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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immensity

Immensity –> vastness, enormous extent; immeasurable, boundless.

I don’t know how I could come out of this unchanged — don’t ever believe someone who says that you can’t make a difference in two months. I’ve seen evidence of this, I carry it as truth. It also scares the hell out of me.

Ever feel like you’re playing witness to a situation or life from the outside? That’s the only way I can describe this confusing, can’t-quite-place-it, where am I, feeling of today: like I just spent two months as an outsider looking in on my own experience that I am now trying to comment on.

Really? Did that all just happen? The extreme is a bit audacious — one minute there are 93 students depending on me, the next morning there are none. It’s a fragile, life altering thing — teaching.

From day one, I felt set up for failure. There were stumbling blocks in my path coming every which way. Some I shared, and some I tucked into the crevasses of my heart — embarrassed and humbled and terrified that I just may not be able to do this. My first practicum was easy in comparison. I knew for months in advance what I was teaching, where I was going, how to work the photocopier, how to log onto the computers. This time? I knew for two weeks what I was teaching and did not have a computer log on until the second month. I felt like a yard sale on the first day, I simply had to trust that things would work out how they were supposed to — it’s the only thing I could semi-control.

But, like anything new, I learned more than I anticipated and was challenged the whole way through. I learned that what I cannot tolerate, I REALLY cannot tolerate… and thus, once in awhile heard a booming, stern voice coming from me even though I couldn’t recognize where the passion came from… this shocked me, and found me in the bathroom on a couple of occasions with tears! I didn’t know what I couldn’t handle until there I was, trying to handle it! Bullying each other and talking while others were speaking were the biggest ones — I felt my shoulders and neck muscles seizing every time one of my students was belittled, degraded, or ignored by his own peer. That is totally lost on me — how could they dare treat one another like that? The coolest part of my practicum was seeing this dissipate as my lack of tolerance for this behaviour and their trust in me made it okay to stop being cruel; to stop talking out of turn. There were good days and bad days but it was pretty powerful to witness progress…both academically and socially. Those kids were getting it and suddenly, the responsibility for themselves and eachother was quietly becoming their own.

Ask anyone and they’ll say they were blessed with the coolest kids. I would argue mine were better. 🙂 The demographic where I was opened my eyes to a truth that I’ve long since ignored — not everyone has parents like mine or families or homes or simple love. Slowly, but deliberately, my cozy haven of a world unraveled as I guided my classes into a collaborative, safe environment where they could share their truths — and some of those were really difficult to hear. I thrive on human connection and the weeks passed by with me not being able to leave the classroom at lunch because kids were forever stopping in to share. I wouldn’t say I am the most gifted teacher, I would argue anyone that would say I am any good… but I think my gifting and heart made the connections easy to form, yet how in the world do I walk away from them? Or do it, authentically, over and over again?

English was easy, social studies was hard. My teacher mentor for social studies fell ill and was unable to mentor me so I was teaching social studies 11 on my own, no guidance or insights into whether I was doing it “right” or not. It was an awkward, unfulfilled challenge — I felt like I was failing all over the place with no one to step in an catch me when I needed it. But someone trusted me and somehow, that was justified as ability. I couldn’t do it, could I? Immense.

Something else that mattered more that I thought it would was that I was not alone. My first practicum, as the only student teacher out there, my world felt so huge and full but some days were difficult to be motivated and confident in my ideas or concerns because I had no one to share them with. When I found out that Scott and I were placed at the same school, I think a few high fives were exchanged. Yet as the weeks progressed this fall, the privilege of teaching out there went beyond the kids and my practice but going through it with a good friend. I felt unworthy of the support, the drives along that windy road were shorter and shorter as having someone to share the experience with became a lifeline. It was hard and challenging…but I was inspired by Scott’s honesty and perseverance, especially when I felt like emotion and exhaustion were getting the better of me. I’m just glad it was him. Period. It was simply a privilege, having someone else to talk to, to listen to, to look forward to, who knew when things weren’t right, to care and share lunch with and remind me of my own truths when it all seemed to be too much; when it felt like I really was this outsider playing witness to something immense.

And then, having the rest of those I care about so close — it was really nice to teach “alongside” some of my favourite pre-service teachers…not in the same school, but being in the same city this time made hugs and conversations and Saturday morning visits and Friday nights to connect become a real dependency to know that everything would be okay. ‘Cause sometimes? It really felt like it wasn’t.

