Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 2, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

Recess duty at school


“Who is the teacher and who is the student?”

I posed this very question several weeks ago just before coming to Kangiqsujuaq in Norther Quebec. I can’t tell you with 100% certainty the answer to this question because I haven’t been with the students in my class long enough to know if my teaching has yielded any results.  Besides doing a great deal of scrambling day to day to map out lesson plans, I have focused a lot of energy getting to know the children.

Like any teacher in any classroom, in any part of this country, earning the respect of the students is crucial and time consuming… and energy sapping! The unsettling history of indigenous people in our country in recent times makes it even more difficult for teachers from “down south” to gain the confidence of the students. The turnover rate of teachers is very high in the north. You can almost read their minds. “I wonder how long this guy is going to stay.”

I have to admit that this assignment is considerably more difficult than I imagined. The staff at the school has been very helpful as well as many teachers from back home who have spent time in the north. Nobody has given me more support and insight than Antigonish’s own award winning teacher, Maggie MacDonell. After yet another tough day a week or so ago, I wrote to Maggie, as I tugged at the last remaining hairs on my head. There are precious few remaining! She wrote me a lengthy reply and supplied this pearl of wisdom: “When I got frustrated, I would also remind myself that I am a small dot in the timeline of the North. While the moment seems big at the time and when I put that day on the timeline of all the Inuit experience in schools, it helps me see it in perspective and helps me get through that tough moment.”

Besides getting wisdom and knowledge from fellow educators and friends back home, I have gone to another source for help. Counselling.

From time to time, the regional school board provides schools with additional teaching resources and resource people. Our school has been blessed recently to have a counsellor from Canada’s west coast join us for 10 days to provide professional help to anyone requesting it. She did a presentation at a staff meeting upon her arrival. I was impressed.

I sat and listened with great interest. I could tell that this woman was a real pro so I decided to pay her a visit.

I grew up in a family where being stoic was a badge of honor. “Do what you say you’re going to do and finish what you start” rings in my ears to this day. I came to the realization in the last few weeks that you can’t be strong all the time.

I suffered some losses this fall and have been trying to process them. In the middle of this, I decided on the spur of the moment to return to the classroom after a 40 year hiatus. Everybody has been saying how tough I am to be doing this. Sorry. Wrong. I have actually come to the realization that I am human after all and am weak. I have also realized, much to my relief that admitting vulnerability is a sign of strength and not weakness.

In the past, I dealt with stress in many of the classic ways. Exercise is always a great stress reliever. I did yoga for a few years and learned all about breathing and meditation. Is there anything better than a massage?  A slice of pie or a nice glass of wine will relieve tension temporarily but these are not long term fixes.

I’ve had three counselling sessions so far and it is quite liberating to get things out in the open in front of someone who isn’t judgmental. It feels like peeling back the layers of an onion. Peeling onions can leave you weepy.

I recently saw a post on Facebook about someone back home who is suffering from ALS. He had a long, distinguished work career and gave many years of his life to volunteering. Oh, the cruelty of life.


We are all a work in progress. Students for life.

“You will either step forward into growth or step back into safety. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” Abraham Maslow

Have a great week.

P.S. After three weeks, I received my personal belongings. The first thing I did was make my bed with my own bedding and then I made 4 dozen cookies. I sampled the cookies for quality control … not as a stress reducer!

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