Sometimes people ask me what I do at École L'Eau-Vive.
Sometimes, I wonder myself, because I wear several different hats. I imagine if I asked different students, I'd get a variety of different answers.
For instance ~
I'm not a teacher, although I certainly do do lots of teaching.
I'm not an "orthopedagogue" or learning specialist, although I lead reading workshops and help students who struggle with reading learn specific decoding and comprehension strategies. I also write several intervention plans, or individualized education plans, each year.
I'm far from being a parenting coach, yet students' parents have been known to ask me for advice or suggestions, and not just about homework strategies.
I am a missionary and often have amazing conversations with kids about Jesus, who he is and what he came to earth to do. Working at a Christian school, however, is not a carte-blanche to talk about the Lord. I need to avoid "spiritual blackmail," where kids feel pressured to obey out of fear instead of a changed heart. Fear motivates quickly and effectively, but leaves out an important part of the Gospel - perfect love casts out fear.
When students ask me what I do, I most often say I'm like the police woman or detective for the elementary section. I spend many, many minutes helping children understand the rules and learn how to follow them; in addition, I help teach them about consequences for choosing to respect or not respect those rules.
My favorite...not favorite job (think sorry...not sorry), however, is that of mediator and peace-maker. Someone I respect exceedingly told me that that was what they saw to be one of my primary roles at the school. When wearing this hat, I'm usually dealing with violence, bullying, harassment or some other form of attack that has left at least two, and often more, injured - emotionally, physically, socially and/or spiritually. I say two because every conflict involves at least two, as both aggressors and victims are hurt by these encounters. This is especially true when working with children who are still learning all about social skills and relating to others.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget that last part... the bit about both being victims. Chris Colfer has said "When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper; They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless." In my role, it is important not just to help and support the victim; it is equally important to help the author of said acts understand the impact of what they have done as well as to teach them other ways to respond.
God provided me with an unpleasant lesson this weekend that I hope will help me as I intervene, intercede, mediate and adjudicate in school-related conflicts. While I never condone the actions of a bully, I can actually have a harder time identifying with and understanding those who allow others to walk all over them...
My recent "lesson" gave me more than just a glimpse of that perspective.
Friday and Saturday, we had a huge dump of snow. I think the final total snow accumulation was around 40 cm (16 inches), and it was blowing a blizzard for a day and a half.
Saturday, however, was beautiful and busy. Snowplows and other snow removal vehicles were out in full force, which wreaks havoc with the traffic. Of course, living in Quebec, I quickly learned to appreciate those who do that job, for its better to put up with temporary inconvenience to have improved road conditions. I ran out to take Anna to her horseback riding lesson, and was hurrying back home because I had several things I wanted to get done during the afternoon. I followed another car into the parking lot for our apartment complex only to discover that they'd started plowing the snow and wanted us to clear the parking lot.
The car before me pulled into a parking place, turned around and pulled out. I started to do the same and the driver of the snow plow started wildly gesticulating, clearly indicating that he did not want me to do that. I motioned, trying to indicate that I simply wanted to turn - around instead of having to back down a small hill, back up the other side and then out into snow plow traffic. He disagreed.
He lifted the blade up, literally charged directly at my car, slammed the blade down just in front of me, creating a yellow metal wall wider and taller than the hood of our Infiniti. Then he started moving slowly towards me as though he would literally shove me, back end first down... up... and then out into the road. I was shocked and afraid, genuinely fearing he'd plow right into me. I didn't stand my ground because I just wanted outta there! And so? I backed down the hill, up the hill and threaded my way amongst the other snow removal machines on our road (mildly traumatizing in and of itself). Then I spent the next thirty minutes driving around our large block, my eyes full of tears and castigating myself, all the while "thinking very ungenerous thoughts" about that snow plow driver.
I definitely got a taste of what it feels like to be bullied. Funny thing? I figured once I calmed down, it would just "go away." But it hasn't. I keep replaying it in my mind, getting angry once again at the dude and at myself. I've been much quicker to take offense when others have disagreed with or confronted me about something, even something banal and stupid, ever since. I feel guilty for not standing my ground (my kids were all really surprised that I didn't), even ashamed. My walk didn't measure up to my talk, and my gang has been spot-on in making sure that I know that.
Thankfully, my hubby is going to stand up for me now, even though I wasn't able to do so in the moment. He's going to talk to the administration of our apartment building, denouncing the behavior of that snow plow driver.
If I ever wondered about the importance or the relevance of what I'm doing each day, this weekend proved it to me...
My pain may be the reason for somebody's laugh.
But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody's pain.
Note : African proverbs images from: https://www.pinterest.fr/SimpleThingz25/african-proverbs/