Friday Two Cents: It Takes A Village


‘What has changed is that people have stopped working together.’ Michael Bloomberg

‘Whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.’ Queen Elizabeth II

For the past month I have been taking additional qualifications in an online course for kindergarten.  The course was very informative and during my final independent project I made an important realization.  I be honest I had already come to this understanding serval years ago, yet I have never seen it inside government educational documents.  It has to deal with the education team within the kindergarten program.  

With schools in Ontario and most of North America reopening due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this insight could be invaluable to parents, educators/teachers and administrators.

I may have a unique perspective as I worked as both an early childhood educator (ECE) and teacher in the kindergarten program within a school board. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of both.  

I have felt the sting of being discriminated as an ECE and a as teacher. Yet when I worked as an ECE in a classroom I was treated as a support staff and told to do whatever the teacher told me to do. This continued in many classrooms with many teachers and parents.

In many government documents they refer to the the two people in the kindergarten program as ”educators”.  Both the teacher and ECE are equal in the learning process of the students.  Even though the education policy says that the teacher and ECE are seen as equals, many do not put this into practice. 

Once when I received my teaching licence I continued to work as an ECE while I applied for a teaching position. The treatment continued until the teachers found out that I was a licensed teacher.  I was seen as a second teacher in the room, asked for observation notes, documentation and/or to plan lessons.  

In my discussions with other teachers, whenever I mention the reference of educators towards the two people in kindergarten, they say they do not like it.  They prefer the title of teacher.  When I became a teacher I was told and I had to, give up the ECE title and go with Primary/Junior Teacher.   For some reason the “teacher” title is what people (teachers, administrations and parents) wanted.  I always thought that this was a bit petty.  

When I became a licensed teacher I made sure I would not see the ECEs as lesser, as many people I have witnessed have done.  The education of the students is done by both educators in the classroom.  A fact that many forget.  

Perhaps it has to do with human nature and how we measure people.  Do we measure them by their status in a society or by their actions?  All too often I have seen people measure others because they see them as inferior to themselves and they devalue them.

During this pandemic we as a society have learned that nature does not discriminate.  Anyone can get the Covid-19 virus.  When schools are reopened in September, we as educators (Administers, ECEs, teachers) and parents need to work together as a team for the betterment of the students.  

I learned a lot of different things during his course and how to implement them.  Yet I think the biggest realization is that educating students is not done in a bubble.  We as educators must look to the team (teacher & ECE), parents, all of the other staff in the school and the community at large to help “safely” educate the children.  An African proverb says it all. “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

   I would add; “… and keep everyone safe.”

Two Great Educators or One Great Education Team

Friday Two Cents: The Craziest Things: I Wonder


Being 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 those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create the comic. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents.  Yet, this month, I cannot ignore the situation that is enveloping the world at this moment: the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In many circles, I have been talking to teachers about how this isolation will affect the students, not only in the classroom setting, but as persons within society.  On many occasions, parents and teachers have discussed how the current generation of students show signs of entitlement and not being connected with life in general. I have often observed how the students take for granted the simple things, like going outside for recess.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard students say that they would rather be indoors for recess instead of going outside, even on beautiful, sunny days.  

This pandemic has basically given the students what they wanted.  They are at home.  They can play games, video games, read, draw, and do anything and everything they want to except go to school, which many have said that they dislike.  But, as parents are pulling out their hair trying to engage them in school work and other activities at home, the students are not happy.  

Why is that? They got what they wanted.  They are inside playing and not doing any work, and there is no school.  Some are even riding their bikes now with the nicer weather.  So what is it? 

This reminds me of that proverb …

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” 

Yes, they got what they wanted.  Now the only question is, “What will they learn from this experience?

I wonder. 

I hope you enjoy June’s comic, The Craziest Things: I Wonder.

