Friday Two Cents: New Rules, Positive Behaviour And Discipline


This past week has been a bit trying to say the least. The students in the class are all great yet the dynamic in the room between the students has been a bit … unkind to one another. One of them even told me that they were not being good friends to one another. These are kindergarten students so the social behaviour is something that needs to be taught and encouraged in great deal at school.

With this information the teacher and I embarked on a new inquiry, ‘Being a good friend to each other.’ I was asked to try to develop a few lessons to help the students be kinder to one another. The first thing I thought of was to create a chart of positive behaviour we need to work on. I read the book “What does it mean to be kind?” and the class and I created a chart together. We called it Manners and we came up with a few ideas. The first was saying please, thank you, you’re welcome and I’m sorry as the number one class rule. We also came up with listening to each other, helping others, being patient, sharing and treating others the way you want to be treated.   Not a bad start for kindergarten students.
The next day I reminded the students about these rules by pointing out examples from their own actions when they were and weren’t following the rules they helped to come up with.   Yet I also brought in a couple if things to help solidify these rules. One was a book called “How full is your bucket?” and the other was my Mufasa and Simba puppets.
My Mufasa and Simba puppets helps the students see that the adult lion Mufasa has rules that Simba may not like but they are there to keep him safe. These rules are not there because he wants to be mean to Simba or that he does not like him but because he cares very much for Simba. The moral is that adults have rules for kids because they care about them and they want them to be safe. As well, if Mufasa is upset with Simba for breaking a rule he is not angry with him all the time, he still cares for him. The same is true with adults like their mothers, fathers and teachers.
The book “How full is your bucket?” encourages positive behaviour by using the idea of an invisible bucket to show children how easy and rewarding it is to be kind, appreciative, and caring by “filling buckets.” This is not a new concept for the students but perhaps some reminding will help them. I reintroduced the bucket idea on Thursday and all day Friday they kept talking about filling each other’s buckets.
It feels good to see that they are embracing this idea and the other concepts I have been trying to instil in the students. Yet the one thing I have been doing as well is being very firm when it comes to room discipline. I allow the students free expression yet the rules, manners and the bucket ideas are being strictly reinforced by the teacher and myself. I thought that they may have a problem with the extra discipline I am introducing but it appears that the students are welcoming it. I have noticed a bit more smiles on the students and a feeling of calmness in the room when it comes to the students’ personality dynamics. I guess the drill sergeant in me has a place within a classroom even when I am only there for a short stay. Only time will tell if these initiatives will hold up for the rest of my stay.  

Friday Two Cents: Joie De Vivre Within The Daily Grind


Joie De Vivre – the joy of living, enjoyment of life, a French phrase meaning joy of living, used to mean enjoyment or love of life.

Joie De Vivre, I have been exploring this phrase/way of living for some time now. I have found that trying to live my life in this way has its advantages. I have found that many things do not bother me as they once did. Yet this feeling has been stirring in me for quit some time.
Many years ago, when I was working as an early childhood educator (ECE), I also worked part-time as a graphic designer/print specialist. I worked on creating ads, print materials and other advertising related tasks at an ad agency. I found the work enjoyable but a bit unfulfilling. Many people there found me a bit too liberal-minded and my art/designs reflected that thinking. In the end I decided to leave and put all my efforts in becoming a teacher. I wanted to help others explore their individual wants and desires through their own creative expression. Either through writing, math, sports, art or something else that makes them happy. The rest, as they say is history.
This week I was working in a class and even though I have been trying to maintain a sense of order and discipline within the class, I have seen many examples of the students exploring the world through their own creative expression. Watching them explore and discover just enhanced my own idea of ‘Joie De Vivre’. Even in my daily grind, I am able to enjoy life, either through the smile of a child or in a conversation with a fellow teacher.
My interaction with the students are usually very enjoyable, yet I found talking or more often than not, listening to my fellow teachers about their lives, truly filled my life with joy. Not because they have problems but because I was able to connect with them on a human level. Talking to them face to face, instead of through some form of social media about their work with the students, interactions with the parents or just on life. Connecting to people is a part of my ‘Joie De Vivre’. Unlike working at a desk and creating things, I am able to interact with people.

