Eating Humble Pie and Learning to Love the Taste!

This past weekend while at school I was reminded that I need to be humble while in class. I was shouting out answers and cutting people off because I was so passionate about my point of view in education. I wasn’t being respectful of my classmate’s experiences and knowledge. It was an eye opening experience. Humble is defined as having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. I definitely did not have that on Saturday.

By nature I am normally a humble person who is supportive of fostering confidence in others, but on Saturday, I was as arrogant as one could be. I was answering a question on how important it is to differentiate for all students especially English Language Learners. I felt strongly since I work directly with this type of student; I was extremely pretentious and rude as I answered. I started off with “this is my 9-5 job and I know exactly what kind of services you will have in your school….” Who is this person and why did she have to be that way? I am embarrassed I acted that way. It’s not normally me.

Why is being a humble person important to me? Well, I guess it comes from the fact that I just try to live my life without splashing my life in front of other people. I find it annoying when I surrounded by people who feel the need to splash their fancy lifestyle. Am I jealous of what they have, yes maybe for a moment in time but then I remember all the things I am blessed with. I try very hard no to get wrapped up in the envious behaviours; “why do they get to go on so many vacations, why do they get nice things all the time, why did they get the job over me, why can’t I go to that conference/show/seminar/camp?” Living in that negative frame of mind would kill anyone’s hopes and dreams for the future; reminding myself that I have many things in my life that others could be envious of too. I just need to keep remembering to be confident in my knowledge and humble enough not to throw it in other people’s faces.



Success, What Does it Look Like to You?

050DB8E4-09A1-4A29-9E21-685E4FBFF8BDSUCCESS, what on earth does that look like these days? I have heard this phrases more and more over the last couple of years and I’ve often wondered what it looks like now Since more and more millennials are entering the workforce and the “real world” we can no longer measure success based on the principles set out decades ago.

In my parent’s generation, The Baby Boomers, success was defined as, graduating from high school, possibly graduating from a postsecondary institution, entering the workforce, getting married, buying a forever house, and starting a family. A successful life was measured by the life stages you were able to complete on your own or with your spouse. The measure of success was rather standard as not many people broke the mold. There was a clear expectation for everyone to get a job, get married and have kids; if you didn’t follow this predetermined path you were consider eccentric.

In my brother’s generation, Generation X, success was typically measured by graduating high school, generally graduating  from a postsecondary institution, landing a forever job, working hard at that job, getting married, buying a starter home and starting a family. As a generation these individuals are hard workers, pragmatic, independent and resourceful. I would say that my brother is all of these things and more. He had to make hard choices at the beginning of his career, but ultimately it has paid off for him. Success to a Gen X’er is often associated with having your life under control and being able to support yourself without your parent’s help. Breaking the predetermined mold as a Gen X’er was and is more widely accepted as society becomes more and more inclusive.

In my generation, The Millennial generation, success is a varying term because as a generation we don’t generally enjoy being placed in boxes. Most millennials have graduated from high school, graduated from a postsecondary institution (maybe 2-3 in some cases), maybe working 1 great paying job (most likely working 2-3 part time jobs), living in a rental or a starter home, possibly married or living with a partner or living alone or still living with their parents, starting a family or have decided not to have kids. The idea of having a big house, a well paying job, 2 kids and a pet is just not a thing that every millennial wants or has.

Millennials have also gotten the reputation that they want everything and they want it right now. They feel entitled to certain things in life; avocado toast anyone? I would say that this is very true but also there are millenials that are not like this.

I would argue that as a millenial myself I can not define SUCCESS the way my parents or my brother did. I would say that I have already obtained a level of success. I do not own a home, I only have a small portion of permanent employment, I do not have a husband nor do I have kids. My measure of success is the following: I have a nice apartment that I rent on my own and have for 7 years, I have a steady job although it is not fully permanent my contract gets renewed every year, I have a meaningful relationship with someone I love and maybe one day in the future I will get married and have a kid. I have done all of these things on my own, with limited support from my mother. I was taught from a very early age to be as independent as I could be and to always ask for guidance when I felt I needed it. I have never ever asked to be bailed out of a poor choice, I have always preserved to work it out on my own.

