Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Shepherd


Being both a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on my experiences and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me: some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. At other times, I use situations that inspire me from the real world and I then simply create a scene.  The majority of my inspiration comes from real life experiences with the students.  

This month’s comic deals with the return to school during a pandemic.  Here in Ontario, the last school year had the students learning in the online environment for half of the calendar.  With the return to in class learning, many educators have to reteach basic social skills, such as walking in a straight line or using “please” and “thank you”.   

Many are questioning how the year will look and are reevaluating their life choices,  while others joke about what other field they could work in that would be less stressful.  One particular occupation came to mind and then, voilà!  The perfect choice.  

With this idea in mind, I set out to create a funny “what if” scenario.  I believe it is a  comical way to start my twelfth year of The Craziest Things.  

I hope you enjoy this September’s The Craziest Things: Shepherd.

The Craziest Things: Shepherd : September 2021

Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Omnipotent


Being both a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  

The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from students, and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create it. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I find inspiration from the real world and then simply create a scene, though the majority of my inspiration comes from interactions with the students.  

I create one per month but with having a full time teaching position this year, it was difficult to post these at the time.  Yet I still created (wrote and sketched) a comic per month.  Now with the summer break, I am able to create the visuals for the comics.  

Back in March, cases began going up and a third wave seemed certain.   With this in mind, the provincial government decided to postpone spring break until a later date. Many students, parents and teachers look forward to the break as a chance to recharge for the final push to June.  Feeling stressed, many soldier though the uncertainty, anyway they could.  

I hope you enjoy March’s The Craziest Things: Omnipotent.

The Craziest Things; March 2021

Comic Strips: Work, work, work 


Being both a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  

The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from students, and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create it. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I find inspiration from the real world and then simply create a scene, though the majority of my inspiration comes from interactions with the students.  

I create one per month but with having a full time teaching position this year, it was difficult to post these at the time.  Yet I still created (wrote and sketched) a comic per month.  Now with the summer break, I am able to create the visuals for the comics.  

Back in February, the second wave was on the down turn and so in-class learning was brought back by the middle of the month. Yet many students and teachers got into a groove in virtual learning.  Going back into the classroom meant many of the routines had to be changed, again.  However, what would happen if the thinking, extra work and that routine was so intrenched in some people that they simply could not change?  

I hope you enjoy February’s The Craziest Things: Work, work, work.

The Craziest Things; February 2021

Comic Strips: GOOD MORNING!!!


Being both a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  

The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from students, and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create it. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I find inspiration from the real world and then simply create a scene, though the majority of my inspiration comes from interactions with the students.  

I create one per month but with having a full time teaching position this year, it was difficult to post these at the time.  Yet I still created (wrote and sketched) a comic per month.  Now with the summer break, I am able to create the visuals for the comics.  

Back in January, with the second wave in full force, schools had to return to virtual learning.  Yet even with the virtual classroom and online meetings, somethings never change, as a few students pointed out to me one day.  This comic is inspired by a typical morning in my class.  

I hope you enjoy January’s The Craziest Things: GOOD MORNING!!!

The Craziest Things; January 2021

Comic Strips: Side effects


Being both a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  

The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from students, and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create it. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I find inspiration from the real world and then simply create a scene, though the majority of my inspiration comes from interactions with the students.  

I create one comic strip per month but with having a full time teaching position this year, I haven’t posted any for some time.  Now with summer break, I am able to finish drawing the strips and will post them soon.  However, I do have one ready for the month of July.  

Students are not oblivious to the happenings in the greater world.  Many know a lot about the pandemic and the vaccine rollout.  This happened to me with the students, so I turned it into and funny comic strip.  

I hope you enjoy July’s The Craziest Things: Side Effects.

The Craziest Things: Side Effects : July 2021

Friday Two Cents:  I’m Here For You


The word or phrase that best epitomizes this past school year for educators is …  

Isolation.

i·so·la·tion | ˌīsəˈlāSH(ə)n |

noun

the process or fact of isolating or being isolated: 

PHRASES

in isolation

without relation to other people or things; 

‘The worst cruelty that can be inflicted on a human being is isolation.’ Sukarno

‘We don’t function well as human beings when we’re in isolation.’

Robert Zemeckis

‘Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance.’ Jules Verne

Looking back at the past school year, the phrase “in isolation” best embodies the feelings I and many of my colleagues have felt.

When you are in a normal school environment, you have the collective support of the staff to help you, both academically with the curriculum, and emotionally and mentally with difficult situations.  During the day, you may see or interact with other educators and have opportunities for mutual support.  When you are in a virtual classroom, you are on your own.

Educators need support because of the constant attacks from government officials and relentless criticism in mainstream and social media about how poorly educators do their jobs.  Politicians praise themselves for work and tasks undertaken by educators on the front lines instead of praising those doing the heavy lifting. They don’t offer extra support or resources, and instead tell tired staff to feel grateful that they have a job and to stop complaining.

One of the greatest failures of support was with the technology itself.  While many educators and students received computers for the virtual school, no one taught them on how to use it.  

