The end of the “Pinnie” as we know it?

26 11 2010

As a new Teacher-On-Call, I’ve become used to waiting by the phone each weekday morning ready for the far-too-chipper voice of our dispatch lady to inform me of my daily destiny. It’s really been quite enjoyable, since I’ve had a chance to visit several schools and collect ideas for the time when I finally get a classroom of my own. The novelty of being a Traveling Wilbury certainly hasn’t worn off yet (anyone else remember that 80’s reference?).

For some reason, I’ve done a lot of P.E. prep for Elementary teachers and this past week I came across an issue I haven’t faced before: a student’s refusal to wear pinnies because of parent’s wishes.

In this particular Grade 2 class, I had adapted a lesson that I’d heard of done by a seasoned PE teacher and I wanted to introduce the whole idea of wearing pinnies to the group. After a show of hands, I saw that many hadn’t worn a pinnie before and so I decided to make the first time experience a positive and memorable one. Keeping in mind the thought processes of a primary student, trying to put on these colourful garments can be a traumatic ordeal for the first time if proper instructions aren’t given.

I had 4 bins of pinnies to work with: Red, Green, Yellow and Blue. I placed them in the centre of the gym and the students sat around the circle at halfcourt. I announced that today we were about to become astronauts and that every space traveler needed a special space suit before traveling “to infinity and beyond!”. I held up a pinnie, told the the class that it had special breathable qualities and that each one had a tag at the back (like a T-shirt) to help with identifying which hole to place your head into. One by one, each space explorer came up and selected their suit, put it on and sat in the Loading Bay ready for take-off.

I explained that the gym was a now a galaxy and that they were free to try out their new spacesuits, and to explore as much as they could. They were instructed to watch out for asteroids, stars, planets and other Space Junk (since we didn’t want to damage the suits they were wearing). The group really got into this imagination game and it was so rewarding to see the excitement in their eyes. The Red astronauts explored the red lines, the Yellow astronauts had to keep to the yellow lines and so on. When the whistle blew and they came back to the Space Station, I even gave them a lesson on how to fold their pinnies so that other astronauts could enjoy them in the future. I stifled my giggles when one by one, each student gently placed their folded pinnie into the Space Bin and sat down. My mother would have been so proud to see me working in the concepts of teaching kids how to fold laundry!

Even though I felt that the lesson was interesting and engaging and one that I will definitely do again, it was the hand that shot up near the beginning that I was not prepared for. “My mom says that I’m not allowed to wear those things.” Two other hands shot up as well “My dad says that bugs live on those shirts and that we’re not supposed to touch them“. I didn’t know what to say. Thinking on my feet, somehow I tactfully acknowledged the authority of the parents and I’d never suggest that everyone HAD to wear them, but as I thought more about this, I was stumped. Is this really the direction that we’re headed?

I’m afraid we’ve created a culture that is overly sensitive to germs and obsessed with safety. Physical safety is something that all teachers stress (especially PE teachers) and I’m glad that we promote making good choices when it comes to anticipating accidents and things that could harm children. But where is the line drawn? I suppose pinnies could potentially carry icky bugs if they aren’t washed regularly. I get that. But telling your kids that they are never to wear them? C’mon.

Are we not to lend our classmate a pencil because it might come back with a virus? Should we not promote team sports for fear of that volleyballs and basketballs interact with many hands and that surely they aren’t sanitary enough for our own kids? Please. Surely we realize that germs are part of the school experience and that like it or not, we educate students in giant petri dishes all the time. Besides, I don’t think we want to revert back to organizing teams into Shirts & Skins – the P.E. practice that I grew up with.

Hand sanitizer is a good thing. Washing hands several times a day (especially during flu season) is a fantastic idea. I can buy the logic of not sharing hats. But saying no to Pinnies? This teacher thinks that’s overkill.


The hardest part of the Christmas gift exchange

23 11 2010

Most staff parties have them. You know, the Christmas gift exchange. Most often, someone will put all the names in a hat, you draw out the name of a coworker and you then become their “Secret Santa”.  And there’s rules! Sometimes the gifts must have a maximum amount, (“It’s the thought that counts, not the dollar amount“) and other times they are of the White Elephant variety (“We have so much already. Why should we go out and purchase more stuff that we really didn’t ask for in the first place?).

It’s fun. It’s light-hearted. It provides substance to an evening of laughter. Life is serious enough, right?

I’m not a Scrooge when it comes to these evenings, since I appreciate social times outside of the work atmosphere. But for me, the hardest part of the Christmas gift exchange can be summed up in the poster below:

I’m lamenting the fact that the symbols of Christmas have become the tree and the Visa bill. This year, I’m going to try to jump off the treadmill of gift expectations and instead to wave the banner of simplicity. Am I cheap? maybe, but in my mind this is a step in the right direction.

We Love to Be With the Ones We Love

17 11 2010

My sister-in-law emailed us the family itinerary recently. This wonderful family of three will be traveling here from San Jose for the Christmas holidays. Their plane will touch down on the 17th, they’ll rent a car, drive across the border into Canada and arrive to her hometown in time for the family festivities. Their son is just 4 months old and he gets to celebrate his first Christmas with us – woo-hoo!

