Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Being Prepared


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.  

This is my tenth year creating my comic strip and in that time I use many different themes to inspire me in creating it. Some include the differences in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I use situations that inspire me from the real world and I then simply create a scene.  Yet the majority of my inspiration comes from real life situations that I experience with the students.  

This month centres on the return to school after the summer break. Yes that amazing time when you have to go back to the salt mines, I mean classroom and begin a fresh new year of learning and discovery.  

However with the start of the school year comes the realization that you need to resupply and get ready for any contingency.  As a supply teacher I have seen many different things that even to this day surprise me. Therefore I thought of a funny way to express a rising trend in the school system.  Instead of telling you about it I’ll let you read the comic for yourself.  

I hope you enjoy September’s The Craziest Things: Being Prepared.

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Friday Two Cents: One Man Who Plays Many Parts


‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,’
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, William Shakespeare

For me this quote from Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like it rang true to me this week.   For many students, parents and teachers in Canada this week marks the beginning of the school year.  For me it is also the beginning of another year where I must suffer the lings and arrows of not having a permanent teaching position and be content with the occasional teaching I will be looking forward to.  I do enjoy supply teaching yet my heart yearns for the day when I can have my own class.  To go in everyday to a group of students and help them make sense of new and wondrous things.  To see their eyes light up when they have discovered something new.  To have they joy of hearing “Oh I get it!”  Or to see wonderful little people grow before my eyes. 

Yes it would be magnificent, yet I am comfortable and truly grateful to have the opportunity to work with the students even for a day or two as a supply teacher.  When I went into my first classes this week as a supply teacher that quote came to me. Especially the line ‘And one man in his time plays many parts,’(As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, William Shakespeare).  If you truly think about it, I am that one man who plays many parts.  In the past year alone I was asked to go into over 35 different classrooms and situations to help.  As an elementary teacher you have to teach many different subjects.  Language, math, science and social students yet I taught those and others including music, dance, drama, visual arts, physical education, health, kindergarten and library.  I have never shirked from a new task and it is quite fortunate that I have some experience in all these subjects.  

I actually relish the opportunity to teach a variety of subjects.  And so I will press on, ever vigilant in finding opportunities to teach eager young minds when ever the opportunity arises.  Always looking for the chance to have my own class.  But always grateful to go into another’s classroom and play what ever part they need me to be.  

For every day I am living those lines from that play.  For …

All the school’s a stage,
And all the teachers and students merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
Yet I am the one man who comes in, to play many parts.  

Playing many parts.

Friday Two Cents: Limits


The other day I was out enjoying my summer vacation on a patio when a familiar noise caught my attention.  It is of a child having a tantrum or fit in public.  Sadly, I say familiar because more and more I am seeing this type of behaviour in our society.  Yet this was not the worst of the offending behaviour.  The child was between the ages of 7 – 9 and they wanted something and was hurling abusive language at the parent.  This was a clear case of “parental abuse” and in public.

Parental abuse for those of you who do not know is defined by Cottrell (2001, p.3) as ‘any harmful act of a teenage child intended to gain power and control over a parent. The abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial.’ Yet I have seen studies that about 11% of abusers are under the age of 10 years of age.  What I witnessed was clearly parental abuse, by a minor and unfortunately these incidents are on the raise.  

From what I have read in studies experts say it may have something to do with the increase of rights to children in our society.  Even though the parent has the economic, social control in the relationship with the child, with increased children’s rights over the last twenty years, parents are feeling their parental rights are being removed (Holt, 2011). It would seem that with government regulations into children’s rights they appear to be entering into the family cultural make-up.  

Yet whatever the reasons by scholars and researchers, the fact is that there appears to be a shift in the decision making centre of the family. For many decades the decision-making was left to the parents.  What to eat, where to live or where to go on vacation.  But in resent years I have seen this authority move towards the children. 

