Monthly Archives: March 2009

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Tribes

Students need to learn how to work cooperatively, how to treat each other with respect, and how to listen attentively. These are life skills that are absolutely essential to have. Yet these skills are not addressed in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum documents.

As teachers, we are expected to teach a variety of subject areas and ensure that our students have an understanding of the topics specified for their grade. We need to teach math, science, social studies, music, visual arts, dance, drama, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, speaking skills, media skills, health, and physical education. These are the areas that are spelled out in detail for anyone to see.

The rest of the teaching is left up to us as individual teachers. I know that when I first started teaching I dived headlong into the curriculum right away on the first day of school. I assumed that my students could just do what I expected of them if I laid out those expectations on the first day. I gave a lecture of how things would be in this class and then quickly moved on to teaching lessons and giving the students seat work. I knew that I had a lot to cover with them academically and feared that I wouldn’t get through it all unless I cracked the whip, so to speak, and got them working right away.

The problem with this approach was that my students didn’t really know what I expected of them. The stern lecture wasn’t enough. Class would run smooth for a few days, or a week if I was lucky, but that was about it.

I would get upset and yell at my class because I thought they should know how to be good students. After all, I taught Grade 4 and the students had been in school for five years or more already. They should know to be good students, right?

Not exactly.

Fortunately, there is a curriculum that we can follow to teach these essential skills. It is called Tribes. They offer training for teachers and schools, but all you really need to get is this excellent book. Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities by Jeanne Gibbs. This is the most current and updated version of this book that I mentioned last week.

Here is a brief explanation from their website.

Tribes is a step-by-step process to achieve specific learning goals. Four agreements are honored:
– attentive listening
– appreciation/no put downs
– mutual respect, and
– the right to pass.

Students learn a set of collaborative skills so they can work well together in long-term groups (tribes). The focus is on how to:
– help each other work on tasks
– set goals and solve problems
– monitor and assess progress
– celebrate achievements.

I really like this program. I haven’t had the formal training that they offer but I have utilized this excellent book in shaping my classroom environment.

I realize now that I am going to need another post to share with you the excellent ideas in this book and how I have used them to build an atmosphere in my classroom that is based on respect and cooperation. I adapted the ideas from this program and melded them into my experiences as a Boy Scout to create a program that really works for me and feels natural. The students really seem to respond to it as well. I will share with you the details of how I do this in the next Teaching Tip Tuesday post. See you next week!

Lend Your Support

I was planning on writing a post this week about the possible demise of Canadian television. Several stations have already cut back on programming. Morning shows have been disappeared and some Canadian community channels have already shut their doors.

I think we need to have local broadcasters and television stations. The problem is that some people don’t really consider this to be a priority. There are so many other stations that we might not even notice or care if we lose all our Canadian ones.

We should care. We are slowly losing our unique voice. We have some amazing local television programs that I would hate to see disappear. I also like to watch a local news show in the morning. I think we need these channels and the CBC in particular.

When I opened my email this morning, I found a link to an online petition and some more information about this subject. I knew I had to share it with you. I know that many of you might not care about Canadian programming but we all should care about local programming. So if you can, please read on and lend your support.



I just signed an urgent petition to save the CBC from massive budget cuts. The email is below, here’s the link to sign the petition:

Here’s the original Email from Avaaz:

Dear friends,

Canada’s media networks have all been slammed by the recession. But the government is reportedly considering bailouts for its friends at private companies CTV and CanWest, while forcing the CBC to drastically cut 800 staff and programming.

Our CBC is a national treasure, and a pillar of public-interest journalism in a country whose media is owned by a few large firms. We won’t hear an outcry from their media outlets, and the CBC is too principled to use its megaphone to make the case for itself. We are the only voice the CBC has.

We urgently need a massive public outcry to Save the CBC, click below to sign the petition and forward this email to everyone who might care about this:

The petition will be delivered directly to the government, through Parliament, ads, and stunts such as an airplane pulling a giant Save the CBC banner over Ottawa. In each case the number of signatures on the petition will be crucial to the effectiveness of the campaign, so let’s get as many people as possible to sign.

