Friday Two Cents: I Fought The Good Fight

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ 2 Timothy 4:7

This week the teachers went out on one day strikes to show their support for contract negotiations with the government of Ontario.   At stake are class room sizes, leaving the world class kindergarten program alone and addressing violence in the classroom.  These issues are important and I too have joined the picket lines to show my support.  Being an occasional teacher I do not have to go to a specific location, I can go to a school I know or a school where I live to join the lines.  I have chosen to join the lines at a school where I go regularly and for the most part the feelings I get there are solidarity and every one is in unison on how we feel about supporting the students.  

Yet for some reason I have this feeling of foreboding, that tells me to watch my back.  A feeling that I had felt before, along time ago.  I did not know why I had these feelings. So I sat down and reflected on when and where I felt like this before.  Then when I realized when and where, the feelings of melancholy and anger came flooding over me.

Before I became an elementary teacher I was an early childhood educator (ECE).  Many years ago I was on the executive board of a union for ECEs when the Ontario government attacked education and childcare.  I remember protesting and picketing back then too and I was a vehement supporter of ECE rights and the union to protect those rights.  I helped organize and made sure people where informed about the issues.  I remember people rallying around the issues and me.  

In the end we won and childcare was saved but little did I know the seeds of betrayal was sown.  People who I thought where my friends and colleagues sold me out. People I fought to protect refused to stand with me.  They turned to their own needs and set me adrift not caring for the collective good.  From that moment on I lost trust in people.  

I began looking to my own needs instead of the collective good.  Eventually I left the ECE field with a trail of blood coming from all the stabs in my back.  I began looking to other careers away from the mistrust I had suffered from the people associated with ECEs.  

Yet the call to teach and help students was too great and I eventually returned to the ECE field, a little more cautious this time.  I found great people but the trust was always at arms length.  In time I became an elementary teacher and I love working with the students and the other teachers.  But that experience is always with me in the back of my head.  Reminding me not to trust too much.  

When I reflected on my feelings, that moment in my life came into full view.  In someways its not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The trauma of those years and situations are with me and working those picket lines brought up images and feelings I thought where long gone.  

But what am I to do about it.  Long ago I stood up for what I believed in and others stood with me but only if it suited their needs.  In the end I was burnt for what I believed in, but the question is would I have stood up knowing what I know now.  The answer is a resounding yes.  Today, I am standing for something I believe in again and the fear of betrayal remains in the back of my head.  Yet this time I see more people standing with me.  More people supporting me, more hands helping me stay the course.  For our cause is right and just. 

In the past I fought the good fight, I finished the race and I kept the faith.  The path for just and fair treatment is never easy.   However the reason behind it is.   No matter what happens I need to remember this.  Then all the doubt and negative feels can be pushed aside leaving only positive feelings of fellowship with my colleagues.   I cannot change the past but I can help write the future.  I cannot do it alone, hopefully I won’t be.  

Comic Strips: I Love Chocolate

 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

Valentine’s day is special for many reasons and has different means to everyone you talk to.  Some use this time to express their love and affection to someone else or to reaffirm it.  There is one thing I have noticed, that transcends the generations.  The special treats that are abundant for this celebration of love.  Wherever you go and whom ever you talk to, many people give and consume special treats and meals during Valentines’s Day.  

Yet how far would some go to get those treats.  Again this may be something that transcends the generations.  

I hope you enjoy February’s The Craziest Things: I Love Chocolate.

Friday Two Cents: Hugs, Hugs And More Hugs

This week I returned to a school I haven’t supplied at for about a month.  I love going to this school, both the staff and students are wonderful and I enjoy my time there.  This time I was inundated with hugs from the students.  I love receiving the hugs from them and as you can imagine it makes me feel amazing. Then I started wondering, what are the benefits of hugs.  And why don’t we do it more often.  

Well I found some research that show that more and more young people are hugging.  The older generations are not comfortable with the closeness, yet children and adolescences grew up with play dates and parental supervision that showing appreciation, in group settings in a non-formal way, like hugs as to previous generations.  