I have every reason in the world to curl up and not want to be a successful member of society, but I chose a long time ago that wasn’t what I wanted. I have always wanted to give back to the community that helped me through many difficult situations. For a long time after my dad passed away I was told that I could take the easy road and always state that I lost him young; people would feel sorry for me and go out of their way to help me get whatever I wanted. I refuse to do that. Why should I be treated any different just because a horrible thing happen to me when I was 16 years old. I have been told that my resiliency is a rarity at my age. The simple fact that as a millennial, I have picked up traits that my parents’ generation cherished and thus breaking out of the millennial stereotype.

So when it comes to measuring SUCCESS it should always be individualized. It should be measured using obtainable factors in that person’s life. It is not about comparing and it is certainly not about shaming someone about what they cannot have. What do you think SUCCESS is? What parameters would you use to measure your own SUCCESS? Would you fall into comparing yourself to someone else? Would your parents judge you for your decisions? Would you change them to conform or make life easier? These are all hard questions to ask and even harder to answer.

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

— Winston S. Churchill


The Shift of Extra Support in the Classroom

pexels-photo-256428.jpegAs many people know I am currently working as an Educational Assistant within the English as a Second Language department in a local school board. I often face this question: “what do you mean support is to stay in the classroom?” It can be so frustrating to answer that question all day every day for a month as you settle into new schools. Here are some thoughts on how I deal with this common question.

About 3 years ago I joined the ESL department and began to travel around my city. I was assigned 5 schools and an approximate total of 50 students. I’d like to add that as an ESL EA I am often confused with being a teacher and this can cause further confusion when that school, teacher or student has historically been pulled out of class for support. When I joined the department there was a large push to place ESL support within the classroom. This meant that classroom teachers would then need to provide work and guidance to the ESL EA. At one point in my first month of this job I could cut the awkwardness with a knife. A few teachers I have worked with felt as if I was a nuisance enough to say that their student did not need support anymore, which was not true.

I can totally understand that it must be intimidating on some level to have an extra person in your classroom. I can imagine that it feels like there are unwanted eyes on you making sure you are doing your job and students’ needs are being met. As an ESL EA I am not in a classroom to spy, I’m only there to support the students who have been identified as needing ESL support and to help the classroom teacher out too. It is very rare to find an academic supporting role for an EA in any school board these days. My hope is that teachers really hold on to the fact that hey have extra academic support when I am in their class which is so valuable considering where the focus of support in schools is now solely for Health and Safety. As someone who spent 3 plus years running after students, ninja-ing my way out of scuffles with students and signing a tonne of safety plans that never worked, I know that I was looking for something more in my future.

The classroom dynamic has changed dramatically, more often there is at least 25% of your students are on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). You might have a student who is on a modified program and has significant learning challenges, may or may not have support from an EA, ECE, Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) or a volunteer. This student may or may not have a behaviour or safety plan and if they have a safety plan that often means they can escalate to the point where they could injury staff, students and/or themselves. EAs have become the staff members who intervene in these violent situations. Often students come to school with very little information about what has happened at home, what they ate for breakfast (if they even ate) and how they slept. All of this can factor into how many expectations educators place on that student that day.

It all boils down to the fact that most schools are under staffed when it comes to EAs. The boards sometimes expect 1 EA to be able to serve a school population of 300 students; it’s impossible! Now I am aware that there are specific allocation requirements that go into staffing decisions but when an EA is going into a school where they are the only person trained to deal with potentially violent students there’s a problem. Anyone who works in a school should be required to take the board required training.

There have been endless articles and Facebook posts about how Educational Assistants and Teachers are becoming injured in schools because the schools are not equipped for students who would normally have been admitted into a specialized program in the past. There are limited school alternatives that each board has with a correlating limited number of spots. Some schools are simply not able to give what the student needs with respect to supports. Integration always sounds like a great option but sometimes it just doesn’t work and students end up regressing. People are getting hurt because the placement for the student just isn’t working out.

So when you read Facebook and someone has posted that an Educational Assistant, Early Childhood Educator, Teacher, or other staff has been injured because a student had a violent outburst it doesn’t mean that student viciously attacked everyone they possibly could. It usually means that they did not have the right placement, the appropriate supports, a dedicated staff member to facilitate their specialized program, etc… No child/student comes to school wanting to hurt people, there is always an underlying issue that hasn’t been addressed. It not about the one student it’s always about what does that school need for all of its students to be successful.

