Monthly Archives: December 2008


It’s a good thing to reflect on your life and realize that there are some things that are worth changing. Today a lot of us will be examining our lives in detail as we prepare ourselves for a brand new year. As such, it may seem like a fresh start.

2009 will be the year where I … and … and …

Fill in the blanks.

There are probably a few things you can change in your life to make it better for you, for those around you, or for the environment. These aren’t the only areas of focus either. It’s different for everyone.

While I believe making a resolution and sticking to it is a great idea, I won’t be making any New Years Resolutions this year. The truth is, I don’t believe in them. For one simple reason – this is the worst time of year to make a change.

The holiday season is hectic. We are often busy with family, parties, and socializing. So how can we possible start a major life change amongst all of this?

I truly believe that we should resolve to change things in our lives that aren’t working the very second we realize they aren’t. I’ve made a lot of resolutions this year and I’ve stuck to them, for the most part.

Life is about change and adapting. Remember that, in this New Year. If you are motivated by the New Year to change something about your life, then go ahead and do it. I wish you all the best.

In fact, I wish all my readers and everyone in the blogosphere a safe and happy night tonight. Go celebrate and have fun.

And all the best in 2009!

Best and Worst of 2008

Here is my annual Best and Worst of list.

Best Athlete – Usain Bolt

He was amazing to watch during the Summer Olympics. I love running, and watching these games was very exciting. Bolt was unbelievable.

Best Album – Water Street

I have been a fan of Sweatshop Union for quite some time. This is their fourth album and deserves top spot. This has been a good year for the hip-hop album.

Last year, I didn’t even have any honourable mentions. This year I do. EPMD’s We Mean Business, and Murs for President.

Best Artist – Blu

Blu has certainly proved himself this year. Last year’s Below the Heavens by Blu and Exile is still in heavy rotation. This year he could be found all over the place. The Johnson and Johnson album is nice.

Honorable mention, John Robinson. These are the two MCs you need to look out for in the new year.

Best New TV Show – Fringe

This show is creepy. It can actually be a bit disturbing. I think it is billed as a science fiction / horror show. It reminds me of the X-files, in that they are constantly investigating scientific anomalies. Yet, all of the strange things that have been happening seem to be connected. The characters are trying to figure out what exactly “the pattern” is and what it means.

It’s compelling and well-written. I haven’t found any other new shows that I have stuck with this year. This isn’t the best show on television but it is worth watching every week.

Best Post – Nothing

This was my favourite post this year. It sparked a lot of discussion both on and off this blog. I really wasn’t expecting that. Check it out here!

Worst Album – 808’s and Heartbreak

Kanye’s West went from one of the best producers and innovative artists in the game to copying someone else’s style. He doesn’t rap once on this album. He sings with a vocoder on every single track. He sounds like a poor imitation of T-Pain, and that’s saying a lot because T-Pain is horrible.

Honorable Mention, Universal Mind Control

Kanye seems to have even pulled Common down. Common’s last two albums were amazing. I really respect and admire both of these artists but they both dropped the ball this year.

Well, that’s it. My worst list is a bit lacking this year, but I didn’t see much in the way of movies or television to even comment on. I also haven’t been following popular music much this year.

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas everyone! I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season.

I will be taking a bit of a break from my blogging routine to enjoy the holidays. I will post my annual Best and Worst of the Year list next week. You can also look forward to some sporadic posts this holiday.

I will resume my regular posting schedule when school starts back up in January. Until then, peace and warm wishes!

Lots of love,


Break the Rule or Not?

I use



and so

to start sentences often in my writing.

It just feels right. The tone is more conversational and seems to have a better flow. But does it make for good writing?

I’ve asked this question before. But I feel like I need to ask it again.

I’ve been revising my young adult novel “4 Wheels and a Piece of Maple.” My cousin was kind enough to read it critically. She pointed out all the flaws in the book and I’m happy that she was so brutally honest with me.

