Friday Two Cents: Nutrition For Stress Relief


Feeling stressed out? Well you are not alone.  Many people feel stressed out at this time of the year.  I for one am not immune to the stress bug.  I realized this when I was away for a mini vacation in Niagara Falls.  I never realized how much stress I was under until I was sitting in a hot tub with the jets massaging me.  I felt the tightness in my shoulders, back and arms melt away.  It felt like a giant weight was off my shoulders for the first time in months.  For the rest of the vacation I was relaxed and enjoyed the rest, but once back home the stressful feelings returned.  

I then took it upon myself to reflect upon what is causing the stress.  It was the usual, work, family and others things.  I know that most of those things are just apart of life and I simply need to deal with them as I always do.  Yet I thought what else can I do to help me cope.  Then I though about some things in my diet.  No I am not talking about drinking more, I was thinking about foods that would help me to destress.  Many foods have natural stress relievers all I need to do is research and commit.  Discipline and determination.  

After some searching I found a few things that may help.  

Avocado and banana – these two fruits are both big in potassium, an inessential mineral to help keep you blood pressure low.   

Dark Chocolate – surprise, surprise. Research shows that dark chocolate may lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels.  It also has sugar that releases mood improving serotonin.  Just keep the indulgences to a minimum.

Leafy greens – These veggies contain magnesium which helps to balance the body’s stress hormone.  Spinach, Swiss chard are just a couple of examples.  

Fatty fish – High in Omega-3 fats, this healthy choice can be found in salmon, sardines and tuna and can help manage adrenaline and keep you calm and collected.  

Milk – An excellent source of Vitamin D, B vitamins, protein and calcium to relieve tense muscles.  

Yogurt – Made from milk this also has healthy probiotics. Gut health is important and the wrong gut bacteria might be contributing to your stress.  

Nuts – Almonds, pistachios, walnuts and seeds can boost your immune system and help you from getting sick.  Not to mention they are a good source of magnesium, zinc and other vitamins.

The great thing about these foods is that they are easy to incorporate into my diet.  I already eat these but I simply need to increase a few but another thing I need to make sure I do is take in enough vitamin D.  In the spring and summer I have no problem with this because I love going out for walks and outdoor activities.  Yet in the winter that changes and I take a vitamin D supplement.  I am the first to admit that I do not take my vitamins regularly but I guess I need to be more vigilant.  

Discipline, determination and of course time. 

Comic Strips: Complain, Complain, Complain


 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.  

Going back to work or school after winter break is difficult for many people.  Yet many look forward to getting back into a routine.  For some there are other reasons. 

I find it fascinating how parents underestimate their influence on their children.  Many think that playing with them, helping them with their homework or directly spending time with them is the only direct influence they have on them.  Yet it’s the times that they do not that might have the most influence.  Parents are always surprised at how much their children pick up when they think that they are not listening.  I have seen this in many classrooms.  You can tell right away when the students are talking about something in the real world, that there might be a parental influence there.  

I hope you enjoy January’s The Craziest Things: Complain, Complain, Complain.

Friday Two Cents: Being Positive For The New Year


‘Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.’ Zig Ziglar

With the start of the New Year many people make resolutions to improve themselves in some way.  Many plan to get physically fit, eat better or to do something they have always wanted to do.  I for one have never liked the idea of making resolutions. Mostly because I know I will not follow through on these empty wishes and when they do not work out I would get upset with myself.  I discovered that true change takes discipline, determination and most importantly time.  Several years ago I came to a realization that I needed to lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle.  It took discipline, determination and a lot of time to make them a reality and to be honest, I am still working on them.  For me its about being positive in what I do in life.

 I have had a lot of difficult issues, who hasn’t, but I know that if I stay positive it will both help me mentally but also physically.  One example is with my current situation of trying to become a permanent teacher instead of an occasional teacher (OT).  I have tried on a couple of occasions to advance my career by trying to get onto the long term occasional (LTO) list but I have not reached that next step towards my goal of becoming permanent.  I could simply fall into a melancholy about my situation and give up.  To be honest the thought has crossed my mind, yet they only linger for a moment and then I switch into my positive mode and think about the bright side.  I would say it is a matter of perspective.  

In a study luck was also linked to a matter of perspective.  Over eight years they studied the personality of consistently lucky and unlucky people.  They showed that the volunteers how to improve their luck by adjusting their attitudes and actions.  They found that it worked; 80% of the volunteers increased their happiness, confidence and success in just one month.   So what helped these people? Three things were identified and can help others.  

