Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thinking of a special colleague and musings on BCTF strike...

Well one year later here I am.  I have been retired almost a year.  I was just thinking how different this was from my normal June.  In a normal June teaching, I was out straight.  I was trying to get my year tied up nicely with field trips and grade seven activities, usually trying to remember to go to a few retirements.  In addition there would be at least 28 report cards to write as well as seemingly endless certificates to sign.  In addition there would be gardening and all the other things of every day life.  By the time July 1 came I was exhausted as if I had just finished a marathon.  The good thing.  The slate was clean and I got to plan for the coming year, the year when everything would be perfect!

This year hasn't been like that even for my teaching friends.  The last week of school and all the public school teachers in BC are out on strike with really at this point no hopeful end in sight.  Instead of volunteering and offering to go on an end of year field trip or two, I visit picket lines often with baking. People say to me, " Aren't you glad you retired last year?"  I guess I am and I partly retired because I thought we could be back on strike as this is an issue which was only postponed not settled two years ago when we were on strike three days.  The government that was not teacher friendly was reelected so that was not a good omen.

Ten strikes in 40 years of teaching was really enough for me, but this current situation is just sad.  And as an observer not a participant this year, I can say that I wish more of the public could spend some time in schools and really understand why teachers in this strike are more united than I have ever seen them. The years of inadequate funding are catching up.  How well BC students do do is a credit to their teachers and their hard work!    Chances are anyone reading this blog is familiar with schools so I really don't have to go on.  I read letter after letter by teachers describing their classroom situations and how hard they have to work and how frustrated they feel, and I know that all these letters are true.  I was fortunate in that I did have a background in special education and lots of experience, and I still felt overwhelmed and worked harder every year I taught.  I loved what I did but it was challenging to say the least.

One reason I have really loved teaching is due to the wonderful people with whom I was able to work. One of my happiest teaching relationships was when I taught at MacCorkindale School and my tiny classroom (I was the Learning Assistance teacher) was off the library.  I worked there with an amazing teacher librarian, Shirley MacDonald.  It was the happiest of relationships.  She was one amazing librarian and teacher.  She was also a wonderful person.  She was a true professional, always up to date in her learning, and always wanting to know and do more.  MacCorkindale was unique in that it was an  over area school. Other than one separate kindergarten the school had four areas each with four classroom areas so that in each area there were three or four classes but in areas with no walls.  The library was open as well in the centre of the school.  We both worked with all the classroom teachers in the school.  We often did units together.  We also had the advantage of having exactly the same noise toleration so if I was just going to say please be quiet, she had already done so.

After three years there, the principal was leaving, and I thought it was a good time for me to leave as well.  I had decided I really wanted to teach my own class and there were no classroom positions in MacCorkindale so I put in a transfer.  I don't think Shirley was too happy with me because we really worked together so well.  And when I had a very challenging class in a much more challenging school the next year, I had many moments when I wondered if I had been crazy to leave.  I loved working with Shirley and was still borrowing books from her library the following year.  Then Shirley retired a few years later and moved full time to the Sunshine Coast and I kind of lost touch with her.

I was so sad and shocked when I heard that she had died a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn't known that she had cancer.  How I wished I could have had one more conversation with her!  Those three years were very important to me and much of that was due to her.

Teaching with people is special-you have a special bond.  That probably isn't true in a huge high school  or maybe you only have it with the few people you work with most directly, but I am sure it is there.  And it makes the load lighter when you have people with whom you can share in the way I was able to do with Shirley and others.  I hope I thanked her enough and I hope she knew how much I valued her expertise.  To be a successful teacher librarian requires many skills and she had them all.  The world can be a difficult place and people can also be difficult, but again I feel so privileged to have worked with Shirley and many others.  They were really angels to me!!!

I have been to retirements and I sometimes I felt as if I was at a funeral in that everyone takes the opportunity to say nice things about the person retiring as if they were never to be seen again.  But it is good in a way because we just don't always do that.  And sometimes they do move away or you don't keep in touch.  I know probably one reason I still volunteer at my old school is I didn't really want to lose that special community!  Many of my good friends are people I met in education and some of them I seem to see rarely but it is always special when I do.

I wrote this a few days ago and then left it to think about.  I went to another retirement of another special teacher and was able to see many of the teachers and administrators who had worked with Shirley as well  We all had such great memories of her!  It was hard to believe it had been 20 years since I had left that school yet so strong are the impressions… So today sitting looking at a beautiful lake at the home of yet another amazing teacher,  I think of Shirley and all the wonderful teachers out there and so wish this could have been a happier school ending… May better days come!