Just food for thought…..always say YES to extra support, ALWAYS!!!!!

How young is too young for school?

So after a friend published their very first blog entry I thought that I would get back to blogging myself. My ideas for this blog have only changed slightly as I have spent a lot of time lately reading about various things. I intend to write about what is happening in my life, career, family and anything else I feel is important to share.

I have always been extremely passionate about certain hot topics in education. The first one I am going to tackle is the practise of Full Day Kindergarten and 3 year old JKs. Here is some insight from a person who has spent a fair bit of time sitting a little chair at a little table in many Kindergarten classes.

The World of Education has changed dramatically since I entered in my Kindergarten year (1990). You had to be either turn 5 if you had a fall birthday (September 1st to December 31st) or already 5 if your birthday fell from January 1st to August 31st to even be enrolled in school. Also we only went every other day for full days. We had carpet instruction where we learned as a group or were pulled during free play time to work with our teacher. We had limited free play time in the class and also had 3 different recess times where we were outside or in the gym playing sports. We sat at tables to do our writing, art and reading. We only had 19 other children in our classes and only 1 teacher. It was a great life!!!!

Now, many kids start school at 3 years of age for Junior Kindergarten and struggle because they did not have that extra year at home. They have a hard time with being at school for 5 full days without an opportunity for a nap. These children who have later birthdays are the youngest students in their classes. They can sometimes lack the physical and emotional maturity to thrive in their class. This could be potentially detrimental to those young souls, but not every 3 year old that enters JK is going to fall into this category. Some JKs are ready to be at school and thrive.

Some parents combat this by keeping their kids home one or two days a week; I can empathize and understand this choice but how does that set the child up for success? Well it offers them the chance to catch up on some sleep, which will help them grow and mature over time. This also sets them up for success if they have a routine of when they go to school and when they are home. Some parents opt for half days and some parents keep their children home for all of their JK year. The government mandates that a child MUST be registered for Grade 1 unless special arrangements have been made so keeping your 3 year old home for a year would be completely fine.

Just to play devil’s advocate here, if a parent decides to keep a child home for their JK year, the child could have significant challenges with successfully integrating into the school routine. The Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program in Ontario is a Play-Based Learning Model which provides invitations to investigate, discover, learn and master certain skills. This model was developed specifically to allow the younger students to develop skills that they need to become more independent like their older Kindergarten peers. There are of course certain drawbacks to this program too. There are up to 30 students in a class and 1 teacher and 1 Early Childhood Educator (ECE). The FDK program has allowed the school boards to hire ECEs which is great because they are specialized in childhood development up to including 6 years of age.

In the end deciding whether parents should enroll their children in JK is a personal and individual choice. For too long the parents have judged educators and educators have judged parents for certain choices. I think it is a family’s choice as to when they start their wee souls at school. Parents need to do what is best for their 3 year old’s wellbeing.

Alphonso, C. (2017, March 7 of The Globe and Mail). Kids with late birthdays can wait a year for kindergarten if needed.



MJ was here….

As this weekend approaches the only person I can think of is my sister. Mary Jane would have been turning 29 on November 25. I miss her so much, but I am reminded of her strength and loving personality every time I walk into a school and help a child/student. This past Thursday I was supplying at the school I will be working at. I was in a class with children who have little to no verbal communication. One little girl reminded so much of MJ. I had to take a second to realize that it wasn’t her. I never thought that I would be reminded of MJ at school, but I guess she’s going to follow me my entire career, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I hope that she will sit on my shoulder everyday that I am in a school working with kids and gently (not that’s gently) guide me. I hope to be as good of an EA as some of my sister’s.

As I move towards the 28th of November I will be remembering all the good times Mary Jane and I shared and how much I am honoured to have been her sister, even if it was only for 20 years. She taught me how to persevere through the hard times and how to live and enjoy the good times. I will always miss her but I know that her spirit lives on inside of me and will show whenever I help a student understand something.

I hereby dedicate this week to be Mary Jane Holmes week, in my life.
Always laugh, always smile and always sing!

Love you and miss you!

