If Students Were Money and Schools Were Banks…

If Students were Money and Schools were Banks…

Then Teachers would be Long-Term Investment Managers!

Job Posting: Long-Term Investment Managers (a.k.a. “Teachers”)

Contract Dates: August 15 – June 30

Prerequisites: 5 years post-secondary (minimum) which must include a year of onsite training (volunteer), including a practicum, and eventual certification in accordance with provincial requirements. The successful applicant of this job would greatly benefit from private pursuit of Master’s degree. Additional course work up to and including a Doctorate is often helpful for advancement in the firm, herein referred to as BCS Corporation (a.k.a. “BC Schools”).

Safety certification is mandatory. Applicant must also have a clean criminal records check and maintain membership in local and provincial specialist and governing bodies.

Job Description:

As an employee of BC Corp., you must be flexible to work in yearly quarters and accept varying contracts on a per year basis. Candidates must thrive in an environment of constant change involving flexibility of tasks, roles, and work hours. You must efficiently oversee twenty to thirty Portfolios daily over a span of seven to twelve hours each day. Because you will be managing valuable and priceless works of art (a.k.a. “students”, herein referred to as Portfolios), direct supervision of your caseload will be overseen by a Security Team of forty to sixty persons (a.k.a. “parents”) with whom you must maintain open and regular communication. It cannot be overstated that you must maintain supervisory contact over each Portfolio on a minute by minute basis during regular office hours (i.e. “9-3“). Ability to remain flexible with a break schedule is absolutely imperative.

After hours (before 9 and after 3) you will also be required to prepare observations and analysis of your Portfolios’ progress informally and formally, in a variety of forms including meetings and written reports for at least three terms each year. Indirect stakeholders (a.k.a. “the public: alumni, neighbors, district staff, and politicians“) include several hundred people who will have direct and indirect access to BCS buildings and will have regular opportunities to observe the efficiency of your management techniques.
One or two BCS Corp. Executives (a.k.a. “principals”) will be provided onsite to support your Portfolio caseload or with intervention as needed. A Consultation Team (a.k.a. “School Based Team: counselors, psychologists, Speech Language Pathologists, Resource Teachers”) will be available to review your Portfolios as required at your written request.

Applicant must attend regular bi-weekly executive meetings brainstorming strategies to increase productivity, efficiency, and safety protocol including the creation and practice of contingency plans for Portfolio preservation in case of potential theft or disaster (a.k.a. “Fire Drills, Earthquake Drills, Code Red & Yellow, etc.”)

Salary is based on a sliding scale over ten years. If hired, the successful applicant will earn an introductory salary in line with not-for-profit firms. Any changes to pay or contracts will be negotiated at the provincial level and involve public forums. As compensation for these inconveniences, employees at BCS Corp. will earn partial shares in each Portfolio that succeeds under your management (a.k.a. “hugs and adorable handmade thank-you cards”). Alternatively, responsibility of each Portfolio that remained static or failed to grow under your care will be deducted from your shares at the end of each contract year (a.k.a. “negative school yard gossip by students and parents.”)

Good medical and dental benefits will be provided to compensate for increased exposure to various pressures on your immune system.

You will be assigned your Portfolio caseload in early September. First remuneration will begin one month after duties begin in August. Please be prepared to set-up your own office environment including ordering office materials, installation of computers, etc.

Chief Duties:

August 15 – August 31: Furniture moving, Interior Design & Decorating, General Portfolio research, Office Management.

September:

Portfolios are assigned. Begin specific Portfolio research and keep regular office hours (a.k.a. “Back to School”) Begin additional duties during entire contract term including: Motivational Speaker, Crisis Care Manager, Strategist, Behavioral Specialist, Materials Manager, Writer, Public Relations Representative, Technology Manager, First Aid Attendant, Complaints Department Manager, and Role Model. Expect an increasing amount of Team Meetings with Executives (a.k.a. “principals“) and other Investment Managers (a.k.a. “teachers”) with whom you must practice teamwork and cooperation exercises. Begin formal written communication to your Security Team (a.k.a. “parents”) including First Term Goals and Expectations. Commence regular analysis and reflection of Portfolio caseload. Additionally, begin to adopt various causes of Pro bono outside of regular office hours to improve your Portfolio Caseload’s chance of success but also to benefit BCS Corporation’s media profile, as observed by Stakeholders (a.k.a. “the public“).