The CBC is facing a budget shortfall that amounts to just $6 per Canadian, but its request to the government for a bridging loan to cover this was denied. The deep cuts the CBC is making will damage the organization across the board, and they will not be the last. If we don’t stand up for the CBC now, it stands to die a death by a thousand cuts. Harper’s minority government is politically vulnerable – public outrage could turn the government around on this, but it has to happen now. Let’s move quickly.

With hope,

Ricken, Lisa-Marie, Laryn and the whole Avaaz Canada team.

PS – here are some links for more info on this:

An excellent web resource for information and action on the CBC, including the government’s consideration of bailouts of CanWest and other companies:

The Star reports on how opposition parties accuse Harper of using the recession as an excuse to gut the CBC:

Union says Harper government strangling CBC:

Ian Morrison: Stephen Harper’s hidden agenda for the CBC:

A crisis of identity – A reader letter to the Globe and Mail:

Year Three of My Five-Year Mission

My five-year mission was simply to write as much as possible with the goal of being published within five years. I started this blog two years ago today with that goal in mind. It seemed achievable and I have been working towards that end since then.

This was my first-year update at the start of year-two.

This past year, I finished writing another novel. I revised and rewrote sections of my young adult novel as well. I believe that it is nearly ready to be shopped around to publishers. I really like how this story turned out.

I wrote my first short story this year. You can read it for free here.

So far I have written a screenplay, a verse novel, a young adult novel, a literary novel, a short story, and 504 blog entries. That’s a pretty good haul for two years.

I also joined the airwaves this past year and became part of the production team for Dope FM, a hip hop mix show on 93.3 CFMU here in Hamilton. The show is available as a podcast each and every week.

I have interviewed artists and really enjoyed my role as an on-air personality. This year, I will be launching a new monthly segment for the show on the history of hip-hop. I am really excited about this project.

It should be another stellar year here at Silent Cacophony. Thanks for coming along with me on this mission. I really love having this outlet and I appreciate you reading my words, commenting on posts, and following me on Twitter.

Happy Blog Birthday Silent Cacophony!

Here’s to a great Year 3!

The Internet Should Be Free

I have noticed that some places of business offer free wireless Internet. I think this is a great idea. The Internet should be free. Can’t we take this a step further?

I know that some municipalities offer free wireless Internet in the downtown core. It makes sense to do this. Downtown business areas are the heart and soul of any community. At least they used to be. I know a lot of people who never venture downtown anymore. They tell me that it is more convenient to go to the mall or shop online. They tell me that they don’t feel comfortable downtown. I don’t think free Internet is going to attract more visitors to the downtown core. Who needs to surf the web when they shop anyway?

Perhaps offering free Internet citywide would be more of an incentive to businesses that might consider setting up shop in our city. It might help attract residents to our city as well and give them something to rave about other than our downtown that they probably won’t utilize.

I support downtown businesses. I’m not trying to take anything away from them or from the people who reside in the core. All I know is that it is unfair that they get special treatment. Why are they the only ones to get free wifi?

I think the Internet is to this generation what the library and downtown core was to the previous. Times are changing. People shop and get their information in different ways now. The Internet has changed everything. It is time we embrace it and use it more productively in our city.

I Joined the Dark Side

I haven’t owned a fully functioning computer in years. When I started this blog I did all my writing on an old and outdated laptop. It wasn’t powerfully enough to do much of anything on it besides word processing but that was fine with me. I wrote all my blog posts offline and saved them to a thumb drive. I posted all my entries from the school or the public library and it was a system that worked well for me.

This summer I was lucky enough to come into possession of a laptop. I really enjoyed having the Internet available to me whenever I needed it. The laptop was just a loaner until I could get my own desktop. Well, I finally got one.

My uncle got a brand new computer and gave me his old iMac. It isn’t old and outdated at all. My uncle likes to keep up with new technology and I just happened to benefit from his upgrading. So while this computer may be old to him, it is new to me.