 

Friday Two Cents: Pipes and Drums Realization


‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ William Shakespeare

With the Covid 19 pandemic I, like many others, am at home.  I have been trying to keep myself active with exercise and of course indulging in my many hobbies.  Yet despite keeping busy with self projects, I do find it difficult to stay positive, even at the best of times.   I am finding the isolation and restrictions taxing.  Television is not helping with the 25/7 coverage of the pandemic, and while watching movies has helped me escape for a time, it is mostly a source to distract me while I workout.  I have found that listening to music while doing my hobbies and tasks around the home brings me out of the doldrums of the current situation.   

However, during one such moment, I made a surprising realization about the music I listen to.  You see, studies have shown that listening to music you enjoy increases dopamine levels, whereas listening to music you do not enjoy increases your stress levels or cortisol. The key is to achieve a balance and music can help.  I discovered that during certain activities I am listening to military marches and enjoying it.  

Endless Possibilities

I had played and studied music since I was 10 years old and I enjoy many different types of music.   It came from what my music teacher once said about enjoying music. He compared it to food.  You wouldn’t eat the same food everyday, so why listen to only one type of music?  Enjoy a buffet of music from marching bands to classical symphonies, hard rock to dance, jazz to pop, and many, many others.  Yet I had never realized how much the military marching bands, Pipes and Drums included, were so much a part of my enjoyment of music.   Not until my latest Green Army Men endeavour.  

Recently I took out my Green Army Men from storage and I have been enjoying posting their daily adventures to social media.  But I decided to add some imagination and creativity to this experience.  When I was younger, I would always create different vehicles, bases, ships; anything really to enhance my experience with my Green Army Men.  I even named the different groups of my Green Army Men.  There’s Grey Wolf Brigade, 16th Battalion and the Royal Marines. I have always loved one military unit and I named a group of my Green Army Men after to honour them: Black Watch. 

Black Watch’s proud history started in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms.  In it, the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). People are uncertain of where the regiment’s name originated.  Yet in 1725, following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, George I authorized General George Wade to form six “Watch” companies to patrol the Highlands of Scotland.  They where deployed to disarm the Highlanders, bring in criminals and hinder further rebellions in that part of the kingdom.  The force was known in Gaelic as Am Frieceadan Duhn “the dark” or “black watch”.   In 1862 Canada had its own Black Watch.  It was raised as part of the 5th Battalion of the Canadian Militia and then renamed in 1914 as the 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders of Canada).  Before the Second World War, they adopted their current title, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. 

Wearing My kilt. A bit of Scottish Culture.

I was extremely fortunate on my trip to Scotland to get a kilt with the modern Black Watch Tartan.  Every time I wear it I do so to honour all past and present members of the Black Watch and all service personnel. Therefore, I wanted my Black Watch to have a proud tradition and an entrance into the current developments in my story, The Green Army Men Adventures, that would be traditional and honourable to the original Black Watch history.  With this in mind, my first thought went to a Pipes and Drums parade/march.  Growing up I played the trumpet and participated in many military marches and parades so this seemed the most appropriate.  

The first thing I did was draw out the uniforms for the Pipes and Drums band in Illustrator.  The easy part was that the uniform would be the same for everyone except for a few differences.  Therefore I drew the jacket, kilt, socks and shoes, Piper’s Plaid (Great Kilt) with Plaid Brooch, Headgear – Feather Bonnet and other essentials such as Dirk, Crossbelt, and the Sporran.  Drawing the instruments and drum major’s baton came next.  The head came from my caricature in the comics I create.  Once all the pieces were created, I assembled them, creating all the musicians of the Pipes and Drums band.  I created one Drum Major, bass drum, several snare drums, and of course a large contingent of pipers.  There were four characters but in total 20 musicians for the marching band.  

