Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 4) – Thoughts and Prayers….

OK so far I have been rowing in the boat: Schools are closed, work with your children at home, avail yourselves of online material, school may open on the 20th April. I HIGHLY doubted the last one there so when they said they extended the stay-at-home orders until the 30th I wasn’t surprised. To be honest, based on my observation of what is going in other parts of the world with Covid-19, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the Ministry of Education signalled its intent to re-start in September but in both my roles as a parent and a teacher I would like to offer my thoughts and prayers in the interim.

what-limagine-when-people-say-theyre-sending-thoughts-and-prayers-30094230
Let’s get it done Care Bears!

 

Random Thoughts (based on the Ministry’s press conference today):

I think that presser today gave me no information other than the fact that the Ministry of Education still continues to be out of touch with reality.

I think with all of those connections that the Minister announced at the beginning of his speech (I consulted with the King, the Queen, the Duke and the Duchess of Barbados, the Chancellor of UWI, the Earl of Derbyshire etc.), he forgot to mention one of the most important stakeholders (the actual teachers’ union)…..

I think the next 5 or 6 months are going to be really interesting in my home as I seek to ensure that my three children at three different levels are educated everyday because you know, online learning = no excuses, school must go on and all that. Send wine by the case please.

That being said, I don’t think I know what I’m expected to be rushing to teach online as September is going to be the third term’s work anyway. (I hate to be repetitive, am I teaching it again in September? Pleh.)

I think you cannot just expect all teachers at all levels to go from face to face learning to online learning like the flick of a switch. I can’t even make that switch after an argument with my husband. What are we? Robots? John Public is assured everything is up and running for teaching and learning like a horse bolting out the gate meanwhile teachers are like “I hadda pay for my own Zoom?”. (Stop making promises. They can backfire and set you up, like announcing a website and it crashing due to 10,000 sudden hits. Stop it).

I think I am fed up of the inescapable politicizing of Education.

I think teachers are the dog balls of society, filled with purpose but always taking a licking.

 

Random Prayers:

I pray that we all survive Covid-19 with our sensibilities intact because the way things going………(Dear Parent, why are you suggesting that S.E.A. students go to school in September out of uniform? Dear Parent, are you aware that I also have my own children to teach? Dear Parent, if teachers don’t get paid, we don’t eat and we die. Who’s going to teach your children?)

I pray that we all understand that not all schools are created or run equally. Please Lord help mankind to understand that Behind God Back Secondary School certainly cannot be expected to operate like Excelsior High College as the latter is well furnished with resources, multimedia, helpful teachers and brainy students while in the former, one has to walk with soap to school and students are zessing. #thereisnoequity  Stop it.

I pray that I am granted the superlative skills to cram three term’s work into two terms because I AM that teacher who gives VALUE for money paid via my salary and all that…..

I pray for owners of bookstores in July and August.

I pray that mankind understands that is not teachers who closed school and are lollygagging at home. Schools are closed because of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and we can’t go back to work because we might die.

I pray that my own laptop, wifi, created resources, credit card, personal cell phone, data plan etc keeps working well in sync because I give VALUE for my hard earned money.

I pray that those ICT skills I tried to adopt in my meager classroom, actually work this time around because those students are blessed with the best right?

Relatedly and honestly, I pray that my students who are under immense strain in unhappy, difficult homes and who look forward to daily refuge in school, can find the resilience somehow to make it through to September. It’s going to be a long road.

 Blessings

TMIDM

Swimming in the S.E.A (Treading Water)

When I wake up in the morning like many people, I usually take the time to pray and meditate before I jump start my day. This morning is different in that my mind is focused solely on my daughter. My emotions are all over the place and I’m finding it hard to clear my head and focus. You see today would have been the S.E.A. exam, the high-stakes test which would have defined my daughter’s graduation from one stage of her life to the next. She’s not alone. This morning approximately 19,000 children in Trinidad and Tobago are feeling a mix of emotions from relief to uncertainty to frustration to bewilderment.

Like many of the 19,000 parents and guardians I had plans. I was going to take the day off today, make sure she eats properly, do a sing-a-long car ride, pray with her before she went in and assure her that she got it in the bag, pray while the exam was going on, give her a big hug when she finished (and probably cry knowing that the months of hard work had finally led us to the end), eat at her favourite restaurant, laugh and play somewhere and then whisk her away to Tobago tomorrow for a mummy-daughter R&R weekend. Then COVID-19 pulled through and said you will do NONE of those things on this Thursday April 2nd 2020 Anno Domini.

