Monthly Archives: September 2008

Getting Things Right

It’s often hard to get things done right the first time.

Life is one learning experience after another. And even though I am a teacher, I will forever be a student because I am constantly learning. That’s what life is about.

So here is what I learned this week.

1) Things never run smoothly

We pretaped the interview and it was a good thing we did because we ran into some difficulties.

2) Bumps in the road can’t throw you off course if you are determined

We had a hard time getting both members of Invizzibl Men on the phone to do the interview. I had to use my PC prepaid phone card to dial up one of them on the phone, But we couldn’t get the other one on the line and on-air at the same time. So Daddy J, the host of the show, got Spekt on Voip. And it worked.

3) Embedding a podcast on Blogger can be done

It took me a long time to figure out how to use this feature. And when I had finally did it, I didn’t think I had. The problem was that the player only shows up in a reader and not on my actually blog.

4) There are some excellent hip-hop blogs out there.

I’ve found quite a few this week. I know most of my readers aren’t into hip-hop but it certainly is amazing to see all these sites. I might be able to stop buying hip-hop magazines now and just read blogs.

Chase March – on a podcast!

As you know, I am passionate about hip-hop music. Well, yesterday, I got to take my passion to the airwaves.

I joined the crew of Dope FM to help interview a rap group.

Dope FM is one of the best hip-hop shows in Canada. It is broadcast every week from the campus of McMaster University in my hometown of Hamilton. The program travels a lot further than the frequency of 93.3 fm as it is available on a podcast. I have been listening to this show for a long time now.

It was a pleasure to be a part of the program this week. Gamma Krush, and I conducted the interview while Daddy J held down the boards and all the technical aspects of the interview.

We had the pleasure of welcoming Invizzibl Men to the show.

(left to right) Karniege (pronounced Carnage) and Mark Spekt are Invizzibl Men.

Please listen to the interview. We all had a lot of fun on the show.

I want to thank Dope FM for always blessing the airwaves with a great show. I want to thank them for having me on the program. And I want to let everyone know that Chase March will be back on the program soon interviewing more artists.

That was a great experience. I hope you enjoy listening to the show as much as I enjoyed helping produce it. This is definitely a group to look out for. Download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below.

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Day Off for them Not Me

Today is a P.A. Day, which is short for Professional Activity Day.

The students get the day off so that us teachers can sit in on workshops and in-service meetings. Sometimes these workshops can be quite good, but most of the time I find that they offer me very little. If I can walk away with one good idea for my classroom today I will call it a success.

I don’t know why but the school week seemed to be extra long this week, even though it was short. Teachers will often speak of this. The short weeks always feel long. It’s a strange phenomenon.

I know that my students will enjoy having today off. Truth is, I would have enjoyed having today off too. I feel like I need a break already. And I guess this is sort of a break. It’s a break from routine. It’s a chance to get to know some of the other teachers better. Oh yeah, and a free lunch.

I guess I shouldn’t really complain.

Rabbits Ears and Wireless Internet


I get three channels on my TV that come in quite well. For the most part, that is enough for me. But I really wanted to watch the season premiere of Heroes on Monday. The problem was that it was on a channel that doesn’t really come in.

So I moved my rabbit ears every which way until the station came in with a little bit of fuzz. But the show was watchable. It bothered me at first that the picture wasn’t perfectly clear but after a while I didn’t even notice anymore. I just enjoyed the program.

While I was watching the show, I had the laptop on and was wirelessly downloading some music.

I like to watch TV in the dark, so the only light in the room (other than the TV) was coming from the computer screen. There was about fifteen minutes left of the two-hour season premiere when my downloads were complete. So I shut off the computer thinking that I could enjoy the rest of the show better.

This is the weird thing. The television reception stayed the same for a few minutes but then it completely fizzled. I tried to get the reception back by playing with the rabbit ears, but it was no use.

I could hear the finale of the program but I couldn’t see it very well. At least I know what happened and got to watch most of the show.