In the end, these interactions are the most inspiring part of my life.  

Friday Two Cents: Citizenship Quiz


 

 

This past week I saw something that made me stop and take notice. It has to do with the state of Arizona making its high school students take a mandatory citizenship test as part of their requirements for graduation from high school.

There are many people on both sides of the argument for this interesting addition to the curriculum. The state politicians argued the that many of these young people will be entrusted with the future of the country’s political landscape from serving in government to exercising their duty by voting.  This test will help them be a more informed citizen.  
Some argued that the students already have a lot of tests they must complete to graduate so why add another one. Another argument says why should there be a test on memorization, why not a test that actually stimulates the students on independent thought. Some educators say that this is a waste of valuable classroom time of a test that is, in essence, very easy.
I for one see that both arguments have merit. Yes there is a lot of testing that the students need to do to graduate yet if you think about it many of the questions can be covered in other classes. Yet with the argument that the test is easy, I refer to a 2011 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. After surveying over 1400 adults it found that …
  • When asked, 36% could name the three levels of the US government, where 35% could not name a single one.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Republicans have the most members in the House of Representatives, but 17% said the Democrats and 44% said they did not know.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Democrats have the most members in the Senate but 20% said the Republicans and 42% said they did not know.
Clearly this study shows that among regular American citizens, the citizenship test questions are not that easy.
I look at this study and at this legislation to change the curriculum and I have to agree that with adding a citizen test to the requirements for graduation. I would love to see a similar test be a requirement in Canada as well. I do not need to quote studies or the fact that only 68.3% of eligible voters actually voted in the last federal election. I have first hand experience on how much people do not know about Canada. I took a Canadian Issues course in university and out of a starting class size of 60 students we finished the course with 45. Many I talked to said that they dropped the course because they had no idea of the Canadian issue presented in the course. The topics ranged from government (elections and the make up of government), general history, indigenous people topics, global issues (that relate to Canada) and peacekeeping/Nato. Topics every Canadian should be aware of, yet 25% of the class had no idea of these topics.
I think all Canadian citizens should be aware of the issues that face our country and know how the election and how government works. If you are a Canadian and interested in testing yourself, I am adding a link to a Canadian Citizenship test site below. The site is CitizenshipCounts.ca and is a project of OCASI and was funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  I took the test and I am proud to say I got 100% on the quiz of 30 questions. Let’s see if you can match me.

 

CitizenshipCounts.ca

 

 

Friday Two Cents: The True Can Hurt But We Can Learn From It


 

This week I read a story to the kindergarten students about a dinosaur that kept calling out that the Gigantosaurus was coming to eat them. Every time he did it would turn out to be something else. Eventually the Gigantosaurus did come but the other dinosaurs would not listen to him. They almost got eaten but in the end the one dinosaur survived the encounter and learned a lesson about over reacting.

Obviously this story was loosely centred on the boy who cried wolf. Yet in the original stories that I heard as a child, the boy ended either seeing his flock being eaten or his flock and himself being eaten. A gruesome ending to tell people who the moral of the story is if you tell too many lies, eventually no one will believe you. Yet, I always thought the moral of the story was never tell the same lie twice, yet that is probably just me. Anyway the fact is that I was never shielded for the truth that reality/life can be harsh at times and I turned out all right. Why then is it, in today’s society, many adults avoid telling their children about the harsh reality of life. Why is that anything that shows any hint of something even close to telling children that death is apart of life? Why is death considered dark or taboo?
On many occasions I have been told that I cannot tell the students the reality of what happened in the past. I feel that not informing the children that there is a dark side to reality is in fact worst than hiding the truth. Today I was outside with the students and we were lining up to go inside when a grade 5 student pointed up to a couple of airplanes flying by preparing to land. He shouted out to a his friends ‘Ha Ha look another 9 11.’ and then began laughing and joking with the others. I went up to him saying, ‘You know that nearly 3000 people died on 9 11 right. Some of them I knew. Know what you are laugh about before you open your mouth.’ I then walked away and I didn’t hear anything else from that student on the subject.
All I could think about was what was he told about 9 11? If he knew the truth behind it would he have laughed about it? Something even as resent as 9 11 has fallen in to the realm of taboo, something to hide the harsh reality of the truth from. Have we as a society come to the point where we must protect the children even from the truth?
I grew up and was taught that knowledge is power. The more you know, the better informed you are, the better you can make a more informed opinion or decision. In addition, learning the truth of our past, is a part of helping to make better decisions. Even as bloody, terrible and harsh it may have been, we cannot forget who we are and where we come from. To hide the facts of history is to deny ourselves and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the opportunity to learn from those hard lessons. To try to not make the same mistakes twice.
My history professor once said, ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ Is “protecting” the children from the truth that important that we are in fact condemning them to make the same mistakes. Perhaps, to make even bigger mistakes that will be so costly that the shear thought could freeze you very soul. Something to think about.