I’ve spent the weekend, going over her notes and making the changes in my novel. Here is one of the notes she wrote,

You have to decide if you are comfortable breaking the “Do Not Start A Sentence With But or And” rule. I will continue to point them all out, but you will have to decide if you want to do this. I’ve seen big name authors do it, infrequently.

It’s her word “infrequently” that really got me thinking. I was amazed at the amount of times I actually started sentences with conjunctions. It was probably too much. So I changed all but a few of them. The only ones I kept were in dialogue because they sounded natural to me there.

But as I read the newspaper this weekend, I noticed that several journalists actually do break the rule. I then thumbed through a few of my novels and couldn’t find any examples of this blatant rule breaking.

I wonder if it’s okay to break this rule in newspapers and blogs because they are more informal than the novel. What do you think?

Ripped off – But Safe

The kids in my class were looking forward to the last day of school and our Christmas party. They’d been asking about it all week.

I prepared some games for us to play together this morning. Several students told me that they were bringing in treats to share.

The kids were a bit crazy and hyper all week, which always happens just before Christmas holidays, but we got through the week just fine. The pay off would be today’s Christmas party.

Unfortunately, it is not going to happen.

School is cancelled due to the huge winter storm that is currently hitting most of Southern Ontario. The weather and traffic reports are advising us to stay in if possible.

So right now, my students should be nice and safe in their homes. I’m not planning on going anywhere. It really is best to keep the car parked in the driveway today. Better safe than sorry.

I don’t know if my students mind starting their holidays early. But I feel a bit ripped off. We didn’t have a proper send off and we lose out on our Christmas party and the fun day that I had planned.

Oh well, it’s better to have the roads clear today so that no one gets hurt. We still have two more systems moving in so the weather is only going to get worse.

Be safe out there and have a great Christmas holiday!

Student – Teacher Disconnect

I went to a two-day workshop two weeks ago that was quite enlightening. One of the presenters told us how prepared he was for every class he ever taught. He had all the curriculum expectations that he was covering written down on his lesson plans. He knew what he was teaching and what his student were to learn each and every day.

He asked us if we did the same thing. Heads nodded in agreement. I know that I certainly do the same thing. He then asked if we ever share this with the students.

There was a pause in the room as most of us realized that we don’t.

“Why not?” he asked.

He then revealed to us that there is often a disconnect between what students think they are learning and what teachers think they are teaching. He pointed out some research that had been done on the subject. It even happens at the university level as well.

“It took me 17 years to figure this out,” he said.

It seems so simple. We can write a learning goal for each lesson. This learning goal should be clear and concise. It should be in student friendly language that describes what students are to know or be able to do at the end of the period of instruction.

It would be so easy to write a learning goal on the board for each lesson.

“I can . . .”

That’s all we need to do. “I can add three digit numbers.” or “I can write a list of items in a complete sentence.”

I section off a portion of my board to write the agenda for each and every day of school. The agenda is detailed enough that my students know what to expect every period all day long. It wouldn’t take much to add a section for a learning goal as well.

I started this practice this last week. I know that my students haven’t quite been living up to my expectations. I thought that I’ve been very clear about them but I know that I can be more clear. Learning goals sound like such a simple and easy concept. I wonder why I never thought of it before.

My Fight with the Photocopier

– I was trying to copy a large double-sided worksheet for my students
– I set the machine to the 2 sided to 2 sided copy
– The paper selector automatically sets it to 11×17 ledger-sized
– I’m all set
– I hit start
– Three copies come through just fine
– But then it jams.
– I open up the panels and search for the paper stuck in the machine
– I clear the jam and start it back up
– It jams again
– I clear the jam and start once more
– It jams again
– I clear the jam and give up

– I try again later in the day
– I hit double sided 11×17 paper size.
– Three copies come through and then it jams, just like earlier in the day
– I clear out the jam once again,
– I try again, and guess what?
– It jams again
– I clear it out and then switch to one-sided copies
– The copies spit out with ease.
– I put the copies back in the tray, flip over the worksheet and hit one sided-copy
– The copies spit out with ease again and my two-sided copy job is done.
– This should’ve been a quick and easy job that stretched on like this jot note list
– But I got it done.
– I wasted a lot of time but I got it done
– The worksheets will ready for the kids tomorrow.

