Monthly Archives: November 2008

Stress, Perception, and Reality

I have been under a lot of stress this year. I thought I knew how to write good report cards. I’ve done it enough times over the years. The problem is that each principal has his or her own ideas of what they want to see on these things. I had an idea of what my principal wanted this year and I tried my best to write good report cards. I handed them in and waited for her response.

My principal wanted me to change a few things on the report cards. This is normal, but I struggled all week over some of the changes she wanted me to make.

The principal didn’t tell me to change my grades but she suggested that the kids were a bit higher than I had given them credit for.

I know where my students are at academically. All of my marks are well-documented and can be backed up using the curriculum and supporting documents. My comments reflected what the students know and what they need to work on to improve their marks and further their academic success.

Yeah my expectations are high, but I am following the curriculum and supporting documents.
I know that some of my students are going to feel like their grades have taken a dive. I know that I will have to battle that perception. I knew that a month ago.

The principal has a lot of things to account for. If the marks are low, the perception might be that the teacher and principal are not doing their jobs. But the truth is, there is a lot more to education than the school. I’ve written about this a lot here on this blog.

I thought about changing my grades because of this perception but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t, in good conscience, inflate the grades. I changed the comments as my principal had suggested. They now sound a little more positive and not so blunt; that is a good thing. But I left the grades the same.

I hope that my marks will wake up some of my students and their parents. My students should have higher marks. They should be achieving more at school. But the problem is that they need to put in the effort and they need to work harder at home and at school. They need support at home and they need to be independent learners.

Hopefully the reality of this will sink in this year. Hopefully I won’t be battling a perception over the next few months. But I’m not sure.

Report cards are done, my stress level is down for the moment. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens during parent interviews next week.

Inspiration From Television

I really enjoyed watching Battlestar Galactica Season 2.0 on DVD this week. The shows is really well done. It is brilliantly writing and acted, and has a lot of suspense and action. (If you haven’t seen this show yet, there are spoilers ahead.)

Science fiction is great for shining a light on real life situations that we face every day. Now a dark series about war with sentient robotic lifeforms might not seem like it could shine a light on any important issues, but it does. The show is smart.

One scene in particular has really stuck with me this past week. I think we can all learn something from it.

The chief mechanic is working on one of the fighter ships. He puts on a sticker on it that it is “unserviceable scrap.” A captain comes up to him and tells him how important it is that the ship be fixed soon. The key context here is that they are running out of supplies and everyone is weary and tired of their situation in space.

Captain: “Damn it. I need that ship online.”

Chief: “What can I tell ya captain. Engine mounts are shot, cockpit seals are cracked. If it were a horse, I’d shoot it.

Captain: “Chief, come on, work with me here. I need your help.”

Chief: “What’d ya want me to do? Work my crew to death?”

Captain: “No, just do you’re best. Nobody’s expecting any miracles here.”

Chief “Maybe that’s the problem.”

The chief then gets the idea to build a new fighter on his off-duty time. His crew thinks he’s crazy and doesn’t support him at first. He goes ahead and does it anyway, all by himself. He’s overworked, his crew is overworked but the project becomes something that energizes the crew. They come together and get it done.

This is inspirational to me. It makes me think that we can all accomplish great things. This chief went above and beyond the call of duty. He did something that wasn’t expected but that was truly needed and useful. I think if we examine our lives, we can do the same thing at home, at the workplace, or in the community. I’ve already got a few ideas kicking around in my head. Maybe we can all create little miracles.


I am lucky enough to live a few blocks away from a branch of the public library. It certainly came in handy last week during the huge snowstorm. School was cancelled and I wasn’t going to drive anywhere.

I felt like I needed the break and I just wanted to relax and watch some television.

I only get a few channels on my rabbit ears and daytime programming leaves much to be desired. I have a few DVDs but not many. So I bundled up and took a stroll to the library.

I like to browse through the DVDs at the library.

A month or so ago I noticed that they started to carry some television series. I already own a few of my favourites but it is nice to be able to watch some other shows now without having to buy them.

There is one series in particular that I have wanted to watch for a while. I used to watch the old series with my dad a long time ago. I watched the reworked mini-series on television a few years ago and it was pretty good. But then I got rid of my cable and only managed to watch a few episodes of season one.

