Monthly Archives: November 2013

INTRODUCING. . . Sweethearts of the Galaxy

Sweethearts of the Galaxy is a brand new webseries starring my favourite cosplay artist, Tallest Silver and her best friend Kit Quinn.

If you don’t know about the art of cosplay, you haven’t been paying enough attention to my blog or my Tumblr. Shame on you!

The term cosplay is an amalgam of “costume” and “play” but these two ladies are very serious about their craft. Their costumes are very detailed and they embody all sorts of characters in creative and fascinating ways.

This webseries revolves around the fact that Kit Quinn starts to believe that she actually is the character she was merely pretending to play. And hilarity ensues.

I’m looking forward to seeing these two ladies every week for the next little while. Now, shush! \The show is starting.

Jet Aircraft Museum

The Jet Aircraft Museum is located at London International Airport in London, Ontario, Canada. I visited the museum for the annual Doors Open London in September and had a great time.

This is the T-33 577 Mako Shark. I got to see it taxi and then take off.

And while I took in the other sites and attractions, the plane did some maneuvers overhead. It kept looping around in a sort of one-plane air show. It was great.

Inside, you could try your hand at some realistic flight simulators. These planes are quite difficult to pilot.

This single prop two-man plane came in for a landing and taxied right up to the yellow rope. It was loud and glorious.

I’ve also had the chance to visit The Warplane Heritage Museum, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Here is a little more info about the London museum . . .

The Jet Aircraft Museum (JAM) exists to create and maintain a dynamic and living history of the modern age Royal Canadian Air Force and to provide permanent honour for those valiant Canadian men and women who flew these aircraft with distinction in periods of war, peace, and peace keeping.

JAM is a not for profit foundation that has as its primary purposes the acquisition, display, preservation, maintenance and, most importantly, providing in flight demonstrations for the people of Canada now and for generations to come.

The JAM mission is to combine the creation and operation of museum housing: aircraft, historical artifacts, records, and salient memorabilia, while simultaneously keeping representative historic aircraft in the air whenever and wherever major aviation events are held across Canada and at appropriate international centres.

A Warm Up That Pays Off

I normally have some kind of class warm-up, whether it be a line of music, the Bb Scale, or playing a pattern that I write on the board.

So today, when I asked my students to play this pattern on the third note of their Bb Scale, they didn’t bat an eye.

I then had them play quarter notes in this pattern.

They looked at me like I’d asked too much. I don’t normally have them bounce around with the notes much for this kind of warm-up, but they did it.

Next, I had them put both parts together.

They needed to repeat the first portion two times in a row and then finish the line.

Most of them figured out what I was having them do. They realized that we had just played “Jingle Bells” and that I had kind of tricked them into playing it.

I asked my students to figure out the rest of the piece by ear. I gave them two minutes to do so. I then handed out the sheet music so we could play it together.

You can find all sorts of great music for band at MusicEdMagic. My students really enjoyed playing this piece. It is completely in unison and really easy to play. It’s the kind of piece that lets them achieve success fairly quickly.

There are many other Christmas Carols for band available for you to print off right now. There are several other songs there as well. It is a great resource just like this weekly series.

Thanks for stopping by and remember to come back each week for Teaching Tip Tuesday!

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive (Close to 200 tips and counting)

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary TONIGHT!

I am so excited! Today, I get to see the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. And I will be doing so in a movie theatre full of like-minded fans.

The last time something like this happened, was the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There was a special screening of it at Toronto’s Skydome.

Yes, I was there. The energy was incredible and we made history. I don’t think that a television episode had ever been aired in a stadium before. It was like being at a championship game. We were so loud and enthusiastic. It was such a great night!

Tonight, is equally exciting. I am really looking forward to seeing David Tennant reprise his role as The Doctor. Of the 13 actors to ever don the role, he is by far my favourite.

Hopefully, I will see you at the cinema for another groundbreaking television event.

This is going to be epic!

Go Cats Go! Take Home that Cup!

My hometown team plays in the Grey Cup today!

I am really excited about this game. It’s been a long time since we have been in position to win the CFL title.

I went to a Grey Cup game once before. We hosted the championship game back in 1996. It was a crazy game.

That game is now referred to as “The Snow Bowl” and it was one of the coldest games ever played in the Canadian Football League.

The snow never let up. The field was almost always covered in white. They had to shovel the ten yard markings at every opportunity so the players would know where the field actually was.

It was a lot of fun being at the big game even though the home team wasn’t represented that year. We did win the cup three years later, however.

