Friday Two Cents: The Simplicity Of Play


 

This past week I return home after a wonderful time with friends up north in the Penetanguishene/Midland area. We did a lot of different activities in the area including swimming, sight-seeing and taking in some local festivities. One of the highlights of my time there was going to Discovery Harbour. It is a British naval base that traces it roots back to the War of 1812. The base was established around 1828 and was a presence to defend Canada until the 1850’s.

We were able to go twice to the site during this trip. Once for a Ghost Tour and the other for a Pirate Day. The Ghost Tour was very interesting and it did give me the shivers at times. I think I even saw a sign a ghost who did not want us in his cabin, spooky. The other time was a fun-filled day where pirates invaded the site. Pirate Day at Discovery Harbour was mostly geared towards the kids but I took the opportunity to have a little fun and live a little. I decided to bring up my pirate costume and walk around the site as Captain Jack Sparrow.
I dressed up and went to the site in full costume. To say I got a lot of looks is an understatement. When the kids saw me their eyes opened up and even their parents smiled. The staff was all dressed in pirate gear and they too smiled and encouraged me to play the pirate for the day. I walked around the site learning a few things about the history of Discovery Harbour, stopping once in a while to talk to people and some even asked if they could take a picture with me. I said sure and so I posed for pictures and I got to meet and talk to a lot of people. All in all it was fun to play pirate and learn some facts about the site. Yet I did notice something that made me pause for a moment or two.
While I was walking around as a pirate talking to people, I noticed some people giving me a few, what I would call; nasty looks. It was not as if I was being obnoxious or over selling the pirate theme, in contrast I was simply walking for one building to the next with my friends. Maybe, it was because I was an adult dressed as a pirate without kids. There were some other adults dressed up but they had kids with them. Perhaps they could not understand why a grown man would dress up and pretend or in essence play pirate.
I am not sure why but if that was the case all I can say is that I feel sorry for those people. I am very comfortable being myself and being very connected with my inner child. If those people cannot understand that we all need to play, then I all I can do is pity them and I’ll give them a couple of quotes / life lessons to help them. One from a famous philosopher, the other from a famous captain …

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

‘The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.’ Captain Kirk

Two life lessons I always take to heart. Maybe we all should too.

 

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Friday Two Cents: What A Piece Of Work Is A Man


 

This past week I have been enjoying my vacation time by indulging in some of my favourite pasts. Bike rides and walks along the lakeshore, reading, writing, drawing and painting. During these long periods of activity, my mind has been free to wander and think of endless possibilities and things that are right in front of me.

The best way to make any sense of what I have been thinking can be best said from a quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet …

Hamlet
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god!

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2.

 

Hamlet said this little speech in irony. Perhaps Hamlet intended to fend off the questions or nosy inquiries from the kings’ spies, yet he finds nothing too impressive about man (humanity). Yet what Hamlet says in irony I take as my conviction.
During my activities I have had time to reflect on what we (humans) have done with our time on this planet. For I have seen the evils of what man can and have done to their fellow-man, yet I have seen many examples that man has the capacity to do good as well. Art has given me the means to look into the soul of humanity and try to understand what makes us tick. Engaging in my own art projects helps me to understand the soul of humanity and our desire to understand the world around us. What other creature on this planet can create something as breathtaking as the Mona Lisa or apiece of street art I see in downtown Toronto. All of this is an expression of us trying to understand why we are here. Art has developed and grown as our civilization has grown. Humanity’s journey of self-discovery and understanding can be reflected in its many forms of artwork. In many ways our art is a window into our very soul.
My own exploration and experiences in art has given me some insights, yet I am far from finding the answers to these questions; but I know the journey is worth it. Lao Tzu once said …

 

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ Lao Tzu

I would add to this …
“Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.” Paul Gauchi
  

Here’s to the journey into the soul of humanity and my own.

Friday Two Cents: Keeping A Routine And Keeping Healthy


With the summer upon us and I am, like the children, off for the summer enjoying a well-deserved rest. A time to recharge my batteries and get things done that I put-off during the year. I have a list of things I need to get done around the house yet I decided to make sure I looked after my own health at the same time.