So when I saw Battlestar Galactica 2.0 on the shelf, I got really excited. I knew that I’d be missing a bit of the story line but I figured I’d be able to catch up and enjoy the DVD collection. The cool thing was that every episode started with a small recap of what had already happened in the series. It was easy to catch up on and enjoy.

I must say, the second season was awesome. The only bad thing was that it is continued on another DVD set, Season 2.5. I tell ya, I’m hungry for more. I can’t wait until the next half of the season is available so I can watch it.

I’ve heard good things about this series for a while now. I’m just glad that I’ll be able to watch it all now, even without cable. It just might take me a while to track down all the other discs to borrow. But I will. I just don’t want to wait. When I find something I like, I can tend to get a bit obsessed about it.

What’s It Mean?

I’ve picked up a few stock phrases that my dad always used to use when I was a kid. I’ve done the same thing with my some of my grandpa’s phrases. I never thought twice about what some of those phrases meant. They just sounded cool and it spewed them out with pride.

When I was a teenager, I realized that some phrases that people say all the time are offensive. Like my grandpa used to say,

“Wait a cotton-picking moment.”

This is a racist slur. It goes back to the slaves working in the fields. Fortunately this phrase has fallen out of common usage and I only used it a few times when I was younger before I realized that it was not appropriate.

My dad used to say.

“For crying out loud!”

I still say this one all the time. I don’t even know what it really means. So I just looked it up.

This is what I found,

“for crying out loud: An ejaculation,usually indicating complaint or astonishment. Many of the users of this expression would be shocked to learn that it is in the category known as a minced oath; that is,a substitute based on, but slightly different from a profanity.”

– from the book “Heavens to Betsy” that has curious sayings in them.

It seems that this saying is also based on a bad word.

I think that there is a place for euphemisms, but not all of them. We need to understand when a phrase is hurtful of based on something hurtful. We should try to stop using these phrases.

I know that I try not to swear. I don’t take the Lords name in vain. I don’t say cotton-picking anymore but I still say for crying out loud. I think that one is tame and harmless these days, but maybe I am wrong there too.

How about you, what phrases do you find yourself saying that you don’t really know what they mean. Please share them in the comments. I will try to find the etymology of them for all of us.

Computer Attacks!

I’ve been getting some really annoying pop-ups lately. I think I know why but I have no idea how to stop them.

I’ve run several virus scans. I’ve deleted all unnecessary files on my computer. I’ve searched the add or remove programs function from the control panel and couldn’t find anything suspicious.

Yet I keep getting pop-ups that read “System Alert: Malware threats” or “Warning: Your computer might be infected with a backdoor Trojan that allows the remote attacker to perform various malicious actions.”

I get pop-ups that look like they are running a virus scan. They then urge me to download anti-virus software.

I’ve been using AVG 8.0 and I have never had any problems with viruses. My computer isn’t slowing down. Nothing else seems to be happening. I think the virus here is trying to trick me into downloading it. I’m not going to.

This problem seems to have started when I tried to catch up on an episode of Eli Stone I missed last week. American networks don’t allow Canadian access to their streams. Some blogs have links to streaming episodes and I searched and searched and still couldn’t find one that would work. I found one but it asked me to run an active control or something like that. I did. The video still didn’t work. I knew I made a mistake.

I’ve been careful about my online activities. I hope I haven’t given someone access to my computer and files.

The surprising thing is that the virus scan I keep running scans through close to 500,000 objects. I don’t know how computers work but I don’t understand how there can be so many things on my computer.

AVG has found a few trojans and suspicious cookies. But I’m still getting these pop-ups. I don’t know what else to do. Should I upgrade and buy the full version or should I just keep ignoring the pop-ups.

Any ideas here. Thanks!

Say No to Gift Cards

Gift cards seem to be all the rage these days. Retailers seem to have convinced us that they are the way to go.

They make a lot of sense. If you don’t know what to buy for someone, get them a gift card. It’s quick and easy and it shows that you put some thought into the gift (although not a lot)

Here’s why you shouldn’t buy gift cards.

You are giving money to a store or franchise for absolutely no reason

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give cash to the person instead? Why should you give it to a store for the promise of a future purchase? Do you know that a lot of people forget about their gift cards after a while? There are a huge number of gift cards that never get redeemed. The stores know this. They are making lots of money off of us for nothing.

Some gift cards have hidden fees

The credit card companies have gotten into this game now. Since financial institutions are not stores they can charge all sorts of extra fees. Beware of these fees because you are not only wasting your money but the money you wanted to give to someone special.

