Monthly Archives: August 2008

Final Preparations

I’ve spent most of the past two weeks at my new school.

I’ve cleaned and organized my classroom. I’ve hung up banners, posters, and decorated my bulletin boards. I’ve extensively planned the first day of school. I’ve drawn up a rough plan of the entire school year.

I’ve typed up a newsletter to go home the first day of school. I’ve photocopied material for the first day of activities.

I’ve written a welcome message on the blackboard. My name is on the classroom door.

I’ve written a schedule so that both my students and I will know what to expect every day of the school week.

I’ve sharpened pencils. I’ve put crayons, a sharpened pencil and a sharpener in pencil cases for each student.

I’ve learned the school rules and procedures.

I’ve been part of a First Aid training course this week and now have an updated First Aid and CPR certificate. This is one of the preparations I sure hope that I never have to use.

Today, is the last day of preparations. School starts on Tuesday, right after this last hurrah of summer.

It’s hard to believe that the summer is over already. One more long weekend. But I’m ready to start school on Tuesday. I think.

It seems like there is always something else to do in this job. A teacher is never really off-duty.

I know I have some work to do this weekend but I will try to enjoy the last free weekend of the summer. I won’t have computer access on the holiday Monday, so I will be taking a small break. Wish me luck, classes start on Tuesday. Now, time to go and make my last minute preparations.

This Time of Year I Miss TV Guide

I remember the first time I went to a grocery store and couldn’t find a TV Guide to look at while I waited in line. I scanned the other aisles thinking that perhaps they were just sold out in this aisle. But I didn’t see any.

TV Guide became a casualty in this modern age of television. Satellite and digital cable have their own on-screen program guides. Regular cable TV has a TV listing channel. Who needs a printed TV Guide anymore?

But this is really the time of year that I miss the publication. I collected TV Guides for about two years and have boxes full of them. It’s pretty interesting to look back at them. They really give a snapshot of the time and era they were printed. I would’ve kept collecting them but my money needed to go to other things so I stopped. But I still picked up two or three issues this time of year.

I looked forward to the “New Shows” issue every year. TV Guide always wrote about the new shows with passion and showed a dedication to excellent TV. I valued their opinions and used it to help me choose how to spend my viewing time.

They also published an issue focusing on “Returning Shows” and one about “New Kid Shows.”

I like looking back at these issues and seeing which shows didn’t survive. Some great shows never really caught on. And some horrible shows manage to stay on the air. That always happens.

But now I don’t really know what to do with this new season of fall premiers. I don’t have the TV Guide to help me navigate through the good and the bad. I only have rabbit ears so I don’t get a TV listings channel. And I only get seven channels so I couldn’t even watch some of the new shows anyway. But I would like to read about them and add them to my collection.

Oh well, TV Guide you are missed. I understand that there is an online version but not having the Internet at home makes that pretty much useless for me. Besides, it’s not the same.

What’s The Priority?

“We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in priority sequence.”

I’ve heard this automated response dozens of times from different companies. The first time I heard it was when I was on the phone with the gas company. To the gas company’s credit, they gave another number to call if the call was about a gas-related emergency.

My call was about my bill and a problem with it. I patiently waited on the line and kept getting subjected to the automated response. My patience started to wear down after hearing the message over and over again and waiting for someone to just answer my call.

After an excruciatingly long time, my call was answered and I exploded at the agent. “Your message says that calls are held in priority sequence. Well, how do you know what the priority is if you never get to me?”

The agent didn’t have an answer for me. It was his time to be patient. He dealt with my problem in an effective manner, even though I was rude to him. He had no control over the automated operator at all.

This happened years ago and I’ve never really forgotten it. Well, today, I was subjected to this message again when calling about my credit card. I decided to look up the word “priority” because I always took it to mean that there are things that are more important than others and are put in order according to importance.

But I was surprised to see the definition of priority as “the fact or condition of being prior; precedence in time…”

I stopped reading. The telephone message actually makes sense. The calls are taken in the order that they are received.

I always thought of priority as the third definition listed; “a right to precedence over others in obtaining, buying, or doing something.”

For example, hospital emergency rooms put patients in priority sequence. They take the serious patients who need immediate treatment first and assess which patience need care before others.

So I learned something new today. I learned that priority can also mean just a regular line up.

I must admit that I don’t like this definition even though I know it is correct. I just find it misleading. I want companies to tell us like it is. Can’t they just program the phones to say that the calls will be answered in sequence?

