Monthly Archives: January 2009

Best Teacher Ever

I got called “The Best Teacher Ever!” today, more than once.

All it took was some chocolate cake.

It was great to get this response from the kids. I’m glad they enjoyed my surprise for them.

I started this practice two years ago and I find it works quite well. On a day when no one is expecting it, I throw my class a surprise birthday party to celebrate everyone’s birthday. I bake a cake and come to school early to sneak it inside.

While the kids are out at recess or gym class, I move the desks together and place a drink, a napkin, and a personalized birthday card on each desk. I like to put super balls and suckers in the envelopes as well.

Today’s party was one of the best yet. I went to the gym to pick up the students as I usually do every day. They were lined up waiting for me but they weren’t quite ready to go. I usually give them a moment to line up properly and then we walk to the fountain to get a drink.

The line was a bit unruly so I told them that we weren’t going to go get a drink today. We walked directly back to class but as soon as I opened the door, they knew something was up.

They were quite surprised. They thanked me for the cards and the juice. And that’s when I brought out the cake.

I also brought in two DVD’s and they choose which one they wanted to watch. I had two kids deliver some cake to the principal and the secretary. We even had a piece left over for the head custodian.

Everyone enjoyed the surprise birthday party. I didn’t end up watching much of the movie. I ended up playing some games with some of the students instead.

It was a great day.

Mailbox Full of Bills

I don’t mind paying my bills. I know that it is a regular part of life. The part I really hate is trying to read them.

When I checked my mail today, it was full of bills and flyers. Both things demanding my money.

I threw the flyers directly in the recycling bin. Even if there is a sale on right now, I need to count my pennies.

I open the bills and look at them closely.

Let’s look at my phone bill.

Who designs this thing? It is so hard to read! The Internet is a set price every month, as is my long distance bill. I knew what the price would be when I first signed up for the service. The company was up front with me.

Yet when I get the bill they hide behind numbers. There is a page with the listed price and then there is a section with the savings. The next page says that I used $180.18 on long distance. What!

I’m on a long distance plan that only costs $9.99 a month. The charge on the front page of the bill says it costs $46.84. On page 2, it says I saved that $180.18.

Truth is, I didn’t save that. I used my unlimited long distance plan because I knew I had it. I know how it works. I don’t appreciate this ridiculous bill.

Just give me a one-page bill that says I am on the two plans; Internet and home phone and the cost for them. Don’t give me five pages of garbage that doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Why Do We Fall for 99 Cent Pricing?

When 99 cent pricing was new, it was easy for us to fall for it.

We see a price


and say, “Wow! It’s only five-hundred dollars. What a deal!”

and then we buy it and tell all our friends that it was only $500.00. We rationalize our purchase several ways but this one always works.


I think it is because that we have just all accepted this. We understand how business works and we go along with it.

But, to tell you the truth, I am sick and tired of this method of pricing items. I want honesty in my billing. I don’t want to be tricked into buying something because I think it is a deal. I want to know straight up what I am paying for an item. I want to stop being lied to.

So advertisers, can you please just list the item as $600.00 from now on and not $599.99? You’re not fooling anyone with that penny. Or maybe you are.

I just wonder why we keep falling for this trickery. We convince ourselves that we have saved one-hundred dollars when we haven’t. $100 is a lot of money. Money that I don’t have to throw around.

This is even worse in car sales when we spend thousands of dollars.

All I’m saying is, isn’t it time we had honest pricing? Let’s drop the -99 rule, save a penny and keep prices more honest. I’d appreciate it.

Forever Plastic

I caught this documentary Forever Plastic last week. It was really interesting to see how the world has changed because of plastic. It seems like plastic has always been around. Of course, this might be the problem.

Plastic is always around.

I was shocked to learn that the recyclable logo doesn’t mean what I thought it did. I assumed every time I saw the triangle logo, that the product could go into the blue bin and get recycled. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.

Apparently plastic is recyclable. This much makes sense. However, many of the “recyclable” products we put into our recycling bins do not get recycled. Tonnes of plastic ends up in landfills every day. Plastic products get sorted out at recyling plants and thrown out. I couldn’t believe this.

The problem: Recycling facilities are not equipped to recycle all plastics. The shape of the product, the type of plastic, and the technology of the plant all contribute to what can and cannot be recycled in each municipality.

The frustrating thing is that there is no uniformity here. Most consumers, myself included, have no idea what can and cannot be recycled.

The familiar triangle logo with the three arrows doesn’t really help. There is absolutely no regulations behind the use of this symbol. It can be used by anyone and doesn’t guarantee that the product is recyclable.

Apparently most plastic food containers that are not bottle shaped, don’t get recycled.

