Monthly Archives: November 2007

Comments

Blogs give you a great opportunity to get instant feedback on what you write. I love that feature so much. Getting comments on an entry is what really makes this whole experience worthwhile. Thank you to everyone who has made a comment here at some time.

I know that not every post will speak to you. I know that you might come here, read my thoughts and move on. I read other people’s blogs everyday. I have a daily ritual to follow the links on my side bar. I don’t always comment, but I try to make a regular point of it.

So if you are reading these words and they speak to you, even if they don’t, drop a comment. Say Hi. Introduce yourself. Or, if you are shy about that, click on my profile and send me an email. I have had some great discussions grow out of this forum and continue in email.

I sometimes think of this venture like a newspaper. Lots of people read the articles but very few ever write a letter to the editor. I can understand why. It takes a lot of time and effort to compose a good editorial. However, it doesn’t take too long to type up a quick comment on a blog. And those comments often mean a lot to the author. So, go over to your favourite blog and tell them how much you look forward to reading their words everyday. It will brighten up their day. I guarantee it.

The Price of an Education

When you get a loan to go to school, you don’t think about it much. I know I didn’t. I was happy to have the opportunity to go to university and teacher’s college. I love my job and would never think about going back and doing things differently. Truth is, I really needed those loans or I wouldn’t have been able to get through school and realize my career.

Yet, here I am all these years later and I am still in debt. I just checked the status of my student loans and was shocked to see that I still owe thousands and thousands of dollars. I am accumulating a ridiculous amount of daily interest compounded at a crazy rate. I thought student loans were supposed to be good.

It’s sad to know that I won’t have these loans paid off for quite some time. I am managing the monthly payments just fine. I guess this is the price of an education. Don’t get me wrong; it was worth it. I love my job. I just can’t believe that is actually costs me over four dollars a day for this career for the next 84 months. Wow! Who knew? The rate of interest is 8.7% too. Doesn’t this seem like a lot of money for someone just to go to school?

We need to do something about this. It doesn’t seem right. And school seems to be getting more expensive every year as well. I hope people will still be able to go in the future. I think it is important and everyone who wants to go on to further education should have the right and opportunity to go. It shouldn’t come down to money. That is my bottom line.

The Power of 3

Yesterday’s commonplace book quotation reminded me of a great book I read this summer. It was called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In this book, he tells us that all of our problems in life are simply situations. How we react to these situations is what causes the drama and pain in our lives. He goes on to tell us that there are three things we can do in every situation. The three things are; we can accept the situation, we can fight to change it, or we can run away.

I presented this model to my class to help them make wise and safe choices. I demonstrated it with a personal example. I related to them a time when I was outside doing a duty at recess time. I had to deal with a situation where a student swore at me. This student would not listen to reason or anything I had to say. I remained calm and tried to just talk. This student continued to swear and swear at me. So I had three choices.

1) I could accept this and let her swear at me. I don’t need to let words bother me. Who cares if she’s swearing at me?

OR

2) I could take her into the office and make sure that she sees the principal for her actions.

OR

3) I could walk away and just ignore her.

Of course, before you make any decision, you should think about it, weigh the pros and cons, and then act. Once again, three things.

1) Accepting it – If I let her swear at me. She will think it is okay to show disrespect. Other students might see this and begin to show disrespectful behaviour to me as well. I don’t deserve to be treated this way at school and probably shouldn’t put up with this behaviour.

2) Change it – I can take her into the office so she realizes how serious this is. The principal will make it clear that she needs to be respectful and not swear at school.

3) Walk away – If I walk away, I am actually giving her permission to swear at me. Maybe she will realize it was wrong, maybe she won’t. It could keep happening.

So now I have weighed my options and can safely chose to go with number 2. It is the best decision. Of course this model is overly simple. I could have changed it several different ways. I teach my students that the best decision is a fair and respectful decision to both parties. Taking her to the office is fair, respectful, and safe. Once again, three important things.

We should all be able to remember the Power of 3. Three things to do in any situation (Accept it, Change it, Walk away.) Three ways to make a decision (Think about it, way the pros and cons, and then act.) Three ways to know if you made the right choice (Is it fair, respectful, and safe?)

I might be overly simplifying Tolle’s message but I really think this works. It is a great model for making decisions. It is easy to remember. It helps us to realize both sides and make a fair, respectful and safe choice.

Commonplace Book # 11

“Is it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It’s not logical; it’s psychological. And it’s very real. And unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we’re both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of conditioning.” – Barton, Bruce. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Calendar.

