Friday Two Cents: Valentine’s Day Kindness

This past week many students had a lot of exciting things happening at school. Monday was the 100thday of the school year; Tuesday we had a rare snow day and the schools were closed; Wednesday report cards went home and Thursday was Valentine’s Day.   Yet I saw something during Valentine’s Day that I thought is worthy of mentioning.  In a school I work at, the kindergarten teachers decided to do something different and dare I say daring.  Instead of giving parents a class list for the students and parents to make Valentine’s cards, they helped the students to each make a card and have everyone in the class sign it.  

When I heard of this idea I loved it right away.  I know that it would be a lot of work for the teachers to organize but I thought this would teach the students so many things in the process. First off it is Eco (environmentally) friendly. How many of us would go out and buy or create cards for February 14thto simply throw them into the trash on the 15th. Second it is in line with the idea of inclusion in the classroom.  The idea is that everyone gets a card but we have all seen that not everyone gets one and that one child feels terrible when they do not get a card.  Or worse specific children are targeted to not get any cards because someone else tells everyone to not give them one.  Along that same idea not everyone can afford to purchase cards and if they make homemade ones they are ostracised because of it.  

Valentine’s Day Card

I was so impressed with the idea I suggested it to other teachers and parents at other schools. Yet their response was less than enthusiastic. Many flat out rejected the idea. They said that many of the parents are into doing the cards and they go all out with cards, candy and other stuff. In fact many students are not writing names or messages on the cards but the parents are.   

I found this interesting and a bit disturbing.  Yet from what I have observed in our society I should not be surprised.  There are a lot of people interested in only showing off and making themselves feel good at another’s expense.  These cards would alleviate all these problems and self-centredness for many people. In short it gives a small act of kindness to everyone in the class and I know that even a small act of kindness can make you feel amazing.    

Inspiring Words from my Colleagues

When I was in teacher’s college many of us, myself included, was stressed out and at our breaking point.  Yet during a class a colleague handed out pieces of paper each with our names on it. The sheets would go around the room and everyone would write one thing, a phrase or one word about what they like about that person or what best describes that person. After we each got the paper and I can tell you once I say all the comments the feeling was amazing.  When I heard of these valentine’s cards, it reminded me of that activity and how I felt receiving it in the end.  Yes the cards involve simply writing your name, but your classmates still took the time to sign your card.  To a child that simple act of kindness, signing their card, would go a long way to making them feel amazing.  

In the end isn’t that’s what Valentine’s Day all about.  Sharing love and kindness with others.  I am reminded of the famous quote by Aesop …

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop

My deepest thanks and highest praise to my colleagues in the kindergarten program for implementing this wonderful Valentine’s Day act of kindness.  


Friday Two Cents: Playing Increases Productivity


    This past week I was able to work in a school as a physical education (PE) teacher. This was not the first time I supplied as a PE teacher and every time I do a quote “Leaders, lead by example.” comes to mind. I always show the students how to play the game or activity we are doing in gym, yet some how I always love participating with the students. Most of the time I referee the activity or participate if one side is winning by too much but I find that I do enjoy joining the students in the activity. And by the looks on their faces I can see that they too enjoy it when I participate with them. I sometimes get other teachers coming by and they usually smile when they see me playing with the students. Some say that I am the biggest kid in the school and I respond with a smile saying, “You have to lead by example.”

    Mind you I am a bit tired at the end of the day, who wouldn’t after teaching 7 classes in PE. Yet it’s like a good tired, like I accomplished something. Sometimes I even have extra energy to pursue my own passions such as art. I thought nothing of this until I read an article about “playing increases productivity.” The article mentioned that many companies such as Twitter and YouTube encourage their employees to take small breaks in the day to play. I have always been a big proponent that play is a great way to learn. Even the education system has endorsed this philosophy with play-based learning in the full day kindergarten program. There have been articles suggesting that play-based learning should be increased to grade 3 but we will have to wait and see about that idea.
    However, in the mean time I will continue to find every opportunity I can to play. Be it solitaire, darts, video games or just playing with my paints, pencils and simply creating what ever comes to me.
    I remember a wonderful poem written by an unknown author and it is posted at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans entitled “Play”.


Words that I truly believe and live by.