October:
Continue with Daily Management of Portfolios, Pro bono, and Team Meetings, Field Study, as appropriate, Portfolio Accounting (a.k.a. “school fundraising, etc.”), Professional Self-Improvement, and Informal & Formal Security Team Meetings. (This must continue each month of each contract year as well as Interior Design.

Additionally this month you must meet individually or in pairs with each member of your forty to sixty person Security Team (a.k.a. “parents”) to report initial observations and strategies for success. Critical and constructive feedback will be provided after each meeting by your Security Team. Extra behavioral management techniques will be required for the last week of this month (a.k.a. “sugar rush due to Halloween”).

November:
Continue with regular duties of: Daily Management of Portfolios, Pro bono Responsibilities, Team Meetings, Field Study, Portfolio Accounting, Professional Self Improvement, and Formal and Informal Security Team Meetings, and Interior Design. Additionally, prepare Portfolios for presentation to Stakeholders on Nov. 11 (a.k.a. “Remembrance Day Assembly”).

December:

Continue with regular duties as listed above. Additionally, prepare Portfolios for presentation to Security Team and Stakeholders for several dates this month (a.k.a. “Holiday Concerts”) at dates to be predetermined by Executives. In preparation for these events, additional Interior Design including use of decorations will be required.

Prepare and administer first formal Portfolio progress reports in writing.

BCS Corporation will close office hours for two weeks. Continue at home analysis and in-depth planning for Second Term, if you hadn’t already done this in Term 1 or summer. Additionally, any Portfolio information that has not been studied by you should be seen to now (a.k.a. “catch up on your marking.”)

Now repeat above cycle twice for January to March and April to June with variations too numerous to recount.

January: Additionally, apply for BCS Corporation’s summer employment opportunities, as needed or desired.

June: Additionally, prepare analysis of Portfolio information to Executives. This is essential in preparing for Portfolio transfer; extra meetings with Team Members and Executives imperative.

August 15 – Begin cycle anew.

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Artis Should Shine Hope on Current Political Situations

NY subway art near WTC site

NY subway art near WTC site

When was the last time you watched a relationship drama that had you on the edge of your seat and gave you a solid sense of a gripping, current political setting? Lately, I’ve found myself enjoying Classic films and a romantic world back when courtships were short but intense and couples actually argued and wrestled with finding common ground over controversial, politically-charged real-life topics. Although most of the films I’ve watched recently are black and white, the subject matter certainly isn’t.

There have been countless remakes of the classic Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice” storyline which has been regurgitated into a golden, winning formula: proud, rich boy meets beautiful, intelligent girl, boy offends girl, girl snubs boy, boy does something selfless indicating he is not a complete jerk but now a person transformed and hopelessly in love, girl realizes she pre-judged boy too harshly but believes any hope of reconciliation is lost, enter boy on white horse. At what point will our hunger for this common storyline be satiated?

An endless queue of modern movies has been created in which the characters avoid conversational controversy and respond instead to external forces and pressures. One is left wondering if the characters know each other at all because too little is shared of what they really think about life and their core values. In other words, when did romantic film as a genre turn into chick-flick escapism which opts out of real life?

Consider these three Classic blockbuster films which were released within eleven years of global upheaval.

His Girl Friday (1940), a comedy, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell
Most of this movie takes place in a newspaper or courthouse press room. Any mention of Hitler’s war ‘off in Europe’ is in passing. The main story involves a public execution and whether the governor will grant a stay of execution. Questions linger as to if the accused is sane and if a proper trial has even taken place. Other controversial themes in this film relate to gender stereotypes and a woman’s place in a (then) man’s world. At this time, remember that the USA is solidly anti-war, although their president Franklin D. Roosevelt is in secret conversations with Winston Churchill and creating schemes for how to aid the war effort. Less than a year after this movie, women would soon be needed to reassume what was considered male roles in the work force and hold down the proverbial fort while the men shipped off for another long war. Rosalind Russell stars as a highly intelligent, ace reporter who literally tackles a source (while in high heels!) and cleverly disarms the accused, hiding him away so that he is not shot on sight, thus allowing justice (and mercy) to prevail.

