Friday Two Cents: Words To Live By


 

This past week has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me. At the beginning of the week I was with someone who made me feel down and upset yet by the end I was with some people who lifted me up and inspired me.

Firstly I was with someone whom I have known for years and they have made no secret that they do not like teachers. They on a number of occasions have belittled teaching and teachers in general. Saying things along the lines that teachers don’t deserve the two months off or that they are spoiled and they are teaching the wrong way. If they were Premier they mentioned that they would attack the teachers by taking away pay, benefits and force them into doing things their way, things that was acceptable back 70 – 100 years ago.
At times I have fired back. Once they said they could teach a class and I responded saying, “I would love to put you in a Kindergarten class and see how far you get. I guarantee you wouldn’t last an hour let alone a year.” Yet for the most part I usually let them say what they want and it generally just rolls off me, but for some reason this time I could not. Not because I questioned teaching but the fact they will never change their minds no matter what I say or when ever I prove my point. I am seriously considering ending the relationship of many years, which put me in a gloomy mood.
With this cloud over my head I went about my business, which happened that I am attending an additional qualification course (AQ) for Teacher-Librarian (TL). A TL is more than just a librarian; they are a resource teacher who can assist the classroom teacher in how they implement the curriculum. I have supplied as a TL on a number of occasions and found it a rewarding experience.
Upon starting the course I met other teachers with the same passion for teaching and a desire to help others. This alone began to lift my spirits, however we were given the tremendous opportunity to go to an educator’s conference on the second day. This conference was called MakerEdTO. It is a conference of educators that come together to try to bring new ideas to the students by learning through making things. Yes they do the lessons and research before they build things but they encourage the students to get their hands dirty, take chances and make mistakes all the while they are learning.

A working mechanical arm I made from cardboard.

The conference was about teachers getting their hands dirty and playing so they can understand and bring back to the classroom what they have learned. I for one attended a workshop where I was able to learn to use a program called Scratch where the students can learn code. Another workshop was about building things out of cardboard. I was able to create a working mechanical arm that actually picked up an empty water battle.
The conference was good but the most important and inspiring thing was that there were over 200 teachers there to learn and get inspired for their students. At the beginning of their summer break these people went somewhere to learn to essentially help their students learn.
This positive atmosphere is what I need to remember and keep in my life. Not those people who have nothing but negativity. Yet I have to remember one good thing about all those negative people out there. You know, the ones who grumble and insult others because they are jealous or only happy when they are putting down others or mad at the world for something or another. I’ll look at them and remember this wisdom quote …

 

‘I am grateful for all those difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.’

 

 

Words to live by.

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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: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – Ottawa & Gatineau


I had the opportunity to visit the Ottawa area to take in some Canadian 150 celebration. Once there I did a lot of sight seeing in the usual places like the museums, the mint and the ByWard Market. However there was a new attraction in Gatineau that was unique that celebrated the diversity of Canada and its sheer beauty. It was the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017.

Jacques-Cartier Park Gatineau hosted the biggest horticultural event in Canada, the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. Mosaiculture is a most spectacular horticultural technique that combines the following different art forms:
  • Sculpture for the structure,
  • Paint for the palette of colours, and
  • Horticulture as the means of creating living and changing artworks with plants.
The theme of the exhibit reflected on the 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada, represented by more than 40 different arrangements. Admission to the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 exhibit in Jacques-Cartier Park is free and it was a spectacular site to see.
After the garden exhibit I enjoyed a unique exhibition at the History Museum that happened to be right across the street from Jacques-Cartier Park. The exhibit is called “Hockey”, what’s more Canadian then that. It was an exploration of Canada’s game for the very beginning, through the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Olympics and other international games all from a distinctly Canadian point of view.
If you are going to Ottawa one place you need to visit is the ByWard Market. It is a great place to get anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to any little nick-knack. They also have a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries and cafés. One was even visited by former President Obama where he bought a beaver tail and some cookies for his daughters.
Yet the day was topped off by a wonderful light presentation at the Parliament buildings. It is a sound and light show that journeys through Canada’s history. It shows Canadian stories of nation building, partnership, discovery, valour, pride and vision for a country. Key figures, events and achievements from Canadian history are brought to life using five distinct artistic styles. All are presented in spectacular detail, with a bilingual narration and an amazing music score that is projected on the Parliament builds, Centre Block and Peace Tower. There where times during the presentation where I felt myself tear up as a swell of national pride came over me. If you go to Ottawa just for this show it is well worth the trip. It truly was an amazing sight to see and I was lucky enough to find a copy of the show on YouTube. It is about 30 minutes but it is time well spent.

