Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

Being completely open-minded is something I truly strive for, yet I struggle to keep an open mind towards the extreme authoritarian governments in power in my country and my province. In Nick Fillmore’s latest BLOG post,

Is Stephen Harper displaying
fascist-like tendencies?

he makes the case that although he doesn’t accuse Mr. Harper of being a fascist, one can easily identify elements of fascism from Harper’s actions when applying Dr. Lawrence Britt’s fourteen defining characteristics of fascism. It is compelling reading. I worry about the changes happening in a country once known for its collective social conscience.

Our province could be similarly analyzed. In a province where a campaign has been launched AGAINST opposition leader, Adrian Dix, before an election has been called; in a province where teachers enter an eleventh year with bargaining rights suppressed;  in a province where cuts to arts funding were increased (AGAIN!) and the Bible is raised in discussion by the Minister of Culture and the Arts, I begin to see fascist-like tendencies very close to home.

One can despair, shut them out or take action. Of course taking action is the obvious solution, yet that, too, can be difficult. What to do? What obstacles? What politics within the politics?

Which brings me to social conscience…

When you find someone with true social conscience with whom you can work, volunteer, collaborate…it all becomes so much easier. I found Dave McPherson. He is smart, funny, caring, dedicated, a great navigator but above all he has a true social conscience. And, he’s handling Joe Trasolini’s by-election campaign. Officially he’s the Campaign Manager, but that title seems minimal for what he does. Somehow I knew this was where I could make a difference, stop the creeping fascism, restore some balance and join a team of like-minded people. I am very impressed with the candidate and the myriad of volunteers who have arrived to make a difference.

Joe Trasolini has a public persona that one begins to identify through discussion, through the press, through living in a neighbouring municipality, but every day I like and respect Joe more and more. His values are the right values. He cares about people. He cares about getting things done.  This hard-working man has earned the respect of many, many people in the City of Port Moody. He makes himself available to anyone in the public for meetings through his open-door policy carried over from his 12 years as Mayor. He IS open-minded. He has the mindset of a person who comes to politics to make the world a better place for the many, not for the few. The environment is always in the forefront of his thinking. Scent-free office – OF COURSE. In fact, time to stop BLOGGING and get down to the office. Volunteers are welcome. The office including the phone rooms are wheelchair accessible. Come and join me. We can make a difference.

Hello, neighbours…

It is a privilege to have an opportunity to stand before you this evening, once again to offer to serve you as a Councillor in the Village of Anmore. Many of you have come to know that I am a passionate advocate…for individuals, for the environment, for sustainability, for the ARTS, for this Village and for the Tri-City region.

There is no us and them. That is an illusion. There are only people – some with a more generous spirit than others. This can be observed in small, every-day behaviours. You can see it in how they interact with a child or with nature. You can see it in the things they choose to do with their time. When you choose someone to lead your country or your province or your village, what do you want? A kind person? An honest person? A person who does not just promise to do her best but shows it every day? A person who demonstrates true kindness of spirit? A person with a strong work ethic? A person who can suspend judgment?  A person who can truly listen and does so? A person who will not be bullied? I offer you these, my good qualities – and more because I KNOW…

Such a person will bring to the COUNCIL table your interests, always. You can trust that selfishness, greed and power will not be on MY agenda.

It is certainly helpful if your leader can understand easily the workings of government, and I have studied hard over the years. Yet I put it to you: it is equally important to bring questions to the table.

The candidates here before you this evening have worked hard – to promise you the same promises I have seen on campaign literature over the last three elections. If you peruse my handouts, mail-outs and websites, you will see that financial accountability, environmental protection and community planning are important to me as well. The difference I can offer you – is my community record of committee work, consensus-building and advocacy.

I am here for you –  and I am here for Anmore. On election day, vote for ELAINE WILLIS.

 

It is not an easy decision to run for Council in Anmore. It is a tiny municipality. There are currently about 1400 voters. Three years ago there were approximately 1200 voters which actually demonstrates the growth we are experiencing, and one of the reasons I decided I must, once again, offer to serve. From 2001 to 2006 there was a 32.8% population increase, and this upward population pressure continues. With a “Rural” designation from Metro Vancouver and an outdated, incomplete Official Community Plan with a firm one acre minimum lot size, the village is evolving via the drift rather than plan mechanism that is created by development pressures. Land values continue to soar and conflict between development and sustainability have come to the fore.

What to do about it? Clearly deflecting attention from it with conflict will not solve the problem. Communication, consensus-building and judicious planning are required to create sustainable development. The Official Community Plan must be revised and adhered to. We must also work effectively with our neighbours. Anmore does not exist in a vacuum. The region of the Tri-Cities shares air and watersheds, we share roadways, transportation and infrastructure. We share services. Working within this small region is as important as working with the greater region of Metro Vancouver in planning and decision making and I pledge to keep communication key for shared resources and services. Already I have inserted myself into committees relating to hospital services, watershed management, social services and the arts in the Tri-Cities as I believe so strongly in their importance.