Let’s leave out the adjective “priority.” In fact, if you are in charge of the company phone system please make this a priority, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

You Can’t Throw That Out

“Garbage day! Can we go see Mom?”

Remember when you used to do that? I’m sure every young boy thinks that garbage day is an event. But like all events, things aren’t the same as they used to be.

I remember watching the garbage truck pull up to the curb. Two men would jump off the back, toss in all the bags that were on the curb, and then jump back on the truck. They stood up on the back foot ledge and held onto a handle on the side. The truck would pull up to the next pile on the curb and they would jump off and do the same thing.

And if you were lucky, you would see them activate the crusher. It would compact the garbage.

Yeah, garbage day was an event when I was a kid.

It became an event when I was a teenager too because of recycling. “You can’t throw that out!” I’d yell at my parents. I became a recycling champion and made sure we recycled everything we could.

Well, things sure have changed. Recycling is still going strong in my household but garbage day is completely different now. I watched the garbage truck for old time’s sake last week and noticed that there was only one person on the truck. There used to be a driver and two collectors. It used to be a three-person job. When, and how, did it become a one-person job? And did anybody notice?

And some municipalities are now making you prepay to have this garbage service. You have to go to the store and buy garbage tags. They cost $1.50 each and are basically a sticker with a numeric code on them. You attach this sticker to the top of each bag that you put out to the curb. Bags without a sticker tag on them will not be picked up. They will remain on the curb.

I think this is crazy. I think it is a good idea to encourage people to cut down on their garbage but I also know some people can’t afford to buy these tags. And where do these people put their garbage? Some are taking it to work to throw out there. Others might be dumping it somewhere.

I think garbage put out on the curb should be collected, within reason. Maybe we could just ration it – one free bag per household. I don’t think we should be telling people that they can’t throw out their garbage.

My Teaching Mission Statement

“To help every student develop to his or her full potential. To develop intellectual potential and provide opportunities for social, ethical, emotional, physical, and aesthetic development of every child in my class, and by extension, the entire student body whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

This is my teaching mission statement. I think it is important to have a teaching philosophy that you can actually express. This statement shows how intricate the art of teaching really is. It says nothing about every area of study and the expectations students are to master by the end of the year in each grade. But it doesn’t have to. It says a lot and is straight to the point.

I think it shows the importance of my job and how seriously I take it.

I have expectations for my students too. These are simple and easy to follow;

“In this class, we…

Respect – each other, property, rules

Cooperate

Do Our Work!

Do Our Best!”

That really does cover everything and it will help my class to run smoothly. I still have lots to do to be ready for day 1 of classes on Monday, but I am well on my way now.

Inconsiderate of Those Who Come Behind

Yesterday I wrote about my experience in Scouts. Today, I can’t think of a better way to start this post then one of the lesser-known mottos of the organization; “Leave it cleaner than you found it.”

That’s what I did. When the school year ended in June, I left the class in impeccable condition. I put all the classroom resources together in labeled boxes. I cleaned out my desk and filing cabinet completely. I didn’t leave any garbage or useless materials behind.

Whatever teacher inherits my old classroom will have an easy time seeing what resources are there. They will be able to unpack them in any way that they see fit. And they will be able to set up the class to whatever specifications they prefer.

This is how it should be. Teachers need to be considerate of those who come behind them.

Unfortunately when I walked into my new classroom this week, I was met with a disorganized mess.

I spent most of this week just cleaning up. I’ve thrown out three garbage bags worth of junk that was left behind. I’ve spent hours going through the cupboards trying to locate and organize the resources. They were everywhere and in no order whatsoever.

Cleaning the blackboard was the hardest job. For some reason, the previous teacher had marked permanent lines in yellow all the way across the long board at the front of the room. It looked horrible and would extremely limit what I could do with the board. Needless to say, it had to come off. I had to use rubbing alcohol and really scrub to get it off. It took me over two hours to do so. I even lost some of the skin on my thumb in the process.

And I’m not even done yet. I will probably have to spend another four or five hours just cleaning and organizing my room. It’s ridiculous.

I just want to move in and get organized, do some planning, and get ready for the school year. Classes start in two weeks. I’ve still got a lot of work to do before then.

I just wish teachers would have some consideration for those who come behind them, and leave their rooms cleaner than they found it. I know that I will do that again at the end of this school year, even if I will be returning to the same room. It’s just the right thing to do.

