Saturday, December 1, 2007

Job update...things are going well...happy where I am.

If you've been paying attention, you know that I've been teaching the period 1 grade 11 chemistry class at an adult high school for a little more than a week, and that the way Toronto's high schools work I'm paid only for the 2 hours I'm actually in the classroom teaching each day (not for my marking or my preparation). The quadmester started Nov. 15 and another teacher has been teaching the period 3 grade 11 chemistry class since that time. However, the period 1 class was without a permanent teacher before they found me because at this school you are hired on a per-course, per-quadmester basis, and the period 3 teacher wasn't available to teach in the period 1 time slot. Well, yesterday that changed. For various reasons, the period 3 teacher will be handing that class over to me as of Monday, though she will continue to teach the grade 10 science class she has also been teaching since the beginning of the quad. Since the course is the same as my current class, this means no extra prep for me, just some more marking--and more pay. It seems the staff at the school like me (I have had specific comments from a couple of people that I am a good teacher), and while there are no guarantees, comments and conversations I've heard over the past week seem to imply that should I want to continue at the school in future quadmesters, there may well be courses available for me to teach. Overall, this has me feeling much better in terms of job security. The environment at the school is also very supportive and friendly overall, and I am enjoying the teaching. Now that I have the second class, I have even decided to reduce my efforts to find a position elsewhere, even though teaching a full load in a "regular" high school would bring in more money. I am happy where I am for now, and I am getting experience developing a course and building up my resources (as well as dealing with all the administrivia that comes with teaching) without having to deal with a lot of behaviour issues. I am starting to think of my time at this school not as just a teaching "job," but as the start of my career. Life is good, for now I don't need to make more money than I currently am, and if it ain't broke, no sense wasting a lot of energy trying to fix it. I should say, though, that I do feel badly about the circumstances that have led to the period 3 teacher not being able to continue with that class, as it is not a happy situation for her.

Yesterday I taught not only my own first period class, I also supply-taught a third period computer class. When I agreed to sub for that class, I was a little worried, since I wasn't sure how much I was going to be able to help the students in a subject I am not officially qualified to teach (and have only 1 university course in--and that was in a language practically no one programs in anymore). It seems, though, that when you supply-teach you're generally there to be a warm body to administer pre-assigned work and make sure the students behave themselves (easy enough since this is an adult high school)...being able to help the students is wonderful, but in supply situations it is sometimes just a bonus. It turned out, however, that I was much more helpful in that class than I thought I was going to be. This computer class is one in which students mainly learn how to use some common applications, besides some details regarding computer hardware, the Internet and the ettiquette and ethics involved in computer use in a business setting (secondary teachers, the course code is BTT2O and you can read the course description in Ontario's grade 9 and 10 Business Studies curriculum document). The students in this class have a workbook of exercises they are to work through at their computers. In this section of the course, they are learning how to use Microsoft Word. Some students were further ahead in the workbook than others, and I got questions on how to save a file (including how to change the directory you're saving to), how to make text bold, how to change the alignment of text, how to change the font, how to change the size of text, how to insert symbols, and a bunch of other things I tend to take for granted. Considering that I've been using word processors since I was, oh, 9 years old, and Word in particular for many many years as well, assisting with this class was a breeze and I was able to answer almost all of the students' questions (other than some minor issues involving translating proofreading marks on the workbook pages into the required formatting, since I'm not familiar with standard proofreading notation). It made me realize that I have been privileged to have grown up with computers and that, while I won't be building any applications anytime soon, I actually have a level of computer skill that is pretty advanced compared to many people in the world (though I fully admit there are many other people out there whose skills are advanced compared to mine). Feeling smart about something always gives my ego a boost, so that combined with the other positive things that happened yesterday (well, positive for I said, I do feel badly for the other teacher) had me leaving the school yesterday in a pretty good mood. Oh, and if you're wondering how doing this supply teaching works out with my being paid by the hour, it's pretty simple: I get paid at the occasional teacher rate for the 2 hours I'm with each class I supply for. I think this is actually somewhat better than the situation when you're a "regular" teacher; I don't think you get paid any more than your salary when you're a "regular" teacher and have to give up your prep period to do an on-call supply for another teacher, but I could be wrong.