So, a vote for me is a vote for communication, for dialogue, and for advocacy for our village and our region. I promise to stand for and maintain open government, to be responsive to the voices of individuals and to groups. Sustainable development is not rampant development; we need careful planning to keep Anmore beautiful, green and livable.  I have no hidden agenda. My life for the past several years has been devoted to advocacy. I offer that now in service as your Anmore Councillor. Vote for Elaine Willis on November 19th.

I returned from a weekend at the SEP (Salmonid Enhancement Conference) in Campbell River delighted to have taken a ferry and visited Vancouver Island for the first time this century. My friend, Ruth, who reminded me it was the first time this millenium, is constantly running into former students who shout after her, “Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Foster, remember me!!!”

I was delighted to find the following response to an older BLOG POST when I arrived home; more than heartwarming, it verified the theme of a recent post about advocacy. By choosing to become a teacher, I chose to be an advocate.When I entered teaching, I had no idea it would be a good fit or my natural calling, but I am lucky these things were true. To have a positive impact on anyone’s life is really all one can hope for…

Mikki, in my mind’s eye, you are still that young girl. Yet your writing is clearly that of an articulate, strong, young woman. The impact of your few words lived on for days…still does. I have met many former students, but none that has shared this experience of being part of the “disabled community”. My mother (who can’t seem to grasp that I am 57 years old) constantly asks when I am going to write and publish a book – she so believes my writing skills to be a marketable talent. Somehow, finally, I understand how she feels. Your ability to write well, to express your thoughts with a few powerful words is so apparent. Impactful… Delightful… I think that might be a bit of pride…like what my mother tries to express to me.

Mikki (Cowling) Chartier said May 22, 2011

Elaine Willis,

You were my 3rd and 4th grade teacher back in the 1980s at Grosvenor Road Elementary School. After all these years and wondering what’s happening today, I found your blog. You are a gifted teacher, who showed far more compassion to a very shy and anxious disabled child than our soulless system has demonstrated to you. I was stunned to find out you developed ataxia and chemical sensitivities, but from your blog and The Hindsight Years, it’s clear you haven’t let it stop you.

It was a privilege to have had such a wonderful human being as a teacher. You valued each and every student as individuals, genuinely cared about us and what we were learning. Nearly thirty years on, I still remember how you read stories to the class and didn’t underestimate our ability to understand the themes. How you played “Clouds”–Both Sides Now–by Anne Murray. I remember learning about technology in the computer lab with the Apple ][ and when you took the class on a field trip where we learned about computer programming at a real university! You made the experience magical to a nine year old child who never forgot your kindness, passion for teaching, and your patience.

I just wanted to say thank you.

I suppose being a teacher is being an advocate. One advocates for one’s students. We try to empower them in a system that denies rights to minors. We give them skills and confidence…anything we can to help them advocate for themselves but when they cannot we step in for them, fierce as mother bears.

And then there was the women’s movement. The supposed “third wave of feminism” taught me to challenge political structure and power holders while taking backup people with me. A lone voice is not as effective as the voice with many backers.

Ultimately, I became an advocate because in my greatest time of need, some people stepped (no, they wheeled) forward into my life and intervened, when a system powerful enough to put me in a nursing home for the crime of being disabled, chemically sensitive, and vocal threatened my freedom and my survival.

Paul Gauthier wheeled into my life and assured me that I was not being unreasonable when I requested scent-free care workers, or notice before nurse administrators arrived in my home. “If they tell you you’re being difficult,” he told me, “It just means you’re still alive.” How right he was. And how close I came to that precipice. When an institution, a system, a dangerous machine has control over your life…even those of us who are strong-willed and intelligent can be swept away. But thanks to that young man, and another wheeled advocate from the BC Paraplegic Association, Norman Haw, all that conspired to sweep me away failed. I emerged, stronger, independent, flourished…in control of my own life and care. So what else can I do but help others? And since I am not ALLOWED to work for pay, it is with pleasure that I try to help others navigate the medical system, or, as in my case, not be swallowed by it.

And as I give workshops, I often pay tribute to Paul without using his name. As it happens I was giving a workshop to a group of Medical Office Assistants on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and who was the organizer? Paul’s mother-in-law. She recognized the man I described from his good deeds, methinks…and she inquired if I knew her son-in-law. It’s a small world.

And I may not have thanked you in this decade, Mr. Gauthier, so thank you, once again!

Do you see a disconnect?


The Metro Waste Draft Plan includes the building of new Waste-to-Energy facilities inside and/or outside our region.

