Friday Two Cents: Time To Recharge


 

Well teachers, we made it.   Another year has come and gone and now begins the two month-long process of recharging you batteries. Yes it’s a great time to do nothing and many people may be jealous of the two months but remember one thing, you deserve it.

The public may only see you work six hours a day with the students, five days a week and you now get two months off, yet you and I know what they don’t see adds up to a lot more. Sometimes you stay late helping students with their homework, or mark their work and we both know you have to get all your lesson plans prepared before but you can only do this once the school day is over. Yet sometimes you volunteer your time to run extracurricular activities like sports teams, school committees and countless clubs. Not to mention the tests, individual lesson plans and reports you write on a constant basis, all during your own time.
You deserve a break but I know that it is not easy. The most difficult part is how to begin. Luckily I was able to find five meaningful places where we can start.   These five were published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and I thought it may be a good starting point.  

 

8 Essentials for Forgiving: Raise your hand if you have any residual “grrr” feelings from this past school year. We’ve all experienced times when a student, parent, or colleague treated us unfairly or said something hurtful, and sometimes it can be hard to let go of the bad feelings. But holding onto grudges, even small ones, only makes things worse for you. By helping you forgive, these steps can reduce your stress and make you feel better. 

Gratitude Letter: Now, raise your other hand if there’s someone who really made a positive difference in your life this past year. It could be someone at school, someone who supported you from the sidelines, or anyone else who you never got to thank properly. Taking the time to write a note of gratitude to them—and even better, delivering it in person—won’t just make them feel great. It’ll make you happier, too! 

Awe Narrative: From making intense decisions to dealing with little details, it’s easy to get consumed by the day-to-day challenges of teaching. To break out of that tunnel-vision head space and expand your perspective (and maybe even remember why you became a teacher in the first place!), try thinking and writing about a time you felt awe. Believe it or not, doing this can make you feel like you have more free time and increase your life satisfaction.  

Meaningful Photos: Want another way to boost your happiness and sense of meaning in life? It’s (almost) as easy as taking a selfie—but so much more fulfilling. Just take a picture or two each day of things that you feel make your life meaningful and then, at the end of a week, reflect on why those things mean so much to you. Now that you’re no longer stuck in a classroom for eight hours a day, get out there, get creative, and remind yourself of all the wonderful things that make your life worthwhile. 

Self-Compassionate Letter: Teachers, on the whole, are a pretty self-critical bunch. We dedicate our lives to caring for others, but we often don’t extend the same kindness to ourselves, instead beating ourselves up over every little thing. Thus, the idea of writing a letter to yourself expressing compassion for one of your own flaws or mistakes may seem strange, but it really works—it not only makes people feel better, but also makes them more motivated to improve. This would be a great way to set the stage for being kinder to yourself next year.  

Campbell, E. (June 17, 2015) Five Ways for Teachers to Recharge This Summer. The Greater Good Magazine, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_for_teachers_to_recharge_summer

Writing down you thoughts.

 

These are just a few of dozens of ideas and articles available but they appear to be a good balance. I have actually done a few of these to help myself relax and recharge, perhaps they can help you too.

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Art Inspiration: Comic Book: Page 1


 

Getting and finding inspiration is extremely difficult at the best of times. Yet I have been very fortunate to work with some people who push and inspire me every time I am with them, the students. No matter what I may think what they may have in store for me, the students throw those plans out the window and make up some new plans.

That was very clear when I did a Comic Book Club with the students. They range in age from grade 3 – 5 with a large variety of skills that they bring to the class. In the past I helped them to learn how to draw three-dimensional objects but they wanted something different, therefore I created a Comic Book Club for them.

The premise of the club was to teach the students the basics of comic book drawing but due to the amount of work involved I tried to keep the characters a bit simpler than I am use to and I standardized the characters for them. They wanted a super hero comic therefore I drew a lot of different characters they could choose from. They liked that idea but they had to choose up to 2 powers, a unique name and if they were either a hero or villain for their character.

