Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trade Off

Technical education has for too long been relegated to the back of school buildings and slowly starved of funding save for some creative PAC's who have stepped up to buy some equipment. Which by the way is only eligible to events that occur outside of the curriculum (under the false assumption our education system is adequately funded by Government).  

Many shops sit idle and dusty for lack of funding.  Where they still exist shop class has become a convenient place to place those students struggling in other areas so the old stigma of "shops for dummies" persists and many parents would rather mortgage the house for a university placement than allow their child to do a trade. 

You've been hearing a lot about trades as this government seems hell bent on delivering qualified trades to its LNG masters.

But here's the thing folks......

Creating Post Secondary Trades seats at a University as was announced this week is little help.

If Trades isn't an integral and integrated part of the education system from a young age our children simply don't see it as a relevant or viable choice for further study.

Nor are their minds trained in things technical.

My husband is a Technical (Shop) Teacher and he has a mechanical and mathematical mind...he can see how a block of wood can become a spoon, how pieces of metal can be welded together to be strong, how to connect wires to make a circuit, program a robot to actually move.  All these things baffle my mind.  My brain has not been stretched to  think in these ways.   Naturally my husband thinks I, and all the kids in his school, can be taught these things.

He also believes I could learn physics.  Bless the eternal optimism of teachers! 

What he does know is that by the time he gets to introduce these technical skills (basic building blocks towards those prized trades) to students in Grade 8 in high school it is very challenging for many of them who have not had to connect their smart brains to their hands.

As an Early Childhood Instructor I spend not an insignificant amount of time teaching our students how to help children develop eye-hand coordination. And then when we send them to school those skills are used for writing and baseball?

While all Grade 8 students are given a tiny taste of the technical education offerings in a school (a few weeks at most) many never return.

And why is that?

Because for the most part the technical areas of the school "The Shops" are not a place any of us would want to spend much time. Often too small, dimly lit, with machines that are old and noisy, full of dust and improper ventilation.  Not spaces conducive to creative and technical learning.

And let’s talk about the teacher.  The Technical Teacher program at BCIT is in decline.  Why?  Because Districts saddled with funding Tech Ed are wary of expanding these programs.  They are costly to run and heavy on resources.  In our district there are hardly any Tech TOC's and not much hope of attracting more.

What we need are natural teachers who want to teach technical skills instead of approaching trades and luring them into the classroom...the salary alone would be sufficient deterrent not to mention those pesky kids!

Of course there are some amazingly dedicated Specialist Tech Ed Teachers doing innovative work with matchsticks and tin foil....and managing to engage bright kids and keep the ones with behavioural and other issues from losing limbs.  Like their colleagues they spend hours allowing kids to be in the shops after school to tinker and build and practice and sometimes just be there because it’s better than being anywhere else.

And so the massive disconnect here is clear.  The Government talks up trades and minimally delivers post-secondary trades education but does not fund the very building blocks the people filling those seats will need…..well-resourced shops and shop teachers.

It's time for Ms. Clarke to come clean and tell her LNG cronies that she hasn't been in a "shop" in a BC high school for decades and has no idea how her precious trades people are being incubated...or not...

Tech Ed needs to start young, be integrated into all school from early grades and properly funded or sometime soon when you call a plumber in the dead of winter because your hot water tank has blown all you will hear is a dial tone and that LNG plant we've staked our economic future on..... yeah....its closed due to lack of skilled labour.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Last first day

As cliched as it sounds it feels like just yesterday she and her curly mop of hair and too big back pack
were off to kindergarten.

(The day the out of school care program tried to drop her at the wrong school and she refused to get off the bus...and opened her too big backpack and took out the paper I had put there for just such an eventuality....When retelling this story she said.... "when they read the paper Mom they said a bad word and drove very fast to my school"... I was livid but I see it's funny in hindsight.....and it was every bit an indication of what the school system should have been prepared for!).

Anyway.... back to now.

Because now is so hard to believe.

Now that spunky beautiful girl (who has learned to tame the curls) is walking to her last first day of school.

What a journey it has been and with what grace and courage she has faced the many battles and challenges thrown her way and overcome them one by one.  Each time learning a little more about herself, about friendship and loyalty, about learning and studying, about her support team.

Some memorable moments and memorable teachers..... some days we'd both rather forget.

But here we are....months from a graduation ceremony she may be more ready for than I am....but still a race to be run until the finish line can be breasted with a triumphant fist pump... that is the goal.

