Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

allegory of the rich man and his gardener June 21, 2014

Filed under: anecdotes,Commentary,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:20 pm
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An allegory:

Chris has the most beautiful garden in the city.  He has a gardener who has been working on it for years, carefully cultivating special plants, and creating special features that are the envy of people who come from all over the world to admire the garden.  The gardener is paid a fair salary for his expertise and years of training, so he is happy.

Years pass.  The gardener hasn’t had a raise in years, and things are getting more expensive.  Gas for his car now costs double what it did when he started working.

Chris asks the gardener to put in a fancy water feature, and several fruit trees. “I’ll cover the bill when rents are paid,” he says.  That’s fine, the gardener makes a good wage, and he loves the garden.

Chris goes around to his tenants to collect the rents.  To the small houses, he says, “The view improved now the neighbour’s tree is down.  You owe more.”

To the really huge houses, he says, “Never mind. You don’t have to pay your rent.”

Then he pays all his bills, but because he didn’t make the big houses pay their rent, he doesn’t have enough to pay the gardener all he’s owed.

Chris tells the gardener he still expects the fancy water feature and the fruit trees, as well as the lawn to be mowed, the beds weeded, and the shrubs pruned.

The gardener loves his garden: the new water feature is going to be stunning when he’s finished with it, and the fruit trees are amazing, blooming gloriously, but some fungus is creeping onto the petals, and then insects are bothering the fruit.  He can’t quite figure out how to stop that, but he’s read about a great fungicide that should work.  He just needs to test to see exactly what the problem is.

“I don’t have any extra money for this!” Chris declares.  “I pay you enough!  Your demands are ridiculous!”

The gardener wants his garden to be perfect, so he does his best, working in the evenings and bringing things from home.  He can’t afford to subsidize the proper fertilizer, tests, and fungicide, and when the mower runs out of gas, he can’t get more fuel  since he no longer can afford a car himself, so he can’t drive to get some.  He asks for an increase in his wages, and a budget that covers the demands Chris as made.

“This is not in line with what other gardeners are paid!” Chris shouts, though the gardener knows he is not asking for anything more than every other gardener in the city gets for the same kind of garden.

He begs Chris to please provide him with the budget necessary to do what he’s been asked, but Chris glowers and tells the gardener he’s being greedy and lazy.

The gardener tries repeatedly, feeling guilty about the way the fruit trees are dying, and he is frustrated because he knows if he could just get the proper funding for what is required, he could produce the kind of show garden Chris he wants.

With so much work, no extra staff, no supplies and not enough money to buy them, the garden inevitably falls into ruin.

“What a terrible gardener!” Chris says.  “I’m going to take back pay because he’s not working hard enough!”

“What a terrible gardener!” his golf club cronies in their rent free big houses agree, adding.  “It’s so hard to get good help cheaply any more.” Then they shout, “FORE!” as their golf ball sails over the artificial turf and the plastic flowers of their golf course.





In case you missed it:

Chris is Premier Christy Clark, the garden is the education system, and the gardener is the teachers.



poem- the line June 20, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:30 am
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Picket signs

propped in front of us

we strike for a better world

either strolling the side walk

or strumming harp

or guitar.

A strike is like a barbeque

for a cause

fueled by coffee and doughnuts

instead of beer and beef.



poem- stand up June 19, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:27 pm
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“Why are teachers even bothering to picket,

when you aren’t getting strike pay any more?”

he asked.

I told him it was because teachers are moralists

who are defending democracy

and fair working & bargaining conditions

against a corrupt government:

A government that ignores the court rulings

spends billions of tax payers’ dollars appealing

judgments by the Supreme Court

and the United Nations saying they

are WRONG to steal from our kids.

It will pay billions for a stadium roof,

but will not pay for educating its children.

I told him that in such a war,

pay is a small thing.

We will fight, because if our government

succeeds in destroying OUR union

then every other working person in this province

is in peril.

If OUR contracts can be shredded with impunity,

so can YOURS!

We are fighting for YOUR rights

and for our students’ right to a properly funded education

against a government with an agenda

to destroy public education and the middle class.

We’re fighting for YOU! I told him.

“Oh,” he said.