Going to Ottawa has always been a treat for me and I have been there on numerous occasions. Yet every time I go I cannot help be filled with pride and love for my birth country. The history, the accomplishments and vision of Canada have always been an inspiration to me. This trip has only deepened my love for Canada and I can proudly shout out for the entire world to hear…

“I AM CANADIAN!!”

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Art Inspiration: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – National Gallery Of Canada


 

Last week I made my way back to Ottawa for a mini vacation to do some things that celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday. During my stay there I made it a point to visit the National Gallery of Canada. Surprisingly I have been to Ottawa on numerous occasions but this was my first visit to the gallery. I went there because they have a large selection of Canadian artists’ works on display to help celebrate Canada’s 150 and perhaps inspire me. I was not disappointed.

In the gallery you can see may examples of Canadian artists’ works, from indigenous works to traditional to the Group of Seven up to the present. I also enjoyed viewing some international pieces from Europe and the US but my focus was Canadian artists. There were so many pieces to explore but I will limit this post to three that truly inspired and touched my soul.

 

I decided to take a tour and one of the first paintings I say was by Robert Harris entitled “The Meeting of the School Trustees” 1885. When I saw it I immediately recognized it from an old Heritage Minute vignette. It was amazing to see this painting in person considering I have seen it on television in commercials as a child.

 

“The Meeting of the School Trustees” Robert Harris 1885

 

The next piece was not a painting but a sculpture by Elizabeth Wyn Wood entitled “Passing Rain” carved 1929. When I entered the room I immediately was drawn to it. It was very familiar and I learned from the tour that she was inspired by the Group of Seven depictions of the Canada’s natural landscapes and created something similar yet unique. When I saw it, it reminded me of the Art Deco style of straight lines and smooth cures. It truly is an inspiring piece.

 

“Passing Rain” Elizabeth Wyn Wood, carved 1929

The third is actually two paints created by Christine Pflug entitled ‘Kitchen Door in Winter II’ 1964 and “Kitchen Door and Esther” 1965. These two painting were painted a year apart and was not meant to be a pair. Yet when I saw the first painting of the African doll and all the imagery around it being cold, dead and outside, I could not help but think of the civil rights movement. Some how this doll represents the African community being left outside, having barriers to overcome to come inside. Then in contrast the second shows a little Caucasian girl reading a book in a warm green open environment. I could not help but see that the artist painted the image with small clues of openness all around the painting. The opening in the trees to reveal the sky, the open book, the open door and the open cabinet door to the upper left. It almost suggests that this little girl has more opportunities that the other African doll would have. That society is more open for her. Experts don’t think that these paintings were meant as messages about the civil rights movement. Yet considering the imagery and they were painted in 1964 and 1965, right the middle of the movement, an argument can be made.

 

 

There were so many different and inspiring pieces that I cannot comment on all of them, however, I was able to take pictures.   Below you can see some other spectacular examples of both Canadian and international artists that is on display at the National Gallery of Canada that can entice the soul and inspire the mind.

 

 

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Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – The Royal Canadian Mint


 

This past week I visited a familiar place that I love going to over and over again; our nation’s capital Ottawa.

I have been to Ottawa many times but every time I go there I am filled with patriotism and pride for my birth country Canada. I have been to most, if not all, of the museums the city has to offer like the War Museum and Parliament Hill. One of the places I visited was Royal Canadian Mint.

The Royal Canadian Mint

At the mint I was able to go for a tour, yet you cannot take pictures inside because even though the outside looks like a castle, inside it is a working factory. Once inside they showed us the process of transforming bricks of gold, silver and platinum into investment and collector coins. They have a forge that melts down the metal, presses, cuts, weights, inspects and stamps the coins. It was a very informative tour and an impressive process.
However, I also learned a lot about the mint that I had not known before. I found out that the mint also produces coins for other countries. They estimated that they have produced coins for over 60 countries. Not only coins but the mint also created the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Para Pan Am Medals. They had examples of the Olympic medals on display and I learned that each medal has a part of a larger image. If you place all the medals beside each other they create an aboriginal artwork of an orca and the Paralympic medals of a raven. Not only that but the medal are in a wavy shape to represent the mountain range in British Columbia. Inspiring!