In many instances, the learning curve for new technology is one year; however, the ministry expected everyone to be ready at a push of a button, which was a huge challenge for many. I cannot tell you how many times I had to help colleagues and students trouble-shoot so they could navigate the software or use the keyboard.

First Day as an occasional teacher/educator (OT)

Living and working in isolation was and is a difficult task that I would characterize as cruel punishment both for educators and students, something any civilized society would look down upon.  Yet educators are continually harassed, belittled to the point of being bullied by politicians, the media, and the public for doing their jobs under such difficult circumstances.

This past year, I taught every day for the first time since I became an occasional teacher/educator.  My experience was difficult, scary, and wonderful all at the same time.  My observations of others was more educational: I have always believed that humans are social creatures, and what I have seen this past year has reaffirmed that belief.  We educators are a tremendously strong and compassionate group, and we support students and parents at the best and worst of times. Now it is time to turn inward and support each other.  Only an educator understands what another educator has gone through.  We do not need to live in isolation.  All we need is another educator to talk to.  Educators, colleagues, I’m here for you.  

Friday Two Cents:  Secrets Can Hurt the Secret Holder


‘There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don’t want anyone to know about.’ Charles Durning

During the last few days of school, there are usually a few smiles and some tears among the students.  There is joy because school is almost over and they can look forward to a summer full of fun, and sadness because many will miss their friends or will be moving on to higher grades or schools. Even some of the teachers feel these emotions during this time, happy to have a break after a long and difficult school year and yet sad because they have grown close to their students.  

Many of my colleagues have shown these emotions, yet there was one who looked unhappy and downtrodden.  I first thought it had something to do with one of the reasons I mentioned, so I asked them and they said that while they were ok, they couldn’t talk about it because it was a secret.  Of course I understood, and did not pry.  We all have our secrets and it affects us all differently.  However, I began to wonder about the toll secrets have on us, especially during these difficult times.  

I started looking up articles and found a few on this very subject in Scientific American.  It turns out that there is a correlation between keeping secrets and negative effects on our well-being, our heath and our personal relationships.  Studies have linked secrecy with anxiety, depression, symptoms of poor health, and a rapid progression of disease.  

Why is this? Well, it’s obvious that keeping secrets is hard work: you have to be on guard all the time, and even in simple conversations, you need to be careful with what you say or hold back.  To some individuals it can also be seen as deceiving others about their true intentions.  This level of constant vigilance is tiring, both on a mental and physical level, and that can be exhausting. 

However, studies have also suggested that the problem with keeping secrets is not just in hiding them from others, but the fact that one needs to live with them and therefore this can lead to thinking about them constantly.  To some it makes them feel fake, isolated, or alone.   

So what are we to do? We are not going to stop keeping secrets, yet there is a follow-up study that puts a light on this subject: when one confides that secret to a third party or confidant,  it actually lowers the amount of time the secret holder thinks about the secret.  It is like purging one’s self of extra baggage, and also has the extra benefit of having emotional support, guidance, and helpful advice to lean on.  

Upon reflection, I could see that I too have done some of these purging of secrets.  It is true that having someone to confide in is quite helpful.  With the year we have all had, we should not add any more burdens upon ourselves.  All we truly need is a trusted friend to talk to and help lighten the load.  

I think I need to be more open to others, to try and be that third person or confidant.  If it helps some lighten their burden, then I think it is a task worth doing.   

Friday Two Cents: Battle Fatigue 


Exhausted, uncertain, disconnected, unfocused and slow to react: I have felt these symptoms in the past few weeks and I would hazard a guess that many educators have too.  The best way I can describe it to people is battle fatigue.  

Battle fatigue, or Combat Stress Reaction (CSR), is most commonly known as shell shock: reactions to stressful combat experiences can be either emotional, physical, mental, and behavioural, and these differ from one person to another.  

Obviously I have not been in battle recently, yet the troubling truth is that I have felt like this before, mostly in situations where stress levels are high, uncertainty is a daily occurrence, and I am reacting from one different situation to the next.  The more I think about it, this feeling began several months before the pandemic hit.

If you go back to September 2019, public school teachers and the provincial government began a heated labour dispute.  Strike action was taken, threats from the government were thrown upon educators, slanderous statements were made, and it was not until the pandemic was declared that the labour dispute seemed to have come to an end. But did it?  

Even as the pandemic raged on, the government continued to attack the educators on all fronts, throwing slanderous remarks their way instead of praising them, then ordering them to pivot from in-class learning to online study and vice versa on several occasions, putting them in harm’s way on the front lines as a deadly disease cut down people wanting to help others; all with little or no regard to their health or safety.  It sounds like a hostile combat situation, doesn’t it? 

The good news is that there is a way to help: for CSR, it is imperative to normalize the individual’s reaction.  While there is no guarantee, these tips might be helpful:

Return to a normal routine as soon as possible. 

Maintain your health.  Drink water, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, get enough sleep. 

