Comic Strips: A Compassionate Benefactor


 

  With the Christmas season in full gear I thought I would throw in a bit of a Christmas twist to the latest comic strip, The Craziest Things.  Many ideas for the comic come from situations that I observe from the students and this month’s is no different.

  There is a wonderful student in the older grade five class who is full of opinions and has no compunction in offering her point of view, especially when it come to politics.  I told her on many occasions that I may disagree with some of her points of view but I love that she has a passion for these issues.  I told her to question everything and do her research so she can be well-informed when stating her opinions, but never stop questioning everything.

  The situation in the comic is a direct result from her conversions and passion for the subject matter.  I hope you enjoy December’s The Craziest Things: A Compassionate Benefactor.

CrazyComicsDec2018

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Friday Two Cents: Scotland Inspired Christmas Creation


With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 9th 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.

This year I added a new building or to be specific buildings and hill.  I had built a hill with a tunnel for my castle, but this year I wanted to add something new, something that I was inspired to create when I went on my trip to Scotland.  My trip to Scotland was filled with endless wonders, from the beauty of the Highlands to the wonderful interaction with the people.  With all those experiences, the one thing that suck out for me was the rich history created or forged by the Scottish people. I am talking about the endless castles and medieval ruins everywhere you go.  From Edinburgh Castle to Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland is replete with castles dotting the landscape.  My exploration of these historical sites inspired me to create a new castle and hill for my Christmas Town. 

New Castle/Citadel

Stage 1) I began by creating the basic shape of the hill and buildings using plastic cardboard.  I wanted a hill with a tunnel and a multi-layer hill design similar to the castles I saw in Scotland.  I also created the basic shape of the main buildings for the castle.  I wanted one large structure and a couple of smaller buildings again similar to castles I saw.   

 

Stage 2) I then got plaster of Paris and coated the entire hill and buildings. It did not look pretty but I knew that I would be adding more and moulding the plaster to what I had in mind. This stage was the most time-consuming and labour intensive.  I could not simply scrap or chisel away.  I had to be careful not to press too hard or the plaster would crack.   Instead I used coarse sand paper to help smooth and shape the hill and buildings.   The buildings required two layers of plaster to get the right look but the hill took several. 

 

Stage 3) With the building shape relatively done the hill required more attention.  I did not simply want to use plaster to create a wall around the compound, therefore I created one with grey pebbles.  I used the plaster as mortar and created a multilevel wall with battlements. I also moulded and carved the sides of the hill to resemble a cliff face making the entire structure look like a citadel.

 

Stage 4) I then painted the buildings and the citadel with a base white. Once dry I began painting the buildings and citadel the way I envisioned.  If you look closely you can see that I incorporated three stones from Scotland (near Eilean Donan Castle) into the citadel final design. 

 

Once done, I brought in the new citadel into the school as part of my Christmas town set.   Everyone loved the new citadel and castle.  Thank you Scotland for the inspiration.  

 

Friday Two Cents: Don’t Stress: Laugh And Have Fun


 

‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.’Charlie Chaplin

 

  Well this week I was able to put up the Christmas tree, string the outdoor lights and put out my nativity scene for the upcoming Christmas season. Yet one thing that always makes the season more enjoyable is the music of this wonderful holiday.  We in Toronto are quit fortunate to have a radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music all day long.  They started last weekend at the beginning of the Santa Claus parade and will continue until December 26, Boxing Day. 

  Christmas music has always been a big part of Christmas for me.  I think because I use to play in several bands and we were always playing the songs for about a month and half before Christmas to help us prepare for our concerts.  However, about 10 years ago I discovered some alternate Christmas songs that I have to listen to that makes my Christmas complete.

Stressed Out Christmas

  They are a collection of songs preformed by Bob Rivers and once I heard them, Christmas hasn’t been the same. For some reason these songs connected with me. Perhaps it’s because I find that with everyone is running around trying to get things done, buy stuff and it places a lot of stress on people when there shouldn’t be.  I think people need to not take things too seriously. Everywhere people are worried about getting the perfect gift, have the perfect dinner and the perfect tree. These songs help me to see that there is some fun and laughter in this season.  We do not need to take things too seriously; relax, enjoy life, laugh and have fun.   Those are some of the important parts of Christmas.
  Therefore in the spirit of bringing some laughter and fun back into Christmas, I have attached a YouTube video/song of my favourite alternate Christmas song by Bob Rivers.  The tone is from the song “Winter Wonderland” but the lyrics have been changed into a new song entitled, “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear”. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember to have a little laugh every once in a while. 