The 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games Medals

They also told us about their purity of the gold. Most gold in the world is pure to 99.99 (99.99%) or four 9s. But the Royal Canadian Mint can get a purity of five 9s or 99.999. They showed us the largest, purest gold coin in the world. It has a face value of $1,000,000 CAD. The Australians have a larger gold coin but theirs’ is only 99.99 pure. The Canadian coin is 99.999 pure and they made only 5 coins, which a few individuals and companies bought them. But because they are also collectors’ coins their value has gone up to be worth about $4 million and it keeps going up in value. One was stolen from a Berlin museum in March and its whereabouts are currently unknown. Another one of the owners is a billionaire from Saudi Arabia. They say he uses is as a coffee table. Must be nice to have money eh.

Canadian 1Million dollar Gold Coin

After the tour I was even able to lift a bar of gold. Mind you it was chained to the platform and a security guard was right beside it. If you ever get a chance to lift a bar of gold, try it. The first thing that I noticed was that the gold was soft to the touch like lead or hard clay but metallic. Also it was extremely heavy. One bar of gold weights 28 pounds and with the price of gold I was holding about $725,000 CAD or $575,000 US in my hands. I can now say that I have held over a half a million dollars in my hands, WWWOOO what a rush. Gold rush, that is.

Friday Two Cents: Media Literacy Inquiry


 

This week I had the opportunity to “Captain” a class for the first time in the sense of setting the curriculum for the students, in a kindergarten class, as a teacher. Last week I followed the plans the teacher had laid out but this week I was able to plan for the week. During the first week, I was able to observe the students and I discovered an area they were interested in; superheroes. From this information I was able to create a program to help the students explore this subject while helping them in other subject areas such as media literacy, language and art.

If we are doing heroes, I though why not start with one of the first stories based on a hero. Therefore I started the week by introducing them to a picture book called Hercules. It is based on the Disney movie version. It is about 100 pages so we read only a few pages a day and I had my special bookmark to help us remember where we left off. The students loved this story and every morning they would ask when are we reading the story of Hercules.
artWC

Warm and cool colour art


I then helped them to start thinking of colours as warm and cool with an art project. They would create a sun in the sky, divide the paper by drawing two horizontal and two vertical wavy lines and then colour it with warm and cool colours (the sun warm and the sky cool).
We then explored the world of heroes and villains by using characters they were use to from the media. I told them media are things they see and hear from movies, television, radio, newspaper, magazines and the Internet. We focused on the characters from the Marvel, DC and Disney universes and they came up with a comparison chart of what makes a hero and villain. They came up with words such as good, happy, helpful, smiling and kind for the heroes and bad, evil, scary, fights, steals for the villains. I also asked them if they noticed the colour of the outfits each group wore. They came up with light or bright colours for heroes and dark colours for villains.

Media Anchor Chart

We than had group activities where they would create their own superhero. One day it was a male hero, on the second it was a female. We noticed that there were more male/boy characters then female/girl. I then had them talk amongst themselves to come up with a few female character names. They came up with a few and we wrote them on post-it notes and placed it on the chart.
We also explored the idea of violence in cartoons. I showed them the scene of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football but Lucy moves it at the last-minute and Charlie goes flying. It may look funny but I asked, ‘How to you think Charlie feels?’ I also showed them a scene from Peter Pan when Peter and Wendy meet the mermaids. They said that the mermaids look like the heroes but after they saw the video they said that they were mean for picking on Wendy, pulling her hair and getting her wet while Pan just laughed. Scenes like that may look innocent but I asked how do you think Wendy feels. They said the mermaids were bullying her and Peter should not have laughed. They were very aware and we had a little discussion about it.

The final project for the inquiry was to create their own hero or villain. I gave them a choice of a male or female character outline to create their own character. I reminded them about the colours they should use for their character to make them look like a hero or villain. The results were amazing to see.
We finished the media literacy inquiry with the final project but the students wanted to do more. I told them that I will have the chart up for them and we can use the iPads to help them explore more during the last week of school. We also finished the story of Hercules and as a bonus I would bring in the DVD of Disney’s Hercules for everyone to watch. They were all excited and could not wait for next week.
Next week is the last week of school and the students are engaged and excited to learn more. As a teacher I can’t think of a better compliment they could give me.

 

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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

 

 

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