Not the Blog Post I Thought I’d be Writing…

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be writing something related to what is working for me as a teacher during a pandemic right now. Or maybe I missed the deadline for that? I don’t even know anymore. It all seems a bit irrelevant now. Honestly, this isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing -  but here we are.

I had a draft of a post from last week about how I was struggling to find the same sense of community that I normally feel in a classroom this year due to the hybrid learning model. I’m about to quote myself here, but bear with me. In my draft post, I had written “one of the things I’ve been struggling with is building a sense of community in the classroom - specifically a community that includes both our online learners and our in person learners. My personal teaching philosophy is pretty centered around relationships first - and teaching to blank screens and muted students is proving to be a challenge.”

I stand corrected. Rosseau Lake College is the strongest, most supportive community I have ever been a part of, and I felt that to my core this week. On Monday (which feels like 47 days ago but has remarkably been less than a week), our community was brought to its knees by an unfathomable tragedy. Our Head of School, Robert Carreau, is gone - killed in a terrible accident on his morning run. This week has been a complete blur of emotions - attempting to hold myself together while being there for our students and staff. I actually found myself googling, “will I eventually run out of tears,” and then laughed at myself because the science teacher in me realized how ridiculous my query was. But the community that I am a part of is incredible. The number of emails I’ve received from students asking if I am okay and how I’m doing - even from online students who never even had the chance to meet Mr. Carreau - is mind blowing. Working at a school where literally every student and staff member feels like a member of the family is such a blessing. Losing the father figure of the school is not. But I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more supported than I feel right now from these students. Thus, I feel like I can no longer write about my attempts to increase a sense of community between online and in person students. It seems redundant now - we are more than a community. We are a family.  Again - this is not the blog post I thought I’d be writing.

I teach math and science - meaning I’m no English connoisseur. With the state my mind is in this week, I’m also certainly not the most eloquent, but I’ve been trying to put my thoughts together. Lately, I’ve just found myself thinking about mindset during this entire situation. Mindset during a pandemic. Mindset during a tragedy. Mindset during a bad day. This year has been hard - and I know I’ve probably been guilty of being a little more negative at times than I’d care to admit. 

I want to change that. 

I’m going to make an effort to see the good in every day. I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert, and what advice he might have in this situation. His ability to be both optimistic and realistic at the same time is something I’ve admired since I met him, and his insightful words often comforted both staff and students. So, here’s what I’m focusing on for the next little while.

1) Let go of expectations that things need to happen at a certain time.
Yes, we have a curriculum. Yes, it has importance I suppose. Is it the be-all and end-all of student learning? Absolutely not. Have I been focusing on it this week? Definitely not. Robert would always say, “they probably won’t remember the periodic table later in life, but they will remember how you made them feel, and those moments they had with you.”

2) Take care of yourself.
This was something Robert always reiterated to staff at the school. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. This week I’ve been trying to stay strong for all of our grieving students. But I haven’t been taking the time for myself. Yesterday I cried in front of a group of students for no apparent reason. Self-care isn’t a fad. It’s necessary. It’s also okay to not be okay. I admitted to the students that I wasn’t super okay right now, but that I would be eventually and just needed some time. I think that this might be just as important a lesson as math or science - maybe even more so. Being real, showing emotions, being authentic - these are how we build those critical relationships with students. Teachers are humans too.

3) Why wait?
Robert was never one to hesitate on anything. I recently read in his obituary that Robert’s X-ring had the words “Why wait?” engraved on it. That message is such a beautiful reminder to seize the day, and stop putting off those things you want to do. Next time I have some wild idea for a class that perhaps I feel like needs some more refining or planning, I am going to remind myself of this. Spontaneous field trip? Outlandish whole-school activity? Ambitious goals? Why wait?

4) You are not your resume.
Robert’s resume was beyond impressive. He completed so much at such a young age. While his accomplishments and achievements definitely impressed me - they are not what I remember most about him. I remember his ability to talk to anyone and make them feel like an immediate friend. I remember his tact for being able to break down the walls of kids who had them built the highest and the strongest. I remember his remarkable ability to wear so many different hats so well - to excel at so many things - and to remain so humble. I remember his singing, his laughter, his sense of humour, and how much he cared about kids - his own, and his students. I hope we can instill this lesson in our students. Grades don’t define you. Who you are and how you treat others is what matters most.