It's a tall order, it's going to be a very busy year and the support team is going to have to be there to love first and then hold her accountable to her work, help her navigate work and school
and sports and social stuff, keep her focused on the prize, hold her hand when the going gets tough and give her room to find her way through it all.

Lindsay Erin Elizabeth...... we love you, we believe in you, we are already proud of who you are.

Go get 'em Grad of 2015!

And lets not forget the Grade 10 boy we have on our hands....

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Well then

Here I am sitting outside in the warm Sunday sunshine at the end (finally) of this summer of our discontent.

This summer that was unnecessarily extended in a fight for our children's education.

A fight that has delivered some gains but mostly left the unacceptable status quo and ever looming threats over public education in British Columbia.

As disappointing as the deal was it felt like a massive rock rolled off my chest when Jim Iker announced the 86% yes vote by teachers.

This girl does not do limbo well.

And after too many weeks of not knowing what was happening for everyone in my family on a day to day basis...I was done!

I needed to breathe easy again..... to know that what passes for "normal" around these parts would return.

That the other 50% of our family income would also return!

And so here we are....."normal" just around the corner.

Back to school shopping on a limited budget done.

Lindsay's grad year about to begin.......

I want to thank YOU!

Thank you for enduring with me.  For listening.  For loving.  For your personal activism on this issue. For checking in, for caring, for generosity, for hospitality, for prayers.

We have reconnected with friends and colleagues,  stood together, talked together and eaten together.

A new sense of community.

A new sense that many people are awakened to the trouble our education system is in and remains in.

A sense that people understand the work of teachers a little better.

Hope that the depression and anxiety of the picket line will be overcome by the enthusiasm and optimism our kids bring back to the classroom tomorrow.  That parents and students will express their gratitude in real and tangible ways - my two students are writing thank you cards to their teachers at this moment - a tiny gesture that will hopefully bring a smile to a teacher tomorrow.

I am glad the roller coaster ride of Summer 2014 is over and look forward to Fall 2014 gently embracing us. (Even if has to be with showers).

My weary heart is ever grateful for what is gained even in the hard times.  Special love to my own family who were courageous and understanding and loving even on the down days.....the hard days....who stood together, united and loving.

Team rock!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Of Protests and Parenting

This wasn't exactly the first protest my children have attended.

But two things were different.

They made their own choice to come.

They are no longer passive protesters.

Gone are the days they sat in their strollers or in baby carriers and just came along for the ride....or the days when they knew the chants but not the issue.

I will never forget the day David's caregiver took me aside at pick up and gravely told me he had been saying something inappropriate in the block corner.  I was concerned and asked what he had been saying, while quickly running an inventory of bad words he MAY have heard.  She leaned in and whispered in my ear .... "He was saying  Hey hey, ho, ho, Gordon Campbell's got to go!".  I tried to look concerned but really I was cheering that little dude on in my heart. We left quickly while I could still pull off looking concerned. (Gordon Campbell was then Liberal Premier of the day).

Today that same boy came with us to the protest downtown.  He is fully apprised of the issues at hand...he has read all the documents....probably more than I have.

So when a small group arrived just behind us to protest against the teachers union and accuse the union of using the children as "pawns" David was offended a) at the lack of understanding being displayed and b) at being called a pawn.
Lindsay and her French teacher

He looked at me and said "I am not a pawn" .  I said "Then go tell them that"

And then nearly died as he walked towards some very angry adults all wearing surgical masks covering their faces.

Allan and I were rooted to our spots with our eyes firmly trained on David and ready to close the distance between us in a second.

He said his piece and returned.  No less angry.

A while later those adults got a bit rough with others and the police showed up to monitor the situation.

We continued to listen to the speeches and keep an eye on the distraction behind us but when some McMath teaches who had been standing with us (and giving a quick french language refresher to Lindsay while they were there - it looks like you can kick the teacher out of the classroom but you cannot take the teach out of the teacher!) had to leave and gave us their signs David took off to add his physical presence to the sidewalk protest and give voice to his point of view as a student (not a pawn:).  I wandered over and stayed close-ish as I wasn't feeling like these angry adults were to be trusted even though the police remained close at hand.

I was SO proud to hear him so clearly articulating the situation and refuting every fact hurled back at him. He finally got a small group around him who were backing him up and telling the screaming adults to "listen to the kid".

Eventually I grabbed his hand and we walked away.  There was nothing to accomplish by staying in the melee a small group were making and distracting from the thousands gathered peacefully.