Black Watch Pipes and Drums Band Members

I printed and cut out each musician, folding the base for it to stand up straight.  I lined them up and there I have my marching band.  Yet how would I be able to have them march into the battle field like the Highland warriors of old?  I used an app that creates stop motion animation.  I used this app with the students at school from ages Kindergarten to grade 5 so I am very familiar with it.  The way you use the app is to take a photo of an object you want to animate, move it a little bit, and then take another photo.  You repeat this process and once you play each photo one after another, it looks like the object is moving.  

Yet to move 20 band musicians, about 80 Green Army Men and a large tank would be quite labour intensive.  Therefore I placed each soldier and musician on a piece of paper so I could move the paper a little at a time to get the feeling of movement/marching.  In the end I took over 120 photos of the band, Black Watch, Green Army Men, and the tank to create a one minute video.  I then added music to go with it.  Of course I used ‘Scotland The Brave’ for them to march into the battle.  

Black Watch Marching into Battle

It took a long time to create the stop motion animation but I am happy with the results.  Yet when I posted the video to Youtube a feeling came over me.  The best way I could describe it is a sense of pride or euphoria I felt whenever I played in the bands when I was younger.  I had not played for many years and yet creating this band, animating the actions, and adding music brought all those feelings back again.  That is when I realized how much the military marching band was such a large part of my life.  I had this sense that I made something from my heart that was a tribute to the real men and women, both past and present of all Black Watch units.  It was not simply an animation I could use in a story or a learning tool for the students, but something more personal. It was not until I added the music that this feeling came over me.  

The art of music is a magical and wondrous thing.  It can bring up your spirits from the depths of despair, to soar at heights you have never imagined.  During these difficult times, I never realized how much music has brought up my spirits and what type of music has helped me to achieve this.  This has been a wonderful and joyous realization and I owe it all to  my Green Army Men and the music I played many years ago.   

Friday Two Cents: Time for a Societal Reflection


This week I received an email saying that as an occasional teacher I can volunteer to work at  centres for children who may need help.  I would be getting paid for the work but after a few moments of thinking about going in to help, I refused.  You are probably saying I am lazy and I would rather stay home and receive government assistance than work.  But I have two very compelling arguments for saying no at this time.  The first is that I live with my senior parents and I am the one going out for them and making sure they are kept safe during this difficult time.  The other is I do not trust the system to support me or my family if I got sick from the Covid-19 virus for looking after the children of front line workers.  Why do you ask, well, let me spell it out for you.  

You see, I have been seeing a lot of news stories about how the front line workers are coping with the pandemic.  Stories about doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, truck drivers and the list goes on.  They all deserve praise for the tremendous jobs they are doing. The media seems to be fixated on these areas of the pandemic yet in all of these stories, not one was about the area of the workforce where people put their lives on the line every day looking after other peoples’ children.  They are also front line workers and yet no one cares about them.  I am talking about the early childhood educators (ECE) and teachers who work in the childcare centres where the other front line workers drop off their children. 

ECEs are dismissed and undervalued by many people in many fields and sometimes in the very education system itself.  They are expected to preform miracles while looking after other peoples’ children, all the while they are under paid and dare I say abused by many people in and out of the system.  Here is a recent example; in Toronto a childcare centre who took care of front line worker children was closed down.  Several staff members and children contracted Covid-19.  This week they are reopening after 14 days yet during that time not once did they inquire about the health of the staff.  The media and parents’ biggest concern was that where would the other children find care.  No-one, not the different level of governments, media or parents expressed concern for the staff, the ECEs/teachers.  Though knowing something about the ECE field I should not be surprised.  

Before I became a teacher I was an ECE for many years and I worked in several centres.  I felt undervalued be the parents, government and other teachers in the education system.  Yet I am not alone with these feelings.  Every ECE I talked to expressed the same sentiment.  If you do not believe me I will recount a story about what happened to a fellow ECE not one year ago.  

