My favourite colour is purple. I like most colours, except that I'm not too fond of yellow. I'm a teacher, a student, a wife and a step-mom to four young adult-ish kids. My favourite room is my craft room. I like to play with photography, paper, scrapbooking, book and card making. Thanks for checking out my blog!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's been interesting getting back in pool water recently. I thought it would be easier than it has been. Most of the time my body feels like a heavy rock, and I struggle to get a good breathing rhythm. I know that each time I suit up, I feel a little stronger, but I do have a ways to go. 

When I swim, my mind wanders. I mostly think back to a time when I would spend 15-18 hours a week swimming. Those were good days. The friendships formed in the water will last me my lifetime. As I swim now, I think of these friends. Many of them are still swimming at the Masters level and achieving amazing things. After these few months of trying to get back into my swimming rhythm, I have the greatest respect for those who continue in this discipline and who continue to compete internationally. You, my friends, inspire me.

Every time I start on the kick board, my arms stretch out, fingers to the end, left wrist hooked over the right- push off the wall and streamline kick underwater. It's like I have never forgotten this position. I just automatically do it. And then it comes. The instant memory of my friend Hilda. We always liked kicking together, because then we could chat and laugh and plan our next movie outing or talk about the latest magazine she had. We couldn't chat like this when we swam, but as we kicked, we could come alongside one another and talk. 

So this winter, as I grab the kick board, she's the one I think of. I can see her goggles raised up to her forehead, I see the sun glisten off her strong arms. I hear her laugh. I hear our coach Jaime, telling us to go harder and stop laughing. 

Today is the third anniversary of her passing. I never got to fulfill our plan of a visit and having her meet my husband and meeting her girls and being together again. We said we would really do this visit, and we talked about it for years. She told me she had a guest room ready for me whenever I wanted to stay with her. 

That's why it was so important for me to visit her home and meet her beautiful girls and see her husband again, when I visited the Dominican Republic this past summer. I'm so glad I did. It was wonderful to meet these young women, carrying their mom's spirit and courage and strength. Hearing an echo of their mom in their laugh. Catching a glimpse of their mom in the quick smile, the kindness in their eyes. 

We all laughed when they showed me the boxes of magazines that Hilda had stored away, and how some would still arrive in the mail. I told them stories of the magazines we would read together, and the movies we went to at the Plaza Naco. 

I missed the chance for our long talked about reunion. But I'm glad I got to know her girls and be in her home. 

I miss you, Hilda. I'm glad that when I pull out the kick board it's you that comes to mind. I treasure the friendship that was formed while we swam and kick-boarded together. 

Hilda, Joan, circa 1981

Hilda, Joan,  1982 at my surprise birthday party

Paola, Hilda, Patricia, 2009 (?)

Paola, Jorge, Patricia, 2011

with Hilda's girls, in their home

Friday, March 2, 2012

I admit it, I am a greedy teacher. 
I’m greedy because I think my students deserve more than $10 each so that I can buy the educational textbooks and supplies that they need in a year. Softcover textbooks cost an average of  $20 while the hard cover books cost about $50 each before tax. The teacher's guides that I need to use the text book effectively cost well over $200. So for the past three years my colleagues and I at my grade level have been purchasing 15 literacy texts each year and we still have a few years to go before we can attain full class sets of the books needed to fully cover the curriculum. At my school, one class sends the social studies textbooks home with half the students so they can do the homework, and then the other half get the textbook the next day so they can do their homework. Last year one grade level in my school had enough money allocated to buy nine science text books and the teacher’s guide, to be shared between two full size classes. Imagine if I had the money that I needed to buy textbooks for all my students? I’m greedy that way.
I’m greedy because I don’t think it’s educationally sound to have my students who have learning difficulties and who need individualized education plans wait an average of 3 years to get an educational assessment from our school psychologist or our speech and language pathologist. Three years? That is precious time where students fall farther and farther behind. These assessments help me to better understand the specific learning strengths of my student so that I know how to program for them so that they can succeed in my classroom and so they understand that they can learn. I’d like this waiting time shortened. I believe it’s critical to get assessments done in time for programming to be put in place for it to make a difference. At my school we have twenty five students on the wait list for assessment. Not one has been completed this year. I’d like to have one psychologist at my school, instead of one being spread thin across many schools with unmanageable caseloads. I’m greedy.
I’m greedy because I want more support worker time for my students. Did you know that in order to qualify for a student support worker the student either has to have a medical designation or be a physical harm to themselves or others? If my student has a cognitive learning disability, a behaviour issue, Attention Deficit Disorder, or is, for some unknown reason, academically delayed so they are years below grade level, they don’t qualify for support from a student support worker. Research, along with common sense, tells us that these students have a better chance at success if they have additional support and more frequent monitoring. Students with Autism often have to share their support worker time with other students in the school, meaning they don’t receive full time support. But that doesn’t matter in my province. I’m greedy. 
I’m greedy because I believe all schools deserve a full time teacher librarian. I believe the library is the hub of learning at school. I believe the teacher librarian should have adequate money to stock the shelves with the current books, magazines and computer equipment to inspire learning. My librarian has a budget this year of $8.18 per student. This is meant to cover the cost of replacing lost books as well as keeping new books on the shelves. Can you imagine giving a child $8.18 once a year and letting them loose at your local book store to find something to keep them interested for the year? At our school we are not funded for a full time librarian. We are funded for 29 out of the 35 blocks of the week. That’s almost a whole day a week without a librarian. I’m greedy because I want more money for our library. 
I’m greedy because I wish I could give out full erasers without having to cut them in half. I guess I didn’t order enough erasers last June when I was asked to order my own classroom supplies for the upcoming year. I debated about what was more important to have in grade four- glue sticks, pencil crayons, notebooks or erasers? I ended up ordering above my budget allotment, and yet I have already run out of pencils and lined paper. Thankfully my colleague across the hall gave me some of their lined paper. When I make my shopping list at home, I often add things my classroom needs. I guess I’m greedy because I dream of having everything I need to be stocked on the shelves at school. 
I’m greedy because I want the ability to discuss at our bargaining table the educational impact of class size with my employer.  I have taught for over 20 years in this province and I have witnessed the deterioration of support for individual students in my classroom because of increased class size. I agree with the B.C. Supreme Court that this is my right as a teacher, to be able to discuss and negotiate what is educationally sound when it comes to class size. I guess I’m greedy when I hear my education minister George Abbott refer to me as being “discriminatory” when I want to be able to discuss a limit to the number of special needs students in my classroom. I guess it’s my greed that gives me the desire to talk about this to ensure that all of my student’s needs can be met. 
I’m so greedy when it comes to the effect of this strike on the students and families in my school community. This school community that I have worked in for over 15 years, that banded together in tangible, powerful ways last year when we had to demonstrate at public meetings, and voice our concerns about the possible closure of our school. I don’t think it was right that 400 students would be moved to several other already crowded schools so that our school property could be leased out and the money used by our board to ease the inadequate funding from our provincial government. 
I’m greedy because I believe the dissolving of our collective agreement by our employer has had detrimental effects on the education in this province. Enough tearing up of our legal contracts.  We have endured enough of the erosion of our children’s public education system. My strike is legal.  I’m just thinking about doing all I can to speak up for my students. I’m greedy that way.
I’m greedy because I care deeply about my students. I love being a public school teacher. I can’t imagine any other vocation I would rather be in.  
Joan Shannon Jung
Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School
Vancouver School Board