Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Salon- January 31st

Wow, really? The end of January? Where did that come from?

I am going to borrow my Sunday Salon post idea today from Bibliophile by the Sea. I think "January in Review" is a fantastic plan...

Books read:
1. Gone
Michael Grant
2. Emma
Jane Austen
3. Dear John
Nicholas Sparks
4. Friday Nights
Joanna Trollope
5. Bad Company
Cathy MacPhail
6. Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World (re-read, still in progress for class)
Craig and Marc Keilburger
7. Get Well Soon
Julie Halpern

Challenge Progress:

1. The Chunkster Challenge: Starts in Feb. (*I have more to talk about later in the post)
2. Reading YA Through the Decades: 1/7
3. Read the Book/ See the Movie: 2/4~ 1/4 (Need to watch: Dear John, Emma, Need to read: Sherlock Holmes)
4. You've Got Mail Reading Challenge: 1/? (as many as you choose)
5. Books to Read Before I Die Challenge: 0/12

My thoughts: 

Well, I finally finished Emma!!! Yeah...I read, and read, and read yesterday as I promised myself I would finish it before February came. I must admit I was very surprised by how long it took me to read. I am used to being about to zip through a book in no time at all, but this took me a whole month. That being said, I did read 6.5 other books throughout the month. I still love it...and am looking forward to seeing the movie. I have never seen the Gweneth Paltrow version as I am not a huge Gweneth fan but my best friend tells me it is pretty good. I still love when Emma realize that she loves Mr. Knightly (or as Cher declares in Clueless, "I love Josh!")

The 3 books I completed for the school board review committee; Gone, Bad Company, and Get Well were not "excellents" and I will not be recommending them to the committee. I might perhaps list Gone as "popular with kids", and I think Get Well needs to be sent up to the high school committee. I have about 5 more books to read in February for the committee so I had better get a move on!

I have started The Book of Negroes today. I am reading it for the Books to Read Before I Die challenge, and the Chunkster challenge. I am loving it and am already on page 95. I am fascinated by the story and am gripped by the action. The main character, Aminata, is very well-written and captivating. I can't wait to see what else happens. I also happen to think that it is very fitting that I am reading this book during Black History Month, even if I am "cheating" a little on the Chunkster challenge which doesn't officially start until Feb 1st.   

In teaching news I marked the CASI test which is a standardized reading test my school board has implemented over the past few years. I am very pleased with my student's results, as they improved in our areas of focus- theme/ main idea and features of text forms. I do see that we need to work on inferring and connections which is going to be my new strategy focus for the next month or so.

I am looking forward to the Grammys tonight, but I also want to read more of my book! Such a the laundry is still calling my name. Le sigh. 

Curling...what the heck??

Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea made a comment on an earlier post that she had no idea what curling is..something I hear a lot EVEN THOUGH IT IS AN OLYMPIC SPORT!! (LOL- just kidding!!) Canada is a nation of curlers and we are fantastic at it. My friends won the World Junior competition twice when we were in high school and are now on various provincial teams. One guy I knew in university will be representing Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver.

Here are some links if people are more interested:

The Canadian Curling Association

The Ontario Curling Association

The City of Windsor provides this fantastic over view...

Teams are made of 4 people (each player throws 2 stones). 
Two teams play against each other on one "sheet" (lane) of ice. 

How to Play:
  • At the start of the game, the two Skips (captains) go down to the far house (end of the ice) and begin to direct play for their teams (they are team captain). 
  • Each team alternates throwing with the other team one stone at a time. 
  • Each player throws two stones. 
  • When the Lead is delivering the Second and Vice are sweeping as the Skip watches the "line" (curl) of the stone. 
  • The sweepers judge the "weight" (how far the stone will travel) while the Skip will yell to them if the stone is curling too much. 
Brief History of the Sport:
  • While it is true that the sport of curling dates back to the 15th century, the modern version (Scottish style) originated in the early 17th century. 
  • The oldest Curling Club in North America is Royal Montreal Curling Club (1807).  Curling was always played outdoors, usually on frozen lakes, until the 20th century.
  • Curling was a demonstration sport in the Olympics 4 times (1924, 1932, 1992, 1994) before being admitted as a full medal sport in 1998. 
  • Canada has more curlers in total than any other country.
Facts & Finer Points:
  • Curling is a game of etiquette - a game is always preceded by a handshake and the expression "Good Curling". 
  • Two teams play against each other on one "sheet" of ice and each game is started with a coin toss whereby the winner usually picks to go last. 
  • Curling is played on ice that is very level but has small "pebbles" (droplets of water).
  • The pebble is what the stones curl on (the stone comes into contact with the ice on its "running surface" and the friction, however mild, between the running surface and the pebble makes the stone curl). 
  • A curling stone weighs approximately 42 lbs and is made of an especially unique type of granite, which is mined exclusively in Scotland
  • Curling stones are very expensive: one new stone would cost approximately $1000.00..

Here is a video of Canada beating Scotland to win the 2008 World Championships! Kevin Martin's team (the skip of the team playing) is the team representing Canada in Vancouver!

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Go here to watch Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and Pixar, give the commencement address at Stanford. Up lifting and thought provoking!

