Education

Dear Hot Canadian Zumba Teacher, You didn’t know she’d had a heart attack a thousand miles away in Iowa. You didn’t know that I had just returned from flying there, fatal lung disease and all, to see her in a cardboard casket and watch it slide, inch by inch, into the crematorium oven. You don’t even know my name. But you’ve seen me popping and dropping and locking it like a middle-aged moron to Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” at your class for over a year now, and you decided it was time I stepped into the spotlight. You were right. Oh, Anne—I think that’s your name, though I generally refer to you as That Superhot, Badass Street Girl Zumba Teacher at My Gym—our bodies are such complex, frail mysteries, no? Granted, you probably haven’t considered it much, being twenty-something and...
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Dear Catalog People, Thank you for your continued belief in me. While I may think of myself as a desk-bound 42-year-old mom, you see someone who will one day require short shorts and a bikini top to wear when I go stand-up paddle boarding. I appreciate how you think that one day I might just chuck it all and move to Maui, where I will need a waterproof moisture-wicking sundress that I can change into behind a taco truck, after paddle boarding and before attending a parent-teacher conference. How thoughtful of you to realize that I’ll need a dress so I won’t spill hot sauce on my bare midriff while I laugh and eat tacos. I also like that the dress will look appropriate when I get to the parent-teacher conference. It moves well, so I can scrunch easily down into one of those little first...
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Dear New Teacher, You will have a tremendous amount of pressure when you enter your classroom this fall. Along with the responsibilities outlined by your school’s administration, there are district guidelines, mandatory training classes, required documents, and additional “voluntold” duties, on top of lesson planning, curriculum development, and a never-ending amount of “necessary” policies with which to contend. But don’t let all these responsibilities make you nervous. Having just finished my first year in teaching, I want to offer some tips that I think may help you survive your days as a freshman educator. Don’t take it personally. As I was setting up before my first day with my students last year, I had it fixed in my mind how much I wanted them to “like” being in my class. In...
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Dear Vincent Blais-Fortin, Valérie Gobei and everyone else up in arms about the “anglo threat,” I don’t often speak out on political issues, especially when they are so controversial, but this particular issue has made my blood boil. I just graduated from the Faculté de droit at l’Université de Montréal and I am an Anglophone (obviously). I’d like to start off by saying that I never wrote any of my exams or papers in English while I was at U de M. I never addressed any of my professors in English and I spoke to my peers, during class, in French. The back story I moved to Montreal when I was around five years old, not speaking a word of French. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I knew two words; “bonjour” (the obvious one), and “écureuil” (the not-so-obvious one). When...
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Dear Abandoned MA English Degree, We could’ve been big, MA English Degree. God damn huge! Working together, our forces finally combined with BA English Degree to form that ancient tripartite power of analysis, critical thinking, and original content. We could have taken the world by storm. There was no shortage to where we could have gone: non-paying internships at publishing houses, a PhD program, the list… well, the list kind of peters out there, but man, what we could’ve done in either of those, it would’ve really set the world aflame! But alas, here is where we must part ways. Two semesters into our supposed two year relationship I must take my leave from you. Ah, just thinking about all we’ve done together, and all we could’ve done, makes me get a little misty eyed. We had...
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To the first boy I every truly cared about; you had been my best friend, the only person I had in the entire world. I had grown to trust you in a short period of time because I thought you cared. When we went to elementary school I realized how little you actually thought of me. You took my trust for you and used it against me. The pain, the abuse, I took every single blow because deep down, I thought that you cared. I thought that if I waited, you would soon realize how much you cared for me back. You invited others to play in your little game; "Who could make the loser cry first." I never really saw the fun in that game. A hit to the arm, a kick in the shin; it was all just a game to you, and then when the final bell rang, you would be my friend again. I treasured the times when you...
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Dear Teacher, Thank you for helping me learn. I love to go to school. When I go to school, I notice that you give me a smile. You say, “Hello,” in a gentle voice. That makes me feel happy. I need help focusing in class. My brain sometimes flops. Sometimes I feel tired and I don’t know why. Sometimes I get distracted when people move around. Lights and noises sometimes distract me. I like it when you turn off the lights. You should use a gentle voice. I work a lot. I feel like I am working all the time. Hard work makes me feel tired. I need a break to walk around. You should always tell the truth. One time I had a teacher who liked to say, “Good job.” I tested her. I gave her wrong answers. She kept saying, “Good job.” She was not telling the truth. When I make a mistake now, you...
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Dear Missionaries of the World and Laborers for the Gospel, Recently, those of us serving in FOCUS’ national office took a day-long retreat, where the priest’s reflections addressed an issue that seems to plague every laborer in apostolic work. It resonated so deeply within my own experience that I felt compelled to share it with you here. No ministry is immune—whether in the Congo or in the college dorm, in youth ministry or the priesthood. I cannot tell you how much I wish I had guarded against it over the years—and done so with much more vigilance. I paid a high price, and I don’t think I’m alone. And so, it is in all gentleness and sincerity that I write to you, my brothers and sisters in the field. In our labors for the gospel, this is the easiest way to lose our souls...
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Dear Michael Thank you for your lecture here at the RSA a couple of weeks ago. It was eloquent and robust and sparked some fascinating debates face to face and on-line. We didn’t have much time for discussion on your visit but you kindly offered to try to respond to some questions posed through my blog. I am taking up this offer today, hoping to catch you before the summer break. I know from the conversations on my blog site that your response will be of great interest to many people. Your speeches give a very strong sense of the direction in which you think teaching and learning should travel. Below I have identified seven different aspects of this shift of focus. I appreciate your commitment to parental choice and school diversity, but, as you recognised when we last spoke, if the...
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Dear Freshman: Welcome to college!! Here’s your first lesson: College is not a stepping-stone to life, but an exciting part of life. College is your first professional position! Your instructors are your new bosses, as well as your teachers, your collaborators, and your mentors. Let me explain the implications of your new position as a college student, and this new way of thinking about college: Your official job title is “College Student.” Although this sounds a lot like “High-School Student,” it is very different. For example: In high school your teachers shared some responsibility for making sure your assignments were completed and for saying in class everything that would be on tests. As a “college student,” you now have full responsibility for completing your assignments,...
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