Friday Two Cents: Honour Our Past To Understand Our Present


This year I decided to visit the Ottawa region for a mini vacation.  There I indulged in a few activities that always bring a smile to my face.  This vacation came out of a desire to recharge my batteries so to speak by doing something I truly love, learning more about my beautiful country Canada.  What better place than in our nation’s capital of Ottawa.  

There I visited a number of historical sites and museums but the one place or museum that always touches my heart is the Canadian War Museum.  I have been to the museum many times, both at the old and new locations.  Our country is known for its peace and openness of other cultures but we Canadians have a vast and honourable military history dating back to the First Nations and then later to the first European settlers. 

This year they had an extra exhibition of the Highland Warriors. We as Canadians share a common heritage with the United Kingdom, Scotland being one of them.  If you have read my blog you would know that I recently went on my second trip to Scotland where I enjoyed the people, culture, history and natural beauty Scotland has to offer.  This exhibit was a wonderful reminder of that trip and how close culturally Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Britain are to Canadians.  Many of our military and cultural traditions originated for this region and I have always believed that knowing where we come from helps us to understand who we are.  

As a teacher I find this subject matter a necessity for all students to learn. The museum is a treasure trove of information of our history and sacrifice by many who would see Canada grow and flourish.  However many would argue against teaching students about this part of our history, that we should not be “glorifying” war.  Many I talked to were adamant that we should not talk about the soldiers or the wars to students.  

Yet I say, “To truly understand our present we must first understand our past”; the good, bad and ugly sides.  I cannot tell you how many adults do not know or understand the current Canadian issues that we face today, started many years if not decades ago.  But they keep on complaining and in my opinion whining about these issues without knowing the history of them.  

One such person, in a class I once attended, would not stop arguing about this and kept saying it is a waste of time.  I argued the other side saying how important it was for us to remember and teach this subject.  She finally asked me straight to the point why was I so passionate about this.  Well I looked at her and rather simply said, “Because those men and women gave their life’s blood so that we would have the RIGHT to be free and to have this argument.”  I emphasised Right, we have the right to do what we want because they made the ultimate sacrifice to make sure that our rights were preserved.  

Today people have the right to be who they are, what ever that may be. Those men and women fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure these rights.  The least I can do is remember them and help pass on their goal of a prosperous and free Canada.  

For … 

“To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields”

In Flanders Fields Poem, By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

I for one will always take up the torch and hold it high.  The question is who will join me.  

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Friday Two Cents: Dress Code


I was having a discussion with a couple of other teachers about a new dress code policy that the school board would be implementing in the coming school year.  Among some of the changes are that students will be able to wear tops that may expose shoulders, backs, stomachs, midriffs, necklines and cleavage and bottoms may expose legs, thighs and hips.  Also headgear (hats) will be permitted in the classroom so long as it does not obscure the face.  

The school board’s reason for the changes is to have a more student centric dress code that reflects student voice.  As well as to make it more equal to all nations and ethnic groups.  

The new dress code includes the following: 

  • Students must wear clothing that covers groin, buttocks and nipples in “opaque material”
  • Students may expose shoulders, stomachs, midriff, neck lines, and cleavage
  • Students may expose legs, thighs and hips
  • Students will not be permitted to wear undergarments as outwear, but straps and waistbands may be exposed
  • Students may wear any headwear that “does not obscure the face”
  • Students may not wear clothing that promotes “offensive, lewd, vulgar, or obscene images or language, including profanity, hate and pornography.”
  • Students may not wear clothing that promotes “discriminatory, Islamphobic, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, classist, abelist, or sizist” content
  • Students may not wear clothing that symbolizes, displays or references “tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, drugs or related paraphernalia”

As a supply teacher working with mostly elementary students, most of these rules do not affect many of the students I deal with. Yet much of the secondary teachers see this on a daily basis.  

Student Voice

My opinion on the matter is rather divided.  On the one hand I agree with the idea of student voice and being respectful to other cultures.  Yet on the other hand I see school as a student’s work place and many if not all workplaces have a dress code according to their corporate image.  Some places may even call it “dressing professionally”. 

As a student I went to a Catholic school with a school uniform.  At the time I did not like the idea of the uniform but the more I wore it the more I did not give it much thought, it was simply the thing to do.  Later in the military we all had uniforms.  Not until I left and started working did I realize how much mental effort was required to choose what you would be wearing to work the next day.  

School uniforms

I read an article that studied the effects of decision-making on our mental health.  It showed that we make hundreds of decisions in a day and after a time it begins to wear us down.  The study continued to say that we use up mental energy to make these decisions. That we have a limited amount of energy a day to make these decisions.  Of course in the morning deciding what to wear uses up some of that energy.  