A verse by an unknown author at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans

Friday Two Cents: My First Day Of School


‘There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.’ George Sand


In many parts of Canada and around the world this week marks the return of students and teachers back to school. As a supply teacher, my services are not usually needed until at least the second week of the school year. However, a school that I supply in a lot called and asked if I can come in for a last-minute job to cover some one going on an appointment.   Of course I was happy to go in.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

I am familiar with the school, the staff and most of the students therefore it was a joy to go in. I arrived, signed in and talked to a few staff and then got ready for the day. The class I was in was a kindergarten class with a few students I knew from last year but more than half were new students. The day began and after I introduced George I think from that moment, I had won them over. If you do not know, George is my puppet and he comes in with me to the primary classes and is a big hit with the students. He sings songs with them, he brings in books for me to read and he is also a bit silly (just like the puppet master), so they enjoy whenever he comes out. Overall the class was great and it was an enjoyable experience.
However, the response I got from the older students in the school was something I did not expect. It was after lunch and I was walking back to the class as the students were coming in from lunch recess. They saw me and said hello and I returned the greeting, however after saying hi, I got swarmed by a sea of little people (the students). They hugged me and were saying things like, “You’re back!” and “Are you in our class?” Many others started telling me about what they did over the summer break. I was over joyed and a bit over whelmed to get such a response from them.
I have been working with children for many years; both as an early childhood educator and as a teacher and I have always found it amazing how the students greet me. They always seem to be happy when they see me. I thing that they know that I love working with them. Some people say it’s because I’m a big kid like them.   But whatever the reason, all I know is that the feeling, is mutual.



‘Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.’ Eleanor Roosevelt


Friday Two Cents: Reflections On My Old School And Being Bullied

This past week during my additional qualification (AQ) course, I was inspired to write about an experience that I have talked about but never written down. As many of you may know, I am an occasional / supply teacher and have been for some time. During a discussion topic I told them about an interesting experience I had a couple of years ago that helped me with exorcising some old bad memories and feelings. Some told me I should write and post it. So I am doing it.   Hopefully my experience may inspire others into action or help them in some way.

It all happened when I went into a school for a supply job, yet this was no ordinary school. This was the first school I went to when I was a student. In fact my supply job was in the very classroom where I attended kindergarten. To say that I had a feeling of awe once I entered the class would be an understatement. People asked me how it felt; the first thing I noticed was that everything was smaller. Ha. Ha, but it was true. I remembered the cubby area where I hung my jacket, the tables where I drew, painted or counted to 100. It all felt surreal because of the other feelings I had about this school. You see I was bullied at this school and picked on for about four years after kindergarten.
It started at the end of grade 1 and did not stop until I finally stood up to the bullies, in a matter of speaking. I was bullied not by one person but by a group of boys. It was not just Caucasian boys but a couple of African-Canadian boys too. The only thing I could think of why they did this was because I was different from them. I was European, 1st generation Maltese and these boys were very Canadian, maybe 3rd or 4th generation. I eat different food then them, I played different games and I spoke a different language besides English.
Everyday it got worse. I even got into fights. I would never start a fight but I always finished it. My parents told me to never start the fight but make sure you finished it. Yet at the time I was always being punished for the offence and my mother had to be called into the school on several occasions. I never saw the other boys or their parents and my mother told me that they called her because I threw the second and final punch and the other boys were always in worse condition than me.
Yet one day a boy pushed my head into the metal drinking fountain and I broke my front permanent tooth. I had blood in my mouth and in the fountain and the other boy just laughed. I ran to the teacher to tell her what happened and she said “So what. You probably deserved it.” I got so angry because the boy was laughing and I knew he would not get into trouble so I went up to him and punched him in the face several times until his nose was bleeding. Of course I got in trouble and went to the principal’s office to wait for my mother. I told him about what happened and still I got in trouble.
Well my mother came and heard the stories and was livid. But there was nothing she could do. The neighbour that looked after me would only take me to that school and I was only 7 and I couldn’t go to another school because it was too far away. So I had to put up with it for a couple more years.   So the bullying continued and the fights continued. I was even placed in a special class because my reading level was a full grade below.
When I reached 10 years my mom had enough and I was able to walk to the catholic school down the street by myself for grade 5. Once at the new school I made new friends and when my mom told them about the special classes they tested me and told her that there was no problem with my reading that I was about grade level and by grade 8, I would be a grade above.
However that first year at catholic school was hard, not because of the new school but because of the bullies from the old one. They lived in my neighbourhood and they continued to bully me until I finally stood up to them.

