Monthly Archives: January 2010

Laughs in the Mail

I got this letter in the mail on Friday and I laughed out loud.

It’s not often a letter can evoke laughter from me. Laughter that brightens up my whole day. Laughter that was desperately needed that day.
Before I show you the letter though, it needs a bit of set-up.
I hope you’ve been following me on Twitter.
I’m having a lot of fun on that micro-blogging site. It’s interesting to publish thoughts and ideas, to share links, and to communicate with others in the short space allotted.

One thing that is amazing though is how I keep picking up new followers. I can post something and almost immediately I pick up new followers interested in what I had just shared. I actually posted about that on January 20th.

This is what I wrote
“I posted about a Scrabble game I played & had scrabble fanatics follow me right away. I replied to a post about barber hours and got a barber following me. How about I post about needing money, maybe it’ll come to me 2.”

That’s the set up, here’s the letter. I hope you get a laugh out of it too.

Short and sweet. Right to the point. The words I posted on Twitter and a ten dollar bill.
Is this the law of attraction at work here?
Not quite.
It was my cousin’s brilliant sense of humour. I loved getting this in the mail because of the laugh it gave me. My cousin is awesome and has proven to be my best Twitter follower.
Here’s a prize for you cous,
Thanks!

Sunglasses, who knew?

I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of sunglasses. I normally wear a hat when I go outside and thought that was enough. The brim of the hat stops the sun from getting in my eyes.
The optometrist suggested that I start wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes from some of the harmful rays.
She helped me pick out a new set of frames that included a pair of clip-on sunglasses.
So I’ve been wearing my sunglasses for about a week now and I must say that they really work. I don’t know why I hadn’t worn them before.
Benefit # 1 – When driving.
When the sun is low in the sky and the highway seems to be leading directly into it, there isn’t much you can do. I normally lower my visor so I can see the road without being blinded. But now I just clip on my shades and can see so much better.
Benefit # 2 – Snow
In the winter, the sun seems so much brighter. I often have to squint when I’m outside and I never really thought about why. That was until I found out this little tidbit of information.
80% of sunrays reflect off of the snow whereas in the summer only 25% reflect off the water.
I learned that this morning as I watched CHCH Morning Live.
That is why it is more important to wear sunglasses in the winter than it is at the beach in the summer.

This Show Really Sings

I don’t watch a lot of television. It’s not simply because of the limited choice I have with the rabbit ears on top of my TV set either.
I think it’s due to the fact that most shows seem to let me down. I haven’t had a must-see show in a few years, which I find to be really strange. There was a time when I had at least two shows on my schedule each and every night. I was a self-confessed couch potato.
Nowadays, I seem to be able to take it or leave it. I don’t really have any shows that I go out of my way to see.
Perhaps DVDs and the Internet have really changed the way I consume television.
For the most part, I rely on borrowing DVDs from the library to compliment what shows I can tune in.

I absolutely love that you can get full seasons of TV shows on DVD now. I’ve been enjoying several series that I would never had a chance to watch otherwise.
One show that really surprised me was The Sopranos. I didn’t think I’d like a television drama centred around the mob so I never paid any attention to it when it was on the air. However, I had the chance to discover it when I borrowed the DVDs from the public library. I quickly became a fan and worked my way through all six seasons in a few short months.
It is a really well-written show with some amazing characters and performances.

Here is a scene from a second season. Tony is the mob boss and has had a bad day. His teenage daughter seems to have withdrawn from him a bit. He’s upset about it as well as a few other things.

This scene is rather poignant and I like how it ends. It’s a great exchange between a father and a daughter.

Tony: “Everything I do, and everything I’ve done, and everything I will do, it’s all for you and your mother. You know that?”

Meadow: “I think you should go to bed.”
Tony: “I tell people you’re like your mother but you’re all me. Nothing gets by you. And I know you think I’m a hypocrite-“
Meadow: “I’m going to bed.” (leaves table)
Tony: “Yeah alright. Go ahead.” (plays with his glass)
Meadow: “Dad, why don’t you go to bed?”
Tony: “I’m gonna finish my drink.”
Meadow: “Good night.”
Tony: “Good night baby.”
Meadow: (stops and turns around on her way out of the room) “Sometimes, we’re all hypocrites.”
– Sopranos Season 2: Episode 10
I like how the daughter says the exact right thing here. She doesn’t have to agree with her dad or what he does but she shows him that she understands. It’s exactly what he needed at that moment.
That is why I love that scene and this series.
I really like how Season 1 ended as well. It showed us a nice normal family. Of course, the head of this family also happens to be the head of the mafia. But that doesn’t seem to matter. You come to care about these characters and you become invested in them. That is the power of great television. And the Sopranos is a great show that is definitely worth checking out if you have not done so.

