter if I am happy and most of the world isn’t…

I don’t think I have a purpose in the world so I believe I will be happy and achieve success if I keep it to myself…

I just don’t know how I could change the world…

maybe it’s because the world tries to control us and what we should do, think, wear…maybe I don’t want to connect the two because then I can’t be my true self…

I think people are afraid to admit that they are part of something bigger…

because if the world doesnt change from how it is now (think of all the wars and hate we know of), who is to say it’ll be any different in 60 years…

we don’t look at our futures and the world’s future as the exact. same. thing…

my future is unrealistic, Miss Stam, because that’s what dreams are…I don’t dream much for the world because I don’t know what it wants or what it needs…

It went on and on and on. It was incredible. I was thrilled and couldn’t believe the connections they made for themselves once given the chance.

My last question about the timeline was contingent on the final date listed. The last prediction was set for 2065. Perfect.

So, after all of that — why do you think that we, selfish and unaware, grade 9 students were only able to predict until 2065, anyone have any ideas?

Quiet again. And then, my student that barely shows up to class, let alone participates, quietly says:

Duh Miss Stam, selfish people can’t see past their own lifespan. So we only think of what we’re doing and just do it, forgetting the bad impact it might have on the world… But that is unfair to my kids and their kids and the rest of the people in the world that will live longer than 2065, isn’t it Miss Stam?

Nailed it. Yup.

Well, I guess that taught me two things Miss Stam:

1. I have a lot of changing and learning to do — my world is far too small right now if I want to be a part of the big world in a big way.

2. I am NOT ready to have kids — clearly, I have to figure out some stuff first.

Welcome to Miss Stam’s Social Studies 9 class… we love visitors, friends, and exploring the world! 😉



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so much work

Week two ended in a triumphant success. I had three evaluations, all went well. My midterm evaluation is this coming Tuesday (conveniently, yet not so, scheduled immediately after my first ‘official’ taking-over of the Social Studies 9 class). I must admit, being evaluated is exhausting. I obviously enjoy their insights and need to hear what they have to say but it’s difficult when the evaluations transcend practical strategies and insights and dip their toes into character ones. I’ve tried to change enough about myself in the last 8 months preparing me for this, it’s so difficult to be mindful of who I am (or what parts of myself) and work on those things while working on everything else. And it’s not a situation of “here’s my advice, take it or leave it”…it’s more accurately “here’s my advice, I want to see it fixed by the time I am here next week”. It’s fine and humbling but it’s exhausting.

My kids are great, I am enjoying them more and more and as I become more comfortable in my authoritative role, they respond more to me as their teacher and not so much their older sister or friend. I’ve improved on drawing some hard lines but already I feel like my patience is going deeper and stronger as well. It’s amazing how much I can handle if I’ve had a proper sleep. 🙂  I am fairly nervous about teaching Social Studies… I am doing exploration and the arrival in Canada and my own knowledge is very limited. I am hardpressed to believe that I am qualified to teach this but I’ve been saying that for a long time so maybe it’s time I just sorted it out and did it. How ’bout that? Little pep talk is always good.

Something interesting: you know teachers who have kinda funny-to-them relatable stories and anecdotes for concepts they are teaching? I wondered if I would ever reach a time when I could do that but here I am, talking about close friends and hilarious stories in effort to make the kids understand things so that’s been interesting. I find myself talking about fishing adventures or my nephew or the Olympics or anything to try to help them connect. So some of you are already famous in some way in my lectures and stories.

Another funny thing? I have a few students who are so similar to people I know it is scary. I might have even located a mini-me, which is very, very awkward. I wonder if I am “blessed” with little Luke-Georg-Darcy or Kate and Jocelyn combos just to keep me in check.

Things to keep me in mind for? Midterm evaluation… rest and focus (my mind seems to be drifting further and further away the last few days)… and confidence as I pick up my next class. Oh yea, and no more awkward situations of one of my boys without his shirt on.

Cheers!