Written By Tracey
Tracey is a writer, humourist and raconteuse living in Montreal with her husband and two adorable punks. Here, she shares the details of precarity as she attempts to stay on top of the Mutherload. You can also read her personal blog, Grumble Girl.Read Her Blog "On Top of the Mutherload"
This blog post is sponsored by NIVEA Canada. NIVEA believes that every child deserves the best care. With this in mind, NIVEA Canada is proud to partner with the child rights and international aid agency, Plan Canada, to help fund an education project in Senegal, West Africa. With the shared goal of building schools, providing better opportunities for education and teaching essential skills, NIVEA Canada and Plan Canada are working together to help break the cycle of poverty. To learn more, you can also visit Facebook.com/NIVEACanada and click on the ‘NIVEA & Plan Canada’ tab.
We all understand the value of a good education, and we’re lucky to live in a country where our schools are good, and where education is mandatory. In Senegal, West Africa, only 31% of children will be able to afford to attend school beyond the primary level, and 38% of the population is illiterate. These are especially sad statistics for girls, which makes it all the more difficult to break the cycle of abject poverty.
Besides providing excellent skincare products for many years, NIVEA and Plan, a child’s rights and international agency, are working together to improve school environments, teaching methods, learning materials and much more. At the same time, they’re working closely with the local communities to guarantee a positive sustainable change in the lives of children. By investing in education, they want to help these children to reach their full potential – as individuals, members of their communities and citizens of the world. In Canada, NIVEA has partnered with Plan Canada specifically to help fund an education project in Senegal.
According to UNICEF, many people living in sub-Saharan Africa earn just $1.25 a day. Many have little access to basic services like basic healthcare or clean water. And in a world where 74% of us have access to internet, in Senegal, 84% of people go without – Plan is working to improve access to education, which can lead to more internet access, which can lead to more opportunities.
There are some truly excellent people out there who provide an amazing service for the rest of us: to teach our children well. And I believe the ones who do the very best jobs are the ones who also inspire young people. They lead by example. They challenge the ones who are stagnant by making them work harder. They don’t give up. Often, this requires constant attention. Sometimes it can be accomplished with a few simple words.
I had such a teacher when I was in high school. And I was lucky enough to have him three different times.
David Carpenter taught me tenth grade English – this also happened to be my homeroom class each morning. He was a calm and kind man. Very smart. It was a godsend that he was my first teacher of the day, while the anxiety of my nearly-fifteen-year-old self was peaking. He made me feel grounded and steady. I knew what to expect from him. As the year clicked along, I came to know how much he expected from me, too.
I was voted vice-president of the class that year – a job I did not really want, but my running-mate was cuuuuuute. Mr. Carpenter said I must. “People like you, kid, don’t worry so much,” he said with a smile. (Worrying about things was my favourite pastime then.) And as we tackled the dreaded public speaking segment of the curriculum, despite my nerves, it appeared that I delivered the best one in the class, and I then had to stand in front of the whole school and do it again.
I wanted no part of it. I was fairly certain I’d die from the experience. Talk? In front of the cool kids? In front of long-haired boys I was crushing on so hard at the time? The MILLIONS of them?! Oh HELLS to the NO.
“No thank you,” I said.
But like a good teacher, he insisted. He said, “You have a real knack for telling stories, you know… you can do this. Don’t worry so much.” After the in-front-of-the-school thing, I did it again for a city-wide thing. I blocked that out of my memory though. (Stress can be a funny thing.) I do remember how proud he was of me… he smiled a lot and chucked me on the shoulder and said, “Great job, kid.” His pride meant the world to me.
My teacher wrote a lot of his own prose. And poetry too, which he read to us sometimes, along with the other greats you’re supposed to read in high school English classes. I thought it was wonderful that he was published. How nifty! My cool teacher! It was proof-positive that regular people can accomplish interesting things, like writing books and being published, as well as being a happy husband and a dad. And a great teacher.
So, when in grade 13 I had the good fortune to have him first as my English teacher, and then as my Creative Writing teacher during the second semester, I was thrilled to the bone. My favourite teacher of all time! Again!! That was, until he really worked me. There were no gift marks in his class, for certain. He was tough, but fair. He taught me how to deconstruct and to edit. I had many of my creative writing pieces handed back to me with lots and lots of red ink marking up the pages everywhere. In the margins were words like VAGUE! and CLARIFY! and LAZY! There were long scrawled paragraphs at the end of my papers basically shredding my every word. (Lazy? *clutches pearls* How DARE?!) I was crushed.
I was also annoyed – I had read the work of some other kids in the class, and their stuff seemed really weak – weird and rambling, grammatically flawed, and full of spelling mistakes. But he didn’t seem to hack their stuff to pieces like he did mine.
My chin wobbled when I asked him what I was doing wrong, and why he seemed lighter-handed with the others than with me. He smirked, and threw his hands down. “Don’t worry about them. Your stories are good… but you can do better. Revision is not a dirty word, you know, it’s all part of the process… do better, you know you can. And I know you can do it.” And then he smiled went back to reading his poetry or whatever. He was never one to coddle.
I did so much better after that. I did work harder. And his very simple ways of inspiring me have remained with me to this day. Indeed with my writing, but also in all things. Do better… you know you can. Sometimes that’s all it takes – to hear someone you respect and admire say yes, you can do it.
I wish all kids could have such an experience – a chance to be inspired, and to be challenged – this is part and parcel of a good education. A good education is good for everyone in the world, and access needs to be available to all.
To find out more about the Plan Canada and NIVEA Canada Senegal Project and how the purchase of any NIVEA product will help contribute to a better education, information will be available on the ‘NIVEA & Plan Canada’ tab on their Facebook page. You can also help spread the word by clicking the ‘Share‘ button in the ‘NIVEA & Plan Canada’ tab, or even contribute directly by clicking ‘Donate‘.
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