This morning even as I type this, I consider life, control, plans and routine. Since the ‘Rona the routine has been to continue working (with reduced time) even though we do not know when the exam is going to be. This in itself is frustration (ask any hamster in a wheel) as my daughter was already getting tired of the constant drilling of Mathematics, Language Arts and Creative Writing and if you know anything about the Trinidad and Tobago education system you know that it is considers examinations first and education second. She was ready to move on with her life and had her heart set on a secondary school which offered a range of exciting things to study creatively beyond those three subjects. I’m torn as I know the appearance of the Coronavirus is completely out of our control (although the spread is). I understand that in life things happen that veer us completely off course from the path we are trodding. I understand and accept the adage: a man plans while God laughs. I get that while my mind does the Dr. Strange thing and anticipates all the million possibilities, there may be one I will miss which may be beyond my control. However, my humanity and my role as a mother makes me feel at this particular point in time that it is not fair.

unnamed

I think I should be allowed to feel that way for a bit even while pulling up my big girl panties and while encouraging my daughter to do the same. A brief scan of my social media this morning revealed posts with the general themes of  ‘today was supposed to be the day’, ‘grateful for life, some people didn’t live to see today’, ‘SEA not important in the grand scheme of things’ and ‘this too shall pass’. All of these emotions are important and necessary and I suppose designed to bring comfort and support during these strange-ass times but depending on how I feel I will pick one and then maybe revert to the next after all, I am human. My faith is hugely based on God being in total control, but God also made me human with a range of emotions that I am allowed to feel even while trusting Him to do what he has to do. He did the same with my daughter.

When she wakes up, I plan to gauge how she feels. I know like me she’s going to be unable to pinpoint an exact emotion, her head may be telling her one thing and her heart may be telling her the next and I know I shouldn’t force her one way or the next as today may be difficult.  The best I can do I suppose is to let her know that sometimes in life the ship can sail smoothly from one destination to the next. Other times it can take in water, you may make it to the shore, or you may be forced overboard but you have to keep treading even if you cry. It’s a very, very tiresome thing but it keeps you alive and that’s all that matters.

It’s BTS Time!!!

In Trinidad and Tobago the back-to-school countdown has begun! Many parents and guardians are filling out bookstores, shoe stores and fabric stores to make sure that children are prepped and ready to go for the first day of dispatch on  the 3rd of September. The back-to-school rush is the least favourite of ‘rushes’ for me. I hate that particular last-minute feeling so much so that I remember one year I did all my stationery shopping in the supermarket just to avoid the bacchanal. So every year I do my shopping strategically so that I won’t be caught in the middle of people shouting for books at the clerks with booklists flailing about in loooong lines and police ushering in crowds bit-by-bit. Yes…..this happens….

01lbgem2_33041
See? It’s international! Photo taken from South Africa: https://bereamail.co.za/101667/back-to-school-rush-5/

I remember when I was going to school I used to be excited to return. I loved fresh books, bag and lunchkit. I used to loooooove covering my books with brown paper and plastic and I couldn’t wait to use my new stationery…..(one can never have enough stationery. I’m an adult and I still feel that way.) My gremlinz however are not so inclined and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Let me walk that back……I can understand in the sense that I am in no hurry to return to work to return to my own classrooms but come on!!! New pens and notebooks!!! When I do my stationery run for myself next week that’s what will signal to my brain that the new term cometh so they should get inna gear  to inspire me right? Work is a whole different kettle of fish…..

cartoon7012

In spite of the initial gentle probing, I have now insisted that they begin to look sharp. So over the course of the coming days the routine will start back. I have already begun by one simple step.

39762361_866273996910134_3284990094074707968_n

Hahahaha! Yes! The dreaded 9 o’clock curfew has returned. The other night I walked past their bedrooms and in the dark their eyes were open like owls in a cave with no way of escaping. Poor things. They eventually fell asleep though. In the day they’ve started back doing school work. Son-son has a mandate to read all of his literature books before school opens and Mam’zelle just started her online revision via pennacool.com which is really tremendous for children in Trinidad and Tobago gearing up for high-stakes exams. I really endorse it! (unsponsored)

Now little Boyo will not see kindergarten until next year but has already mastered oral counting, alphabet, colours and animal sounds through the kind folks who provide daily earworms on YouTube. Until then I am taking the time to ensure that he develops his soft skills as well as activities that involve holding a crayon or using playdoh. There are many internet resources and apps I found but I want to highlight education.com (also unsponsored) because I found that they have a wide range of activities for children from 2 years old right up. Check out the puzzles on the site like these super cute mazes which I figure will help with patience and critical thinking!Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 12.13.42 PM

kindergarten_maze_kayaking

kindergarten_maze_kayaking_answers

Before you know it, we will be smack at the start of the term so I hope everyone’s rearing to go or at least behind the wheel ready to bounce the starter! If not, think of it this way, the faster you start, the nearer you are to Christmas!

