17 months ago I successfully defended my thesis. Shortly afterwards, I sought a new role. I also felt, in a way, that I had earned one. No work change happened … Continue reading My Plan
“Cori you teach my brother.” Zack sat back in the Adirondack chair, his feet swinging, too small to touch ground. I paused. I actually felt the pause of sifting through … Continue reading A Student Support Teacher’s Pause
Trust and time.
And listening. And relationships.
And belonging. And sharing stories with kids.
Their stories. My stories. And listening
to their stories no matter what.
The cat stories, the lunch stories, the suicide stories.
Staying late, arriving early. Showing up.
Saying I love you and I am proud of you, and meaning it.
Reading aloud to high school kids. Often. Writing with students.
Sharing with students. Admitting I’m wrong. Saying I’m sorry.
Putting aside what I’m doing when a student comes up beside me, to listen.
Knowing that every shared note, every piece of writing, every hello,
Is a love language.
As are the crumpled pages, stomped feet, long tears, and reluctant hugs.
Be gentle and listen deeply.
Ask questions. Remember details. Remember names.
Notice when the room settles into a silence.
Remember then to wonder why, to ask how.
Read cumulative folders.
Stand at the door. Say hello and say goodbye. Text HEY.
Ache at the so longs. Check in.
Drinking coffee, together, honoring them all.
Be open. When a student pulls me off task; do all I can to find the function.
See past the tapping, the staples, the Snapchats, the swear words, the rule-crossings.
Sit in silence. Share stories.
Eat the left-over food the kids bring, made in Home Ec, and the baking brought from home.
Laugh loudly. Laugh often. Smile widely.
Display student work.
Say thank you. Mean it.
Cry with them. Get tired.
Get to the end of the semester, June 30-degrees-with-no-air-and-resounding-pride.
Love my kids. Explain my thinking. Explain it again. And then differently again.
Let kids design the space, even if it’s messy and asymmetrical and might smell.
Try new things.
Teach what excites me.
Share what I read. Go on field trips. Explore.
Learn in a multitude of settings. Question my work. Challenge the norms. Challenge each other.
Respond with kindness.
Ask the kids, about my instruction, about them, for feedback.
Plan with others.
Seek criticism. Reflect.
Be grateful. Be mindful.
Share my students’ successes. Share mine.
Be irrationally crazy about kids. Breathe deeply.
All day today students & families & former students have been messaging with kind words of hope & support. Today, I started at a new school. Today, many of our kids started out on a similar journey.
I like this note from a former student, “University tomorrow. So excited. And nervous. Going to do the best I can. I hope your new space is going well and I know that you will inspire kids so much. Not to mention learn past boundaries that are set for you. Love you and hope you get everything from this chapter of your journey that you can, as will I. :)”
This is listening. This is our story.
Today, following our school’s annual awards ceremony, I sat on the grass and watched students and teachers play soccer. I was too spent to move. I had kicked off my shoes, I had crossed my legs and was just soaking it all in. One student was playing soccer in flip-flops and a pink dress; some kids where eating tubes of frozen yogurt. Everyone was laughing. A mom of one of my senior students (and an educational assistant in our school) came and sat next to me. I rested my head in my hands and we cried together, softly.
Though there’s a week of school yet, today at the annual awards ceremony, the school, the community, the students and I formally said farewell.
In the students’ words:
Dear Ms. Saas,
Thank you for being our teacher. Thank you for being one of my true friends, I look to you as a mother because I know her kindness will always be with me. Thank you for always believing in us, always giving us the opportunities to do things that we never imagined would be possible. Thank you for always making us smile, and hurting our brains. Thank you for always making us feel part of a family in our school. Thank you for bringing out your Darth Vader voice when we needed it.
Thank you for being a role model, an inspiration, someone who always listens, a best friend, a guide, the other, the call to action, the Yoda in our lives. Thank you for never giving up, for teaching us to respond with kindness and to always put the extr
a effort in. Thank you for sharing your stories, and for giving us a safe space to share ours.
We hope and know that you will have an amazing experience at John Chisholm, we promise to continue sharing what you have thought us, and we will share our stories. Thank you, you will not be forgotten.
Always, love Ms. Saas
My mom says not to write about her. She says it’s not professional. But today, I can’t help it.
See, Tuesday was my birthday. And if I’m going to celebrate anyone now, it’s going to be her. 39 years ago Tuesday, I came zooming into the world.
Mom’s water broke at home. She finished weeding the garden, folded the laundry and tidied the house before she allowed my father to drive her to hospital.
There she waited. No pain, just waiting. She was a new principal, and since maternity leave didn’t exist, and since she has never been one to let on-task time slide by, she began working on fall timetables. She had long since sent my dad and big sister home. A wee bit after 2:00 am, mom felt a bit of a cramp and out I came.
She buzzed the nurse.
Mom tried to convince the nurse not to bother calling the doctor. When he did arrive, a little after 7:00am, smelling of booze and cigarettes, mom had him sign her release papers.
My dad nearly fainted when he arrived for visiting hours an hour later.
We arrived at my Nana’s house for supper that same day, promptly at 5:00 p.m. My mom says it was the only day supper was late at my Nana’s house.
And that’s my mom, always doing things her way!
~ The second female director in the Province of Saskatchewan.
~The four day school week, her baby.
They called her The Dragon Lady, School Division shit kicking – really, it’s on her business card! They also called her Grandma, and Lynne, and friend, and mentor. The Lady with the Birkenstocks, and most importantly, they also called her The Keeper of the Buffalo.
My sister and I grew up surrounded by my parents’ students and other teachers who valued our parents, and we felt the fame of their successes, often, long before we were allowed to feel our own. It’s been a long journey coming to treasure my mom’s gifts.
But I do. She is an amazing woman.
People often begin by saying, “I have to ask you…” and I know.
“Yes.” I say. “She’s my mom.” But what most people don’t know though is that while they’ve learned a great many teaching treasures from mom, I’ve also learned parenting gifts as well.
Maybe they’re the same, but for me, the mom gifts, oh, they sure resonate.
When I was a in my early twenties my mom was busy helping grow a dynamic students-first school division while, at the same time, she was with me for three long years, both here and at Mayo Clinic, never allowing me to struggle alone. One hell of a tough dame, my mom.
I’m a mom now, and I can’t imagine how she felt living that journey alongside her daughter. I simply cannot image her wealth of courage.
But I’m so thankful for it.
Anyone who’s ever met her feels it.
Now, I am a teacher, like both my parents. And like my parents modeled, I’m busy taking summer classes.
Yesterday, I was sitting in class at University, talking with my Inclusive Ed cohort about how best to meet student needs. It was one of those beautiful moments; we were spread out over the entire room, facing each other, reflecting. The course had come to an end, and we had not found many answers, and though we knew we wouldn’t find many, we had hoped.
A pre-service teacher, the only one in our group, commented that she felt a little discouraged. How would she be able to meet the needs of the kids in her room, without the needed supports, without this team?
A woman, a teacher from the NWT shared that years ago, while working in the eastern part of the province, she had felt the same. Her school moved from a regular school to a Community school and it wasn’t that the staff liked each other much, it was that the needs of the kids and the vision of the division brought them tightly together. She said that the turning point for staff and the community came at a local meeting when the director stated, “Listen it’s not like families are keeping their best kids at home, they are sending you the best they have, so teach the best you have.”
No need to ask, that Director was my mom.
Today, I’m celebrating my mom and all the beautiful gifts that continue to resonate.