Ever since Joseph and Mary packed their bags for Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus has caused people to hit the road. Interestingly, the Christmas trips we take have a lot in common with the maiden voyage of Jesus’ folks. We may not see shepherds in the middle of the night, but we have been known to bump into an in-law on the way to the kitchen. We don’t sleep in stables, but a living room full of sleeping-bagged nephews might smell like one. ‘Tis the season to be traveling! Nothing reveals the true character of family members like a long road trip.

Christmas Holiday travel isn’t easy – especially when you’re traveling with a baby. Then why do we do it? Why cram the trunks and endure the line-ups in the airport? I think you already know the answer: We love to be with the ones we love.

The five-year old that runs up the sidewalk into Grandpa’s arms. The cup of coffee with mom before the rest of the house awakes. Interlocking arms with your relatives around the dinner table. Pulling the Christmas crackers after dad gives thanks, and then having to wear those silly paper hats that come in a multitude of festive colours for the rest of the meal (maybe that’s just a Hagkull thing).

Why do we endure the hassle and the silly traditions? We love to be with the ones we love.

May I also remind you? So does God. How else would you explain what he did? Between us and a holy God was a great distance. He couldn’t stand it and so he did something about it. “Christ himself was like God in every way . . . but he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant” (Phil. 2:6,7). Why? Why did Jesus travel so far?

The God of the universe kicked against the wall of a womb, was born into the poverty of a peasant, and spent his first night in the feed trough of a cow. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).  The God of the universe left the glory of heaven and moved into our world. Who could have imagined he would do such a thing?

One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado tells a remarkable story of a love like this:

A man had been injured in a fire while attempting to save his parents from a burning house. He couldn’t get to them. They perished. His face was burned and disfigured. He mistakenly interpreted his pain as God’s punishment. The man wouldn’t let anyone see him – not even his wife.

She went to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, for help. He told the woman, not to worry. “I can restore his face.” The wife was unenthused. Her husband had repeatedly refused any help. She knew he would again.

Then why her visit? “I want you to disfigure my face so that I can be like him. If I can share in his pain, then maybe he will let me back into his life.”

Dr. Maltz was shocked. He denied her request, but was so moved by this woman’s love that he went to speak with her husband. Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he called loudly, “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.”

No response.

“Please come out. I want to talk to you.” Again, there was no answer.

Still speaking through the door, the Doctor told the man of his wife’s proposal. “She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face look like yours in the hope that you will let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn.

The way the woman felt for her husband is the way God feels about us. But He did more than make the offer. He took on our humanness and became like us. And when you look at the places he was willing to go – feed troughs, carpentry shops, cemeteries, and ultimately the cross – the places he went to reach us show how far he will go to love us.

He loves to be with the one He loves.

Together is Better

7 11 2010

There are lessons from the animal world which provide human beings with valuable insight.  On the heels of “We-Day” – a powerful movement that many students from Chilliwack Schools took part in earlier this month, I’ve been thinking lately a lot about the power of “we”. Many times in life, it is better to do things in groups rather than trying to accomplish tasks in isolation. There is strength in synergy. Cooperation is a fundamental skill that is taught in our homes and even in Pre-school and Kindergarten classes. As I’ve looked around, some of us get this principle and some of us simply don’t and the message of community is trumpeted in dozens of ways throughout the school years.  Even in the athletic realm, those who have played team sports have all heard the expression, “there’s no ‘I’ in team” (note: this is true, unless you spell it in French: “Equipe” definitely has the letter “I” in it).

Geese are the ultimate example of what community means. Here in the Fraser Valley, I’ve been noticing the flocks of Canada Geese heading south for the winter in their familiar V-formation. It was interesting for me to learn what science has discovered about why they fly that way. As each bird flaps is wings, it creates an uplift in the wind pattern for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, even two geese add at least a 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. For longevity and distance, together is better.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. Fascinating stuff.

When the lead goose gets tired, he (or she) rotates back into the wing and another goose flies upfront for his shift. Haven’t we all been through seasons where we need to rest and let others take over for a while? The animal kingdom has demonstrated this principle long before we implemented it.

Scientists also tell us that the reason why geese honk from behind is to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. It’s like the lead goose is hearing little encouragement messages from those in the back.

Finally, when one goose gets sick, other geese will fall out of formation and stay with the sick goose on the ground until he is able to fly again. Geese truly are the ultimate models of commitment. They are very particular in choosing a mate and when they do, it is for life. Some species of geese can live for 60 years. They remain committed together in good times and in bad. This is also a good visual picture of what it means to be committed to another when marriage vows are spoken.

Several classrooms I’ve been a part of have demonstrated a culture of commitment to each other. I’ve had tears to my eyes on occasion when I’ve seen this type of inclusion demonstrated on the playground, especially with those children who are visibly different. Selflessness is sometimes hard to find in a “me-first” world, but I’ve been impressed with the number of teachers who model the character trait of looking out for others. Letting others go first is not something that comes naturally to us, but I’ve seen this principle in action on several occasions in the school setting. This is so encouraging to me. Social changes are possible with proper modeling and instruction. I know this because one of the first words all children learn is the word: “mine”.

So kudos to the teachers that practically demonstrate the importance of community in their classrooms. Your tireless reminders are making an impact! Your affirming messages are making a difference! Your demonstrations of love and compassion will show up in the character traits of the emerging adults that you interact with every school day! Keep up the good work.