I am not saying that children cannot make decisions for themselves but why are we having the members of the family with the least amount of world experience and knowledge make crucial decisions.  As an example; I have seen student’s lunches comprised of only treats such as cookies, chocolate bars and chips.  This had nothing to do with socio-economic or cultural issues.   I once asked the parents about what they put into their lunch and their overwhelming response is, “They won’t eat anything else.  But at least they are eating something.” I tried to reassure them by saying that if you put healthy things in their lunch everyday eventually they will eat it.  Children will not starve themselves; eventually they will eat out of necessity/instinct.  Yet they continue to do what the child wants and not what is best for them.  When did being the responsible adult go out of fashion? 

A child is simply that, a child. By definition; https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/child

– A young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority

– A person who has little or no experience in a particular area

I think the issue has to do with parents who have forgotten to give their children a healthy dose of vitamin N, “NO”. You want to stay up late after your bedtime?  No. You need 8 – 10 hrs. of sleep to be ready for the day’s activities. You want to stay in all day and play video games. No.   Go out and play with your friends face to face build human relationships. You want French fries and cake instead of the veggies and fruit.  No.  You need healthy foods as your body is growing not empty calories and sugar.  Oh by the way childhood obesity is on the rise, I wonder why? 

I understand that parents want to be friends with their children and give them everything they did not have but there has to be limits. Perhaps this is what happened to the child I saw the other day.  They have not learnt any limits or consequences.  As an adult we all must live with limits to help us function in society.  Many of us learnt this at an early age.  But we also know that the older you get the harder it is to change.  Why not teach limits to the children at an early age so that once they have accepted the limits they can then do what Albert Einstein once said …

‘Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.’ Albert Einstein

Otherwise we are sending them out into the world with an ACME Dynamite kite without knowing their limits or consequences.  And we know what happened to the coyote when he got his ACME kits. 

Cottrell, B. (2001). Parent abuse: The abuse of parents by their teenage children. Ottawa: Family Violence Prevention Unit, Health Canada.Cottrell, B. & Monk, P. (2004). Adolescent to parent abuse. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 1072–1095.

Holt, A. (2011). From troublesome to criminal: School exclusion as the ‘tipping point’ in parents’ narratives of crime. In C. Hayden & D. Martin (Eds.) Crime, anti-social behaviour and schools. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Friday Two Cents: Dear Parents, STOP!


Entitlement – noun [mass noun]

  1. The fact of having a right to something
  2. The amount to which a person has a right
  3. The belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment

I have heard this word uttered in many instances by different people. Parents talking about children both young and grown, teachers about students, and the media about every generation from Gen. X, Y, Boomer Echo and Millennials.  Of course the current cohort of students are just the latest generation to be labeled with this sense of entitlement, yet many believe that in their case the label might be accurate.  Many see students acting like they deserve everything in life without working for it.  Or that whatever they want they have the right to get everything they want simply because they want it.  

Examples of these students/children are popping up in schools, playgrounds, malls and in the media showing that this may be the truth for a lot of them.  As an occasional teacher I have observed student behaviour for many years and I have to say that I do agree with this assessment. Yet the bigger question is not why are today’s youth showing a sense of entitlement but where are they learning it? For this, all you have to do is look no further than the parents.  However many, if not a majority of parents would say that they are not to blame, that it’s someone else’s fault.  That it must be something they learnt from school.  Sorry to bust your bubble parents but your child will learn more from you than they will ever from a teacher.  They started learning their behaviour from the moment they were born and looked at their first teacher.  You.  

I want it because I want it.

  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 then 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.

I know that some are listening but I saw a fantastic letter written by a parent to parents about this very subject and I would like to share it with you.  

A letter by Lisa Collum

If one parent can get it and I know it will take some time but hopefully more will read this and wakeup to the fact that their child is the way they are because of them.  Then maybe we will see a difference in how the youth act.  Only time will tell.  