This ECE was supervising a group of students tobogganing when another student rammed her with the sled and she fell over and received a concussion.  She had to be off for a a while but during that time the centre gave her no lose of salary compensation, they blamed her for being off and tried to rush her back early.  In the end she had to return before she was fully  recovered simply to make ends meet.  Not once did the centre, government or parents help, all they cared about was who were they going to replace her with.  She was an expendable person.  As were those ECEs in this current childcare centre in Toronto.  

 A year ago and today, these childcare workers, are forgotten and undervalued.  No one cares about them, all people care about is their own self interests.  Now you know why I will not go in.  I would be putting my parents lives at risk because others want me to look after their children, their self interest.  I am my parents care giver and if I get sick, no one will help me or care about what happens to me or my parents.

Many things have happened recently because of the pandemic, most importantly the way we treat others.  The deplorable why we treat seniors in long term care homes and the underpaid workers they employ.  Well, the childcare field is no different.  There are regulations and government oversight but still the ECEs are underpaid and undervalued.  I for one have been reflecting on my life and the different aspects within it.  I am making changes hopefully for the better.  I think it is time for society to take a long hard look at how we treat people who look after our family members.  From elderly parents to our children. 

Remember people, these are YOUR flesh and blood and you are asking other people to look after them.  Yet you are willing to nickel and dime their care.  What does that say about us as a society. What does that say about you?   

Friday Two Cents: Daily Acts of Kindness


This past week I saw many news programs talking about mental health and how to stay positive during this pandemic.  For people with mental health issues just surviving is becoming more and more difficult.  Even I have found it difficult at times to stay positive.  I have found that setting a routine for myself helps and so far I have created a nice balance.  Yet there is one part of my day that I find I have made a greater effort to do, it is to do an act of kindness.  

I know that many are saying, “Yeah right, sure sure.”, but I found that that was a large part of my life before all this social distancing happened.  With all this time on our hands I have had the opportunity to reflect on many aspects of my life.  One of them is doing an act of kindness for others.  Perhaps it stems form being a teacher and helping students is a daily occurrence for me.  Not to mention I look forward to interacting and helping my colleagues whenever possible.   

It all started several years ago when I found an article of the effects of doing an act of kindness.  The Stanford University did a study with two groups over six weeks.  One did an act of kindness daily and the other did not.  The results showed that the group that did the act of kindness felt better about themselves than the other group.  Even doing small acts was enough to increase their mood.  The study found that they felt generous, in control and contributing to society.  As well, seeing the other person smile or say thank you made them feel like they made a difference.  

During this difficult time of social distancing and isolation, people’s mental health is suffering.  Perhaps not doing these simple acts of kindness has effected them because I know that it has effected me.  I enjoy helping others.  Not for the rewards that may come from it but because it feels good to help.  I do feel that I have made a difference in that person’s life even if it was something as simple as opening the door for them or helping them carry some books back to their classroom.  

Therefore I made it a point for myself to continue to do at least one act of kindness a day during this pandemic.  Text friends with something nice and send smily emojis (I sent a few links of my comics I made to help bring a smile).  Take out my neighbour’s garbage for them.   Smile at a casher and say, “Thank you and be safe.”  This simple saying has been an incredible reaction on people.  You can see and hear that they do appreciate what I said.  

So I will continue to champion my quest to do an act of kindness every day wherever I go.  I will then keep this quote in mind always …

‘Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.’ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

For if everyone did on act of kindness, imagine the world we can create.  

Comic Strips: Wearing A Mask


 Being 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 those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create the comic. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents.  Yet this month I cannot ignore the situation that is enveloping the world at this moment, the Covid-19 pandemic.  

However I am the eternal optimist, with a positive demeanour.  Add to this mix, a dry English whit and you can see how I can land into trouble on more than one occasion.  Today being May the 4th, in many circles they call it Star Wars day (may the force be with you), I thought of a situation where a bit of sarcasm and dare I say humour during these hard times may bring a laugh or two.  I will say nothing more about the comic this month and let you simply enjoy it.  

