Friday Two Cents: To Boldly Go


 

This past week has been a whirlwind of a week to say the least. First off I finally made it onto the Occasional Teaching (OT) roster of a school board. I say finally because after 2 years in university, one year of teacher’s college and 2 years of supplying as an early childhood educator (RECE), I can say that I am working in my chosen career.

First Day as an occasional teacher (OT)

As great as that sounds it is only the beginning. I went in on Monday to the school I usually go to for my first day as a supply teacher. The experience was amazing! I was in a grade 5 class where all of the students basically knew me and I knew about half of them since kindergarten. I then covered a few other classes where I had the same experience.
At the end of the day I received some good news for me. A teacher had gone on sick leave and they asked me if I could cover the class until the end of the school year. I jumped at the chance and the best part  was that it would be in a kindergarten class that I have already worked in as a RECE!!
So the following day I started in the kindergarten class as their teacher until the end of the year.  The experience was a lot different then when I was a RECE. I have been in the several classes as a RECE for several weeks and months at a time, yet being a teacher in a class is totally different. They say the weight of responsibility weighs heavy on those in authority and I can now say from experience, that it does.
Before, I was helping the teacher, something very similar to a “sergeant”. Someone in authority and respected, but subordinate to someone else.   Now as the teacher I am like the officer, the “captain” of the ship. You still have someone to report to, the principal (Admiral), but you chart your own course, steering the ship in a direction towards a destination for learning. The crew (the students) are your responsibility, you must keep them safe and ensure that they benefit for your leadership.
This week of being the “Captain” in the class was amazing. I had the benefit of the programming of the previous teacher and then I threw in my own spin in teaching the material. Next week I bring in my own plan of action, so to speak. This coming week I am the captain of the S.S. Kindergarten. Their on going journey, into a new and exciting world of learning and exploration. To boldly go where we have not gone before.

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Friday Two Cents: Citizenship Quiz


 

 

This past week I saw something that made me stop and take notice. It has to do with the state of Arizona making its high school students take a mandatory citizenship test as part of their requirements for graduation from high school.

There are many people on both sides of the argument for this interesting addition to the curriculum. The state politicians argued the that many of these young people will be entrusted with the future of the country’s political landscape from serving in government to exercising their duty by voting.  This test will help them be a more informed citizen.  
Some argued that the students already have a lot of tests they must complete to graduate so why add another one. Another argument says why should there be a test on memorization, why not a test that actually stimulates the students on independent thought. Some educators say that this is a waste of valuable classroom time of a test that is, in essence, very easy.
I for one see that both arguments have merit. Yes there is a lot of testing that the students need to do to graduate yet if you think about it many of the questions can be covered in other classes. Yet with the argument that the test is easy, I refer to a 2011 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. After surveying over 1400 adults it found that …
  • When asked, 36% could name the three levels of the US government, where 35% could not name a single one.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Republicans have the most members in the House of Representatives, but 17% said the Democrats and 44% said they did not know.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Democrats have the most members in the Senate but 20% said the Republicans and 42% said they did not know.
Clearly this study shows that among regular American citizens, the citizenship test questions are not that easy.
I look at this study and at this legislation to change the curriculum and I have to agree that with adding a citizen test to the requirements for graduation. I would love to see a similar test be a requirement in Canada as well. I do not need to quote studies or the fact that only 68.3% of eligible voters actually voted in the last federal election. I have first hand experience on how much people do not know about Canada. I took a Canadian Issues course in university and out of a starting class size of 60 students we finished the course with 45. Many I talked to said that they dropped the course because they had no idea of the Canadian issue presented in the course. The topics ranged from government (elections and the make up of government), general history, indigenous people topics, global issues (that relate to Canada) and peacekeeping/Nato. Topics every Canadian should be aware of, yet 25% of the class had no idea of these topics.
I think all Canadian citizens should be aware of the issues that face our country and know how the election and how government works. If you are a Canadian and interested in testing yourself, I am adding a link to a Canadian Citizenship test site below. The site is CitizenshipCounts.ca and is a project of OCASI and was funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  I took the test and I am proud to say I got 100% on the quiz of 30 questions. Let’s see if you can match me.

 

CitizenshipCounts.ca

 

 

Friday Two Cents: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade


 

This past week in Ontario many elementary and high schools were out for the annual March/spring break. In previous years I have always worked during this week at various afterschool programs, yet this year I had the need to take the week off. I didn’t want to go somewhere far-flung or exotic, I just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the students. Don’t get me wrong I adore the children but I was feeling a bit rundown and I needed sometime to be alone with my thoughts. To chill out, ironically speaking.

I decided to take a mini vacation to Niagara Falls and more importantly the Niagara Wine country. I live in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls is only a 1½-hour drive but I have never seen the falls in the winter. Besides I love visiting the wineries in the area for some wine tasting. It would also be a great opportunity to do some drawing and hopefully get inspired.
However Mother Nature had other plans this past week. I left for my vacation on Monday and of course that is the day when a winter storm just happens to blow into southern Ontario.   I am only few kilometers into the trip when the storm really picks up. With high winds and lake-effect snow traffic literally comes to a halt. I continue but the traffic is moving about 5 – 10 km/hr. The slowdown is mind numbing and it is all due to the weather. The truly amazing thing was that after I traveled past the city of Hamilton the weather clears up. It was eerie. On the east side of the highway, the lakeside, you can see the blowing snow and dark clouds yet on the west side of the highway the sun was setting and it was clear. It felt like I was driving through the eye of the storm or at least the edge of it. I arrived at the hotel safely yet the normally 1½-hour drive took 4½hrs!
I was stressed worst then before I left. So much for my relaxing vacation. However I was able to have a great meal at the casino and then soak in the hot tub after. I could feel the stress just melting away in the Jacuzzi. Especially since I could see that the storm had reached Niagara Falls and I was safe inside.
The next day the storm was in full force but that did not stop me. I was prepared with winter gear and I went for a walk to the Falls in the middle of the storm. I was able to get a few nice photos and I was able to talk to a few people who I met there. Yes just call me Mr. Sociable.  

