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Posts Tagged ‘British Columbia’

The Slings and Arrows That Teachers and Children Duck

March 6, 2012 5 comments

My children are as happy and excited to go to school everyday as I am to send them. It’s the one thing in life we all agree on.

We have reached this consensus because I know they are going to be educated and challenged while having fun in a safe environment. They know they will have a great time. It’s all good. And of course the people who so cleverly pull the wool over their innocent eyes are their fabulous teachers, who make learning so much fun my kids don’t even know it’s happening.

Children across BC are not in school today because the teachers are on strike. They are striking not because they want to, but because they felt they had no choice. Teachers are already between a rock and a hard place due to funding cuts, and government-mandated larger class sizes will make it difficult to do their jobs properly. There are other issues at hand, and I don’t profess to know all the ins and outs of the dispute, but this I know: two characters, the union, and the government, are refusing to compromise. Within this cast, the union is being represented by an unwieldy woman who sounds like a battleax. The government is being represented by a man who speaks in monotone, and sounds more robotic than human. Both are difficult to sympathize with, and I don’t particularly like either of them.

These caricatures are getting in the way of my children’s education, and are getting in the way of our teachers doing what they do best: teaching. Like gang warfare, the two loud, obnoxious leaders are trying to settle a dispute that goes back a long, long, way, and our children and teachers are caught in the crossfire.

I do know a few things about teachers, having three children in the public education system for the past eight years. They each bring different, unique gifts to their job: some are more creative, some assign more homework, some are more into math or reading or athletics than others. But what they do share is a passion for their jobs, a belief in what they do, and love for our children. They share an ethos of hard work, and they know this hard work will pay off as the next generation goes forward. They don’t get paid well enough for all the crap they have to put up with between the parents, the union, and the government, but they teach anyway. It is their gift to society.

Every year, my children have been lucky to have not just an average teacher, but one that is phenomenal in different ways. Every year, their teachers surpass our expectations. Every year they improve my children, and mold them into better beings. Every year, I hold back tears (well, I try; occasionally I weep openly) when I thank them for their enormous contribution to my children’s lives. Every year.

That’s quite a talent pool. In my random performance evaluation, I give our teachers an A+. It’s too bad the union and the government can’t perform their jobs nearly as well.

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Bring On Culture Days

October 5, 2011 3 comments

Culture Days kicked off last Friday here in British Columbia. I’ve never heard of Culture Days before, but the CBC hosted a big street event to kick it off. It included a panel discussion on social media and how it’s affecting journalism, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

Frankly, it didn’t matter what the panel was talking about, they had me at Jian.

That's him!

For the benefit of my American reader, Jian Ghomeshi is the Canadian male equivalent to Barbara Walters before the plastic surgery. He hosts the best radio show ever aired, Q, where he interviews authors, musicians, and anyone else who might be more interesting than your average Agnes. Usually his guests possess more talent in their pinky finger than I have in my entire body; and I am always inspired (as well as green with jealousy).

It airs weekdays mornings, so Jian’s smooth voice fills my kitchen while I’m scrubbing pots and cleaning the oven and doing all of those other glamorous jobs that earn me the big bucks. Jian squeezes blood out of a rocks during some interviews, and with others is sweetly star-struck and deferential. I’ve acquired a long list of books and albums I want to buy as a result of his show. So much for free entertainment.

Jian brings me up when I’m feeling down, and brings poignant moments to my day – and thus my life. So I feel like I know him, and should he know me I’m certain we would get along like my old volleyball teammates between games. It was worth a trip downtown to see my old friend in person, since he resides in Toronto and my chances of bumping into him at the mall are slim to none.

Culture Days did not disappoint. The CBC had gone all out with tents and sets and stages; there were almost as many red-shirted CBC workers as senior citizens and teenagers milling about. There was more energy in this city block than there had been since the Stanley Cup riots, and I was very happy that I had forwent grocery shopping in order to be there.

