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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vibrant

“…talking about truth and love; you can wield your profession, your craft in a way that hurts people, because you’re so good. And so, when someone can present it in a way that is inviting people into their joy, that’s when the most beautiful things are formed.” – Josh Garrels.

It’s been six weeks. I moved. I am teaching grade 6. I am tired. And I just realized that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I haven’t caught my breath since… my last blog post? I’ve been thinking about all those things that make life busy and sometimes I think that we actually fill time more than necessary – maybe to feel valuable, as though productivity means we’re doing something right and extraordinary. I doubt the truth of that, even though my intent to do so is probably more accurate than I’ve admitted until now.

Before I get ahead of myself —

I moved to Calgary in August, taking a job at a school where one hundred percent of the students (500+) have some type of learning exceptionality (the current label for learning differences or disabilities). Whether it be ADHD or a varying amount of anxiety or sitting on the Autism spectrum or simply underserved by the public or generalized private school systems, my new school serves to take care of the children who haven’t really been given a chance. Or ran out of their teacher-given-‘chances’ at their last schools and are simply trying to find a way to succeed. Either way – my mind is blown constantly by all that I am learning and all I have yet to learn. Not only are the kids exceptional, but my colleagues and administration all seem to be some of the best as well. As you can imagine, my students (16 in my grade 6 class!) are unique and demand a different type of grace and accommodation from teachers, and as such, the accountability of teachers at this school is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It has to be. It should be like that everywhere else. Anyway. The responsibility is beyond what I ever considered when I became a teacher.

I am teaching my core subjects (language arts and social studies) and I have a partner teacher who is in the room at all times; he teaches our other academic courses. Yes, two teachers and 16 students. I thought it was overkill too but as we’re moving into week four, and the initial overwhelming ‘someone hanging over me’ feeling has dissipated, I like having the comfort of someone to manage the kids while I teach, and alternatively doing the same for him. [I only wish my partner was Lexie instead… ;)]. It’ll be a challenge, this year, but one that I am officially looking forward to; it took a few weeks but it’s not supposed to be perfect or easy to start, is it? I am finding my way, and that’s not always the worse thing.

It’s unnatural, I think, to be comfortable. Maybe it’s just who I am. Or maybe it’s the way of the world or God’s intention for us but I am starting to trust that a lack of comfort simply means being challenged and a restless spirit might just keep me motivated to continue this quest to “wield my profession, my craft in a way that hurts people because” I can do it well…but more than that, remember why I am doing it and that it’s not really for me, at all. I like being a teacher, I am pretty good at it too, but it’s not really about me, either.

Vibrant; vigorous, energetic, vital. Strong. Vivid. I’m trying to commit to that being my adjective for this year. No incredible words or commitments or changes or anything, but simply a desire to be vibrant – to expect vibrance, to trust in vitality and strength of the beauty of the greyest of days and moments where the newness and challenges darken my motivation, or desire to continue – like anything, I am hoping that the vibrancy of these months to come dims all the hesitancy or concerns I have starting a new job, especially because no part of this particular job is going to be easy. Being in this place, in this moment, and of being so good it hurts people.

Not that that is what I am going for, I just think Josh Garrels is wise and I like what he said. And I think it’s important that I am here, as if I should be. And it’s going to be good. Real good.

 

Oh, and I’m back. This little spot on the internet is going to be vibrant, too. More new posts to come.

 

Cheers!

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fortitude

If there is one LARGE frustrating thing about not keeping up my blog – when I sit down to actually write, I have so much to say, I don’t even know where to start! Sorry for the length that is sure to be this post. Ahhhhhh….

‘Fortitude’ is the name for the post because that is the only word to describe everything right now —

for·ti·tude

noun

mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously: Never once did her fortitude waver during that long illness.
 
Interesting. I think that’s my only aspiration right now – to live a life of fortitude through all these responsibilities. To be honest, I never thought being a teacher would be so hard. I am starting to think that a reason I dream of being a secondary school teacher is that I was inadvertanty trying to protect my heart from the vulnerability of the age of my current class – grade 7 is a tough year. It’s not to say that teaching in high school, that the kids aren’t hard to teach…but think back to when you were 12 or 13 and remember what it was like? Hard. You’re impressionable and growing up and trying to understand but  you just can’t quite nail down why you’re so unsure of yourself. The responsibility of being with kids this age is immeasurable. Everything is so fragile and exciting and difficult and easy and it’s unexplainable how emotional I’ve become when it comes to those 25 people I spend my days with – I think I’ve had a glimpse of what it might be like to be a parent, I can’t imagine the kind of love it would take to trust in someone like me to take care of their children – I am grateful for the responsibility. Tired and overwhelmed most days, but grateful.
 
I looked at the definition for fortitude and realized that a huge part of fortitude is courage. Most days, I don’t feel courageous at all. It’s interesting to be so sure of something in one sense, but so unsure in another. I know I can teach, I just don’t feel like I am that good all the time. And it’s human nature to want to be the best  Ican possibly be but my dear friend and her husband reminded me that I don’t have to be the best yet. But still. Some days, I just feel like I am carrying the weight of the world and I think my courage comes more from admitting that truth than actually carrying it gracefully.
 