I very rarely even try to watch anything on that channel because of the poor reception. But the fact that I could watch it while I was downloading makes me wonder if the rabbit ears and the wireless modem worked together somehow to enhance the television reception. I mean, weirder things have happened right? I guess I can try it again next week just to see if that’s what did it.

Things I said I’d never do

I’ve made a lot of promises in my life.

I’d like to think that I kept most of them but the truth is I haven’t. I don’t think I’m too much different than most people. I have good intentions and reasons, but then again, I can justify almost anything. It’s a skill I’ve gotten quite good at.

Anyway, back to the theme of this post.

Here’s a list of things I said I’d never do;

1) Smoke

I can honestly say that I have kept this one. Never have, never will. Well, at least there is one on my list.

2) Yell in the classroom

I promised myself that I’d stop yelling in the classroom. I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to. But I have already yelled at my class this year and we are only three weeks in.

3) Download music

Downloading is wrong. I won’t do it. I’ll make tapes but not CDs. CDs are too good a quality. Tapes aren’t and therefore they are okay to make. At least that’s what I used to say.

4) Drink

I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink. I bowed into pressure and tried it a few times. But I went back to my promise and don’t touch the stuff.

5) Too Many More

I know that there are many others. I just can’t think of them right now.

How About You?

Do you have any promises broken that you’d care to share?

Come on and drop a comment.

A Teacher’s Lunch


“Seeing a teacher’s actual lunch is, like, so depressing.”

Angela on My So-Called Life

This quote has been running over and over in my head whenever I have to eat lunch with my students.

It comes from a TV show where a teenage girl is asked to stay after class by a teacher. The teacher asks her if she minds that she eats while they talk because she doesn’t get a lunch on Tuesdays.

Well yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to eat my lunch during the first nutrition break. I grabbed a granola bar and an apple and it seemed the best I could do.

I almost forgot that I got a prep period every day from 12:00 to 12:30. So out of necessity I ate my lunch in the staff room at that time yesterday. And what do they say about necessity being the mother of invention?

I used to stay in my classroom at that time and work at my desk. I think I’m going to have my lunch at this time now instead.

It’s the perfect solution. This way I still have an actual lunch break every day and I get some time to myself.

It seems perfect.

The Entire School Ran


On Friday, here, I wrote about my favourite running star, Allyson Felix.

Today, I need to write about a running hero.

Terry Fox lost a leg to cancer and ran across the country to raise awareness and money for the cause. Since then Terry Fox runs have been a yearly event in cities all across Canada.

Almost every school has a Terry Fox run yearly. The run was this past Friday at my school and it was amazing.

All the students, teachers, and staff participated in it. Some of the teachers and staff manned water stations and check points along the route. Other staff members walked the route. I ran it.

The Grade 8 students left the school first and they all were running. I was amazed. I’d seen events at other schools and there were very few runners. The Grade 7 students left seconds later and they ran as well. The Grade 6’s and 5’s left and then it was my class’s turn. My class started running and did a pretty good job.

Some of the students quit running after a kilometre. They finished the course by walking it, which is fine. Not everyone is a runner. But there were enough runners there that it was a great event.

I stayed with the leaders for the first few kilometres and then decided to drop back. I turned around and found the second group of runners. I ran with them for a while and then caught back up to the leaders.

The running route had the students returning on the same road which they ran. So as I ran past students still making their way to the turn-around point, I would turn around and run with them for a moment. It was a great way to talk to the students and give them some encouragement. It also meant that I ran a lot longer than the planned route. All in all, I think I ran about eight kilometres that day.

We had gorgeous weather. The students put it an amazing effort and the whole community turned out to help. The police were there helping patrol the route. Parents and grandparents came out and walked the route as well.

It was a great day.

I Hate Itunes

Itunes is pretty easy to use and can sure be addictive. I’ve bought two albums off of it so far. I also bought three single songs. And I’ve subscribed to 16 podcasts and downloaded over 40 different shows. I imported a few of my favourite Cds too.