Friday Two Cents: Delayed Gratification A.K.A Learning Patience


 

  In the past two weeks many parents have been receiving progress report on their children and many have talked to me about some issues. Many parents have described their behaviour as lazy and not wanting to do the work. Why are so many students having problems focusing and doing the work? Where does the problem stem from?

  I have worked in many grades and I have seen the same issue in all ages. Wherever I go the students are given a task, be it math, literacy or art and they want an instant result. In other words; they want instant gratification.
  After telling this to the parents they look at me with surprise and I say look at our society. Today everything is instant gratification. If they want something all they need to do is to ask for it and they get it. Video games give an instant reward after, you want something you go online and order it. You want a picture of a cartoon, go online and search until you get it. Why draw it?
  I noticed this especially when I do art with the students. On numerous occasions students ask me to show them how to draw something and when I do, they are not happy because their drawing is not the same as mine. I constantly remind them that it took me many years to get to my level of artistic skill and they need to practice constantly to get better. Many do not accept this and destroy their creation or give up.

I want it now!! Instant gratification.

  The same can be said for other subjects and their seems to be a disconnect happening. The best way I can describe it is this way. They are at the foot of a hill. Their goal or task is on the top of the hill. They want the goal but don’t see the hill between them. It does not matter how you get to the top of the hill fast or slow but you still have to put the effort into getting to the top.  Many don’t want to because it would take a long time, in other words they want instant results or gratification.
  What we need to do is teach the students that delayed gratification has more rewards. Study after study have shown the benefits to children who have learned delayed gratification. One famous experiment by Stanford professor named Walter Mischel sheds light on this subject matter. In the experiment a child is placed in a room, sitting on a chair and a marshmallow is placed on the table in front of them. The researcher offered a deal to the child. He told the child that he was going to leave the room and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow. The choice was simple: get one treat right now or two treats later. He left the room for 15 minutes.
  The footage of the children waiting alone in the room was very entertaining to say the least. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time. The study was done in 1972 but the interesting thing is what comes later.
  The researchers followed the children and what they found was surprising. The children who were willing to delay gratification and wait to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life lessons. They continued to follow each child for more than 40 years and time and time again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever task they were engaged in.
  So what should people take from this information. The one thing many students and people in our society need to learn and develop is patience. If you put in the work, the rewards are much better after time. We as educators and parents need to help the students solve the problem without telling them the answer. They need to put in the effort. If they fail once in a while that’s ok. Many learn more from failures than constant success. This way they can develop patience and enjoy the success more.

What did Edison say when they said he failed 10,000 times to make a light bulb?

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

 

Something we all need to keep in mind.

Art Inspiration: Thank You Stan Lee


RIP Stan Lee and Thank you.

  With the world getting so crazy all I see on the news channels is nothing but negative news, therefore I have been making it a point not to watch the news reports. Yet with all the news I almost missed the sad news of a legend passing early last week, Stan Lee. Most people know who he was and I will not go into details about his life or the contributions he made to the comic and entertainment world, but for me his contribution helped and inspired me in so many ways.

  Growing up I hated to read. Yes me, a teacher hating to read. I was more comfortable with math, science, shop class and the arts including music, but reading was a chore for me. I never took to reading and the only thing that I did enjoy was comic books or graphic novels today. I would reading different stories including X-Men, GI Joe, Superman to only name a few. I loved reading them because when I did, it did not feel like a chore. Eventually I did move on to novels and other reading material but these stories gave flight to my imagination and inspired me to create.  

  Today I enjoy drawing comic characters and I also created my own comic books. But most import is that I love to pass on my passion for drawing and reading comics to the students. I think that is my greatest joy and the one thing I have to say thank you to Stan Lee for. Without his inspiration I couldn’t inspire others.

  I drew a few characters inspired by Stan Lee’s stories and I hope they will in turn inspire others.

Thank you Stan Lee.

Friday Two Cents: Start The Ripples Of Caring


 

‘From caring comes courage.’ Lao Tzu

  This week I had the privilege to work with several classes, all with wonderful students. Yet there were a couple of classrooms where a minority of students constantly keep me on my toes. This was not the first time I have worked with these students and sadly I have seen their type of behaviour in different schools as well. The behaviour I am talking about is caring for others or to be more specific, a lack of caring about others. Their behaviour towards being first in line, that their needs supersedes that of others, the attitude that “I’ll do what ever I want because that’s what I want to do and everyone else is not important”.