I hope you enjoy May’s comic The Craziest Things: Wearing A Mask; and May the 4th Be With You. 

Friday Two Cents: Just Give Up


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that parents should not worry about recreating school at home, that they should enjoy their time with their children during this stressful time.  Then the school boards setup classes and lessons into their homes through online learning.  A noble effort by all involved.  Yet from talking to educators and parents they are finding it difficult to motivate the students into doing the work.  Recently more articles have been written about how parents are feeling even more overwhelmed by the work load that the teachers have been assigning.  Some are starting to complain about the teachers giving too much work.  That the children are also feeling overwhelmed by the work. 

Parents, its 1-2 hours of work a day, if that, depending on you child’s age.  Yet if you want the true reason why they are not doing the work, it is because most of you actually did the work for them when school was in session.  Oh don’t give me that innocent look, I have seen project after project from students who could not have done it without the parents doing the work for them.  Now when you have your own work that needs to be done, you cannot do their work for them. Of course they aren’t motivated, you never let them try before and now they expect you to do the work for them again.  It’s called Learned Behaviour.   

I know what you all thought when I wrote about playing with your children and not recreating school at home, “No. He doesn’t know what he is talking about.”  Yeah I guess my decades of experience, not to mention my several degrees and diplomas mean that I do not know what I am talking about.  I get it. 

 However, you know what parents, some of you are listening to me.  There is a new trend that I have been reading in several recent articles.  Its call giving up.  Yes parents are saying ‘That’s it I have had it.’, to teaching their child at home and doing other things.  And this is not simply a Canadian thing.  Parents in Europe, the United States and Canada are throwing in the towel.  They are instead enjoying their children.  Interacting with them instead of confronting them.  They are doing what teachers have been saying and doing for years.  They are listening to their children and finding out what they like and then fostering that interest.  That is what educators have been doing in a formal setting for years and yet people put down teachers as just playing with kids.  

So parents join the trend, give up. Stop trying to recreate school at home.  Make home what it is suppose to be.  A safe environment for your children to be themselves.  Happy Playing.  

Friday Two Cents: Rotating Students For Class Instruction


With the Covid-19 pandemic changing every aspect of the world that people are use to, many are wondering, no chomping at the bit to know; when society can return to a sense of normalcy.  Sorry to bust your bubbles everyone but it will never return to what it was before the pandemic shutdown. And once it does, in some small way, it will take a long time.  

This week some provinces in Canada may be opening parts of the economy in stages.  Slow small steps as they were.  In the case of schools, I am sorry to say this parents but expect schools to be closed and this school year is over. 

Using Saskatchewan’s model; they do not have childcare centres opening until phase 3 and schools are up in the air and considered to be high risk.   This is a prudent response yet the need for childcare for employees of businesses would appear to be essential.  How can people go to work if they have no-one looking after their children.  In many cases parents see school as childcare, though they are discovering how important it is beyond simple childcare.  I believe that people are beginning to see the true value teachers and early childhood educators (ECE) have in our society and in, dare I say, the economy.  

However let us play devil’s advocate and say they will open schools soon in conjunction with the opening of businesses.  I believe, do to the risky nature of the close environment within schools, do to the classroom sizes models used in Ontario, there needs to be a gradual introduction of school to the students.  

The reality is that in the primary grades (1-3) the classroom size is 20 – 23 students to one teacher.  Kindergarten is totally different with one teacher for 15 students or one teacher and one ECE for a class up to 33 kindergarten students.  The older you get the worst the numbers are.  Junior – intermediate grades (4-8), I have been in classes of 35-39.  High school is another thing all together.  In truth how can anyone, let alone a teacher focusing on teaching, enforce social distancing in a room 5 metres by 5 metres.  

Therefore I suggest we use the manufacturing industry model to help.  The auto industry will be using a 24 hrs, three shift rotation to limit the number of people on the floor but people will be working and the production gets done.  Why not use something similar for schools.  