And this year, I have a strong feeling that our time has come once again.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be victorious!

I will be cheering them on from the comfort of the couch at my brother’s house. And you can bet, that we will be loud and proud!

A Birthday Cookie for Dad

Chase, Wally, Richie, and the Cookie-Cake

My dad didn’t have a sweet-tooth in his body. It was one of those little mysteries in life that was just unfathomable to me, and something I definitely didn’t inherit from him.

As a kid, I thought every birthday party needed a cake. The only problem was that my dad didn’t like cake. So, one year, my brother and I got really creative.

We cooked peanut butter cookies (a family favourite) and we stuck a candle in the biggest one.

My mom dug up this photo for the display she made for the service we had last month. It’s a classic family moment that I wanted to share with all of you.

My dad looks impressed with his birthday surprise. My brother’s expression is hilarious. That was a great day!

I have so many great memories that I will always cherish. This is just one of them.

Dad, you were the best! I miss you so much!

Darth Vader Unleashed

Star Wars: Darth Vader and The Ghost Prison

This story takes place shortly after the events in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and approximately nineteen years before Episode IV A New Hope. 

Darth Vader is a ruthless villain and is unleashed on the pages here in a way we have never seen before.

The story revolves around an ambitious soldier in the newly formed Galactic Empire. He is in awe of Darth Vader’s power and presence and seeks to become his apprentice. Of course, there is only one way this story could turn out, and it doesn’t disappoint.

My 2013 Reading Log (40 titles and counting)

Please, No More Indoor Recess

Our school has a tradition of going to the downtown Cenotaph for the Remembrance Day ceremonies every year.

It was lightly raining and a little bit chilly last week, but we didn’t let that stand in our way. The entire student body still attended the service.

We got there about ten minutes early and all-in-all we were out in the rain for about an hour. The primary choir even sang a song as part of the service.

I was surprised at how well-behaved all of the students were. They were quiet and reserved, just like you would expect for such a somber occasion. No one complained that it was raining either.

The whole experience made me think about how we handle rainy days at school. Most of the time, we don’t allow the students to go outside for recess when it is raining. We keep them in the classroom and those days seem exceptionally long.

I don’t think we need to stow ourselves away on those rainy days. We should expect our students to come dressed for the weather and to go outside for the 15 minute recess period. We can allow them about five minutes to get ready on these days so they are really only out in the elements for 10 minutes. This should not be a problem.

Of course, there are days where it might be best to keep our students inside. But we can assess those on a case by case basis. When the rain is hammering down, the winds are extreme, or it is frigidly cold, we can make an exception. For the most part though, the students should assume that they will be going outside. They can take some responsibility for being prepared to do so by dressing appropriately.

I know that I usually offer a tip, trick, or lesson you can use in your classroom, but I wanted to open up some discussion here today.

What happens at your school?

Do you think outdoor recess should be the norm with very few exceptions made throughout the year?

Teaching Tip Archive (Great ideas to use in your classroom)

Vansittart Woods Nature Trail

Vansittart Woods trail

Vansittart Woods is a wildlife protection area in Blanford, Ontario.

The Thames Valley District School Board uses this site as an outdoor education centre for its students, but you can use the trails easily enough by obtaining a permit.

Vansittart Woods

The trail is fairly flat and runs through the forest alongside a busy highway.

Leaf-covered Vansittart Woods path

This is the first trail that I have ran where the sounds of the city didn’t fade away the further I got into the bush.

These woods run alongside the Woodstock portion of Highway 401. I was surprised to actually see the highway when I was about halfway through my 5 kilometer run this afternoon.

Vansittart Woods floating dock

This floating dock is really nice. I love the autumn colours reflected in the water.

I have never taken up cross-country skiing but apparently this is one of the best places in the area for that winter sport.

The trail wasn’t very well labeled as I started my journey today. This was the first marking I came to, so I decided to start following the red trail.

It joined the blue trail and I followed that one back to the start. It turned out to be about a 3 kilometer route. So I turned around and ran portions of it again.

Next time, I come here, I won’t join the blue trail so quickly. There is much more to explore here. It runs for 8 kilometers. I didn’t even see half of that today. I will be going back soon.

Browse My Trail Collection

Know Your History 47 – Rest in Peace, Dad!

I wanted to honour and pay tribute to my father in a meaningful way. He was always a positive influence in my life and supported me in all of my musical endeavours. I wouldn’t be actively involved in hip-hop if it weren’t for him. So, for this edition of the show, I decided to look at the history my father and I have in hip-hop music and culture.