So what’s not to love you ask?

Well first off. I’m kind of a traditional music junkie. I like going to record stores and browsing the shelves. I like physically picking up a CD and flipping it over and over. I love pulling out the liner notes, seeing the art, and reading the productions credits. You can’t have this experience with Itunes.

Plus going to the record store takes some effort. Now I have the Internet at home and I keep thinking of albums that I want. In two seconds I can go on Itunes, find it, and see that it costs less than $10.00. I’m used to paying more than that, so it seems like a good deal. I click buy, and it’s just way too easy.

But here’s the real part that I hate. I can’t play those files on anything other than an Ipod. I burned a disc and tried to play it in my car. It wouldn’t work. I brought it back inside and opened up the files. They are all mpeg4 files. What is an mpeg4? And why won’t it play on anything other than my Ipod or Itunes?

So, in order to turn a few albums into MP3 files, I burned a regular audio CD on Itunes, shut down Itunes, and then opened up Media Player. I then ripped the disc to Windows Media Player and burned those songs back onto a disc in MP3 format. It seems like a bit of a pain just to get a nice long disc to listen to in the car.

I think I am going to try and find another online store to buy music from. Itunes just doesn’t do what I want it to. I want MP3 files that I can use however I want.

I will continue to use Itunes for podcasts. I can burn those to a disc and they will play on my car. I don’t know why regular songs and albums won’t do that. I can burn regular audio discs but that’s not what I want to do. I love having more than one album on a disc. It’s the best thing for the car.

Itunes shouldn’t tell me how I can use my own music. It’s not right.

Conjuction Junction What’s Your Function?

I teach students all the time that conjunctions are to be used in the middle of sentences only.

“You can not start at sentence with a conjunction. A conjunction is used to join words or phrases together. If a conjunction is at the start of a sentence it isn’t doing its job.”

I’ve actually said this or something similar more times than I can count during my teaching career. I’ve even shared the School House Rock DVD with my classes.

School House Rock is a brillant cartoon series of shorts that teach. Each short is set to music and has great visuals that help chidlren learn about grammar, science, mathematics, social studies, and more. I’m sure a lot of you recognized the reference in the title of this post. If not, go look it up. It’s well worth buying if you are a parent or an educator.

But here’s the point of this post. I don’t practise what I preach. And I always use conjuctions at the start of sentences when I write. Maybe this is something I need to correct. Maybe not.

I like using conjunctions because it seems to let my writing flow. It makes it a little more conversational in tone. And it’s okay to break the rules in writing if it helps to get the point across or evoke feeling in the reader.

So what do you think? Should I work harder in my writing and use conjunctions the way they were intended to be used? Or should I just blaze on and use them haphazardly if I find that it works?

Who knew that after all these years I’d still be asking, “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”

Princess Point Run

When I was in high school, our cross country meets were often held at Churchill Park. This park has soccer fields and a large open green space. It’s the perfect place to host several high school teams.

This park is in the Westdale neighbourhood and connects to some beautiful trails. This was always one of my favourite places to run in the city. I hadn’t gone for a run there in a few years but really wanted to go back and run the old route that we used to run for our high school cross country meets. I took my camera so I could share it with you.


This is the start of the trail.


Here is the trail marker and map.


It’s a beautiful trail and running down the path you are surrounded by nature. The sounds of the city fade away. It’s great. I was really enjoying my run so far.


For our meets we didn’t follow any of these side trails. We stayed on the main trail until it looped up at the lawn bowling pitch. I was determined to do that route today.


A small hill. I don’t like running flat courses. I like having a challenge. Give me hills and trails that twist and turn. Thank you.


The trail pokes out at McMaster University.


This is the track where we always had Track and Field meets in high school. Gorgeous track.

It’s only a short little trek through the university parking lot and back to the trail.

But when I got to the point, I saw…


I respected the sign and turned around. I ran back down the trail from which I just came. I knew that I could take one of those side trails and still get a good run in. I remembered the Sassafras Trail and ran towards it.