Brian, if you haven't already seen this I think you'll like it a lot.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

...sorry, it's been busy! And other random thoughts.

Hello all! First off, thank you to SB for commenting on the fact that she missed my posts the last few days. It means a lot. I have been busy and haven't really had anything super concrete and exciting on my mind to post about.

I still don't have anything huge to share so instead I thought a list of the random things I have been mulling over would be a good substitute.

1) On Thursday nights I curl in a teacher's curling league here in my town. There are quite a few of my teaching friends in the league and we always stick around for a drink after. I used to be a very competitive curler when I was younger, both in high school and on the varsity team in university. I practiced a lot, many, many hours thanks to my mom and I used to be able to make any shot I wanted. But then I didn't curl for about 6 years and got back into it last year. Now, I only curl 6 ends a week which is only 12 rocks and I sometimes find it frustrating because I can't make all the shots I want. Part of me wishes I still curled more and had my former skill, but a bigger part of me isn't as into it as I used to be.

2) My sister and I went wedding dress shopping today for her wedding which is in April of 2011. I was pretty unimpressed with the selection of plus size dresses they had available for her to try on. One store only had 6 dresses in total! They had racks and racks and racks of regular sized dresses and only 6 for plus size women. I find it very disrespectful and humiliating. Not to mention the fact that the dresses were ugly! Someone needs to open a bridal boutique specifically for plus size women, they would make a fortune.

3) How does laundry pile up so fast?

4) My whole class wore pink yesterday for breast cancer awareness has part of our 10 by 10 promises for Me to We. I was so proud and they were so cute.

5) I love shopping for books. Even if I don't buy that many, just being in a bookstore is great!

That's all for now. Tonight's plans are up the air. I am determined to finish reading Emma before February...and there's still all that laundry!

Battle of the Bards- Need Your Help!

Please go to the amazing blog, Padfoot and Prongs and vote for The Merchant of Venice to win the 3rd Battle of Bards. This is the play I voted for and it is currently losing!!

I need your help!!! The voting boxes are on the left, at the top!! GO NOW!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WWW Wednesday

This weekly meme is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. I read about it for the first time last week on Molly's blog my cozy book nook and really liked the idea. So here goes! 

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
I am currently reading Emma by Jane Austen. I have been working my way through re-reading it since the beginning of January. I have been finding it a little difficult because I usually read very fast and I am finding reading this book slow going. I am not really sure why. I love this book and it has been one of my favourites since I first read it in university. I can see myself finishing it soon and I am trying not to dwell on the fact that I could have read a few other books in the same time I have read this one. I need to remember: quality not quantity!

I am also re-reading Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World by Marc and Craig Keilburger with my two Grade 8 English classes. I loved this book when I first read it, and I have started a Me to We club in my school last year with the hopes of raising enough money to build a school in Kenya. I want to pass on my love for volunteering and social activism to my students and I am hoping a book study will do this! My class has decided that they would like to bring awareness to a social cause every month and due to that we are going to wear pick on Friday to raise awareness of breast cancer.

I recently finished reading Bad Company by Cathy MacPhail. This was a book that I was required to read for the school board book review committee I am on. We read books designated for middle school or junior students. I didn't really enjoy this book at all. It was about a girl whose father was sent away to jail for fraud/embezzling and because of that she starts to get into trouble at school and falls into a friendship with a girl who begins to influence her to do the wrong thing. I get the message of this book, however, I just don't think it's strong enough for middle school students to really grasp it on their own. I won't be giving it a good recommendation at the review committee meeting.

Next? That's a great question. There are sooooooooo many books I want to read next. I think I will most likely be starting with The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill because I have been waiting forever to read it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teachin' Tuesdays

I have been reading lots of blogs these days and have noticed that quite a few bloggers have memes that they post on certain days of the week. Now being that I am not always too smart I was confused for awhile about what meme could possible be (also, I am not always so hip to the technological lingo). Then I put my 7 years of French Immersion schooling to use and remembered that "meme" means "the same" and all was figured out by me! Whew, right?

On a side note, my husband says that sometimes when I talk I sound a lot stupider than I really am because I am one of the smartest people he know (awww) and I am pretty sure the paragraph above might be one of those instances.

Anyway, to end that crazy tangent I have been considering some of these memes and trying to figure out if I would like to incorporate any of them into my blog. I have decided that I may join in on some on them but I also want to start my own!

On my ever present quest to be a better teacher, and eventually segue into the role of librarian and resource teacher, I am interested in sharing teaching strategies that work well for me and, hopefully, learning from others out there what works well for them! To without further delay, here it is...Teachin' Tuesdays.

This first week's Teachin' Tuesday is going to be a pre-reading strategy that I like to use in the content areas when I start a new unit. I find it is especially useful for the enduring understandings and the common themes that fall within a content area unit. The outline before is from a reading strategies workshop I led a few years ago. It explains how the strategy works and the professional resource where I found it.

Possible Sentences- Pre-Reading Strategy

- adapted from Mastering the Art of Effective Vocabulary Instruction, Adolescent Literacy- Turning Promise Into Practice, J. Allen, p. 87- 104

- when students have prior knowledge of the vocabulary [in a unit] this strategy “gives students the immediate opportunity to use their knowledge of [the] words to predict possible sentences they will find when they read” (Allen p.99)
1. Students should have some knowledge of the words they will be using for Possible Sentences. Teachers could use the Tea Party (When Kids Can't Read by Kylene Beers) strategy to introduce the words to the students. 