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire
This film (my favorite), released two years after WWII, is an intelligent romantic drama in which couples discuss controversial and provocative themes without alienating their audience from the storyline. The nature of their conversations will shock you: racial bigotry, diversity, the nature of freedom, and blowing white suburbia wide open. Gregory Peck (sigh!) plays a writer assigned by his editor to write a magazine series that confronts anti-Semitism, apparently a common media topic at the time. After all, the public is aware of atrocities committed against Jews and the exposure of anti-immigration laws which could’ve saved so many. Consider that the Nuremburg Trials are finally over and the horrific results of Hitler’s ‘Jewish Solution’ have been tallied to six million lives, many of whom are children. Gregory Peck’s high profile character pretends he is Jewish as an angle for his story and experiences a disturbing amount of anti-Semitism in New York, in his America. He discovers that the Land of the Free is not a post-war, equal-opportunity, place of opportunity for those with Jewish names. Dorothy McGuire, who plays a teacher, doesn’t get why her fiancé is so passionate about this issue and their courtship is doomed.

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) starring Richard Basehart and Valentina Cortese.
In this movie, a concentration camp survivor who has lost her entire family assumes her dead best friend’s identity to claim her lost inheritance and the care of her smuggled-to-safety young son, now living in San Francisco. Sixty-three years before Monuments Men (2014), The House on Telegraph Hill highlights issues of stolen property of death camp victims and post traumatic stress before PTS is medically understood. Bear in mind this is six years after World War II and Hollywood has continued to incorporate many painful reminders of the war within a society that just wants to forget the whole thing and live large.
Of note is these films were released when going to the movies was a special night out; radio and television channels were few, and programming would shut off for the night. With media antennas focused in such limited directions, one could argue that these romantic, screen-legend blockbusters affected society on a mass scale in a positive way.

One reason I love history, particularly World War II, is because I learn that however confusing, convoluted, and completely screwed up the world may appear now, there has always been a time when it’s been worse. And inherent in that knowledge is power to change. However disturbing the state of the environment currently, the planet has not seen anything to match the madness and fury of those World War years of bombs, explosions, property destruction, oil spills, sunken vessels, etc. Between 1939 and 1945, eighty (80) million people died irrespective of age, uniform, or nationality. Had the Lost Generation lived, our global population now would’ve been so much higher but consider for a moment that much, much more was lost than just precious lives: scientific discoveries (maybe a cure for cancer?), literary genius, our innocence and satisfaction to be content with a simpler life. After all, one damaging post-war and Cold War repercussion was a widespread mindset to live it up, for tomorrow we die. Seventy years later, where has this attitude gotten us? Backed up onto a precipice.

Sure I’m generalizing in a broad way (no pun intended) to make a very narrow point. But one could argue that after people viewed a movie like Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), a masterfully written screenplay lacking a blatant agenda, there was a shift leading to societal change. For dialogue and solutions to transpire through movies, we need more inspiration, more truth, better screenwriters. But what’s largely on movie menu tonight? Escapism. Or maybe we should rename it Sedatism: a non-sleep state of unplugging from reality.

The artist’s role is, arguably, to give hope, to shine it into the every corner of our current reality but it seems when we want to think straight, we turn off the remote. When we want a break from real life, we watch a movie. There have been eras of film when the combined artistry of screenwriters, actors, and directors would regularly switch all that around. And our screen entertainment wasn’t just a guilty pleasure… but a provocateur to make our world better.