But when I got there, I saw…


I was so tempted to ignore the sign and run that trail. But I decided not to. They close trails for a reason to help rejuvenate the natural beauty of the area. I should respect it. So I ran back to the side trail marker I already showed you.


Some stairs and a nice hill. Good, now I’m back on track for a great run.


This trail was bit overgrown in spots, but like I said, I like a challenge. So I hammered through.


Okay, now this is really getting annoying. Why are all the trails I want to take closed?


Here is a nice bridge that crosses the marsh. I’m now on my way to Princess Point. We never ran this way during our old meets. But I wanted to show you some nice sites. I didn’t want this just to be a frustrating run where I keep hitting dead end after dead end.


Here it is Princess Point. Absolutely beautiful, isn’t it?


You can see the bridge into the city. That’s highway 403 right there.


Back to the trail.


The trail comes back out to the wide open soccer fields.


This washroom building always marked the finish line for the meets I ran. Today was no different.

I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of my run. I had to run longer than I originally had planned to give you some of these beautiful sites.

It’s annoying that the old loop is now no longer there to enjoy. The closed trails were quite annoying. But I still got in a nice run. And now I know which route to take next time.

You Talked Me Off The Ledge

I almost quit blogging last week. It didn’t feel like there was much value in it anymore. It felt like I was just going through the motions.

I actually wrote a post titled, “What’s the Point?” where I contemplated the entire process of this blog and its purpose. I didn’t publish it though.

I did, however, drop a few comments on some other blogs that really reflected how I was feeling at the time. On Blogging Without a Blog, Barbara asked her readers “How do you see yourself in blogosphere? How do you see me?” I immediately started typing;

“I feel like I’m a tiny pebble at the bottom of the aquarium. Nobody watched the pebbles. They wouldn’t notice if I disappeared. It seems like there are enough pebbles doing the job…”

Barbara wrote a great reply that made me feel much better about my role in the blogosphere. So I emailed her to thank her.

She then used my crisis of faith as fodder for her next post. Tonnes of responses came in and I was really surprised at the amount and value of those comments. They really helped me to realize that real reason why I blog.

I blog because I enjoy writing. I enjoy the comments and discussions that have sprung forth on this and my favourite blogs. I like the small community that has developed around these blogs as well. There were some really touching comments that made me realize that I was worrying about stuff that I didn’t really need to worry about.

So, I’ve gotten over my crisis of faith, thanks to all the great community members in the blogosphere. I really appreciate all the advice and encouragement you’ve given me.

Thanks for talking me down from the ledge.

Meet The Teacher BBQ

The barbeques were lit up in front of the school last night. They were manned by support workers who managed to keep hamburgers and cheeseburgers coming. It was an informal way for the community to get to meet the new teachers.

I like the idea of a Meet the Teacher barbeque night. It allows everyone to get to meet without much pressure. Both my students and I are just starting to get into the swing of things. I haven’t done any formal evaluation yet in the classroom so I didn’t have to focus on academics when talking to parents. As such, the conversations I had with parents were more laid-back and it allowed us to connect on a personal level.

I got compliments about my classroom set-up. One parent said that she liked my room. She looked around at my classroom banners, bulletin board, and posters. It wasn’t too much or too little, she said. And I knew exactly what she meant. I’ve walked into some classrooms and been completely overwhelmed by what is on the walls.

I know that there are a million good teaching aids and posters available, but putting them all up in your room just doesn’t work. Too much clutter also doesn’t work. That’s why my classroom walls are sparsely covered and my counters are clear. I keep my desk and bookcases clean and organized as well. There is a lot to be said about the look and feel of a room.

I want my class to be inviting to my students so that they can feel comfortable there. I don’t want to overload them and I don’t want to be overloaded either. It’s a delicate balance.

Most aspects of my job can probably be summed up by those words; “delicate balance.” But I showed that last night by sharing some of my hip-hop culture with parents and students from other classes. I shared my teaching philosophy with parents and grandparents. And near the end of the night, when things were dying down, I got to show a kid a few of my moves on his skateboard. Everyone seem surprised at that.

