A “Defined” Week of Kindness

I proudly work as an educator. I have done so in many capacities in my “adult life”. I’ve been blessed to be a fitness leader in a Behavioural Neurology Unit at a Toronto hospital, a Life Skills Coach at a psychiatric hospital, a Junior and Intermediate Teacher, a Literacy Coach and currently, an Instructional Leader. Each of my positions has allowed me to develop relationships with all sorts of amazing people that I deeply respect and consider extended family.

Next week is a recognized week of “kindness” here in the TLDSB where, as school communities, we recognize and perform “acts of kindness” to celebrate. If I were to define “kindness”, it is actually a quality that is demonstrated by generosity and good will. I have worked with countless individuals who have that attribute and consistently choose to display it. In addition, I get to see kids, daily, exercise varying degrees of kindness.

I understand that there may be many that feel that a “defined” week of kindness is hokey and perhaps even more, a gross under representation of how we should be celebrating such acts. But, I’d like to offer something more.
As educators, we are constantly helping, fixing, worrying, giving and with varying additions, repeating that cycle daily. For the most part, it’s who we are and it feels good.
When my Mom was receiving chemotherapy, I noticed the kind team of chemo nurses and how they cared for sick people with such grace, generosity and a high degree of attention. Then, I noticed their proudly posted nursing unit goal which stated: To create a cohesive team and promote work-life balance for staff. It made me immediately think of my hard working colleagues. Why are we not taking better care of each other and ourselves?

So, it is my hope that having a “defined” week of kindness reminds us all:
1. To celebrate all that we do for others because we choose to do so.
2. To notice and celebrate the kind acts our students do and ,
3. Most importantly and above all, to be especially kind to ourselves.

To all of my incredible colleagues, past and present, thank you for all that you do and try to be kind to YOU more often by finding some work-life harmony.

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A Thank You for the Gift of Education

A Thank You for the Gift of Education

On September 16th, 2014 my Mom lost her 17 month battle with cancer. In order for my Dad and two older sisters to cope with the loss of our undeniable glue that has held us together for some 47 years, we have all been forced to reflect both collectively and individually on my Mom’s contributions to our lives. The only gift of cancer, in my opinion, is that it allows you some time to leave nothing unsaid to the person who is departing. After the loss however, there is much time for reflection. A major part of my journey in life has been as an educator and there are some very specific lessons that my Mother gifted to me that gave me the tools to be a life-long learner.

Mom created for my sisters and me a constant reality of high expectations that were very clearly communicated and spoken of often. With high expectations came many failures which allowed us to problem solve, persevere and want to learn more.

My Mom was also fearless in her less than subtle way of communicating with people. She was strong, opinionated and often, uncompromisingly forthright. As the youngest, I did a lot of observing of the way in which she chose to communicate with friends, family and anyone who was fortunate enough to cross her path. From her, I learned that developing relationships with people and learning from them through communication, honesty and respect needs to be mirrored in education.

Most recently, in her final months, Mom gracefully taught all of us the importance of being responsive in every moment. As educators, we are chronically worrying about what we didn’t do for our students in the past and have real anxiety about how they will cope in years to come if we fail to fully equip them for their future. Thank you Mom, for reminding me that my job as a teacher is to respond to all of the students before me daily and to notice, name and capitalize on their strengths.

After Mom passed, we went through many of her keepsakes that she had collected over the years and I stumbled upon an application for Teacher’s College that had been neatly filled out by her. It was never sent because my grandmother, who was a single mother, could not afford post-secondary education. For me, however, it was just another gift that I discovered about my beautiful Mom and cemented for me my choice to celebrate life-long learning with my colleagues, my students, my daughters and extended family and friends.

I am whole-heartedly grateful Mom. Thank you.