They say the best way to reserve that energy is to make these decisions prior. Thereby having your clothes ready in the morning for you to wear.  When I had a uniform everyday I never had to think about what to wear.  I knew what to wear and it became a simple act of getting dressed.   Did this not thinking about what I would be wearing help me in school?  I am not sure but what I do know is that I do prepare my clothes the night before and I find that it is one less thing I have to worry about in the morning.  Which makes my morning routine that much easier. 

Perhaps instead of allowing an unlimited amount of choices to students and thereby using up their mental energy on deciding what to wear, maybe they should save that energy for other things.  Uniforms may not be desirable by many students but from my own experience I did find it easier and who knows, I could have had some extra energy for my studies, extra-curricular events and some “other” teenage activities.  Having one less thing to worry about as a teenager, that could have been enough to make sure I was one type of teenager and not another.  

Friday Two Cents: The Language Of Art


This past week I had completed my Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts Part 2.  During this entire course I had the opportunity to learn new and exciting things to bring into the classroom for the students.  Some included techniques in areas that people would consider traditional art forms like painting, drawing, sculpting.  Other practices would be considered in new areas of art such as photography, Photoshop, digital art and word art. 

The one area I liked and was intrigued about was the language we would use to help the students express them selves in art.  In other words, it’s the language used in the art class.  Many classrooms have word walls for the students to help them understand, write and spell the words mostly used for literacy. Yet for other subjects, like math, there are other word walls that help the students understand the words or concepts within the subject.  To use math as an example …

Sum– the total amount resulting from the addition of two or more numbers.  

This helps the students use the language most used in the subject.  During this course I found some words that works with the Art curriculum.  I made a chart that can help students and other educators.  For just as Hippocrates once said …

‘The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.’ Hippocrates

Art Word Chart Page 1

Hopefully these words can help others understand and create wonderful and meaningful pieces of art.  

Friday Two Cents: Art Is Everywhere


‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.’ Pablo Picasso

For the past week I have been fortunate to be taking an Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts.  I have already taken Part 1 and now I am continuing my art education with Part 2.  

In the course we are learning new techniques and art mediums to bring the world of art to the students.  I’m not talking about crafts like making Mother’s day gifts, but well thought out art that the students did.  Yes we are learning the traditional art techniques but we need to help the students think more on why they create the art.  I have had many discussions with people that we should be looking at the process of art with the students and not the final product.  This course centres on that governing principle. 

We had wonderful experiences with art this week and we have one more week to go but we were also fortunate to go on a field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg.  They have wonderful art pieces that are all created my Canadian artists.  They also have a large collection of First Nations art on display as well.  We were able to have a wonderful tour that helped us explore works from the Group of Seven, First Nations art and other pieces including works from a Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis.  

After had a workshop were we would be able to create our own Art pieces in the same style of Maud Lewis.  We had about 30 minutes but I think my creation was pretty close.   Her work is considered by many as folk-art and to some it may seem simplistic.  Yet exposing her pieces to the students could encourage them to think; if she can paint these works them maybe I could too.  In the end isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  Encourage conversation and inspire others.  

I have always thought so.  

Friday Two Cents: Oh The Places I’ve Seen


In Canada it is the final week of classes in the elementary school system.  This month also marks the 2nd anniversary that I started as an occasional teacher in a school board.  Yes I have been working with students for several years but those years were when I was an early childhood educator (ECE).  I have worked in many different classrooms as an ECE and I learned a great deal.  Yet nothing has been a greater learning experience than working as a certified teacher in these classrooms.  

Since the beginning I have kept track of how many different schools and classrooms I have been in.  Partly because it helps me with Additional Qualification course requirements, but also when someone asked me how many different classrooms I have been in I had to stop and think because I was not sure.  Amazingly, in the two years I have been in 80 different classrooms.  

I started in 2017 and since then, I have been at about 25 different schools and 80 different classes.  Over this time I have been in some classes that had the same teacher, but from year to year they had different students.  The students’ personality differences change the dynamics in a classroom wherever I have worked in with a similar teacher; therefore I see the class as a different classroom.  In some cases I have been in 14 – 18 different classrooms at the same school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period. 

Yet reflecting back on the past two years, I can say with one thing for certain.  Kids are kids no matter where you go.  They are all very curious; they love to ask questions on topics of their interest and personal questions about your life. They all enjoyed my drawings and creative work with them and of course they loved George and my other puppets. Whenever I go back to a school or a classroom they always ask about George.  

However even though I have been in all these different classrooms it sometimes feel like a hollow victory.  I look at this number and all the experience I have accumulated and yet I am still looking for a permanent position, even an LTO (long term occasional) as a teacher of my own classroom. On top of it all there are times I feel that there are sometimes-unrealistic expectations on me from everyone around me.  Students, parents, teachers and others all want you to be Superman to fix everything and be whatever they want me to be instead of being myself.  

