Friday Two Cents: It Is Within Me


This past week has been a busy one to say the least. It started with 100 days in school celebrations and activities with the students, then Pancake Tuesday, Valentines Day on Wednesday and then finally the Lunar Parade on Thursday with the Dragon I created. (Below are links to pages to see how I made the dragon.)  Oh yes added on top of everything else the report cards had to be handed out to the parents, parent teacher interviews and then filing of the reports.

Art Inspiration: Dragon’s Head Reconstruction, Stage 1

Art Inspiration: Dragon’s Head Reconstruction, Stage 2

Art Inspiration: Dragon’s Head Reconstruction, Stage 3

Yes this was a busy week if I do say so myself, yet through all this excitement I had prepared a little respite from the hustle and bustle of the activities. On Friday I went to Niagara Falls for an overnight trip to see Wayne Brady live. Wayne Brady is a fantastic entertainer whom you may have seen on “Who’s Line is it anyway” or “Lets Make a Deal”. The show was amazing and my stay at the Falls was quit relaxing.

I went alone and many people made a big deal about this. They could not understand that I needed some alone time away from everything. Just some time to clear my head and maybe do some art, have some fun and enjoy some entertainment. I guess they do not understand that I am happy when I do these things, either with someone or alone. Just as Marcus Aurelius once said …


‘Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.’ Marcus Aurelius


Many people say they are happy but are not open to the idea that others may have a different way of being happy. I know I am happy because it is within me.


Friday Two Cents: Beating The January Blahs


This past week was not the January Blahs but at times it sure felt like it. The students where their usually sweet selves, yet the days seemed to drag on. Yet I was able to introduce a concept to the students I hope/should carry them on in their lives. I introduced sentence structure to them. Yeah you are probably thinking big deal, but it is to a first grader.

The students were writing sentences for sometime, however I noticed that many would simply string words together when writing them. Their oral language is good and many read well for first graders but I thought it wise to help them get a foundation in writing. I began with introducing the different parts of the sentence in a language they would understand. I created a chart to help them. We did some practice writing to reinforce this “What Makes A Sentence”. I also introduced a writing success criteria chart to help them. It is set up like a checklist/success criteria; something very similar to one I created to remind them to take their things home at the end of the day. Then during the week I introduced new activities that would involve them writing a sentence, such as in social studies we wrote about their favourite place in their neighbourhood. This all came together on Friday when we made sentence puzzles.
The students would write a sentence using the success criteria to help them. They would cut the words out and then ask another student to try to put the sentence back together and read the sentence. This way they can use the success criteria to help guide their thinking when recreating the sentence. The capital is at the beginning, punctuation at the end. Below you can see some of their sentences and some of them are pretty funny.

In the end we all had a good laugh and I hope they learned something. In the end I guess that is a good way to beat the January Blahs.



Friday Two Cents: Awaking Joy In Creative Expression And Knowledge

As the second week of me working in the grade 1 class came to an end, I believe the students and I are getting the hang of the new routine. I am trying to keep as much of the students routine they had with the other teacher but I am adding a few of my own touches.

One thing I introduced is a story time where I read a story picture book but I only read a few pages every day. They are large, colourful books that have about 100 pages. I have many Disney story books that fit this description and the students are familiar with many of these stories. I also have a bookmark that I use to mark where we left off. Every day I would read a few pages until Friday when I would finish off the story.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

This week we read “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, the story seen in the original 1940 Fantasia. Many haven’t seen this piece and it was not too long for a first book. Every day I read a few pages and I would ask the students to predict what would happen next in the story. Many had some imaginative ideas but most came very close to what would happen next in the story. Every morning and even once or twice in the afternoon I was asked when I would continue the story.
I thought this is a wonderful way to introduce longer stories to them then they are used to and for them to know that they can read longer books. All they need is a bookmark to mark were they left off. The nice thing is that one student wanted my bookmark after I finished reading the book, however I suggested if they wanted they could make their own bookmark during their free time. I have a few strips of paper I use for making notes, the perfect size of a bookmark. I gave them one and then one by one the students wanting to make their own bookmarks too. Many even got some yarn to make tassels.