Mad Max Bike

My dad was working at a steel mill at the time and sometimes he would bring metal bits home. I used some to Mad Max my bike with spikes and even a spear. Today I would be arrested but back then I feared for my life and I wanted some protection. One day in June, after swimming lessons I was riding home when the same five boys came after me on their bikes. They pushed, punched and threatened me with violence and I feared for my life. So I pulled out the spear and stuck it in their rear tire spooks and they all went flying. I was not unhurt either; I had fallen too and had scrapes on my elbows, knees, right thigh and my forehead. I got up and rode as fast as I could home. My folks saw me and were sacred and angry beyond belief. The worst part was that the five boys came to my house after and there were ten of them now and asked, “Can Paul come out and play?” My parents said if they came near me or the house again, they would call the police and told them to get lost before they do it right now. They left but the next day I went to Malta for the summer and stayed with my grandparents. When I got back in September, those bullies never came after me again. Now you know why I truly hated that school.
I turned the page of that chapter in my life and years later I did see those boys all grown up. I found out from mutual friends that their lives were vastly different from mine. Many were in unhappy work and home situations, one didn’t finish high school and none went into higher education. I found some comfort knowing that I worked hard and went to university and I am happy with my chosen field and my life. Yet that school still was a symbol of pain and hatred. It took many years for me to come to terms about that place but it all came to an end when I supplied there. I was able to let go of the bad memories and then begin to forge new positive ones. The students in the school were very nice and the same for the staff. In fact I went back several times as jobs came available.
When I reflect back, it took some time to heal the wounds of the past but not until I let go of what happened and be grateful for what I had accomplished, did those scares begin to disappear. Those experiences will always be with me, however they do not define me. I choose to look to the positive experiences once I left that school. I went to another school with great friends and experiences that continued into high school, college, university and my professional life. I discovered music and art, which became a large part of my life to this day. I broadened my views and experiences to take on different challenges, to a point where I have been called a Jack-of-all-trades. All of these and much more came about after I stood up for myself and basically told those bullies NO MORE! And when I did I was saying good-bye to the past. For when I let go of what I was and what was done to me, I become the positive and happy person I am today.

I supplied in the Kindergarten class that I was in as a student.






Friday Two Cents: Words To Live By


This past week has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me. At the beginning of the week I was with someone who made me feel down and upset yet by the end I was with some people who lifted me up and inspired me.

Firstly I was with someone whom I have known for years and they have made no secret that they do not like teachers. They on a number of occasions have belittled teaching and teachers in general. Saying things along the lines that teachers don’t deserve the two months off or that they are spoiled and they are teaching the wrong way. If they were Premier they mentioned that they would attack the teachers by taking away pay, benefits and force them into doing things their way, things that was acceptable back 70 – 100 years ago.
At times I have fired back. Once they said they could teach a class and I responded saying, “I would love to put you in a Kindergarten class and see how far you get. I guarantee you wouldn’t last an hour let alone a year.” Yet for the most part I usually let them say what they want and it generally just rolls off me, but for some reason this time I could not. Not because I questioned teaching but the fact they will never change their minds no matter what I say or when ever I prove my point. I am seriously considering ending the relationship of many years, which put me in a gloomy mood.
With this cloud over my head I went about my business, which happened that I am attending an additional qualification course (AQ) for Teacher-Librarian (TL). A TL is more than just a librarian; they are a resource teacher who can assist the classroom teacher in how they implement the curriculum. I have supplied as a TL on a number of occasions and found it a rewarding experience.
Upon starting the course I met other teachers with the same passion for teaching and a desire to help others. This alone began to lift my spirits, however we were given the tremendous opportunity to go to an educator’s conference on the second day. This conference was called MakerEdTO. It is a conference of educators that come together to try to bring new ideas to the students by learning through making things. Yes they do the lessons and research before they build things but they encourage the students to get their hands dirty, take chances and make mistakes all the while they are learning.

A working mechanical arm I made from cardboard.

The conference was about teachers getting their hands dirty and playing so they can understand and bring back to the classroom what they have learned. I for one attended a workshop where I was able to learn to use a program called Scratch where the students can learn code. Another workshop was about building things out of cardboard. I was able to create a working mechanical arm that actually picked up an empty water battle.
The conference was good but the most important and inspiring thing was that there were over 200 teachers there to learn and get inspired for their students. At the beginning of their summer break these people went somewhere to learn to essentially help their students learn.
This positive atmosphere is what I need to remember and keep in my life. Not those people who have nothing but negativity. Yet I have to remember one good thing about all those negative people out there. You know, the ones who grumble and insult others because they are jealous or only happy when they are putting down others or mad at the world for something or another. I’ll look at them and remember this wisdom quote …


‘I am grateful for all those difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.’



Words to live by.


Friday Two Cents: Time To Recharge


Well teachers, we made it.   Another year has come and gone and now begins the two month-long process of recharging you batteries. Yes it’s a great time to do nothing and many people may be jealous of the two months but remember one thing, you deserve it.

The public may only see you work six hours a day with the students, five days a week and you now get two months off, yet you and I know what they don’t see adds up to a lot more. Sometimes you stay late helping students with their homework, or mark their work and we both know you have to get all your lesson plans prepared before but you can only do this once the school day is over. Yet sometimes you volunteer your time to run extracurricular activities like sports teams, school committees and countless clubs. Not to mention the tests, individual lesson plans and reports you write on a constant basis, all during your own time.
You deserve a break but I know that it is not easy. The most difficult part is how to begin. Luckily I was able to find five meaningful places where we can start.   These five were published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and I thought it may be a good starting point.  