2. Teachers create a list of important vocabulary words from the reading text or unit of study. This strategy works best for non-fiction or in the content areas.
3. Students are given the Possible Sentences worksheet with the list of vocabulary words and space to create their sentences.
4. Students choose 2 or more words to write in a sentence predicting how they think those words will be used in the context of their reading. 
5. Teachers can ask the class to share their “possible sentences” orally, or record on chart paper/overhead.
6. Students then read the assigned text. As they read they check their predicted sentences against the content of the text. 
7. If their predictions are accurate in terms of context (not word-for-word) students highlight the sentence with a check or a circle.
8. If the sentence is inaccurate, students then revise their sentences for accuracy in terms of the text.

Here is an example that I have used in my Grade 8 Geography class for our Economics unit.

The students were given these words:
economic activity

goods and services

...and they were asked to make sentences that show how 2 or more words relate to each other in a sentence.
1. Economic activities involve the production and distribution of goods and services.
2. Society is required to make decisions about how technology should be used.

After the students have spent some time studying the content they can go back and check how right they were with their possible sentences, or correct any misconceptions they had before starting. Just wait, you'll be surprised at how profound some of the student's sentences can be.

Photo Credit:

Next week..Possible Sentences' cousin- Probable Passages.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Advanced Planning

For anyone that knows me they also know that I am planner. I was the girl in high school that planned all the dances, where we went on the weekend, the fundraisers, etc. There is nothing I like better than coloured coded file folders and labels. For real.

So now that I have moved grades this year I feel like I am playing catch up everyday. Take today for example, when I arrived home after work (with a pile of marking, none of which is done) I vacuumed, made dinner and then sat down to do some planning. Why you ask? Well because as of 7:00 tonight I only had stuff to teach until lunch tomorrow. Lunch tomorrow!! So I sat down and planned out the next 4 weeks...because I have to. Maybe I have some kind of planning OCD? Maybe I don't take risks enough? Who knows, who cares, all I know is that I feel MUCH better. 

I wondered what it is about planning that just makes everything seem right with the world. Perhaps I am one of those people that feels like they must have some control over their life. It's an interesting thing to think about for sure. I do know that I will feel better next year when I am reteaching all these units and I can adapt them and tweak them and make it better, but all the while knowing I have something ready to go!

On a completely separate note...

I have been researching agencies that send shoes to Haiti for children and adults that do not have shoes. One of the agencies I discovered appears to have gone under with no warning and has left groups, businesses and people hanging with collections of shoes they want to send to help. I have been in contact with a web designer that had donated his time to help create a website for the charity and has since been inundated with requests for help to send the shoes over seas. 

If you can help us, or know of any agencies in the GTA please let me know so we can get these shoes to Haiti!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sunday Salon-Focus, Focus, Focus

I have had a fantastically lazy, yet productive day. I slept in thanks to my husband who walked the dog this morning.

For Diane!

When I woke up I perused (don't you love that word?) some on my favourite blogs, had a huge bowl of homemade oatmeal with brown sugar, raspberries and flaxseed. I am not normally a very big breakfast eater but I have really been trying to improve in this area and my new plan is to eat oatmeal every morning which is supposed to be super good for you. Plus if I add is some fruit and flaxseed it's all the better! After eating I worked on my next Writer's Workshop unit which is going to be poetry. Last year, I taught poetry as a reading unit but since I have so many of the same students I felt it was important to change things up. My plan is to teach the non-fiction book Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World (which I have mentioned here) as our reading unit and then have the students create a poetry anthology called "Poetry with a Purpose". They will each pick an issue related to social responsibility or society that interests them and then write a variety of poems on that topic.

I then spent some time reading more of Emma, made lunch and marked the Ideagrams my students handed in two weeks ago (I know, bad teacher...prompt feedback is necessary..blah, blah, blah). I was very disappointed by the ideagrams, so few met with the expectations of the assignment. So after marking them I created a list of things I would change about the literature circles unit that led up to the ideagrams as the culminating task for next year in hopes of getting better results the second time. Plus I made a pile of the student examples I would like to keep so I have them to show next year's kids. Not having examples is one of the drawbacks of teaching a new grade, as the students have no visual to help them when planning their own assignments.

For the rest of the afternoon I played with Kahne, had a wonderful nap (gotta love those) and woke up to read some more Emma. I have resolved this week that I am not going to start another book until I have finished reading Emma. Now, I am currently reading Me to We but that is for school and will be in small increments. I want to devote myself to Emma, to enjoying it and completing it before I turn to a new book.

That being said I have all sorts of bookish plans for the future. My sister is coming over next Friday and we are going to take a trip to Chapters, as we usually do when we are together. I plan to buy The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt that I have been hearing so many good things about on everyone's blogs, a new day to day calendar. My mother gave me one for Christmas, like she does every year, but I do not like this one and every morning when I rip off a page I am unhappy. The last two years she has given me one about teaching and teachers and I have enjoyed all the quotes. This year, however, she gave me a page-a-day recipe calendar and I have yet to see a recipe I want to make. My sister got the same one and feels the same so we are off the Chapters on Friday. I also have a huge TBR pile which includes:

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens (set in a fictional county based on my hometown)
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Now I just need to find some time to read!!