They did a wonderful job drawing the book and they also enjoyed the story. The story line was the Legion of Doom (the villains) needed a new leader so they decided to create one. However they decided to use theirs’ and the League of Justice’s DNA to create him. Each student would be either a Hero or Villain but they were creating my character, the villain’s new leader.   Therefore the title of the Comic Book is “The Rise of Lord Ominous”.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting each finished page of the comic book and a few of the character drawing the students chose from for their character. I hope you enjoy the book and characters as much as the students did.

Girl Character 01

Girl Character 02

The Rise of Lord Ominous: Page 01

Friday Two Cents: I Will Start The Ripples


In Canada, the end of the current school year is fast approaching and several colleagues asked me for something very interesting that took me awhile to truly come up with a response.   These colleagues knew that I have been to several schools as an occasional/supply teacher (OT) and they asked my opinion on particular schools that I have been to. Specifically what I thought about these schools. Their request came from their consideration on transferring to those schools.

I told them that what I find desirable might not be what they may like. They knew this and they had already talked to other OTs about these schools and got either an unfavourable or favourable critic on that school. Yet they said they respected my opinion because I was an unbiased third-party and that I usually look at things from all points of views unlike many of the other OTs. I found this rather flattering and I took their requests to heart. After reflecting about their requests, I told them my opinions about the schools. They thanked me and in giving my opinions I too discovered some interesting things.
The one very interesting fact or follow-up question had been on the staff dynamic in the school. This did not surprise me but the one thing I noticed did. I found that the schools that had the closest staff or good staff dynamic where the ones that regularly ate together in the staff room. Not just lunch but during recess too. This all came together on the day when the media was promoting ‘Eat Together Day.’   It is a promotion by a grocery chain here in Canada and several media outlets for people to eat with their colleagues and family.

Eating together.

They surveyed Canadians and found that 59% say that eating alone is the norm. Twenty-five percent like to spend their meal time catching up with personal business, 23% think that they are too busy to stop what they are doing and 12% spend their time on social media without interruption. And yet without knowing these facts and figures I rated the school as desirable or not almost along the lines of these survey results.
I found the schools with good staff dynamics and  desirable were the ones that ate together. Yet what was interesting is when I talked to other OTs. The ones that fell into that 59% of eating alone liked the school that had most of the staff eating alone, where the others did not. I know it is very subjective but I found this observation quite telling.
Upon reflection I shouldn’t be too surprised. This only proves that we humans are hard-wired to be social animals. We have been eating together or breaking bread since the dawn of civilization. Yes there are times we want or need to be alone but I fear that with the digital world and social media right at your finger tips, this may be changing and not for the better. Even without thinking about it, I realized that a close staff dynamic is what I look for in a desirable school and many others want this too.  
Yet it comes down to the staff themselves. If they want a close staff dynamic, they are the ones who need to put the effort into that relationship. I for one will continue to eat in the staff rooms of the schools where I go into and interact with the staff. It may take a while and repeated effort on my part but sometimes it only takes one person.

It is like the tail of the ripples in the pond. So small at first but look how they grow. But someone has to start them.

Someone has to start them.

 

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Friday Two Cents: A Matter Of Perspective


 

I found myself reflecting on a lot of topics these past two weeks. The provincial election, international politics, sports, colleague integrations and a host of other subjects have been on my mind a great deal. Yet one subject matter has dominated my time like no other.