Three Elusive Quarters

This is a short story I wrote entitled “Three Elusive Quarters”


It is fiction and told from the point of view of a ten year old girl. I thought I should make that clear since “I” on this blog normally refers to me and not a fictional character.

Let me know what you think.

I hope you enjoy the story.

Three Elusive Quarters

I was born in 1999. For my “birthday” present, my uncle gave me a commemorative collection of quarters. There were twelve quarters in all, and each quarter had a different design on the front of it. I’m sure my uncle just wanted to give me something cool with the year I was born on it. He probably didn’t think how those quarters would come to define me, or did he?

We really only have one “birthday,” the day that we are born. So every year when we celebrate our birthday, we are really celebrating the anniversary of our birth. So for my first anniversary, also known as my first birthday, my uncle gave me another collection of quarters.

The first set of quarters celebrated the history of our great country from the very beginning of ancient times before Canada was even a word. The images cycled through prehistory to First Nation communities, to explorers to technology such as planes and trains, and finally to a panorama of tepees, skyscrapers, mountains, forests and the wheel of industry.

The second set of quarters moved to words such as pride, ingenuity, and achievement, and each one had an image to compliment the word.

When my uncle was born, they only came out with one new quarter a year. He would search through his change and try to find the shiniest quarter from each year to save for his collection. If times were still like that I would be 57 years old, but I’m only 10.

I haven’t been able to find all those quarters either. I’ve been on a mission to collect them all but there are a few elusive ones. I wish I had started collecting them when I was two since my uncle never bought me any other collections.

I asked him about it last year and he said, “It’s more fun when you have to find them yourself.”

It was easy to find all of the quarters for this year’s Olympic Games but I still don’t have the red Canada Day coin from 2002.

I’m also missing a 2004 French Colonies Quarter

and a 2005 Saskatchewan coin.

I’ve found quarters dating back to 1982 and have a solid run except for those three missing coins.

Last week I was at the supermarket when the gumball machine guy came to empty the machines and collect the quarters. I watched in amazement as he dumped loads of quarters into separate bags. A canvas bag for each machine. After he had done one machine, I asked him if I could sort through the bag.

He looked at me like I was a petty thief who would just grab the bag and run. Then he looked towards my mom.

“She really does collect coins.”

He looked back to me. “Alright, if it’s okay with your mom you can come to my truck and sort through a bag. I got a ten minute break now before I need to move on now anyway.”

“Can we mom?” I pleaded and she let me.

The man let me go in his truck and dump a bag of coins on the floor. I knew I didn’t have much time so I sorted through them as quickly as I could. I kept an eye out for red ones but only found the poppy one, of which I have several.

When my ten minutes were up, I had nine quarters in my pile.

“Wow, that’s a pretty good haul,” she said as she looked at my sorting.

“Yeah, it is,” I said, “but I didn’t find those elusive three. These are all older ones.”

“So, it’s still good,” she said as she handing the man two dollars and twenty-five cents to make up for the quarters I was taking.

“Thanks a lot!” I said.

My collection is always growing but it seems that those three elusive quarters are still hiding. I will find them. I will. One day.

– a short story by Chase March

The Key Elements Great Teachers Possess

What Makes a Great Teacher by Amanda Ripley is a great article that really dissects the key elements that great teachers possess.

1) “First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students.”

I agree. I think this is the key to teaching. We need to expect each and every student in our classes to live up to their potential. We also need to realize that this differs from student to student and to not accept anything less that a student’s best work.

2) “They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness.”


I can’t tell you how many times I have tinkered around with my timetable this year because it didn’t seem to be effective for my current class. I finally found a timetable that really works for them. I implemented a nice new visual schedule just a few weeks ago that the students have responded quite well too.
I realize when lessons don’t work and try find different ways to present the same material so that my students can grasp it and be successful.
So far so good. I am doing the things that this article states that great teachers do.

Superstar Teachers
Okay, time to see if I fall into the Superstar Teacher category.
“Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.”