Vespers

“Softly falls the light of day
as my campfire fades away.
Silently each cub should ask,
Have I done my daily task?
have I kept my cub laws true?
taught to me by old Baloo
Always try to do my best,
God grant me a quiet rest.”

We sang this song at the end of every Cub Scout meeting.

The Cub Scout program is loosely based on The Jungle Book. The leaders all take on names from that famous work. If you have seen the Disney Cartoon, you will know that Baloo is a bear and he teaches Mowgli the laws of the jungle.

I learned a lot in the Scouting Organization. Many of those lessons carry on with me today. I also try my best to work in some of those great lessons into my classroom. In fact, I am convinced that had I not joined scouts as a youth that I would not have found my calling as a teacher.

I like that this song encourages us all to try our best everyday no matter what. It reminds us that we all have daily tasks, even as children. I think that children need responsibility and need to work hard at something.

I worked hard to earn badges and live up to the Scout Law,

“A Scout is:

Helpful and trustworthy,
Kind and cheerful,
Considerate and clean,
Wise in the use of his resources.”

These are great lessons that I think anyone can take something from. I like how they are easy to understand for children and easy to live up to (with a little effort and dedication – that is)

Words to live by, that’s for sure.

Amazing Beauty and Grace

It was something else to watch Usain Bolt sprint his way into the record books this morning. Commentators didn’t expect him to do it. They thought after running seven races during these summer games that he would be too spent. It wasn’t a priority for him to even attempt the record.


But right out of the blocks, Bolt showed everyone that he is something amazing. He got to the front of the pack and nobody could touch him. It looked unreal. I jumped up from the couch and watched in bated breath.

Bolt sprinted passed the finish line and immediately celebrated. He made Olympic history by shattering the world record with a time of 19:30 in the 200-metre event. He also broke the world record for the 100-metre event and was the first person to ever break both records in one Olympic games.

It was also his 22nd birthday. And he was running into a headwind. The crowd sang him “Happy Birthday.” All the other runners congratulated him.

Just prior to this run, Allyson Felix won the 200-metre event. She looked absolutely beautiful. She ran with a grace that made it look like she was just leisurely walking down the street.


I love watching runners. Some of them make it look effortless. I know it’s not. It takes a lot of training and energy. That’s why I think it is so beautiful to see what the human body is capable of. These two runners really made my morning. All I can say is that they showed amazing beauty and grace. It was absolutely beautiful.

Dragons Can Be Defeated

“The important thing about any story where you fight a dragon is not that you’re telling people that dragons are real. But that you’re telling people that dragons can be defeated. And that is a huge, true thing. And something that should never be forgotten.”
– Neil Gaiman, writer Beowulf from the DVD bonus feature “Beasts of Burden”

I thought I’d go back to the Commonplace Tuesday feature I used to run on this blog today. I really like this quote. It shows us the great power of metaphor.

If you love quotations as much as I do, then please stop by Thoughtful Cacophony to see my collection. I post up a different quote every weekday. On Tuesdays I post an quote that I have collected from the television or movies.

This is today’s post on my sister blog. I hope by posting it here as well that I have not broken any blogging protocols. I just really like this quote. And the movie really surprised me. I watched it on DVD this weekend. It was good.

What Does It Mean to Be a Child?

A long time ago, children were thought of as mini-adults. Childhood was not a concept that was understood. So when did children become children and what exactly does it mean to be a child?

It happened in the middle ages. It became necessary for middle class parents to train their children in a trade so that the family could have that extra income. During this period of apprenticeship, it became apparent that childhood was a distinct period of life. Before the twelfth century, there really was no definable period of life known as childhood.

The rise of the middle class and the education of children into a trade changed, or perhaps created, the modern definition of what it means to be a child.

Another significant shift that helped define childhood came about during the Industrial Revolution. Those in power at the time began to define and reinforce issues of privacy in order to secure a workforce. Thus, the privacy of home life, and the home as a place of retreat after a hard day of work was illustrated and reinforced. As such, the child became the centre of a family in a new way.

All of this led to the golden age of children’s literature, which spawned books written entirely for the entertainment of children. Which of course today has spawned into TV programs, video games, and all sorts of consumer products.

It seems that the definition of childhood has changed over the years. This definition varies by culture as well. Yet no one seems to question the modern definition of childhood. Maybe it is time we did. Childhood is ready for a redefinition. What do you think?