Finish Line

student teacher sfu pdp

My last official day on campus as a student teacher

Almost three years ago now, in October 2013, I sat in a classroom in the Education Building at Simon Fraser University. I was there because I was starting to seriously think about going back to school to become a teacher and they were having an info session. I sat in a room with a bunch of people, most (but not all) of them much younger than me. As I listened I sketched out a plan of what would be required and how long it would take and I realized it would be almost three years. Three! Years! That felt like a really, really long time. That alone almost put me off the idea.

But it didn’t.

It didn’t put me off because of that little voice in my brain that has been there for as long as I can remember. The voice I have been ignoring since I was 15 years old. The voice I suppressed through the end of high school and engineering school and years of work and family. The voice I ignored because I wanted a solid, well-paying, prestigious career. The voice that said I was meant to be a teacher.

Oh, sure, there were moments along the way. Moments when I was discouraged and disaffected and starting surfing the Internet reading about prerequisites for my teaching degree. But always those moments passed and I sucked it up and moved on. Until one day, when my son was in kindergarten and I knew I needed more. As I spent more and more time thinking about it, I got more and more serious. I attended the info session. I talked to my husband. I ran the budget numbers. And then, finally, I made the leap and applied to go back to school.

Along the way I committed to taking things slowly. Embarking on a new career as a mom with two kids and a mortgage and all that stuff is a much different proposition than embarking on a new career as a twentysomething with no responsibilities. I had to be sure. I had to really know.

And so I took classes to get all the prerequisites I needed to apply. I volunteered in a local middle school. I spent time in the Faculty of Education. And then, once I applied and actually started I considered and re-considered at every step along the way. After all, spending a semester in school and then dropping out might feel like a waste oftime and energy and money, but it’s much less of a waste of time and energy and money than spending a year and finishing and maybe even working for a bit and discovering that you really hate teaching.

Fortunately throughout the journey one thing has rung true: I love teaching. School was stressful and difficult and time-consuming. I was occasionally extremely discouraged. I wasn’t sure I would make it through. But even on my worst day that faded when I was actually in the classroom with my students. When I was teaching I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I finally really fit.

I didn’t get here alone. My professors, my sponsor teachers, my fellow student teachers, my friends, my husband and my children all supported me. I am immensely grateful. I am especially grateful to my kids who had to put up with the fact I had very little time and energy for them, and that I was often not at my best. My hope is that by watching me go through this they have learned something themselves, about setting goals and following through and not being afraid to try new things.

All of my classes are finished now, and all of my marks are in. I’m officially done. Pending approval from the University Senate and the Teacher Regulation Branch, I am a teacher. I have been hired as a substitute teacher in two school districts, and I am looking forward to being in the classroom this fall. It feels great to be here.

Three years ago this moment felt impossibly far away. But now that I’m here, I can’t believe it’s already over. I guess time flies when you’re doing what you were always meant to do.

The Joys of Napping

My children have never been nappers. They both gave it up promptly right around their second birthdays and didn’t look back. This didn’t surprise me, because my mother always said I wasn’t a napper, either. By all reports I gave it up around the same age that my kids did, and the only time I ever slept during daylight hours after that was when I was sick.

When I had newborns I heard the same advice every new mother hears – sleep when the baby sleeps. I just rolled my eyes. I couldn’t possibly sleep during the day. I would just have to go to bed early and hope for the best. And for the most part it worked. On bad days I sucked it up and repeated the mantra this too shall pass in my head, and fortunately there weren’t too many bad days.

In recent months, however, things have changed. It’s hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s advancing age. Perhaps it’s befriending a couple of committed nappers. Perhaps it’s letting go of my identity of a non-napper and discovering that it was only ever a story I told myself. Perhaps being back at school finally made me tired enough that I needed to nap. Whatever the reason, though, I have become a napper. And it’s wonderful.

nappingThere’s something so indulgent about sinking into bed at 3:15 in the afternoon and sleeping. 15 or 20 minutes of dozing makes me feel like a new person in a way that few other things can. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t do it every day, of course. Life has a way of interfering with sleep, whether it’s daytime or nighttime. We’ve all been in that place where we struggle (and fail) to get the bare minimum of rest we need. On those days when I can give in and nap, though, it transforms me and leaves me feeling happy and relaxed and taken care of.