Then there is the benefits to hugging.  

It may lower your stress.  The research is out but hugging may help to lower your stress levels because it helps to relax you and you get feelings of support physically.  

It may help increase your self-esteem.  It makes sense, when getting a hug the good-feelings from the other person can help you to help better about yourself.  I know I did.  

Hugging promotes trust.  With a surge of the hormone oxytocin, that hug will help alleviate stress and help you to relax. It may also pave the way to increased trust in that person.  Studies have shown a correlation of oxytocin and an increase in trust among humans, thereby helping with social interactions.  

Hugs may help boost your immune system.  Stress relief, relaxation both help benefit your immune system. Just make sure the person you hug isn’t sick.  Just in case.  

Decreases depression.  According to a Dr. Deb Castaldo, hugging can help with emotional well-being and helps to release the natural anti-depressant, serotonin. 

Finally it shows that you are appreciated

I can tell you after several hugs, I definitely felt appreciated.  

Friday Two Cents: Nutrition For Stress Relief

Feeling stressed out? Well you are not alone.  Many people feel stressed out at this time of the year.  I for one am not immune to the stress bug.  I realized this when I was away for a mini vacation in Niagara Falls.  I never realized how much stress I was under until I was sitting in a hot tub with the jets massaging me.  I felt the tightness in my shoulders, back and arms melt away.  It felt like a giant weight was off my shoulders for the first time in months.  For the rest of the vacation I was relaxed and enjoyed the rest, but once back home the stressful feelings returned.  

I then took it upon myself to reflect upon what is causing the stress.  It was the usual, work, family and others things.  I know that most of those things are just apart of life and I simply need to deal with them as I always do.  Yet I thought what else can I do to help me cope.  Then I though about some things in my diet.  No I am not talking about drinking more, I was thinking about foods that would help me to destress.  Many foods have natural stress relievers all I need to do is research and commit.  Discipline and determination.  

After some searching I found a few things that may help.  

Avocado and banana – these two fruits are both big in potassium, an inessential mineral to help keep you blood pressure low.   

Dark Chocolate – surprise, surprise. Research shows that dark chocolate may lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels.  It also has sugar that releases mood improving serotonin.  Just keep the indulgences to a minimum.

Leafy greens – These veggies contain magnesium which helps to balance the body’s stress hormone.  Spinach, Swiss chard are just a couple of examples.  

Fatty fish – High in Omega-3 fats, this healthy choice can be found in salmon, sardines and tuna and can help manage adrenaline and keep you calm and collected.  

Milk – An excellent source of Vitamin D, B vitamins, protein and calcium to relieve tense muscles.  

Yogurt – Made from milk this also has healthy probiotics. Gut health is important and the wrong gut bacteria might be contributing to your stress.  

Nuts – Almonds, pistachios, walnuts and seeds can boost your immune system and help you from getting sick.  Not to mention they are a good source of magnesium, zinc and other vitamins.

The great thing about these foods is that they are easy to incorporate into my diet.  I already eat these but I simply need to increase a few but another thing I need to make sure I do is take in enough vitamin D.  In the spring and summer I have no problem with this because I love going out for walks and outdoor activities.  Yet in the winter that changes and I take a vitamin D supplement.  I am the first to admit that I do not take my vitamins regularly but I guess I need to be more vigilant.  

Discipline, determination and of course time. 

Comic Strips: Complain, Complain, Complain

 Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

Going back to work or school after winter break is difficult for many people.  Yet many look forward to getting back into a routine.  For some there are other reasons. 

I find it fascinating how parents underestimate their influence on their children.  Many think that playing with them, helping them with their homework or directly spending time with them is the only direct influence they have on them.  Yet it’s the times that they do not that might have the most influence.  Parents are always surprised at how much their children pick up when they think that they are not listening.  I have seen this in many classrooms.  You can tell right away when the students are talking about something in the real world, that there might be a parental influence there.  