5) Even in the midst of a tornado of unforeseen circumstances, there is always something to appreciate in life.
We start every staff meeting with a moment to express gratitude towards others in our community. Even in the crappiest week, the shittiest day, the most terrible morning - there is something to be thankful for. I’ve started practicing more gratitude with my classes this week. We start our lessons with PearDecks, and the first slide is often “what is one thing that you are thankful for this week?” (I highly recommend it. It is completely anonymous if you use the PearDeck add-on for Google Slides, but everyone can see the answers posted. It is such a refreshing way to start a class. I wasn’t sure the kids were into it until today when I didn’t have the energy for a PearDeck, and a student said, “but I need to write what I’m thankful for today! Might’ve been the first real smile on my face all week.)
This week has been really really hard. But, I am so grateful to have met Robert 3 years ago, and to have had the privilege of knowing him, working with him, and learning from him since then.

We need Novembers

In one of his most recent letters home to parents, Robert put into words what I think I’m trying to say far better than I ever could.

The truth is though, we need Novembers, and rain. We need setbacks and failures, stress and sadness, moustaches and bad hair days, tragedy and disappointment.  We need these and all other challenges, not only because they make us stronger, but also because they allow the light in the rest of our lives to shine even more brightly.” - Robert Carreau, October 20th, 2020.

So at Rosseau Lake College, we are going to allow that light in our lives to shine more brightly. 

We are going to support each other as the community - the family - that he led and inspired and cared for. 

We are going to do everything that we can to heal, to grow, and to make this school even more remarkable than it already is.

One of my coworkers said it best when she said, “if we all strive to be more like Robert Carreau, the world will be a much better place.”

20 thoughts on “Not the Blog Post I Thought I’d be Writing…

  1. Monica, this is beautiful. You've captured so many things incredibly eloquently: Robert, the RLC community, what is important in life. (I'm not a scientist: what was the verdict on running out of tears? Because as I was reading this I wondered if might get there!) There is great perspective in this post for anyone, and I hope that you found some solace in the process of writing it. Much love.

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  2. Kathryn O'Brien

    Thank you for sharing this post about Robert Carreau. For those of us who did not have the honour of knowing him, you brought forth the person behind his title as Head of Rosseau Lake College. Your words capture the actions of a wonderful human being. I am grateful that we all got to learn from him through you. Thanks for being brave and sharing this post.

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  3. Brandon Black

    Monica,
    I never had the chance to meet Robert, but this post brought tears to my eyes. Your words eloquently capture the daily struggles that teachers are facing while also exemplifying the tragedy that you and your community now have to bare. The weight of your comments and sadness are felt. It’s evident that Robert’s impact on you and on the Rosseau community was significant and I suspect that one thing to be thankful for is that you had the opportunity to know Robert. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Eric Daigle

    If we can all carry this perspective with both inside and outside of tragedy, we will have accomplished what I believe is the true purpose of education: being there for one another. Thank you, Monica.

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  5. Allison Campbell-Rogers

    Monica thank you for this post; you capture what beauty can be found in grief, though that might seem strange... there is a legacy here to be kept alive and you have articulated it so well. My sincere condolences to you.

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  6. Jo-Anne Kingstone

    Thank you , Monica, for sharing your own and your community’s journey through this challenging time. I love that in addition to drawing a beautiful portrait in memory of Robert, you also point the way to an intentional pathway forward. Thanks for that gift. Rosseau has a larger community of CAIS schools — and we have wrapped our (virtual) arms around you all. Take care.

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  7. Sarah Craig

    Thank you, Monica. Your words share the powerful of Robert's leadership style. He was passionate and positive, and lead by example. He will be greatly missed.

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  8. "Being real, showing emotions, being authentic - these are how we build those critical relationships with students." Monica, thank you for modeling all of these in your post. I am grateful for your bravery and strength in sharing your beautiful words in tribute. The loss that you are all experiencing is unimaginable. From hearing your words, and those of @gvogt, those of us who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Robert, have all had a glimpse of his gift, light, and legacy. Through your profound sadness, I also hear a call for all of us to remember what is at the heart of everything ~ the way we make each other feel by the way we show up in the world and in our relationships. At the end of each of our stories, this is everything. My deepest condolences and much love to you and everyone at RLC. xx

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  9. Tia Saley

    Monica. Thank you for being. Your words mean so much to me. To all of us. This little community of ours is family and while Robert will be missed beyond words, his legacy is in his love and compassion and strength that he shared and has instilled in each of us. Sending you hugs and love, tia

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  10. “The truth is though, we need Novembers, and rain. We need setbacks and failures, stress and sadness, moustaches and bad hair days, tragedy and disappointment. We need these and all other challenges, not only because they make us stronger, but also because they allow the light in the rest of our lives to shine even more brightly.” - Robert Carreau, October 20th, 2020.