8 Essentials for Forgiving: Raise your hand if you have any residual “grrr” feelings from this past school year. We’ve all experienced times when a student, parent, or colleague treated us unfairly or said something hurtful, and sometimes it can be hard to let go of the bad feelings. But holding onto grudges, even small ones, only makes things worse for you. By helping you forgive, these steps can reduce your stress and make you feel better. 

Gratitude Letter: Now, raise your other hand if there’s someone who really made a positive difference in your life this past year. It could be someone at school, someone who supported you from the sidelines, or anyone else who you never got to thank properly. Taking the time to write a note of gratitude to them—and even better, delivering it in person—won’t just make them feel great. It’ll make you happier, too! 

Awe Narrative: From making intense decisions to dealing with little details, it’s easy to get consumed by the day-to-day challenges of teaching. To break out of that tunnel-vision head space and expand your perspective (and maybe even remember why you became a teacher in the first place!), try thinking and writing about a time you felt awe. Believe it or not, doing this can make you feel like you have more free time and increase your life satisfaction.  

Meaningful Photos: Want another way to boost your happiness and sense of meaning in life? It’s (almost) as easy as taking a selfie—but so much more fulfilling. Just take a picture or two each day of things that you feel make your life meaningful and then, at the end of a week, reflect on why those things mean so much to you. Now that you’re no longer stuck in a classroom for eight hours a day, get out there, get creative, and remind yourself of all the wonderful things that make your life worthwhile. 

Self-Compassionate Letter: Teachers, on the whole, are a pretty self-critical bunch. We dedicate our lives to caring for others, but we often don’t extend the same kindness to ourselves, instead beating ourselves up over every little thing. Thus, the idea of writing a letter to yourself expressing compassion for one of your own flaws or mistakes may seem strange, but it really works—it not only makes people feel better, but also makes them more motivated to improve. This would be a great way to set the stage for being kinder to yourself next year.  

Campbell, E. (June 17, 2015) Five Ways for Teachers to Recharge This Summer. The Greater Good Magazine, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Writing down you thoughts.


These are just a few of dozens of ideas and articles available but they appear to be a good balance. I have actually done a few of these to help myself relax and recharge, perhaps they can help you too.


Friday Two Cents: Experience It At Least Once


‘The only source of knowledge is experience.’ Albert Einstein


‘Experience is the teacher of all things.’ Julius Caesar


This week I was working as a prep coverage teacher for music and gym and in the process I discovered something, I enjoy doing prep coverage. For those of you who do not know what prep coverage is, it’s the time the home room teacher gets everyday to help them prepare for lessons and other things they need to get done for the class (example: write report cards). Many times these are times that the students get to experience/learn other subjects such as physical education or something from the arts. This particular week I was the music and physical education/health teacher for the school.

When I took the position I knew it was a prep coverage but I did not know what subject matter I would be covering. I thought it would be art or phys. Ed., subjects I am very familiar with. Yet when I arrived they told me it was phys. Ed. and music, I thought “oh boy, music”. Mind you I took music since I was 10 years old and I played in many bands but I have not played in 10 years and teaching it is a lot different from playing it.
So I told myself  ‘you have a good background in music and you can do what the teacher left for the students to do.’ Unfortunately the previous teacher did not level specific instructions and left it up to me to teach the classes. So I had to come up with lessons on the spot for 10 different classes ranging from kindergarten to grade 5. Thank goodness we were covering rhythm and I had some experience teaching students this in the past.
The planning went well and the students appeared to enjoy my lessons and I think that they learned a few things too. Yet what was surprising was that I discovered that I enjoyed being the prep coverage person teaching one to two specific subjects. When I got into teaching I knew that I would be working with students from kindergarten to grade 6 and I would have to teach a variety of subjects. Mind you I did teach visual arts prep for a half day once and when I go into different classrooms I do bring in my visual arts background into other subjects to help teach the students.  But I never had the opportunity to teach a single subject matter to the entire school.
This opportunity has opened my eyes to another possibility in the teaching world, prep coverage. Of course I think I would be more comfortable teaching visual arts or possibly physical education, but this experience has opened my mind to possibly teaching drama or even a core subject like math.
I knew when I took my additional qualification in visual arts, I was motivated to continue along that path and earn my visual arts specialist. Now that I have had a taste of what prep coverage is like I think this is something I would probably like to do. I guess no one knows what we like to do until we get to experience it at least once.    

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