I don’t know why this symbol isn’t regulated. We need to know what is getting recycled. This would help everyone involved. It must cost a lot of money to sort out the “good” plastic from the “bad plastic” at the recycling plants. If we knew what products got recycled then we could better choose what products to buy and which ones to put in our bins.

I hope this documentary gets people thinking about this problem. We need a better solution. That much is as clear as the transparent plastic all around me.

School’s Not Important

At least that is the message that your kids get if you…

– pull them out of school regularly.
– can’t get them to school on time
– never check to see if your child has homework
– don’t come to parent-teacher interviews
– haven’t been in the school at least once yet this school year

I went to the dentist for a regular cleaning today after school. The hygienist and I discussed this issue. She told me that she made sure her children got to school every day. She said, “It’s their work” and I couldn’t agree more.

Children need to learn the responsibility and importance of commitment. We need to model this by making sure that they get to school every day on time. We need to make sure they put in a solid effort by communicating with and supporting their teachers.

Like the hygienist said, “School is a child’s work.” Work is not just something we do to get paid. We don’t just punch a clock, punch out, and get paid. We need to work hard to achieve our dreams. This all begins with good habits.

Most of my good daily habits started in childhood. My parents supported my teachers and were instrumental in my learning. They made sure I was at school every day and that dentist appointments were done after school. I only missed class if I was ill. And if I stayed home from school, there was no going out at night. If I was too sick for school, I was too sick for Scouts or any other fun thing I wanted to do after school hours.

I think children need to be taught personal responsibility. Parents need to put a value on education and stop sending the message that school is not important. It’s important to me. I want to see your kids succeed in life, but I need your support. Thanks!

Quotations of the Week

I thought I’d share with you some of the quotes I’ve been posting this week from my commonplace blog. If you like what you read, check out Thoughtful Cacophony.

Motivational Monday – I always start out the week with a motivational quote.

“It is through cooperation, rather than conflict, from which your greatest successes be derived.”

– Ralph Charell

Tube Tuesday – Wisdom pulled from movies or television

“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

Pearl Harbour movie dialogue spoken by Colonel James H. Doolittle.

This film strived to be an accurate account of the Pearl Harbor disaster. The above quotation is not just mere dialogue but the words from this brave Colonel.

What!?! Wednesday – Song lyrics that make me stop and think.

“There are no role models
It’s up to the parents to teach the kids
to understand the music they’re hearing
cause hip hop was created for social awareness.”

DL Icognito “Make a Difference” lyrics from the album Organic Music For A Digital World.

Storied Thursday – Quotes about story and reality

“Stories are the most helpful tools a child has for sorting this all out. Stories have authority. Stories normalize. Stories model behaviour and feeling. Stories model the power to make stories – a power that children must develop in order to manage their own particular individual worlds, the ones seen through their own unique eyes.”

Joseph Gold. Read For Your Life: Literature as a Life Support System. Fitzhenry and Whiteside: Markham, 1990. pg 153

Anything Goes Fridays – I pick a quote from my extensive collection to post up on any topic on Fridays.

“Women tended to get married before they knew themselves, before they’d made contact with their inviolate selves. Another fact: it takes ages, years and years, to train a man to be even moderately sensitive and to equip him with the expertise to carry out ordinary household tasks. By the time all the information has been dispensed and processed, the trainer is worn out.”

Jane Hamilton. Disobedience. Anchor Books. 2000. pg 75.

Well, that’s a sample of what you can expect from my sister blog Thoughtful Cacophony. If you love quotations go check it out. I run these features every week. Enjoy!

What’s the Big Deal?

There’s a television in my classroom but I rarely use it. I will occasionally show videos to enhance the curriculum, but most of the time, the television stays off to the corner of my room collecting dust. I didn’t even know that I could use it to tune in any stations until today.

I wanted to put the inauguration on so my class could hear what was going on. When I turned on the TV for the news this morning, none of my students knew why I was doing it. They couldn’t see what the big deal was. That’s a good thing.

I don’t tend to think in terms of race or colour. My best friend’s family is originally from Jamaica but I would never introduce him as “my black friend” or my “Jamaican-Canadian friend.” There just isn’t any need for such adjectives. He’s my best friend. Period.

I had to explain why this was such an historic occasion to my class. I’m sure they are familiar with racism to some extent but they’ve never really had to live it. I’m glad for that. I’m glad we’ve had leaders that have stepped up to show us that people are all the same no matter their race, colour, creed, or gender. This message has gotten through to the kids.

Most of my students thought it was great to take a break from their learning to watch TV. I noticed, however, that most of them failed to see why this was such a big deal. The didn’t watch it with rapt attention, they didn’t really want to discuss the significance of it, and they didn’t ask me tonnes of questions about it.

Once again, I think this is a good thing. I hope that we will all truly be colour blind soon.

Perhaps this is just the latest stepping stone to making this happen. The shore is in reach.