Student’s bookmark

But I think the clincher was when I told them that at the end of Friday I would show them the video of the original “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the original 1940 Fantasia, but only if they were good. Of course they were and just before the end of the day we watched the 9-minute video. They were enthralled, not one of them talked during the 9 minutes. And even though it is all music they never said anything about it not having words. They were so excited by it; many asked what story I was bringing in next week. I told them they had to wait and see. They were mildly disappointed but they smiled and I think they knew that was going to be my answer.
Amazing. Simply bringing in a book to read over the week helped the students get introduced to longer books they could enjoy over days, inspire creativity in making bookmarks and enthusiasm for reading. That’s why I love being a teacher. I guess Albert Einstein was right when he said …



‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’ Albert Einstein


Friday Two Cents: A New Year With A New Experience


With the New Year I begin a new adventure.   I have been fortunate to been given the chance to be the teacher in a grade 1 class. It is a tremendous opportunity to teach a full grade one class and to put my years of education and experience into practice. I was lucky to teach in a kindergarten class at the end of last year’s school year and yet now I get another chance to teach many of the same students again in grade 1. I have been with them for the first week and it has been tiring but very enjoyable and enlightening.

The interesting thing is that I worked with a grade five class for about a week and a half before the Christmas break and now I go from a class of 10/11 year olds to one of 6/7 year olds. To say they are very different grades would be stating the obvious but they all have their own rewards. These little people in grade one are so full of wonder and excitement to learn that it has become a bit infectious. They have been eager to learn and I in turn am eager to teach the lessons with these students.
We work on subjects that I enjoy such as art but their enthusiasm for the core subjects like math and literacy is amazing. One literacy activity we did is a “Roll and Read” sight word game. Each student gets to roll the dice and whatever number it lands on they must say the words under that number as quickly as they can. I introduced it on Monday and everyday since they are eager to play the game.

Roll and Read Sight Game

Another activity I introduced is a subitizing activity. Subitizing is the ability to recognize the number of a group of items at a glance and without counting. I used bingo dabbers to make dots on a card and we practice this just before the math lessons. The real nice thing is that I noticed the students practicing on one-another during their indoor recess time.

Subtilizing Card game

It is only the bringing and I have no idea how long I will be in this class, but one thing is for sure, I am going to enjoy this experience with the students. Already I have noticed that they are learning new things but on the other side so am I.  

Friday Two Cents: Two Cents For A New Year

Last week was the final week at school before the winter break and I was fortunate to work in a grade 5 class for the entire week. I have supplied in that class before and the students all know me and I enjoy their company and quirky personalities. The teacher left her plans for me to follow but she also left me room to do a bit of what I’d like to do with them. She knows I have a visual art background so art of course was one of them, yet I also have a fondness for math.

The lessons for the week were around measurement and one unit was on money. I did the lessons with the students but one thing came to my attention with a question from a student. She asked about why do we have to know about pennies when we do not use them anymore. I told her that this was an excellent question and she was one of many people, teachers, administrators and parents included who were asking the same question.  I told her; even though we do not use them we still need to understand the math behind calculating making change and other necessary interactions when it comes to money. They mentioned the rounding up or down depending on the value. For example if the cents end with a 1, 2, 6 or 7 we round down to the nearest 5 or 10 but if the cents end with a 3, 4, 8 or 9 we round-up.
They got that concept but a question came up, “Does the rounding benefit the consumer or the retailer?” I was curious and then I heard about a study done by an undergrad on this very subject. She found that the rounding is benefiting the grocery stories in the range of over $3 billion Canadian or about $157 per store a year. A spokesperson for the Retail Counsel of Canada disagrees with the finds but it does make me wonder. Therefore I made it a point to look at my purchases a little closely for this issue and I did notice that the bills of many favoured the retailer more than myself, the consumer.

‘Penny rounding adds $3 million a year to grocery stores’ bottom line, study says’

I noticed this a lot with small purchases like coffee or when I went out for a bit to eat. Yet I also noticed this when I bought groceries and during Christmas shopping. I for one do not like using the debit cards when making purchases I prefer cash. Yet this has opened my eyes a bit and I have been changing the way I shop. Most recently I no longer use cash when buying coffee at Tim Hortons, I use a gift card that I reload, with cash. This way if the bill is $5.88 I pay $5.88 not $5.90. On large purchases I use my credit cards but I think I need to get a cash card for the stores that I frequent so I can pay the exact amount without rounding.
Upon reflection this is exactly what many people want, the beginning steps towards a cashless society. I know that I am not on the for-front of this but I enjoy using cash. It helps me to budget what I spend and how much. I also like the feel of it in my hand. Every time I feel those coins in my hand I would imagine what someone a century, two centuries even a millennia or two ago felt like when making a purchase. I once found a bronze Roman coin dating back to about 300 AD and as I held it in my hand I wondered, who else held this coin? A slave, a blacksmith, a farmer or even a Roman Legionnaire who knows but just thinking it made me realise that now I was part of this coin’s history.   Money, coins in particular have been around since the beginning of civilization, it is a part of who we are. It is a way for us to remember where we came from and be apart of history instead of just observing it.