The first half hour is Episode 47 of my monthly documentary series Know Your History. I kick things off with Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s T.R.O.Y (They Reminisce Over You) and bookend the show with Thug Life’s Pour Out a Little Liquor. These songs can help us all cope with our grief and mourn for a loss.

I also play one of my old songs that has my brother and I trading lyrics back and forth. Out of all of the songs I recorded, it was my dad’s favourite.

You might be surprised to know that he was also a fan of Tone Loc. He would always perform Funky Cold Medina at karaoke night. I am really going to miss going to karaoke with him. It was always a blast.

After 30 minutes of Know Your History, I spin some great tunes for the remainder of the hour.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth – T.R.O.Y.
Reach – How to Fish
Mission 5 – Nameless
Tone Loc – Funky Cold Medina
Thug Life – Pour Out a Little Liquor
Vietnam / Wordsmith / Street Child – Move the Crowd
Dex Amora – Who I Be
MKV & Concept – The Path
Mic Boyd – Brighter Side
Tassnata / Elzhi / Adam Bomb – Heavyweights
Deltron – The Return
Dynasty – Street Music

Press play, enjoy the show, and pay tribute to my dad. I appreciate being able to share some of these memories and all of these songs with all of you. Thanks for listening!

Star Trek Destiny – A Trilogy by David Mack

Star Trek: Destiny Trilogy by David Mack 

Book 1 – Gods of Night

Book 2 – Mere Mortals

Book 3 – Lost Souls

I consider myself to be an avid reader but if my dad had ever kept a reading log, it would have put mine to shame. He was constantly reading and his place was practically a library.

A few months ago, he showed me these books and said that I would really enjoy them. I was immediately struck by the name of the cover. David Mack is a great writer. He has even written Daredevil comics.

I finished the series just a few days before he passed away. I was hoping that we could talk a bit about it. It was a really nice read that fleshed out the Star Trek universe brilliantly.

The trilogy is set after the events in the last film Star Trek: Nemesis. I was never satisfied with that being the final film in the franchise. I wish this story had been adapted for an eleventh movie. That would have been a perfect ending to the voyages of The Next Generation crew. We so needed one more movie to send them off on a high note.

As I read this book, I could really envision the story unfolding in front of my eyes. It was great. I didn’t realize that I missed this crew so much. Even having Captain Dax was a nice touch.

About two-thirds of the way into Book 3, I was blown away by a particular passage. It wasn’t a plot twist either, it was a reveal that I never saw coming. I had to stop reading and think about it. Suddenly, it became clear. “I should have known,” I said to myself. Of course, that was after I yelled at the book fairly loudly.
I love when a book can do that.

I won’t give away any of the details of this trilogy. If you are a Star Trek fan, you will enjoy it. I’ll leave it at that.

My 2013 Reading Log

Effective Question Techniques Teachers Should Use

Classroom Management: A Thinking & Caring Approach by Barrie Bennett and Peter Smilanich

This is a typical question that teachers often ask the class, “Who can tell me the difference between a fact and an opinion?”

It’s not an effective question because it only holds one student accountable and lets everyone else off the hook.

Here is a more effective question, “No hands please; think to yourself for 10 seconds and then be prepared to share an answer when asked.”

This question provides “more accountability to participate and allows less opportunity to misbehave.” I like how it puts every student on guard. They know that you can call on any one of them to answer it and not just the few keeners who always raise their hand.

The authors of the book contend that “over 90 percent of teacher questions will be answered by 3 or 4 students when students are not accountable.”

I know that I haven’t always asked the best questions in my teaching career because I have had classes that totally fit with that statistic. I try to encourage everyone to share at some point over the course of the year, but I regularly have a handful of students who answer more than their share of questions.

We want to ensure that every student is actively listening in the class. Defining listening is a difficult task, however. It is quite possible for a student to doodle and still listen to everything you are saying. “One attribute of listening is that the students can repeat in their own words what was being said.”

I know that I appreciate eye contact and often insist on it. There are some students who can doodle and maintain focus, others will get lost in the drawing and zone out. It’s important for us teachers to know the difference.

Managing a classroom effectively has so many different facets to it. This Bennett book covers pretty much all of them in a conversational style that is easy to understand. It’s a good read for new and seasoned teachers alike.

My 2013 Reading Log (every book I’ve read over the course of this year)

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive (tricks, tips, and lessons you can use in your classroom)

Remember, Respect, and Honour the Past

It’s Remembrance Day here in Canada – a day where we pause to reflect on the past sacrifices many have made on our behalf.

