Practice makes perfect!

My son loves sports, but the only lessons he has taken so far have been the “life skills” sports that we think are necessary to know growing up: swimming and skating. Swimming seems obvious (we have family members with pools), but skating might seem less so. However, when the outdoor swimming months are equal to the outdoor skating months, it makes sense to give them equal (or almost equal)  time. So, from April to December J takes swimming lessons, and this year he took skating lessons from January to March.

One of my favourite things to see as a teacher and coach is the improvement that my students and players make as they practice a skill. As a parent, I am that much more invested and proud to see my kid work at something, listening to his instructor, and putting the principles he learns into practice.

Today we went skating as a family, and watching him get up from a fall without asking for help, shoot a puck with his little hockey stick, and get on and off the ice reminded me of how far he has come.

We’re a few lessons from the end of skating, but the strides he has taken have impressed me, and I’ll be sad to see the end of his learning. The good news, though, is that swimming starts the very next week, and the learning and skill-building will begin anew!


It’s a dog’s life

My brother texted me tonight, asking if there was a chance we’d be visiting them this summer. I hadn’t thought of it, but I started to look up flights and got excited, wondering why we hadn’t been planning this.

Then I remembered. We had agreed that our summer plans would be within driving distance and pet-friendly. Our reason? An adorable 12-year-old blonde named Brenna; our cocker spaniel wouldn’t be able to make a long trip, nor can we give her to anyone for a long period of time.

Dogs are wonderful. Some are more spoiled than others. Some do more for their humans than anyone would ever know. In her 9 years with us (she was 3 when we rescued her), Brenna has provided us with comfort and laughter in good times and bad.

Is it silly to plan vacations with the dog in mind? Maybe, but I’m happy to do it while we still can.


The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry (especially when a 4-year-old is involved).

For some, spring break is already a fleeting memory. For others, it’s just out of reach, hidden behind some piles of marking. For me, it started today; two wonderful weeks of doing not much, and definitely not too much.

After an unexpectedly busy day (see title cliche), tonight’s plan was simple: dinner, chill, dessert and a smidge of tv, bed. Tomorrow? Rinse and repeat! Pajama day for all of us: next stop, hibernation station!

So, speaking of pajamas…

We were heading up to get into jammies prior to ice cream – special treat! – and some Nature Cat. But 4 year old didn’t want to get into jammies because he was already comfy and he didn’t need to change.

No ice cream was had. No Nature Cat was watched. Plans changed. And I got a much-needed reminder that the less I plan for this break, the better, because little kids need flexibility. They need chill time and down time, and yes, even built-in tantrum time every once in a while. We all need a bit more flex time, so while my major plans (visit the grandmother, go to the dentist) are still in place, my number one goal is to not plan to much, so this March Break is truly a break from the crazy pace of our days. And I’m definitely going to eat some of that ice cream.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Mother of Invention, meet Mother Nature. I teach in Montreal, where we had close to 30cm of snow over 24 hours a couple of weeks ago. The city was bathed in white, and everything looked crisp and pristine. Plans continued for our school’s Winter Carnival. The Grade 10s stepped into their leadership role, embracing the opportunity.

Then the temperature rose to a record high. Then it poured until it seemed as though Noah would be cruising down the St. Lawrence River in the cutest little wooden boat you ever did see.

The snow melted. Grey dregs and mud were left behind. The temperature plummeted, vanquishing all hopes of the early spring those silly rodents promised us.

But Winter Carnival? Oh, it happened. We had hot chocolate and pancakes with syrup, and tire. There were games, and at the end (because this is how our girls roll), it became a bit of a dance party, with someone dj’ing on their iPhone. Was it outdoors in the snow? No. It was indoors, and we played dodgeball, and did name that tune and lots of other things that the Grade 10s came up with when it was clear Plan A was not going to happen. Flexibility takes you so far in life, and I was so proud of those kids (and my colleagues, who went along for the ride). Everyone had fun, house points were won, and winter — if only the end of it – was celebrated.

So that was today. Now to get the last sleep out of the way before March Break!

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Today, as my Grade 10s were reading Macbeth, I was scrolling through social media on my laptop (I know. It was wrong. Not the point.) and I saw that there had been a bomb threat at a nearby university. I sent an email to admin, then realized it was almost lunch, and made a phone call to suggest that we not allow our senior students to go out for lunch that day, as they sometimes go in the vicinity of the university.