    Thank you so much, @mrand for writing this post. Your words celebrate the life of Robert Carreau. You also remind us to never lose sight of what truly matters.

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  11. Peter Gilbert

    Wonderfully said. I was lucky to have been a part of RLC for a brief time, and that year and a half was some of the best time in my 35 year teaching career.
    Robert was the leader of the pack, but the pack was an extraordinary group of teachers who were so enthusiastic, excited, and committed to the school and each other. And you, Monica, were wonderful in your kindness and welcoming of me, as were the rest of the staff.
    I can't believe, still, that Robert's gone. But his words and influence will live on.
    All of RLC is in my thoughts and prayers and on my mind. Good luck moving forward.

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  12. Emma Clendenan

    Miss Rand,
    This collection of thought was absolutely beautiful - it has been an incredibly tough week and reading this brought me a smile as well as a few tears. But that’s okay, because as you touched on, it’s okay to show vulnerability - it makes us human. Thank you so much for sharing, sending love.

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  13. What a brave and wonderful post. I wish I had the chance to meet Robert, but like others have mentioned, you have shared with us a glimpse of what a wonderful educator he was. I loved that you included the quote from Robert. We all need Novembers and rain.... what a painful and beautiful way to look at life, especially during such a terrible tragedy. Sending you strength and courage to keep reminding yourself and your students to think daily about gratitude.

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  14. Adam Duggan

    Very touching tribute Ms. Rand. I know you mentioned you’re not an English teacher but I’m not sure I’ve read anything so beautifully written. We are all lucky to have known Rob and his passing has definitely given a lot of things perspective, such as the necessity to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Thinking back to my time at Rosseau, it’s the little things like Nicki taking over physics class to explain some wild theory, or Ben’s “water” pong robot creation, that bring a smile to my face. Keep on being awesome Ms. Rand.

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  15. Monica, thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to Robert Carreau and your honest reflections during such a difficult time. Your commitment to seeing the good in the most challenging of circumstances will add to the light of your wonderful community. I'm grateful for your reminder this morning.

    Esther

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  16. Viola Doncaster

    Monica, thank you for sharing so honestly.

    Grieving has such an important place in our lives when we experience loss. We sometimes feel we that we have to hide that grief, to be strong, but that’s when it digs in even deeper. Healing comes in sharing our vulnerability. I’ve been there. I’ve experienced grief in many personal ways throughout my lifetime. The shock of Rob’s sudden death at such a young age is real, particularly for all who knew and loved him, especially our beautiful niece Lavinia, their children, and Rob’s family.

    Thank you Monica for caring and sharing with honesty. Your sincerity can make it easier for all to move forward as we hold Rob’s loving, spirit close. God bless you all at RLC and thank you for the support you are giving to each other and to Lavinia and family.

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  17. I am so sorry for your loss, Monica. Your post, your tribute is simply beautiful and even those who had not had the good fortune to know Robert as closely we you had easily get a sense of who he was from your writing and that his death is tragic loss.

    So many of your points hit home, but something you wrote in point number 2 stopped me and I reread it several times- " I admitted to the students that I wasn’t super okay right now, but that I would be eventually and just needed some time. " How often do our students get to see vulnerability from adults.... even from their parents? Maybe not as often as they should to help them understand that there are times when things are not ok, but the feeling in that moment will not last forever. It may not fade quickly, but it will. We talk so much about students needing be resilient, or to have grit but there is one of the key incrediaents that I think you have highlighted as missing- vulnerability and strength at admitting things are not ok. Its one thing to talk about it, it's another to see it.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings- I am excited to see you Saturday and bring some Cohort21 love your way.

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  18. Erik Miitel

    Incredibly well written and thoughtful. He was an amazing person and will be sorely missed. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

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