I am reminded of the time I spent serving as a member of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. I loved being in this band. We looked sharp and sounded amazing. We got to play in all sorts of parades, tattoos, and concerts.

It’s important to honour our past, to remember the sacrifices that have been made, and to do so with the utmost respect.

Marching bands are one way that we can hold on to military tradition without the need for violence. I love watching marching bands. It really is a beautiful thing.

Press play on the video below to see a mind-blowing routine from The Ohio State University Marching Band. It is one of the best performances I have ever seen. Absolutely incredible!

A Fitting Send-Off

Rest in Peace, Dad!

My dad was a Scout Leader before I was even born. The service bars on his sleeve always impressed me. I followed in his footsteps by becoming a youth member and then worked my way up to being a leader myself. I wouldn’t be a teacher today without the experience Scouts gave me.

We had a tradition at Scout Camps called “Scouts’ Own.” This was basically a short church service that we ran ourselves. It didn’t matter where we were, at what campground we were stationed, or what we were doing. Every Sunday, we would hold a brief service.

I’ll never forget one that my father led. He collected all sorts of leaves on a hike in the morning and then used these in his sermon. He said that we were like the leaves. We come in different shapes, sizes, and colours, and it is this variety that makes life beautiful. We work together despite our differences and form an incredible forest. It was an inspiring talk.

So when my brother suggested that we plant a tree in memory of our dad, it felt like such a natural thing to do. We organized a Scouts-Own-Style service outside his home. We stood at the front of a small gathering of family and friends and shared a few stories and these readings.

Author Unknown

Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.

Dialogue of a Man and a Tree

The Man: Why do you grow so tall, way up there in the sky?

The Tree: I love the heights that are clean and free, where the lonely eagles fly, where the crane and the hawk can nest with me, and my friends, the geese, go by.

The Man: What do you use for food, tree to make you grow and grow?

The Tree: I live on a diet of Nature’s best from my roots deep down below; I never go hungry, I rest and rest and wait for the rain and the snow.

The Man: How do you grow so strong, Tree, sturdy and straight and true?

The Tree: I live in the light of the sunshine and yarn for the sky’s deep blue; the clean, sweet air is always mine, and the cold winds help me too.

The Man: How do you live so long, Tree, so much longer than man?

The Tree: I’ve geared my days with the Creator’s ways since ever the world began. There is no death when life keeps faith with nature’s wonderful plan.

– Vincent Godfrey Burns, Poet Laureate of Maryland, 1965

It Was a Perfect Send-Off

We held the service at his place right in front of his garden. It was a sunny, but cool autumn day. My brother and I stood at the front said a few words, planted a tree, and then asked if anyone else wanted to speak. A few friends said some really nice things. We then headed inside for food, drink, and fellowship.

It was absolutely perfect. We didn’t need a funeral home viewing. We didn’t need a church service. We didn’t need a casket. We held a small and intimate service and spread his ashes in his garden with the brand new tree.

My dad shared with me what he envisioned for his own funeral. He said that he just wanted a small, intimate gathering of family and friends. I hope we did him proud today. I am sure we did. I think it was the perfect send-off for one of the finest human beings I have ever known.

Rest in Peace, Dad!

I love you!

Chasing Content – November 2012

It’s time for another edition of Chasing Content – that monthly feature that has us looking back at what was happening right here on the blog last year at this time.

Let’s go exploring!

You can read all of the posts from last November . . .

or just these favs!

All I Want for Christmas is a Mixtape

This is the mixtape that lost me the competition last year. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of the same old Christmas songs every single year. So I put together an unconventional mix that I knew wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.

The Power of Education

The First Grader is an amazing film. It’s based on a true story about a primary school in Kenya and a old man who just wants to get an education. It’s amazing to see the children and a 84 year-old man learning together side-by-side in an over-crowded classroom. Very inspiring!

More Daredevil Swag

I love collecting everything related to my favourite superhero. I got some new Daredevil toys last month too. Check out my ever-growing collection.

DOPEfm – Hip-Hop Radio at Its Finest

Here is how you can listen to Daddy J and myself bring you the best in real hip-hop music and talk live on your radio every single weekend. We have a lot of fun volunteering our time to deliver you quality radio programming.

Through the Clouds Mixtape

I really love this tape. I still listen to it regularly. You can too with the player at the bottom of this post or you can download it for free. Enjoy!

