Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today, at a meeting, we got through the whole agenda. A first in a long time, for this particular meeting group. Agendas. Sometimes it is hard to get through one without hearing implicitly, or explicitly other agendas. Sometimes the agendas coincide. Sometimes they clash. Sometimes they don't seem real. Sometimes they are so blatant they just have to make me laugh. Sometimes they are so disturbing and damaging I am not sure what to do next.

I, too, bring my agendas to the table. Sometimes they are prepared. Sometimes? Not so much.

Sometimes I just wish we could all put our cards on the table. "I am afraid for my job." "I am afraid I am not doing a good job." "I don't like you, or trust you." "I want to trust you, but you keep giving me reasons not to." "I want everyone to have faith in me." "I want people to value me." "I want everyone to speak their truth." "I want everyone to do what I want." "I don't want to make a mistake'" ,or, my personal favourite, "I want everyone to get along, without any conflict." Ya, Mary-Anne, good luck with that!

And then, the whole idea of working with consensus. I would really like to do that, but it seems that this would take alot of time, and it seems decisions always need to happen quickly. Too quickly for our own good. Although today, because we took time, and revisited decisions we had delayed from last week we easily reached consensus. That felt good. I would like more training in consensus decision making. At least if it appears that I can't just make everyone do as I want! Consensus decisions make me feel more enlivened, more invigorated, more content.

But, we are human beings, with our agendas, our subjective viewpoints, our fallibilities, and our striving.

Our striving. We are doing our best. As long as we are striving, and in conversation with each other we can get through agendas. The explicit ones and the implicit ones. And, if we make a mistake, we can apologize and try to fix it. And, if we can't fix it, we can learn from it. We have to learn from our mistakes.

That should be number one on all our agendas!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday. Check.

Sometimes I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. Things are just going so well in my classroom, and it has been three weeks. It is just so much fun to teach right now, and prep seems relaxed and easy. Everything is just flowing.

So, when will the 'fall' happen.

Don't know, and don't really care. I am basking in the goodness of it all right now.

Basking. Like a mud shark. Or a marmot. Yeah, a marmot. Warm and content on a rock in the sun.

Take all the pictures you want. Remember this moment. This moment will not come by again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rain on the roof

Home from a wonderful, calm, relaxed weekend in the camper. Rain, good food, beautiful mist on the ocean, companionship, and campfires. Last night awoken by a huge windstorm at 3am, and then rain on the roof of the camper.

When I was diagnosed, Brian asked me what I wanted to do. "I want to camp with you and hear the rain on the roof of our camper".

Another prayer granted.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Learning to Fall. I read this book soon after I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Learning to Fall. Quite a different experience than learning to walk. Although, learning to walk does involve learning to fall. Learning to Fall is about letting go. Learning to Fall is one of the first lessons when you learn to down hill ski. Learn to Fall so you don't hurt yourself. Learning to walk involves throwing yourself off balance and then catching your balance. Learning to Fall involves letting go and believing you will be caught. Sometimes you are caught by the ground, sometimes by loving arms, sometimes by a stranger. Learning to Fall means trusting that someone, or something will catch you.

Learning to Fall means learning to live with Grace, and Faith, and the belief that it will all be okay.

It will all be okay. It has to be.

So today, was a good day. I had a lovely cup of tea with some colleagues in the middle of a potentially stressful day. I shared dinner and a glass of wine with a friend of mine whose life has changed and possibilities are endless. I painted dragons with my class. I tilted at windmills. I had my buddha seat today. I don't always have that, but today I did.

And at the end of it, I read the blog about a mother grieving for her child. No mother or father should have to grieve for their dead child. It is not the way it is supposed to be. And yet, sometimes the way it is supposed to be is not the way it is.

So my friend, too, is learning to fall. She knows there are loving arms to catch her before she hits the ground, and she knows that if those arms should fail, there are others to pick her up.

Learning to Fall. September 22, 2011. First day of Fall.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

cheerful and stupid

I know, I know. I have used this quote before. Sometimes in the midst of other peoples' anger, and mis-trust, and unhappiness, I just act 'cheerful and stupid' and I purposefully don't acknowledge their behaviour, or their mood.

Maybe it is a preservation tactic. Maybe it is how children of alcoholics cope with tension in daily situations. I don't know, but I do know that I can make a choice.

I can be a thermostat, or a thermometer. I can allow others to influence my mood by their mood, or I can set my own mood. Sail my own ship.

Sometimes people behave badly. Sometimes people disappoint each other. Sometimes people are just down right mean. But that doesn't mean that I have to reciprocate the behaviour, or always be on guard for disappointment.