Kreative Blogger

My wonderful old friend (and by old I mean we have been friends for a long time) Serena over at not too serious I hope has given me my first "blog award". (I am still not really sure how this whole blog award thing works but I am going to roll with it.)

Before I get into the award I want to say that Serena and I lost touch for quite a few years after we graduated as we got our lives sorted out, started our teaching careers, and I moved away. We are on each other's Facebooks but like most social networking sites it isn't actually all that good for keeping in touch with people. However, in the last month or so as Serena has taken up blogging while she is at home caring for her beautiful baby we have been communicating more and more. I have been able to share with her some of the stuff I have learned since I started blogging in the summer (thanks again, Brian!) and we are actually much more aware of each other's lives. I even see a visit in the near future- what do you think Serena?

Now on to the award...

So, with this award, I'm supposed to tell you seven interesting things about myself and pass it on to 7 other creative bloggers... 


1. I have 2 tattoos- one is a Canadian maple leaf on on right ankle. I had been wanting it for years after my first tattoo and finally went to get it with my husband after our wedding. He got a maple leaf as well which I drew as a celtic knot as a nod to his Irish background. My first/ third tattoo was just recently updated in November 2009 and you can read about it here

2. I am the oldest child of two girls. My parents were/are the oldest children in both their families. This has led to a lot of problems as my sister believes none of the three of us can possibly understand her as a youngest child.

3. I have the cutest dog on the planet. He is half beagle and half pug = puggle. His name is Kahne.

4. I am a teacher. It's not my job, it's not what I do, it's who I am.

5. I often choose books based on their length because if it's too short  read it too quickly.

6. My best friend calls my a pygmy because I am 5' 4" and she is 5' 11". I call her an amazon.

7. My mom is one of my closest friends. We hold hands while we shop, talk at least 4 times a week and I adore her.

Now to pass this on...

1. Brian at The Zoey Blog
3. Book Psmith
4. hcmurdoch at Murdoch's Musings
5. Molly at my cozy book nook
6. The Canadian Enthusiast at The Canadian Enthusiast
7. Jill at The O.W.L.

Teens Read and Write- updated!

I have been introduced to a new blog today that I think may be on interest to my students Teens Read and Write .

I have been and am back! What a fantastic blog! I have been thinking for a few months now that I would like to introduce my students to blogs but was really unsure how I wanted to go about it. After reading through and browsing for a bit on Teens Read and Write I may have a little idea starting to form. Teachers are always thinking, "How could I use this in my classroom?"

I really appreciate a blog that is devoted to reading and writing and the love that these bloggers obviously feel for both. What an inspiration. I have decided to put a link to their blog on my class site and make a little "bonus assignment" for any students who want to venture over and check it out. From there who knows where we will go? Reviewing other blogs for teens? Writing our own blogs? Goodness only knows!

I would like to give a huge thank you to Teens Read and Write for helping me get a little idea sprouting in my head off the ground!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thoughtful vs. Pleasure

When I finished my Honours English Literature degree (too many years ago to discuss) I was so done with analyzing, and thinking, and discussing, and everything except reading for pleasure. I don't think I read a single book that wasn't on my class reading lists. I was taking 5 English courses every year, which basically equated to 5 novels a week or the like. Remember, Serena? I just wanted to go to Chapters and buy any book that looked good and read, preferably on the beach with a frozen drink! I wanted juicy romances, sultry details, exciting characters, PAPERBOOKS, new releases and no symbolism!

Now that it's been a few years and I have read A LOT of books for pleasure I find myself returning to the classics and books that require a little more thought. 

That being said please don't think I have been sitting around reading Harliquin's since I graduated! I have not. I just meant that I read the books that appealed to me based on their storyline, or their genre, or that they were a best seller and everyone was talking about them.

Over the last few years I've discovered a love of historical fiction which I am positive stems from my English degree has it had many pre-requisites involving Victorian narratives, Shakespeare (yes, all...ALL the plays!! That's a long post for another day) and other historical narratives as well. I even wrote my first thesis on "archetypes of women in American historical narratives" (whew!). If it takes place in the past, and even better has real historical figures in it (think Phillippa Gregory or Diana Gabaldon), I'll read it and most likely love it. In this vein I decided to sign up for the Books to Read Before I Die Challenge hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. These are the books I have chosen for this challenge:

1. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
3. Fall on Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
5. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
6. The World According to Garp by John Irving
7. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
9. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
10. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
11. Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
12. Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller by Jeff Rubin

Now some of these books are best sellers but many of them are from the Chapters 100 Best Books to read list that I pledged last year to read "before I die". (I made the promise to myself before I learned of the challenge but it fits together pretty nicely I think!). I haven't started any of the books yet, and I'll tell you why...