Working as a teacher is no an easy job. It is a mental and physical job that many people think is easy to do. ‘You’re playing with kids. How hard is that?’ Trust me it’s not easy. Put aside the fact that teachers must program the daily lessons, write reports and supervise the students, it is also very physical. Everyday I would look at my step counter and on average I would do between 14 000 and 15 000 steps daily. That level of activity is taxing and does take its toll after a time. Yet I must admit once you get use to it you miss it after a while.
During the summer months I have taken it upon myself to keep healthy and physically fit. I big part is maintaining my diet. I have a routine that did not change over this past three weeks of the summer and it has helped.  I try to keep to the same routine but I also know that I am not perfect and I allow myself to occasional indulgence but in moderation.
Eating is only part of it; I also go to bed and wake up at the same time. I exercise and keep physically fit but this week I have taken up something that I haven’t done for about 5 years; ride my bike. I have a stationary bike at home that I use often but going out seemed such an inconvenience. I use to ride almost everywhere when I was younger, yet when I got my licence I rode less and less. This year though I thought why not start again.
I got my bike ready and the day after I finished my Mathematics course I went down to the lakeshore and rode along the bike path. It was an exhilarating experience and it is true what they say, once you have ridden a bike you never forget. I rode along the same path I did years ago everything about riding came back. The breeze whipping across my face; the sensation of my legs as I pump them up and down and the sense of accomplishment after riding the set amount of kilometers I set for myself.
I know this is only the beginning and I am being realistic. I know not to push myself too much but I intend to continue for at least the summer. After that who knows. Trying to keep healthy is a lot of work but as I have discovered, its fun too.

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Friday Two Cents: I Enjoy Mathematics


 

This past week was the first week of my summer vacation, yet instead of going away somewhere or doing some work around the house I decided to improve my teaching knowledge. I decided to take an additional qualification course (AQ) in mathematics for the primary and junior grades. Many people asked my why I would take such a course because I am more of creative person who enjoys art. Other said “YUCH!! I hate math.” or “I was never good at math.” Many people had a negative experience with math in school.

Yet truth be-told, I have always enjoyed math since an early age and it seems to come natural to me. Yet I have discovered that knowing how to do math and teaching it is a lot different. I wanted to increase my knowledge in the subject matter to better help the students understand math and perhaps enjoy it as I have.

What are numbers?

The course has been very eye-opening yet there was one notion that made me pause in refection. As part of the course I read a chapter from a book entitled, ‘Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics’. In it you are made to try to understand what are numbers. The professor then posed a question… ‘What statement best captures your understanding of “number”?’ – Number are ideas, nouns, adjectives or something else?
When I was first asked the question my first thought was that numbers were quantitative / measurable units. Yet after the first lecture and reading the chapter I am starting to see that numbers are a lot more that I gave them credit.
Numbers are what we make them to be. They can be apples, cars, money, people or even time. Without the context of what the number is, it is just a digit, a visual image representing something but we are not sure what. When you say 5 what is five? Not until you say five cars does the number have value. I never thought of this concept but it makes sense.
Numbers are ideas, nouns and adjectives. They are all of these and more. It puts into perspective the idea of giving the students equations. The concept of 1+2=3 is good if you are doing high-end mathematics, yet we are talking about students in the primary and junior grades, children from ages 3 – 12 years.
This reminds me of when I took calculus in high school and university. It is all about numbers being part of an equation that needed to be solved. Yet I remember using many similar equations in physics when doing formulas. We knew that each variable represented something (f = force) and we would plug-in numbers to calculate the values. Even back then there was value to the numbers like mass (m) or speed (m/s) yet I never though of that when I would be teaching math.
This has definitely changed my thinking around how I present and instruct math. But it has also helped me to know what I can say to parents about, what people are calling the new way of teaching math. I can help them understand that numbers are ideas, nouns and adjectives. That the numbers are only part of the lesson, that we are helping the students to connect the number to their own life and thereby allow them to carry on this knowledge into their every day life.
This has only been a beginning of my journey to understand and help others understand math. There is a lot more to learn and with time, practice and perseverance I know I can improve my knowledge of how to teach math to the students. Perhaps even change society’s negative preconception on math.