The Choir

My TV is so old that it doesn’t even have a remote control. To change channels or adjust the volume, I actually have to get off of the couch.

I also only have rabbit ears so I don’t get very many stations. I get channel 10, 69, 71, 91, 107, and 125. Most of the time, I watch either channel 10 or 91.

When I got home Sunday night, I turned on the TV. The last thing I had watched was on TVO on channel 69. I don’t normally watch TV on Sunday nights but I really needed to sit down and relax after a long and busy weekend.

I was about to flip the channel because I figured that there couldn’t be anything worth watching on TVO at this time of night. Boy was I wrong.

I found this amazing show called “The Choir.” It was completely captivating. It was about a choirmaster and his attempt to start a choir at an all-boys high school. Gareth Malone had his work cut out for him as the school didn’t have a formal music program at the time. Athletics were all the rage at this school and singing was something that was actually looked down upon by most of the boys.

Boys don’t sing. Singing isn’t cool. These were just a few of the false beliefs Malone had to conquer. But he did it.

He showed the kids at this school that singing can be cool and built an amazing choir.

“The Choir” airs on BBC 2 and can be seen here in Ontario Sunday nights on TVO. It is a reality television series that is inspiring and shows how important the arts are in schools. (link –

Please check it out if you get the chance. I found these clips on YouTube to share with you. Enjoy!

The first clip features the choir Sense of Sound. The boys in the school get really inspired after seeing them. It’s a great clip.

This next clip is the final song and performance of Stand By Me / Beautiful Girl.

What a show. I know I will definitely be tuning in next week. Too bad I don’t have a VCR. It is worth taping, that’s for sure.

Arts – Academics – Athletics

The 3 A’s; arts, academics, and athletics. These are the three components of a good education.

I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms before. But as soon as I heard another teacher mention this at the workshop I attended two weeks ago, I scribbled it down as a pearl of wisdom.

I have noticed in some schools that the arts are not really valued. They get neglected for a variety of reasons. Some teachers do not feel comfortable teaching the arts because they have no experience and believe that they have no talent.

The truth is, everyone can learn how to sing, appreciate art, dance, or act. We can study techniques and the elements basic to these four art forms. Any teacher can teach the arts, and moreover has the obligation to do so.

We have four strands in the provincial curriculum; visual arts, music, dance, and drama. I feel very comfortable teaching the first two of these. I am a musician and really enjoy teaching music. I know enough about art that I actually teach it instead of just having a craft or project for the students to do each week. I’ll admit that I don’t really feel comfortable teaching dance. I basically have no rhythm when it comes to dance. That being said, I have taught it several times because it is part of my job.

I think when it comes to the arts, we basically give permission for teachers not to teach it. Teachers will threaten to take away art or gym as a consequence in their classes. We will let teachers get away with not teaching music or dance because we value the other subjects more. This is wrong.

We would never tell a teacher that it’s okay just to do a little bit of math. We’d never say. “It’s okay, do what you can. Don’t worry about it.” But we say this all the time about the arts.

I feel that the arts are important and need to be taught in school. Teachers can’t make excuses why they don’t teach the four disciplines. I know that there are a million excuses out there. And I wholeheartedly agree that every school should have a music teacher, a drama teacher, and a physical education teacher. But until that day is a reality, we as classroom teachers have a responsibility to teach these subjects to our students.

Sweatshop Union Interview Podcast

My Sweatshop Union interview hit the airwaves of Hamilton and the world last night. Look out!

If you weren’t tuned in to the radio station last night, don’t fret. You can download it at the Dope FM web page.

You can listen to it here, if you subscribe to my blog in a reader.

Or you can and scroll down and read the transcript. The transcript is divided into three parts. The bonus of reading it here is that there are some music videos embedded.

If you would rather read the interview here. Please click on these links; Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The direct link to the podcast is here;

I hope you enjoy it!