I started re-reading Emma by Jane Austen on the first of January. I am still reading it even though I have finished other books since! I love Emma and have since the first time I read it in 2nd year university. I loved "Clueless" as well, and when I found out Clueless was a "re-make" of Emma I loved it even more. I am enjoying re-reading the story and getting re-aquainted with my old friend Mr. Knightly (love him!), Harriet (annoying) and Emma (so dear) but I find that I am reading very slowly through it which I am not used to at all. Everyone that knows me is amazed by how fast I can read. However, after seeing so of y'all's lists on here I am starting to think I am not as fast as I once believed ...either that or some of you never sleep!!

So my question and the point of all this is...were you wondering when I was going to get there? Sorry... Should I be worried about finishing my challenge books and not reaching my total goals of books I want to read this year? Or just keep plugging on and read what I set out to read and number of books completed be damned?

Do you read a lot of classics or thought-provoking books? Do they take you longer to get through? Do you enjoy them as much as reading more books with less thought provoking stories? 

There is something about a Saturday morning...

...that makes everything from the week melt away. Saturdays involve sleep-ins, whether big or small, and there is no mad dash to the shower, to eat, to drive and to start the day. Everything moves a little slower on Saturdays. It's like the whole world slows down, takes and breath and sighs. We made it.

I am usually the one who gets up and walks the dog on Saturday mornings because my husband does it through out the week. He has less hair to deal with, and no make-up to apply so I need more time for me in the morning on weekdays. I like getting up on Saturday mornings at a reasonable time and getting my day started. Even though there is that moment, or six, where I am lying in bed and the dog is nudging me, whining at me, or worse- sitting on me, telling me it's time to go out and I think to myself, "If only I could keep sleeping." But once I am up and moving it's not so bad.

Saturday morning walks rarely involve any other people or cars. It's quiet, peaceful, pensive. Just me and Kahne out there in the world. I prefer to walk the dog in the warmer months and go for a nice long stroll when we get up, but the shorter ones in the winter are nice too. Then when I get back home I have the whole house to myself for awhile as my husband is still asleep and the house is quiet and restful too. So I get to decide what is done with my time. No demands, no questions to be answered, no real tasks to get done (except make coffee- must have coffee). I can start the day the way I want to. Saturday mornings are all mine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope for Haiti

My students and I will be reading the non-fiction book Me to We starting next week and I try to constantly infuse my classroom with lesson about social activism and civic responsibility. Tonight I will be watching Canada for Haiti and Hope for Haiti. I put my money where my mouth is and donated to Free the Children's Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund here, and you can too.

I am very excited to be starting this unit as it has been a dream of mine for a few years now to have the resources (i.e. books) to do it and I was happy today when I carried in the box of the books that quite a few students saw them and went, "ohh, we get to read these?" That's a BIG difference from the usual "Do we HAVE to read this?"

There hasn't been too much talk at school about the earthquake and I am sad about that. A few kids have mentioned it and I have brought it up a few times to try and gauge how students are reacting but it hasn't been much. I hope that with starting our unit next week that can really change!

You can also go to Free the Children's website and read Craig Keilburger's reports from Haiti as he travelled down there to help. Go here to learn more about this important issue.

Photo Credit: All photos are from Free the

Please give what you can, speak about this issue and don't forget!


Oh my goodness it's Friday and is anything sweeter than that?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ready, Set, Energized!

Today was everything that is good about teaching, except that there were no the students (contrary to my bad mood/day yesterday I love teaching and genuinely enjoy spending time with the vast majority of my students). I spent the day with my Grade 8 literacy team and the Grade 7 team at a workshop facilitated by our resource teacher. I was contacted before the holidays about helping plan and lead the day's agenda, which was a great privilege, as I am hoping to go into resource one day myself.

This is the picture book we used for the drama structure. You can get it here.

We decided we wanted to focus our morning on a drama structure relating to the upcoming Black History Month so that the teachers had something useful to take away with them that they could readily implement in their classrooms. We then used the afternoon to talk about various literacy strategies that can be used both in English and the content areas, as well as setting some time aside to mix and mingle and share some of the good things happening in our classrooms. I collected all the ideas brought to the discussion and photocopied a package for everyone that I like to call a "Package of Awesomeness"!

I was engaged the whole day, even when I knew what was coming next and felt like I learned a lot as well. My colleagues seemed really into it and a group of us discussed the possibility of creating a PLC (isn't education great at reducing everything to an acronym? my mom always tells me to stop talking in letters!! lol)- a professional learning community. A place where we can get together and talk about stuff, plan some things together, or even read a professional book and discuss it. All fabulous options.

I walked away re-energized, ready to go back to my classroom tomorrow and excited to try some of the new stuff I learned from my colleagues. It was just what I needed! 

I am looking forward to using some of the great drama strategies I haven't used before and reading more picture books. I love them, the kids love them and everyone pays attention on the days you use a picture book. Funny isn't it? They are 13 or 14 years-old and they will sit quietly and listen to their teacher read a picture book. Fabulous.

This is what I love about my job.

Bright and Shiny

After yesterday's ordeal and not-so-positive post I want to give everyone (and me) something fun and nice to think I'll shall tell you all about one of my students who we will call "Little V".

Little V was in my class last year and I just had to have him in my class this year. However, for whatever reason I actually forgot that he was going to be in my class over the summer (yes, even though I made the list up myself) so when I was perusing my class list in August of 2009 and saw his name I did a little happy dance! Whoo hoo, Little V two years in a row!!