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls during the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls after the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara-on-the-lake after the Winter Storm.

I for one do not like the winter season. I do not like the cold or the lack of sunlight. Yet I made it a point to not let this winter storm ruin my vacation. The storm lasted about a day and a half but in that time I was able to do all that I wanted.   I was able to draw, read, write, explore and of course enjoy a couple of wine tastings. Call me Mr. Optimist but I simply adapted to the situation I still had a wonderful time. I would imagine that old saying is true…

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  

Comic Strips: Double The Fun


 

The latest instalment of The Craziest Things has been sent out and with it a wish that many have had at least once in their lives.

Many of us do not have an identical twin but sometimes we wish we did. We’d imagine tricking our parents or others with simple little jokes or trying to double our chances of getting more stuff. The Weasly twins from the Harry Potter series, played by James Phelps and Oliver Phelps, stir up our imagination on what mischief we can get into if we had a twin to back us up. At the school we have several identical twins yet I have never had an opportunity to draw them into my comic strip until know.

Quit simply it’s a scenario that many of us without an identical twin would love to have. Well, at least once in a while. Yet if you look closely there is something that does differentiate the twins from each other besides the colour of their shirts.  I wonder if you can spot it.  

I hope you enjoy the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things; Double The Fun.

Comic Strips: Global Excuses


 

ComicStrips

With the New Year comes the latest edition of the monthly newsletter and with it the February instalment of The Craziest Things.

Every child, they want to wear has become an even more prevalent. Showing ones’ individual style has become an obsession with people and it has trickled down to children as well. Students in the fourth and fifth grade are beginning to assert their own preference or style even at this early age. Some even use external forces to make their point.

In Toronto Canada, we have seen some mild winters in the past few years. This has not been unnoticed by the students. On many occasions I have reminded students to wear their hats and mittens and even their jackets. Yet I know once my head is turned, off the jacket comes, therefore I don’t bother any more. I have adapted the belief that Mother Nature is a much better teacher on what to wear then I will ever be. Some times Mother Nature throws a curve ball at the students and they take full advantage.  

I hope you enjoy my attempt at political satire of, The Craziest Things; Global Excuses.

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Art Inspiration: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures


ArtInspirationPaulGLogo

I recently was able to experience a wondrous exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It is a testament to human ingenuity and the human spirit. The exhibit featured gothic miniature prayer beads made of boxwood called, Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures.

These amazing pieces of art were hand crafted beads created in the 16th century using simple tools that depicted scenes from Christianity. Many would depict the crucifixion of Jesus and other stories from his life and the bible. However the most spectacular aspect of these miniatures is that they can fit in the palm of your hand and yet show such detail that is would boggle your mind. I cannot successfully put into words the shear level of workmanship and detail put into these beautiful pieces of art. Thankfully I was able to take some photos of some of the miniatures.

 

Warning: these pieces can all fit in your hands and were created 500 years ago out of wood that was as hard as marble, using simple tools. Prepared to be amazed.    

 

If you get an opportunity to see these pieces I strongly suggest you make the effort. The other aspect of the exhibit is that they have a virtual reality (VR) section where you can take a VR tour inside one of these miniatures. It was remarkable. You are able to see every detail that the artist put into every millimetre of these pieces. From the outside of the bead, to the many layers within. The exhibit is at the AGO in Toronto until January 22, 2017 and them it goes on tour to New York and then Amsterdam. Below is a link to the AGO Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures site if you would like to know more.

 

AGO Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures

Friday Two Cents: A Child And A Song


twoCentsOldNew

 

‘Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.’ Plato

It is two days until Christmas and I am in the full Christmas mood. I am feeling joyful and triumphant but it has nothing to do with the long-awaited holiday break from school or the anticipation of any gifts. No, comes from the feeling that this season brings out in me and one amazing act of humanity and a song.

I have always tried to distance myself from the commercial side of this season. From an early age I discovered that Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts you get or give but from the feeling of warmth, togetherness and love for my fellow-man. Every year it has become harder and harder to find examples or to try to get into that feeling. Yet in resent years I have been tuning into a local radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music from the end of November to Christmas day. I have found that listening to the Christmas music has truly helped me to get into the Christmas spirit. Yet one day this past week helped me to truly feel good about this holiday season.
I was supplying at a school where the majority of the students are immigrant families, new to Canada. Many don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious celebration but are into the gift giving and good feelings of the season. While I was in a class at this school many students told me what they wanted for Christmas. Yet one told me that they just wanted running shoes for their mom, dad and brother. I asked if her family needed shoes and she said no but she knew that it would make her parents happy. To say this moved me, would be understating the fact. Instead of asking for a toy for herself, as many school children do, this kindergarten child wanted something to make her family happy. Beautiful.
Then to make a further connection to the true meaning of the Christmas season, that night I heard a song that touched me so much that all I could think of was this child. The song is called “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong. It’s about a boy wanting to get his mother shoes because she has been sick for a long time and he wanted her to look beautiful if she meets Jesus that night. With that song and that child earlier in the day, I realized that I got a glimpse into the soul of humanity. Sometimes we see moments of amazing beauty, whether in art, nature or people. I saw the goodness and love that this Christmas season has to offer and it was thanks to a child and a song. As Plato once said,
 

‘Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.’ Plato

 

That song truly speaks of the love and beauty in humanity and it comes from the most innocent member of the human race. A child. It seems appropriate.

Happy Christmas.

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