I submitted a story to The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest.
THE THOUGHT ALONE
“You know how there are never enough hours in the day, how it seems that you need to move faster, get more done? I know you do. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. And sometimes that thought alone is enough to motivate us.”
Teachers need to be prepared. I can’t emphasize this enough. I make sure that I draw up very detailed year plans and day plans. I am very well organized in my classroom. Unfortunately all the planning and organizing can sometimes not be enough.
Teachers need to be flexible. There will always be things that interfere with our best-laid plans. The best skill that any teacher can learn is flexibility. We need to be able to adapt to a variety of situations.
There have been quite a few times where things have not run as smoothly as I had hoped or planned. There have been times when I realized that I needed to switch gears and abandon my plan. There have been interruptions or unscheduled assemblies or meetings. The only thing you can do in these situations is to go with the flow.
It’s no secret that I don’t like social networking sites. I’ve written about this topic several times here on Silent Cacophony. That’s why you will probably be surprised that I have been won over by one of them.
That’s right, I am on Twitter and enjoying it. At first I didn’t get it and I thought about quitting the site several times but I hammered on anyway. As I did, I realized that Twitter can actually be a useful device.
Twitter is essentially a microblog reader. You post small updates that can be no longer than 140 characters. It sounds really limiting and when I first heard of Twitter, I immediately decided that it wasn’t for me. But I tried it out for a while and began to see the benefits.
So what won me over?
1) I have picked up more readers and subscribers to my blog since I have been on there.
2) It isn’t difficult to get updates. If you decide to follow someone, their posts end up on your homepage and it is quick and easy to scan them.
3) You can find out some interesting things about your favourite artists. MC Lars posts regular updates about his tour. They are cool to see.
4) It is quick and easy to post things up.
Here are the latest Tweets that I have posted there;
“I’m working on my short story for the contest that @writerdad is hosting. Entries are due Friday. Look for my story later this week.”
“I’m glad most people here write in sentences. I don’t get text message lingo. I’m too old school but not old enough for Twitter, it seems.”
“I should be writing now. I said I was. Maybe just knowing that you know I’m working on this story will get me moving & get in done in time.
“Just joined a twibe. Visit http://twibes.com/kidlitosphere to join”
“Still working on my short story. I don’t know why I always find it harder to write one of these than an entire novel.”
“Watching Sopranos Season 3 DVD. Episode 1 is amazing. I love the way it is cut and the music editing is brilliant.”
“Check out this intriguing blog post about the “Privitization of the English Language” and trademarks on @zen_habits”
If you are intrigued or like what you see. Head on over to http://twitter.com/chasemarch and follow me.
Okay. Let me vent for a moment here. You may have had a teacher in the past that you didn’t see eye to eye with. You may have constantly butted heads with this person and it ruined your perception of school.
Or perhaps you just weren’t a good student. You never really enjoyed school and just couldn’t wait until it was done and over with.
Perhaps you were picked on by a teacher or a student. Maybe no one seemed to care at the time or do anything about it.
Maybe you harbour resentment because of how you were treated at school.
Maybe school just isn’t important to you.
Perhaps you don’t even really think about this stuff. School was so long ago that you may have forgotten all about it. Yet, these feelings and perceptions linger and affect how you are as a parent of a school-age child.
I can also understand how these feelings can linger even if you don’t really think about them. The problem is that if you haven’t dealt with them before, you will carry them around with you forever. Your attitude will tint how your child does in school as well.
I’ve seen parents come into my class and have no idea how to relate to me on a friendly level. They act as if I am a scary or unapproachable because they see me as an authority figure. All they can see is the teacher in me and they are afraid of what I am going to say about their child. The old feelings get stirred up. I have no control over this.
All I can say is that most teachers want the best for your child.
Parents and teachers should work together – not against each other. I am not here to judge you or tell you how to parent your child. I am here to teach your child and encourage them to do their best work and realize that it is important to do so.
So I am pleading with all the parents out there. Your child’s teacher is a human being. He is there to help your child and he needs your support to do so. If you have an issue or a concern, talk your child’s teacher. You can talk to the gym teacher or any other teacher as well. We never really think that you are pestering us or wasting our time. In fact, we want to hear your concerns and we want the best for your child.