Little V is, as his name says, small (at least small for a boy in Grade 8). He's not the smallest boy I have ever seen in Grade 8 but it's close. Little V also has a mouthful, I mean chockfull, of braces and a smile that reaches from ear to ear. I adore him.

Now Little V wears little jerseys to school most days. My teaching partner and I love to giggle over his little jerseys, it's so cute. On "Jersey Day" he brought 2 jerseys to school; one that he wore and the other he put on the back of his chair. I think it was to show his extra spirit. I loved it.

Now I keep Little V in a chair at the front of the room where I can see him and chat with him whenever the mood strikes me. We also have a great teasing relationship. I always make jokes about how much I don't actually like him, and he is super quick on his feet to get me right back. Maybe that's why I adore him so much. Take today, for example, I was actually leading a literacy workshop for the entire day down in the library and had a supply in my room. Little V wandered down near the library at lunch when I happened to be in the hall. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: "Little V! What? I had hope I wouldn't see you today."

Little V: "I know. Me too. What bad luck that you are in the hall right now."

Love it!!

Since so many of my kids are from last year's classes they know all about Little V and I so they are always on the look out for ways to set up a joke where he or I make fun of the other. It's these kinds of things that make teaching amazing. My kids get my sense of humour and feel comfortable enough to give it right back to me. They know I will laugh and appreciate a good joke at my own expense. It sure does make the day go by faster when there is so much laughter in the room. It's because of this that I am not looking forward to June. Some of my kids I have been teaching for 3 years- Grade 5 French, Grade 7 English/History/Geography and now Grade 8 English/History/Geography. The last day of school will be a sad day.

What will I do next year when I have to "retrain" a new group and Little V's desk will have someone else in it? Hopefully, there is a Little V Jr out there just waiting for me!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weariness- The Negative Side of a Grade 8 Story

I know I said I would stop whining this week, and I am not sure this is whining, but something happened today that was so disturbing I feel like I must get it out so I can let it go.

A Grade 8 boy; a boy who I have been working with all year to try and convince him that he can do better, he is better, his future can be whatever he wants, made an overt sexual, and I feel harassing gesture, in my classroom. Now whether it was directed at me, or more horrifying, at a 13 year-old girl, it was inappropriate, disgusting and to be honest, very upsetting.

I believe I handled it very well.  I did not yell. I didn't even raise my voice actually, I just said "Out" and pointed at the door. I called the behaviour teacher and related what happened. I then had to explain to my principal what the gesture meant, that was pretty entertaining/ embarrassing, and get on with my day of teaching.

I hate that behaviour like this is what sucks me in. It puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day and I dwell on it. Which is not only unfair to me, but unfair to my other students who behave well all day, every day. And today we were doing some pretty awesome stuff and I could almost see the learning happening in their heads. The discussion they were having about literature, questions, and the possible answers. Evaluating and the defending their positions to each was AWESOME. I am actually excited (although I doubt they are) for the test on Friday just to see what comes of the fabulous learning they displayed today...then some kid goes a wrecks my mood.

After 6 years I want to be able to say "Bah, not worth it" and let it go. Now, I don't mean not disciplining as this was something that needed consequences and I have asked for an apology signed by the student and his mother before he will be admitted back into my room. I mean not worth my time, my emotions, my mood. I want to focus solely on the kids who want to be there, who want to learn, who are desperate to do better.

Is it bad to say, "Well, they are in Grade 8. Can they really change? Will they really change?" If they didn't do homework in Grade 5, 6, 7, and now 8 can I really convince them in the next 5 months that they should do it? I mean, they are in Grade 8 so obviously they don't have to to get promoted to the next grade. Our system has taught them that much at least. Ohhh, I am feeling awfully negative today aren't I? Sorry.

Anyone have good news to share? New babies? Kittens? Fantastic new book I should read? I would love to hear about it. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Sunday Salon- Do we wear clothes for men, for ourselves or for other women?

The Sunday Salon- January 17th, 2010

Today has been a quiet day here around my house. My husband celebrated his 29th birthday last night and I am pretty sure he feels like death warmed over today. At least that's what it looks like from my vantage point. Part of me feels bad for him, but a MUCH bigger part of me (like 99% of me) does not! We went through this a few weeks ago after New Year's Eve. Now I will be the first to admit I did not feel all that well myself on New Year's Day but I generally learn my lesson and carry it with me for a few month. My husband? Not so much. He was feeling hungover yesterday from Friday night when he started on today's hangover. No sympathy from me. The quietness as he naps/ feels like crap however, has allowed me to get a lot done today.

As usual I did some school work, planning and marking, and I even got some reading in as part of my school work. I am going to be starting a unit using the book Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World. I have read this book already but I always like to re-read as I am teaching a book to keep everything fresh in my mind. I just read through the first chapter today as, obviously, this is where my lessons will start. (Can you believe how brilliant a teacher I am? Start at the beginning. Fabulous) This chapter outlines Craig Keilburger's start as a social activist when he was 12 years-old and read about a 12 year-old in Pakistan who was gunned down for speaking out against child labour. Even though I have heard Craig speak about this experience many times, and have read the story in numerous forms, it gets me every time. I am very excited to start studying this book with my students and see their reactions and ideas.