You are being controlling

If you want to buy someone a gift that you know they would enjoy, do so. If you absolutely can’t think of a suitable gift, give them cash instead. It doesn’t limit them in what they can do with the money you have given them, and I’m sure it will be more appreciated than a silly piece of plastic.

Gift cards are not a good idea

It’s time we woke up and stopped buying these things. The only winners in the sale of gift cards are the stores we purchase them from. We are basically advertising for the store, among many other things we probably haven’t even thought about.
What do you think about gift cards? Leave your comment below.

Life Gives Us What We Need

I have not been feeling one hundred percent this week. I’ve had a scratchy throat and that is usually the first sign that I am coming down with something. I have been quite tired too. I’ve been going to bed early and drinking lots of orange juice to stave off a cold.

I thought about taking today off as a sick day. I felt like I needed the time to kick back and take it easy. I had a sink full of dishes. I needed to finish my report cards. I need to write next week’s lesson plans. But all I wanted to do was lay down on the couch, cover myself up with a blanket, and watch some TV.

I looked in all the classrooms yesterday to see if the supply teacher who covered my class last time I had a workshop was in our school. If she was there, I was determined to ask her to come in for me today.

It turned out that there was only one supply teacher in the whole school yesterday and I didn’t know her. I decided not to ask her. I figured that I could survive the rest of the week at work and rest up on the weekend.

I got to school this morning and was met right away by the janitor and the principal. They had just made the decision to close to school because of the inclement weather. I went to my classroom and finished off my report cards. I printed them off and handed them into the principal.

This took me about an hour to do. By that time, there were only three of us left in the school and we were all advised to go home before the weather got worse.

So now I am home. I have been for nearly two hours now. The dishes are done. The report cards are done. And I now get the day to kick back and relax.

I’m sure glad I didn’t use a sick day today.

Things have a tendency to work out.

Life gives us what we need.

I’m glad the universe works like this.

I needed this break.

Bush Babees

I used to tape music videos when I was younger. I made several Beta tape collections of great rap videos. Those tapes are long gone. But thanks to YouTube we can still watch some old classic rap videos.

Today, I wanted to look back at one of favourite groups of the 90s. They only put out two albums but they are both classics and still get a lot of play from me.

The first video here is from their first album and the next one is from their second album.


Feel Good Interpretation

I am trying to write a blog entry while Jeopardy is on the television behind me.

I am only half paying attention to the Teen Tournament because my time is awfully short these days. I would like to be watching the show and giving it my undivided attention but I can’t. I don’t have any entries pre-written for the week. I need to get back to report cards soon. I haven’t checked my email all day long. I’m starting to get a bit frustrated that my to-do list is so long.

And then the television calls for my attention. It’s a commercial and not a category that I could whip through on Jeopardy. But it is worth my attention.

A Tuba starts off playing a familiar tune. Other people join in the song playing several different instruments or non-instruments. It’s one of those feel good Christmas commercials. And this one hooks me.

I recognize the song right away but it takes my attention to totally recall it. Then I remember.

Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite.

What a great mix of the song too. It isn’t just lifted from the album either. It is a new interpretation of a ninety’s classic. I really love how this commercial sounds and flows. It’s a refreshing change from commercials just stealing and ruining old songs.

It was a nice pick me up after a long and tiring day.


I wish I had the time to work on a novel right now. I would love to be part of the National Novel Writing Month. I have been working on something probably just as huge as a novel though. I’ve been putting a lot of work into these things too. They will be published and scrutinized over as well. They will be read by anxious children and nervous parents.

Give up?

They are the first-term report cards.

It sure is a lot of work writing report cards. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years you have done them either. They are always time-intensive affairs.

The worst part about report cards is that they really miss the point. I can’t say exactly what I want to say because they have to go through specific channels and filters. Each principal has his or her own idea of what the report cards should look like.

It is almost universal now that the report cards be positively worded. I always make sure to say something positive in every comment but the truth is, there are some negatives that need to be highlighted.

Parents and students need to know what they need to work on to become better students and raise their grades. I can tell them these things in no uncertain terms. No I can’t. I’m not allowed. I need to be flowery and say nothing.

Report cards suck!

I wish I was writing a novel instead. In fact, I feel like I am writing creatively with some of the comments I have been writing. I wish I could share them with you but they are a private government document. So I’d better not.