Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Trip Out East - Part One

The path down memory lane is well trodden in this blog.  It’s not that I am living in the past but the past always seems to be lingering.  It could be a smell that takes me back to Oma’s house, a picture that sparks a forgotten funny story, or a taste of something that transports you back to your childhood.  Last week I was at my sister Ally’s house and a song came on that sent my mind and my over active memory reeling back to a family vacation out East.

We were loaded up in the family station wagon.  Becky and Ally were in the back of the station wagon and were setting up Barbie land.  Derek, Scott and I were in the middle bench, Mom was up in the front navigating, and Dad was piloting the old bird.  

Dad was sporting one of his classic sun-visors; Derek had his trusty camouflage hat perched on his head and was wearing a t-shirt with a wolf howling into the moon.  Scott, for some inexplicable reason that still eludes us to this day was a full fledged Montreal Canadiens fan, and was draped with a Habs shirt.  The girls had matching clothes and matching hair accessories.  We were a fine looking bunch and we were ready to explore the Maritimes. 
We said goodbye to the house and headed east.  A large plastic ‘hamburger’ was strapped down on the roof-rack and was jammed with all of our luggage.

The first few hours of the trip flew by.  Before we knew it we were past Toronto and close to the nation’s capital.  It was at this point that the novelty of a long car ride wore off like novocaine.  Things were heating up in Barbie land in the back seat.  

“You’ve had all the best Barbie clothes.  Let’s trade.” demanded Becky.

“Fine.  But I’m not playing anymore.” replied Ally.

The Barbies went from dolls to weapons in a flash.  Dad wisely pulled off at the next exit when he saw Ken coming down on the head of his youngest daughter in the rear-view mirror.  It was time for a pit stop.  

 We were relieved to finally be out of Ontario and into ‘la belle province’ of Quebec.  Derek thought it would be a good time to serenade us all by whistling along with the music.  The rest of us chimed in from time to time with such loving phrases as “Shut-up Derek!” to “Mom, tell Derek to shut-up!”  

As we passed Montreal, Becky decided that the tasteless wad of hubba-bubba gum had to go.  She had been chewing it since Cornwall.  Scott and I had been banished to the backseat and the girls were in the middle with Derek.  Becky rolled down her window and spit her gum out.  It flew out the window but was sucked back by the force field the station wagon was creating.  The huge blob of hot pink hubba-bubba was now stuck to the side window.  Mom and Dad were not impressed.

“That’s it!  No more gum – EVER!” said Dad.

“For crying out loud, that gum’s going to be stuck there till we get to PEI!” echoed Mom.

We learned that day that hubba-bubba chewing gum was resilient stuff.  It was securely affixed to the window and was not going anywhere.  We began to discuss, with a growing sense of certainty, the theory that gum could indeed camp out in your stomach for at least seven years if you swallowed it.  
 No doubt this type intellectual banter made the car ride fly by for Mom and Dad.  After exhausting the subject of hubba-bubba bubble gum, we delved into such deep topics as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Steve Urkel, why people in Quebec talked funny, and if Timbits were actual donut holes or if they just made them separate.  Whenever silence threatened, we resorted to our favourite Home Alone quotes.  

By the time we hit New Brunswick, Becky and Ally were re-enacting Anne of Green Gables with their Barbies and were mourning the loss of Matthew.  We all paused for a moment of silence as Matthew (played by Ken) was buried in the back glove compartment.

As the trip progressed, the stereo kept getting louder and louder.  It was almost as if Mom and Dad were trying to drown us out.  Michael W. Smith’s First Decade cassette was our favourite and was in danger of wearing out by this point.  We knew every word to every song and all of the back-up parts to boot.  These are the songs today that seem to teleport me back into the station wagon.

Finally after many hours and kilometres, we made it to the ferry crossing.  Prince Edward Island was in our sights.

Stay tuned for part two...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Swing and a Miss

I was taken back to an early moment in my teaching days this week when we started our badminton unit in Phys Ed – a moment in time that turned out to be somewhat pivotal for me.  

 Teacher’s college was a nice safe environment where we discussed philosophy of education, literacy and how we were going to make a difference in the classroom.   Finally the day arrived for me to leave the safe confines of the nest and try my teaching wings out in a grade 7&8 classroom.  

I arrived in the school parking lot and put my car in park.  My mind was racing as I unfastened my seatbelt and took the keys out of the ignition.  For some reason all of the teaching block horror stories that swirled around in teacher’s college started flooding my mind.  I tried to banish those thoughts as I used the rear-view mirror to see if my tie was straight.  

Before I knew it I was in front of the class introducing myself.  I wondered if the students were able to hear the thudding of my heart.  My mouth quickly became as dry as the Sahara and swallowing became a distant memory.

Becoming a teacher involves a slight leap of faith.  There are always questions that float around in your head while in teacher’s college.  What if I am a horrible teacher?  What if I can’t control the class?  What if they don’t learn anything?

These questions seemed to be amplified on that first day.  The giant of fear was looming large.

After the first class, the grade school was called to an assembly in the gym.  One of Canada’s Olympic women badminton players was visiting the school.  She was going to talk to the students about the sport and give a demonstration of her skills.  After filling us in on the rules, techniques and strategies, she asked if one of the teachers would be willing to play against her.

Most of the teachers suddenly became intensely interested in the floorboards of the gym.  I suddenly wished I had chameleon-like qualities in order to blend in with the crowd.  Why did I decide to wear a pink tie?!

The Olympian sized up the crowd and tried to find her first victim.  The blood drained from my face as she pointed her racquet at me as if it was a scepter.  She asked if I would try my hand against her.  My gulp was probably heard by everyone as I stepped forward to the court.  All eyes were on the new guy.  The pressure was on.

Time was frozen for a moment as I thought about what was happening.  What am I doing here?  I don’t belong here!  I’m quiet and shy, and don’t like to be the centre of attention!  What a huge mistake I’m making!  I’m not cut out for this job.  Maybe I should just run out of here, hop in my car and peel out of here! 
I looked around and saw that all eyes were on me and the Olympian badminton player.  I knew there was no chance.  What a great first impression this would be!  I’ll be the laughing stock of this school.  I knew I couldn’t compete against her, and suddenly had a brief vision of me going to the hospital with a birdie embedded in my forehead.

She wound up and let the birdie fly.  It came at me like a Polaris missile.  By the time I feebly swung, the birdie had long landed between my feet.  I expected boos, hisses and laughter, but applause and cheering resounded instead.  I even heard some of the students shout ‘Go Mr. S!’

In the end I did manage to return a couple before the assembly ended.  When I went back to where my new 7&8 class was seated, I was greeted with looks of admiration and encouragement.  It was at that point that I knew I was at the right place and doing the right thing. 

As I drove home that day, I marveled at the Lord’s goodness and grace.  My giants of fear had been vanquished and I was humbled at how God had turned me from a shy, quiet introvert and had equipped me for this great calling.