Maybe school wasn’t good for you but that doesn’t mean it will be that way for your child. Parents usually want more for their children than what they had. So if your school experience was bad, you should be working hard to make sure that it isn’t for your child. Tell them that school is important. Make sure that your child does the homework assigned. Talk to the teacher and establish a good relationship with him or her. It’ll make all the difference in the world.
There are two small forest areas in my neighbourhood. They aren’t much to look at. But I often walk through them. It’s nice having a piece of nature within walking distance of my place.
I think these green spaces are underappreciated in a large city such as mine. Too many people would drive by this undeveloped land and see opportunity.
I walk past them and see opportunity of a different kind.
I don’t think, hmm they should throw up some townhouses here or perhaps an apartment or a condo. Quite the opposite actually. I see a place to enjoy nature. I see a place to take a walk through and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, if even for a moment.
There are a lot of great trails and places to go discover around the city. Some of the best ones are these small and often overlooked neighbourhood gems.
Let’s protect our green spaces within cities. Let’s use and enjoy these places to commune with the earth. I think this is the best way to celebrate Earth Day today. Go out and enjoy the great outdoors. That’s what I plan on doing today.
In honour of Earth Day I also plan on enjoying this song by MC Lars.
Check out the lyrics to this song on my commonplace book blog here.
Here is one of the best teaching tips I can share with you – Use what you have!
I know that through my teaching career there have been many times when I have needed some items for a lesson that I didn’t have readily available. Sometimes these things were simple items for a science experiment that I wanted my students to do. For example, an experiment might call for straws, sand paper, balloons, string, and nails. If it was an experiment that I was sure would help the students understand the curriculum, I would often run out to the store and pick these items up.
I’ve heard it said that a teacher’s best friend is the dollar store. And why not? Dollar stores allow us to get materials for our classroom fairly easily. They are always available to us and usually have what we need for our classes. That’s why I never hesitated to pick up items for a science lesson or an art project at the dollar store.
I never minded spending a few bucks on my classroom as long as it helped me to deliver the curriculum. However, with every trip to the dollar store, I could easily spend twenty dollars. I could also find a reason to go there every month. Add this all up and I end up spending over a hundred dollars every year on classroom materials. That’s just crazy! I don’t have the money to keep shelving out for things just to help me do my job.
So now I think carefully before running out to buy things for my lessons. I collect materials whenever I can. I ask my students to bring in some materials that they should be able to get easily from home. Failing that, I find another lesson to teach that uses materials I already have in the house or the classroom. It pays to get creative and use what you have to teach science and art.
Every teacher that I know has poured money into his or her own classroom at some point. There is nothing wrong with this. Good teachers really care about their students and truly want the best for them; I know that I sure do. That is why I still spend money on my classroom whenever I need to. I just don’t need to do it as often as I used to.
I find that I have become a better teacher with this mindset. It has forced me to get creative and use what I have available. I don’t need to rush out to the dollar store to deliver my curriculum and neither do you.
Use what you have and stop buying all the little things. All those little things add up and we don’t need to flip this expense. So try it out – Deliver your curriculum and engage your students with what you have.
Use what you have! Simple as that!
I consider myself to be an avid reader. You can always find a book or two on the nightstand beside my bed. I utilize the library frequently and read everything from fiction to non-fiction to comic books to young adult novels to magazines and newspapers.
I’m an English major and I have read a lot of classics. Sadly though, Animal Farm by George Orwell wasn’t one of them. At least not until recently. You might be surprised by what got me to pick up this book.
A rap group.
That’s right! A rap group got me reading a classic.
Who woulda thunk it?
I first heard the rap group Animal Farm on Dope FM when my good friend Gamma Krush started spinning them on the show. If it wasn’t for him I might not have gotten into this group. DJs are awesome; having a best friend who is a DJ is even better. He hooked me up with the album and the rest they say is history.
Shortly after that, I got to interview the group. We had such a great time on the radio that night that it only made me more of a fan. Their album, The Unknown has been in heavy rotation ever since. Check out the podcast of the interview here or read the transcript here.
I had read Orwell’s other seminal classic, 1984 and I really enjoyed it.
