Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Idealistic Notion? Not!

It has been said that many prominent decision makers in education have an idealistic notion of what it should look like. I do too and am fortunate to see it right before my very eyes.
We have the unique opportunity to live in a place where the formal education of our children is of utmost importance and I believe that we need to celebrate what we have created and honour our commitment to the people that spend each day with our children…
For the school year beginning September 1, 2011, all Alberta teachers are to receive a 4.3% increase in their salary. This is the end of a 5-year contract, which began in 2007. Instead of paying the increase to teachers, the Government of Alberta is proposing to reopen the contract and make numerous changes. Although ATA President Carol Henderson assures us that the discussions have been respectful, I believe that the intent is not. The intent is clear and I am disheartened that my government is not honouring its word and standing strong with integrity to a commitment.
Some points of interest taken directly from Alberta Education that we need to celebrate are:
Alberta was the first province to establish:
·  Charter schools to encourage innovative approaches to student learning;
·  Quality teaching standards to promote excellence in classroom instruction;
·  A classroom assessment materials program to help teachers evaluate student learning;
·  A language development exchange with Japan. 
And, Alberta is one of the first to offer a registered apprenticeship program to help students begin to learn a trade while in high school.

The Alberta School Act contains five fundamental principles that define a first-rate education for every child in this province:
·      Access to quality education
·      Equity
·      Flexibility and choice
·      Responsiveness
·      Accountability
 Minister Hancock is proposing some interesting transformations that seek to improve teaching and learning conditions surrounding overloaded curriculum and instructional hours. I applaud him and see these points as areas that need to be continually evaluated and reevaluated, and share the minister’s mandate with regard to continuing to develop a long-term vision for education in Alberta. I believe that the way to do this is to treat our teachers with dignity and stand by the original agreement that was provincially bargained for, carry on engaging with the inspiring people of this province and then move through yet another phase of action.
And so… as teacher appreciation week approaches, my gratitude is enveloped around the people with whom I have trusted and continue to trust my children’s lives with. For the countless hours that you spend, preparing interesting and inviting lessons, attending meetings, workshops and lectures, keeping up with professional reading, coaching each child in the particular sport that they shine at or find a challenge with, encouraging each child to try something because you have faith that they can do it, embracing new and diverse ways of reaching those children that sit before you, and remembering that each one of those beings alongside you is someone else’s baby, I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Compassion...

The act of compassion was something that I re-learned when I was forty-seven years old. I believe that I was born with the ability to be compassionate just as we all are, but that I lost it somewhere deep inside of me, and it took a very long time to excavate it, let it flow freely from me and begin practicing it once again.
For years I thought that I was being compassionate when I cried with girlfriends, offered money to street buskers, and silently sighed when listening to the woes of someone’s struggles. In my mind, I was actually so sad for each one and thankful that I did not have the issues that each one of them had. I felt sorry for them. Feeling sorry does no good and creates an artificial hierarchy that implies one is better off than the other and I just do not believe this.
Once as a teen when I was being judgmental of another, my grandmother looked directly at me, pointed her finger firmly in the air towards my heart and said, “She’s a little a bit good and a little bit bad, just like you.” And then her beautiful, round, gentle and unblemished face smiled slowly and warmly. Wow, what a powerful moment that was in my life. What my grandmother was trying to remind me of was about being compassionate. In that moment I was not choosing empathy and compassion but instead choosing to be judgmental and better than. I have thought about this moment on and off for many years and I am so thankful to have had that amazing lady play the role of grandma in my life. Yet I still went on comparing my existence with others, for many years, thinking about how fortunate I was. But was I?
I met Meghan when I was forty-seven and she was in her twenties. She and I were taking a twelve-week course together modeled after Lynn Grabhorn’s book Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting, and would continue to see each other once a week. I was captivated by her sturdy posture as she sat to the table, her quiet composure, and eventually her deep sultry voice. She wore colourful green eye-shadow that took in her entire deep and full eyelids and she wore edgy silver jewelry and high heels. She looked like she should be on the arm of Ozzy Osbourne. One evening, Meghan was retelling a life story that touched my heart so deeply that I felt an immediate heaviness in my stomach causing me to think I might vomit. My head dropped to look down and I covered my mouth. Just as I was slipping into my usual pattern of feeling sorry, I looked directly at this stunningly beautiful and courageous woman and realized how fine she was. I mean really fine… more than okay… Why on earth should I feel sorry for her? It finally made no sense to me and I sensed the harm that it might do to Meghan’s and my relationship and I easily and readily slipped into an authentic feeling of compassion for this shared journey that she and I were on. My stomach settled down. My head rose. I sat taller and I could feel a warm smile emitting beyond my entire being. I loved this lady sitting next to me and I had no right to feel sorry for her. 