I like to show kids that I can have fun and that I have skills that travel outside the classroom. It’s a good lesson. And it was a great night.

Still Trying to Find My Rhythm

School is back in full swing but I’m still trying to find my rhythm. I feel better when I know exactly what I’m doing and the best way to work things. But I’m still adjusting to my new school, their established rules and routines, and a having a split class. I’m trying to develop my own routines and get my class running smoothly as well. It’s a lot to deal with, and has been taking up a vast majority of my time.

I haven’t had much time online since I got Internet service at home. And the time I have had, I’ve been searching for new music and podcasts. It’s just the novelty of being able to finally do that. It feels like I’ve really joined the digital age now.

I haven’t written much. I haven’t really replied to any blog entries. But I’ve continued to read my favourites in Google Reader.

So I’m still trying to find my daily rhythm. I hope I find it soon. Things seem a little crazy right now and I’ll look forward to everything slowing down and falling into place.

Unbalanced

I want to rant about a few things that I don’t like about my new school. I know that I shouldn’t. Every school is different and there is a period of adjustment that I have to work through. That’s fine.

But what is with this so-called “balanced day schedule” that most schools seem to be adopting these days?

What’s wrong with the traditional lunch hour and two recess breaks?

This is how it works at my school. We have class from 9:00 to 10:40. At 10:40 the junior grades have recess outside for twenty minutes. They then come back into the classroom to have a snack. Class resumes at 11:00 a.m.

This is repeated again at 1:00 with a twenty minute recess and a twenty minute lunch.

The younger kids in the school eat first and then go outside. This way the entire student body isn’t outside at one time. It does make outdoor supervision a little bit easier as there are less kids outside and seemingly less problems.

But I don’t like this system for a few reasons. My kids have to go from eating to working without a break. It seems more natural to eat, then go outside, and then come back to the class ready to learn.

I don’t like that they have to eat inside the classroom and that I also have to eat at my desk. I would like to have some time to go to the staffroom and socialize a bit. But I don’t really get a chance to do that. Twenty minutes goes by quick. And before I know it, I need to be back in the class to supervise them as they eat. I might as well eat at that time too.

This schedule seems unbalanced. I don’t understand the terminology at all. We used to have recess at 10:30 when I was a kid for fifteen minutes. If you brought a snack, fine, but most people didn’t. We ate at 12:00 and then had about forty minutes outside. This also gave us time to do sports or intramurals. The balanced day makes it near impossible to have any sort of organized extra-curricular activity.

We had a recess again at 2:30.

So we actually got outside three times a day. The school day was broken up so that it flowed nicely. I think the old way is more balanced. What do you think?

Addicted to Podcasts

I have known about podcasts for a while now. My friend even burned me a few CDs of some notable ones. I really enjoyed having the new hip-hop mix shows and have listened to the CDs quite a few times.

But now, I have the Internet at my command and disposal. Must get podcasts. Must get podcasts.

I’ve found a few good ones. I haven’t really found a good Canadian hip-hop show though, but I’ll stay on the lookout.

And I’m not sure which podcasts are safe. My Creative Zen has a podcast organizer and I’ve found some good shows there. I’ve also tapped iTunes for all the good rap shows they have.

Podcasts are nice because I can put them on my MP3 player or burn them to disc for my car, I don’t have stay up late now and try to tape radio shows like I used to. I can now just subscribe to the shows I like and they come directly to me. I can listen to it on the computer and keep it or chuck it.

I think I’m going to have to buy more blank CDs though. I really like listening to new stuff in the car.

This is the nail in the coffin for the cassette tape. My tape deck isn’t even plugged in anymore. But it holds fond memories and it’ll wait for me to come back. I still listen to some of those old tapes when the mood strikes me.

So, do you have any good podcase recommendations? They don’t have to be hip-hop either. My musical tastes are varied. Let me know what you like and what’s good. Drop a comment.