That’s it for now, I am tired… I am loving every second of it, and laughing more often than yelling, but I am oh-so-tired.
 
Cheers!


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finding magic

I’ve decided that that is all it takes – a little bit of magic (and a whole lot of patience). I am finding my way. I am so tired though, I think my patience is pretty stretched because I am so tired but it’s hard to focus on me when I have all of them to worry about!

I am sitting in my little cabin in the woods, the fire is blazing, and ignoring school for the next 20 minutes – I can’t believe that this is my current life. I don’t even know where to start. I couldn’t be blessed with a more intelligent, entertaining, and kind group of kids to make up my very first class. I am not even biased, that comment is fact and their energy is in one word – powerful. Powerful means they are positive and real and observant and engaging and enthusiastic. Powerful also means they are talkative and distracted and comfortable and sometimes a bit silly. They are thoughtful and very self aware for a group of 11-13 year olds – I am blessed.

‘They’ don’t train you for the responsibility. ‘They’ don’t train you how to handle your hearts when it’s breaking and falling for 25 preteens. The stress of how to encourage and educate and comfort and listen and care and reprimand… all the while maintaining a massive separation of heart and personal life – I don’t know if that is wholly possible. I had my first Meet the Teacher night and I was aghast at how nervous I was. At this age, parents are so present. It’s wonderful to feel supported, but it’s intimidating to know that ehile these kids are my 25 major priorities right now, that the parents each have 1 priority: their child. I so desperately want to be a great teacher, and that pressure I put on myself far exceeds any other pressure I am feeling.

It’s not enough to take a step back, breathe, and say ‘this is my dream come true’. That’s the easy part. What’s hard is being accountable, working harder when things aren’t working, not being afraid to fail from time to time, parents, answering everyone’s questions – all the time, all day, every second – because I am the one who has the answer, and spending too many hours in the classroom. It’s a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of energy that I am currently missing.

A very dear set of friends of mine reminded me that answering your call to life is not necessarily rewarding in the most earthly and humanly ways…but God does not ever leave us without what we need. I feel like that’s what I need to be telling myself because it is so easy to get hung up on the little parts of the job that actually make it a job and not a dream. I can’t believe my life. Seriously.

The last month has been one of incredible challenge and an unbelievable change – I still haven’t processed the fact that I am living back in my home town, let alone teaching in my elementary school. That’s ok though. In the last few months, I’ve felt friends leave and friends go, hometowns switching on a whim, cost of living change, all the while one large kick in the behind into the real world. I don’t know how I feel about that. Excuse he randomness of this post but I am lacking in the confidence and awareness of why I arrived here to begin with; it’s FACT that I feel like I am incapable of doing the job that I was hired to do – it’s incredibly difficult.

But anything is difficult where people are involved. Quadruply difficult when people’s…especially kids…hearts are involved. I feel like I have something to prove but it’s not about me and nor will it ever be.

I am a teacher.

It’s a dream come true, however that manifests itself for the next 9 months.

I am a teacher.

It’s magic. Or still looking for the magic?

I don’t know. But I’m trying.

Breathe.


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boys

The disclaimer for this post is that if you are a male, are married to a male, have male children, are friends with males or have taught males…you are, by obligation, expected to post a comment. Or 4.

‘Cause I need help.

I have a very full and anticipatory heart when I think of  my job starting in September. My full heart, however, is an anxious one as I am contemplating teaching my boys. I have 21 girls and 6 boys in my class. Overwhelming ratio? Absolutely. I have ideas about teaching and nurturing and remembering them as I go, but I could use more insights.

What kind of books do your boys like to read?
How do they learn best?
What are some of their passions?
Any world issues they gravitate towards?
What subjects in school do they have the strongest aversions to?
What do they dream about?
How do they spend their spare time?
What has their favourite part about past teachers been?
What discipline tactics do they respond to the best?
Introverted or extroverted?
At 12 or 13, how much responsibility did they have for themselves? What did you expect of them?

The list goes on and on and on…

I think my biggest concerns are engaging the boys in a meaningful way…and the discipline. I want the boys in my class to be valued for being boys and I don’t want them mentally and emotionally outnumbered and suffocated by the absolute physical outnumbering of the ladies in the room.

YES this is a generalization and NO do I not expect any of what you tell or share to be 100% applicable to my boys, I am just curious about this — I’ve been reading a lot of literature on the nature of learning styles and engagement for young men but having never been one myself, your experience…even if your boys are just little guys, and observations are important to me. I crave some input as I get more and more focused on creating an awe-some learning environment for September (which is coming very fast)!

Cheers!! (And thanks…in advance…for your thoughts, please share them)


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it happened

I figure it is time to stop looking at that lemon meringue pie — it’s not as if we savoured it as long as my blog would so onto bigger and better things.

Like graduating university. WOOT. See Auntie Carolene? It happened.

Convocation was a bit anticlimactic as we had been marinating in the fact that we already graduated but whatever, pomp and circumstance is important and I am glad that I participated. Triply glad that Mom, Dad, and Jayme came for the day.