– Steven Farr

3) Parent involvement – I have to admit that I am not good at this one. I kind of gave up on getting parents involved because it has been extremely hard. I rarely get many parents out to interview night or the special events we do run at the school. However, I realize that getting the parents and the community on board is an important thing and I will start to try harder to make that happen.
4) Everything must contribute to learning – I don’t do fluff activities in my classroom. I don’t show my students movies that aren’t related to the curriculum. Every activity or lesson I present is founded in the curriculum expectations or is, in my opinion, a useful skill that the students need to learn.
5) Plan exhaustively – I have been told again and again that I am a very organized teacher and that my planning is impeccable. I never leave the school on Friday without having a full week of lesson plans for the following week on my desk. The photocopying is all done a week ahead as well. I have a very detailed year plan that I work on and update constantly. And I also have back-up supply teacher plans ready to go.
6) No excuses, Get it done! – I think I have this attitude as well.

“It’s the mind-set that teachers need—a kind of relentless approach to the problem.”

– Timothy Daly at the New Teacher Project

There’s always a problem or a hurdle to overcome when teaching. It can really get exhausting at times.
I realize that my first goal is to the students. I make sure that my students do their work so that they can learn. I hold them accountable for their actions and their own learning.
My Grade

Of the six traits listed in this article I think I do an excellent job on points 1, 2, 4, and 5.
I think I have some room for improvement on point 6 because I sometimes let certain things slide. Overall though I would say that I do a good job on that one for the most part.
I definitely need improvement on point 3 and I realize that it is something that I really need to work on. I will write a post for an upcoming edition of Teaching Tip Tuesdays to address this issue further.

Your Turn

I hope you are finding my Teaching Tip Tuesdays post useful. Don’t forget to check the Table of Contents for more great tips.
If you have a great idea, website, or teaching practice that you’d like to share, please send me an email and consider writing a guest-post.
Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. I’d love to hear from you.

The Best Album Ever*

I think Good Weird Feeling is the best album ever released. It is by a group called The Odds.

This album is absolutely amazing. It is one of only a few albums in my collection that I never seemed to get bored of. I can listen to it no matter what my mood.
When it first came out I listened to it all the time. I can sing along to every song on it. Now that it is over 15 years old, I still listen to it often.
In fact, it has been in heavy rotation since I got it. I listen to it several times every year. I don’t think I can say that about too many of my albums. As such, I think this is one of the greatest albums of all time.
My brother is a huge fan of this Canadian rock group as well. He actually signed up for The Odds mailing list in the 1990’s. They mailed him tickets to an exclusive concert in Toronto for the release of the album after this one. It was the coolest thing in the world. They were quite a large group at this time because this album was a huge success. As such they were billed as Nigel the Cat at the venue so no one would know that it was actually an Odds concert except for the industry folks and fans that were personally invited.
Good Weird Feeling is my favourite album by the Odds. The songwriting is witty and comical. The songs really rock and have a timeless feel to them. This is by far my favourite non-rap album of all time. This is the second most important piece of my entire music collection. The first being, Run-DMC’s Raising Hell.
*This is an updated version of a previous post. I knew that I need to rewrite it slightly and publish it again because I still feel the same way about this album even 15 years after the fact. I just finished listening to the entire album and I never once felt the urge or desire to skip a track or switch discs. That is saying a lot.
If you haven’t heard this album, do yourself a favour and go check it out.

This Torch is Brilliant

Any of my regular readers will know that I don’t have cable television. I get a few channels in using rabbit ears but for the most part, I rely on borrowing DVDs from the library.
I absolutely love that you can get full seasons of TV shows on DVD now. I’ve been enjoying several series that I would never had a chance to watch otherwise.
I’ve wanted to write about some of those series for some time now. I just haven’t gotten around to it. Yet.
Although tonight I need to correct that. I just finished watching Torchwood: Children of Earth and was absolutely blown away by it. It is amazing television.
I’ve written about Torchwood here before. It’s basically a spin-off of Doctor Who.
Back when it premiered, I faithfully watched the entire first season. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see the second season. Yet.
This latest release is the third season of the show and it is only five episodes in length. However, the five episodes are brilliantly written, suspense-filled, action-packed jewels that tell one complete story.
Here is a little background information about the show. (Spoiler Alert)
Torchwood is a secret organization that deals with otherworldly threats to Earth. It is headed by Captain Jack Harkness. In a episode of Doctor Who, Rose Tyler tried to save his life by tapping into a power she didn’t understand. The consequence is that in the process, she somehow made it so that he cannot die.
Jack is immortal, sort to speak. He can die but he always revives after a few moments. Well in this five episode arc some of his past sins catch up to him. Torchwood is destroyed and the remaining three members have to save the world without any of their resources. They become outlaws at a time when the people of earth, especially the children really need their help.
I really don’t want to give away any more of the story line. I think it is really worth checking out. It might be best to watch season 2 of Doctor Who first so you can see how Captain Jack Harkness comes to be. You could then watch Season 1 and 2 of Torchwood as well but I don’t think you really need to to enjoy the series.
Amazing television! I love when I can write those two words. It seems rare. That’s why I need to blog about it.
If you want a more detailed report of this series, go check Calvin’s awesome blog post here.

