A student learning to be a teacher

For eight months in 2010 and 2011 I was a student at Queen’s University, in the Faculty of Education.  A B.Ed or Teacher’s Education.  I went, I studied, I taught, I graduated, and then I said “now what?”

Eight months is far too short…hairdressers spend more time in school to train for their profession than a person has to in order to become a teacher.  I knew my journey wasn’t over just yet, and made plans to take an Additional Basic Qualification (ABQ) or Additional Qualification (AQ) at some point.  

ABQs and AQs are a bit of a sore spot for me.  There are certain specialties that I think should be built into the Bachelor of Education program, things like Special Education and English as a Second Language.  During my time at Queen’s I received minimal course work in Spec. Ed (and it was sadly quite the bird course) and no course work in ESL.  I felt extremely ill-prepared to teach because of my lack of knowledge and experience in these fields.  So, I made the decision that I would take these two AQs, and hoped that one day I would be able to obtain the designation of ‘Specialist’ in Spec. Ed.  Maybe even go back for a Master’s of Education.  I know I will have an M.Ed someday, I’m not quite finished with post-secondary education.

Most universities offer these ABQs and AQs, as do the unions.  There are some on-site options, as well as on-line and distance classes.  Queen’s offers a really neat month-long course on Special Education, one that involves a practicum!  This is a big deal, as classroom experience is way more valuable than “I read these articles, please give me a job.”  I thought long and hard about taking this course, but a few things stood in my way:

1.  Money.

2.  The baby.

I was already pregnant when I graduated last spring, and that first trimester was hell.  There was no way I could do a full-day of course work three days a week and then go teach or observe the other two days.  This year was also out, as Georgia was only four months old and exclusively breastfed.  I thought maybe I could swing it, if Jason took parental leave and he brought her to me on breaks and I got a placement at a local school and pumped and….

No.

Didn’t happen.

So online it would be.  But here’s the funny thing: for all that I’m passionate about Special Education, I’m not even enrolled in Spec. Ed Part 1.  I’m taking Junior Division (aka grades 4-6).  This will hopefully give me some flexibility in terms of employment, plus I genuinely like this age group.  While I enjoy working with teenagers, I am much more at home with elementary students.  So who knows where I’ll end up.  I haven’t a clue, but I know whatever, wherever, it will be meaningful work.

I was reluctant to take an on-line course, as I tried correspondence (didn’t work out very well) and I like working with people.  I like talking face to face, and actually being in a classroom.  But you know what?  I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.  There is a strong sense of community, despite being spread across the province.  I can work at my own pace, and around Georgia’s schedule.  And it is still as academically fulfilling as being on campus.

So I’m learning to teach.  And I like it.

Me time, girl time, fun time, adult time

I think I need to do this more often.

Leave the baby with someone else and take care of myself for a change.

It’s tricky to escape from the baby when that baby is exclusively breastfed, and has a very strong preference for milk to come straight from the source, and not a bottle or cup.  Things have to be carefully organized and timed-and I worry about misery, both Georgia’s and that of the person who is caring for her.  There’s my own anxiety, too.  I know other people are capable caregivers, but when I’m away I still get anxious about my girl.

But, it’s important to get away.  It’s important for me, so I can have a chance to de-stress and re-charge.  It’s important for Georgia, to know that she is safe and loved no matter who is in charge, to know that her mother has a life of her own, to know that a new or familiar face means new or different things, and that change is okay.  It’s important for Jason to have one-on-one time with his daughter.  And it’s important for other people, too.  Some people need their baby fix.  I think one of Georgia’s gummy smiles is the ultimate mood boost, and if you can get her laughing?  That’s the icing on the cake right there.

A while back I wrote about rainbow days, and how I usually find that the ‘big deal days’ are seldom worthy of a rainbow.  Too much to do, too much going on.  But I knew a rainbow day was coming soon.  And it did!  And it gave me the energy I so desperately need to face an uncertain world, a sometimes lonely world.

Jason and I shared a lovely breakfast while the baby napped: bacon, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, sliced avocado, and toast.  Once Georgia woke up we were out the door, on our way to a few errands, and then to a much more wonderful destination: Fruition Farm.  I’m not sure where I first heard about Fruition, but I wanted to go.  They’re a family run farm specializing in seasonal “pick your own” fruit.  And strawberries are in season.

