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.

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Friday Two Cents: Inspiration From A Master


On my Ottawa trip I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful exhibit at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.   There they have amazing interactive activities that explain science and technology to children and adults alike.  Yet as wonderful as the museum was there was a special exhibition that was my ultimate goal.  I am referring to the special exhibit Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to explore the genius that is Leonardo da Vinci, a personal inspiration of mine.  The exhibition-featured reproductions of his notebooks, ideas, inventions and of course his wondrous drawings and paintings.  For obvious reasons you cannot collect all of his works in one location.  Many are over 500 years old and many would deteriorateand be lost to humanity if not protected. 

Even though everything within the exhibit is a reproduction that did not diminish the wonder I felt.  To look upon his works and I can only be amazing and humbled.  His inventions were astounding for the time period he created them. His drawings and notes on human anatomy were nothing but wondrous.  Some so actuate that I remember using some of his drawings in my anatomy class in university. However for me, I was mostly drawn to his paintings and drawings.  

His drawing of the Vitruvian Man and the subsequent explanation of it were fascinating. His fresco of the Last Supper was spectacular and his paintings were full of wonder and meaning.  There, I had the opportunity of seeing his two versions of Virgin on the Rocksside by side.  The dark version and experts agree is an earlier version of the painting is located in the Louvre, Paris.   The other is a latter version in the National Gallery, London.  They are quite similar but for the obvious colouring and shading, yet there are other subtle differences and meanings in both. Instead of me telling you I will let you see the painting below for yourselves.  

The section on explaining and understanding the mysteries of the Mona Lisa was spectacular on its own.  They had the opportunity to photograph the Mona Lisa in great detail as well as its many different layers and in ultraviolet and infrared.  They take you through the process and show you the painting in such detail it is like you are looking at the real thing.  Their examination was so detailed that is showed different paintings of women underneath the one we see today.  They also adjusted for 500 years of fading and wear on the colours and reveal how the painting looked when Da Vinci originally painted it.  

This exhibition is a testament to a man who exceled in many different fields. A man who’s interests include invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography.  A “Jack-of-all-trades”.  In a world where people are increasingly looking to be a specialist in one field Leonardo da Vinci shows that we can excel in whatever we put our minds to. I have been called a “Jack-of-all-trades” with knowledge in technology, mathematics, the sciences as well as the arts. I am handy with tools and have constructed many things just as Da Vinci once did.  

To say I admire and am inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci would be stating the obvious.  He is someone I inspire to be. A “Jack-of-all trades”, a true Renaissance man

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.  

Comic Strips: School’s Out For Summer


In Canada the end of the school year is at the end of June.  Both students and teachers look forward to a two-month summer break to relax and recharge for the upcoming year.  Interestingly I read a study that shows that teachers energy level for the school year is around 100% but as the school year moves on those energy levels slowly go down steadily until June.  The study continues to state that the teacher’s energy levels return to optimal in September.  It takes two months for people to recover from the previous school year.  No wonder people look forward to the break.  

This month’s comic plays on the idea that not only do students look forward to the break but so do teachers.  Instead of telling you about the comic I’ll simply let you enjoy it on your own. 

I hope you enjoy June’s The Craziest Things: School’s Out For Summer.

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.   

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