A Failed Experiment

As an experienced teacher, I can tell when something doesn’t work and when it is time to move on. I know that there has only been three days of school so far, and it might sound a bit early to give up on anything, but I know it’s time.
The experiment was a failure.

I was just trying to use what I had. The class I inherited didn’t have any notebooks for my students to use. And I didn’t have time to order them and have them in time for the first day of school. But they did have binders. So I bought 5 tab dividers and tried to teach my Grade 3 and 4 students to use them.
It didn’t work.

I also knew that it is getting close to the time when the back to school sales disappear. So last night I went to the store and bought 100 duotangs. It was a lot cheaper than buying notebooks and I had already got lots of looseleaf paper.

So this morning, I will take back the binders and hand out the colour-coded duotangs. 5 colours to organize our subjects – Math, Language Arts, Writing, Science / Social Studies, and Drills. I will fill them with the paper I already bought so they will be our notebooks for the year.

The best thing about it is that I can take the papers out after a unit, staple them and then put them in the student files. I can refill the duotangs again for the next unit.

This will work much better. It’s what I’m used to. And it’s what they are used to as well.

The binders could’ve worked but it would’ve been a big headache. My students just aren’t ready for that yet.

Live and learn.

A Letter to My Ex

“All I ever wanted was for us to be happy
I know I spent too much time on me
should’ve been more there for you
I didn’t know how to build or see it through
I’m sorry for all the mistakes I made
but there’s no way to go back and change
no use in assigning blame
I still feel the same way,
I did when I first got to know you
I loved and lost and it hurt
both me and you. It’s true.

Too bad there’s no way to go back
I’d know what to do this time
We would really make it work
and not repeat our past crime
I thought it was meant to be
but we faded out easily
It would’ve been hard to make it work
but anything worth it is difficult.

I hope you’re happy in your new life
I’m getting adjusted to mine
In time, I know that we’ll be fine.”

I found this old poem and crinkled up the paper. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away for some reason. I’m in no position to give it to my ex. It doesn’t make things right. I don’t know if it serves any purpose at all.

There were two other half-started poems on that page, some doodling, and a few story ideas on the back. Not really worth keeping. Yet I spent the time typing it up and posting here. Why, I really don’t know.

Our Default Position is to Do it Wrong

“Have you ever said, “Mom, Dad, Teacher, Don’t you trust me?”

An adult who hears this might want to say, “What do I have ‘Dumb’ written across my forehead. Of Course I don’t trust you. You’re a kid, and kids aren’t old enough to know … Of course I don’t trust you. I’m a teacher (parent.) Why do you think I’m here for you?”

That’s a bit much, but we should say,

“Yeah I trust you, but I’m here with you because you need some help. Your teacher needs some help too. Because if I don’t have people I’m accountable to, if I don’t have people that I can go to, who watch me, then my default position is to do it wrong, And it’s the same for you, so we are in this together.”

“I trust you I really do, you are the best kid on the face of the earth. But if you do that, you are going to face consequences.”

Remember that there are always consequences.

“Our default position, all things being equal, is to do it wrong.”

“We gotta be one with each other. We have this default thing in us, that if there aren’t rules there and we don’t keep each other accountable, we’d do it wrong.”

“This is why I worry about you.”

– Adapted slightly from Steve Brown’s Keylife Broadcast on December 14, 2005.

Supreme Time Waster

I finally got the Internet at home. And I must say that you can surely get lost in the World Wide Web. I used to be content with just an hour online a day. I still am. I’m not sure what I did after that hour but I didn’t log off. I stayed on and whittled away the hours.

I think I am beginning to understand how people can spend so much time online. I had to force myself to shut it off because I really was just wasting my time. And I had things that needed to be done.

So I turned off my new laptop and pulled out my old outdated one. This way I won’t be tempted to “just go check” or explore something else random that just happens to jump into my brain. It’s so tempting to do that, even now.

I’m beginning to think that getting Internet service was not a good thing for me.