Most scenarios that we can think of have a winner and a loser. Games and sports obviously are that dichotomous. However, this is not always the case. My father taught me that is isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game. This advice has served me well. For instance, I can play chess with my brother and lose every single game. Yet, just having the opportunity to play with him and share this time makes it special. So, even when he whips my sorry little butt, I don’t lose.

Why Is It About The Marks?

The first term of school is now over. My report cards have all been written and this week we will have parent-teacher interviews. I like the procedure my school has for handing out report cards. I haven’t seen another school do it quite this way, and I must say that I really think this is the most effective way to do it.

At my current school we do not give the report card to the student to take home. I am glad that we don’t either. In my previous schools, that is exactly what we did. The pressure on the kids was enormous. I always addressed the class and let it be known that the marks are very personal. I told them to not open the envelopes until they got home and that they did not need to tell anyone what their marks were if they didn’t want to.

Of course, as soon as the kids got out of my class, they opened the envelopes and the comparisons would start. Everyone wanted to know what everyone else got. Feelings got hurt this way.

I wish school wasn’t about the marks. I actually hate writing report cards. It is a difficult procedure due to the standardization of reporting. I need to level the child’s work based on what an appropriate response looks like for this age of child. I have models to follow and need to compare the work the students have produced over the term to examples that the provincial government provides. This one-size-fits-all education forces me to give children marks that aren’t really reflective of the work they have done.

I have some students that aren’t at grade level. They try hard and do good work but I am forced to give them bad marks because they don’t measure up to the provincial standard. I really don’t like to do that but I have to. Unfortunately, some of the students may never reach appropriate grade level standards. They will continue to have poor report cards their entire student career. It is sad.

Some of my students deserve better marks and report cards than they will be receiving. I expect a lot as a teacher. I push every one of my students to achieve his or her personal best. I wish I could measure their progress against their personal best. That is something that is definable and measurable.

My school does handle report cards in a very professional and responsible way. We schedule a parent-teacher interview for every child in the school. We organize it so that the parent can move from class to class and visit all of children’s teachers in one short visit to the school. The interviews are twenty minutes long and that is when we hand out the report cards.

I like that I get to meet all the parents and not just the ones who want to discuss the report card after the fact. I like that I get to show them the classroom and explain our routines and procedures. I try to get them involved as much as I can in their child’s education. It’s a small thing but it makes all the difference in the world.

Small but Significant

Who am I?
The guy no one pays attention to
the guy who doesn’t fit into
the stereotypical image, you know,
the one you’re used to seeing

Who are you?
Everyone else
family, friends, colleagues, nameless others
who meander in and out,
on their own agendas

I can feel indifferent and unconnected in that difference
until I take a moment and try to understand
or less even, a moment to notice something
an agenda that seems in concert

It’s in that moment that I can hear
the symphony of life.
Not all of us have glorious parts to play,
solos, and whatnot
but even rests make up the score
it’s not always what’s there
but what comes before
is sometimes more telling
than all the yelling, ranting, and raving

So maybe, I should resign to my bit part
knowing that without the soft constant rhythm
something would be missing,
the song would be incomplete.

It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Grade 6 is when my love of running began. Mr. Smith was our gym teacher, as well as the track & field and cross-country coach. He designed great running courses in the very limited space available. I will always remember that.

He made maps of the running routes and gave them names such as the Brown Breezer and the Blue Blazer. We didn’t even need to leave the school grounds. We ran around baseball diamonds, soccer posts, telephone poles, and stop signs. It was actually quite creative and a lot nicer than running around a track (which we didn’t have.)

For track, we ran around the entire block, which just happened to be 1500 metres. I remember thinking that running around that huge block was quite the accomplishment. Some kids bitched and moaned about how long and hard it was, but not me. I loved it!
I loved sprinting too. And high jump.

The coach told us to get good shoes. I wanted a pair of Nike Air shoes. I was determined that they be Nike Airs, I don’t know why. The trouble was that they didn’t make kid sizes back then. My feet were small, too small for adult shoes. However, we found out that I could fit into ladies; Nike Airs. So we picked a pair that did not appear to be too feminine. They looked good.

No one knew that I wore girl shoes. They were Nike Airs, expensive shoes, and I was proud to wear them. It felt like I could fly in them. I was so much faster in them, so I thought at the time.

I still make sure to purchase good shoes. My two favourite brands are Saucony and New Balance. And I don’t know why but every time I get a new pair of shoes, I still feel the same way I did way back in Grade 6. I’m not sure that the shoes really make a difference in my running but a good pair of shoes always makes me feel like I’m flying. It is an amazing feeling. It’s gotta be the shoes.

