Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Hello dear reader

I have struggled mightily with this article.  I have stewed over the content, the format, the font size, the font color and whether or not to use English or Swahili.  OK, mostly it has been content and format that I've pondered.  What am I talking about you ask?  Well, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen a post or tweet I made recently regarding mean spirited kids and the home-schooling option.  It sparked quite the discussion, which I think was a very positive thing.  In that discussion I promised to blog about it.  So, after some debate with myself (I lost said debate), I am sort of ready to write.  And here it opinion.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  If you have had to say this to anyone, chances are you were saying it defensively.  Chances are you had just been called something not very nice.  Chances are you are the victim of bullying.  In my humble opinion, bullying is running rampant through our society, through our schools, through our churches and through our homes.  And that statement leads me to ask you the question "What do you consider bullying?"  If your answer reflects the physical act of pushing, hitting or intimidating others, then I say you are barely right.  Yes, bullying is a physical thing.  But I firmly believe that physical bullying is on it's way out of society.  Community leaders, educators, church leaders and parents have all been made aware of the danger of allowing physical bullying, and are very cognizant of it...if they see it happen, they do their best to stop it from happening.  And trust me, this is a very good thing.  Being bullied physically is a very hard thing to go through.

But now I ask you "How about verbal abuse?"  If you reply with a 'Pfft", or 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me", then I've got news for you.  Verbal abuse is the form of bullying that is much more damaging than physical.  Verbal abuse is much harder to catch.  Verbal abuse is much maligned as 'we're just teasing'.  In our society, our schools, our churches and our homes, verbal bullying or abuse is almost 'chic'.  If you're not teasing the 'weaker' kid, you're just not cool.  You can't fit in with our crowd unless you help us make that boy cry, or get mad.  If you're not with us, you're against us.  Wow.  Talk about pressure.  Talk about being drawn into something that we may know is wrong, but our own sense of self-preservation forces us to give in and join in.  Talk about wrong.

There are many questions I could ask at this point.  Such as "What makes you better than that boy?" or,'What gives you the right to call that girl stupid?'.  And those are just a couple questions I would ask the kids.  How about the parents?  I could ask questions of them as well.  'How are you educating your child(ren) at home about respecting other kids?'  'What sort of training mechanism do you have to steer your child(ren) clear of this behavior?'   There are questions, but I'm not sure they are being asked.  And if they are being asked, the answer is wrong.

Please don't get me wrong...I understand that there is a difference between friendly banter / mild teasing and verbal abuse.  But, the line is very, very thin.  What hurts me or my child may not hurt you or your child.  And that line is what needs to be addressed.  How do we define it?  Can we come up with a clear definition of that line?  A definition which community leaders, educators, parents and children all can understand, agree to and adhere to?  Nope, I don't think we can.  But I think we can teach awareness.  We can empower the bullies to take a step back from their hate (yes, I call it hate for a reason).  And we can provide the bullied the tools to deal with the drivel that spewed at them.

The education of bullies and bullied starts with us as parents.  I need to teach my kids that calling someone names is unacceptable.  But I need to teach this in a tangible fashion.  It is not enough to tell them 'Don't call anyone mean things'.  I'm sorry...that goes in one ear and out the other.  I have recently been engaging in role plays with my kids.  Not to the point where they get hurt by what I say, but so that they get the message.  And I will continue to do this, because once or twice is not enough.  It needs to be an on-going conversation with our kids.  I also need to teach my kids how to handle the verbal abuse.  Again, we have started to do some role play.  I am trying to teach them to mentally throw the words in the garbage, and tell themselves the opposite.  So, if someone calls you stupid, turn away, throw the word in the garbage and say 'I am not stupid, I am smart'.  It is not the only method.  It may not even work for my kids.  But the key is that I have to try.  And I have to continue to try.