I hope you enjoy January’s The Craziest Things: Complain, Complain, Complain.

Friday Two Cents: Being Positive For The New Year

‘Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.’ Zig Ziglar

With the start of the New Year many people make resolutions to improve themselves in some way.  Many plan to get physically fit, eat better or to do something they have always wanted to do.  I for one have never liked the idea of making resolutions. Mostly because I know I will not follow through on these empty wishes and when they do not work out I would get upset with myself.  I discovered that true change takes discipline, determination and most importantly time.  Several years ago I came to a realization that I needed to lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle.  It took discipline, determination and a lot of time to make them a reality and to be honest, I am still working on them.  For me its about being positive in what I do in life.

 I have had a lot of difficult issues, who hasn’t, but I know that if I stay positive it will both help me mentally but also physically.  One example is with my current situation of trying to become a permanent teacher instead of an occasional teacher (OT).  I have tried on a couple of occasions to advance my career by trying to get onto the long term occasional (LTO) list but I have not reached that next step towards my goal of becoming permanent.  I could simply fall into a melancholy about my situation and give up.  To be honest the thought has crossed my mind, yet they only linger for a moment and then I switch into my positive mode and think about the bright side.  I would say it is a matter of perspective.  

In a study luck was also linked to a matter of perspective.  Over eight years they studied the personality of consistently lucky and unlucky people.  They showed that the volunteers how to improve their luck by adjusting their attitudes and actions.  They found that it worked; 80% of the volunteers increased their happiness, confidence and success in just one month.   So what helped these people? Three things were identified and can help others.  

#1.  Have high hopes.  Less fortunate people counted on things going wrong and then giving up soon after.  The luckiest people believe that their future will be bright and as a result they try harder and don’t give up on their goals.  A matter of perspective.  

#2.  See the good in bad situations.  They found that people who see the glass as half-full usually do better in difficult times.  They see setbacks as temporary and believe that things will turnaround for the best.  Positive attitudes. 

#3. Trust your instincts.  Lucky people trust their gut, their intuition.  Most hunches happens in a split second. They come from information you receive from all around you and your brain some up with at the best result.  Scientists have proven that your heart rate quickens with positive hunches and slows with negative ones.  So pay attention to your gut feelings, they know.  

Which type of person are you?

So knowing this, how will it help me?  It tells me to stay positive and trust my gut.  I have always tried to stay positive with everything that happens in my life.  No matter what happens to me, I some how find the positive side of the situation.  The example of me not getting on the LTO list could have gone negative and I could have fallen into a depression.  Yet after a few hours to digest it I could not help but think, well at least I am still working as an OT.  And as an OT I can choose which schools I would like to work in and if I do not want to go in and work on my art, I do not have to take a job that day.  Looking at the positive side of things.  Seeing the glass as half-full.  

I love this quote that Willie Nelson once said …

‘Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.’ Willie Nelson

Hopefully in 2020 it might take some time but positive results will come my way. 

Friday Two Cents: Relaxing In Niagara Falls

‘The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.’ Audrey Hepburn

Christmas week for many people is a busy week.  Meeting with family and friends, preparing special meals and of course eating too much.  As a supply teacher this week is a welcome respite from the daily grind of working with students.  Not only teachers enjoy the time off, but I have observed that students as young as kindergarten age needing this break in their routines. 

To that end I decided to get out of Toronto for a couple of days to help centre myself.  One of my favourite places to go to simply “get away from it all” is the Niagara region. I brought along some art materials to help me get into the creative mood but I do not intend to simply draw and paint while I am there. They have many different diversions, yet my favourite of them is visiting the local wineries.  I have been to a great many and this year I decided to visit one that was once called Hillebrand Winery but now called Trius Winery.  

But beyond visiting the Falls, the winery and Niagara-on-the-lake and painting, I simply indulged in some simple rest and relaxation.  Sometimes it is nice to do nothing.  Oh and a room with a whirlpool bathtub helps too.


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