No I am not suggesting a 24hr school situation. I suggest that the students come in to school in shifts or blocks during school hours.  Here is how it would break down …

Block 1 – starts at 8am until 10am.  Teacher instruction for the first third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave at 10 am allowing the teacher to clean and sanitize desks and have a break. Total time 30 minutes.  

Block 2 – starts at 10:30am until 12:30pm.  Teacher instruction for the second third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave at 12:30pm allowing the teacher to clean and sanitize desks and have a break. Total time 30 minutes.  

Block 3 – starts at 1pm until 3pm.  Teacher instruction for the final third of the class attendance (alphabetical).  Students leave 3pm.

This breakdown allows for the teacher to instruct 7-10 students at a time allowing for social distancing.  Currently the teachers instructions are in math and literacy.  This can continue in a two hour block.  Music and gym teachers can teach all three blocks, once for each group for one hour out of the two during the block. This way each student will get gym and music instruction once a week and provides variety and gives the teacher prep time as well.  

I realize that this is not an ideal situation for many but this would provide the students valuable teacher instruction, which many students are asking for.  As well it allows the students to have a sense of routine while giving the parents piece-of-mind about their education.  

Barack Obama once said … 

A good compromise, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’

Barack Obama

The key is compromise.  The true test is if people are willing to compromise.

Friday Two Cents: The Power Of Play


Play, a simple enough word but what does it really mean?  There is the definition; 

Definition : Verb – engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose:   

Yet what does it mean, and more importantly what does it mean to a child, an adult.  Well for a child play is they way they explore the world and imagine different theories and solutions to countless scenarios they come across in their life.  The important thing to keep in mind is no matter how old the child gets the use of play is an invaluable tool they can use to help them.  

Intricate Kapla Tower

Many people, parents included, do not question the value of play in infants and toddlers.  Yet the older the child gets the more they see play as unproductive and focus more on academics.   They begin to doubt the effectiveness of play and focus on worksheets, instruction, workbooks and children sitting still doing work.  Something similar to what parents do in their own workplaces.  However play is work to a child.  

Play based learning is the cornerstone of the early years learning in kindergarten; and should be part of the learning environment throughout the students’ educational lifetime.  Thanks to the school closures due to the pandemic, parents are beginning to learn the value of the kindergarten teachers and early childhood educators (ECE) and how they implement the play based learning in the classroom.  

I am not advocating for the parents to try and recreate this in their homes, but there are strategies that parents can do to help encourage their children. Help them to make discoveries and solve problem.  An example is while washing the dishes ask your child to sort the dishes and cutlery, count how many of each.  Ask them to put them away.  This gives them a task and an opportunity to problem solve and learn about their own abilities. 

Encourage them to try new things and make choices.  

Pay attention to what engages your child and encourage that interest.  Ask questions and let them make their own discoveries, then offer comments about their discovery.  

Do not be afraid of letting them fail.  If they are interested in making a paper airplane don’t automatically make one for them.  Have them try to make one on their own and then guide them with online designs or in other books.  Then challenge them to try and come up with a design that could beat your plane.  Failure only encourages people to try harder to get it better the next time.  Remember what Thomas Edison said …

‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Thomas A. Edison

600th Post – Comic Strips: Online Learning


 Amazing! Who would have imagined when I started this blog back in November 2012, that I would be posting my 600th article.  It seems fitting that I am posting a piece of art that was inspired by the people and students around me (not literally, social distancing and all).   

Being 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 those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of daily life, including the classroom.  With all the schools closed because of the pandemic, the education system is adjusting to accommodate the students and teachers to continue the learning, but online.  There have been may challenges but everyone is getting use to the new reality.  

Yet in the end, kid will be kids.  Not matter how much technology you add and remove the human element out of the equation, students will be themselves.  

I hope you enjoy April’s The Craziest Things: Online Learning.

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