Then, I went back to Macbeth.

18 years ago, I was in my first student teaching placement when the Columbine shooting happened. 28 years ago, I was a Grade 7 student when the Ecole Polytechnique massacre happened.

Today, I went back to Macbeth.

After lunch, I had my Grade 11s, the grade that was told they couldn’t leave the school for lunch. One of them walked in and – to no one in particular – said, “What a world.” When I asked her what she meant, she said, “The bomb threat. Who does that? What a world.”

So even though I think it’s bizarre that I have a personal history of “Where was I when x happened?” , and even though I think it’s weird that not one kid in my class freaked out when a bomb was mentioned (but good; freaking out doesn’t help anything), I’m glad that my students aren’t immune to school violence. I’m glad that even though it has been happening since before they were born, it is not normal to them, and they do not ignore it, and they do not brush it off. Because the day that a bomb in a university or a gun in a high school is normal, is the day that society becomes a complete and utter write-off.

(Despite all of this, I’m still glad that I stuck with my plan to be a teacher and didn’t, as my grandfather suggested on the day of the Columbine massacre “become a nun; it’s safer.” Thanks, Pa, but I’m pretty happy where I am.)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Not a cliche for this entry, but an oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) line by Wayne Gretzky. I once infamously and erroneously attributed this to Michael Jordan while giving my basketball team a pep talk, and I have yet to live it down.

Really, this sums up my feelings about coaching basketball perfectly. Growing up, our basketball season started when school did, and wrapped up by November, provided you make the playoffs. The league in which I now coach (in a different province) is much longer; tryouts start in October, you’re playing by November, and last year, I played a final on April 17. That’s over 6 months! Two reporting periods; one extended holiday, if not two; a couple of seasons…it’s long. And in my never-ending quest for balance, I always tell myself it’s my second-last season. Each cycle of players will be my final team.

And yet…I doubt it. I didn’t coach the year I taught at a French school, where teachers’ responsibilities rarely extend outside the classroom. I didn’t coach the year I went on maternity leave. And each time, I missed it. I missed the relationships that form between a coach and her players, because it is not the same as a teacher-student relationship. I have had more than one student tell me that they didn’t “know” me (and maybe even didn’t like me) until having me as a coach. Likewise, I have gained appreciation for kids on the court when they show sides of themselves that would never get to shine in a classroom.

So for me, those “shots you don’t take” are the seasons I don’t coach. I’ve coached for over a decade, so I know what I’m missing if I stop. I’m missing the team that goes 0-13 but charms every ref they meet with their determination, and yes, “sportsmanship”. I’m missing the team that gets better every game they play, until they’re in the finals when no one expected it. I’m missing the kid who never speaks in class, but is a leader on the court.

Will I stop when my son starts kindergarten? I might, because I know that missing things goes beyond the walls of school. But will it be permanent? Probably not. After all, if Michael Jordan says it, it must be true.


Strike While the Iron is Hot

… if you don’t put a new idea or theory into action within 48 hours, you probably won’t ever do it.

I think each post title will be a cliche. And just like that, I made it a tiny bit harder to blog every day. I can just picture myself trying to come up with a cliche that fits with what I want to say.

Today, however, the idea and the title came together. I really like to attend professional development (conferences, workshops, really long lunches with colleagues), a habit that was born and encouraged in my first (technically my second, but my first real, long-term) teaching job. It was at one of these PD sessions that I learned that if you don’t put a new idea or theory into action within 48 hours, you probably won’t ever do it. So, I heard about this challenge tonight (more on that later), my colleague started her blog, I started mine, and here I am, blogging.

The funny thing about that 48 hours stat is that I almost always find myself at these conferences at the worst possible time, like the end of term when report cards are due. I go back to school full of ideas, but can’t squeeze them in just yet. That is teaching in a nutshell; so many ideas, so little time.

I read a quote yesterday on Twitter (speaking of PD, Twitter is a vast source of professional knowledge) via @fryed that said “Teach less, learn more.” Somehow, some way, some day, I will make this my mantra. Why not strike while the iron is hot? Because teaching, the best teaching, the most off-the-cuff, “look how natural I am at this” teaching, takes so much time and preparation, and if I want to teach less and have my students learn more, I need to frontload a lot. So there’s March Break, and summer vacation, and then, ideally, I will start next year ready to embrace that mantra.

So what if I’m not striking while the iron is hot? Patience is a virtue — but that’s a cliche for another day.