My two cents and my new years goal is that I will probably go cashless on many things, just to make sure that the system benefits me more than the retailers. However in my heart I will probably still use the age-old traditions to help me with this goal, if only to remind myself and imagine a simpler time.  



Friday Two Cents: Teach The World

With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students and the principal asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 8th year I have set it up, yet I started building the town about 10 years prior to that starting with only 5 buildings that I hand painted and with a simple train. Today it has grown to over 50 builds, all hand painted and some that I built myself.

Many have told me that once the town goes up then they start to feel that the Christmas season has arrived. I too feel this once I put up the town, my tree and my nativity scene, which are all up now, the feeling of the Christmas season is upon me. Yet with this feeling of joy and happiness there comes a bit of melancholy. Not because there are those who do not have much, I do feel for them but mostly for the people who have too much. For them Christmas is about acquiring things, or making sure that they get the perfect gift for someone so that you can look good; in other words, excessive consumerism.  
Mind you I do go out and get presents for my family, but I always add a personal note letting them know I care about them. Yet as I walk around the malls I have to laugh to myself. I do love to shop but shopping for me is looking at all the people as they scurry around obsessed with getting stuff. I love their reaction when they get the thing and when they cannot. They seem to miss the point of the whole Christmas season and spirit.  
Christmas for me is about giving thanks for what I have like my health, family and my passions. It’s not about getting or giving stuff; it’s about appreciating the time you have with others, about giving yourself to them to help them feel happy too. For me the tree, the nativity scene and the town is a symbol that everyone in my life is truly special to me. From my immediate to my extended family, close friends, friends/colleagues and even the students and their parents. Everyone that has touched my life is special to me. That is why I cannot get into this consumerism that seems to be everywhere.
I think the best way to sum up how I feel is a song I heard on a local radio station, CHFI 98.1, which is playing Christmas music until Boxing Day. It is by ‘The Tenors’ – Santa’s Wish (Teach the World). I placed a YouTube link below for you all to see it and I think if you do, you too may feel the same way.



Friday Two Cents: I Took A Risk

This week I worked everyday in several classrooms and come Thursday I was prepared to take Friday off and but something happened that gave me the strength to take the plunge and work in a new classroom. It all began early in the week when a friend and colleague asked if they could give my contact info to a school that I have not been to. I said sure, the more schools know me the more opportunities I can gain experience working in different classrooms and school environments. They in fact contacted me the day after to ask me to work in a classroom. Unfortunately I was already booked that day at another school but I thanked them and they said they would keep my info for anything in the future.

A couple of days passed and like I said I was thinking of taking the Friday off unless a school I was familiar with needed a supply teacher. Yet by some coincidence I noticed that a supply job was available with this new school that called me earlier in the week. I was feeling a bit run down and I was still recovering from a cold therefore I seriously wouldn’t mind a day off to rest and recover. But a voice inside me said, “Why not try something new.” So I took the position and went to the school.
It was a kindergarten teaching position so I was very familiar with the full day kindergarten program (FDK). I arrived early at the school and met the principal and vice-principal that called me earlier that week. They were friendly as was many of the staff. They were very thankful that I came in and they welcomed me to the school. The students were not sure about a new teacher in the classroom, yet once I started playing with them they started warming up to me. Then when I brought out George, well that’s all it took for them to accept me into their classroom community. At the end of the day they all had smiles on their faces when they said a friendly good-bye when it was time to go home.
Upon reflection, if I hadn’t taken the chance and went to that new school I would not have met those wonderful staff and delightful students. Going to that new school just solidifies my belief and desire to try new things and keep my mind open for new opportunities to learn, grow and experience new things. As Paulo Coelho said …


‘Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.’ Paulo Coelho


I took a risk and it paid off.





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