I am not quite sure what else I feel. I want that perfect song or right poem or rich cup of coffee that I can use to be a stand-in, something tangible, for an experience I have yet to grasp or really understand. All that I am sure of is that I am playing a role in something much, much bigger than myself and that in itself adds an element of grace to my life.

Feeling? Blessed. Tired. Exhausted. Sick. Thrilled. Inspired. Inferior. Old. Worthy. Unworthy. Stretched. Unsure. Able. Overwhelmed.

Grateful. I am feeling grateful. I learned so much. 2 months made a difference; all the difference in the world.

 

 

I am a teacher now. The immensity of that statement does little to understate my experience. It’s kinda cool though.

 

What now? “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Radner

 

Cheers.

 

 



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twenty-five

Without much pomp and/or circumstance, I turned 25 yesterday. After a morning run where I ran into the rear of a deer, I opened a parcel from my family that has been sitting (unopened — are you surprised?) here since Wednesday, I spent the late morning hanging out with this cutie and his rad parents:

Eli

They took me to a market in Oak Bay and for an awesome sushi lunch. Perfect.

The afternoon consisted of fielding and enjoying the telephone calls from my overly awesome family and friends who just keep meaning more and more to me as my 24 years swiftly gave way to 25. From there I just hung around before the beach fire we had last night to celebrate the day. There is something about an evening that starts with the sunset and ocean waves crashing and people like this:

Celine

who is giving this look to:

Darcy

all the while stories are getting shared around the fire between me and these three:

Mark, Alison, Scott

I think Scott was talking about coaching football, passion accentuated by aggressive hand waving. And then, nights get better and better when seeing people I haven’t for awhile, like this guy:

Mao (with Carly behind)

all the while this is going on:

When these two showed up, after celebrating a Dad who shares the same special day with me:

Paul and Kristen

And I could never forget this one:

Celine and Glenn

And just a couple more so you get the point — great people and fantastic moments make these times, the best times:

Because when smiles like these:

lead to a grin like this:

and everyone is sitting there like this:

what does the evening end with, you ask? Well, stars instead of sun, high tide instead of low, and a little something like this:

It was a great day. 25 is going to be brilliant, just you wait.

Cheers!


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being teacher.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, this one might make you wish I published it in a Reader’s Digest so your eyes didn’t burn so much from the computer screen’s glare…

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this career choice. There is so much work involved in preparing and creating and deciding and learning all the material that needs to be covered for even one 80 minute period. I spent all weekend crafting my introductory lesson to Macbeth and before I walked out the door on Monday, I told Mom I was afraid that I had too much to cover/expected too much. I was surprised to find we covered everything and more over 70 minutes, leaving 10 minutes of “oh no, what now” ringing in my head.

And it’s not just the preparation, it’s the teaching. It’s a difficult task to comprehend something my self so entirely thoroughly before I teach it so that I can ensure my kids will understand it the way I’ve decided they need to. Again, how I decide. Shakespeare is hardly my second language, so expecting 19 grade 11 students to have a love affair with it themselves is a bold request — so my goal is to simply challenge them to give it a chance. However, remember when your teachers in high school or beyond talked about staring into a sea of glossed over eyes and stunned looks of “what the heck are you talking about”? It’s the truth. High school = a whole other world.

In a week, I’ve learned many things.

I have learned that while one lesson and day might go perfectly according to plan, successful both in delivery and student engagement, the next day might be a fail beyond repair. Then the next day, I won’t even recognize the faces that stare at me in earnest… ready to learn. It’s constantly changing and dynamic and unpredictable… they weren’t kidding when they said to be prepared; and be prepared for anything.

I’m also learning that I can’t take things personally. I am so far off the kids’ priority radar that even if I bomb a lesson in my head, they aren’t the wiser nor will they remember the next day. They have boyfriends, girlfriends, after school job, drama, sports and the playoffs, TV shows, obsessions with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (oh yes!), break ups and make ups to deal with — far more important than Miss Stam whose knees have gone weak and stomach flip-flops when they haven’t been able to answer three questions in a row as my mind races with insecurity. So as I learn that I can’t take things personally, I am quickly learning how much I truly do carry burdens, of all sorts, in my heart. Seems like more lessons than just for teacher me.

I’m learning tricks of the trade — how to be friendly without being friends, what battles to fight and battles to ignore, and the list goes on and on. I have been blessed with a great group of kids who genuinely seem to enjoy me, which has made this a much more enjoyable transition. My 9s, who I get in a week and a half, seem a lot more distant and a lot harder to please or engage, but they are even more concerned with Justin Bieber than my 11s so I am not too worried.

To say I am humbled is an understatement. In fact, as an English teacher, I feel like I should invent a word that describes how I feel since I can’t seem to come up with the right one. High school students make me so happy… they are funny and obnoxious and emotional and thoughtful and careless and innocent while being experienced and almost wholly real. I know, I know, when you think of your own high school experience, you remember the fake parts and the cliques and insecurity or whatever else there is and I know that all exists. But when I am standing there in front of the room and there are 19 people sitting there, waiting to hear what I have to say, trusting me (albeit, not by choice) and respecting me and opening up to me, well, it’s much easier to see high school students for who they are when you’re teaching them, not being their peer. Make sort of sense?

The stories are already piling up, the comments and anecdotes and encounters are too hilarious to attempt to put into words — plus, I don’t want to privatize my blog so we’ll have to just save those for a coffee date one day. I’ve now had two official evaluations. One by a university supervisor and one by my mentor teacher and they both went super well. The things I have to work on are minor, mostly about disciplinary tactics (being a bit more harsh) or waiting a bit longer for them to answer questions but all in all, I think I am doing well.

Learning lots but not excelling — and in so many ways, I am glad I am not. I think humility is a huge, if not the biggest, part of this job. And realizing that it most definitely is not all about me, and I like that.

Going into the first day, I really wondered how it all would go, especially since I was blessed with no anxiety or fear whatsoever. Even though the fear comes and goes and my confidence is fairly shaky, Miss Stam truly seems to fit like a well worn glove already and when I am standing in front of those kids I know I am exactly where I dreamed of being for so long; were I am sure that I am supposed to be. It also feels pretty darn cool to have my kids step away from their groups in the hallway to say “Hey Miss Stam… I can’t wait for class!”

Me either.


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comfort(ing) zones

In an e-mail from Megan a number of months back she wrote something that has continually resonated deep within me:

“Life for me is very busy and humbling, I am always learning new things and never excelling at much.”

That is summation of my week thus far. It’s not so much being out of my comfort zone but it’s finding something oddly comforting about feeling entirely out of place. Does that make sense? I am so excited for this challenge although the prep feels insurmountable. I have a pretty good set up — my official start day is Monday and I don’t teach until the last block. I only have 19 kids. The majority are guys so I am a little interested to see how Shakespeare goes over with them. Did I mention how glad I am to teach Shakespeare? There is so much creative liberty I can take with the play, my resources are piling up. All of a sudden I feel like the next five weeks are going to pass in a breath. What’s more, my sponsor teacher has given me no stipulation what-so-ever so I, literally, get to decide this entire thing. So it’s a debate now… unit test or final project? Journals or quizzes? Seriously, I think after the training I have gone through, I feel compelled to go to every single teacher I’ve ever had and give them a high five for all they did.

As for my Social Studies class, I haven’t met them yet but the unit should be pretty decent as well — I am teaching the settlers arrival in Canada. It’s grade 9. Anyway.

Back to Megan’s quote — I am terrified of not excelling. I know that it is a reality but remember awhile back when I posted about being, by nature, a winner and not risking things unless I know I will be 100% successful? Consider this my first conscious step forward in the direction of not having a clue if I will excel or not. But hey, I guess that’s part of the learning right? Either way, it’s comforting and sobering and I am excited for Monday.

Cheers!


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fun is educational

We had dinner over at Trav and Chrissy’s the other night before playing (and winning… no big deal) a few games. I always get excited about invites to the Simpson’s because, in addition to their insanely handsome and hilarious son Eli, Chrissy is one of the best cooks I know. The best part is she makes some really weird things that always taste exceptionally delicious. Wednesday was no exception; in the car on the way over I said to Luke how curious and excited I was to see what was for dinner. Anyway, she made pineapple salsa, which was to die for, and a chicken soup where we put different veggies (I think you call them veggies?) on top… kind of like a spicy Mexican taco only the toppings went on soup, not in a shell. Interessssting. With Travis’ commentary, Eli’s dance moves (and fascinated staredown at Luke), this dinner was amazing. But the coolest thing were all the random ingredients that were in the dinner. Like I said, fun can be an education, so I’ve provided a list of definitions of what I learned that night for your own educational pleasure:

1. hominy- is dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali. Mexican recipes describe a preparation process consisting primarily of cooking in lime-water. The process removes the germ and the hard outer hull from the kernels, making them more palatable, easier to digest, and easier to process.

2. tomatillo – is a plant related to the cape gooseberry, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos, referred to as green tomato in Mexico, are a staple in Mexican cuisine.

3. jicama – also Yam and Mexican Turnip, is the name of a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant’s edible tuberous root.

4. radish – is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. They are grown and consumed throughout the world (JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW).

5. wine – fermented grape juice.

6. corn bread – is a generic name for any number of quick breads (a bread leavened by an acid-base reaction, rather than by yeast) containing cornmeal.

7. friendship – s the cooperative and supportive relationship between people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis. Friends will welcome each other’s company and exhibit loyalty towards each other, often to the point of altruism.

8. poor losers/mean to kate in ‘the bucket king’ – Luke and Travis.

9. good host – Chrissy.

10. best dancer – Eli.


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this face

christmas-holidays-2008-09-077

Did you know she turned 12 today? My sweetest, littlest, spunkiest sister is officially old. No, really.

This face is the face of a miracle. Jayme got hit by a car on Monday, did you hear? She was walking across the cross walk after getting the mail and a lady didn’t see her, hit her, and sent her tumbling across the ground. Her road rash is extensive, her thigh is throbbing, her heart is scared, but she is alive. I asked her how she was doing, after the painkillers/Tylenol seemed to have kicked in, and she said “when I think about what could’ve happened, it scares me but then I think about how none of my friends can say they got hit by a car today, can they?” :). In other words, this is the face of a miracle but also a tough little lady who gave us quite the scare. We’re blessed, she’s blessed, and thankful doesn’t even start to cover the deep truth of what this accident could have been.

This is the face of the kindest, gentlest, funniest, most modern, fashionable, entertaining, independent, friendly, honest, loved girl I know who constantly reminds me that the best way to see the world is through her kind of eyes — ones hoping for the very best and expecting even better. I admire her and adore her soul… I didn’t know kids that size came with hearts that big.

Happy Birthday Peanut, you are the perfect sister for me — keep being you and the rest of us will try and keep up!

xo


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of all days.

poppy

In the cold echoes of the wind, the trumpets blare and the men in uniform march one…by…one. Down the street, past the monuments, in view of thousands wearing the little red flowers so close to their hearts.

 

Perhaps it is because the last three months in school have been consumed with war…how it happened, how it continues to happen, who it involved, who was victorious, and who was dessimated. Or maybe it’s because I had a friend who recently returned from there, who had friends there, as the war – a different war – rages on. It doesn’t matter, but today remembrance seems to mean more than it ever has.

 

It is not just about our freedom or the price that was paid, in bodies and blood and debt and uncertainty, but about the devastating confusion that came when an expected four month war stretched into four years; how our nationality was deeply exposed when Canada, for the first time, entered a war (WWII) on our own. It’s so easy to wave a Canadian flag, a British flag, and American flag, and boast thanksgiving to those who lost their lives for our freedom… and our unity. It’s so easy to sit in front of the TV or read the headlines and believe that war was then, and freedom is now.

 

But what do we do with that freedom? We gripe about the economy and gas prices; job shortages and the weather; we struggle with the Canadian government and the situation in the United States. We complain about tuition and having our parents’ still boldly lay claim to our lives. I think with freedom comes our responsibility to the price that has been, and continues to be, paid to keep us secure, radiant, proud Canadians. We justify our spending or actions or beliefs on a simple justification: “because we can”. Yet I wonder, what if the Unknown Soldier decided he couldn’t? What if the nurse laid down her bandages and said she would no longer serve? What if Fisher had not manufactured the Dreadnought? What if conscription never took place or time stood still on industrialization or the atomic bomb was never created? What if the other side won?

 

What if the World Trade Center had never been attacked? Where would we be? Who would we be? Why does it matter?

 

It’s frighteningly cold today, as if the wind has rushed in to hold our hearts cold to imagine what it was like when the opposing sides called a truce, meeting in No Man’s Land, for one day – Christmas Day – and decided to lay down the weapons, to Live and Let Live, if only for one day.

 

I think it is time that we, Canadians, British, North Americans, whoever, are exposed to simply remember. Today is not only a time to remember who has served, but to center ourselves, again, on what is really important. My sister often talks about how God calls us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. With that, what are we doing with this freedom we’ve been given? What are we doing with this life? Would hundreds of thousands upon thousands of fallen soldiers believe it was all worth it?

 

Let’s not forget the veterans and members of the past, but let us also continue to remember those with the Canadian flag and cause that are fighting and peacekeeping now. It is, literally, the least we can do.

 

“It’s only in the dark and cold of night that we can see the stars…and I pray that those stars will lead them, too, all the way home.”

 

November 11, 1918 – November 11, 2008 : 90 years since the armistice ending WWI was signed.

 

I choose to remember.