On a very nerdy note, it also tickled me when the academic program director showed me the science education supply catalogs and told me to let her know if I wanted anything, I get to order science education supplies (if the order is approved)! Ooo, Sargeant-Welch has molecular model kits that illustrate the various hybridized VSEPR orbitals! Ooo, I am sure there are lots of other exciting things in those catalogs I can use as props and in demos in my classroom! Yeah, I know my excitement over that may sound sad...but it's all in the interest of providing the best educational experience possible for my students ;).

Well, the day is a-wasting, and I have marking and planning to do before I attend a dinner function tonight. I hope you all are well...bye for now!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Brief job update: I was *this* close...again.

I have to make this quick so I can finish my lesson planning for tomorrow, but since people have been wishing me good luck again on this one I wanted to give an update. The VP of the school I had the LTO interview with last week called a little while ago. She said I was amazing, that she didn't understand how someone "so young" could be so articulate, that all my answers were succinct and spot-on in terms of what they were looking for, and that my references were great as well. She said she wished she could offer me the job. It turns out that while they've been looking for someone for the LTO position, the same supply teacher has been working with those classes for about a week now and seems to be doing really well with the one class that has some behaviour and special needs issues in it. The school looked at that situation and thought, "Hmm, this is going really well, do we really want to try to get these students to adjust to yet another teacher at this point (especially considering the special needs issues)?" Their answer was no. This is a disappointment, but at the same time, the fact that one of the classes on the timetable was a difficult class was not mentioned in the interview, and I'm not sure how ready I am for that situation. I am not going to shut myself off from the possibility of getting a difficult class when I land something permanent, but it's not my ideal situation either. Anyway, the next batch of LTO postings goes out tomorrow, so I will keep my eyes open. The VP who called me also told me that sometimes principals will send e-mails around to each other mentioning that they have a job for "X" and asking each other if they know anyone who would be good for the job; she told me she would recommend me if anything came up. This is a great vote of confidence from someone who has never seen me teach, and I appreciate it very much.

I hope you are all well...back to the planning now for me!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Employed--part-time, but employed

Well, I've done it...I finally have a teaching position, in a classroom of my very own. I got the hiring call Tuesday, visited the school yesterday, and taught my first class today--talk about having to hit the ground running! I have been hired by Yorkdale Adult Learning Centre, which is on the campus of Yorkdale Secondary School. It is one of 4 adult high schools in the Toronto District School Board. Working at an adult high school is different from an employment (and pay) perspective because their teachers are actually employees of the Continuing Education department rather than the usual Board channels for secondary teachers. This means that I am paid on an hourly basis--and only for the hours that the class actually runs. My marking and prep time are unpaid, and I do not get benefits. I am also only hired to teach one section of one course--I teach the period 1 class of grade 11 chemistry (university preparation level, for you teachers out there who know what that means) from 8 to 10 a.m. every day. The school has 4 quadmesters rather than 2 semesters, and so the classes are 2 hours long and run 5 days a week for 9 weeks. I am not sure exactly what day I am paid until, but it is sometime near the very end of January (my class' exam is Jan. 29, but the quad ends the next day, and then there are some "turnaround days" I don't understand yet). Whether or not I will continue to have a job with the school after that point will depend on the needs of the school. I do have an office (arrangements are still being made to get me an actual desk, but I have been able to squat at another teacher's desk for now), photocopier privileges, a staff washroom key, a textbook, the whole nine yards. I have over 40 students on my register, but in the 2 days I've been there I have yet to see them all. When I was interviewed for this position, the VP interviewing me said that while they would hope their teachers would honor the full 9 weeks of the class, she encouraged me to keep watching the long-term occasional postings put up by the Toronto District School Board and to continue to apply for those positions. This tells me that she recognizes that long-term occasional position comes with better pay (and probably smaller class sizes). Perhaps some people who trained to teach high school also don't enjoy teaching the adults as much as adolescents.