#1.  Have high hopes.  Less fortunate people counted on things going wrong and then giving up soon after.  The luckiest people believe that their future will be bright and as a result they try harder and don’t give up on their goals.  A matter of perspective.  

#2.  See the good in bad situations.  They found that people who see the glass as half-full usually do better in difficult times.  They see setbacks as temporary and believe that things will turnaround for the best.  Positive attitudes. 

#3. Trust your instincts.  Lucky people trust their gut, their intuition.  Most hunches happens in a split second. They come from information you receive from all around you and your brain some up with at the best result.  Scientists have proven that your heart rate quickens with positive hunches and slows with negative ones.  So pay attention to your gut feelings, they know.  

Which type of person are you?

So knowing this, how will it help me?  It tells me to stay positive and trust my gut.  I have always tried to stay positive with everything that happens in my life.  No matter what happens to me, I some how find the positive side of the situation.  The example of me not getting on the LTO list could have gone negative and I could have fallen into a depression.  Yet after a few hours to digest it I could not help but think, well at least I am still working as an OT.  And as an OT I can choose which schools I would like to work in and if I do not want to go in and work on my art, I do not have to take a job that day.  Looking at the positive side of things.  Seeing the glass as half-full.  

I love this quote that Willie Nelson once said …

‘Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.’ Willie Nelson

Hopefully in 2020 it might take some time but positive results will come my way. 

Friday Two Cents: Small Contributions Bring Great Rewards


I had the opportunity to be part of a class’s expiration into the print media.  The regular teacher was doing an activity with the students on creating their own newspaper.  They would be creating the articles for the paper and a parent would be putting it together for them.  Yet the teacher asked me to create something unique for the paper.  She asked me to create a comic that highlighted the creative process the students went though to create their articles.  

I was flattered and I agreed right away.  It would be a great opportunity for me to help the students’ learning and to create an original art piece for the students to enjoy.  I told the teacher I could create a different comic for each stage of the process with a little humour thrown in.  

Below are the four stages the students went through …

Students working on together to create their interview questions.

The students interviewing a person. 

The students on a computer typing out their article from the information thy gathered in the interview.  

Finally the students reading their finished articles int he newspaper that they helped to create.

Once I got the four stages I went about creating a little comic for each.  I decided to create two students that I would use for each stage.  I started thinking like the students and how they would feel and from what I have observed, how would they react to the assignment.  After that, the words and characters came to life on the paper.  The teacher and parent volunteer loved them and were grateful for the creative and funny addition to the students work.  As well as the students.  I told them I was flattered to be asked and to help the students in their expiration and learning, even in a small way.  

You can see the final comics below.  

That’s what I love about teaching.  No matter how small your contribution is to the students learning, the greater the positive rewards are for all involved.  Even for me.  

Friday Two Cents: The Teaching Iceberg


With the ongoing dispute between the government and teachers, I have been hearing more and more people weighing in on the current situation.  Yet I have heard many people are continuing to spout the usual negative view of teachers.  “Oh what do they have to complain about. They have paid vacations, summers off and they finish work at 3 pm.”  are some of the things I hear and not only from parents and the public. Some are from my own family.  I have said many times that if only they truly knew what teaching truly entails.  

It is almost like seeing an iceberg.  What you see on top of the water is very different than what you see underneath.  This metaphor can be used in teaching.  People only see the top or what is in front of them, they never see underneath or what is behind the senses.  

Well I put my visual and graphic arts skills to work and came up with this poster.  I found many things to go underneath and I will explain them but I realize that there may be more to add. 

What people do not see about teaching …

That we are teaching life skills – we teach strategies to help the students in their daily life.   Money, time, reading, writing and many people forget this one, social skills.  Working and living with others is skill like any other.   

30+ students in one room in middle school and kindergarten classrooms – if you have ever been in a room of more that 20 people all having their own individual conversations or ways of doing something, then you know that it is not the most productive environment.  

We can make mistakes and still be good teachers – everyone makes mistakes the only thing we can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again.  Hmm isn’t that what we expect from our students?

That we are counsellors, confidantes and nurses – I have my first aid certification and I cannot tell you how many times a day I have to use it.  Not to mention students telling me things that they only feel comfortable telling me and not anyone else.  

We are human – yet we are expected to be super human and infallible.  

