Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Now that the first weeks of school have shifted from excited anxiety to routine, I wanted to take a moment to welcome you back. You may be happy to be back at work, or you may not, and I get that. Nobody wants their holiday to end, and I don’t expect you to be different from the rest of the workforce in that regard.

Yet, I have high expectations of you while you are at work. You see, the most precious part of my life is now in your care again, for seven hours each day, five days a week, for the next ten months. She’s with you now more than she’s with me. That’s a big responsibility, multiplied by more than 20 kids.

Oh, I have such respect for you, dear teacher, because I know I couldn’t do what you do. I barely have the patience for my one child sometimes, never mind a full class of them! I can only imagine how hard your job must be at times, and I just want you to know that I understand if you get frustrated occasionally. I hope at those times, you have some personal coping mechanism that works for you, like taking deep breaths and counting to ten (ten times, if necessary) that doesn’t hurt a little person’s feelings or discourage her in any way.

Now, this next part may sound a little odd, but stay with me. As you begin this new year with a new class of fresh young minds to stimulate, I wish for you blindness. Yeah, I knew that would sound bad, but what I mean is — I wish for you to stay blind to my child’s gender and race. I don’t know you and as I do every year with a new teacher, I’m hoping you are the kind of person that doesn’t treat boys in the “boys will be boys” fashion, nor treat girls as less intelligent in math and science. I’m hoping you are the kind of teacher who isn’t colour-blind to my child’s race or any other child’s race but instead is fully aware of diversity in a good, positive way. I hope you notice my child is Black and are aware that sometimes other children who aren’t may use that to hurt her feelings and make her feel like she’s not as valuable as someone with lighter-coloured skin. If that happens, I hope you treat the situation with the seriousness it warrants. I hope you ensure that all children are treated with equality, dignity and respect. I’m not accusing you of doing anything differently, because I don’t know you , but I’m aware of what sometimes goes on in classrooms and on the playground. I hope you are too and you strive to do better.

I’m going to contradict myself now, as I often do, and also wish for you a special kind of vision. The kind that notices children in need. Some need a little extra attention, while some just need a hug. I hope you are a hugging teacher even though the craziness of society has deemed that as questionable behavior. Some unfortunate children may need you to keep a box of crackers and some apples in your desk so they have something to eat each day, and I hope you are the kind of teacher who notices such things and does so. Some need a little extra help with their learning, and some need a little encouragement or push to challenge themselves because they are bright but bored. I don’t deny that with so many busy little ones around you all day, every day, it may be hard to see what each of them needs individually, but I’m asking that you please try. You probably know this already, but those small people in your class? They adore you, most of the time. You have a very big influence over them, and I know you’ll want to use that in the best possible way.

In today’s age of adults without kindness or manners, I also wish for you a strict but fair sense of discipline. I am not unsympathetic to the fact that your power to teach children right from wrong is diminishing every year, but I am strict at home and I don’t let the adorable precociousness of my daughter sway me when an opportunity presents itself for me to teach her proper interpersonal skills or moral lessons. I hope you are the same, dear teacher.

In fact, I know this is a fairly unreasonable request, but I’m going to make it anyway: I hope you are the same as me, but better. I am here for you whenever you need my support and I hope you will consider me a part of your team. I know you can’t be perfect, but those little souls sitting in front of you every day? They deserve the best you can give them. So thank-you in advance for doing exactly that.

5 Tips For My Stepson As He Starts High School

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My stepson starts high school tomorrow. He asked me the other day how high school was for me. At first I was going to give him the quick-and-easy “Great!” story to encourage him and bolster his courage, but fake optimism has never been my style, so I gave him the long version.

High school was hard. That was twenty-nine years ago, so I can only imagine how much harder it is today. In fact, I don’t really have to imagine all that much because social media has made a giant two-way mirror for parents to sit and watch all that goes on in high school and have the living shit scared out of us.

Not because I worry about my stepson – he’s a good kid. I worry about all those *other* demons prowling the halls of his and other high schools. I thought maybe I should give him a few words of advice, so here it goes:

1. Be yourself. Do NOT change who that is to try to please ANYONE, or to try to be accepted into a group of people of ANY sort. If they don’t accept you the way you are – screw ’em. They’re not worth it. Don’t waste time wishing you could be part of the “cool” group – you probably won’t be, and that’s actually better. There’s less pressure, less stuff to worry about. If you don’t want to have that drink or smoke that whatever-that-thing-is, then don’t. What you wear, eat, listen to, drink, smoke or do in your free time does NOT make you cool. Nobody else defines what’s cool except you, unless of course your definition includes illegal activities or substances – then WE will define for you pretty damn quick what is NOT cool. That being said – you don’t HAVE to be like your parents – it’s ok to be separate from all of us, just don’t toss out the good stuff we’ve taught you.

2. Be kind. Yeah, I know. It’s getting a bit Kum-by-ah in here, but it really is important. I know you’re not the type of person who would do or say mean things intentionally, but don’t follow the crowd if they are doing or saying mean things. Stand up for the underdog and if you see someone who looks like they might be hurting in any way, ask if they’re ok. Encourage people and set an example of how to be an all-round nice guy – they don’t always finish last.

3. Be honest. With others, but mostly with yourself. If you need help with something – get it. If you don’t like something, say so in a respectful way. If you have a romantic interest in someone – show them or tell them that you’re interested. Lying only hurts everyone involved, including you, and kidding yourself is still a form of lying!

4. Be prepared. High school can be shitty at times – don’t let that get you down – it’s temporary (but if it does get you down a lot – please tell us or a guidance counsellor so we can help you deal with it). It can also be fun and rewarding, if you let it. Be open to trying new things. Be ready to do well at the things you know are coming like tests, exams, projects and homework. Do your best and try your hardest, even if that means hard work and missing out on something more fun. Sure, the first year is a bit of a throwaway, but then it gets more serious and while I agree that it’s absolutely ridiculous that you need to decide at your age what you want to do for your entire adult life, neither one of us is empowered to change that, so you will need to bust your ass to get into a good university and get a PH.D in some field that will negate me needing a huge pension.

5. Be open. High school will teach you many lessons and while I wish it weren’t so – some of those lessons will suck. Lest you think this message is just one big warning about how crappy high school is – be open to all the fun that you are going to have also. Each day you can get up and be afraid or worried and pessimistic about what your day might do to you, or you can wake up and feel like you are open to some fantastic experiences and finding the joy. Thankfully you are generally a happy person, so keep that up, keep doing what you love and be open to trying new things that you might also love.

I love you, bud.

You’re going to kick high school’s ass because you’re brilliant, funny, kind, considerate, and just all-round awesome. You’ve got everything it takes to have the best four years of your life.

I hope you do.

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