They say it’s the little things in life. I agree. A nice meal. Holding your child’s hand. The way the world smells after a spring rain. And a good nap.

During my time as a student teacher I spent a lot of time discussing and thinking about how to meet students’ needs. None of us are at our best when we’re tired or hungry or hurt or we’ve just had a fight with a family member. Kids are no different. If we actually want them to learn, it’s not enough to come up with a list of math questions. You need to create the right conditions for learning.

And yet, as adults, we don’t do this for ourselves. Or, at least, we do it all too rarely. It took me almost four decades, for instance, to figure out that a nap is a good thing. And so I wonder – how would things be different if we actually took care for ourselves? Not in a judgy, don’t eat sugar kind of a way, but in a genuine take 15 minutes for yourself kind of way. I think that a little more of that could really make the world a better place. We might not be in school anymore, but everything is better when we’re not exhausted. Right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I could use a nap.

Celebrating my Roots

Tomorrow is a holiday here in British Columbia. The first Monday in August is officially BC Day – a date that was chosen both to give everyone a chance to get out and have some fun at the height of summer, and to commemorate the formation of the Colony of British Columbia on August 2, 1858.

My family celebrated a little bit early today. We joined some friends for a picnic at the lake. And while the water was more than just a little cold, my husband, daughter and I braved it. I made it in up to my armpits, while my daughter made it up to her neck and my husband dunked himself. We’re made of hardy stuff, we Canadians. Although, to be fair, we British Columbians are generally less accustomed to cold temperatures than the rest of the country.

bc day buntzen lake

We had an extra reason to celebrate as well – as you may recall my son Jacob broke his arm on Father’s Day. His cast came off on Friday. Things are looking up!

As if all that isn’t enough, this isn’t the only celebration we’ve enjoyed recently. July was book-ended by long weekends. We kicked it all off with Canada Day on July 1st. This is a month of honouring our roots as Canadians and British Columbians.

We have a lot to be proud of. While my family was off eating and enjoying the lake, Vancouver was celebrating Pride. Justin Trudeau became the first sitting Prime Minister to march in the Pride Parade, and my Instagram feed was full of photos of him pushing a stroller with his sleeping child. We may have gotten our start as a British colony, but we are now a very diverse country, and I love the ways that we celebrate that. My favourite may be the 44 special citizenship ceremonies held on Canada Day to welcome new Canadians, but it’s all good. We don’t all have to look the same, love the same or be the same to join together and do great things. Or, you know, just have a party.

bc day buntzen lake

Our increasing diversity isn’t the only way that things have changed since the province and country were founded. One of the things that I can’t help but notice when I’m driving around these days is our thriving TV and movie industry. It literally feels like there’s some kind of filming going on every three feet. One of my favourite things when I’m watching TV is spotting a local landmark and realizing it was filmed here.

Some of my favourite shows are shot right here in Vancouver. The one that I’m watching on Netflix right now is Supernatural – I’ve been binging and I just started season 6. I’m honestly not sure how I missed this one for so long given my affection for creepy shows that are filmed locally. My first love, of course, is The X-Files and I’m thrilled that has just been added to Netflix as well. I’m adding that to my list to re-watch once I’m finished with school (next week!). And while it’s not creepy, I have been enjoying watching the locally-filmed Once Upon a Time from the beginning with my daughter on Netflix as well.

And while he’s not local, Russell Peters is the funniest person ever. Of course, he’s Canadian.

bc day buntzen lake

I live in a beautiful place, and my roots here are deep. I’m thrilled to be raising my children here. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that people from all over the world would come here to build a life. Or that studios would come here to film. As I watched families of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds out grilling and throwing frisbees and laughing and eating today, I saw once again just how special my little corner of the world really is.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Feeling all the Feels

My daughter Hannah is 11 years old now. She is increasingly responsible, increasingly independent, increasingly smart and increasingly tall. (Seriously! The kid grew a quarter inch in a week.) She is not a little girl anymore.