Here is my speech to them last night in a building filled with VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS forcing me to speak while attached to an oxygen tank inhaling O2 at 5 litres per minute:

First I want to thank you for adding this additional Public Consultation evening to your agenda.

My name is Elaine Willis and I have had the privilege of being a teacher for most of my adult life.  Because of what has been labelled Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, the privilege of continuing my chosen profession, for pay, has been suspended.

People with an exquisite sensitivity to toxic chemicals are often called “canaries.” The name comes from the old practice of miners who took canaries with them into the mines; if the canary died from toxic air in the shaft, the miners had time to escape with their lives. People with chemical sensitivities are the canaries of the modern world.

In 1999, a consensus was reached among a large group of specialists in defining Multiple Chemical Sensitivity as

[1] a chronic condition

[2] with symptoms that recur reproducibly

[3] in response to low levels of exposure

[4] to multiple unrelated chemicals and

[5] improve or resolve when incitants are removed

THE BC LUNG ASSOCIATION website tells us that some 30% of Canadians already report adverse reactions to some chemical products.

In layman’s terms, people with MCS react unfavorably when exposed to any amount, from minute to gross, of toxic chemicals too numerous to list. Symptoms vary from fleeting to severe and might include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, fatigue, flushing, dizziness, nausea, coughing, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, migraine, or even life threatening seizures, anaphylaxis or respiratory distress. This chemical sensitivity condition is not rare and the numbers of people who have it are growing. I, myself, had a stroke caused by chemical exposure.

But the truth is, it’s not just chemically sensitive people who are being affected by a toxic environment. The general public is being exposed to tens of thousands of chemicals that didn’t even exist until a few decades ago. Many of these chemicals, some found in everyday household products like cleansers and cosmetics are known to be or are suspected of causing cancer, reproductive problems, developmental disabilities, and heart disease.

What has this to do with the Metro Solid Waste Management Plan?  These products will be disposed of – they are mostly unregulated, untested and uncontrolled. A look at Metro Vancouver’s Vision Statement which includes social justice and compassion, a beautiful and healthy natural environment and a commitment to the well-being of current and future generations shows a disconnect. How can the creation or even the consideration of the creation of mass incineration be on the table? How can any emissions into the air be considered acceptable?

Let’s go back to my teaching career – my 1990’s classroom. I hope you can try to visualize this… I did some early research projects with robotics using LEGO bricks and Apple computers for programming. Students as young as six years old worked in groups to create and program moving objects, many of which were vehicles. Of course, given their limited experience, either with machines, or with LEGO, the creations needed to be changed in order to function. I noted two distinct types of engineering strategies. There were those who saw the flaw, took the whole thing apart and started again with the new insights – and those who kept adding parts to compensate for the flaws, creating a bulkier machine, which may or may not function – flaws addressed, but in the end when the motors were attached, usually parts would go flying off in all directions. The analogy here is Metro’s DRAFT PLAN…many helpful citizens have pointed out the glaring flaw. Please don’t attach the motor!

When I was attending university, I had a professor, Milt McClaren, who was already taking the bus when most of us didn’t know what Environmental Studies were…the most important thing he taught me…There is no such place as away! We can’t incinerate the waste and think it is gone. The nanoparticles will go into my body. The ash will still go into the landfill. The filters and scrubbers, they have to go somewhere too.

Thank you.

And my subsequent comments left on the website where responses are welcomed:

http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solidwaste/planning/Pages/Comments.aspx

and posted to the Tri-City Green Council website and Facebook:

DRAFT METRO WASTE PLAN: many people feel that the draft plan is a sham.. I am hopeful that I did not waste many evenings and much sober thought trying to convince the committee that the science that led to the draft plan contained some flaws and needs some revision…the hard work of the committee is appreciated – but …changes MUST occur. I had to leave due to air quality. I have now saved the taxpayers much money in medical expenditures. By preserving the airshed, we preserve the health of our citizens – I am not alone – I am your canary – with a system sensitive enough to detect that our modern world, industries, building materials, and endless pollution has reached a critical moment in time. Let’s turn this plan around now! The decisions made by METRO VANCOUVER can demonstrate leadership to the world – let’s do so!


NOTE: information about MCS copied from www.thecanaryreport.com – if you are interested in MCS or already show symptoms, this is a great resource for you.

Amanda Elizabeth Willis,

whose initials and profession I share, has been my mother for the last 38 years. She quickly dispelled rumours about mothers-in-law by welcoming me very warmly into her family as Ted’s wife and then as the mother of her grandchildren, a true place of honour in her heart. When I joined her profession shortly thereafter, and she added mentoring me into teaching to mentoring me into motherhood, the deal was sealed.