This isn’t the only time that rap has inspired me to pick up a classic. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because of all the references to it I had heard in songs. I also read Things Fall Apart because The Roots had titled one of their albums after the novel by Chinua Achebe.
I wonder if any one else has been inspired to pick up a book because of a rap artist. I wouldn’t be surprised.
These are the best rappers making noise right now, in my humble opinion.
In no particular order here they are
DEF III and FACTOR ft. MOKA ONLY
This EP is amazing. Heavy, heavy rotation. Nuff said.
If you don’t know about these artists run out and pick up their stuff.
I want to get back into music production. There was a time in my life when my main focus was on producing and writing music.
Back then I used this Akai Sampling Keyboard
Of course when I got all this gear, it was already outdated and past its prime. But it was amazing to have gear that actual hip-hop producers had used in the mid 1980’s.
The sampler didn’t have a lot of memory and the sample quality was quite low. But I figured out how to make it sound good and I made this gear sing. I produced some amazing tracks on this gear and I had a great time doing it.
I’ve been working with Garage Band for a week or so now and I am getting really frustrated with it. It just doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do. I would really like to get a new sampler but I can’t afford to buy any new gear at this time. I hope that I will be able to figure out how to get back into music production with what I have, which is this computer. I just don’t have a lot of time to play around with stuff right now.
I just want to jump right back into making beats like I used to. I miss it. Plus, I know that I will actually be able to use this blog as an outlet to get my music heard. That is really exciting for me. Hopefully I can figure out how to get some new songs out soon for you all to hear.
If you have any good ideas on how to make beats on a Mac, please let me know.
“I don’t see why people have to buy bottled water. The cost of it is huge.”
“It’s no cheaper than buying a bottle of pop or juice.”
“I know that. But the fact that we have inexpensive, perfectly good drinking water that comes from the tap makes it ridiculous that we consume bottled water as a product. I mean just think of the environmental cost of packing and shipping this product. Not only are we producing huge amounts of plastic but we are then transporting it across huge distances by truck. Thus we are polluting the air, using more gasoline, and creating a huge amount of garbage.”
“But the bottles are recyclable.”
“Yes they are, but many end up in landfills anyway. And there is a cost to recycling as well. Bottled water just isn’t worth it.”
“I understand that but I want a healthy alternative when I am out and about. I don’t want to have to buy a sugared beverage to quench my thirst. I don’t want to have to buy a pop that has caffeine in it or a juice drink that contains very little juice. That is why I buy bottled water.”
“I agree. I drink a lot of water but I don’t drink it out of single use bottles. I have plastic refillable water bottles that I use. I even bought a new stainless steel one. The new one is really cool because it comes with a carabineer so I can clip it to my belt when I go out.”
“That is cool.”
“Even cooler would be that if this became acceptable. I think businesses need to start letting people bring in their own water bottles. They could charge a small fee for filling them up with tap water and everyone would have a healthy alternative to the pop and sugary drinks that are mostly available. Bottled Water could still be available for those who wish to consume it but the government should heavily tax it to deter its use by the general consumer.”
“That’s a cool idea. I don’t know if people who go for it though.”
“Why not? People pay the tax for cigarettes and alcohol.”
“All I know is that it is time for a change. We need to think of the environmental cost of the things we consume. This plan could significantly reduce that cost.”
“And put bottled water companies out of business.”
“I don’t think that should be our concern. Businesses need to grow and adapt. It wouldn’t be the first line of business to go the way of the dinosaur. Besides, that is a small cost to pay in relation to what we have been talking about.”
I want to keep this edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday fairly short. I think teachers should be helping each other by sharing what works with them and their classrooms. I hope you have found my past columns here helpful. Please email me or leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts, or if you would like to be a guest poster here one day.
Today I would like to discuss the seating plan that so many principals seem to want us classroom teachers to do.
Here is my advice on seating plans;
1) Don’t have one.
2) Move the students and their desks around frequently.
3) The teacher desk should be placed at the back of the room. This allows all of the students to get closer to the board and the front of the room for instruction.
I think these three things are very important. Students do not want to be in the same place all of the year. I generally switch things up every four or five weeks.
