Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our Hero

Pie: We went for the Terry Fox Walk today!

Hubby: Do you know who Terry Fox is?

Pie: He runned and runned and runned and runned, but then his neck started hurting, and he had to take medicine ... and then he died.

Bub: I think it was from drinking the medicine!

Pie: Or maybe it was because of all that running he did.

Bub: But wait. He was running so that other people wouldn't have to get sick. That's why he's a hero.

Pie: Yeah. He's our hero.

Monday, September 21, 2009


...A bit too long for a tweet, not quite long enough for a post.

  • Pie came up to me on the weekend looking disgruntled. "I don't have anything I want to do," she said slowly, searching for the right words to capture this peculiar emotion, "and I want you to think of something for me to do." There is a word in the English language that we use for this situation. And I did not tell her what it was.

  • When I came downstairs for breakfast this morning, Bub had something to show me. "It's my loose tooth!" he announced, holding it out proudly. "But the tooth fairy didn't come." I exchanged glances with hubby, aghast, assuming that he had forgotten to tell me Bub's tooth had fallen out. In fact, it came out last night after Bub was in bed, so he popped it under the pillow and was a bit surprised (though not at all upset) to find it still there this morning.

  • I went out for coffee yesterday with a woman whose oldest son is one year behind Bub in school. She has two younger sons at home in addition to her kindergartener, and though I realized she was younger than I am, I was startled to find out that she is 22 years old. She had her first baby when she was seventeen and married his father two years later. The problem, she explained, is that she has absolutely no peer group. The other happily married moms of preschoolers are all in their thirties, or at least late twenties, and the other moms her age don't have husbands or three children. And it will always be this way. When she's 35 and her kids are in high-school, she still won't have any age peers in a similar situation. That would suck. And I can sympathize with her situation, but the fact remains that I was sixteen years old when she was born.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pride and Joy

I am acutely aware, sometimes, of just how much mental real estate is taken up by worry and anxiety over Bub. Before his first day of Grade One last week, I was counting down the days with equal parts excitement and dread. Pie's first day of junior kindergarten, on the other hand, snuck up on me, lost in the shuffle of her first days in her new day-care situation and my first day of classes. I actually had to remind myself last night that she would be going to kindergarten today, and I would have completely forgotten about her special apple dress if she hadn't remembered for me.

It's not entirely my fault. Friday is a silly day for a first day of school, and with Pie's first day falling a full ten days after Bub's, I just haven't been able to sustain the excitement. Those factors aside, though, the real issue here is that I know Pie is going to be fine. She's a shy girl, and in a new situation she is inclined to appear silent and morose. But she's not anxious or unhappy while in that state: she just prefers to keep a careful eye on things from the sidelines. I've never had a single complaint about her behaviour from other caregivers - she reserves her angry, controlling, bossy, and tantrum-throwing behaviour for me. She has had a year to watch her brother go off to kindergarten and she knows the drill. She is ready for this. She will be fine.

So it was almost an afterthought this morning when I snapped these few photos:

Portrait of a four-year-old who is TOTALLY READY for junior kindergarten.

Who is that matronly woman between a concerned Bub and a momentarily clingy Pie?

Portrait of a four-year-old who has located her best friend and is TOTALLY GOING TO BE FINE.

I don't have a portrait of that matronly woman SOBBING all the way home while singing along with Madonna's "Like a Prayer" on the radio. But I'm pretty sure she was crying because she's just so happy and proud.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Technological Divide

With university classes set to begin next week, I visited my new classroom yesterday, a soaring cathedral-like space with stained-glass windows and a balcony. For the first time in almost ten years, I will be teaching in a large lecture theatre, so I wanted to scope out the space ahead of time. I had Pie run to the back of the room to test out the acoustics, which were perfect: a four-year-old's murmur carries effortlessly. I'm hoping that will allow me to speak without a microphone - I hate using microphones almost as much as I hate PowerPoint, overhead projectors, and even whiteboards. My classroom, I noted with pleasure, comes equipped with a good old-fashioned chalkboard.

I have sound pedagogical reasons for avoiding technology in the classroom: the darkness alone has a soporific effect and although my students would love more movie clips, I have found that five minutes of video footage have the power to erase whatever impression the students' reading may have made on them. Even if the whole point of the movie clip is to show the profound alteration of meaning produced by a few apparently superficial changes, in the end, students always write about the movie on the exam, thinking they're writing about the book.

My defense of low-tech teaching is well worked-out, but the truth is, I avoid technology in the classroom because I'm afraid of it. I like the security of knowing that everything I need for my lecture is printed out in black and white, securely fastened to my clipboard. The idea of fumbling about with rewind buttons and remote controls in front of an impatient audience of 200 students is enough to make me panic. I got an email a few minutes ago letting me know that my classroom has a video-data projector and a USB port, and it's enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.

Luckily for Bub, his Grade One teacher is a bit less technophobic. On the way home from his first day of school yesterday he actually volunteered the information that the board in his class is a computer board, and when you touch it, the pictures move, and when the teacher types into the computer, the words go up on the board! Bub is enchanted. They had math class yesterday with numbers floating down the screen and the kids had to decide whether they were even or odd. When quizzed, Bub demonstrated no ability whatsoever to distinguish between even and odd numbers (and how do you even explain that concept to children who don't yet know how to multiply or divide?), but he is more excited about school than I had dreamed possible based on my own recollection of Grade One as a lot of sitting around in desks and doing work. If there is one way to get Bub interested in school, it is turning the whole thing into a giant computer.

This boy loves to learn.

I have been imagining the first day of school for months now, picturing a cool, sunny September morning, with children and parents crowded around the class lists posted in the schoolyard and Bub kitted out in his running shoes and backpack, ready for his first day. For once, it all played out exactly as I had pictured it. Bub stood at the front of the line, following his new teacher into the school without hesitation or a backward glance. After the students filed in and the doors closed behind them, Pie and I stood there for a minute in the sudden quiet, as if waiting for something else to happen. Next week, it will be Pie's turn, but for now, the two of us are rattling around the house on our own, enjoying these last few days of relaxation, but asking every so often, in a burst of curiosity, "I wonder what Bub is doing?" He has stepped into a world that is his now. I can peek into his classroom and do my best to figure out what goes on in there, but from now on, most of what I know about his world will be what he chooses to tell me.