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Race No. 25
On the way to my first 10km race today, we started counting and talking and I realized that last weekend marked my 25th big race in a category of halfs, 30kms, and fulls. 
25 does not feel like a big deal. Until our conversation, not even I kept count. Bibs and medals are in a shoebox somewhere and I think I remember seeing a race medal in my kitchen drawer. I even feel sheepish sometimes  talking about racing, even my family knows that. In my heart, there are other things I feel proud of more. “It’s just a race,” I tell my mom.  
But maybe 25 is a biggish deal, but not because it was the 25th long race.  The quiet proud feeling comes from remembering all the training that went into those races, despite how my day felt, my week felt, my month or year felt.  
I have my favorite running moments and my least favorite running moments and it’s the latter category that means the most to me - where all the doubts, fears and insecurities live. That’s when I feel it in my legs, in my mind, deep in my heart. That’s where the grit is, but maybe without that grittiness, there’d be no traction.  

Race No. 25

On the way to my first 10km race today, we started counting and talking and I realized that last weekend marked my 25th big race in a category of halfs, 30kms, and fulls. 

25 does not feel like a big deal. Until our conversation, not even I kept count. Bibs and medals are in a shoebox somewhere and I think I remember seeing a race medal in my kitchen drawer. I even feel sheepish sometimes  talking about racing, even my family knows that. In my heart, there are other things I feel proud of more. “It’s just a race,” I tell my mom.  

But maybe 25 is a biggish deal, but not because it was the 25th long race.  The quiet proud feeling comes from remembering all the training that went into those races, despite how my day felt, my week felt, my month or year felt.  

I have my favorite running moments and my least favorite running moments and it’s the latter category that means the most to me - where all the doubts, fears and insecurities live. That’s when I feel it in my legs, in my mind, deep in my heart. That’s where the grit is, but maybe without that grittiness, there’d be no traction.  

May 4

WORST PARADE EVER!

- spectator sign during the Mississauga Marathon

What do you mean he wrote music? I thought Beethoven was a dog.

- Period 4. Grade 10.

Are classrooms becoming more violent?

"When you go to work, you should come home the same way you came."

Two days ago, we had a violent incident in class and for the first time in a career of teaching, I felt terrified in my own classroom, and got caught in the crossfire. Two girls. One feud. Four fists. My glasses can be fixed, my wrist will heal, my thumb now moves, and things will calm down tomorrow, but what I can’t shake is that few seconds of feeling helpless, frantic and terrified, like trying to stop a oncoming train in its tracks.

What made me feel less helpless came later. I filled out the forms -Safe Schools Reporting Form, Violent Incident Reporting Form, Health and Safety- because, even though I can understand the two students, even though I know they have their own emotional baggage, and even though I can empathize with the feelings behind the rage by being empathetic, in the end, teachers are workers, and as such, deserve a safe working environment, free from violence.

To suggest that compassion and understanding should outweigh disciplinary action is ridiculous. I love teaching, but moving my head (too slowly) away from an oncoming fist is not part of the job, and  neither is jumping between two students while they are going at it. But in that moment, what else is there to do?   

In the meantime, they are suspended and I have been asked to prepare two weeks worth of lessons for them while they are on suspension, in addition to regular planning.  In some ways, that stings more than any mild injury.

(When it was all over, one of the other students started chirping like a seagull but that is neither here nor there.)

If you don’t want her in your life…

  1. Don’t tell her that you love hearing her ramble. Because not many people will listen to someone else’s ramble unless they really, really like them. That’s a whole lot of love (and a whole lot of patience.)
  2. Try not to share articles and documentaries that make her weep. The fact is that the stuff you send speaks volumes about your heart and she will fall in love with your heart. She will also love you for knowing her so well.
  3. When she is stressed or tired, don’t tell her that you wish you could just hold her. She believes you.
  4. Don’t send her funny messages or emails during the day just to make her laugh. And when she tells you that she is laughing for real at work, don’t tell her “Mission accomplished!” It makes her think you are the most wonderful man.
  5. Don’t share your feelings, scary as that may seem. She will love you so much for being that brave. The parts of you that you doubt, she loves.
  6. Do not share your work with her because she will love you for opening up that way. She will consider it a huge privilege to see the rough drafts.
  7. Don’t make it feel so safe that she will then share her work with you, and ask you if it really is boring as oatmeal. And when you kindly say “Yes” she will feel SO relieved with your honesty! 
  8. Don’t tell her that you’d make a great team. Chances are she’s had that feeling too, but hearing it from you makes it pretty awesome
  9. Really, really refrain from telling her that you are hers. As in “Your  [insert nickname]” or “Yours” or  whatnot.
  10. Don’t tell her that she does it all for you. Not if you ever want her to come down from Cloud Nine.
  11. Avoid telling her that you want to be her rock, her shoulder, her ear. If she’s ever been hurt in love before, it will be a solace to her to find someone that sincere and loving.
  12. Don’t tell her that you believe in her work. If she’s a teacher, its her lifeblood to make a difference and she will appreciate your support more than you’ll ever, ever know.
  13. Try to not be so supportive when she goes on issues that she’s passionate about. You will let her feel heard, valued, supported and she will love you more than she thought possible. 
  14. Don’t promise to take her to shoot hoops one day because she’s never made a basket in her entire life. Its a small promise, but a sweet one, and those ones are the ones that matter.     
  15. When she tells you her buried fears, pains and insecurities, don’t be patient and loving. Definitely don’t put aside your own feelings while being the best listener in the world. She will feel safer with you than anyone else in the whole world. Seriously.
  16. Don’t rhyme her name with famous tennis stars (and thereby create ridiculously absurd but cute nicknames) when she develops tennis elbow from not playing tennis.  
  17. Try to not work so hard at resolving conflict. She might be used to the silent treatment, or passive-aggressiveness, or people who leave. If you try to resolve conflicts, she will trust your presence in her life.