I felt scared and proud and conflicted all at the same time watching him.

Over breakfast we discussed all that had happened....all that was said.  And as the news reports of the overwhelmingly peaceful and joyful event were characterized as violent and confrontational by one particular news source that is remarkably biased to one side of this situation...our ever perceptive daughter remarked. "so even the media can be bought...what does that mean for democracy?".

And so as another tumultuous day in this labour unrest has unfolded I reflect that our teens are thoughtful and smart and compassionate and passionate and while they may be missing valuable time in school they have learned (or re-learned) some valuable lessons about government and law and unions and community and compromise and media and justice and democracy in a way no text book could ever have taught them.

Still no end in sight...... another "No School Monday".

Thursday, September 11, 2014


If you are only going to have one vacation day in a summer....... you best make it wonderful.


We wrung every moment out of the day....

We drove into sunrise and back into sunset

In between we had a great roadtrip there and back with requisite bad but good food....and car snacks.

We drove the winding road to the-lake-that-must-remain-nameless in early morning light and through patches of low lying fog...beautiful, green, eerie.

Lindsay had us in stitches of laughter with her smart mouth.  

We arrived at the lake while the dew was still heavy on the ground, the mist on the lake and the sun slowly creeping over the mountains.

We set up camp and the boys hit the lake in the canoe as fast as they could. 

Lindsay and I took a little walk, had a little snack, read a bit of our magazines, cuddled Spanner.....

Then I headed out in the kayak.

Why oh why don't I kayak more often?  To be so low on the water, water so clear you can see the bottom, to slowly glide close to a loon before it notices you and without a sound dives under the water...... to paddle through a still, deep pool perfectly reflecting the trees and sky, to hear something and try not to panic.....and then to see it...a beaver...munching on a tree 6 feet away, to see an otter playing in the water up ahead..and to round the corner and see two handsome fishermen, to watch Allan fly his element......

It. was. perfect.

I left the boys and paddled back to camp marveling at majestic mountains and a stunning lake..... right on the 49th parallel.....

The boys came back for lunch which was the perfect picnic especially after a good paddle in the fresh air.

The wind started to pick up and Allan headed out solo with Lindsay yakking beside him for a while but soon enough the kids and I were cuddled in sleeping bags resting while the wind howled..... it literally blew the tent down.

We packed up and just as we did the triumphant fisherman returned.

We have wanted to test Spanner in the canoe for a while so we took the opportunity and he did very well.....not quite a fisherdog yet but getting closer.

And so we wound our way down the mountain and back home, sleepy kids in the back, via coffee....

We unpacked and we were in bed by 9:30 - a very happy tired....

One day......but so much more!

PS: See that line in the trees on the far side of the lake?  That is the official 49th parallel - the border between Canada and "them".....

Check out this video - its fascinating.....
Canada Border line

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I am off on vacation tomorrow.

Just for tomorrow.

But I am VERY excited!

Allan is dealing with this current "situation" by going fishing.

A lot.

And every time he comes back tanned and relaxed, rejuventated.

So when he announced a mid week fishing trip .....

I said

"That's it..... I am crashing that fishing trip."

So we all are.

Even Spanner.

Yes - chocolate covered peanuts!
We will get up well before dawn and drive 3 hours east to an undisclosed destination (fishermen never tell) and then Lindsay and I and Spanner will find a spot on the shoreline and set up our day camp while the boys paddle away to fish.

The sausages are bbq'd, the potato salad chilling, the cooler ready, the snacks packed, the kindle charged, the boats on the roof of the truck.

I will maybe kayak a bit, read a magazine from cover to cover, snack, nap, walk the dog, put my toes in the water, sit in the sun and marvel at the mountains and the lake, snap a photo...... CHILL OUT!

And then when the fishing is done and the sun sinks we will drive 3 hours home.

Road trip, lake getaway.....sunshine, my family......Yippee!

And that will be my one day vacay.

 I am SO excited!

(and you thought this was going to be another miserable post didn't you?)

Monday, September 8, 2014


I am having a hard time  blogging just at the moment.

I have much to say about the current debacle in Education in BC but feel that is being done more eloquently by others with more time and less emotion (and swear words) than I could do it.

I am also tired.  Tired of reading about it,  defending my family, correcting misinformation (There is NO $3000/5 yr massages on the bargaining table!), engaging the online trolls, being ignored by my MLA, listening to people in the Starbucks line up bash teachers.....

So I'd rather blog about other things in my life.