Slow Down

We live in a fast-paced world. It seems that we have little patience for most things these days. I think that we need to take time for ourselves. We need to slow down sometimes. If we get sick, we need to take the time to make ourselves better. We owe this to ourselves and to those around us.

This is one reason I have a real problem with television commercials. There is one in particular that has been aired recently. It shows a young and attractive woman who says, “You think a cold can stop me!” She then pops a pill to relieve her cold symptoms and carries on with her day. We then see her go to the pool and swim laps. She finishes her thought by adding, “then you don’t know me.”

So, what is the message of this commercial? Don’t slow down, even if you are sick. Carry on with life as if nothing is amiss. I think that this is completely and morally reprehensible. I know that commercials aren’t meant to carry a message other than the promotion of a product, but we are influenced by everything we see. Shouldn’t commercials be more ethical in their nature?

Another commercial on this same subject does a much better job of being socially responsible while continuing to market their product. The pill is still taken by a woman, who once again is quite attractive. But the advertisement encourages the consumer to take a day to recover. She pops the pill, doesn’t have the cold symptoms and seems to be enjoying herself. The difference is that she isn’t at work or at the pool where she can get other people sick. Instead, she is in bed and reading. She is taking a day off to recover.

We all need days off to relax and recover. If you are sick, you should slow down. Take a day off. Drink juice, stay in bed covered up, read, watch TV, whatever. Take care of your body and don’t feel that you need to do everything all the time. Your workplace can survive a day without you, your body can’t. Be good to it and don’t drive it too hard and wear it out. Slow down, when you need to. Take care of yourself, okay?

Commonplace Book # 10

“Much of our satisfaction in life depends on our skills in connecting with other people – skills of dialogue we might call them.” – Bonnycastle, Stephen. In Search of Authority pg 23

Connecting with people is a skill? Does that mean that we can learn how to do it better? I think it does. This quotation is brilliant because it opens up a whole new way of thinking. If dialogue is a skill, that means we can develop it. Any good skill comes with practice and effort. How many of us actually try to get better at dialogue?

I know that it took me a long time to learn how to listen to people. I still don’t do it very well. I am often too caught up in my own thoughts to truly listen. I sometime am thinking of what I want to say instead of actually listening to the other person. I sometimes monopolize the conversation. I sometimes come across as authoritative. I know that these things actually cut me off from connecting with other people.

The other interesting thing about this entry in my commonplace book is the author’s use of the word satisfaction. I know that happiness often comes down to family and friends. In this life, I don’t think there are two more important things. Yet he says that happiness comes from how we connect with other people. Which leads me to ask, what makes a friend a friend? Is it the way that we connect with them? Is that related to dialogue or is there a lot more going on? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I can be more aware of my skills in this area and try to improve them. After all, it couldn’t hurt.

Negative Rights

I saw this program on television this weekend that mentioned negative rights – the right to be without something. Right away I thought about cell phones. In this day and age, is it even possible to be free of this communication device?

I personally don’t care for cell phones. I have an answering machine at home so anyone who needs to can leave a message for me there. I have no desire to own a cell phone. I think that cell phones are actually an invasion of privacy. If I am going out, I don’t want to be reachable. I want to go out and enjoy my time and myself. I have the right not to be interrupted in my day-to-day life. Yet, I find that it is almost expected that I should have a cell phone.

The last few times I have had to fill out personal information for whatever reason, there is always a space on the page for an alternate telephone number. I fill out the forms and leave that blank. I then hand the paper to the agent and they look at the blank spot and inevitably ask, “Don’t you have a cell phone?”

I answer, “No, I don’t and I don’t want one either!” I mean really, why do they care if I have a cell phone when I am signing up for a video club membership?

If I am in line and need extra information to fill out the form, I always get asked, “Do you have a cell phone?”

“No I don’t! I have negative rights.” Maybe that can be my new catch phrase next time I am asked that question.

I don’t need my boss or girlfriend tracking me down. I don’t have anything that pressing that I need to be available at all hours of the day and night. Leave me a message at home. I will return it quickly and promptly.

I want to be free of you when I go out and about. I want to have time that is mine and that you can’t pop into wherever I am whenever you feel like it.

That being said, I don’t have a cell phone; I don’t plan to buy one, and I don’t care if I am the only person on earth who doesn’t have one. Besides did any one read Stephen King’s Cell? Scary stuff right there and good motivation not to own one.