Reach out to others with similar experiences. Family and friends are good and want to help, but only those who have lived what you have seen and experienced truly understand.  In the military, soldiers talk to soldiers, and sailors talk to sailors.  For educators, find another educator.  This helps, trust me. 

Use your sense of humour.  Laugh often; it can be a great stress reliever.  Humour can also help you look at different situations from another perspective.  

Address your spiritual needs.  Some people find strength in prayer.  Prayer is also seen as a good way to meditate, which helps to relieve stress.  

These are only a few suggestions but I have begun putting them into practice in my own life.  So far I have begun to feel a little better.  Time will tell.  

Friday Two Cents: Basic Etiquette 


This past week, I have observed a change in students from kindergarten up to grade 5: a growing lack of etiquette and manners.  

I first noticed this trend when we began virtual learning back in January.  It started with the little things: students leaving the mic on so that their background noice filtered into the conversation when the teacher or a student was trying to say something, or  the calling out of a question, answer, or statement before they were called upon.  

In the beginning, these little lapses were attributed to not knowing the technology or their excitement about a new learning environment, yet as we continued the virtual learning, the students manners worsened: students were yelling out things that had nothing to do with the topic at hand, or purposely writing inappropriate comments in the chatrooms and leaving the mic on and making noises to disrupt the class.  

When we returned to the live classroom, there was some reprieve, but when we went back into the virtual environment a second time, the rude behaviour resumed and reminders were once again needed to be more polite and respectful to others.

Why is this happening? Well, some experts have a theory: seems that the more tech savvy we become, the ruder we can get because the standard rules of etiquette don’t seem to apply in cyberspace. Some say that today’s students are in danger of turning into Generation Rude as a result of prolonged time spent online.  

What can be done to stop this?  Here are a few ideas from the Family Circle magazine and Wired Safety.org.  :

It is easy to be mean to others when you cannot see their face, and studies have shown that people have sent rude emails saying things that they would never express to a person face-to-face. Such tendencies can quickly become incidents of cyber bullying. The best thing is to wait 5  minutes before sending any text or email and to do something else before sending the message.  By delaying it and thinking of it as a sober second thought, chances increase that a rude or inappropriate message will be deleted instead of delivered. Something you think is “just fine” may appear cruel to the other person who receives it.

Another method is to pause so that you can reflect upon what you are doing.  The majority of things such as humour or sarcasm are usually misunderstood because people cannot read facial expressions and gestures within a chatroom or with cameras turned off. Many people have said that most of these ideas are considered common sense, but with the recent increase in rude behaviour it seems that common-sense is no longer common.

With the lockdown taking its toll on people’s emotional and mental health, a return to the basics may be needed: etiquette and civility lessons so that people can interact respectfully with each other may need to be the focus of many teachers when students return to the classroom.  

Friday Two Cents: Music Therapy 


In music one must think with the heart and feel with the brain.’

George Szell

The right music can help us out of a whole lot of situations.  As a music teacher, I was focusing so much on trying to teach music that I forgot to use it in my own life to help me reduce my stress.  

As everyone is painfully aware, we are in a global pandemic and many are stuck at home trying to make ends meet.  School children are also affected as they are learning online in virtual school, a situation many parents, students, and teachers are finding stressful to the point of breakdown and burnout.  

I too, have been feeling a little worn down, so after some careful reflection I discovered that I needed to reestablish my routine.  This past week, I returned to a comfortable regime and rediscovered something in the process.  

As part of my daily regiment, I had the opportunity to go for a walk in the mornings to clear my head and get some much needed outdoor time and exercise.  This is usually part of my summer routine but I thought it good to incorporate it at this time.  

Out for a walk in High Park

I went to High Park in Toronto for my morning walk, making sure I brought my ear buds: once on, I began my Inspirational playlist.  I always listen to this set to help me imagine new possibilities as I walk: instantly I felt my feet lighten and my back straighten up.  As each song played,  a weight lifted from my shoulders, the notes filled the air, and everything around me became brighter. In that moment, I realized and remembered a study on the effects of music:   psychologists found that music distracts our brains and literally blocks out the negative feedback we get from the muscular pain caused by exercise or the other stresses from our daily lives.  

Many studies have found that music has benefits on physical and mental health. Daniel J. Levitin, PhD from McGill University in Montreal, studies the neuroscience of music: he and his fellow researcher, Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, have found that music can be more effective in reducing anxiety than prescription drugs (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013). They found that listening to and playing music can both increase the body’s production of antibodies that attack invading viruses and give the immune system an effective boost; additionally, the stress hormone cortisol was reduced thanks to music.  

Music has been a large part of my life since I was little: from listening to it with my parents to playing it in a number of bands, or simply decompressing to it, music has been there comforting me like a warm blanket wrapped around my soul.  I am no stranger to the stresses for the world yet the relaxing familiarity of  my playlist brought some relief from that burden.  So go ahead and play your favourite songs, whether your style is classical, disco or rock: music helps us all relieve stress, something we desperately need to do.  

A piece of music from my Inspirational Playlist to help you get the ball rolling.

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