Revision is Tough

I don’t use outlines when I write. I just get an idea, let it cook in my head for a while, and then start writing. I then take a bit of a break before moving on to my next writing project. After I have given myself some distance from the story, I go back and read through the entire work in one sitting, This helps me catch any continuity errors or problems in the plot.

I have done that so far with everything that I have written. I was happy with my work and thought that it might be worth publishing. I had planned on shopping around for an agent and a publisher last summer. But then I came across this excellent blog.

Natahn Bransford is a literary agent and his blog should be required reading for any aspiring writer. I read all of the articles he highlighted in the side bar and have been a regular reader ever since. Last summer, I decided to follow some of the advice I found on his site. I can’t remember what post it was from but I do remember the main point of it. He basically said, if you think your work is ready, go back and revise it again.

My cousin read my young adult novel and marked it all up like she was a university professor. I really appreciate all the work she did and I followed almost all of her suggestions. But I must say, it was hard to do.

I had to add a few scenes to help with the overall flow of the story. I didn’t want to add much though because the book was a decent size for 8-12 year-olds. I struggled over how to fill in the holes that were still apparent. I had edited it myself previously and was surprised that there was still so much that could be done to improve it.

I had a hard time getting back into the mindset of rewriting this story. It was almost harder adding those three scenes into the novel than it was to write the entire book. I had to be succinct and place them in the right place. I was thinking too hard and not enjoying the writing.

It took me a couple of days of thinking and cooking but I managed to get back to the mind state. I had a few days there where I didn’t accomplish anything. I felt like it was impossible. But then it just came to me. I started writing and put the new scenes in.

It feels good to be done. I know the book is 100 times better than it was.

So I’m going to let my cousin read it again. She actually wanted to. I hope she likes what I’ve done with it. If not, I might need to do this again.

What’s He Look Like?

Is it important what a character looks like?

When reading fiction, we can’t really see the characters anyway. Some writers will write pages and pages filled with physical description but is this really necessary?

As a reader, I build up a vision of the characters in my mind. I do this with my own imagination. I use what the author gives me, but I add to that my personal experiences and general impressions I get from the text.

The real reason I’m asking this question is that I have come to realize that I don’t use much in the way of physical description in any of fiction I have I have written since starting my five-year mission.

Is there a value to using physical description or can I just leave it alone. Is it enough to know the setting, the family life and the age of the character? We can learn a lot about a character from his history, his choices, and his dialogue. The story gives us clues throughout and helps us to form a picture in our minds. Your picture may be different than mine, and that’s fine.

I find that when I read passages of physical descriptions in any work, I tend to skim right past them. To me, that isn’t an integral point of the story. I don’t want anybody to skip through my reading.

I have a lot of questions about writing. Last year I thought I knew what I was doing but now I am looking more critically at my own work. I believe this is a healthy thing to do that will only help to improve my writing overall.

Please weigh in on this issue in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

O My – Enough is Enough

I am getting really tired of Obama-mania. Everywhere you turn there is some special Obama related product. Barack Obama’s image is ending up in the weirdest places. There are T-shirts, hats, scarves, cookies, mugs, and other not so typical pieces of merchandise.

Earlier this week I saw a news story about special Obama Beaver Tails. Beaver Tails are a pastry that can be topped with whatever you choose. They are on the menu for the inauguration and were given away for free on the Rideau Canal on Tuesday. The only thing they did different for these special pastries was to put an O on them.

Yesterday a special inauguration Spiderman comic came out. People lined up outside of comic book stores in the freezing cold. Why? Because of the special variant cover showing a smiling Obama with Spiderman swinging behind him. Within hours of the comic being sold, it was being resold online for anywhere from $60 to over $100.

I think this is crazy. The man is a politician. That’s it. He’s not a rock star. Why are people so obsessed about the man? Sure he is charismatic, he looks good on television, but he can’t dance – did you see him on Ellen? He isn’t going to fix all the world’s problems either.

I just can’t understand this hype. People are going to be treating the inauguration like it is the Oscars. I can see it now. It’s going to be a who’s who with journalists covering the crowd and what every one is wearing.

This media circus needs to stop now. I’ve had enough of Obamania! I just hope it dies down soon. I can understand why people think it is such a big deal, but to me it’s not. Another president is taking office. And since when did anyone have such confidence in the government that they need to celebrate it?

In a few years, this will seem pretty ridiculous. He won’t be able to please everyone. He’ll become more than just a figurehead for the hopes and dreams of people who are placing way too much importance on this whole thing.

I’d like to close with these wise words;

“It’s time for a change
so don’t go trying to turn inauguration into an all-star game
Let’s act right and show these kids
We can turn “Yes We Can” into “Yes We Did”
and Bush made it hard, be patient
Let that man go to the Whitehouse and do his job.”

– Skillz “2008 Rap Up”