I can choose to do my best. Breathe. Surround myself by good friends, good colleagues, good situations.

I am so in love with my class of 13 grade eight students right now. They are silly, and fun and good willed and hard working. They are delightful. I am spending alot of time in my classroom with them. It is fun just to be in their presence, around their antics.

I have a number of wonderful colleagues. It is so interesting that, as it has been in all my jobs and professions, I always get along better with my male colleagues. Their friendship is warmer somehow. It seems more 'true'. I don't know if that makes any sense, but there are more than a handful of wonderful male colleagues that support me, make me laugh, make me think, converse with me (not at me), and whom I trust. Yes, that's it. I trust them. I know they would be there for me if I needed it.

I am working hard on my resolve and I am working hard in my classroom. I am working hard on my administrative tasks. I am doing a good job. I am doing the best I can.

I am happy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I am spending ten minutes a day, first thing in the morning, journalling with my Grade Eight class. I am using Natalie Goldberg's book, Old Friend from Far Away. Today the exercise was write everything you know about Jello. 10 minutes. Go!

First of all, who knew we all knew so much about Jello? Second of all, you could hear a pin drop for 10 minutes. This is the fifth day of pin-drop silence in Grade Eight. Gotta love that!

Then, we discussed their homework. Their assignment? Read Rocking-Horse Winner by DH Lawrence. They came into school bursting to talk about it. "I didn't like the mother", "My Dad was so happy you assigned this story", "Mrs. Taylor, I am so glad you assigned this story, I really enjoyed reading it". "Mrs. Taylor, I didn't get it, it was confusing", "It was disturbing, a boy his age riding a rocking-horse", "I thought the whispering house was disturbing", and we were off.

After a discussion of the story we talked alot about horse racing, and tote boards, and odds (a mini math lesson), handicapping, and gambling. It was so alive and exciting in that room today. I segued into talking about another favourite book of mine, "Man o war", and at the end of the period a overheard a student saying, "I am going to read that book!". Such a wonderful day.

And, it continued. I got prep down, emails answered, agendas prepped, feathers unruffled.

I headed home after this brilliant day with the thought, "I am probably going to get a migraine". It is not that I am melancholic, it is just that often my euphoric moments precede a migraine.

So far so good. I have been reading, and casting my Grade Eight Play. I am awaiting a wonderful dinner that smells amazing bubbling on the stove (thanks, dear husband). I have my knitting to get to after dinner.

I am just happy. In every respect. Happy. Me. Who would have thought it?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Ok, day three done. Well, technically it is day 2 1/2 but who's counting. Oh, right, I AM!

I just got home from a lovely parent evening - the first of the year. My parents are great. They are the kind of people I want to be friends with, and hopefully when I graduate this class we will be. That is something to be grateful for.

Being grateful isn't so easy this week. School has had some hard moments in the collegial realm, but I am holding fast to my resolve. I think I will have to announce my resolve aloud soon because otherwise people don't seem to get where I am coming from. If you want to kvetch to me about someone else, don't. Go kvetch to them. Ahhh, not so easy.

My class is great. My prep is going well. But, boy, late night with the Board last night, and faculty meeting and parent meeting tonight, and whew! TGIF! No kidding.

I feel a bit sad about this being my last year. Not because I don't want it to be my last year, but what will I do? Well, camp for a number of weeks, perhaps months, but then what? I do feel that this year is my time to pass the torch. Let others step up to the work of running a school, let others fight the dragons, let others swim upstream for awhile.

Me, I am going to float for a bit. Imagining myself in the waters of Grassy Point, or Whaling Station, or Hague Lake. Doing my best, putting myself first. At least for a little while. Just a little while.

I am worried a good friendship is going to suffer this year, going to be lost. I am not sure what to do, if there is even anything to do. I just wish it didn't have to be so.

I don't have a large of number of really close, tell all your secrets to, friends. Well, actually I don't have any tell ALL of my secrets to friends. But, that's ok. I do have friends that have known me for my whole life, or darn near it. I have new friendships that are just beginning to form, and that is lovely to realize. I still have, in my life, the possibility of making new friendships. But still, it is sad to realize some will be lost where there are so many lovely memories.

So, melancholic me, should put herself first, and go to bed. I am reading "The Help", and realizing how lucky I am to live with the advantages I have. Still, going to bed early will be putting myself first. So, off to bed. Tomorrow things may look less dire, and more hopeful, and, well, just different.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And so it begins

Up at 5:30. I had a weird dream about the opening school assembly. Grade One wasn't there, the High School came in very late. My colleague's students were unruly, and I couldn't even find my class. I was trying to give my opening address, and NO ONE WAS PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO ME! This is probably the equivalent of realizing you are naked in the school hallways.