  Unfortunately I have seen a steady increase of this behaviour. Not just in the older students but starting as young as kindergarten and continuing into the older grades. I thought that this was a generational thing but after looking at some research I believe that it is, in part a generation issue; the generation being the parents of the students.
  Studies from the Making Caring Common Project in Harvard have shown that about 78% of middle and high school students choose ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ over caring for others.   They also found out that three times of them would see their peers agreeing with this statement, “I’m prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
  Yet where does all this thinking begin? Where did it start? Well for that answer they asked the students and the results are pretty clear. They asked the students how they viewed their parents’ child-raising priorities when it came to achievement, happiness or caring for others. The results where: 81% said achievement or happiness and 19% viewed caring is their parents top priority.   The study continued by asking teachers, administrators and other school staff (school adults), who work with the students, the same questions about the parents’ priorities for the children. They found that about 80% of the school adults viewed parents as prioritising achievement or happiness over caring for others.
  So the research says that parents are sending messages to their children that ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ is more important than caring for others. Yet when asked they do not see it and are surprised at the results.
  I have found it baffling that parents under value their contribution to the education and moulding of their children. Many believe that their child will learn more from a teacher than from them. I have told many parents that my contribution to their child’s learning is a musicale one in the larger scheme of things. Many don’t believe me but I explain it this way.
  ‘Your child will be in school for about 14 years (elementary, middle and high school). They are with me for one out of those 14 years. It’s not even a full year, 10 months. Furthermore its only five days a week, for about 6 hours a day. That’s assuming they start when they are four years old. Yet for the first four years of their life and the remaining 14 years, who are they with all the time? So I ask you, who do you think has a greater influence in teaching your child, me or you?’ Their stunned silence speaks volumes.
  When I read all this research, add in my own experience and then add what I see in the world today, I should say, “Well if they don’t care, I won’t care either.” But something inside me says “No!” I do care about others. That is probably why this affects me so much. I care about everyone in the class. My contribution maybe limited to only a few hours a day, but when they do see me I will try to be that beacon that speaks to them that caring about others is my priority. Perhaps that will inspire some to care about others too. As a famous saying goes;

“Look at the ripples. So small a first then look how they grow. But someone has to start them.”

Friday Two Cents: I Spoke From My Heart, A Place Of Honour


 

  This coming Sunday is an extremely important day for me, and many people around Canada. On November 11th we commemorate the sacrifice tens of thousands of men and women did to preserve our way of life. In other words, our freedom to choose how to live our own lives. This day has always been a day to reflect and honour those who paid the ultimate cost for that freedom.

  This past week many schools have been getting ready to also commemorate this day. Many ask the students to create reflections, images and art to this effect. In one class they were tasked to create something similar, yet something happened that made my blood boil and took all my strength to compose myself.
  I was supplying in a junior class with students’ ages 9 – 11, they were asked to create a poster reflecting on their up coming Remembrance Day assembly. I decided to show them a YouTube video I had created for another Remembrance Day assembly. During the video a student was laughing at the images of the soldiers and other students made it a point to tell him to stop and told me after it was over. I had observed this and decided not to react but thought to turn it into a lesson.

Remembrance Day Poppy

  After the video had played I ask them what feelings did they feel after viewing it. Many said sadness, pride and respect. I said their poster also needs to bring out those emotions. The person was still laughing and many told that individual to stop, but I said. “No they can laugh. You see those soldiers died so that people like them can laugh and do what they want. Even if it makes you upset, we in Canada must respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions.” I looking right at them and continued, “Remember though, that in your home country, you are not allowed to express yourself that way. That you would not be allowed to even practice your faith like you are here in Canada. Remember that because of these soldiers, you can come to this country and believe what you want, go to school where you want and even say what you want. Where you come from you would not be.” After that little speech the students went to work on their posters and many were very well done. Even the one individual also worked on it. But it took all my patience and self-control to say those things and compose myself.
  I am not sure if that individual understood what I said or if they care. What I do know is that I spoke from my heart, from a place where honour and loyalty has a strong presence. I believe in the words I spoke and ever day I do try to live a life that honours their sacrifice. That is why I created the video in the first place. I wanted to create a tool to help honour them and hopefully inspire others to take up the torch and hold it high. For I will not break faith with those who die, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.

doug --- off the record

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