Read More

Apr 6

You shouldn't get paid less because of who you are. You have a right to a safe workplace. And everyone deserves a living wage, not just a minimum wage.

Cutting School in Kansas | Harper's Magazine

by Sarah Smarsh,

"In his State of the State Address on January 15, Governor Sam Brownback declared that Kansas depends “not on Big Government but on a Big God that loves us and lives within us.” The sentiment likely got an amen from Koch Industries, the multibillion-dollar, Wichita-based conglomerate that bankrolls Brownback’s campaigns and profits handsomely from his breathtaking tax cuts. And it likely provoked a groan from public-school districts currently suing the state for underfunding public education. The decision on that case — due any day from the Kansas Supreme Court — has implications for eleven states, including California, New York and Texas, that are facing similar litigation…

In stripping the resources that allow public schools to educate children, the current state administration — which has demonstrated its preference for privatization in nearly every budget column — perhaps reveals its desire to tear the public system down.”

Veteran teacher: I’m sick of being called ‘burned out’

Portion of the thirty professions projected to grow fastest over the next ten years that require postsecondary education : 2/3

Binyavanga Wainaina interview: coming out in Kenya

When the writer published a lost chapter from his memoir titled ‘I am a homosexual, Mum’, it caused a sensation – and has placed him at the heart of the African debate on gay rights:

'The strategy for me was very loose,” he says. “I am not a chess player, but I had been thinking about it for months. We were burying a friend's mother on my birthday, and the night before I was determined that I was not going to sleep until the chapter was done.”

That imperative had begun for him last year when a young friend, who had been living at his house, and whom he had helped fund through college, died. The man had been gay, and it is Wainaina’s understanding that he died from an Aids-related illness, but he had felt unable to admit that even to his closest friends. The family line was that he suffered throat cancer. Wainaina returned home from New York for good in time for the funeral and decided, angry, that he should perhaps do some of his friend’s talking for him. The news from Uganda, and then Nigeria, heightened that anger.

"If you are middle-class here, or international enough here, you can pretty much live as you want," he says, of his own circumstance. That was not so easy, though, still, for his young friend, and increasingly impossible for gay men and women in Nigeria and Uganda (and to differing degrees in the 36 other African countries in which homosexuality remains illegal). "It is an irony," he says, "that my friend had worked in the past for an NGO counselling people about the importance of being open about health issues, but he couldn’t even tell us he was going through this thing. I thought, ‘It is time: I have to write about it.’"

The solitude of writing is also quite frightening. It’s quite close to madness, one just disappears for a day and loses touch.

- Nadine Gordimer (via writingquotes)

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy

by Brad Leithauser,The New Yorker:

In the past couple of years, I’ve reread three novels with one unmistakable sentence to which everything else is preparatory and subordinate. The first is Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” His characters, a few dozen English schoolboys marooned on an island without an adult, begin by constructing in their terra nova a hopeful, rule-bound society, which devolves into chaos, injustice, and, eventually, murder.

This time around, I was struck by the perverse and highly effective way in which Golding aligns himself with his monstrous schoolboys. They are born bullies, and Golding, as the narrator, becomes one as well. Their natural target is Piggy, a pale, asthmatic, bespectacled, overweight, unathletic boy, whom Golding tirelessly persecutes. Piggy has an actual name, of course, but we’re never told it. For he is “Piggy” to Golding as well, who misses no opportunity to remind us of the boy’s unappealing look and manner. Even when Piggy is murdered—an enormous boulder is rolled down onto him, sending him tumbling off a causeway to crash on the shore below—Golding shows the boy no mercy. “Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed.” Golding is unrelenting—or, rather, he is until the last page, with this striking sentence: “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” True? Wise? If Golding has been hinting, all along, that he is no better than his brutish characters, here he fair-mindedly concedes that homage must be paid to a dead boy who wasn’t merely annoying and unattractive; he was also wise and true. Piggy’s fall onto the rocks is transmuted into a flight—there’s a feathery touch of Icarus about him. And the sentence announces its own extraordinariness by alluding to that most long-awaited and improbable of miracles: the day pigs fly.

"Somebody threw a dead dog after him down the ravine"