So it’s all good in the hood

So at work today on of the customers towards the end of my box office shift said the expression “it’s all good in the hood.” I laughed with her. I found it so funny, not only because today was busy and I barely had time to think, but because right now in my life everything is going well. The expression fits my life right now. I have waited so long to finally be beginning a career in education. I am doing well with tutoring and finally have a position at a fantastic school in Milton. Everything feels good.

Let’s bring back a little of the 80s!

For Good Lyrics

So as I unpack my stuff in my new apartment I find myself listening to the Wicked soundtrack. There is one song in-particular that always seems to make me stop and sing along. It’s the song “For Good.” It’s the point in the musical where the 2 main characters acknowledge that their friendship has helped them grow as individuals. I guess this song resonates with me because many of my close friends have helped me through so much and the song reminds me of that. I have put the lyrics here.

(Elphaba) I’m limited
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
For both of us – now it’s up to you…

(Glinda) I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba) It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

(Glinda) Because I knew you

(Both) I have been changed for good

(Elphaba) And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the thing I’ve done you blame me for

(Glinda) But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

(Both) And none of it seems to matter anymore

(Glinda) Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

(Elphaba) Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

(Both) Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

(Glinda) And because I knew you…

(Elphaba) Because I knew you…

(Both) Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.

Musical Soundtracks are my Therapy

After having the weird week I’ve had it was nice to just sit in my kitchen and listen to the soundtracks from Les Miserables, RENT and Wicked. Just listening to those lyrics help ground me. It may sound super lame, but honestly the lyrics have a way of just soothing my frustration, fear and sadness. It so hard for me to not have any direction right now as I’ve had a life plan since I was 10 and right now my plan is somewhat blank.

“No day but today” is my anthem for this period right now. I need to just be happy with what I do today and not worry about what is coming tomorrow. I only have to take things day by day. I just have to remember that jobs will come and I just have to be patient. I also need to remember that my friends have lives and they can’t be at my beck and call. I need to be okay with being by myself.

“One day more” is such a powerful anthem. About 2 months ago I watched Les Mes on PBS and it was amazing. It makes me want to see it in a theatre the next time I go to NYC. It’s an anthem for everyone who is in limbo and just wanting something to fight for. Every time I see or hear the music from this musical I begin to tear; it’s so inspirational. One of the many reasons I love musicals.

“Defying gravity” and “for good” have to be my absolute favourites from any musical (they’re from Wicked). They again are an anthem for young adults. I always to do great things with my life and listening to these songs make me think that I can do anything I set my mind to (yah I know that’s corny). I always shout the lyrics to these songs and they were both covered by Glee! If you have never heard of them please listen to them.

I feel that every single person should experience at least on musical in their life. I only know a few people who hate musicals but most people love them. Who doesn’t love Mary Poppins, I’ll shoot you if you say you do because it’s one of my favourites along with the Wizard of Oz.

Anyways the point is go and see or rent a musical; it’ll change your life or at the very least it’ll entertain you for a few hours. Just give it a try!

So this is the beginning

So as I sit in my current living room I just keep thinking about my near future. Almost everyone I know right now has either a job or is going back to school in 2 weeks. Then there’s me; no job and no school. I have never felt so lost. I have applied to so many jobs and now all I can do is wait and waiting is getting so boring.

I just finished my summer job 3 days ago and it was the one of the most stressful summer jobs I have had. It almost killed me until I spoke to a good friend who told me that it is not worth letting the job stress you out when the reasons for stress are not in my control. I sometimes need to be reminded of this multiple times over the course of that 6 week job. The organization was crazy and definitely tested my strength, tolerance and patience. I am still in disbelief about how that organization is run but I can’t deny that I loved meeting the groups and staff that I worked with. I also would not rule out that I just might try to come back next year. I haven’t made up my mind yet and I think that since I would already know how things are run and I might be able to handle it better next year.

My job uncertainty is so hard to take. I thought that by applying to a school board back in April would have already led to an interview by now. It’s so frustrating to think that they may not call until October.

I have come to the realization that I am going to try to pursue an overseas volunteer opportunity. I really want to give back and in an international setting. I especially would love the opportunity to go to South America. i really want to learn more Spanish.

Blah, the one thing I just keep coming back to is something that my father told me as a young girl: “Sheila, I think that there are big plans for you. I think that you will help so many people in your life that your heart may burst.” I just want that to start. I really want to start my Educational Assistant career and do some volunteering. I want to make my late Dad proud.