I sometimes have the students sit in traditional rows and columns. Other times, I will have them sitting with a partner or in their squad groups. I have put all the desks in a circle or in two semi-circle arcs before as well.
Moving the desks around frequently is not a hard task. It helps if every desk is labeled. I usually put nametags on the front of the desks with the students’ names and numbers written on them. These tags are big enough that the teacher can see them from the front of the classroom. This way, if I am away for a day, it doesn’t matter where the desks are, the supply teacher will be able to know all of my students’ names without looking at a seating plan.
When the kids are sitting in their squads, I don’t care which desk they sit at either. The squads have their posters to identify who is in each group and I also put this information on the class schedule and my clipboard day planner.
I like the freedom of not having a seating plan. It keeps things fresh and interesting in the classroom. The students don’t seem to mind either. Some of them actually look forward to the next rearrangement and ask me, “When are you going to move the desks again?”
So try it out, switch things up in your class. You might be surprised how such a small change can make a big difference.
I never really learned how to type properly. I’m not horrible at it. I can type fairly fast but I only use about four fingers and a thumb to do so.
I remember learning that it was proper to hit the space bar two times at the end of each sentence. For typewriters this was an important rule. It also helped to do so if you had a dot-matrix printer (I did by the way).
The problem is that with the computer fonts we have these days two spaces can often look wrong. It can also lead to some weird formatting problems.
I have always written paragraphs with two spaces after each sentence. I’ve been doing so for years.
Whenever I publish something online, whether it be a blog entry or a comment, I always check to make sure it looks okay. Sometimes the double space causes formatting problems and actually fragments a perfectly good paragraph.
I subscribe to an agent’s blog and he had a post on there a few weeks back about what was proper – one space or two. Most people voted that one space was better. I voted for two and decided that there was nothing wrong with it. I wasn’t going to change.
But then I decided that it might be good to change my habits to reflect the times. It has been hard to change. I always hit that space bar twice. So all week I have been going back and deleting one of the spaces. This is taking up a lot of time. Maybe after a while I will just automatically only insert one space. Or perhaps I am forever doomed to filling in that extra space for the rest of my life.
Editors will painstakingly have to delete all those spaces. They will curse at me and my old school ways. Or maybe I will get it. Does it even matter though? What do you think?
When I was in Boy Scouts, there were about 25 youth members in our group. Within this large group, there were five smaller groups called Patrols. Each patrol got to choose a name and a crest that identified them. This crest was then sewn onto our uniforms and we became a unified group with a name and an identity.
Each patrol had a Patrol Leader and a Seconder. I was lucky enough to be a Patrol Leader. I liked the responsibility of being in charge of a group of kids my age. I liked being able to delegate responsibility to my Seconder as well.
Last week, I discussed the classroom management program called Tribes. It is a great program that gets the students to work in cooperative groups. When I first came across this resource I thought it had something to do with First Nations people and immediately thought that it wasn’t for me. But the name of the program kept coming up and I heard teachers singing its praises.
When I finally got around to reading the book, I immediately saw its value for the classroom. I also saw some problems with it. First off, I didn’t feel comfortable with the word “tribes.” I knew that a tribe is a sacred institution to many First Nation people. I also thought of the negative connotations associated with the tribes that are formed in the reality television show Survivor.
I thought back to my scout days and thought that I could model the smaller groups on the patrol system. I brainstormed words that I could call these small groups for the classroom. I finally decided on “squads.” I also decided that each squad would be composed of boys and girls.
I decided to wait a few weeks into the school year before implementing the squads. This would allow me to get a good feel of the personalities in the room. This way I would know who shouldn’t be placed together in the same squad.
In the Tribes book it clearly demonstrates how the children can help choose the groups in the classroom. Each student writes his or her name in the middle of an index card. In the top corners, they then add the names of two boys who they would like to have in their squad. The bottom corner spaces are reserved for girl names.
After I collected the cards, I thought carefully about classroom dynamics. I told the kids that I would do my best to give them at least one of the group members they requested. This step took some time but I finally was able to divide the class into 5 groups.
I then moved the student desks into the groups and had them sit with their squad. They were to work together all day and brainstorm squad names. When they had a name that everyone agreed on, I wrote it on the board so that each group would have a unique name.
