The “No” Girl: A Balancing Act

Meaghan and I decided that this year, along with our reestablished commitment to blogging with our authentic voice(s), we needed to figure out where we were at on our own personal blogging and teaching journeys.

My personal challenge this year will be to remain a “no” girl.  That is, I vow to say NO to most things asked of me.  No thank-you, I won’t coach that team. No sorry, I probably won’t make it to that extra-curricular planning meeting.  And, no, I won’t go in to school on weekends.  Let me be clear in saying that almost always I ask and expect myself to do these things.  I am a pleaser, a doer and somewhat of an extremist so if a colleague or my administration asks extra of me this year of course I will professionally consider doing the work, but not before weighing in how the “extra” will impact my family life.  Saying “no” is going to be my secret to balancing work and life this year. Thankfully I have my almost-two-year-old to remind me (quite often) how exactly to say it…noooooooo!

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I dabbled with this “just say no!” work/life balance strategy last year a little bit, but I wasn’t entirely successful because I was still an academic teacher who had just come off an excellent year of maternity leave.  I felt stuck as the “do it all” type of teacher that I am, while having a tiny daughter at home to care for.  Mad props to all you working parents. I learned a lot last year and even though I taught and was paid for .6 FTE (three full days a week) I actually worked full time (3+ hours per night at home after my daughter went to bed, even on my days off). Somehow I still managed to exercise and read for pleasure. I don’t want to cram all this in anymore; it isn’t a truly pleasant way to live, to be honest.  When exercising starts to feel like a chore, I know I’ve gone down a slippery slope.

This year, and years in the future, will be different.  After a lot of thinking and debating I have decided to say NO to the classroom for a few years. Instead I’ve chosen to delve back in to the amazing, exciting and fun world of being an exploratory teacher.  A few weeks ago I was offered a (part-time) continuing contract teaching middle school dance and drama and I immediately accepted the offer.  For me, this contract will allow me space.  Space to be the mama I want to be to my incredible toddler.  Space to exercise well. Space to cook and plan healthy meals.  Space to spend time with my family.  And space to take a dance class of my own!  While being an exploratory teacher is no joke (we teach every single student in the school over the course of the year!) teaching dance/drama will totally alleviate the workload because for me teaching dance is second nature.  The sheer joy I find in (teaching) dance can not be matched.  This part-time continuing contract is an incredible gift to me and I plan to do great things with it.  I’ll be working in a school that has never had an established dance program (that I know of), so one could say I am essentially starting from scratch!  While being an exploratory teacher will not be the duration of my entire teaching career, it definitely will play a prominent role for the next five years or so.  I am so excited to see what these next years have in store!

I am in my final year of my 20s and I’m finally learning to say NO to most things so that I can say YES to the things I actually want to do.  Heck, maybe I AM getting wiser with age!

Karley

Guest Post: Parent~Teacher~Student

I’m so excited to introduce our very first guest blogger here on Tale of Two Teachers: Paul Abra, from Island Parent Magazine. Paul was a teacher and administrator before becoming publisher of Island Parent Magazine. (He also happens to be Meaghan’s dad!) His post is to share his experience about the parent role with school from his perspective as both a parent and an educator. This is a hot topic as we are kicking off the new school year and both kids and parents are adjusting to the new routines of a different class and teacher. Everyone has their roles in a child’s education but when it comes to a parent’s presence at school, how much is too much? Here’s what he has to say:

Parents need to let go sometimes and especially in schools. Too often, parents want to know everything that’s going on in their child’s day. In the words of parent educator, Barbara Colorosa, these are the helicopter parents, hovering over their child’s every minute and every move. Does this actually teach the child anything about independence and growing up as a self reliant individual? With Mom and Dad controlling every move including trying to choose the teacher and friends, the child is stifled and not prepared for the real world of life.

Schools are sometimes the first instance where children have an opportunity to experience some independence and growth. As parents, our job is to help our children become more independent and self-sufficient, our job is to start to let go. We still need to have rules and boundaries in place but we also need to let our children have space to grow and develop as individuals. Parents need to place trust in teachers, coaches and other adults, to provide their children with mentors and role models beyond the parent.

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Source: Unearthed Comics

We want to hear from parents and teachers:

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Teachers – How much parent involvement is wanted in your classroom?

Parents – What are some ways you have found to help yourself let go and let other adults take on important roles in your child’s life?

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Speaking Up

I ran into a friend today who is also the parent of a child that used to come to one of my recreation programs frequently. For the sake of anonymity I’m going to call the child Sarah and the parent Michelle. All views expressed in this post are my own and in no way related to the families, communities or schools – just general thoughts on an important matter.

I hadn’t seen Michelle in months when I ran into her this afternoon so it was nice to randomly bump into her. We covered the usual catching up comments – “How’s your summer?” and so on. When I asked about her daughter Sarah something changed in her voice and my stomach sank with worry. Sarah had attended a new school this year and I had heard through the grapevine that things have been tough but nothing could have prepared me for the stories Michelle told me today. Not only were things not going well at school, but the bullying she was experiencing had carried over onto the internet… And it was awful! I was shocked by some of the things that had been said about Sarah online but even more shocked to hear who they came from, some other kids that I have known relatively well throughout the years.

Yes, I’m a teacher. Yes, I’ve heard a lot about cyberbullying. Yes, I’ve read the copious amounts of blog posts, news articles and the like about the topic. But no, I didn’t realize quite how much it would hurt when it was happening to someone in my life.

What I wasn’t prepared for today was the sinking feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could do in the situation. Watching Michelle cry, giving her a hug, telling her I was willing to help in anyway that I could… it felt like nothing. When she talked about the worry of suicide and self harm that often comes with this type of bullying I could see the grief in her eyes and I felt it too. I’m not a mother, the best I can do is imagine what kind of pain that must be to feel your child go through something so horrible – and imagining it hurts me deeply.

When will this stop? We can no longer blame Facebook or Twitter or whatever other social media fad comes next. Social media is here to stay and really, that’s not the problem anyways. The problem isn’t that people have anonymity online. The problem isn’t that schools can’t control the external environment. The problem isn’t that children have too much freedom on the computer.

The problem is that for some reason we have lost what it means to be caring and empathetic. We can’t seem to remember that the person on the other side of that comment/photo/video is a real human being. We have lost the respect for one another and seemingly the ability to accept each others’ differences.

And it is literally killing our youth.

Let’s stand up and speak out…

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Teachers – This is a real issue and saying that we can’t control what happens outside of the classroom isn’t good enough. We need to talk about it, we need to share the information, and we need to teach our students how to respect one another. We need to model appropriate behaviour and show students what respect looks like each and every day.

Parents – Remember that it is easy for kids to get wrapped up in the drama of being a pre-teen or teen and that may mean that a child forgets about the consequences of his or her words/actions. Remind them about the power they have to be a friend to those who need one. Remind them that they have a choice to make when it comes to how they act towards their peers at school, home or online.

As Karley would say, “We don’t all have to be friends, but we do have to be friendly.” And this doesn’t stop when children leave the school or the house. It doesn’t stop when a child signs onto an online profile. And quite frankly, it doesn’t stop when we become adults. It is true that in this world of technology it can be easy to hide behind anonymity, but what doesn’t make sense to me is that anonymity turns us into cruel, hurtful, and malicious people.

Let’s speak up about love, kindness and empathy. If we practice this and teach our children to practice this we can create a better world and a safer world.

Please share what you think we can do.

What are your school and district policies on cyberbullying? Are they effective?

Meaghan