 

Friday Two Cents: Gratitude Journal


 

Gratitude: noun – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Life is rarely easy. There is always something that happens in your life that throws a wrench into the works. I for one have had some difficulties; I won’t bore you with my issues, but suffice it to say I have been a bit down. But then I read an article from the John Tesh Show: Intelligence for your life: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life! that suggests showing gratitude can help with you feeling better about your life.

They state that if you want to significantly improve your life, show more gratitude in your life. It references 40 different scientific studies, that having an ‘attitude of gratitude” can change you life for the better. They stated three different reasons for this statement.
  • Grateful people are happier. Research in the journal American Psychologist showed that making a list of 3 things that go well every day increased the happiness levels of volunteers. And the longer volunteers continued to write down what make them grateful, the better they felt.
  • Gratitude can also improve your relationships. A study by The National Institute of Mental Health found that people who regularly thank their spouse for doing everyday chores – like cleaning the kitchen, or taking the dog to the vet – have happier, more stable marriages.
  • A final reason to be more grateful: It’s good for your career. Numerous studies show that grateful people have larger professional networks, and make better business decisions. They also get more work done, and are more likely to be helped by their superiors. In fact, practicing gratitude at work will make everybody’s day. A recent survey found that 65 percent of employees haven’t received a “thank you” for their efforts in the last year.
Intelligence for your life (2016). Health: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life!. http://www.tesh.com/articles/an-attitude-of-gratitude-can-change-your-life/
With this as ammunition I have begun writing a Gratitude Journal. I decided to post my first entry to help remind me what I am grateful for and motivate me to write down 3 things that went well that day.

Gratitude Journal

What I am grateful for …
  • My family
    • Loving parents that support me.
    • My sister, brother-in-law and nieces who love and care for me in what I do
    • My extended family, they are a source of strength.  
  • My friends
    • They are great support but mostly my closest friends D & P & M. They have been there supporting me and encouraging me every step in my life.
  • My health – I have lost weight (65 lbs.) and I feel better. It is hard to maintain but I do enjoy exercising and I feel better after I do.
  • My ability to work in a field that I enjoy. I truly enjoy working with children. It is so hard to find a career that does not feel like a job.
  • My artistic talent – I cannot fully express how much joy I get when I express myself through drawing, painting, pastels, illustrating on the computer or writing.  

 

Just a few things that I am grateful for; a very good start.

Friday Two Cents: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade


 

This past week in Ontario many elementary and high schools were out for the annual March/spring break. In previous years I have always worked during this week at various afterschool programs, yet this year I had the need to take the week off. I didn’t want to go somewhere far-flung or exotic, I just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the students. Don’t get me wrong I adore the children but I was feeling a bit rundown and I needed sometime to be alone with my thoughts. To chill out, ironically speaking.