We love our students like our own – I am guilty of this.  

The biased assessments that we are required to give.  I challenge ANY politician to take the EQAO tests. – enough said.

Sports, clubs and extracurricular activities are all volunteer time – every extracurricular activity be it sports or clubs is volunteer work by the teachers. We do not get paid to these activities.  It is not part of the job description.  We do them because we want to and we want the students to learn a new skill outside the classroom and ultimately have fun doing it.   

Our “paid vacation (Summer, winter and spring break)” is actually our 9 month salary spread over 12 months.  – We are not paid for the summer, winter or spring breaks.  Our salary is spread over the 12 months.  And we supply teachers, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid.  

PA days is actually Professional Development – students are not in school but teachers are.  We have those days to learn, to be up to date in our training and professional development to better help the students.  

Grading papers on our own time – if we do not grade the work at school many bring it home and do it.  

Poverty – many teachers live in poverty.  These are some of the population who are classified as the working poor.  

The struggles of our students, some are living nightmares – if you knew what some of these students (children) have to live with, it would make you cry.  

Public scrutiny – no matter what teachers do either good or bad the public will constantly judge them.  Sometimes for something as simple as their personality or what they wear.  

The accountability – no matter what you do you are accountable the students, parents, administration and government.  

Physical, verbal and emotional abuse from parents and students. – I have been and seen this everywhere I go.  Yet in other workplaces if this is happening there would be an intervention and it would stop immediately.  But teachers are expected to take it?

Helping students after school – who remembers going after school, during lunch or at recess and have the teacher help them with something.  

The hours of lesson planning – for every lesson plan it sometimes takes hours to set up and implement.  And many teachers do 4 – 6 lessons a day.  Imagine the extra time needed for all of them.  

Parent teacher conferences – we are accountable the parents and we always work around the parents schedule to met them.  

ILP meetings – Individual Lesson Plans – for students who are having difficulty, teachers create an ILP to help the students in their learning.  These take hours if not days to create and months to implement.  Imagine in a class or 20 you have 9 ILPs. I do not have to imagine because I have seen it with my own eyes.  

An iceberg.  Yes if only the public knew what it takes to be a teacher they may not complain so much.  If only.  

Friday Two Cents: Giving Some Joy


Well the Christmas season is upon us.  For me that means decorating for Christmas at my home but there is one thing that I love to set up outside my home. No I am not talking about my outdoor light, which I do anyways.  I am talking about my Christmas Town and Train.  Yet at a public school it is a bit harder to show my Christmas spirit because we have to be sensitive to other cultures and be politically correct.

I hand-made and painted my Christmas Town & Train. It took me over 10 years to collect, paint and create a 19th century Dickens style town. That’s right no cars only horse and buggy, a blacksmith, shops, many Victorian homes, a steam train and of course I have a castle. 

Yet for some reason this year I had no desire to put out the town.  I cannot put my finger on exactly why I do not feel like putting it out.  Perhaps it is a combination of several things.  The constant labour dispute happening with the government.  The fact that I am still looking for a permanent position while others complain while working a full time position. The rampant selfishness of the students and adults in the schools I go into.  Thinking only about doing things for themselves without thinking of others.  Everyday I see this and it puts a damper on everything and I feel like nothing is getting better.  So when it came to my Christmas Town & Train I thought, “Why should I put this out for people who only care for themselves.  What joy do I get out of it? Just a lot of hard work that no one appreciates.”  That thought stayed with me for a few moments and then I thought of the joy it gives people when they do see it and those thoughts go away.  

So this past week I did mount my Christmas Town and Train and of course the reactions of everyone who saw it was joyous.  The students love the train and town and many said that they look forward to it.  The same can be said of the adults.  And with those happy comments the feeling of melancholy was wiped away with some simple smiles on the side.  

I have to remember that the Christmas Town and Train is not about how I feel during this time of year but me giving some joy and happiness to others. 

This year I added some new touches to the town but they are not in these pictures. They are still being built and painted but I will let you see them soon.

Happy Christmas.   

Comic Strips: The Policy


 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 “Me Too” moment came out of the entertainment industry and has grown to span the globe.  Its effects can be felt in different fields and why not in the professional sports fields such as the National Hockey League. Students today are inundated with information on every media outlet there is on the ongoing developments.  Entertainment, politics and now sports.  How far will their minds push this movement and belief.    

I hope you enjoy December’s The Craziest Things: The Policy.

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