In the early years of our marriage, it seems we spent a lot of time living on Garden Avenue, either in the big house at 1789 or in the tiny house across the street. I am sure that’s where my environmental activism and true love of spiders were solidified. Every indoor spider was lovingly named Charlotte by Betty

Betty

Betty

and placed outside to carry on its work. Tea leaves were fed directly to ferns, sword fernacid-loving plants (did she just instinctively know that this was the right soil enhancer for them?) While others were grooming lawns and gardens against nature, Betty and Bill were working with nature in their garden. Now naturescaping is de rigeur – Betty was a woman ahead of her time.

Betty was a thoroughly modern woman. To some of you this may come as a surprise to hear it, but it is true. She embraced change and understood that new ideas and new technology were inevitable and to be evaluated rather than discarded. This was especially so with ideas which she loved to discuss. As time went by, she became more and more open to new ones, always willing to modify an opinion based on new information. Betty developed little wise sayings which I quote frequently. These were based on her own life experiences and the one which most affected her own life decision was . “People don’t grow older, they grow more so.” With that belief in mind, Betty, I believe, chose to hone her life focus on her beliefs: kindness, positive thinking, family, and intellectual thought. She became more so every day…still my mentor, ever my role model. She quietly affected those around her by taking control of situations with her innate Conflict Resolution skills whether in the classroom or at the dinner table at Harmony Court Care Centre. Her positive attitude attracted people to her and she became a favorite of the staff at the Care Centre.

Betty was a loving mother and grandmother. How lucky I was to be part of that nest. Whenever there was a crisis, Betty was there for me. As my health failed, she was the one who initially managed doctors and hospitals, even if it was by phone. She taught me how to navigate a medical system and advocate for others within it. When I ended up an invalid after an unexpected surgery, my teenaged children packed me off to Betty and Bill’s for tender loving care in the family home. The nursing skills she learned from her mother were always at hand. What good fortune I had to have acquired a second mother, loving and wise, caring and sweet… who aged like fine wine, but I can hear her voice gently say, “I would prefer fine cheese, dear”. The French use the word belle-mere, beautiful mother for this special relationship – the mother of one’s spouse. My Betty, my dear sweet gentle, wise belle-mere. Thank you for all you gave to me and others during your life. You are missed but always with me. I will try to age as gently and kindly as did you, my role model…

I was allowed to present this “STATEMENT” at the second day of my arbitration proceedings. I suppose it is wise not to comment publicly until the proceedings are over. We meet again in December, 3 1/2 years after the back to work process began.

BCTFlogo@125I sit before you today to be judged. I placed myself here long ago when I initiated the back to work process in discussion with my doctor in 2006. My life, my health, my vulnerabilities have been shown to you and I welcomed it for one reason…I felt it was my obligation to return to the workplace as my ability to do so had returned.

What is required for a teacher to work? I learned from a brave, young ventilator-dependent quadriplegic hired by a progressive school district (Vancouver) that a strong will and a functional mind were the only requirements. A functional body was not required. If young Johanna Johnson

Johanna

Johanna

can do it, I had every obligation to return to my career.

As a visibly disabled person in a school, I give a message to disabled students. They can aspire. They, too, can have careers in what they perceive to be important jobs dominated by the able-bodied. But more importantly, I educate the able-bodied, because they need to know that I am not a mere curiosity. I am not what they see. I am a human being; a teacher…a more than capable teacher, who, given a few environmental adaptations, can more than function in my chosen career.

Most of the people who wrote letters back and forth, made decisions against my presence had never met me or met me only once. With all we know about brain science and the function of “the interpreter” in filling in details missing in actual interaction, I am in awe of this entire process.

There are many things to applaud in the stacks of paperwork I have studied. Some have learned about the use of green chemicals for cleaning. There have been reports from other schools and institutions on scent-free policies, the new policy for Anaphylactic Safety in Surrey School District. … But according to the BC Lung Association 3 out of 10 people are chemically sensitive and the numbers are growing. I maintain that every living organism is “chemically sensitive” given large enough doses in small enough enclosures. The reactions may just differ. Some people break out in cancer after accumulating the chemicals in body organs. I have the GOOD LUCK of being able to detect small quantities and having the need to escape quickly. There are many indicators in our environment that human beings as a species are succumbing to chemical pollution. Sperm counts in humans are at 50% of what they were a few decades ago. Knowledgeable parents would welcome a chemical free school and soon it will be the norm. This year, already, parents are grappling with the need to buy PVC free school supplies and worrying about all the previous years when they did purchase these products.

(Paragraph that originally appeared here has now been removed at the request of my employer.  It was not meant to upset anyone and was, as far as I know, only a statement of facts. I apologize if anyone found it offensive. removed January 30, 2010)

I sit before you, a human being, flawed, as are we all. My desire…to do what’s right and return to being a contributing member of society despite my disability. I am a teacher.