Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Cut Above: What #StandWithJetta Teaches Us About Resillience and Anti-Bullying

By now most everyone has heard about the selfless act that 10 year-old Jetta made. She had 14 inches of her hair cut off to make wigs for children with cancer. What started out as an act of kindness turned into a bully fest. 

All About Jetta

Imagine the little girl at the center of this "feel good story", who was taken out of school for two weeks, because of the ignorance of some children, parents and ill-informed administration! As a teacher, I was appalled. For children to learn appropriate behaviour, parents and other adults need to model what is acceptable and what is not. 

I was nothing short of astonished when I heard that the principal wasn't doing anything to address the situation which was spiraling out of control. We've all heard the adage, "it comes from the top". It became very clear that something that should have been celebrated by all had turned into the ugliness known as bullying. 

Pat, before and after being bullied.

 Anti-Bullying Teachable Moment

I am an early childhood educator. When I was going to school, I had to do a practicum with children aged 6 to 13. The activity I chose taught about bullying. 

The children sat in a circle. Each child was asked to say something unkind about a paper doll named Pat, while crumpling it up. After each child had had a turn, I compared a second, pristine Pat and the Pat who had been "bullied". 'Pristine Pat is what Pat looked like when they came into school this morning,' I explained. 'They looked happy and healthy. Crumpled up Pat is what Pat looked like at the end of the day. That's what goes on inside when you're bullied. Your tummy gets in knots and it feels like the hatred has taken over who you are. It's hard to stand up tall'.

When I taught JK later that year, it became shockingly apparent that bullying was occurring even with the younger children. I took this same lesson, and with a few modifications, a teachable moment was born.

We talked about name calling, physical bullying and cyber bullying. A dialogue was building between parent and child, teacher and community. 

Missed Opportunity for a Teachable Moment

What ever happened to "catch a kid doing good"? Had Mr. Principal or a teacher given a shoutout to Jetta for doing something wonderful, be it on the announcements or in a school-wide memo sent home, this conversation about bullying would not have taken place. Instead of kids focusing on how Jetta's hair looked and becoming part of the mob mentality, they could have acknowledged the fact that she was 'special' and got a shoutout, and decided they wanted to support Wigs For Kids, too.

Much positivity has exploded since Jetta's mom started an anti-bullying Facebook page. As of today, 87,000+ people have liked the page. A t-shirt campaign, appearances on the local news, as well as a news show in the Netherlands, flowers from an admirer, and a message from a super model have all come Jetta's way. A beautiful act of generosity turned into an ugly situation, but now is beautiful again. Jetta is a role model for anyone who has ever been bullied.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saying Goodbye

It’s been about 2.5 months since I quit my job as an Early Childhood Educator. During this time I have reflected on my decision. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia last year. Let me say that it is comforting to know there’s a name to go along with the pain I was enduring every day. Chronic pain that defies you to try and live a normal life. It is like having someone in your face every minute of every day .You wake up ready to begin your day, when you are faced with the reality that pain has become your best friend. Simple things like showering and getting dressed and packing my things I never gave thought to.. Suddenly they took so much strength. You take pain-free moments for granted, when suddenly your back seizes. Your knee gives way, and the pain is swooshing through your body faster than a kid going down the playground slide.

I love children and so it was a natural progression to study for my E.C.E, part time, while working with children full time. It was during this period that my marriage broke up. Three years of night school and I graduated.

The 5 years I taught Junior Kindergarten were a freeing for me. I had an awesome working relationship with my co-worker. I developed bonds with the many children I worked with. Meeting the parents and developing a professional relationship with them was a facet of my job that I embraced.

Saying goodbye to being an ECE was something I had been mulling over, as fibromyalgia invaded my world more and more. I had a great run as a teacher, but now it was time to reinvent myself.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Who am I anyway?

I'm still trying to catch my breath. My identity was taken, but not in the way one might think.

For four years I was a Junior Kindergarten teacher. That all changed, on a cold and rainy Friday morning. It all seemed, surreal. The phone call. “You are not teaching Junior Kindergarten anymore, you won’t be teaching at all. You will be ‘floating’ between most of the classrooms, covering for teachers who are on break. We made some changes; starting Monday your shift is 9:45-5:45. Be there”. I hung up the phone, in a state of shock. I sat and stared. Quietly I got up, dressed and took a rolling bag with me to pack up all my teaching materials. Within 15 minutes, I was at my centre, and set eyes on the teacher who a short hour ago was my co teacher. Im not sure which of us looked more shell shocked, me or her. “I just found out”. “Me, too,” I reply.

In September we had embarked on our 5th year together, with the same enthusiasm and excitement that we felt with each new group of children. Nothing is ever perfect, there are always challenges and we faced them head on. I loved researching new and different approaches to teaching. Be the best you can be. If the kid is not learning, maybe we need to look at the method we are using and tweak it. This was one of the principles that I upheld.

Reflective analysis. If something was not going the way I wanted it to in class, then my co-teacher and I took time to discuss the issues. How could we make it better? I never attached blame to the child, or to the parent. Rather, I looked inward and analyzed the way in which I taught.

I truly felt that we- that I- was making a difference. The phone call, made me question myself. I had been a mom for 20 years when I went back to school to get my RECE. I not only embraced knowledge, I hungered for it.I did everything I could to be an amazing teacher.

I promised myself I would not cry today. I made good on that for about 5 minutes. I was overcome with emotion, when another colleague came over and said “I am so sorry. This is just wrong on so many levels”.

The weekend gave me time to think, and grieve. I gave into my sadness, the emptiness that I felt within me.

Monday, I went in to comfort my former co teacher as she too was left reeling. No answers. Not even so much as a “thank you, you are a floater”. Through out the day, I drifted in and out of classrooms, talking to parents and teachers. I was pretty certain I had my act together, when the 6th parent came in and said what is going on? I do not know.

What is left resonating in my mind, is what my ex-co-teacher said to me: “They are wasting your talent having you go in and out of classrooms giving break and dropping off snack. It would be like forcing Picasso to only paint fences. What would Picasso do?”

What would Picasso do?

Friday, July 19, 2013