George Stroumboulopoulos was hanging around the event – just hanging around! Only in Canada would a network star be able to do this. I only stalked him for a half hour to get my picture taken with him. Of course, I panicked when he asked me my name, and butchered its pronunciation. He asked me to repeat it, as if it mattered to him – so sweet. When saying goodbye he actually bowed. Amazing to encounter a television personality completely unaffected by his popularity.

Stalking Strombo - and then acting like an idiot - was so worth it considering I will have this photo forever

If you think I’m name dropping, that’s because I am. Since my life is very rarely exciting, I’m okay with it. If things pick up in the future, and I’m meeting cool people every weekend, I promise I won’t put them on my blog. Maybe on Facebook, but not on my blog.

CBC capped off the day with a free concert featuring the Stars, Midway State and the New Pornographers, hosted once again by Jian, who only slightly overshadowed the musicians (and I’m a fan of New Pornographers, just to give you an idea of his charisma.)

New Pornographers

I’m not sure what other events Culture Days had on its roster – the fact that this was the kick off implied there was more to them than this action packed day in front of the CBC building – but this would be hard to compete with. And my entire weekend entails attending soccer games.  This would be both the beginning and end of my Culture Days.

But I am a freakishly proud Canadian, riots and all, and so I say long live Canada, and long live the CBC, without an ounce of sarcasm.

A New Memorial for Our Hero, Terry Fox

January 20, 2011 8 comments

Terry Fox running his Marathon of Hope

My three children have each studied heroes in their kindergarten curriculum.  I usually get about one sentence into the the characteristics of a hero before we talk about Terry Fox.  He is the definition and embodiment of hero to Canadians, and it’s hard not to get emotional when we remember him.  I am crying by the end of our hero discussion.

Anyone dying before their time is sad. But picture a young man running across our large desolate country with one leg, long before a prosthesis actually geared for running was made, to raise money for the disease that made him an amputee. It wasn’t only courageous, it was super-human.

Terry’s lasting legacy continues to raise money for cancer research.  Although he wasn’t able to finish his Marathon of Hope when cancer spread to his lungs, he succeeded in so many ways.  He brought Canada to its knees when he died nine months after halting his run across the country. The funds generated in his memory have been rolling in ever since, the current tally raised for cancer research under his name exceeds $500 million dollars.

Terry Fox, up close and personal, and the reason we will one day find a cure for cancer.

Since Terry grew up in Port Coquitlam, it’s right and proper that British Columbia should have an impressive memorial to this most famous of citizens. Yesterday they unveiled the plans for a new memorial in front of BC Place Stadium. Like I’d hoped, it is a stunning piece of art. It shows not one, but four bronze statues of Terry, each getting successively bigger, in various stages of his labored gait. Running is hard, running the distance Terry did seems almost impossible, running the way that Terry needed to run each step is, again, super-human.  This rendering helps all of us to see the massive amount of effort that went into each step of his Marathon of Hope.

A rendering of the proposed Terry Fox Memorial

This sculpture of our Canadian hero will be created by Douglas Coupland – very fittingly, since Coupland is also a shining star from British Columbia. The artist that brought us the iconic book “Generation X” has also created the uber-cool statue Digital Orca at the new Vancouver Convention Center, proving he is a creative mind of many genres.

Coupland's Digital Orca at Vancouver Convention Center

Most interestingly, Coupland also wrote a biography of Fox, “Terry”, so has spent lots of time with the Fox family, a perfect choice to memorialize our Canadian icon. He reportedly worked with animators to recreate Fox’s running stride. When the original is unveiled this coming September with the opening of the refurbished stadium, it will inevitably bring tears to the eyes of anyone lucky enough to gaze upon it.

As I write this, my brother is undergoing a surgery that will remove a cancerous growth on his knee; on Christmas Eve my sixteen year-old nephew finally left the hospital after two and a half months of intensive chemotherapy for lymphoma; my father died of cancer eighteen years ago.  Heroes come in many forms, hopefully there will come a day when they don’t need to conquer cancer for that worthy status.

Thanks to Terry Fox, that day will come sooner than later.