Hannah cooks now, and frequently makes Kraft Dinner for herself and her dad. Her dad feels like he’s got it made.

Hannah bakes now, and makes cookies for everyone. I feel like I’ve got it made.

feelings tweens growing up

Hannah and me

But growing up is hard. So hard. Anyone over the age of six can tell you so. Oh, how well I remember feeling conflicted and scared and just plain overwhelmed. 11 year old girls feel all the feels. My daughter is no different.

The good news is that having a tween is just plain awesome. Watching someone turn from a kid into a grown-up is really freaking cool. Knowing that I have had a hand in the creation of this fabulous person? Even cooler. Of course, Hannah is her own person, and I am just her mom. But still, I am her mom, and she is great, and that is amazing.

The other good news is that I love this age. I taught grade 6/7 during my student teaching practicum, and volunteered in a grade 6/7 classroom all of last year, and I enjoyed my students so much. They are energetic and thoughtful and constantly learning. They are becoming their own people and experimenting and testing their limits. I had the best conversations with my students, and now I am having the best conversations with my daughter.

One of the catalysts for great conversations is the things Hannah watches on TV. Often, after sitting down and watching a movie or TV show, Hannah will talk to me about what she saw and what she thinks. It’s a way for us to share our thoughts and for me to follow my daughter’s conversational lead. From emotions, to relationships, to puberty, to getting enough sleep, we have had a lot of great talks thanks to Netflix.

The best conversations, I think, have been inspired by Inside Out, which is all about feelings. It’s the perfect tween viewing. Hannah has also been watching old episodes of Once Upon a Time, which has led to some good conversations about fairness and whether people really are good and evil. Both are available on Netflix in Canada.

In my community, middle school starts in grade 6. In September, Hannah will be heading to a new school, making new friends and testing her wings a little further. She is excited and scared. So am I. But I have faith that she can figure this out, because she’s a pretty amazing person. And I know that I will be here to talk through it all, whatever happens.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Me + 40

You guys, today I turned 40 years old.

40. Years. Old.

It sounds significant to me because I’m entering a new decade of my life. But also because I remember my mom turning 40. I remember my mother-in-law turning 40, for Pete’s sake. I had already been dating her son for two years at the time. Yes, Jon and I were young, but still.

birthday selfie 40Looking back over the past few years, it seems that I celebrated my birthdays by making lists of what I would do at 35, 36, 37 and 38. And then last year I marked the occasion by making a list of what I would not do at 39. Ironically, I did many of the things I said I would not. For instance my hair is significantly longer than it was at this time last year and I started writing in a journal when I said I would not grow my hair out or start journaling. So I’m not much better at honouring slacker non-goals than aspirational actual goals.

Luckily, I’m also old enough to not really care anymore.

I spent my 30s in the trenches of motherhood. On my 30th birthday I had a one-year-old. In the past 10 years I birthed a second baby, left my engineering job, changed a lot of diapers, worked at home as a freelance writer, agonized over childcare, and found my calling. There was a lot of soul-searching, a lot of time spent doing things for other people, and a lot of waiting for the right timing.

While I’m having some existential angst at being officially middle-aged, this birthday is also celebratory for me. I’m wrapping up my teaching degree and applying for jobs. I have an interview next week. If my 30s were about babies and laying groundwork, my 40s are shaping up to be about enjoying the fruits of all that labour. I worked hard. My kids are now two really cool people who can do lots of things for themselves. I have more time to do the things I want to do. And I am realizing my goal of becoming a teacher, which makes me so very happy.

It feels good to be able to look back on the past year – and the past decade – and see how far I’ve come. It also feels good to be excited about where I am going next.

This is me at 40. I am happy to be here.