I decided to take a mini vacation to Niagara Falls and more importantly the Niagara Wine country. I live in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls is only a 1½-hour drive but I have never seen the falls in the winter. Besides I love visiting the wineries in the area for some wine tasting. It would also be a great opportunity to do some drawing and hopefully get inspired.
However Mother Nature had other plans this past week. I left for my vacation on Monday and of course that is the day when a winter storm just happens to blow into southern Ontario.   I am only few kilometers into the trip when the storm really picks up. With high winds and lake-effect snow traffic literally comes to a halt. I continue but the traffic is moving about 5 – 10 km/hr. The slowdown is mind numbing and it is all due to the weather. The truly amazing thing was that after I traveled past the city of Hamilton the weather clears up. It was eerie. On the east side of the highway, the lakeside, you can see the blowing snow and dark clouds yet on the west side of the highway the sun was setting and it was clear. It felt like I was driving through the eye of the storm or at least the edge of it. I arrived at the hotel safely yet the normally 1½-hour drive took 4½hrs!
I was stressed worst then before I left. So much for my relaxing vacation. However I was able to have a great meal at the casino and then soak in the hot tub after. I could feel the stress just melting away in the Jacuzzi. Especially since I could see that the storm had reached Niagara Falls and I was safe inside.
The next day the storm was in full force but that did not stop me. I was prepared with winter gear and I went for a walk to the Falls in the middle of the storm. I was able to get a few nice photos and I was able to talk to a few people who I met there. Yes just call me Mr. Sociable.  

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls during the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls after the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara-on-the-lake after the Winter Storm.

I for one do not like the winter season. I do not like the cold or the lack of sunlight. Yet I made it a point to not let this winter storm ruin my vacation. The storm lasted about a day and a half but in that time I was able to do all that I wanted.   I was able to draw, read, write, explore and of course enjoy a couple of wine tastings. Call me Mr. Optimist but I simply adapted to the situation I still had a wonderful time. I would imagine that old saying is true…

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  

Friday Two Cents: Who Truly Has A Sense Of Entitlement


 

‘Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.’ Nadia Boulanger

 

‘The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.’ Benjamin Spock

 

This week I had the opportunity to revisit an old school that I had supplied in the past. I know the students and the teachers. It is a wonderful school and I enjoy going to there whenever I can. Yet I noticed something very interesting when I was there.

Standing on guard for thee

As in every school the morning routine begins with the singing of O Canada and then the morning announcements. The thing that surprised me was that once O Canada came on over the PA system the kindergarten students all stopped their activities and stood erect and sang the entire anthem. This shouldn’t be too surprising yet in many kindergarten classes, to get the students to stand and sing the anthem and not talk to one another is a constant struggle.
This incident made me think about why did these students stand and sing the anthem proudly and in other classes I have to constantly remind them. Is it because the students are older senior kindergarten students? No, there is an even mix of junior and senior kindergarten students. Is it because of the teachers? No, in every class I have been in the teacher is always the first to stand and remind the students. They are the perfect role models. Then what was the reason?

New to Canada

The only conclusion I could come up with was that the school’s student population (school A) was largely made of immigrant families and visible minorities and the other schools’ populations were largely 2nd, 3rd or greater generation families. In those other schools’ classes I had to remind students on a daily basis to stand and stop talking to their friends during the anthem. Yet that was only one of many differences that I noticed about the students from school A. Wherever I went in the school, the older students would hold the door open and use manners when interacting in the hallway. It made me think about the interactions in other schools with a smaller immigrant family base. There were times I had to remind students to please hold the door for others. Say please and thank you and show proper manners such as not burp in public and say excuse me.
Yet right away my mind went to the question of ‘Why?’ Why were these students in school A showing “better” manners and respect for others then other schools? Is it truly because the families are immigrants? Is it because they are from places where staying alive is a constant struggle and living in a country as amazing as Canada is a blessing?
I have and many studies have shown it, that parents are the greatest influence in their child’s life. More than teachers, celebrities or athletes, parents influence and mold their children into the people they will become as adults. It would seem that the generations of parents born in this country do not know or take it for grated, on how lucky they are to be in this country. New arrives to Canada know from first hand experience how difficult it is and the struggles they undertook to come here.

Parents have the greatest influence on their children.

Many people say that this generation of students is entitled and they want things done for them and I have examples of seen this. Yet perhaps people should be looking at the root cause of this sense of entitlement, the parents. Instead of passing off their children onto others and expecting them to teach their child to be responsible and respectable citizens, they should be looking to themselves. It’s their job, their responsibility to instill manners, respect for others and to be grateful for the blessings of living in a wonderful country like Canada. Maybe the people who need to stop having a sense of entitlement and expecting others to do things for them are not the students.
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