I believe that we are here on purpose to be in relationship with others for our highest and greatest good. Compassion is a part of that picture and is exempt of judgmental beliefs and I am utmost grateful to Meghan for offering me this gift in order that I could begin being compassionate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There Are No Excuses for Being a Snob

This morning a good friend gave me a virtual slap in the face. I am not sure if he realizes this or not, but it was a gift that I am grateful for. We were discussing advancing communications technology and our mutual love of gadgets and I was listing off all of the “stuff” that my teens have. He began to wonder about those children who come from “have-not” environments and at what a disadvantage they might be. His thinking immediately went into a “what can I do” mode. Mine did not. My thinking immediately judged particular families I have known, who do not provide the basic nutritional needs nor do they provide proper winter clothing for their children and yet with the resources that they do have, they buy them lots of electronic gadgets.
I live an abundant life and am grateful to be able to give my children so much and in turn I know how grateful they are to have a safe and loving home that provides them, not only with their basic needs, but many wants. When one has the extra wants, it is easy to say that love, food, and shelter should always be the priority before any of the extras, but these are those privileged life eyes that I am looking through. And it is not for me to judge. Just as I am parenting to the best of my abilities, in this moment, with what I know right now, so are other parents. Just as my heart burst with joy when my son opened up his electronic drum kit and my daughter her iPad, so do other parents’ hearts burst with joy to watch their children open up their treasures.
There is no hierarchy in this life that we live, no one person is better or worse than another and there are no excuses for being a snob and judging someone else’s way of parenting.
Thanks Tim for stopping me in my tracks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Store Bought Milk a Faux Food?

I was raised in a society that impressed upon me that I should drink milk. If I did not, I would surely perish and could eventually end up with hip or knee replacement surgeries due to a deterioration of my bones. I loved milk and could drink copious amounts of it and so I never considered not drinking it. However, when my daughter was three years old and was suffering from severe tummy aches, we began a journey to discover what the cause was and I started to research milk and whether or not it was something that we should purchase from the store. 
We live on a farm with great storage facilities and eat mostly homegrown food.  As a young adult, good food had been important to me and after having children it became more so. I knew about and continued to research and study foods that were best for our entire bodies, as well as listen to my own body and teach my children to listen to theirs. My research surrounding milk, conflicted with a belief that had been ingrained in me from the time that I was a youngster.
Initially, I decided to look at consuming milk from a biological perspective. How many animals consume another animal’s milk?  Other than in times of need like when another animal is mothering, only human animals drink another animal’s milk. However, our physical/cognitive development is markedly different from other animals too and so this line of querying ended abruptly.
I then asked the question: Is store bought milk so highly processed and regulated that it has become a faux food?
What I discovered is that milk that exists on the grocery store shelf may:
1.     Come from places where cattle are given antibiotics in the event that the cow has mastitis or other infections and research suggests that these antibiotics show up in the milk?
2.     Come from animals that have been given growth hormones, which can survive pasteurization and thereby be consumed by us.
3.      Come from animals that never see the light of day.
Even with all of the research and information that exists, I continue to struggle with whether I am doing a disservice to my children by not letting them drink store bought milk and I ask you to join with me in this discussion. What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

My "Unravelling Journey" inspired by the words of Brené Brown

The term mid-life crisis has irritated me for as long as I can remember, and yet I never substituted it with another term. I just refused to use it aloud. Until recently that is, when I understood it to be more like an awakening… or an opportunity that tends to occur in mid-life. Brené Brown’s research suggests that this opportunity or “unraveling journey” as she calls it, can occur at other times in our lives as well:
·        marriage
·        divorce
·        becoming a parent
·        recovery
·        moving
·        an empty nest
·        retiring
·        experiencing loss or trauma
·        working at a soul-sucking job

