Have you broken your promise yet? We all made one. It happened at various times for each individual but I guarantee, everyone in every corner of planet Earth made themselves a promise. “Please let this stupid Covid end and I’ll never take my life for granted again”! Remember?
I was asked by the Canadian Youth Speaker’s Bureau to write a blog for their newsletter and focus it on teachers going back to the classroom as the 2023 Fall semester kicks into gear. Are you excited? Or, and let’s take off the rose coloured glasses for a moment, are you dreading going back? Things have changed, right? The students have changed. Unless they’re in Kindergarten. And if they’re adolescents, yikes! What happened?
So, a little Alvin Law background. If you know me from my “motivational speaking”, you know my story. In fact, some of you have heard me so many times, you could do my speech! But if you haven’t a clue who I am, here we go.
I was born in 1960 and a morning sickness medication called “Thalidomide” caused over 20,000 babies around the world to be born with varying degrees of limb loss. I was born without arms. By my fifth day of life, I was also homeless after my birth parents gave me up.
They were convinced by the medical and rehabilitation experts I would have zero quality of life and predicted institutionalization. If seems they were wrong. I was taken in by foster parents in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Hilda and Jack Law were 55 and 53 years old and I knew they weren’t my biological parents as early as I have a memory. Their story is well documented through my talks and my book, “Alvin’s Laws of Life…5 Steps To Successfully Overcome Anything”!
Obviously, they worked a miracle. But I wouldn’t have the story I have without teachers. Apologies for the “throw back” story, but it’s actually the key that unlocked everything for me. In 1966 in my hometown, disabled students didn’t go to public school. They were segregated into “The School For Crippled Children” and it wasn’t much more than a daycare centre. Even more bizarre was we lived across the street from St. Alphonsus Catholic Elementary School and the segregated school was across town. The principal was a good Christian man but he just couldn’t imagine my attending his school. It just wasn’t done in 1966. And I wasn’t “Normal”!
One of the expressions that surfaced during Covid was “The New Normal”! I hated that expression. But I’ve always hated labels too. My Mom always said; “Labels are for jars, not people”!
She also constantly reminded me I was not a curse, but a blessing and a perfectly “normal” child to them and more importantly, to me! But this was a long time ago and thank goodness, the world changed because that’s how life actually works, right? Change is constant and not always fun. No kidding.
But because the principal appreciated they might have to do something they’d never done, it would be to benefit me. Isn’t that what being an educator is all about? The students…all of them! So I got to attend St. Alphonsus and graduated, with honours, from the Yorkton Regional High School in 1978.
My favourite teacher was Blaine McClary. He was the high school band director. He called my Mom one day in 1971 after I got 96% on a music aptitude test in fifth grade. He wanted me in the school band program. Until he found out I had no arms. He simply couldn’t imagine how I’d play anything. But it bugged him. So much so, he brain stormed with some other teachers and eureka! They mounted a trombone on a wooden chair with metal rods and clamps to hold it and I used my right foot to move the slide. Who does that? Who goes: “No arms? Trombone”!
That’s a signature story for me but a reminder to all educators the job can be really difficult. It’s usually not appreciated and you certainly don’t get rich, right? But before Covid, didn’t you make another promise to yourself?
You were likely around 18 years old and you knew you wanted to be a teacher. Probably because you had your own Blaine McClary. You worked your butt off in University, probably up to your eyeballs in debt when you finished and likely didn’t get your dream job at the start. The reality hits you that if you knew now what you didn’t know back then, maybe you’d have got a job at Best Buy.
But teaching is your “normal”. It’s also as noble a profession as there is out there. And it means something, doesn’t it? Aren’t our lives supposed to mean something? Why are we born? Why was I born without arms? Why did the world get locked down by a virus…that killed how many? I’m really not trying to put a nieve, positive spin on things. Life can really be tough. But we only get one and some of us get to make a real difference. As long as we don’t break the promise to ourselves to be grateful for what we have, not what we don’t!
To learn more or book Alvin for a presentation, check out his speaking page here