16 12 2010

As a Teacher-On-Call, I have the privilege of meeting hundreds of new students every couple of weeks. As a Prep teacher who moves around from class to class each block, sometimes it’s hundreds of faces every day. Today was one such day.

Being a relational individual, I find that it can be difficult to get to know someone in a 40-minute time span, knowing that when the buzzer rings, POOF! I leave one class for another group of unfamiliar faces. As TOCs though, that’s what we do – we specialize in meeting the immediate needs of students we’ve never met while being fully aware that deep relationships will probably simply have to wait.

I had an unusual encounter with a grade six boy in the computer lab today that bucked the trend. “Colton” was sitting next to me working on an assignment and we began to chat. It began with him having trouble logging in. He didn’t have a password since he was a new student that arrived to the school this week. As we got that settled, he told me that he had learning problems because he “didn’t eat right” (his phrase). I wasn’t sure what that meant and when I asked him, he replied, “My mom didn’t feed me properly. She told me that I wasn’t supposed to be born.” It’s as if the laser gun was set on “stun”. I didn’t know what to say and so I didn’t say anything.

Colton didn’t make eye contact with me, but opened up some more, telling me that he had been to 3 different schools since he left his home in Alberta on November 1. “Did you know that if you don’t sleep properly, you’ll get a cold?” he asked me, still looking ahead at the monitor. “That’s what I’ve been told” I nodded. He went on to tell me that it was his dreams that were keeping him up at night. He kept dreaming about the bad times in Alberta where his mom didn’t treat him like everyone else. “My mom treats me rude. It was difficult for me. I’m kinda used to it. My dad got remarried and I have a new mom now. I’m really happy.” Colton turned and smiled at me for the first time. Somehow I think the smile I returned to him made him feel extra special.

It’s hard to remain “professional” when as a dad, I can recognize a child’s need for a hug a mile away. Ten minutes later, I was on to my next class and I didn’t see him again. His candid conversation with me today was an intense reminder that many of our students come from backgrounds that leave us asking how so many kids turn out as well as they do, given the climate they grow up in. Colton’s story isn’t necessarily abnormal, but it is unique, and as teachers we need to be prepared each day to give what we can in the moments we have to the students who need it most. This day, Colton desperately needed the listening ear of an unfamiliar adult he could trust. In that sense, it was a pleasure to be his teacher today.


Piano Lessons (and the importance of Christmas)

10 12 2010

When I was six years old, my family had a piano given to us. It was a dusty old thing that was hopelessly out of tune, but for my brother and I, it was fun to hash out TV themes and easy-to-learn, one-fingered melodies.  Shortly thereafter, my mother signed me up for piano lessons. Now,  other parents enroll their youngsters and watch them excel at the keyboard. Not me. Spending thirty minutes each afternoon sitting on a piano bench felt like a torture (just one level away from stepping on broken glass!).

My experiences were like Max Lucado’s. He wrote, “Some of the music, though, I learned to enjoy. I hammered the staccatos. I belabored the crescendos. The thundering finishes I kettle-drummed. But there was one instruction in the music I could never obey to my teacher’s satisfaction: The rest. The zigzagged command to do nothing. Nothing! What sense does that make? Why sit at the piano and pause when you can pound?” (from his book,  The applause of Heaven)

My teacher Mrs. Stoffels would patiently explain such an answer, “Because music is always sweeter after a rest.”

It didn’t make sense to me at that age. But now, a few decades later, the words ring with wisdom-divine wisdom. To truly appreciate the good life God has given us, we must slow down.

In the same way, to truly enjoy the Christmas season, we have to pause, rest, and like Mary, spend some unhurried time meditating on this incredible Savior of ours. This Christmas, let’s make the most of the precious time we have.

The day I became my son’s teacher

4 12 2010

One of the wonderful things about being a Teacher-On-Call is that every day a new experience awaits. New faces, new routines, new schedules and of course new schools.

In the month or so that I’ve been in this role, I usually find out my assignment before my boys wake up. Since the call comes almost every day, their first question to me has subtly shifted from, “Did they call you today?” to “Where are you going today, Dad?“.  I’ve made this into a bit of a game by responding the same way each time with a grin:

I’m off to ______ today, but I’m one day closer to coming to your school!

My youngest son, Ben and I on my first day as a teacher at Cheam Elementary

Like many siblings, my boys are quite different in their personalities, with one thinking that having his dad as a teacher would be pretty cool and the other . . . well, not so much.

Earlier this week, (when the sun was still hiding) the much anticipated call arrived and the day finally came when I was told that I was going in for a teacher at Cheam Elementary. Since this would be my first assignment there, I wondered what my boy’s first-time response would be. It was my other son who actually broke the news to his little bro’:

C: “Ben, did you hear where dad is going today?

B: “Where?

C: “To Cheam

I didn’t get to see his face, but the expression in his voice gave it away. “Really? Serious? That’s awesome!” Since mornings are not especially kind to this particular son, his getting ready routine that day was somewhat more pleasant than we’re accustomed to. It was even more rewarding for me to see him handle the questions he got from others at school:

What’s your dad doing here?

Ben’s smile and pride gave it away. “Oh, he’s a teacher now. Cool, huh?

This dad thinks so.

Earlier in the month, I was a teacher in my niece, Jasmine's room. (She was so excited, she could hardly contain herself!)