What do you appreciate in your teachers? May 8, 2013

Filed under: anecdotes,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:05 pm
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I asked the few 16 to 18 year old students here today in my Communications 11 and 12 (non-academic English) class what they appreciate about their teachers.   We had a little fun rephrasing things into positive statements. 🙂

  • Patrick appreciates when teachers trust him
  • Katelynn appreciate when teachers put themselves in students’ shoes
  • Jessie appreciates the time teachers take to help him understand
  • Nich appreciates when teachers are nice
  • Joel appreciates when teachers give him food
  • Celeste appreciates when teachers don’t give her homework
  • Ryan appreciates when teachers are nice, and when they’re helpful to students


Many students were away today on field trips or work experience, so it was a small class!


Personally, I appreciated when my teachers were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subject, beyond the curriculum.

What do/did you appreciate most in your teachers?


Why are teachers so upset? March 6, 2012

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:33 pm
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Teachers are upset because we were under the impression that Canada was a democracy, and we are very confused about why more people aren’t very, very concerned about a legislature that doesn’t understand that it is not above the law.  Laws are made to protect citizens.  International law exists to protect people in countries with poor legal systems.  Time and time again the BC government’s actions have been ruled illegal, both here, and in international courts, and they continue to violate the rights of citizens to fair labour practice.

Here is an article by Joe Bakon, a university law professor, explaining why every citizen needs to be very concerned about what’s happening in BC.



the 180 day birthday party March 1, 2012

Well. Teachers in BC are apparently going out on strike Monday.

Why? It is all about Bill 22 that strips the rights of teachers to negotiate contracts that protect learning conditions. Check out the bill- the provincial government will appoint a mediator who will only look at things the gov’t approves, and the gov’t doesn’t have to follow the mediator’s recommendations (just in case s/he doesn’t tow the party line and actually uses common sense). Does the gov’t not know what a mediator does? It’s a neutral third party, acceptable to both sides, who looks at ALL the issues, and finds an equitable situation for both sides of the dispute.  What they are imposing is a mediator in name only.  It’s a de facto puppet.

Do you want an American style, prescriptive system where teachers are not allowed to personalize their class room to the best needs of the students in the class?  Are you okay with your child in a room with 39 other kids, half of whom have learning issues, (behavioural, medical, genetic, etc) without adequate support workers?    How would you feel if someone could show up at your place of work, decide you’re not suitable, and fire you on the spot, without giving you an explanation of what ‘suitable’ means, or allowing recourse to appeal?  Yes, I know that happens sometimes in private business.  Minimum wage places do it all the time.  Is  it right?  Do you like it?  Is it fair?  Is it professional?  Is it what you think public education should be like?

Here is a brilliant blog post from Cheryl, a teacher in Port Coquitlam, explaining the things that have been happening in schools and what we’re fighting for.

I love my job, but it’s getting harder and harder to do it well because of the supports that are disappearing.  One of my colleagues was frustrated enough to leave last year.  She has taught in elementary and high school.  She is doing an MBA program. After semester of study, she was accepted into an internship, and as an intern she is making more than she made as a teacher  at the top of her pay scale. i.e. with a degree and a decade of experience.  I repeat: as an intern!  We don’t do this job for the money, we do it because we love being with kids, and helping them learn.  It’s not an easy job.  Like Cheryl quotes in her blog, it’s like planning a birthday party for 30 (or in my case 100) kids every day.  The gov’t needs to value our professionalism and our skill.  They need to work with us to maintain one of the best educational systems in the world, not continuing to undermine it.

It’s scary in our profession right now,, and what the gov’t is trying to do is going to make it a whole lot scarier.  We’re under attack.  How much do your kids matter to you?


standing up to bullies February 28, 2012

All around my school are posters advertising February 29th as the day students are to wear Pink Shirts as a way to take a stand against bullying.

We teach our kids that they need to stand up for themselves and for their friends when they are under attack.  We teach our kids that it is wrong to try to force ideas and opinions without reasoned discourse.  We teach our kids to show respect to those who are different from themselves, whether they agree with them or not.  We teach our kids how to negotiate a fair solution when they have a disagreement with their peers.

In light of this week’s anti-bullying message, watching the BC Provinicial government’s bullying tactics toward teachers is rather ironic.  This week they are trying to force teachers to accept an imposed contract, refusing to either negotiate or to have neutral mediator negotiate on their behalf.

It’s a  lesson in irony.

Teachers believe in equity.  We stand up to bullies.  We have to, in order to be role models for our students.  When we stand with our friends against bullying behavior, bullies back down.  Right?

My pink shirt this Wednesday, February 29th is going to have several layers of meaning, as I do what I can to stand up for those who are bullying me and my colleagues.


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