Friday Two Cents: It Came From A Dream

‘The interpretation of dreams is a great art.’ Paracelsus

 For most of the pandemic I have been quite busy trying to maintain a routine with my many activities and interests. However, this past week I had a most interesting dream.  It made me reflect on myself and how I am coping with the pandemic.  I for one look at dreams as a window into your subconscious mind; there, you think and imagine the endless possibilities of life.  

Well, in my dream I saw myself interacting with a woman I knew from my past at a party.  We were having a wonderful conversation and I had the feeling that we were attracted to one another.  I also saw people around us that we both knew looking at us.  I could see in their facial expressions that they looked happy at our interactions.  Our flirtations and conversation continued until I finally woke up.  

The surprising thing is that this woman and I knew each other for years, but never got together.  There was some mutual attraction between us but it never panned out and we stayed friends for many years after.  Yet the feelings I felt for her during the dream was very familiar; it was not a regret of not getting together, but a feeling of excitement when you get to know a new person.  It was as if I was meeting a new person on a first encounter.  You know that excitement of looking into the other person’s eyes and wanting to absorb every detail you see, concentrating on the words she is saying, taking in the smells of the environment around you, and even feeling the cold glass and tasting the liquid inside.  Every sense is active and alive as you enjoy the moment.  In fact, the entire dream was about me getting to know this person for the first time.  It was exciting and I could feel my energy levels increase.  In truth, I was very active the next couple of days following the dream.  

The experience was so real and that I thought about it for several days.  During that time I reflected on its deeper meaning and came up with an interesting realization: the fact that I felt no regret about not having or trying to initiate a relationship with this woman brings me to believe that this was not the dream’s intent.  The feelings of excitement when talking to her and the enhanced sensory inputs makes me believe that this has everything to do with human interaction, or in my present situation, the lack of it.  

I have always had an extroverted personality.  I do enjoy being alone and there are times when I seek solitude to help me focus on my art or some other endeavour.  But for the most part, I gain energy and joy when I interact with others, especially when I have the opportunity to get to know someone on a personal level, such as a first encounter.  I find it exhilarating, and all my senses are magnified and focused on that one thing or person.  

That is probably why I love being a teacher.  I get to interact with many adults and children and that interaction invigorates me.  I love being with people, yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I have lost that connection.  I have been extremely fortunate to have my family and friends nearby.  I have talked and texted with them on many occasions.  I am grateful to them all and I count myself lucky to have them.  But not until I had this dream did I truly realize how much I miss teaching and interacting in person with my colleagues, parents, and students on a one-on-one basis.    

Being with people recharges my batteries, so to speak, even though the interactions may be taxing at times, I find that I have the strength to power through, and in the end, I enjoy our interactions.   

This pandemic has given me something that I needed but was lacking.  Time.  Time to work on my art, to do some self reflect and to focus on what is important in life.   I know now that being with people, or more importantly, interacting and helping others is what I am here to do.  A realization that came from a dream.  

It Came From A Dream

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: 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.  

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.

Friday Two Cents: Smarter Than Adults Give Them Credit For

This week I was supplying in a school where the teacher asked me to do an art lesson with their class.  The teacher knew of my artistic background and asked if I could teach their students to draw a self portrait.  I said sure and that it would go well with the math lesson on shapes and attributes I would be teaching them earlier in the day.  

The day went well and the students were very excited for the art lesson. I told them that they would be drawing faces in the style used by comic books like Marvel, DC and also by Disney to create their characters’.  They are grade 3s so I went through the steps of creating a face using shapes for each part.  Large circle for the skull and small for the pupils.  Ovals for the jaw and eyes as well as a triangle for the nose.  I also showed them the lines of symmetry in the face to help them place the different elements onto the face.  

During the lesson the students were asking me all sorts of questions.  Mostly about the different comic book characters.  “How would you make Captain America’s helmet?”  “How do you draw Belle’s hair?”  Additionally, I mentioned that they could also create their own cartoon character like Pokemon, or others like Bugs Bunny using the same technique.  That was when many in the class looked confused and did not know who I was talking about.  I mentioned, and showed images on the computer of other Loonie Tunes characters.  

They said that they knew who I was talking about but many said that they could not see them because their parents would not let them see it.  I asked why and they said that they were too violent.  I could see their point, the coyote blowing stuff up, falling off a cliff or or shooting a duck in the face.  Some of them did see those cartoons and I asked them “You know that those cartoons right?”  They said oh yes, that it wasn’t real.  So after that I moved on with the lesson.  

The rest of the day was fantastic and I dismissed the students at the end of the day.  Yet I could not help but think about what the students said about the cartoons.  It wasn’t the fact that many did not know the cartoons but the fact that their parents did not let them see them because they thought that they were too violent; and yet the fact that the students knew that these were just cartoons, not real.  

I remember seeing these cartoons when I was younger and I remember knowing that they were just cartoons, not real.  Many of the parents today were like me growing up with these cartoons but I do not remember anyone placing dynamite under someones chair or building a canon so they can be shot out of it.  We knew it was not real.  So what happened?  Did they grow up and all of a sudden they think their children aren’t smart enough to know that what they see on tv, YouTube and in movies are not real?  

No.  I think children are as smart as before.  Perhaps the parents want to shelter their children from these images.  Perhaps they think these cartoons will influence them in a negative way.  Parents, I’ll let you in on a secret.  If you did not think these cartoons are real I think you can trust your children to know this too.  Children are a lot smarter than many adults give them credit for.  It was the same thing when I was a kid and now I can see it in the students I teach.  

Parents think they know best and in most cases they are right.  But once in a while trust your children, give them some freedom to express themselves.  They can surprise you.  All they need is for you to believe they can make the right choices.  Heck we did.  