I never wanted to own a Mac. I know my way around a PC with ease. I have to learn how to use this new system, which isn’t a problem in itself. It has some neat features and programs that I am sure I will enjoy. But there are some things I don’t like about it.

I don’t like the mouse. It only has one button. I’m used to right-clicking to do some tasks. I also miss the scrolling wheel that I had on the PC. I used that a lot when going through blog posts on my reader or editing word documents.

I shouldn’t nitpick here. Beggars can’t be choosers. I also don’t want to sound negative. I appreciate this gift of a fully functioning computer, and I am having fun with it.

I don’t agree with a lot of Apple’s practices though. I’ve written about it here a few times over the years.


I Hate iTunes

I Joined the Digital Age

That’s why it feels as if I’ve joined the dark side. Even worse, I kind of want one of those 80 GB iPods that my girlfriend has now. It would work great with my computer.

Arghhh. I have joined the dark side.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Character Education

A huge part of teaching lies outside of the curriculum. Teachers cannot simply teach the basics; math, science, social studies, English, etc. We need to teach the students how to work together cooperatively, how to follow routines and procedures, and how to strive for their best.

Character education has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. I think people want to make sure that values are still taught. It seems that they have eroded over time. I think this may have to do with the pace and nature of society these days. I know that when I was younger I went to church and learned some of those important life lessons there. I also went with my grandma and it was a family affair.

I don’t want to focus on the erosion of value here. That could be a negative post. Teaching Tip Tuesdays is about helping other teachers and being positive. That being said, I think it is important for teachers to model good behaviour. We also should take it a step further and teach these valuable social skills. To that end, let me share with you some excellent resources on Character Education.

Growing Character by Deb Austin Brown

I can’t say enough about this book. Brown’s strategies are amazing, and the tips are invaluable to any teacher. One of the best parts of this book is that it has over 400 inspiration quotations at the back of it. It also has weekly homework sheets that help students learn social skills. I have implemented many of the ideas from this book into my daily teaching. Get this book, read it, devour it. I highly recommend it.

TRIBES: A New Way of Leaning and Being Together by Jeanne Gibbs

Another great book for instilling a sense of community. It is chopped full of activities, of theory, and easy to follow lessons. I will write in more detail about this program next week.

I hope you will find these resources as useful as I have. If you need any help with your classroom or have any questions, comments, or suggestions please reply with a comment or send me an email. I’d be glad to hear from you.

Go to Tip 8 – Tribes

Hamilton – The New Hot Spot

The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos is a great program. I like to watch this show whenever I can, but some nights I just can’t stay up that late to watch it. Fortunately they have a really good website where they archive entire shows and popular segments.

I was looking forward to March 18th’s show because Being Erica’s Erin Karpluk was going to be on. I really like that show so I was looking forward to the interview.

The Hour is always a great show to watch. I can watch the entire show regardless of the guests. And that’s what I did last night. I was surprised to see that Hamilton got some major big ups. I transcribed it for prosperity here. You can catch the video at this link if you want to see this entire segment with Don Campbell.

George: “Give me the top 5 regions that are good areas to buy (a house) in.”

Don Campbell: “We’re talking 5 to 7 years,. . .You wanna be seriously looking at Hamilton.”

George: “Hamilton, Ontario?”

Don Campbell: “Absolutely.”

George: “Steel plants closing, manufacturing town, people talking about the death of manufacturing industry in this country, why Hamilton?”

Don Campbell: “Hamilton’s got the Go-train that’s servicing it. It’s getting much more expensive to buy in Toronto so people are coming down to Hamilton. You’ve got the transition that’s going on down there, the city leadership is fantastic in the region, and it’s close to KWC, it’s close to Toronto, close in relative terms.”

George: “KWC is Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge?”

Don Campbell: “Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, sorry. Yup, I betcha it’s gonna be one of the top 3 in all of Ontario.”

George: “The entire city of Hamilton loves you.”

Don Campbell: “Yup, I just tell the facts.”