Here are some highlights:

PLEASE don’t judge my flip flops! I have a broken toe and couldn’t fit any shoes on my feet.

Getting hit on the head – the traditional ‘welcome” to the Faculty of Education.

Not taking this serious thing seriously…Carly- well behaved, Kate- having too much fun, Aisa- bored…very indicative of our teaching degree experience.

Look at us go! 8 years later, graduating with my best friend AGAIN. Teachers? Really?

Sorry I didn’t get a trade, Dad 😦

Matching shoes! And smiles. She’s ok that I didn’t get a trade.

Duck face for Chrissy. Eyes closed for effect.

Bree, Linds, Carly and I with our favourite professor (taught philosophy). He was so glad we finished and are outta his face (and not watching his curling matches anymore).

Look who else graduated? My other best friend.

He’s a pretty big deal…and a pretty big dork.

… going to change the world!

Oh… it wasn’t all a delightful day of successes…

     

Oh, well. First year as a somewhat real fan…proudly not a bandwagon one…a little disappointing that this special day will be memorable for painful reasons.

Anyway…. thanks to all the fantastic people in my life who have supported me and shown me the love over the last 7 years…and those who came out to celebrate, especially under the circumstances:

I appreciate it, Trav, more than you know. 🙂

I am sooo glad this chapter is closed for the time being. Kate Stam = no longer university student. Feels awe-some.


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transference

Trying something different. Like not wearing makeup or straightening my hair anymore. Like writing a blogpost on my iPhone. Like running in the evening instead of the morning.

Like teaching grade seven for a year in my old elementary school? Yes, I am trying somethings a bit differently.

That’s my news…I’ve accepted a job offer that was impossible to turn down. It is a one year contract back ‘home’ where I am going to teach all core curriculum, except French, to the grade seven class. It’s an elementary school so considering that I am, both trained as and preferably, an English and History/Social Studies secondary school teacher, my learning curve is steep and the demographic is…different — different from what I know, different from my dream.

It’s ok though, I’m not entitled to my dream job yet so for one year, I’ll gain experience while spending time with people I haven’t seen in what feels like a lifetime.

I’m unraveling. On one hand, I am excited and anxious and honoured to be given this opportunity. On the other, I seem to be crying at no moment’s notice as I feel so overwhelmed by lacking qualifications, how much planning I have to do, the thought of moving back way up north, and the imminent changes that bring goodbyes. This is home, I’m excited for my job but I didn’t think I was ready to leave Victoria, some friends, my best friend, and my family here just yet. It’s all happening so fast. I don’t know how or where to start planning for September … or how or where to say goodbye.

It’ll be trying many things different.

Like teaching full-time to my very own class…different, but different is good.

I can’t believe I’m moving back. That’s different, too.

I can’t believe it’s time to actually say goodbye.

Cheers!


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hear ye!

So here’s a good one. I’ve been learning a lot lately. Most of it is comprised of patience mixed with perseverance and a little dash of unexpected and sprinkled with exhaustion and boredom all with a hint of awesome as I’ve been trying to sort things out over the past two months. Well, I am certain it is all going to be okay and work out as my ma always says — I got a part time job at the learning centre here working with younger kids on their reading and writing in the post-school hours and on weekends.  Perfect. And just days after I got that job, I found out that I am officially on the supply list for one of the school districts here…that’s right, I am a teacher on call! Tell your friends. Actually don’t, but it is pretty cool and I am very excited to hopefully start getting some calls! I’ve never been on call for anything, except for during my job hunt where I’ve constantly waited by the phone for someone to potentially give me a job. Maybe the last two months have been training me for the nature of the position. Who knows. Any words of advice? I feel like I need to start showering at night so I can be ready at the drop of a hat (or if they call me at 7 am). I’m also a little nervous…as a TOC, I can be called in to any school, any grade in my district. I have no idea what to do with younger kids, especially x30. Go to games? Books? Activities? Help? Overwhelming.  For example, Victoria is in the middle of a freak snow storm right now. Chrissy says it’s approximately 6 inches worth of the white stuff out there. Naturally, we went outside to play and while I was putting on Eli’s snowsuit, etc, I all of a sudden had this flash of  “Oh no, can you imagine teaching kindergarten and having to do this for 25 odd kids? Punch me.” Anyway, for those of you on Vancouver Island, you can appreciate how much of a set back snow can be. I grew up in the north but I’ve definitely acclimatized to the west coast (read: am not outfitted — neither in body or vehicle — for these conditions). The rest of you can judge or laugh all you want about the wimps that are island dwellers, but I don’t care. There are several morals to this story:

1. If the snow keeps up, I am refusing all calls to come teach anything grade 3 and lower. That takes a special person that I am not.

2. I don’t think I am ready to have children quite yet if I am already losing sleep over thinking about the production that is getting them ready for the outdoors.

3. It’s time to sell Bella.

4. 6 inches is a lot of snow for here, it totally ruined my plans. And there is no point shovelling when you finish the driveway only to have to start again.

5. I have work. I get to teach. I am so excited!

 

Cheers!