Monday, February 2, 2015


Well it is over a month since I wrote on this blog.  Now I have been posting regularly in My Beautiful Vancouver blog but somehow this one has been neglected.  But if you would like to take some neat walks around my city please visit that blog!
There have been a few starts here but they haven't gone anywhere!  Unfortunately when I have these great thoughts I am usually not near my computer.
I thought of writing more about retirement and started a post on that subject but it  hasn't really gone anywhere.
The bottom line is I am still enjoying it.  I love the freedom.  I especially love my morning walks.  I have to admit I prefer them when the weather is better but when the weather is not I kind of get the territory to myself.  And there is beauty in all types of weather.
I still enjoy volunteering as well.  For one thing it reminds me of why I am happily retired.  I love to work with the kids but I don't miss the relentless pace!  I like how those two mornings gives a structure to my week.  I like how it helps to give me purpose.  I like being with my old staff.
This month I began another project-working with my next neighbour's son who is in first grade and amazing but struggling with reading.  And I have to say this is challenging me as well.  I don't think anyone ever truly becomes an expert at teaching, especially in the initial stages of teaching children to read.  It is humbling.
After fourteen years of teaching special education I moved to a west side school in a wealthy neighbourhood and became a learning assistance teacher.  My job was to teach kids who were struggling in the regular class.  In many ways I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  For one thing for the first time I had parents who generally more concerned with their child's education than I was.  In many cases the parents I had had were more concerned with mere survival.  Thinking too much about their child's education was a luxury.
My new students were well taken care of, they had parents who were well off and well educated.  My students had parents who read to them and they had lots of experiences but I still had children with difficulty learning to read.  Now I am happy to say they all learned to read and when I hear about them now I find out they are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and all very successful.
And I have no doubt that my current student will be every successful as well.  But it isn't easy when you have difficulty learning to read and others find it much easier.
My goal as a teacher was to have students who learned to love reading and writing but again I have had my challenges but generally as a classroom teacher I was generally able to find the hook to make this happen.
In all types of learning we tend to enjoy what comes more easily.  I read something recently that said teachers need to make students enjoy the challenge, the struggle.
Well when my knitting went totally wrong and I must have started over countless times, I can't say I was enjoying the struggle.  In fact I finally just quit for awhile.  And then I decided that I would sign up for another knitting class.  I needed support!  I also wanted to become more independent and not just run to a friend to fix what I had done wrong.  And I am knitting again but I am still making mistakes and  not totally confident yet about fixing them myself.  But I know where to go when I need help!  I have support systems.
Long ago a journalist turned educator, Frank Smith, wrote a book called Joining the Literacy Club.  He talked about how if you want to learn to sail you might join a sailing club, etc.  And he talked about how teachers need to create literacy clubs.  You need to create community.
As a teacher, I would often tell my students that one teacher wasn't enough so that they had to be teachers as well.  In some areas they had better skills than I did.  I coached basketball but my basketball skills are practically nil, but I never had difficulty finding other students who had the skills and were willing to help.
At the moment, the six year next door is teaching me about MineCraft.  He draws intricate pictures and explains as he goes and I try to sneak a little reading and writing into the mix.
With the use of iPhone and iPad apps, I am currently trying to learn some Portuguese to prepare for my trip to Brazil.  I am trying to embrace the struggle!  It is a good thing these apps have positive reinforcement built into the mix.  It is also fortunate that I took a couple of Spanish courses before I hit Portuguese.
Thinking back to that essay I started to write about retirement.  I really think that being retired should mean the opportunity to keep learning...