Comic Strips: I Can’t Wait

 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.  

. . .

These days the students are very aware of their place in the world.  With the internet, global issues such as climate change and pollution are things that they know more about than previous generations.  Yet for all their knowledge and limitless information they turn out to be as human as any child at their age from any generation. 

  I hope you enjoy November’s The Craziest Things: I Can’t Wait.

Friday Two Cents: Washing Off My Soul

 ‘When you create art, the world has to wait.’ Will Smith

This past week was a rather busy one for me, working with several hundred students as a music, literacy, drama and kindergarten teacher.  I love being with all the students yet I find myself mentally and physically exhausted.  I sometimes have to remind myself that as a supply teacher, unlike a classroom teacher, I have to deal with several hundred different children over the span of a week.  A classroom teacher interacts and deals with 20 – 35 students daily, where I sometimes have to interact with 18 – 20 different classes averaging 25 students each.  That’s 500 different people all with their own unique personalities.  When you think about it from that point of view, you can begin to understand why there are times I find myself day-dreaming of going away on a vacation.  

Lately though, I have been thinking of vacations where the soul purpose is to express myself artistically.  I find that I need to have that calming presence of art to relax me.  I don’t think anyone will ever understand the joy I take in creating things with paints and pencils.  To have a blank piece of paper or canvas transform into a comic book character, a medieval battle or a ballerina. 

For me I simply think of something in my imagination and I put pencil to paper or paint to canvas.  It could take me hours, days or weeks but doing the art is what gives me joy.  I think more than anything else that is what I enjoy the most.  Not the finished product but the process or challenge of creating it.  This is what allows me to let go of the world around me and create new ones.  

So for now I will push through and prepare for the vacation I will be going on soon.  For as Pablo Picasso once said …

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

I think I have collected enough dust on my soul.  

Comic Strips: You’ll Be Next

 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.  

I use many different themes to inspire me to create the comic. Some include the difference in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I use situations that inspire me from the real world and I then simply create a scene.  Yet the majority of my inspiration comes from real life situations that I experience with the students.  

October’s comic focus on Halloween.  In many schools they celebrate Halloween in different ways.  Most of the times the students dress up and have a little party in their classroom.  Many of the teachers also get into the spirit and decorate their class or the door.  Yet what would happen if the decorating went to a whole new level.  

  I hope you enjoy October’s The Craziest Things: You’ll Be Next.

Friday Two Cents: Work On Kindness, Empathy And Selflessness

In Toronto we had our first taste of winter with an early record snow fall.  Normally we would not get snow until the end of November, but with the uncertainty of the weather we occasionally get this “gift” from old man winter.  For many adults this marks the start of shovelling snow, winter tires and bundling up before we head out.  Yet for children it is a totally different set of circumstances.  

Yes, for children tobogganing, rolling around in the snow making snow angels, building snowmen and oh yes building a snow fort or house are the orders of the day.  I remember building several snow forts as a child and I loved every minute.  The students at school equally enjoy building snow forts, houses and the occasional ice rink.  When ever I am out on duty I see the students busy building and I cannot help admire their patience, skill and passion for their creation.  

However as in life, there are a few who would rather destroy than create.  You know who I am talking about.  The person who looks to see the person building a sandcastle and cannot wait to step on it and turn it into a pile of sand again.  The same can be said for snowmen and forts.  At the school I have seen several students engaging in this behaviour.  Yet year after year the standing rule within the school is to not destroy another persons snow fort.  And year after year students attempt to destroy and announcements are made reminding them.  Yet this week I witnessed an act that was nothing less than bullying and disgusting.  

After the final bell rang I dismissed the class I was supplying in.  I finished writing my notes to the teacher, cleaned up and got my things to leave.  I was in a portable and got ready to lock up, yet as I opened the door I witnessed a grade 5 going over to a couple of younger students, from my class and processed to kick and destroy the walls of their fort.  The look on their faces was devastating and the older student was that of pleasure.  I called out to the student to stop and called him over to me.  I asked the younger students if they were alright and they said yes.  I asked the older student why was he destroying their fort.  He could not answer, he simply shrugged his shoulders.  I told him that there was an announcement made about not destroying forts.  He said he did not hear it.  I told him that that was no excuse, that this was the same rule for the past years he was in the school.  He simply shrugged his shoulders again and repeated that he did not hear the announcement.   I tried to make him understand that his actions were not acceptable, that ignorance of the rules was no excuse and that he was old enough to be accountable for his actions.  He kept saying the same thing again and again.  I final said that I would be talking to his teacher about this behaviour and that he should go home.  He did with rolled eyes.  The younger students were alright and they appeared happy that their creation wasn’t damaged to much, but mostly I think that someone stood up for them against an older student.  I did follow up with the teacher and they said that this student had a history of this type of behaviour.  The entire episode was disconcerting and left me with a bad feeling.  

The feeling stayed with me for sometime and upon reflection I think I know why.  The total lack of empathy and malevolence in a 10 year old was disturbing.  Yet the worst part is that I have been seeing this type of behaviour occurring more often.  In class after class, this level of hostility and lack of empathy towards others makes me wonder where is this behaviour coming from.  The only answer I keep coming back to are parents.  Parents unwilling to teach their own child values such as kindness to others, empathy or simply to help others.  There are some who do and to them I stand and applaud your effort and wish you continued success.  For we need more of those young people who help and respect others.  Those are the ones that the world desperately needs.  

We keep saying that we need to save the planet for the children and the younger generation.  Perhaps while we are cutting back on emissions, reducing and recycling, parents need to also work on teaching kindness, empathy and selflessness.  We teachers can only do so much and as I keep telling parents; your children will learn more from you over their lives than they will ever learn over the six hours a day from me.  

Teach kindness, empathy and selflessness
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