Learn How to Signal Already

I need to register a complaint…
It’s about all of the people on the roads who do not know how to use the turning signals correctly.
This is especially annoying when there is only one lane in each direction.
I’ve had to slam on my breaks more than a few times because someone in front of me suddenly slows down for seemingly no reason.
The car is almost at a complete stop or already initiating a turn and then I see the signal flashing.
I would yell, “Thanks for the warning bud!” but I’m sure no one would hear me.
That’s what turning signals are for – to give the other drivers on the road some warning about what you are going to do.
“I can see you turning, I don’t need to see your signal. It’s too late now. Why’d you even bother?” I’m still yelling even though I know it’s no use.
HOW TO SIGNAL
Use your mirrors. Check to see if anyone is behind you. You should be checking your mirrors frequently, not just when you want to turn or change lanes.
If you know you are on a one-lane road and you know someone is behind you, you should be signaling way before you even slow down. Give me five seconds at the very least, please. It’s only common courtesy.
I hope I’ve educated those annoying drivers I’ve been stuck behind on more than one occasion. If not, and you know who those people are, please send them a link to this post. I’d appreciate it.

Collected Wisdom This Week

I’ve come across a few really cool jewels of wisdom in my online travels this week. I wanted to share them with you.
This week’s contributers are,
Reverend Run (of Run-DMC.) – he posts inspirational Tweets each and every day.
Calvin – runs a great blog where he shares what he finds online.
Nothing Profound – doesn’t post often but his posts are filled with great aphorisms.
Bubbabrain – shares useful links and resources for teachers

@RevRunWisdom

“When you end a hurtful relationship, throw away the key! We have a tendency to re-open doors that need to remain SHUT!”

“A man went in search of one perfect moment. The price he had to pay was the rest of his life.”

“News used to come too late; now it comes too early.”

via Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Coolness

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” – Jessica, age 8

“Great teachers tend to set big goals for their students. They also perpetually look for ways to improve their effectiveness.”
I really need to start adding these collected jewels into my commonplace book. I haven’t been doing so because I have been sharing them on Twitter. However posts on Twitter get quickly buried and they don’t seem to be easily searchable. So perhaps once a week or so, I can quickly collect my favourite tweets into a post here. Sounds like a solution.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Eliminate the Negative

Teaching is a tough profession. In fact, the only way to learn how to be a teacher is to teach, to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to improve your teaching practice so that you find something that works for you.

I know that I have felt like a failure time and time again at the end of a school day. It actually took me five years to figure out how to be a teacher. I distinctly remember that smiling at the start of my fifth year and saying, “I’ve finally got this. I know what I’m doing now.”

But since then, I have continued to learn. Some lessons don’t work. Some days are better than others. Each class and each school is different.

My job as a teacher is “to help every student develop to his or her full potential. To develop intellectual potential and provide opportunities for social, ethical, emotional, physical, and aesthetic development of every child in my class, and by extension, the entire student body whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

That is my Mission Statement, My first duty is to the student. Simple and plain.

I don’t try to please everyone as a teacher. It’s pretty impossible to do so. However, this year I have finally realized that teachers do need to be politicians as well. We need to let people feel confident that we can do the job and that we support what they want to see. This goes for parents, principals, other teaching staff, etc.

People don’t want to hear negative things. So as a teachers, we need to emphasize the good things.

A former principal told me it best. She said. “Be your own cheerleader and highlight the good things that happen in your class.”

This goes a long way. If people see the good things that happen in your class and you downplay the negatives, people won’t be able to focus on the bad things that do happen in the classroom.

I expect a lot from my students and I hold them accountable for their actions. We work hard in my class and use our time efficiently. Of course, I don’t tell anybody this. I don’t try to sell my class. I just do my job to the best of my ability and I don’t worry about what people think.

I’ve never wanted to be a politician. I have kept that role out of my teaching practice and quite possible to my own detriment. It is something that I plan on correcting starting today. From now on I am selling my class as the best. We are going to show off all of the good things we will be doing this New Year.

From here on in, I am going to do my best to eliminate the negative.