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Surviving My Father

Making Peace With My Father's Mountain

Making Peace With My Father’s Mountain

I have waited most of my life for this moment: to stand in my father’s ski boots.
Today I am the exact age my Dad was when he died in a freak ski accident. Back then, I was sixteen: self-centred, emotional, athletic, and focussed. He was forty-three and nine days: broody, generous, heavy-handed, and hot-tempered. Sometimes we collided. Often I hid.
He remains the biggest mystery of my life thus far; a murky, shadow figure. As a grieving teen, prone to cast only villains and heroes, he lived a short time on my sparkling, crystal pedestal. And he would’ve stayed there longer, were it not for a phone call, an “I’m grieving, too, please forgive me,” missive to my mother from his other woman. Other painful memories resurfaced then: bloody, jagged shards of broken glass I’ve tried in vain, over the years, to puzzle back together.
“Who was my father? How did he think? How could he do that?” are questions which have rattled in my brain and affected, inadvertently, the course of my life. My personality? Opposite to Dad. Career pursuits and spouse selection? Opposite to Dad. Childrearing Philosophy? Pin that thought.
If I could spend anywhere today, it would be on his mountain, the one he loved, ideally all covered in snow-topped trees and moguls. I’ve taught my children to ski and they adore it too. This spring, they zoomed past the entry to Dad’s final ski run, their heads full of positive stories of him relayed by me on the chairlift. I felt it was ironic that they appeared closer to this man than I had ever been. Until today.
Today I recognize that no parents are perfect. We all make mistakes. We all feel anger. But we drop our hands and go yank weeds. Or hastily scrub dishes. Or testily sort recyclables. Or boot that soccer ball over the goal posts into someone’s yard. I hear my father’s regret from the grave and I can forgive him now because I fully believe that no parent intends to intentionally hurt their child. I know this because my father’s father told me what he would say to his son, were he still alive. And the apology rolled in tears down his face to dissolve a generational cycle of flying fists.
At forty-three and nine days, I know that parents burn out and all marriages need both overhauls and regular tune-ups. With three kids still in elementary school (my parents had five), my parenting marathon isn’t even one-third over; I’m running without a route marker in sight (and I’m sure all talk of a ‘finish line’ is myth or legend). But because of my father’s death, I’ve discovered that life is not a race but a brief, precarious, icy slope, often without any indicators of hazards or an end to the course. I juxtapose these two metaphors in my head and try to live somewhere in between the marathon and the double black diamond run.
Some days I am discouraged, anemic, or mentally exhausted and just want to pull the covers over my head. I’m sure my children wonder at times, “Who is my mother? How does she think? How could she do that?” So I make my bed again and resolve to show them—not just with words— that they are in my heart’s centre; that I am doggedly determined to act on their behalf for good.
Recently, my youngest confided to me, “You used to be more fun!” I laughed in response, delighted that he felt safe enough with me to be honest. I could rarely do this with my dad; mostly because as a child experiencing stress and distress, I would lose my words. My son’s feedback helps me raise my game, in this case, at the amusement park and into a more intentional season of light-hearted time spent with him. It’s what he says he needs. To be honest, I could use that now, too.
Today, at forty-three and nine days, I have enough experience of death and loss to ascertain that the waves of grief never fully diminish but there is a variation of time between sets. There has been healing at different stages over the years; different aspects of coming to terms with Dad’s life, death, and loss. And so today, I can finally accept that, having reached my father’s age at death, I will never know my Dad. At least, not as I would desire: as two adults would, shoulder-to-shoulder engaged in an honest conversation loaded with apologies and resolution. But God-willing, I aspire to give this to my children. Someday they will fully know me.
Today, I change my perspective as I step past this epic milestone. Today, I resolve to remember more of Dad’s laugh, his best intentions, his generosity, in short, the green side of his volcano-sized personality. I tell myself that if I wake up tomorrow, I will have survived my father… at least by a day. And to make that day count.

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My Jerry Maguire Moment

This was my evening:
1) Wait for a press conference announcing whether BC Teacher’s would strike. Check other news stories.
2) Stay up late to blog. Inspiration strikes and I combo two different news stories together.
3) Press “send.” Time? 2:30 am. Toss and turn. Can’t sleep.
4) Wake up feeling a bit like Jerry Maguire. Mutter while washing face: “What was I thinking? It was only a mission statement! Did I really just break the cardinal rule of writing non-fiction? I’m supposed to sleep on it, edit the next few days and if I still like it, consider sending it off. (The rule of writing fiction is the same except instead of days, substitute months or years, depending on the length of your work.)
5) Wake up to find my Inbox is empty; a very good sign. Story has been rejected.
6) Check online newspaper: My blog is on the front cover!
7) Blow into a paper bag. Then put paper bag on head and go to work.

Here are some links of my foray into blogging about non-fiction issues, particularly classroom life and defending public schools.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/pj-sarah-collins/bc-teachers-strike-2014-voted-no_b_5484645.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/pj-sarah-collins/bc-teachers-strike-letter-to-parents_b_5545706.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/pj-sarah-collins/bc-teachers-strike-2014_b_5467555.html

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Lost Words as Treasure

Before the strike, I was cleaning out my classroom files and found something I thought I’d lost: the photocopied page of a book I’d reserved in the Reference Section of the SFU library, way back when.  I still remember the lightning bolt sensation when I first stumbled across this page, exactly as one would experience finding buried treasure.  This is from the book (or chapter?), Towards a More Humane Society.  The author notes that the quote below was first written by Benjamin Franklin in “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America.”

At the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the Government of Virginia and the Six Nations, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg a college with a fund for educating Indian youth; and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care that they would be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people.

The Indians’ spokesman replied:

“We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal and we thank you heartily.

But you, who are wise, must know that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will not therefore take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the college of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the wood, unable to bear cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, nor kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, nor counselors; they were totally good for nothing. We are however not the less obligated by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it, and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.