Blessings!

TMIDM

Have merSEA!

Well my Son-son is 11, in standard five in primary school and about to write the big Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam this Thursday. According to Trini culture and lore, this is the most important exam of a student’s life, destined to make you or break you depending on which secondary school you are headed when the results come in. Parents cry, teachers lose hair and the children drill mathematical formulae, grammatical exercises and seemingly endless compositions up until the dreaded day that they aim to get their first choice out of four. Cue ominous voice:

may_the_fourth_be_with_you_by_themooken-da1apux

http://themooken.deviantart.com/art/May-the-fourth-be-with-you-606841449

Knowing that he is prone to anxiety, I laid all the pressure on Son-son on standard four and eased off the valve considerably. As the date draws near, I think I am more anxious than he is. However my anxiety stems from the fact that I am completely FED UP! of the preparation for the exam. I’m so thankful that his teacher is so meticulous, another parent told me some time ago that he has a ‘system’ to churn out boys to perform at the SEA exam. But at this point if I see YET ANOTHER quasi difficult poem, I will scream. I think a couple of nights ago was the last straw.  He came and said he read the poem and didn’t understand it. So I took a look. This is a poem called Children’s Song by R.S. Thomas which he had to read and answer about ten questions:

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
 
Ronald Stuart Thomas
Dafuq is subterfuge??? ‘Remoter heaven’??? My poor child!
I mean honestly, I get the gist of the poem, but I think it’s a bit much for an 11 year old to find extra deep metaphorical meaning in a high stakes exam. I understand that the poem is usually the difficult part of the exam but have mercy, this or any poem like it reads like stress! The questions that followed were even worse.
So these last few days I haven’t been harping on him at all partly because I think he’s reached his zenith and partly because again…me…fed up…. He had practice tests for the past two Saturdays and beyond that I gave him a free pass to the TV and the games on his tab. Of course everything was done in moderation so he also had to clean inside my car and do his regular chores as well. I don’t want this SEA pressure to fold him in even before the exam.
Thursday morning I plan to wake him up, act as normally as possible and not make a big deal about it. On our way there, he may get a Bruno Mars karaoke session, lame jokes in the car and I’ll kick him out with a hug and a ‘good luck dude’! If I get the butterflies, they’re going to remain in stasis at the very least until he’s out of my sight. I hope I don’t wig out. This SEA can’t drown us both.
Bless up
TMIDM

Resilience…

Some time ago I had to deal with a 16 year old student who seemed to be ‘tripping off’. He was walking around with a bandanna tied around his head shouting ‘why me boy?’, crying and ranting to himself. We finally got him sequestered in my office and attempted to get to the bottom of his outburst. To cut a 3hr story short, he couldn’t bear to see the ‘happiness’ of his classmates while he had to deal with a mother who neglected him, a father who ridiculed him, a brother who beat and accused him of stealing and forced him to leave home and a present life of hardship which forces him to choose between earning money to survive and going to school.

For a moment I didn’t know what to say, all I could do was listen because how does one extol the importance of attending school and getting a solid education when there is no support for the child to do so? (Maslow is perpetually on my mind). This is particularly in a rural area where education is secondary to making earnings and helping to support the family. The evidence of this is found by MANY parents of errant children saying to me: “Miss, ah go pull (he/she) outta school yuh know! Is bes’ (he/she) come and work garden with me because ah wasting money sending (he/she) to school’. It’s money over school not school as a means to earn money.

I’m not a psychologist neither a guidance counsellor but as a teacher, in the absence of same, sometimes the situation calls to wear the hat. To my mind, faced with what seemed like an impossible situation I thought to let him know that he need to keep resilient because the reality is that the world is not a magical place with fairy godmothers and rivers flowing with chocolate despite what tv and friends say. I told him that when you’re in a boat in the middle of a storm, you will never tell yourself to jump into the water, you would go to the bottom of the boat and hunker down. So sometimes when life is raining down on you and you can’t see your way, you have to hold on , be your strongest and wait for the storm to pass.