Yup.  Well ...... truth is this battle feels like it IS my life right now.

Sure I have's been super busy and a bit tough at times but no one in my shoes is going to complain about work.

And life goes on.... soccer is started......but......that is all that is started.

We had groupon concert tickets but even going to that with dear, uncomplicated and understanding friends felt like swimming through molasses.......

I think what is happening is that we have lost our rhythm.

Nothing is really making sense right now.

We should be back in the school year swing of things.

Except we aren't.

And I lurch day to day hoping for good news, scanning the news for signs this dispute is moving.

And every time there is a glimmer of hope it is snuffed out within hours.

Allan and I are struggling not to feel bleak.

Last Friday we were pretty low.  We hung out - drove kids to soccer and work and just tried to not be down.

I went to bed on Friday in that trap of hopelessness and inaction.

But Saturday morning I was determined to lift my family up and into action.

Over a most delicious frittata I proposed we start Solidarity Sunday Suppers for all our teacher and support worker friends affected by this mess.

They were in.  They know from a certain tone in my voice that it would be futile to argue.... "Moms on a Mission".  I love them for going along with my harebrained plans.

And last night a group of us gathered at fairly short notice to just be together and lift one another up, tell some stories, laugh, eat played..... Spanner behaved..... the sun was still shining ....and it was lovely.

We Byres spent a few hours cleaning the house together and prepping the backyard..... I love it when we work together like that....with tea and cookie breaks.....everyone doing their part.  And who doesn't love a clean house!

My family is so great.

We are going to do this Solidarity Sunday Supper thing until the strike ends, the freezer is empty..... maybe we'll keep on doing it even then...... because solidarity and community will win.... no matter what the powers that be finally mete out to our kids and teachers.....we will take these connections and relationships from Solidarity Suppers as a victory in spite of them.

Join us...... message me or FB me..... we need to stick together.

And so just when my energy and hope felt all out I was renewed enough to get back on the activism trail and send some more emails, have a couple more conversations (No teachers are not collecting EI or getting strike pay), rile up a couple trolls.....

We need to get these kids back to school and the teachers back to work.  We won't give up our constitutional rights or theirs to do it but we continue to hope and pray someone sees the light and does the right thing.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Grateful Dammit

  I am going to write a list of things I am grateful for today.

Not because I feel grateful.

Or happy.

But because I need to beat back the creeping darkness in my mind.

I will choose to dwell on other things.....the good things that ARE there...... that happen to ME.......

Because I need to remind myself.

Today I am grateful for:

1.  A beautiful drive to work with low lying fog and an orange sunrise.  I let myself marvel at it.

2. A job (for obvious reasons).  And that I get to back to my messy office soon.

3.  The ability (divinely bestowed) to remain calm in the face of a baseless verbal attack. And deliver a few great comebacks.  "So you registered for an Infant/Toddler program and you're offended there are infants?"

4.  Fiercely protecting "my" kids from political photo opps....... cut a ribbon folks but don't mess with my kids who are settling in and doing their best to cope.

5. Coffee

6. Chocolate ( and the ability to stop at two because remember those talking pants? well they are chattering again) but its ok because

7.  Walking in the sun to Jazzercise.  My second workout this week after nearly a month away.  Feels great and I am ever grateful to Janice for her support and cheer leading......she got me back on the dance floor and those pants better look out!

8.  Beautiful flowers on my desk after brutal back to back meetings.....from a friend who loves me.  And I love her.

9.  Reading This beautiful and celebratory blog from a faraway friend.... go read her stuff.....its great and she wrote words I needed to hear today.

10.  Coffee

11. Going to the farm to get my CSA there anything more grounding than talking about vegetables with a farmer....?

12.  Sunshine is back

13.  Safe return of my fisherman who is also doing battle with the darkness.

14.  Coming to terms with the fact that I need a break from work.  Soon.  The world will go on.

15.  Leftovers for dinner.

16.  Managing not to shed a tear today although there seems to be a very full reservoir behind my eyes.

17. A heartfelt dinner invitation sent with love.

18.  Successfully printing out my groupon tickets for Barenaked Ladies (There will be naked goods after all).

19.  Actually getting back to this blog..... allowing myself to find my voice again.....

20., friends, a waggy brown puppy...... and a great reminder in the shower (where all good thoughts originate) that its time to put my hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water.....and trust that this stormy sea is for a season and my job is to keep my hand in His and keep on walking.

Walk on friends....walk on.