                            
(Quoted by J.H. Eedle, Forward Trends, June 1972.)

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This Morning’s Miracle

Fall Winter 2012 889

Snow Angels During Pep Talk

“Can I read you the rest of my story, Mom?”

It’s five-thirty and I’m waiting for the truck to warm up, defrost on high.  It’s a foggy morning and my blurry, pre-dawn thoughts are focused on staying awake more than tracking with a story.  But his chirpy enthusiasm is enough for both of us; he reads with fluency and expression in the strong voice of his character, filling in the back-story as necessary, probing me for research points, asking me how self-publishing works, ribbing me that his book will win two awards, unlike mine.  I wake up to this morning’s not-so-little miracle, brought to me by… technology.

My son has dyslexia and dysgraphia with a healthy dose of ADHD.  Over the years we’ve been faithful with tutoring, medication, and speech-language therapy but we haven’t yet been able to crack the C minus ceiling above his Language Arts mark. Last year in Grade 5, we both had access to iPads—his through a gift using my brother’s Save-On More points, mine through my principal—and we both began to explore the potential of this technology.  He used his at home as a toy; I became part of a pilot project committed to exploring ways, beyond content apps, that these devices could increase student engagement.  I was hopeful that, as a teacher, I’d eventually become the expert but have since surrendered to the fact that most six year-olds discover in five minutes what adults do in an hour. I also realized that we were both vastly under-using what we had been given.  So this September, we erased the games off his iPad and allowed him to purchase (with his summer reward money) the necessary keyboard attachment and Pages software to enable the iPad to be his substitutionary pencil.

The results are incredible!  He uses his iPad for every subject but PE and Math and manages his own homework daily, emailing his assignments to me when he wants help with editing, or to his teacher when it’s due. He keeps track of his schedule each morning, reminding us when his team—or mine—have games. His confidence has blossomed with his level of increased responsibility.  And he actually loves reading and writing, evidenced by this morning’s early commute.  As we pull up to the rink, I realize something wonderful: whatever the upcoming report card declares, his latest story says it all.

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Discovering the Productivity of Fallow

Mammoth Lakes

In search of fallow places

So, summers off?  Is that when you write?

That’s always the plan but by definition summer is becoming my least productive time.  For the last two years, I’ve averaged about a page per day while “working” (’cause you know Momma’s always working at home!) but in the summer my output equals zip divided by nada.

This summer it was going to be different.  In June, with all my extra classroom duties and reports, I’d somehow managed to squeak in a third edit of my 100,000 word book, all in hopes of starting a fresh, new project July 1.  And I did… sort of.  I read through notes and made a story plan; all very productive.  Then I clocked many hours this summer on wonderful reading trails: WW2 Biography, Endocrine & Stress, Nutrition and Health.  For my birthday, I was given a course on 19th Century literature and discovered Milosz, Dickinson, O’Connor, and Dostoevsky.  We vacationed in our home town, swam, gardened in our backyard, and enjoyed our newly adopted, rescued rabbits.

Several years back, after the birth of my third child, it became necessary for me to keep my home’s interior pristine and ultra-organized, as if the chaos of preschoolers and a new baby could somehow be better managed by OCD cleanliness! After I put the kids to bed, I’d complete a variety of home projects (painting, organizing, etc.).  [Proof, I think, that sleep-deprived parents suffer logic sinkholes.] At a workshop, I’d met up with two fellow writers.  To the question, “what are you working on now?” I’d answered truthfully: nothing.  The first author put on her disapproving face, as if I was letting myself down and should know better.  After all, writers are defined by one sole activity: they write and they actually have to clock time putting pen to paper.  Ouch.  But the second author, aged 80, gently touched my arm and reminded me, “you’re just filling up your well.”  These six words were therapy for me and when that bit of postpartum madness wore off, I set to work on another novel (in truth, not a very good one… still puts me to sleep!)

This summer I discovered that just as the practice of fallow is part of productive agriculture, seasons of apparent unproductivity are valuable and necessary. Even Oxford backs me up on this one.

fallow (adjective):

  • 1(of farmland) ploughed and harrowed but left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility or to avoid surplus production: incentives for farmers to let land lie fallow
  • (of a period of time) characterized by inaction; unproductive: long fallow periods when nothing seems to happen

FYI: I eventually kicked the postpartum insanity and discovered that a messy house, with the right priorities, can be a place of peace and happiness for children… and their parents.

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