Why I Love Being a Teacher

My student teaching journey has rounded a corner. It feels good.

student teacher whistleMy practicum is over (and I miss my students so much). My final reports have been signed off on. My portfolio is complete. My job applications are submitted to the school districts I most want to work in. I am registered for summer classes and excited about the opportunity to learn about environmental education in particular. And now? Now I wait. While I wait I’m playing with my kids, working in my garden, catching up on reading (both professional and personal), and looking forward to graduating this fall and being a bona fide teacher.

Over the past few months in my grade 6/7 classroom I learned a lot about what it means to be a teacher. The good news is that my experiences solidified my decision to pursue this new career. When I am in the classroom working with students I feel like I fit. Teaching is awesome and I feel so privileged to be starting out in this field. What makes it awesome? Type A personality that I am, I made a list.

Things I Love About Teaching

  • Hanging out with kids every day
  • Blowing my students’ minds (subtracting negative integers, anyone?)
  • Hearing insights from students that blow my mind
  • Making art – and seeing my students make much better art
  • Playing dodgeball and badminton and California kickball
  • Having a whistle and a desk bell
  • Introducing children to great books
  • Getting to know families and neighbourhoods and communities
  • Watching a student work and work and finally just get it
  • Creating hands-on science activities, or, to put it another way, letting my students mix colours together in test tubes in a way that they actually learn something
  • Throwing class parties
  • Honouring the uniqueness in everyone
  • Bonding with my students, and watching them bond with each other
  • Helping kids to talk through problems and find solutions
  • Field trips!
  • Working with other members of the educational community who constantly inspire me
  • Watching my students assume leadership roles and excel in the broader school community
  • The funny things kids sometimes write or say
  • Marking math tests (yes, I actually do love this)
  • Sharing the amazing work that my students are doing with their parents
  • Welcoming newcomers to Canada
  • Choosing cool assignments
  • Throwing away the lesson plan and getting together for a rich class discussion on the carpet

student teacherstudent teacher
 
There is so much more I can say. So much. But right now I have books to read and TV shows to watch and weeds to pull. Break time is sweet, indeed.

Spring Breakdown

March has been a month of highs and lows for me. I experienced some of the most stressful days of my life, when I was trying to balance the busiest parts of being a student teacher with still being a passable mom and not entirely losing myself in the process. There were family outings to pick up ski passes for next year and do some sledding on a snow-covered mountain. There were family get togethers and dinners with friends and date nights with my husband. There was lots and lots of Easter chocolate. And there were mornings relaxing on the couch watching Supernatural on Netflix and giving my brain a break in the midst of writing my final report.

There were times when I thought I totally couldn’t do this and I should just give up, and times when I felt on top of the world and proud of everything I had accomplished.

And there was a lot of drinking tea, because that is just how I roll.

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

The end is in sight on this whole student teaching thing. I still have four months of schoolwork left to do over the summer, but the hardest part is almost over. I am pretty proud of myself. I am even more proud of my students. They are more awesome than chocolate ice cream.

I am also proud of my own two kids. They have been very patient with me. While I engaged in some benign neglect, and they watched lots of TV (Pokemon is an especial favourite right now), I got a lot done. My hope is that the example I’m setting of pursuing a goal and following my heart and always learning offsets the time I’m spending in school. Fingers crossed, it will all be good in the end.

This has been a month with some really great moments, and some really hard moments. Some really busy moments and some moments when I collapsed in total exhaustion. I think maybe that’s how you know it was actually a month when you really lived. You were just too wrapped up in each and every moment to really stop and think. That was my March.

My practicum wraps up on April 8, and my semester finishes on April 15. And then some other big things happen in the few weeks before school starts again. My husband and I will celebrate our 25 year dating anniversary. I will turn 40 (yes, we were babies when we got together). I will start looking for a job. And I will finally have the time to check out the new Fuller House series on Netflix. Full House was my top secret guilty pleasure when I was 13, and I am the exact same age as Candace Cameron, so I am anticipating that this will be right up my alley.

Priorities? I have them.

I hope your March was great. What have you been up to lately?

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

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