The following day, I had the squads work cooperatively to design a poster with their squad name and all their individual names on it as well. I used some other team building exercises and games from the Tribes book. There are some really great ideas in there.
I have the students work with their squads for half of the school year. We then repeat the whole process and form new squads for the second half of the year.
Sometimes the squad members don’t get along so well, but that is part of the learning process. I try to encourage them and give them skills on working in their group. I also let them know that they will not always have to work with this group and that I will let them work with one person of their choice when we switch squads later in the year. This usually helps them get in the mindset of working with their squad.
Here are some of the benefits of squads;
– we have ready made groups for whenever group work is needed
– specific clean up duties can be assigned to each squad
– learning resources and materials can be distributed to the squads and they will be responsible for them
– it gives the students some responsibility as I assign Squad Leaders and Quartermasters
Squads are an amazing tool that can be used in so many different ways. So try it out.
I went to Canadian Tire this weekend and bought two items. One of those items was a 4L jug of motor oil. I noticed that when the cashier rung up my two items, I was actually charged for three. I paid the bill and then looked closely at the receipt.
Sure enough I was charged an extra twenty cents for no reason. I asked the cashier what that extra charge was for. She said it was an environmental charge. I wanted further information and there was only one other person in line behind me so I asked what it was all about.
The customer behind me told me that there is now an extra charge for all motor oil commercially sold. He also said that you could actually claim this expense on your taxes if you use a lot of oil.
When I got home, I checked online to see what I could find out about this charge. This is what I found;
“Role: The consumer is responsible for bringing the used oil to the retailer or the designated collection site. They may not be charged a fee at the point of return; however they may be charged an environmental handling charge at the point of purchase of new oil.”
I would like to know why this cost is passed on to the consumer. I don’t change my own oil. I don’t know a lot of people who do. And even if I did, there are places to dispose of the oil safely already.
We don’t need this cost passed on to the consumer. Oil change centres, motor oil companies, and packaging companies should be flipping this bill.
I don’t even know if this charge is necessary. It doesn’t sound like this program is going to help the environment at all. It’s just another way to squeeze the consumer. I’m getting tired of all these extra charges. I’ve been squeezed enough.
I haven’t made a mix tape in about ten years. I still listen to my old tapes and I really enjoy them. But tapes aren’t the portable magic that they used to be. Most people don’ t have tape decks in their cars anymore, walkmans are relics of the past, and new stereos don’t come equipped to play tapes nowadays.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see that my girlfriend still has a tape deck in her car. What better motivation than to dust off the old mixer and make a new tape?
I brought out all my old gear. I hooked up two CD players to my mixer. I got all the music that I wanted to include ready but when I started mixing the tracks together I found out that my crossfader needed replacing. It crackled when I switched from one channel to the next. It also wouldn’t completely shut off either source. There was no way I could use this old gear to make her a tape.
I didn’t want to make her a mix CD. That would’ve taken no effort at all. I could have easily thrown tracks together and burned her a disc. But that’s not what a good mix tape is about.
All my mix tapes have a spoken introduction to them. The songs fade into each other so that there is a 90-minute wall of sound broken only by the short amount of time that it takes to flip the tape over. I also like to get on the microphone and tell the listener to flip over the tape and then thank them for listening at the end. I think it gives the whole experience a more personal touch.
The old gear was definitely out but I really wanted to make her a mix tape for her car. So I had to come up with a way to use what I had to get the job done.
I looked at the iMac sitting in my living room and thought “that could work.” So I opened up iMovie and built a soundtrack to a non-existing video project. I was able to layer the songs over top of each other and adjust the volume levels so that they all blended perfectly. I used the built-in microphone to record my spoken word parts of the tape. The program even kept a running time so that I knew when I had enough material to fill one side of the tape.
After I had set up both sides of the tape on the computer, I hooked up the tape deck and hit record. Digital meets analog.
Another cool thing about making a mix tape on iMovie is that it can imported into iTunes. So my girlfriend now has an actual cassette tape to listen to in her car and a digital copy of it to listen to on her iPod.
I wanted to share this tape with all of you but I am not sure how to do so. I figured out how to put up short video clips here but I haven’t found a way to put up a 47 minute one. So if you want a copy of it, let me know and I can email it to you.