Are you wondering yet what any of this has to do with the title of post? Well...

For my personal reading I am currently reading Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope. I am fascinated by this book even though I am not really sure yet that I even like it. Does this ever happen to you? Friday Nights is about an unusual grouping of women who get together on Friday nights to talk about their lives, support each other and help each other through the difficult moments. Some are young, some are older, some are married, some are single, some have children and some don't.

Along the way one of the characters, Paula, meets a new man and develops a relationship with him. This leads to all sorts of changes within the group. Paula's relationship with her friends, her son and the interwoven relationships of the group all begin to shift because of this one altering event. I am fascinated because I've never had a large group of female friends that all hang out together and share everything. I have a few very good friends, and my sister and my best friend but all those relationships only involve the two of us. I am not really sure that I believe larger groups of women can all be close to everyone is the group. There are always twosomes and threesomes that break off from the group as a whole.

This book accurately portrays the interesting dynamic between women. The competition, the small jealousies, the idea that other women do everything better than you do...etc, AND, the unwavering support and sisterhood that also exists between women who are friends. 

When Paula brings her relationship into the group things begin to change and I do not like Paula. She is self-absorbed, self-centered and completely unaware of how her actions affect her young son. I actually feel myself getting mad at her as I read. She neglects her friends for her relationship and I have never respected women who do that. She has no concept of the consequences of her actions and takes no responsibility for them either. Frustrating.

I am hoping to finish this book soon, partly because I am so frustrated by Paula and partly because I can't wait to see what happens.

Google Reader Vol 2.0

So I have been playing around with Google Reader a little more and I think I have figured out a systems that works for me! I plan to still read everyone's blogs on their blog site, I really do like seeing the backgrounds and stuff... but then if a post appeals to me and I want to go back to it in the future I will use Google Reader to start it and return at a later date.

Who knows, maybe my thoughts on this will evolve and I will grow to love Google Reader? Anything is possible on a Sunday morning right?

And on that thought I am off to have coffee, lots of coffee. My husband and his best friend stayed up till all hours of the night celebrating my husband's birthday and I foresee a need for coffee to be fully equipped to handle their particular brand of nonsense this morning.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Google Reader

I have been hearing things about Google Reader. So I went on over to check it out.

I don't like it.

I like seeing everyone's backgrounds and templates, tags, tabs, pictures, lists etc. Google Reader makes reading all your lovely blogs very impersonal. I understand the draw of being about the star items and refer back to them later. I may use that feature in the future. (Note: Doesn't that just sound cool? feature in the future?...anyway) After I have read a blog that I particularly like a posting on I may go to Google Reader and use it to mark the posting for reference in the future but I can not imagine myself using it all the time to read the blogs I follow. I understand that it may save me time to use this tool but that's not why I read blogs, to save time that is. I read them because I enjoy hearing what people are saying and thinking about things they have going on in their life, in their family, that they've read etc. If blogging gets to the point where I am more concerned with the amount of time it takes me than the pleasure I get from it I will stop reading and writing.

So here's the final score:

Going to your blogs = 1
Google Reader = 0 

The Saturday Network

I found out about this fun activity too late last week to participate and promised myself that it would be one of the first things I did this week...well, I had a coffee and cleaned the kitchen so not really the first thing, but pretty tops.

Books at Midnight is hosting this great event every Saturday to get bloggers out there networking and commenting on each other's blogs! Fabulous, right? The idea is that you go to Books at Midnight, make a comment on the Saturday Network post about yourself and your blog. Then you visit the blog of the person who left the comment before you and make a thoughtful comment on their blog.
Love it.

I ended up visiting Jennifer's blog Extreme Reader Book Reviews and I not only discovered a blog that appeals to me but I learned about a new book that sounds fantastic, Epitaph Road.

Today is already off to a great start. Now if I could only find someone to do my marking??

Interested in Your Own Horoscope

These are all the horoscopes from the email where I got mine. Yes, it was a forward and no, I didn't pass it on. I fully expect to have a million years bad luck and all my hair fall out. I'll deal with it when it happens!

Note: I did not write these, so I apologize if they are offensive to your sign. Some of them seem a little weird.

ARIES - The Aggressive
Outgoing. Lovable. Spontaneous. Not one to mess with. Funny.. Excellent kisser EXTREMELY adorable. Loves relationships, and family is very important to an aries.  Aries are known for being generous and giving. Addictive. Loud. Always has the need to be 'Right'. Aries will argue to prove their point for hours and hours.  Aries are some of the most wonderful people in the world..

TAURUS - The Tramp

Aggressive. Loves being in long relationships.  Likes to give a good fight.  Fight for what they want. Can be annoying at times, but for the love of attention.  Extremely outgoing. Loves to help people in times of need. Good kisser. Good personality. Stubborn. A caring person. They can be self centered and if they want something they will do anything to get it. They love to sleep and can be lazy.  One of a kind. Not one to mess with. Are the most attractive people on earth!