I believe that our schools have done a good job in stamping out bullying.  I don't think too many kids are getting beat up on the playground anymore.  Nobody is punching a kid in the eye on the school bus.  No, dear is much more subtle than that.  And as much as we'd like to blame the school for not doing their job, I think we need to blame ourselves for not doing our jobs.  There are many tools and programs available to deal with this...both from a bullies perspective and the bullied perspective.  But it starts with you and me as parents.  Teach your children.  Educate them.  Empower them.  How many of our children have to feel the ravaging effects of depression before we catch on?  Do any of our children have to take their own lives before we as parents learn?  Think it won't happen?  Take off your rose colored glasses.  We live in a sinful world.  There is no Utopia.  There is no perfection.  Pay attention to your children's behaviour.  Is he or she a bully?  Is he or she being bullied?  If so, we need to converse among ourselves as parents.  We need to work together to stamp it out.  We need to love our children.

I could say much more, dear reader.  I have some very strong opinions on this subject.  And maybe some day I will write more about it as I learn more about it.  You may disagree with me, you may agree with me.  That is your right.  But please, don't abuse me because of what I am, or what I believe, or what I write.  Sticks and stones will break my bones...and words will quite often hurt me.


PS:  I'd love to interact with you on this article.  The comment section is open.  I moderate it, and need to approve every comment.  But, if the comment is relevant (whether in agreement or disagreement), I will publish it.  And I hope to interact with every comment.  Keeping up the dialogue is important.  Let's work together.  FF


Friday, October 21, 2011

Athletic Supporters

Good afternoon, dear reader

It was the result of a tweet from @GirlOnATerrace that prompted me to write this article. This tweeter is an English lass who is a lifelong fan of Rochdale AFC. She blogs about the team, follows the team, knows the team. She is truly a fan. I have never met her, and probably never will. But her standards in regards to sports teams is something I admire. And so I decided to write about it...not about her, but about sports teams, their fans and how I view myself as an athletic supporter. Read on, dear reader. Even though you might disagree.

I am a sports fan.  Always have been, always will be.  I love watching sports, and I used to love playing sports.  I've played a lot of different (or football to my British readers) and hockey being the main ones.  I was never very good at hockey, but I could hold my own on the pitch.  I could run like the wind, hoof the ball a mile and pass with pinpoint accuracy.  At least, that's how I remember it.

As I got older, I drifted away from playing sports, and became a supporter.  But, I don't think I was or am a typical fan.  You see, I cheer and I exhort my team on to glory.  I enjoy victories, titles, trophies and promotions.  And yes, I do cheer for some 'big' teams.  I cheer for the Calgary Flames (and have since they were in Atlanta).  I cheer for Liverpool FC.  I cheer for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays.  I cheer...I really do.  I was in Calgary for the celebration in Olympic Park when the Flames won the Stanley Cup in '89.  I was in Toronto on Yonge Street for one of the World Series parades for the Blue Jays.  So, as you can see...I do cheer.

But all this begs the question...what if the teams I cheer for don't win?  What if the 'big' teams don't achieve titles, trophies and promotions?  What if the highly paid athletes that I spur on don't achieve what I think they should?  Well, the answer is simple.  I don't give a rip.  That's right...I could not care less.  I do not get weepy and morose for days on end when the Flames miss the playoffs yet again.  When Liverpool falls outside the top 5 in the Premier league, and miss out on lucrative Europa League football, and on the even more lucrative Champions League guessed it, I don't care.  I do not lose any sleep over it.  I don't shed a tear.  I don't even get a little bit sad.  Because. I. Don't. Care.

However, I do start to care a little bit more when I am cheering for a minor league hockey team, or a lower league football club.  And before you go off screaming double standards, hear me out.  You see, for me, a big part of sports is tied up in money.  Teams go about buying their way to victories, titles, trophies and promotions.  And I have a real hard time caring for teams that didn't quite spend enough to beat the next guy.  But the minor or lower leagues is a little different.  In hockey, they are playing for the privilege of making millions, but they play with their heart.  They put everything they can into it.  They present a different side to the game than the pro's do.  In soccer (or football for my readers overseas), the lower league clubs play for a lot less wages than the pro's do...but they play with more heart, more desire and more effort in a lot of cases.

Do you see the difference, dear reader?  The young lass I mentioned in my introduction cheers for Rochdale AFC, a 3rd tier football team from Northern England.  She lives there and she stays loyal.  Oh, she could choose to cheer for Manchester United or Manchester City, two of the 'big' clubs that are right next door.  Heck, Liverpool and Everton are just down the road.  But she cheers for the little club.  She is not drawn in by the 'glory' that allegedly comes with the money the big clubs spend.