So, I am up, and looking forward to the year beginning. This is my last year - at least for some while. I have already started my list of 'What I will do when I retire'. First on list - organize my photos. I tried to find some pictures I took of the London Globe Theatre 5 years ago, and I had to look in four places before I got lucky. And, when I got lucky I found a whole basket of unfiled photos. Oops! But, I digress.

So, today I will stand in front of 13 students in this my 13th year of teaching at this school. Coincidence? I don't think so!

And as far as my resolve, I think I will have to let faculty know what I am up to, or not up to, as the case may be. There have been a few uncomfortable moments as I deflect gossip or unkind comments. Really sometimes we are no better than those teenagers. Sigh

But, the school looks beautful, my room looks beautiful, and even my board drawing looks beautiful (Globe Theatre, no less). Soon it will be filled with beautiful thirteen and fourteen year olds. (and no, that is not an oxymoron).

Wish me luck! I am off....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 1

It slipped by again, as it does. It is not that I didn't think about him on Thursday. I did. I stood in front of his picture on my school desk, and thought lovingly about him. I didn't cry then. But, I am now.

I think, for me, September 1, is the most profound date in my calendar. I still remember my mom waking me up that morning, early, to tell me he had died. I remember lying in my bed thinking that all my prays had been of no use. I remember thinking as I lay crying that it just couldn't be.

I was seventeen, and I loved him so much. He was not the perfect father, but to me, he was the man who loved me fiercely, and in the two years he spent dying we became closer and closer.

He was the center of my Grade Twelve year. And although he wasn't able to come to my graduation, and I wasn't able to dance the father/daughter dance with him, he was there. He was always there. He is always there.

He was funny. He had a horrible temper. He was imposing. His hugs were huge. His presence comforting. His eyes were unlike anyone I have every seen. He was, quite simply, my Dad.

Often after school,in his last year, the two of us would sit in the living room, alone. I think my brother and mother were off to swim practice. I am not sure where my younger sister was - perhaps babysitting. But he and I were often alone. Sitting. Sipping sherry that came out of an oak keg - a keg I still have. Talking about life and love. He was there for my first broken heart. He was there when I was accepted into University. He was there when I got my first job. He was there.

I still have the last gifts he ever gave me. A Mickey Mouse watch for my 17th birthday. The Complete Works of William Blake for Christmas a few months later. He inscribed that book "Because it is Christmas, and because I love you. Dad"

My daughter was born on his birthday. He would have been his 65th birthday. That was a gift he gave me also.

So, September 1st has come and gone. The flowers have been sent to the church as they always are this time of year. He was a devote Anglican. I continue to honour that.

Thirty eight years have gone by, and yet it still seems like yesterday. I imagine that the next thirty eight will pass with me missing him just as much.

So, Dad, this one is for you. I will love you forever and always.

Your daughter,

Mary-Anne Burton Taylor

Friday, September 2, 2011

what a difference a day makes....

With some trepidation I entered into a meeting yesterday, and voila, everyone arrived, we sat down, got to work, had a great meeting, and the mood that had existed a few days ago has dissapated. Consequently the rest of the day was very productive.

I am in the classroom now getting ready for Monday. Thirteen students. Thirteen thirteen and fourteen year olds. H E L P (insert Sid the Sloth voice from Ice Age here). Actually I am excited and looking forward. The classroom is taking shape, and I am throwing out stuff that I have carried around for eight years (well probably truthfully twelve). Simplicity is my motto this year, Simplicity (for me) and independence (for them).

I am starting with a Life and Times of Shakespeare block and taking the class to Bard on the Beach the second week of school. I am still pondering my class play this year. I am thinking Cyrano, or Charlie Brown, or, yes, maybe even Shakespeare. With a small class, casting can be difficult. Suggestions?

Also, I want to do a short story block this year, so any suggestions of Grade Eight short stories would be helpful. Ok, this blog is starting to sound like I am asking you dear readers to do my work for me.....

Let's see, what else. Oh yea, I am happy as I write this. Happy is good. I told a colleague that my motto this year will be 'cheerful and stupid'. You have to listen to Joy Brown on the radio to understand this reference, but it basically is a way to 'behave' when others around you are behaving badly. Or, when there is the potential for personal conflict. When I am nervous I tend to babble on aimlessly trying to diffuse tension. So, this year, less babbling, more breathing, and with my Thumperism in my back pocket (If you can't say anything nice....) I will face the days ahead.

It is already making a difference. At least for me.

So, September is here, one hurdle met. Bring it on!