I am an occasional (supply) teacher in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and as you may guess I have been rather busy these past few months supplying in many classrooms. Where ever I go the staff have been welcoming and friendly. The students are their usual selves, trying to take advantage of a supply teacher as I use to do when I was a student. I have found going into different schools a great education in how other teachers instruct their students and I have learned a few technics and picked up a lot of ideas along the way. Yet one situation found me trying to be sympathetic, but I could not be.
At this time of year many teachers receive their assignments for the following school year to help them prepare for the grade they will teach. This allows them to prepare resources at the end of the year for the new group of students they will see in September. Most of my colleagues are happy with this time and are making every effort to prepare while finishing up the year. However I have met a few who are frankly upset with the assignment they received and in some instances openly cry and are physically upset with what they have. I understand that if you did not get what you were hoping for that you might be upset, but this reaction was not what I expected.
In truth I look at these people with permanent full-time jobs, complaining about their assignments as losing perspective. In fact they should be grateful that they even have a permanent position. You see I have not had a permanent job since the year 2000. That’s 18 years of working part-time jobs, getting my degrees and working contract positions always wondering when and where my next pay cheque will come from. It wasn’t for a lack of trying to find a job but I had to work hard to get even those positions. At one point I even took on 3 part-time jobs to simply make ends meet. Therefore when I see these people look at the negative side of having a job simply because they do not like what they got, I truly have no sympathy for them.
From my perspective, if I were in their shoes, yes I would be upset that I did not get what I wanted, however I would try to look to the positives. The first one being the most important, I have a job in a field I enjoy. I have colleagues I can rely on and ask for help if the need arises. Change is not always a bad thing; it gives you a fresh new way of looking at things. Just as Dan Brown once said …

 

‘Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.’ Dan Brown

 

Perhaps those people should look from my perspective and the perspective of others who are in similar situations. I wonder how they would react then?

 

Scotland Adventure: Day 7 Scottish People Have No Comparisons


 

Well we knew this day would come and it did, our last full day in Scotland. The past 6 days were a whirlwind of excitement and seeing new things and people, today was no different.

Our day started with the usual Scottish breakfast because we would be running around Edinburgh doing some last-minute sight-seeing and shopping. Yet when we left the Adria House we were not greeted with some Scottish weather but a taste of Canadian weather. Snow flurries started falling and from what they said on the weather reports we would have them off and on all day. Funny, I fly thousands of kilometres from my home in Canada and the snow had to follow me here too.
Despite the weather we were not going to let a little snow stop us, we are Canadians after all. We decided to walk around the Old town of Edinburgh. We had the morning to do this because we had to make an important lunch meeting in Queensferry, Northwest of Edinburgh to get to. It was a reunion with some friends who visited Canada not 5 months earlier. The location was breathtaking and one of my friends noticed the bridges near the restaurant, The Hawes Inn, where we would be meeting our friends for lunch. The amazing view included three bridges from the inn; the Forth Bridge, the Forth Rd. Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing Bridge. The amazing thing is that the first two bridges look very familiar to the bridges going into Québec. The fact is that they are both cantilever bridges, yet the Forth Bridge was completed in 1889 and has a total length of 2,467 m (metres) with a longest span of 520 m; the Québec Bridge was completed in 1919 with a total length of 987 m but the longest span is 549 m. The Forth Bridge may be longer but the Québec Bridge has the longest span in the world.
However this day may have had some facts and comparisons but the true joy was the continued interaction and pleasure of getting to know the wonderful people of Scotland. From the friends we met at the Hawes Inn to the server there, the Scottish people are a simple joy to behold. We spent hours filled with laughter and friendship that we forgot about the weather outside and even the time. We were surprised at how long we had spent with our lunch companions.   We were saddened that we had to leave but we also had dinner plans with another old friend and other things we needed to do before it.
The night was almost a copy of the lunch. We lost time with our friends at dinner and it was almost like we did not want the night to end. We even went for a drive to see a few more places and talk about anything and everything. But unfortunately we had to make our good-byes as well. Tomorrow we would be returning to Toronto and putting an end to a wonderful vacation.
I have seen many wonderful places in Scotland, filled with a rich history and tales that will inspire me for years to come. Yet the most inspiring thing I found in Scotland were the Scottish themselves. They say the land molds a people; these words were never truer then in Scotland. From the rugged Highlands to the elegant streets of Edinburgh, Scotland is a wonder not just because of its natural and historic beauty but the people who make this wonderful land shine so bright. All I know is that I will be returning one day to experience that Scottish spirit once again.

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