Friday Two Cents: A Moment Of Tranquility


‘I’m learning a lot about myself being alone, and doing what I’m doing.’ Chantal Kreviazuk

‘The best part about being alone is that you really don’t have to answer to anybody. You do what you want.’ Justin Timberlake

This week I went to see Captain Marvel in theatres on the first showing of the opening day.  But it’s not the movie that made me stop and think but the fact that I wanted to see it alone without any of my friends.  I enjoy my friends company but for some reason I wanted to see this movie and I did not think of asking anyone.  

At the theatre enjoying a movie

I ordered the ticket two weeks before the opening day.  I have seen movies on my own before so this experience was not new.  As well in the past I went to see other movies on their opening days such as Star Trek, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  Yet I felt a need to spend some quality time with my favourite person. Me. 

I was reflecting on this because many of my colleagues and friends said they would have liked to go too but wondered why I did not ask someone.  The only thing that came to mind was perhaps my work as an occasional teacher.  I love working with the students and I adore my colleagues but I felt the need to be alone with my thoughts to reflect on anything and everything in my life.  

Some people said that I might be becoming introverted, yet upon reflection I disagree.  Many introverted people feel uncomfortable in group situations yet I look forward to them. I like meeting people and interacting with them.  No, I think there is another explanation.  In the past month I have worked almost every day, in a host of classrooms and in a couple of schools.  A room teacher interacts with their class only, about 25 – 30 students.  I must have interacted with over 500 – 600 students in that span.  I believe taking some time to be alone with my thoughts is simply a case of sensory overload.    

Therefore I fully embraced my time before, during and after the movie.  I went out for a steak dinner, enjoyed the movie and after I went home to write and reflect on the events of the day.  For it felt like all the noise of the day had been wiped away to reveal thoughts of clarity and tranquility that I haven’t experienced in quite some time.  The best way to describe it is like I was on an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos.  

Sometimes we all need that island of tranquility.

‘In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you’. Deepak Chopra

Friday Two Cents: Youth Has No Age


You know that day once a year you get to sleep in late, eat cake and people cheer and say, “Happy Birthday!”  Well this year I don’t have that, well sort of.  You see my birthday comes once every four years.  I am a leap year baby. Mind you in my family we celebrate my birthday on another day, because the government changed my dates to make it easier.  Bureaucrats. So in reality I am as old as the students I work with.  Many of my colleagues would say that would explain a lot.  

Yet one thing many people kept asking me was how old am I really?  I would tell them my leap year age but everyone said, “No what is your real age?”  I found this very interesting.  You see growing up I never really cared about my age. Maybe its because in my family we don’t talk about how old you are, some European superstitions I think.  I found that the number never truly mattered but how old you feel.  In truth I feel younger than I am and to be honest I thing that many people use their age to hold themselves back from doing things.

However, I still have people insisting on asking me for a number, a label.  I refuse to be labeled.  From people looking at me as a “male” teacher working with students to moments when people say, “You’re an artist? But you play and love sports?”  How many of you have heard, “Oh act your age.”  What does that mean and why should I?  I have seen people who were in their 20s acting like they were seniors and seniors acting like they were in their 20s.  So who is right?  Is it perhaps our society’s obsession with “youth” that is at heart here? Or is it all a state of mind?

 Youth: definitions; (1) the period between childhood and adult age; (2) the state or quality of being young, especially as associated with vigour, freshness, or immaturity.

I like that, ‘the state or quality of being’.  It is so true.  I have read many papers about how powerful the mind is when it comes to our state of being. We can literally think ourselves sick or tired if we think or say that we are sick or tired.  Perhaps that is a big reason why I never say my age. When people ask I usually say, “I feel like I’m such and such”. I don’t want to limit myself to a number or a perception of what that age represents.  Pablo Picasso once said …

‘Youth has no age.’ Pablo Picasso

Wondrous Possibilites

Therefore, on February 28that 23:59:59, when it was about to turn into March 1stat 00:00:00, I took that moment to celebrate.  For in that moment, the world stood still and my thoughts explored the wondrous possibilities and endless joys, in that which I call; My Life.