Pros of this job:
- I only have 1 class, 2 hours a day, and can spend the rest of my day planning, marking, and doing things I want to do.
- I only have to prepare and mark for one class.
- Only one other person besides me is teaching the class (she has the 1-3 p.m. class), so there is a lot of leeway to teach the curriculum in the way I want, so long as I teach the curriculum.
- Because I am teaching adults, and adults who are motivated to be there (rather than adolescents who have to be there), I pretty much have no behaviour issues to deal with. There can still be rudeness, complaints of unfairness, etc., but so far things are going pretty well. Perhaps they are still scared of me and I will see a change later, but overall I expect most if not all of my students will be decent human beings to me and to each other...and not having to spend time on behaviour management means more time to work with and enjoy the course content.

- starting class at 8 a.m. (and I still have to get myself ready in the morning, scrape off the car, drive there, do any set-up and photocopying, etc.)...I am so not a morning person!
- being paid hourly, and only for my in-class time, and having no benefits
- lack of job security...I have no idea if they will still want me around when the next quadmester starts
- having to get the entire curriculum into a shorter-than-usual amount of time (the program leader suggests having the students do one of the units as an independent study unit, which I think may actually be necessary if I am going to give a good treatment of the rest of the course).

That all being said, I did have an interview today for an LTO position in grade 9 and 10 science, which would run until the end of a normal semester (so, again, the end of January) with the possibility to continue through to the end of semester 2 (so until the end of June). Who knows what will happen with that...for now, I will give my all to my grade 11 adult learners.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Joy's job journey part 5

I've been getting questions about how the job hunt is going, so here is an update.

I mentioned last update that there was a possibility of my getting a position with a non-school organization teaching ESL and computer literacy to adults. I did interview for that position, and I was offered the position. However, as I mentioned in my last update, the daily pay offered was much lower than the daily rate for a supply teacher. The person interviewing me for the job assured me even during the interview that the position was mine if I wanted it, she was sure I'd be a great teacher, and so on. At the same time, though, she almost seemed to be pushing me to keep going on the path to employment with the Toronto District School Board since I think that is where I ultimately want to be, the pay is better, the atmosphere may be better and less frustrating, and so on. She seemed to indicate I would get frustrated and feel confined in this position. Advice I received from other teachers seemed to indicate that while this would be another teaching job on my résumé, it might not actually "count" in the eyes of the TDSB later should I take the job but apply for TDSB opportunities later down the road, meaning that it actually wouldn't give me the edge of experience that I very much need (and perhaps not counting in terms of my position on the TDSB pay grid as well, though that is a much smaller concern in my mind). Long story short, I did turn down that position, and decided to focus my job search efforts more narrowly on the TDSB...especially since I knew I was going to be placed on the TDSB's supply teacher list in as little as 2 weeks.

Friday, October 26 I received my Toronto District School Board employee number in the mail. That told me that my paperwork had been fully processed by the TDSB and I am finally officially on their supply teacher list for secondary schools. I've only been asking them to put me on that list since the summer, heh...

I decided to take off the week of Oct. 29 to give myself time to read over the literature they gave us at the documentation session (yes, I could have done that in the 2.5 weeks it took them to process my paperwork, but, well, I didn't), take the WHMIS test I was required to and send my answer sheet to the TDSB (also something I could have done in that 2.5 weeks but didn't), register my employee # with the automated phone system that calls supply teachers each day to tell them where they are needed, register with and get to know all the online systems supply teachers have access to, tell schools I'm interested in to put me on their priority list, read over a "classroom management" book I have (CM mainly concerns dealing with behaviour problems, though there is more to it than that) and figure out what tactics I can use as a supply teacher (much different than being a permanent teacher), put together the typical "supply teacher's toolkit" of supplies, and so on. Also, since I've been unemployed all this time and my husband works the night shift on the days he works, I've been going to sleep and waking up at hours that are, well, not the hours teachers live on, so I wanted that time to readjust my daily schedule.