Famous Firsts

I did this meme and shared some details from my past. Interesting reading, for sure!

Thanks for Chasing Content with me!

Music Room Storage Solutions

Last week I gave you a brief tour of my music classroom.

Today, I want to expand that to show you how I store reeds and method books.

Class Reed Storage

I got these small drawer units from the dollar store. I also picked up some sticker labels so each class could have its own drawer.

Each drawer is detachable and since I only have 7 classes that I teach, I gave one drawer to a fellow music teacher so she could have a drawer for each of her 5 music classes.

Class Reeds

I make sure that each student writes his or her name on the plastic reed case. The reeds are stored here and not in the individual instrument cases. This is important because I have had times where a specific instrument doesn’t get returned on time and since the reeds are stored here, students can play a different instrument if need be without having to get a new reed.

This is how I store the method books.

Each bin is numbered and hosts the books for a few different instruments.

I really love this method book. It is called Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps. It is long out of print but it is such an excellent resource that I had to refreshen my collection.

The books I had were old and falling apart. So I photocopied them, laminated covers, and made them easy to identify by instrument. I will share this precious resource with you in an upcoming edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. Stay tuned to this blog for more.

The Teaching Tip Archive – close to 200 great tips, tricks, lessons, and resources.

Ender’s Game – Great in Any Format

Ender's  Game

Ender’s Game is one of the best novels ever written, in my humble opinion. It is a brilliant science fiction masterpiece that sparked an entire series of books.

The movie version of the book has been a long time coming. In fact, in the afterword of the audio book, creator and author Orson Scott Card suggested that a movie wasn’t even necessary. Everyone would tell him, “That book is so good, it ought to be a movie.”

To which he says, “Think about it for a minute. It’s already a book.”

He continues, “In America today, film is the premiere art-form. Anything that we think is wonderful, we want to turn into a movie so that it can be made perfect. That is what we view as the epitome of the storytelling art.”

Ender's Game film

I went to see the movie on opening night last week. I hadn’t done that in some time. I had high hopes for the film adaptation but knew in my heart that it probably wouldn’t be able to match the original source material. I was wrong.

Halfway through film I found myself yearning for the sequel before the film was even done. That hardly ever happens.

The film did a good job of adapting the novel. Although, some of the dialogue seemed to come a bit early. A few times, I said to myself, “Why is that happening already?” That being said, it worked for telling the cinematic story.

I loved Valentine, played by Abigail Breslin. I really want to see her again. Hopefully Speaker for The Dead will get made into a movie next. I actually like that book more. That’s rare too – a sequel that surpasses the original. That’s almost unheard of.

I lost myself in the story and enjoyed every minute of it. It would have been nice to have it unfold in a television series though. The Walking Dead has done an excellent job doing just that. The television universe would allow for things to be paced out a little better and emphasize the emotion that really spoke to me in the audiobook.

Card even admits that he writes for the oral tradition, which makes the audio book the definitive edition of the story. It is the “acme of the storytelling art,” not the film.

He says, “When I’m writing books. I’m not really writing prose. What I’m doing is that I am improvising an oral performance. My narration is meant to be read aloud. My stuff needs to be read aloud.”

Listen to his thoughts on the topic from the postscript to the 20th Anniversary Edition of the audio book with the player below.

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

And then, Go See Ender’s Game – Let’s show the studio execs and powers that be, that this can be a successful film franchise. I am yearning for more. Hopefully we will get it.

Family of Referees – A Tribute to My Dad

The March Family Referees
Wally, Richie, and Chase March – Soccer Referees

My dad was a soccer referee when I was a kid. I used to run up and down the sidelines with a flag in my hand to help him out. My brother and I often served as his linesmen and it was a lot of fun.

I wanted to be just like my dad, so I earned my referee certification. This photo is from the first game I ever officiated. There I am with my whistle. I was only 11 years old.

I was nervous and proud to be out on the field that day. It was awesome having my dad and brother as linesmen for my first time at centre-field.

My dad passed away this week and I wanted to honour and remember him in a meaningful way. This is only one of a million good memories that we had together.

I really don’t know what I am going to do without him. I leaned on him for everything. He was always a good listener and offered the best advice.

It’s only been two days and I already miss him like crazy. Tomorrow, is the memorial service. He wanted it to be simple, short, and sweet. I’ll be officiating once again. I just hope I can keep it together and send him off on a good note in front of family and friends. He deserves that.

I will be paying tribute to him over the course of the month here on the blog.

Rest in Peace Walter Earl March. You will be missed!