The newbies are coming! It ‘s an annual cry, as we start to meet the new parents of precious little preschoolers and kindergarten students each spring. They come to our independent school with their eyes wide open and a great desire to launch their little one into the world of academia. And they ask some of the most wonderful questions! On top of the standard, “What are the ratios” “ Will they make friends” “Will they get homework?”, there’s always a few that stand out: “Who will help them sort out their backpacks?” “Will they have a separate play area away from older children?” and “How long is your time out because my daughter can only take 3 mins. right now.” They tour and scrutinize the classroom layout, the proximity, variety and availability of books, library, Physical Education, enrichment and craft materials, space for quiet time, the washrooms, the gymnasium, and the large outdoor campus.
I always thought this perspective of sending your child off to the big school for the first time was unique. I was retelling some of these concerns when my husband, a manager at Queens, chuckled that the Newbies at the university ask the same questions!. The parents of our precious 17,18 and 19 year olds tour the campus, the classrooms and more importantly, the dorms. They are also checking out the room layout “Will the boys and girls be separated?” ”Will they have separate areas from the older students?” They want to know about the proximity of books and enrichment, “Are there spam blockers on the computers”, ,or “What time do the pubs close on school nights?”. And what about the rules for “quiet time” and “time out”? My all time favourites: “Who will give them their medicine if they get sick?” and “Who will help them find their way to the classrooms?”
At the end of the day, the little ones are picked up with their collections of drawings and crafted items, tales about sharing time and class trips. In the spring, our young adults are picked up with their laundry, their crafted homemade furniture, and tales about sharing almost everything, and ski trips.
I love our newbie parents. They keep a nice fresh perspective on the school year. I enjoy their sense of pride when their little one has figured everything out in the first few weeks. My first-born is heading off to university this fall. Yes, I will be a newbie! I know he’ll figure it all out in the first few weeks. But still, I‘d like to know he’s taking his own medicine.
Waiting for Disaster - University of Toronto Alumni Magazine
Lately I’ve been watching the news on tv from a different perspective. Floods, hurricanes and famines have a new perspective for me…and I’m waiting for the next one. Let me back up a little. Last winter my husband, a Rotarian, became familiar with an innovative new initiative started by a very small Rotary club in southwest England. The program is called ShelterBox – a humanitarian relief program that delivers shelter, sleeping supplies and cooking equipment to communities that have been hit by a natural disaster anywhere in the world. The shelter box itself is a very large Rubbermaid-like type container. Inside is everything a family of ten needs to set up housekeeping for about six months while they re-build their homes and communities. Specifically: a large ten person tent ( with divisions for multiple families, or male/female quarters) a cook stove, pots, cooking utensils, water purification tablets and a water container, simple tools, mosquito netting, groundsheets, blankets, sleeping bedrolls and even school materials for the children. When Bolivia suffered flooding that displaced thousands of families last spring, ShelterBox sent 600 of these kits into the remote flooded communities in co-operation with Oxfam and The Samaritans to provide relief for up to 6000 people. The ShelterBox Relief Teams delivered the boxes into remote area and worked with the local families to create villages of tents emerged on dry land and give instructions on using the cookstoves, water purification tablets and other items in the box. So why am I watching disasters? My husband became so enthralled with this effort, and the Rotary group that started it, that he travelled to England last April to be trained as the first Canadian relief team member, and is now ready to be deployed for two weeks at a time to provide support for any place in the world that can benefit from the ShelterBox program. By his association with ShelterBox, I have also become educated in how this program has made such a huge difference, and how a small group of people can actually help. Since ShelterBox started in 2001, community and church groups, scout troops and schools, have now joined Rotary clubs around the world to find unique ways of adding ShelterBox to their annual fundraising events because it is tangible, effective and fulfills the basic desire most of us have to help our neighbours in need, over 30,000 ShelterBoxes have been delivered to over 30 countries. At the local Teddy Bear picnic earlier this summer, members of his Rotary club set up the tent, not just for the kids to have a walk through, but to start educating people about this wonderful program. I was so surprised by all the adults who stopped to question the presence of the tent and then stayed to hear about the amazing accomplishments of the ShelterBox program so far. Because I am only one of many who have also talked it up with everyone I know, word is slowly getting around and young and old like are able to get a sense of such a worthwhile project. Recently the Gananoque Rotary club did a similar awareness opportunity at their Ribfest, and their donation jar quickly filled up with over $1200, the cost of providing the items and transportation for one box. My husband now gives PowerPoint presentation to many groups and the story of how on Rotarian’s vision and action has evolved into the world’s leading non-governmental organization dedicated to providing shelter into disaster-stricken locations is truly inspirational. I’m very excited to have my husband do a presentation to my students this fall, Grade 5-8 and even to be able to set a ShelterBox tent up in our school yard, as an important hands on way for our children to learn about such a simple program that makes such a difference; one that they can be a part of through education and their donations. So am I apprehensive that my husband may be off to the deserts of Africa, the Amazon basin of South America or desolate mountain regions of Asia at a few weeks’ notice? Yes! But, he has his inoculations, he has his boots, he has his sense of commitment and dedication, training and expertise, and most of all, my greatest admiration that he’ll bring back an experience that will make both our lives richer. We know there will be more disaster, and now we’re ready to help. A Canadian Oath of Citizenship? - Kingston Whig Standard
Why aren’t Canadians more patriotic? I ask myself this question every morning after I sing the national anthem with my students and then we recite the Oath of Citizenship with vim and vigour. “Oath of Citizenship” you say? What’s that?
Quite simply put, it’s the equivalent to the Pledge of Allegiance said by our neighbours to the south. Over a dozen years ago a student of mine from Virginia candidly asked one morning in early September, “How come Canadians don’t say a Pledge of Allegiance after singing the anthem?” Dumbfounded, I didn’t have an answer for him, and in true teacher fashion, I said, “I’ll get back to you about that!” Sure enough, I brought it up in the staff room first chance I could. “Is there a Canadian Pledge of Allegiance?” Our teacher of French, (and the self- purported knower of all things Canadian since her stint as a page in the House of Commons in her teen years) quickly chimed in that we have an Oath of Citizenship and quickly produced a copy for me. I had never seen it before.
As the discussion ensued, and the words reviewed, we teachers agreed that this was a document of merit and since that day we have made it a part of our opening exercises. New parents to our school are as surprised as I was that such a document existed and most had never heard it. They applaud our patriotism and what we try to instil at a young age. Ironically, new Canadians who have to pass Citizenship tests, have to learn it by heart.
Recently I got on my high horse to see if this could change. I inquired to the president of a local Rotary Club, a group who regularly toasts the Queen after the singing of the anthem, about the oath’s absence. Again, no good reason could be produced. I’ve queried friends who work in the public schools system again why it isn’t part of their day, and get comments like “it would have to be passed by the Board “ or “references to the Queen would not be allowed”. Hogwash! Wave your flag Canadians; you have much to be proud of and to stand by!
Oh! And for those of you who have still never seen it: I affirm that I will be faithful, And bear allegiance to her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, And I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, And fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.