Emulating Good Bye

Emulating great writing is a scaffold for all writers. So says pretty well everyone.  I recently read Rick Reilly’s, a well-known sportswriter for ESPN Magazine, final article, and for obvious reasons, connected with it.  So I am going to practice what I preach and use his powerful writing to support mine.
My father was a great influence on my life. He was a great storyteller.  I grew up hearing stories of the family homestead, his horse Fanny, major moments that shaped his life.  He was a minister and embedded storytelling into his sermons and stories.  Our dog Charlie was inspiration for devotions. He instilled a love of learning, reading, and writing in me.

He also loved people and accepted them for who they were. I have many memories of him laughing with people, challenging them to reflect, and making them feel good about themselves.

So when I started teaching, his influence helped me find my way. I also know there were many moments and events that shaped my career.

I remember stepping in to take over an elementary class where trauma had occurred. Students felt betrayed by authority and parents were on the attack.  I learned that I had to listen.  I wanted to fix things, but it was out of my control.  I listened and learned that sometimes life is not fair and that the answers are sometimes unclear.  But listening shows care and concern, and that goes a long way.

I remember moving to a school where students had many challenges. The principal told me that even though I had taught for 15 years, I was now going to learn how to really teach.  He was right.  I learned not to judge.  I learned not to blame.  I learned that parents love their kids, even if they are unsure how to show that love. I learned how to be firm and believe that all kids will learn.  I learned how to try to maintain dignity for all in the midst of a struggle.  I learned to really teach.

Young students write the cutest things in cards and notes to their teacher. A Grade Two student once wrote to me in his farewell card at the end of the year, “You’re funny even when you don’t mean to be.”  It made me smile, but also made me realize that we never know what students see in us, so I learned to laugh freely.

And I noticed. I noticed teachers who work hard, who give of themselves, who spend their own money buying students school supplies.  I heard teaches express care for students, wishing they could make their world a better place.  I noticed teachers celebrate a student’s success as they run into a staff room to show their colleagues.  I saw teachers support each other.  I learned to give.

I watched as students lived in the classroom. I remember after I gave a mini-lecture about the kind of movies they should never watch, a bright young boy asked me “Mrs. Kasper, have you watched any of them?”  I hadn’t, but I sure had judged, sight unseen.

Willy was a 7 year old conundrum. He was always in trouble, full of emotion, but wonderfully likeable.  He taught me that there is good in everyone.  While working with kids throughout the room, loud noise erupted in a corner.  I raised my voice and called out a student’s name.  Willy ran across the room and decreed that I should not blame that child.  Willy was the cause of the trouble, and he would not let another child take the blame.

I discovered students really do know who you are. One young girl very perceptively told me she knew my favourite colour was black.  When I asked her how, she said that it was what I wore most of the time.  I know there is some deep psychological meaning to that, so I’ve now added navy and brown to my choices.  She also told me my favourite word was ‘calm’.  I think that speaks for itself.

I noticed joy. In Grade Two, silent reading is not really silent. Students are transitioning between oral reading and silent reading.  When reading, one sweet thing would sing the words.  I will never forget hearing Green Eggs and Ham being sung with joy.

Never let anyone tell you that teaching doesn’t make a difference. Never let anyone tell you there is one important thing to teaching – covering the curriculum, a reading level, caring about the kids.  It’s so much more.  It’s about working with colleagues who think like you, but also engaging with those who challenge your thinking. It’s about laughing with children as they find something funny.  It’s about perseverance and creativity.  It’s about drying a student’s tears and holding their hand so they can be in a space to explore new thoughts and ideas.

Why leave a job I have loved for 32 years? The world is a very large classroom, and I’m ready to step into a new world.  A world where I will have time to renew and discover relationships.  A world to uncover deeply hidden hobbies and interests.

And now it is time to leave….with great sadness. As I leave I start to realize what and who I am really leaving.  I’m leaving friends and colleagues who I will miss seeing on a daily basis.  I’m leaving projects and initiatives that I care about.  My input is done and hopefully lives on as things continue to move forward.  My relationships will continue, albeit in a different shape.

So I go back to my father’s influence. I can hardly wait to share stories to my granddaughter.


JoAnne Kasper

June 28, 2015Permalink


Been thinking a lot about happiness….

I’m happily off to visit my daughter in Vancouver during the February break. She’s finding her place in Vancouver and is settled there.  When our children were young, my friend and I always said we just wanted our kids to be happy when they grew up.  We often repeated that statement, but as our children grew, our definition of happiness was challenged.  The friends, schools, and life directions they chose weren’t always what we believed would make them happy.  I discovered that I had to let go of what I wanted for my daughters to be happy and let them discover what they needed for their own happiness.  Although stability and consistency bring me happiness, these same things do not provide my daughters with the same joy.  Happiness is a personal state.

“Clap if you know what happiness means to you.”   I came across this line from Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” as I was searching for a celebratory song for our newly implemented reading intervention.  The data that we collected after our first session showed that all students involved had achieved more than we had hoped for. We had cause to celebrate.  I put together a slideshow and needed a song to set the joyful mood. As I watched Pharell’s video, I was smiling all the time.  There are people of all ages, sizes and races, happily dancing their own dance.  It made me think of the variety of students and teachers as they danced through the intervention.   When we find the right intersection between quality programming and quality instruction, students will succeed. Success is essential to happiness.


Alison Behne, in a post on The Daily Café  quotes her young son saying he wants a job where he gets to make kids happy. She goes on to say that we (educators) are in the business of making kids happy.  But, what does make students happy?  It isn’t just loving them and telling them they are wonderful; loving my own children isn’t enough for them to find their own happiness.  It isn’t about making everything fun and lively. Students need joy in their lives, no doubt.  But again, laughter and activity isn’t enough.

I believe that students feel good about themselves when they learn to work hard and strive towards excellence.  A recent experience nuanced that belief. I work with a youth choir.  We seem to acquire very engaged, intelligent singers with strong family support.  We can push them hard and often say to them,  “You are smart and you are good, so now we’re going to challenge you even more.”  Recently, one of our younger singers taught us a lesson.  She was leaving rehearsals upset and finally wanted to quit.  After sitting down with her to find out why, we realized that what she was hearing  from us was not “You are smart and good,” but rather, “Even though you are trying, it’s not enough.”  We weren’t giving her enough compassion and laughter.  Providing challenge isn’t enough for our students’ happiness.

How do we encourage happiness in students? In Teachers?  In Consultants?  I wish there was a simple answer . As we strive to balance compassion, joy, success and challenge, perhaps we can guide our students and ourselves as educators to find the individual ingrediencts themselves that will provide their happiness.  We can then join with Pharell Williams and  “Clap because I know what happiness means to me! “

I’m happy I finally completed a blog post!

Share your latest moment of happiness….