Larissa Rocks!

This is what I wrote last year on March 28th,

“I don’t remember the last time I was so excited for someone to win a game show. But I must admit that for the past six episodes I have been sitting on the edge of my seat and cheering. And all of this for a contestant on Jeopardy.”

That contestant was Larissa Kelly.

I watched and cheered as she won six matches in a row. She seemed unstoppable. I blogged about her on the day of her seventh appearance on the show. Unfortunately her reign as Jeopardy Champion ended that day. For a while I thought I jinxed her by posting up my entry that day. I sure hope I didn’t.

When all was said and done she won a total of $222,597. It was an impressive performance. Read about it in more detail here. It was sad to see her go but I knew she’d be back for the Tournament of Champions.

Last night marked her return to the show. I once again sat on the edge of my seat and cheered her on. She started out strong and quickly pulled ahead of her two competitors. It looked like she might run away with the game but then Dave Simpson went for a true daily double and got it.

Larissa managed to stay ahead of him but at Final Jeopardy it could have been anyone’s game. I sat in suspense as Dave got the final question correct. It was then all on Larissa. She looked confident. It wasn’t an act. She won with a total of $30,000. And best of all she will be back next week for the final round of the Tournament of Champions.


Running Season Starts

I love this time of year. The snow has melted and winter has retreated. The air is crisp and cool, yet quite inviting.

In fact, so far the weather has been amazing for March Break. The temperatures have been well above seasonal. It’s been really nice. It has actually beckoned to me and my running shoes. They had been hiding under my couch since November, patiently waiting for the good weather to return and running season to begin.

Saturday their patience finally paid off. Running season officially began for me.

The first run of the year is always the toughest, especially after a long winter break. I know this from past experience. That’s why I make sure to do an extensive stretch before setting out the first time. I keep a comfortable pace and only go for a short distance.

I normally like to run anywhere from 5 to 10 kilometers. When I am back in shape, it takes me about four minutes to run one km. My runs take me anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes on average.

Here are some tips for those of you starting a running routine or just getting back into it after some time off.

Get Good Shoes – Shoes really make the difference. Keep a pair of shows strictly for running and replace them every season or every 500 kilometers.

Start off Slow – Find a pace that is comfortable. You should be able to talk and not be short of breath. Keep that pace for the entire run and try not to stop and walk.

Keep it Short – If you want to run five or ten kilometers, start off trying a lot shorter of a distance. Run that shorter distance for at least a week before trying anything longer.

Make it a Routine – Run 3 or 4 times a week every week. Some days you may not feel like running and that is fine but if you take two days off, you cannot take a third. Get out there and run even if you don’t feel like it. Once you get started it will be fine and you’ll be getting back into the groove of things and running will become so much easier.

Read or Ask – I’m not an expert. I run because I enjoy it. If you are serious about running and want to know more you can find lots of professional advice online or at your local running store.

Have Fun – Do it for fun.

Well that’s it. Here’s to the start of a great running season! Hopefully I will see you on the trails or at a race.

If You Don’t Look, You Find

This is what I wrote here a few weeks ago on February 4th.

“I’m ready to move on. It’s been a long time since my heart was broken. But I don’t want to go looking for my true soul mate. I figure that if it is meant to be, we will find each other. Maybe that is naive of me.”

Now, I don’t know if I believe in the law of attraction. I believe that things happen for a reason and that overall things happen to work out. That being said, I did put the thought out there that I was ready to move on. I didn’t actively join the dating scene. I just kept up my usual routines and a special someone just happened to walk into my life a short while later later.

One of my favourite quotations from my commonplace book is the one I used for the title of this post today. It really speaks to me on a variety of levels. I think that things have a way of working out. You can check out my original commentary on this quote over at Thoughtful Cacophony.

I guess I always knew that this quote could be about love too. I just didn’t expect it to happen to me.

I don’t think either of us were looking for a relationship at this time. It just happened. And maybe that is how it supposed to happen.

I know that it is very early on in this relationship but I feel really good about it.