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Away for a bit, and some education stuff

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I’ll be away for a week or so. Off to Upper Canada to visit child the younger, watch some university volleyball, see my Mighty Maples, bound for Stanley Cup glory, play the Florida Panthers, celebrate a significant birthday, and enjoy our traditional post-volleyball Cajun dinner at Hot Belly Mama’s in Peterborough.


Meanwhile, some education matters, beginning with the Nov. 26 school board by-elections in Winnipeg and Louis Riel.


LRSD candidate Jeremiah Kopp took the unusual step of declining to give us a campaign photograph. Instead, Kopp wants us to run a picture of his campaign sign. Sorry, won’t happen. Meanwhile, I forgot to ask Kopp if he went to school in the division, have since left messages, and haven’t heard back.


And staying with the by-elections...Candidates for public office should do some prep for dealing with the media, even when we’re calling in a straightforward, friendly, innocuous manner.


Case in point, LRSD by-election candidate Edna Sears, who seemed somewhat suspicious of my motives for calling, several times asking if I was recording her even after I said I wasn’t, asking a couple of times why I was calling and what I wanted. And when I tried to conduct an interview about her reasons for running, Sears simply read from the list of issues on her brochure, which I had open on my laptop.


Too bad WSD candidate Evan Thompson withdrew, even though his name remains on the ballot. He had a campaign proposal that teachers be encouraged to take their complaints directly to trustees. I was curious to see what the bellows of outrage would register on the Richter Scale when the superintendents read that, not to mention what speed records the Manitoba Teachers’ Society would set for warning teachers against making such a career-killing move.


In other matters tangentially related to education, here’s one, since it happened at U of M......


U of M says that regular users of the campus will have some parking protected during Blue Bombers games at the new stadium next year, though good luck getting to those spots within an hour of kickoff.


Realistically, two, maybe three football games in October and November will conflict with the indoor soccer complex on Saturdays and Sundays, but I got a little taste a week ago Saturday when I had afternoon matches to ref during a Bisons game in the current stadium just east of the soccer complex.


Both the regular parking lot and the overflow lot to the west were pretty much packed, though I was finally able to find a spot, since soccer parents were leaving continually and being replaced by the hordes coming for the next match. But spots were hard to find.


What I hadn’t expected were the four guys in their 30s leaning against their cars in the main soccer complex lot, smoking cigars and hoisting cans of beer. Maybe they were warming up to go in to watch their sons or daughters play, or maybe they were tailgating at the Bisons game — though at this point the Bisons were in the second half, and you could clearly hear the announcer calling the result of each play. Great modelling for all the kids, not to mention, is it still illegal to drink in public?


And switching topics again....


I arrived at work late last week to hear a voice mail giving me a royal chewing out, for allegedly having ignored the Brandon University strike since it began more than three weeks ago. "You’ve had diddly-doo in your paper about the strike!" the caller told me.


So before I returned her call, I looked things up, and then told her that to that point I’d written eight substantial stories since the strike started, which didn’t include stories other reporters have written about the strike, or Brandon Sun stories we’ve written. I told her that when I don’t do my job, I deserve the grief I get, but when I’ve done my job, I’ll stick up for myself. And she chastised me for personalizing things....




It reminds me that I’m not supposed to defend myself when callers go on the attack. There was one time, someone upset with a story called me a $%%#% ***&^^ )(&^%&, and I told him I was going to hang up, and gently put down the phone.


A minute later, Big Editor (not his real name) summons me. He’s got my caller on the line.


Big Editor (speaking to me): Mr. X says you hung up on him.


I: I did, because he called me a ^^$# &^%^$&^% *()(^%$.


Big Editor (speaking into the phone): Mr. Martin says he hung up because you called him a %$%*%^ +_)*(&%^ #%$#@@.


Big Editor listens, then says to me: He says he did call you that, because you are one, and he can call you anything he wants, because he’s a reader.




And now for something completely different.....


I was at a high school last week, and every time I’ve been to a high school this fall, I’m left wondering, did someone rescind the ban on smoking on school property? It’s not even surreptitious in a secluded spot, it’s dozens of students standing around smoking on the school lawns, right outside the entrance doors, in full public view.




A big move for Kelly Barkman, superintendent in Morris-based Red River Valley School Division, who heads the second-largest division in the province as of Feb. 1. Barkman succeeds Dennis Pottage, retiring as superintendent of River East Transcona School Division.


Switching topics again.....


I answer my phone at work, guy says, "Is this CJOB?" I said it wasn’t, and he says, "No (rude word for poop), it isn’t CJOB?" And he hangs up.


And I’m kicking myself for not being faster on the uptake. Next time that happens, I’ll say, "Yeah, this is Cloutier, what secrets do you want to share with me?"


And now for some soccer......


I had a rough time of it on Saturday, upsetting several coaches, for which I seem to have a penchant. I’ve upset several coaches already this indoor season by telling them they have to coach from their bench and not do a walkabout, and by telling them to let the kids play the game and not run and get the ball and set it down for their free kicks.


So Saturday, I had a coach out on the field, reaming me out after a 10-year-old girl went down, furious that I did nothing to the opposing player. His player had let the ball get too far out in front of her, the defender stepped up and kicked it out of bounds, and the attacker collided with the defender and got the worse of it.


And I had the coaching staff of one team in a nine-year-old girls game pretty miffed at me. Three weeks into the season, and I’m still spending a lot of time trying to teach the rules to the players. Back when I was a coach, that was pretty much my job — it’s kind of inherent in the meaning of the word coach — and I spent the first half of this one match trying to teach the keeper the rules. After a few tries, she got the hang of a goal kick, but not of getting rid of the ball in open play. She’d gather up a shot or a loose ball, set it down on the line at the edge of her inner goal area, and take a few steps back to give the ball a kick, instead of punting or throwing it to teammates. And time after time I’d explain to her, when she does that, the ball is in play, and the other team can run over and kick it into the net. And I even stopped play, went over and told the coaches that I was teaching their kid how to play goal, and maybe they could consider working with her at halftime.


When child the elder was nine and playing hockey, they didn’t keep stopping the game to explain icing and offside and not hitting kids over the head with your stick, and didn’t let kids take things over or just not call anything, yet that’s what I get from soccer coaches and parents any time I do the really young kids. But I’m out there trying to teach the kids, and maybe if you tell them, they’ll learn at nine and be able to play properly when they get older.


So second half, she’s still doing it, which, of course, is her choice, though a perilous one. And I’ve told her that she can’t pick it up again after setting it down. So she gathers in a loose ball, sets it on the line, stands there for a bit looking at the ball, and then picks it up again. And I blow my whistle for picking it up twice, which you’re not allowed to do, and I’m going over to tell her what she did wrong, and the head coach does a Vesuvius on me, letting the entire building know she was disgusted with me. So I got cranky, and instead of telling the kid yet again what she was doing wrong, so she’d learn to play the game properly and learn the rules, and then letting her kick it, I enforced the rule and awarded the other team a free kick from the top of the arc.


Yes, I expect to get all kinds of anonymous comments telling me in great detail the extent of my villainy. Meanwhile, I’m off for Upper Canada.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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