Have I mentioned that strawberries are my favourite fruit?  Especially when perfectly ripe and bursting with juice and sweetness.  Stain your fingers red while picking.  We drove out to the farm, grabbed a basket, and then hopped on the tractor trailer to ride out to the strawberry field.

Strawberry fields forever.

I could smell the berries as we approached.  A young woman lead us to our our little patch, and we began to work.  Okay, Jason began to work.  I carried the baby and soaked up the sun, occasionally munching on a berry that just begged to be eaten right then and there.  I was glad the woman at the entry gate talked us out of a two litre basket in favour of the four.

The strawberries have now been hulled, halved, and cleaned.  Some were baked into a cake, and others were frozen for a certain someone’s birthday in July (mine).

After berry picking, and a few photos, we headed back into town, but not before stopping at a country chip wagon for fries, a cheeseburger, and a pogo.  Pogos are the boss.  I also drank a lime Slush Puppie, a drink that reminds me of the Harbor Store in Fitzroy Habour.  Fitzroy is a small provincial park just outside of Ottawa, and we went camping their throughout my childhood.  Some of my most cherished memories are of getting treats from the Harbor Store, and then playing in the incredible park across the street as the sun set for the day.

Back in Kingston: Georgia nursed, and Sarah phoned.  I had offered to buy drinks in exchange for her babysitting on Sunday night, and so the two of us were going to find a happy hour on a patio somewhere.  We chose Le Chien Noir and sipped cocktails while eating the most decadent poutine, topped with triple cream brie and duck confit.  Someday we will travel to Montreal in search of poutine with foie gras.

After a quick stop to my apartment we were out again, this time to the mall for a manicure and pedicure.  This isn’t something I do very often, so it was a rare experience to have someone attend to my hands and feet.  And my feet needed the attention.  My toes are now a dark purple, with little flowers gracing the big toe on each foot (painted free hand, I might add).

I needed the pampering, I needed the company, I needed to get away from my apartment, my husband, and my baby.  I do not think I was selfish to do so, and always wonder why women (especially mothers) consider themselves selfish to take care of their own wants and needs.  I’m a better wife and mother when I have the chance to enjoy a drink and gossip and do things for ME.

And so the unexpected rainbow day was just what the doctor ordered.

More than just a mama

I love being a mother.  Motherhood is something I dreamed of from an early age, and I first felt those inner pangs caused by babycrack when I was about sixteen…thanks biology!  When I was in second year university I caused a bit of a stir because I was open about my desire to be a stay-at-home-mum.  Soon after Jason and I were married those pangs returned, caused by watching Jason interact with the little girls I cared for, watching my husband and knowing that he would be an excellent father.  We decided to grow our little family after much discussion (and that discussion is fodder enough for another blog post or even series) and those two blue lines showed up after a mere month of trying.  And five months ago Georgia was born.  I have been at home with her ever since.

I love it.  This is a precious time, and I’m glad to be with her as she rolls over, tries to crawl, babbles, nurses, sleeps, and plays with her favourite toys.  At the same time, it can be a thankless, never ending task.  There will always be laundry.  There will always be dishes.  There is little time to myself.  Georgia is napping as I type this, but I could (should?) be tidying the kitchen.  But me time is important.

I do not want to become a mommy martyr.

I do not want to become dependent on my child.

I do not want to be Georgia’s best friend.

I do not want motherhood to be my defining feature.

So what do I do?  Sunday night Jason and I left the baby with a friend and went to see a concert.   As we walked to our van we were giddy with freedom, blissfully happy to go out and do what we want and not have to worry about breastmilk and spit-up and diaper changes and nap time and everything else.

Last night I went to an Art and Soul meeting at our church, having recently joined the committee.  Actual adult conversation.  Education.  Passion. Jason took care of the baby, and everything was fine.

Later this week a friend and I are meeting for drinks.

I write, mostly this blog, but sometimes letters and poetry and I am brainstorming a new play called ‘The Choral Society”.  I craft.  I go to aquafit.  I visit Ottawa and grab lunch with friends or family.  I plan for the future, as best I can.  I think and read and talk about things that fascinate me, like gender socialization and women’s rights.  I am politically active, although I admit the fuel to my fire in that case is making a better world for my daughter.  I apply to job after job in my field (education, and that is yet another blog post to be written).  I research and shop and cook new recipes.  I go to the library and read, read, read.  And I spend just a little bit of time online…just a teensy little bit!