In the last two months I have worked in 20 different classrooms in 30 days.  Mind you I am grateful for the opportunity and I do enjoy being with the students but it does take a toll on you.   There are days when I feel like I am making progress and advancing in my career.  Then there are days when the harsh reality of my situation sets in and you are only as good as your last job.  The saying … “It’s not what you have done for me that counts but what you have done for me lately”, comes to mind.  On several occasions I have felt that no matter how good I do my job, I feel unappreciated.  That for all my helping and hard work, to make a class and a school that much more enjoyable for the students, it falls to the side like leaves falling in the autumn breeze.  I feel like no one notices … no one cares. 

However those feelings pass as I try to be positive and think of the most important aspect of my journey into the different classrooms.  My observation and learning from the different teachers and their teaching styles.  I have observed and conducted many lesson plans they have left me to do and what is great is that I have been asked to conduct my own lessons in these classrooms. Lesson plans for math; language, art, technology and science just to name a few.  I even helped out a school with their science project on the life cycle of the butterfly.  I don’t have my own classroom but it feels good to do some lesson plans to keep my teaching juices flowing.  

Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students.  Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different classroom I have worked in.  On the top left side I placed the grade or subject I was teaching and on the right side the year I worked in that classroom. The font is unique to the school year; Helvetica was used for 2018-19.  The classes that I worked in French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes I work in are English.  Directly beneath the logo you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.  The 25th is shaded in silver and the 50th is in gold.  

Saying I have been in 80 different classrooms is pretty impressive.  However, I have to remember to think of the positive side of my journey and remember those famous words written by Dr. Seuss. 

“Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
 
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
 
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!”  
Dr. Seuss

I’ve already moved a few mountains, what’s a few more.   

Friday Two Cents: A New Experience In Niagara


Christmas week for many people is a busy week.  Meeting with family and friends, preparing special meals and of course eating too much.  As a supply teacher this week is a welcome respite from the daily grind of working with students.  Not only teachers enjoy the time off, but also I have observed that students as young as kindergarten age needing this break in their routines. 

On that note I decided to get out of Toronto for a couple of days to help centre myself.  One of my favourite places to go to simply “get away from it all” is the Niagara region. They have many different diversions yet my favourite of them is visiting the local wineries.  I have been to a great many and this year I discovered a new winery that recently opened last year.  

At Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery

Opened in June 2017, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region.  When you arrive you can see a modern building based on the design of a regional barn.  Inside though is a modern layout wonderfully decorated with photos of Wayne Gretzky’s hockey career.  Yet what impressed me was the skating rink just outside and behind the building. Beside the rink is a patio with a bar and a place to rent skates for both adults and children.  It was amazing to see parents and children skating around the rink while others sat at the outdoor patio bar with a hot chocolate. 
This is where the tour began and we were treated to home-made hot chocolate but with a special shot of cream whiskey that they make on the premises. It was delicious and a wonderful way to start the tour.  Nothing screams Canada more than hot chocolate outside in winter, beside a skating rink.  I know a lot about the wine making process, yet the tour was informative about how they make whisky and I learned a great deal. 
I asked the question, “Why do we spell whisky with a ‘y’ and others spell it with an ‘ey’?”  His answer was countries without and ‘e’ in their name use ‘y’ and those with use ‘ey’. Examples include Canada & Scotland ‘whisky’; United States & Ireland ‘whiskey’.  Yet another also mentioned that it might have something to do with immigration. This by the way is my theory when I asked the question.  Many Scottish people migrated to Canada and thereby we use whisky like them. Alternately a lot of Irish migrated to the USA who uses whiskey. 
Whatever the reason you cannot deny the results.  I am more of a wine and scotch drinker but I do enjoy a good Canadian whisky, which Wayne Gretzky’s whisky is up there with the best of them. If you are ever in the Niagara region I recommend a visit and of course, ‘a wee dram’, you know for the vitamins.  Enjoy!!

 

Friday Two Cents: A Tradition In The Heart Of The City


This week I was able to break away from my routine and go enjoy something that I have been going to since I was a child, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). This year is the CNE’s 140th anniversary. Every year I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see two amazing shows; the aerial acrobatic and ice-skating show Quatro and the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. Quatro is a poetic display of dazzling ice-skating and aerial acrobatics performed by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. This wonderful show is not too far from the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. A spectacular indoor lantern festival where 17 spectacular illuminated sculptures make up an incredible display of lights and colour. The theme is centred on the legends and myths associated with the ancient Silk Road. These astounding shows are only two of the numerous displays and activities you can do at the CNE.

The CNE is in the heart of Toronto and is amazing every year. Unfortunately it is only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st day of school approaches it will be gone for another year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year, but at least I have some great experiences and memories to keep me going until new years edition.

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