I don’t coddle my gremlinz but i’m not a Tiger Mother either. I think that’s it’s important to teach your children resilience, let them understand that life can be difficult and unfair with the possibility of becoming even more so. My gremlinz’ ‘problems’ and accompanying emotions are usually met with a straight face and the word: And?.  After this is the thrashing out, reasoning, advising and comforting or scolding if necessary. Yes it is totally human to react with despair, but it is even more human to choose to either be swallowed by the sea or to keep climbing on that surfboard.

Bless up

TMIDM

 

Happy World Teacher’s Day!

2014-09-04-National-Teachers-Day

I never wanted to be a teacher. As a matter of fact it was a topic of contention between myself and my parents because they considered it a profession that is respectful, stable in the long term in terms of gratuity and pension and of course what else would I do with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish right? sigh…another topic by itself….

After various rewarding job opportunities in the private sector I ‘landed’ in the teaching profession. I will not say I have regretted it and I often wonder if my parents saw something in me that I did not see in myself. Thus far it has been a roller coaster ride, 100 feet in the air some days, 100 feet at the lowest of the low on other days. I guess this is like any other job. But teaching is really more than a job, it is indeed a vocation because you literally have to envelop yourselves into the lives of students and their wellbeing. It may not be even be all your students, it may be just one and that one may be enough.

On this day, I’m grateful for my school teachers (Mrs. Olton you were the best!), I’m grateful for my work colleagues who are truly a great group and on whom I can sincerely rely and I’m also grateful for my colleagues who I don’t work with but from whom I’ve learnt a lot.

So people, keep us in your prayers as we do our best to ensure that your child and by extension the next generation is moulded in the best way needed to develop the country.

Bless up

TMIDM

Great Expectations

http://elenacordova.deviantart.com/
http://elenacordova.deviantart.com/

It’s one of those sayings that rings true for me as I am one of those homo sapiens who doesn’t deal well with being caught off guard. I overthink, analyze a situation to bits and I hate surprises. More and more I listen and watch the news and ask myself: “Self, how much more of these types of stories can i take?” I barely got over that pore-raising murder of Dana Seetahal, not to mention the “pace” of the investigation. Then there was man forgetting baby in the car,  Volney changing his mind, criminality surrounding Lifesport programme, a murder here, a murder there, corruption and cocaine video, thousand-man/woman march and now another video which (allegedly) shows the Honourable Minister of Sport locked in hotel room 201 with narcotics and chicks.

It is since that last video mentioned that my Son-Son is beginning to think that news is a form of entertainment as most nights there is something to drop the jaw as if we’re watching a summer tentpole movie. I am actually considering limiting his viewing which is incredibly sad yet I understand that at the same time he needs to be aware of what it going on. More and more though I need to keep explaining and in some cases correcting, justifying and reasoning. It’s as though I’m writing General Paper all over again.

I’ve realized that I have had to do the same at work many times when discussing current affairs and politics with students. Interestingly most of them see  politicians as liars and thieves, opinions which I’m sure have been influenced by parents on both sides of the political divide. I try to encourage them and give examples of historical, political figures both at home and abroad,  but it is becoming more and more difficult to marry that into present circumstances. I’ve reached the point where I tell students to ensure that their moral compass is pointing in the right direction and they will know right and wrong once they follow wise counsel and feel it in their gut.

Sadly though I teach in an area where marijuana is heavily cultivated and “yes it is illegal but only when you get caught.” Getting money is priority number one, education is priority number two. It is not a new phenomenon, impacting generation after generation and deeply vested into the culture of the community.  So imagine on one hand you are trying your best to influence students to put dong de weed, don’t do what your parents did, find a future for yourself…..and on the other hand we have Mr. Minister (allegedly) rolling and boasting in a hotel room, filled with girls….the good life….the kinda life my students crave. How do I justify that to them? Especially as he has been endorsed and supported explicitly by the Ministry of Communications and implicitly by the Prime Minister? What does the Minister of Education have to say on how this impacts primary and secondary school children? These children are the ones who are going to take the reins, the ones who people talk about when they complain: ‘We need new blood!’ Should I go ahead and tell them “well yeah, go ahead once you don’t get caught but if you do, make sure and deny, deny, deny and of course, ensure that you blame somebody else” (read: Rowley)

I dunno nah, I don’t want to believe that Trinidad and Tobago is going to hell in a handbasket but it’s hard when the evidence is stacked against me. I feel like I have to fight but it is hard not to feel disenchanted! In the meantime, along with other like-minded citizens who are not easily gaslit, I will continue to do what I must…keep hoping and keeping those expectations where they should be.

quote1

Bless up.

TMIDM