I am more than just a mama.  I am an educator and an artist and a foodie and a writer and a volunteer and a knitter and a singer and a scrapbooker and a feminist and a reader and a thinker and a protester and a wife and a friend and a lover and an active community member and a learner and grower and nurturer and cultivator.

I am a mama.  And so much more.

To create! To craft! To make!

I really like making things.  Sometimes I suck at following instructions, or finishing details, but at the end of the day I still consider myself a crafter.

and there are so many crafting ideas online…not to mention what I see, and decide to replicate…not to mention books…not to mention my own imagination…

so, in no particular order, things I want to make:

I want to finish “The Manly Sweater”.  You know, the sweater I said I would make for Jason…for Christmas 2010.  All the pieces are done, I just need to finish the sleeves and join them to the body.  The  pattern is from Stitch and Bitch, and is my first sweater.

I want to knit Georgia the “Anouk” dress, as seen on knitty.

I want to paint our white blackout curtains.  Cheerful bunting?  Crazy sharpie doodles?  Polka dots?

I want to make a tshirt rag rug, as seen all over the internet and in the book Alternacrafts.

I want to make Georgia an elf hat, like the one in Bend the Rules Sewing.

I want to make a cool scrapbook of Georgia’s first year.

I want to make a chapbook of my poetry for small people.

I want to knit this gorgeous green bolero from an old issue of Knit One (do they still make that magazine?)

I want to make a brooch bouquet, just because.

I want to make a whole pile of cool toys for Georgia: a waldorf doll or two, and all the accessories to go with.  A little woodland elf set.  Her own magnet board and all kinds of neat magnets.  Start building a super cool tickle trunk.  Make felt food to go along with a homemade play kitchen (an Ikea hack, perhaps?).  Puppets made from old socks and sweaters, and of course a big puppet theatre.  I want to make her toys she can actually play with, as opposed to static ones that only make noise or encourage gender stereotypes.

I want to make glittery dinosaurs or army dudes or unicorns for my Christmas tree.  There was a neat tutorial on offbeat home about this.

I want to grow a little herb garden.

I wart to learn how to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing.  And how to make the icing on my cake look pretty.

I want to make a mosaic mirror frame out of broken china, old buttons, and bits of jewelry.

I want a space for all of this: big sunny kitchen, cozy but cheerful (and well organized!) studio, the place where Georgia will come and play on the floor, making her own creations, while I whip up a sundress from vintage bedsheets.

It’s a nice to-do list.  And one I think I can get accomplished, although I am sure I will be adding to it, replacing one project with another as things are made and altered and created.

Random rainy day

It is pouring rain today in Ottawa.  When I came here over a week ago, it was HOT, and so I packed mostly t-shirts and skirts, plus ONE long-sleeve shirt, and ONE pair of jeans.  Guess what outfit has been worn on repeat these day few days?

I was supposed to go with Katie and Jason to the First Unitarian Fellowship this morning, but Georgia threw up-and there is a difference between spit-up and throw-up.  Poor little duck.  I decided it would be best if they went ahead without me, and I stayed home with the babe.

Okay, so I was already a lightweight BEFORE I got pregnant, and then I did the whole 40 weeks without alcohol, and I’m breastfeeding, and my husband doesn’t drink so it’s rare for us to have booze in the house…and it would now seem that I can get drunk off a pint, while noshing on pub food.  I will be sticking to bottles from now on.

Guide dogs are cool.

I really want to go out for afternoon tea at the Chateau Laurier.  I blame the whole Queen’s Silver Jubilee thing, and all these articles about the 100th anniversary of Ottawa’s castle hotel.

and finally:

Dear baby store that caters to women and babies: I am a woman.  I have a baby.  I AM YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER.  Do not ignore me.  Do not say “hi” and then immediately go back to talking with your co-worker.  Ask me if I need any assistance.  Show me your fancy strollers.  Let me demo them with my baby.  Customer service.  It’s kind of important.  Don’t forget what your job actually is.  Do not let someone walk out of your store unhappy.