And I feel the same way.  I would rather cheer for the 'little' teams.  That is why I will get a little more unhappy with a poor Lethbridge Hurricanes showing.  That is why I was over the moon when Rochdale got promoted a couple years back from League Two after 39 years.  Buying a title or a trophy is not sport, in my opinion.  It is business.  Paying obscene amounts of money for a player, or paying a player obscene amounts of money is not sport, in my opinion.  Playing hard to get those opportunities is one thing...the heart is there, the desire is burning and the paycheck is smaller.  Don't get me wrong...not all highly paid athletes just go through the motions.  There are many examples of them that work hard at their craft.  And I respect that.  But I respect more those that play for a lot less.  And put in just as much effort.

Maybe I'm way off base here.  Maybe some of you will think I have no idea what I'm talking about.  And you may be right.  But, this is my opinion.  This is the way I feel.  This is how I choose to be an athletic supporter.  How about you?


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adventures in iPad

Good afternoon dear reader

When the iPad first was launched I was a skeptic.  Not only was I a skeptic, but I was a critic of the device and of people who bought the device.  I really didn't see any use for the iPad...other than as a status symbol.  After all, what good was it?  Oh, there were apps.  More and more apps were coming out all the time.  But I was not sold, and  I was not ever going to buy such a useless device.  Read on, dear reader...let's talk iPad.

As I said in my introduction, I was a vocal critic of the iPad.  And I must admit that my opinion was not based on experience with the device, for I had very little of that.  I had never used an iPhone or an iPod or an iPod Touch.  I have an old Mac G4 running Leopard, but that is it for my recent Apple experience (I do not count the Apple IIc I learnt on in high school...that's a long time ago).

And so, I vocalized how useless a device like an iPad would be.  It cannot ever replace a laptop or a desktop computer.  It had no USB ports.  It could not display websites that use Flash technology.  It had no expandable storage.  Really?  64GB was the maximum?  Yes, dear reader...I despised the iPad.  And anyone who bought one I labelled as silly.  These people obviously had too much money.  The obviously were more interested in the status symbol that accompanied the iPad...because apparently only the cool kids bought one.  And the rich kids, but the two go hand in hand usually.

My opinion did not change with the launch of the iPad 2.  After all, there was still no USB ports, no expandable storage, no Flash.  But there was a second camera!!  Sigh.  When would Apple get it right and make a device that I deemed useful?  After all, it was all about me...obviously my opinion was the only one that counted.  The millions of iPad owners were blinded by Apples marketing...they fell for it.  I didn't.  I win.  Or did I?

Dear reader, I was wrong.

In the summer of 2011, one of the schools I work in let me take home one of their iPad 2's.  They said 'Use it for the summer, play with it, work with it, learn it'.  I did that.  I told myself that I would go into the summer with my eyes wide open.  I would find as many uses for the iPad as I could.  I would prove to myself that I was right or wrong.  But I did give it a fair chance.

And so, I bought apps.  I started following the AppStore on Twitter.  I used the iPad in meetings, I used it on holidays, I used it at home.  My kids played games on it, my wife played games on it.  We actually liked it.  Over the course of the summer, I discovered more uses for the iPad than I ever thought possible.  Because of the long battery life, I can use it in meetings without worrying about my laptop battery dying.  I use Dropbox to access my files in a secure manner, thus the issue of no expandable storage is alleviated.  When we were camping, we played games on it during a rain storm (inside the camper of course).  My wife and I have had countless games of Scrabble on it. I bought an Office suite for it that is fully compatible with MS Office and integrates with Dropbox.  It was brilliant.

Yes, dear reader...I was wrong.  I found out over the course of the summer that the iPad was an invaluable tool.  I was sad that I would have to give it back to the school soon.  And so I made a choice.  I made a choice that I had promised myself I would never make.  I bought an iPad.  I bought the 32GB model with no 3G network.  And I keep finding more uses for it.  I would not want to do without it.

I was wrong.  Millions of people were right.  Kudos to Apple on a brilliant device.