Friday Two Cents: Here’s To The Next Chapter


 

In Canada, this was the last week of school for many students. I have worked in a few schools during the last week of school but never as a teacher of a class. To say it was exhausting would not accurately describe the feeling. Physically yes, I had to do a lot of cleaning and get the room ready for the next teacher for the following year, yet there was a bit more this year.

Perhaps it was because I am the teacher and not the early childhood educator (ECE). There was more responsibility for both programing and duties as a teacher. Duties such as getting the report cards out, doing the final bit of paper work, talking to parents on different issues on top of getting things organized like cleaning toys and preparing supplies. Yet I also think that this coming school year has a big change in store for me.
At the school I usually work in I started as an ECE in the after school program. During my time, I worked hard in school and received my undergrad and bachelors of Education within three years while I worked at the program. At the same time I worked as a supply ECE and recently I finally got onto the occasional teaching list.   A lot of changes over the past five years. Yet this year I decided to leave the after-school program and focus all my efforts on my teaching career. I have been working there for about 10 years and I know the staff very well and consider them friends. And for the first time in a while the future seems less and more clear at the same time.
I decided this course of action some time ago and I know it is the right move for me, however today when I handed in my pass card and key it hit me, this is it. No more after-school, no more drawing club, newsletter, Christmas play, baseball program, no more clubs and programs I began. They are now the responsibility of others. Even some of the students asked me, “If you are going who will teach me baseball?” I said with a smile, “Don’t worry.  There will be another teacher to teach you that.” And as I said it I began to believe it too. Yes I began these programs but they are not mine, they belong to the students who enjoy them and another teacher can come by and do them and improve them.
I think that is what truly made me feel exhausted on the last day of my time there. Knowing that there will be some big changes for me in the coming school year. Yet when I look forward into the fog of uncertainty, a light from a lighthouse beams through the fog reminding me that there is a glimmer of the positive. Yes I am leaving but I am still an occasional teacher and I can go back to that school to supply teach. 
I have heard a recurring theme these past few weeks, “Here’s to the next chapter.” both from the students graduating and from other teachers retiring. This is not an end but the beginning of a new and exciting chapter of their lives.   Yes, this is just a new and exciting chapter in my life too. I have to think positive and just keep “my eye on the ball”, go for my goal. For the future may be uncertain, but it is filled with wondrous possibilities.

 

Here’s To The Next Chapter

 

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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: To Boldly Go


 

This past week has been a whirlwind of a week to say the least. First off I finally made it onto the Occasional Teaching (OT) roster of a school board. I say finally because after 2 years in university, one year of teacher’s college and 2 years of supplying as an early childhood educator (RECE), I can say that I am working in my chosen career.

First Day as an occasional teacher (OT)

As great as that sounds it is only the beginning. I went in on Monday to the school I usually go to for my first day as a supply teacher. The experience was amazing! I was in a grade 5 class where all of the students basically knew me and I knew about half of them since kindergarten. I then covered a few other classes where I had the same experience.
At the end of the day I received some good news for me. A teacher had gone on sick leave and they asked me if I could cover the class until the end of the school year. I jumped at the chance and the best part  was that it would be in a kindergarten class that I have already worked in as a RECE!!
So the following day I started in the kindergarten class as their teacher until the end of the year.  The experience was a lot different then when I was a RECE. I have been in the several classes as a RECE for several weeks and months at a time, yet being a teacher in a class is totally different. They say the weight of responsibility weighs heavy on those in authority and I can now say from experience, that it does.
Before, I was helping the teacher, something very similar to a “sergeant”. Someone in authority and respected, but subordinate to someone else.   Now as the teacher I am like the officer, the “captain” of the ship. You still have someone to report to, the principal (Admiral), but you chart your own course, steering the ship in a direction towards a destination for learning. The crew (the students) are your responsibility, you must keep them safe and ensure that they benefit for your leadership.
This week of being the “Captain” in the class was amazing. I had the benefit of the programming of the previous teacher and then I threw in my own spin in teaching the material. Next week I bring in my own plan of action, so to speak. This coming week I am the captain of the S.S. Kindergarten. Their on going journey, into a new and exciting world of learning and exploration. To boldly go where we have not gone before.

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