GEMINI - The Twin

Nice. Love is one of a kind. Great listeners. Very Good at confusing people... Lover not a fighter, but will still knock you out. Geminis will not take any crap from anyone. Geminis like to tell people what they should do and get offended easily.  They are great at losing things and are forgetful.  Geminis can be very sarcastic and childish at times and are very nosey.  Trustworthy. Always happy. VERY Loud. Talkative. Outgoing. VERY FORGIVING. Loves to make out. Has a beautiful smile. Generous. Strong. THE MOST IRRESISTIBLE.

CANCER - The Beauty

MOST AMAZING KISSER. Very high appeal. A Cancer's Love is one of a kind.. Very romantic.. Most caring person you will ever meet in your life.  Entirely creative Person, most are artists and insane, respectfully speaking. They perfected sex and do it often.  Extremely random. An Ultimate Freak. Extremely funny and is usually the life of the party.  Most Cancers will take you under their wing and into their hearts where you will remain forever.  Cancers make love with a passion beyond compare. Spontaneous.  Not a Fighter, But will kick your ass good if it comes down to it. Someone you should hold on to!

LEO - The Lion

Great talker. Attractive and passionate. Laid back. Usually happy but when unhappy tend to be grouchy and childish. A Leo's problem becomes everyone's problem.  Most Leos are very predictable and tend to be monotonous. Knows how to have fun.. Is really good at almost anything. Great kisser. Very predictable. Outgoing.  Down to earth. Addictive. Attractive. Loud. Loves being in long relationships. Talkative. Not one to mess with. Rare to find. Good when found.

VIRGO - The One that Waits

Dominant in relationships. Someone loves them right now. Always wants the last word. Caring. Smart. Loud. Loyal. Easy to talk to. Everything you ever wanted. Easy to please. A pushover.  Loves to gamble and take chances. Needs to have the last say in everything..  They think they know everything and usually do.  Respectful to others but you will quickly lose their respect if you do something untrustworthy towards them and never regain respect.  They do not forgive and never forget. The one and only.

LIBRA - The Lame One

Nice to everyone they meet. Their love is one of a kind. Silly, funny and sweet. Have own unique appeal. Most caring person you will ever meet! However, not the kind of person you want to mess might end up crying. Libras can cause as much havoc as they can prevent.  Faithful friends to the end.  Can hold a grudge for years. Libras are someone you want on your side.  Usually great at sports and are extreme sports fanatics. Very creative.  A hopeless romantic.  

SCORPIO - The Addict

EXTREMELY adorable.  Loves to joke. Very Good sense of humor. Will try almost anything once.  Loves to be pampered.  Energetic. Predictable. GREAT kisser. Always get what they want..  Attractive.  Loves being in long relationships. Talkative. Loves to party but at times to the extreme.  Loves the smell and feel of money and is good at making it but just as good at spending it!  Very protective over loved ones. HARD workers. Can be a good friend but if is disrespected by a friend, the friendship will end. Romantic. Caring...

SAGITTARIUS - The Promiscuous One

Spontaneous. High appeal. Rare to find. Great when found.. Loves being in long relationships. So much love to give. A loner most of the time.  Loses patience easily and will not take crap.  If in a bad mood stay FAR away.  Gets offended easily and remembers the offense forever.  Loves deeply but at times will not show it, feels it is a sign of weakness.  Has many fears but will not show it.  VERY private person..  Defends loved ones with all their abilities. Can be childish often. Not one to mess with. Very pretty. Very romantic. Nice to everyone they meet. Their Love is one of a kind. Silly, fun and sweet. Have own unique appeal. Most caring person you will ever meet! Amazing in bed..!!! Not the kind of person you want to mess with- you might end up crying.

CAPRICORN - The Passionate Lover

Love to bust. Nice. Sassy. Intelligent. Sexy. Grouchy at times and annoying to some.  Lazy and love to take it easy. But when they find a job or something they like to do they put their all into it.  Proud, understanding and sweet.
Irresistible. Loves being in long relationships. Great talker. Always gets what he or she wants. Cool. Loves to win against other signs especially Gemini's in sports.  Likes to cook but would rather go out to eat at good restaurants.
Extremely fun. Loves to joke. Smart.

AQUARIUS - Does It In The Water

Trustworthy. Attractive.. Great kisser. One of a kind, loves being in long-term relationships. Can be clumsy at times but tries hard.  Will take on any project.  Proud of themselves in whatever they do.  Messy and unorganized. Procrastinators.  Great lovers, when they're not sleeping.  Extreme thinkers. Loves their pets usually more than their family.  Can be VERY irritating to others when they try to explain or tell a story.  Unpredictable. Will exceed your expectations. Not a Fighter but will Knock your lights out..

PISCES - The Partner for Life

Caring and kind. Smart. Likes to be the center of attention. Very organized.  High appeal to opposite sex.  Likes to have the last word. Good to find, but hard to keep. Passionate, wonderful lovers.  Fun to be around. Too trusting at times and gets hurt easily.  VERY caring. They always try to do the right thing and sometimes gets the short end of the stick.  They sometimes get used by others and get hurt because of their trusting.   Extremely weird but in a good way. Good sense of humor!!! Thoughtful. Loves to joke. Very popular. Silly, fun and sweet. Good friend to other but needs to be choosy on who they allow their friends to be. 

Last Words...

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe