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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perfect pairing [and instagram]

So yesterday was a big day, some pretty interesting things happened — more on that in a post to come. While I had my own things happening, it was a big day for my great friend Luke too. There probably won’t be more on that later, but yesterday was the day where individual circumstances regarding our careers officially made us adults. Anyway. Talk about being cryptic,  but a little elusiveness never hurt anyone so let me enjoy this for a few moments.

We decided to celebrate a little bit.  One of my favourite places in the city is Ferris’ Oyster Bar. I’ve never had fresh oysters before moving to the Island and it’s a treat that I will miss if and when I leave.  There is nothing like a freshly ‘shucked’ oyster with fresh horseradish, tobasco, and seafood sauce…and a glass of wine. I thought so, anyway.

When I [briefly] worked for Starbucks last summer, I learned about perfect pairings. The whole point was that there were specific coffees that complimented certain baked goods that they sold. Part of the training was to develop a sense of what item to recommend to a customer, depending on what drink they ordered. For example, ordering an Americano with a shot of caramel in it? Why don’t you try a chocolate covered pretzel? (I am not sure if that’s considered a complimentary relationship, I just thought of two things available there). The point is, I never really understood this. Every time they quizzed me on this, or I tried a coffee with it’s baked buddy, I didn’t really get why they were meant to be. Sure, they tasted good together but I definitely didn’t have the palate that got it. I definitely did not generate much revenue due to this type of “upselling” but I think I was more frustrated that I honestly could not tell what difference a macchiatto and a fudge bar relationship or a macchiatto and a vanilla scone pair made.

Until yesterday, there have been three perfect pairings (in cuisine) that I’ve come across. Well, four if you count sushi and chicken wings. They are:

1. Red wine and chocolate. It’s true, ‘they’ are right. Although I don’t know what it is that makes them meld, I do know that a glass of Wolf Blass 2007 Shiraz with a dark chocolate truffle is just delightful.

2. An Espresso shot poured over vanilla ice cream. Heaven surely has this ready made for us, it’s unreal.

3. Pear and parmesan. I was introduced to this a few months back, it’s a classic and brilliant dessert in Scott’s house, served with red wine after dinner. I don’t know if it’s the actual eating of pear and slices of parmesan cheese, which is delicious, but the process, to me,  that is perfect — where the cutting board with pears and cheese is passed around so that every time one pear is finished, another person gets to cut one to share. It’s relaxing, it’s social, begging great conversation… and it’s interesting to see how people cut the fruit differently (I don’t know if  the  others or Scott enjoy this aspect, but I do).

Aside from tasting good together, when I met perfect pairing number 4 (or 5, again – sushi and chicken wings) last night, for the very, very first time I have actually been able to taste when two things go together in a seeming love affair in your mouth: oysters and martinis (the real kind). I’ve had dirty martinis before but have never grown accustomed to the taste. They are straight alcohol and while I appreciate the absence of the sweetness from other variations of the cocktail, the strong taste of the alcohols is difficult for me to enjoy. Like my experience with cilantro, I figure I will develop a taste for martinis and the  hint of olive juice upon drinking them more often. I don’t drink much so this is inconsequential or probably never going to happen anyway, I just think it looks cool to go for a drink and order a martini. Except they’re gross.

Until last night. Back to our celebration. After we ate dinner, we went across the street to Ferris’ to have a martini – Luke wanting me to attempt to love it again. I had a few sips and like every other time, my throat burned and chilly shudders went through my body. However,  since we were at the oyster bar, we needed to order some. After eating my first oyster,  I took a drink of my martini and my palate- life changed. It was incredible how much I enjoyed that. It still tasted like the 100% alcohol it is but with the lingering taste of horseradish and seafood sauce, the drink went from shudder worthy to smooth and oh-so delicious. It was amazing, I’ve never experienced that before — a noticeable  sentiment between two flavours (yes, I know that they don’t have feelings, it was just so fascinating). In the other sense, the oysters tasted much better with the hint of vodka and olives. While I definitely do not plan to get in the habit of this delicacy,  last night I experienced, for real, a perfect pairing. It was really neat.

Stop laughing at me.

Another perfect pairing? My iPhone 4 and the Instagram App. Enjoy these photos:


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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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remembering.

It seems to matter more and more the years that go by. At least, the more I learn, the more I am humbled by what little I’ve had to do for the great amounts that I have.

If you don’t know what you’re remembering, go figure it out. We’ve got much to be thankful for and much to keep in mind. WWI, Afghanistan, or wherever in between… it’s great grandparents then, it’s students’ parents and a friend’s brother now. Seems much more personal now. I guess it really is.

I don’t know if it’s remembering as much as it is acknowledging. And finding a way to honour those who understood, and continue to understand, what honour, pride, and commitment really means. I know I don’t get it, I am even trying to teach WWII right now… we’re figuring it out together. But this week? It’s simply about remembering for those whose battles are done and reminding of those whose battles have just begun.

 

 


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six in six

Finished six weeks of practicum so far, starting the seventh in about 2.5 hours and I’ve learned six things that I plan to elaborate on:

1. Being firm is difficult — I scare myself sometimes and have made myself cry (not in front of the kids, but later).

2. Support is invaluable; friend(s)/mentors who understand exactly what I am going through is an understated blessing.

3. I teach and lecture using my hands a lot.

4. There’s a balance between being selfless and selfish that I’m close to understanding — I am learning to care without getting emotional.

5. Sometimes being constantly challenged is not healthy (or so it feels, as I can barely keep my eyes open and it’s only Monday).

6. There is nothing cooler than adolescent youth.

 

… did I just say that?

 

Cheers!


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here i go again

Tomorrow it starts all over again. However, this time I am teaching 2 English 10s instead of 1 English 11, Julius Caesar instead of Macbeth, Social Studies 11 instead of SS 9, I’m one of four pre-service teachers instead of the only one, have a fall wardrobe instead of a summer one, and driving 25 mins NW instead of 25 mins NE (just kidding, I don’t know the direction but the commute is the same). I am unprepared currently — tomorrow is a Pro-D day and we get to go to a seminar instead… but it’ll come. I am much more relaxed this time around. Doesn’t mean it won’t be overwhelming and daunting and tiring but the actual ‘unknown’ isn’t as worrisome as it was once before. I’ve been waiting for this forever so I am excited. I also hope it doesn’t go SO fast that I don’t have time to process it. I am thrilled that Scott will be there, teaching bio and physics right downstairs from me… so if you think of me, think of him and hope for some greatness/success/patience/resilience to come our way!

It’s so close now, the end, I am so excited for the next couple months… if it’s even a fraction of as incredible the first practicum was, I am going to be blown away!

Any wisdom or advice for me/us? I would love to hear your thoughts… what was the best part of your high school experience…or the best part about your favourite teacher?

Cheers!