In October of my 46th year, I could only seem to cope with each moment that was before me. My life had reached an all time high with regard to how full my schedule was and what I demanded of myself. I could not even imagine how I was going to simplify everything.
Many years prior, upon graduation and armed with my BEd., I was fully immersed in my first paid teaching position, only having myself to care for. I spent one evening a week letting all of the tension drain from my being by indulging in a Reflexology treatment. At age forty-six, I looked back and shook my head wondering what possible tension could I have had then? And, how extravagant it was to put money like that just on me! It was then that I noticed a little advertisement in our local paper featuring a Reflexologist who was offering her services for new clients at half cost. I hadn’t been to one in years! I phoned and made an appointment immediately, asked her directions, made room in my schedule and set off the next day to feel miraculously better.  Better that is, if I could find the place. She had mentioned that she lived in a mobile home and the only mobile home park that I could think of was not where I could find her. Being that I was in such a dark place, I would have normally given up, gone home and put the idea behind me. But for some odd reason, I did not and instead drove to the Recreation Centre where I asked the Receptionist if she knew of all of the healing practitioners in the town and if so what their phone numbers were. She did not know the Reflexologist that I was speaking of. I was deflated and ready to walk out when I mentioned that the ad had been in the previous week’s paper of which she happened to have a copy of right there. I found the ad, called Michele and offered to rebook as I was now ten minutes late. She insisted that I come over, corrected my directions and told me to breathe easily.
I did.
When I arrived and laid my body on her massage table, I closed my eyes and felt peace - instantly. She placed her warm, strong hands on my feet and tears began to pour uncontrollably from my eyes and she said, “Oh Ellyn, I should have done a clearing on you first.” I did not even know what she was talking about and all I wanted was for her to be quiet, rub my feet and make me feel better. I lay there in silence while she worked on me for two to three hours. When it was over, I did not even know what to say or how to thank her. All I knew is that I wanted to come back for this clearing that she spoke about. After paying Michele a minute amount and gathering some literature, I got into my vehicle to drive the half hour it would take to get home. The sun shone brighter and although it would only be temporary, I was smiling - genuinely.
This was to be the beginning of my “unraveling journey”…


Friday, January 7, 2011

Current Running Program - More Challenging

Once I could easily and readily run 5km in 25 minutes, I decided that maybe I should run further... faster... I tried 8k's... 10 k's... I ran with friends who were experienced marathon runners. I found none of this satisfying and returned to John Stanton's book for a program that would suit me. Once again inspired by his philosophy, I created this program for myself. This is the one I continue to turn to when I haven't run for in a while.

Week 1 - Run 5 minutes/walk 1 minute x 4 sets 3-4 days a week
Week 2 - Run 7 minutes/walk 1 minute x 3 sets 3-4 days a week
Week 3 - Run 10 minutes/walk 1 minute x 2 sets 3-4 days a week
Week 4 - Run 20 minutes non-stop 3-4 days a week
Week 5 - Run 20 minutes non-stop 4 days a week
Week 6 - Run 22 minutes non-stop 4 days a week 
Week 7 - Run 24 minutes non-stop 4 days a week
Week 8 - Run 26 minutes non-stop 4 days a week 
Week 9 - Run 28 minutes non-stop 4 days a week
Week 10 - Run 30 minutes non-stop 4 days a week 

This has become an incredibly satisfying running program that I supplement with indoor fitness on poor weather days.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Running Program

Inspired by @laurenacarlton , I felt compelled to post this….

When my youngest child entered Grade One I had discovered that I had become an uncomfortable size 14 with poor eating habits not allowing myself to ever feel hungry – snacking whenever I wanted on whatever I wanted. I knew it was time for a change but I live 50 km from the nearest pool, gym or program and for my own peace of being, I still needed to be available to my children when they were home from school. I taught two days a week and decided to run on the three weekdays that I did not teach. I could barely breathe and could only run for short stints when I heard about John Stanton a confirmed couch potato who started the chain of stores and programs called The Running Room. Although he has inspired many marathon runners, his goal has never been to create them but to assist in helping people get off of the sofa. What follows is my program, that was inspired by John, that I have followed for 7 years now without injury or ever getting bored with running.

Week 1 – 1 minute run/1 minute walk x 10 - 3 days a week

Week 2 – 2 minute run/1 minute walk x 6 – 3 days a week

Week 3 – 3 minute run/1 minute walk x 5 – 3 days a week

Week 4 – 4 minute run/1 minute walk x 4 – 3 days a week

Week 5 – 5 minute run/1 minute walk x 3 – 3 days a week

At this point I discovered that I could and wanted to increase it to 4 days a week and I wanted to run in a 5km race and began to train for my first one.

Week 6 – 6 minute run/1 minute walk x 3 – 4 days a week

Week 7 – 8 minute run/1 minute walk x 2 – 4 days a week

Week 8 – 10 minute run/1 minute walk x 2 – 4 days a week

Week 9 – 20 minute non-stop run – 4 days a week

If this is too difficult a task to start with, one can start with an even better/slower program suited to them. If one needed to repeat a week – one should!

After 9 weeks, I was able to continue to add time and km and started to run 5 km in 25-30 minutes – the first race I ran was that spring - 5km in 25 minutes. My goal has always been to just treat my heart well and run for health – although I have run up to 21 km in one run, it is not my preference to do so. It took me a couple of years to drop in size to an 8 and for four years am a size 6-8 depending on the cut of the clothes.


One of Lauren’s Blogs