Take your own moment, be amazed and keep this quote in the back of your mind …

‘Age does not matter, unless you are a bottle of wine’.  Paul Gauchi

Friday Two Cents: Caring And Fairness – Aspirations To Live By


This past week I witnessed something disturbing that has been on the increase in the past few years; student violence against teachers.   I think everyone is aware that since schools were created, there have been some acts of violence when it comes to student upon student.  Bullying, fighting and other offences were commonplace in the schoolyard, even in today’s schools.  However in recent years the incidents of student violence against teachers is on the rise. 

According to a survey by the provincial union for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, they found that 60% of teachers (both elementary and secondary) have personally experienced violence on the job.  The survey was published in June 2017.  Some of the highlights of the survey are …

  • 60 per cent of teachers personally experienced violence.
  • 70 per cent of teachers witnessed violence.
  • 26 per cent of teachers took time off due to school violence affecting their mental health.
  • 15 per cent of violent acts involve weapons, 76 per cent of which using classroom objects.
  • Almost 25 per cent say school administration discouraged them from filing reports or going to the police.

Pan F.;  (2017, June 29) Violence against Catholic school teachers frequent, says survey.CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/waterloo-region-catholic-school-violence-against-teachers-oecta-1.4184015 

I know many people may be aware of violence against a teacher in the older grades but I have witnessed such violence in the students as young as Kindergarten.  On several occasions I has seen students be so violent that the teacher had to remove the other children from the class while the student ransacks the classroom. Does anyone stop them?  No.  They continue until they are done.  Some even continue their rampage into the hall destroying artwork, turning over furniture and hitting other people they see.  Then to make matters worst, they may go after the teacher or ECE in the room with an object as a weapon. 

Student on a Rampage

Unfortunately that is not the end of the behaviour.  I saw that once the student had finished their rampage they are not required to clean up the mess.  No, the teacher cleans it up.  I look at this and say, “What are we teaching the student? You can destroy public property, hit people and getaway with it?”  The last time I checked that is call vandalism and hitting another person with out their consent is called assault.  Both are offences in the Criminal Code of Canada but for some reason these students are not charged or their parents held accountable for their actions.  

I don’t want to say, “When I was a student …” but unfortunately something has changed.  The reality is not simply that I witnessed and was a recipient of student violence against teachers, but there is documented proof that there is an increase. The truly scary thing is that people I knew, family and former friends would not stand for any type of violence against them in their workplace, yet they don’t think this is an issue when it comes to teachers.  “If you don’t like it, get a real job.” some would say.  

I am not sure what is the answer to this issue, all I know is that there is an issue and colleagues of mine and myself are feeling the strain and physical violence and abuse of these students. Even parents are not concerned with their children being violent to adults and other children.  Every parent is out there to look after their child and make sure that they get an education almost and any cost.  Yet they forget one vital lesson that is more important than math, reading or writing, they need to learn caring and fairness for others. How is it fair for one student to disrupt the lives of 20 others and the teacher who is trying to help/teach them to be the best person they can be.  

Society needs to remember the words that Colin Powell once said …  

‘Children need to get a high-quality education, avoid violence and the criminal-justice system, and gain jobs. But they deserve more. We want them to learn not only reading and math but fairness, caring, self-respect, family commitment, and civic duty.’ Colin Powell

More than simple words but aspirations to live by.  

Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association;(June, 2017). Workplace Violence and Harassment Against Teachers: Results of a comprehensive members survey. http://www.catholicteachers.ca/OECTA/media/pdfs/News/2017/OECTA%20Survey%20on%20Violence%20in%20Schools/na_schoolViolence_v3_june27_2017_reduced.pdf

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