In the meantime, here is the track listing,
T.I. / RIHANNA – livin’ your life
MAESTRO – God bless da child
MC LARS – true player for real
HEADSTONES – settle
BIF NAKED – everyday
AVRIL / LEONA – I will be
LONESTAR – my front porch looking in
TAYLOR SWIFT – love story
DEF III / MOKA ONLY – speed demon
BROTHER ALI – baby don’t go
DAVID MYLES – when it comes my turn
SHAYE – this is the moment
DIONE FARRIS – I know
FYC – she drives me crazy
KELLY CLARKSON – my life would suck without you
MEL C – Carolyna
BUFFALO TOM – rules
BISHOP LAMONT – grow up
MURS – everything
ANIMAL FARM – we came to rock
TIFFANY – I’m not sleeping
GROOVE THEORY – tell me
TLC – waterfalls
BABYFACE – when can I see you again
KREESHA TURNER – don’t call me baby
2PAC – changes
NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1970 something
O.C. – ma dukes
This show didn’t let me down at all this season. I knew it had potential when I first saw it and I’m glad to say that it lived up to it. You can see my original posting about this show here.
The show is really hard to explain in my own words. I have tried to do it a few times here and failed horribly so here is how it is described on the network’s website,
In BEING ERICA, life changes forever for over-educated and underachieving Erica when she meets Dr. Tom, a mysterious therapist who takes her back in time for a chance to do over those life defining moments with the foresight and wisdom of seeing how they played out. From prom nights and first kisses to job interviews, Erica’s list of regrets has accumulated to the point where she must act now or forever accept her mediocre life.
The show is really smartly written. The mysterious therapist doesn’t really own an office in the temporal sense. Erica magically finds herself in his office by going through regular doorways. Dr. Tom is a bit of an eccentric character and Erica didn’t understand why he chose to help her.
He said, “Why not you? Is your life so insignificant?”
After that she accepted his strange method of therapy. Since then, she has gone back in time to relive her regrets and make some much needed changes in her life.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Last night’s episode was near picture-perfect television. It wrapped up the season in such a way that I was starting to think that it was series finale and not just the closing of the first season. But never fear, the show has been picked up for another season and it is also starting to air in the USA as well.
Without giving too much away, in last night’s episode, Erica betrays Dr. Tom’s trust. I understood why she did it and frankly, I probably would’ve done the same thing in that position. Dr. Tom is absolutely furious with her and it is a side of his character we have never seen. He lets her go back again to undo the wrong and she does. Things work out perfectly and we can see that she has really learned from the experience. Her whole family even benefited from it. It was amazing to see.
The show didn’t end on that note however, and I am fiending for the new season. Fall is just too far away.
You can watch the entire first season of Being Erica for free from the CBC site. Unfortunately you need to live in Canada to view the episodes, which I think is ridiculous. I wrote about this yesterday. The world wide web should be world wide. The series maybe available elsewhere so if you can’t see it at this link, please search for it. It is worth it.
The Internet that I access here in Canada is the same Internet that you access in the United States of America, or Australia, or Sweden, or England. The www in the addresses we type stands for “world wide web.
World wide. That’s a great concept. We should be able to connect to anyone, any site, or find anything we want to on this huge computer network.
The Internet should be wild and free. We should be allowed to go wherever we want on it and view any content that we choose too. Unfortunately that’s not what happens when I surf around.
I keep coming across videos that I would like to watch that won’t play for me. The screen stays black and I get a message that reads something like this
“Thanks for your interest but the video you requested is not available in your region”
“Oh, you’re from Canada – no video for you!”
Okay, I exaggerated on that last one. But what’s the point of denying me access to the video because of where I live. That’s geographism. Okay I made that up too, but it feels like I’m being discriminated against because of my geographic location.
Now I’m all for Canadian content rules on television and the radio. We need to protect our airwaves and these practices have actually built a strong music industry in this country and some great television programs.
Of course, there isn’t a decidedly Canadian portion of the Internet and I don’t there should be. The same goes for American content. If television networks have shows on demand from their websites, they should be freely available to all. The CRTC and the FCC need to leave the Internet alone and let us watch the programs we choose.