Nov. 1, last Thursday, I visited the high school I attended and got myself put on their priority list of supply teachers for science and math. My OAC chemistry teacher, Mrs. Russell, is still at the school, so her and I chatted for a bit. The Science Teacher's Association of Ontario is having a conference next week Thursday through Saturday, and it looks like I will be covering for teachers at this school for the Thursday and Friday. Incidentally, both days also have a shortened schedule due to parent-teacher interviews happening on the Thursday; I'm not sure if that means I still get a full day's pay (supply teachers are paid on a daily basis), but it's nice to have some work lined up in any case.

Last Thursday I also visited the high school I did my practicum assignments at during teacher's college, got put on their priority list, and saw a couple of my old host teachers. An LTO is supposed to be coming up for one of my old host teachers, according to one of the secretaries, but she is a physics and phys. ed. teacher...unfortunately, I can do the former, but not the latter. (More on LTO positions below, for those of you unfamiliar with the term.) Still, I'm on their list of people to call for science supply jobs.

Finally, last Thursday I not only mailed off my WHMIS test and supply teacher profile (the sheet that tells them what I'm qualified to teach, what I'm willing-but-not-qualified to teach, what days I'm available and in what geographic areas I'm willing to teach), I also faxed off an application for a long-term-occasional (LTO) position. If you don't already know, an LTO is any supply teaching job where the teacher works with the same classes for 15 consecutive days or more. Getting one or more LTO positions is supposed to be a good way to get your foot in a little bit further with the TDSB in terms of getting a permanent full-time teaching position. This particular position would run from Nov. 19 until Jan. 31 (my birthday!) and is in grade 9 and 10 science.

This morning, I received a phone call from the school whose LTO position I applied for--they want me to come in for an interview tomorrow at 11! Keep in mind I have had interviews for teaching positions before (and great interviews, at that) and not actually been offered any of those positions, but each interview is still a new opportunity. Perhaps I *will* get this one. Perhaps it will lead to a permanent full-time position (either because the person being replaced does not return for whatever reason or because the added experience on my résumé and a good evaluation of my performance leads to something with that school or another). Perhaps not. Still, an offer of an interview is a vote of confidence on the part of the principal. It reassures me that although I have come up against frustrations in my job search, there are still opportunities out there for me to pursue. Every call for an interview, every prospect of employment is a breath of fresh air in my life right now, even if it does carry with it the possibility of disappointment. Don't get me wrong--I do enjoy the free time being unemployed brings, along with the freedom to go out and see friends on a whim rather than having to look after the lesson planning and marking that come with teaching. I know, though, that I enjoy teaching more. Even when all I was doing was teaching that "trial" lesson at that private school that was thinking about hiring me, or teaching a lesson at practicum, it seems that often when I've been in a classroom in a teaching role it's just felt "right." Sure, it's hard work. Sure, marking a series of quizzes on significant digits and scientific notation is tedious. Overall, though, the job search people say you gotta do what you love...and it seems that, for whatever reason, I love teaching. I'm not sure that I'll love supply teaching, but it's a step in the process, and who knows, maybe I will. Wish me luck with tomorrow's interview; I'll post again when I have something to report on how the supply teaching situation is going.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Joy's job journey, part 4 (+ feeling fantastic)

I don't have a lot to report, but as I've been getting questions from people I figured I'd write an update. Of course, knowing my writing style, my "not much to report" will generate a fairly long post anyway ;).

Yesterday was my "documenting" session with the Toronto District School Board, which will lead to my being placed on their secondary occasional teacher list. These "documenting" sessions are group sessions...I'm really bad at estimating, but I'd say there were about 80-90 people at my session. All of these people are, like me, on the TDSB's eligible-to-hire list but have not yet managed to secure a full-time position. The girl who sat to my left even had similar teachables as mine--chemistry and math vs. my chemistry and physics (and enough university math courses to do the math AQ :)). The session lasted about 2 1/2 hours. The leaders for the first part walked us through information on our contract, such as our pay scale, how supplying affects our eligible-to-hire status, how many days we have to work to remain on the supply list for next year, what is considered a long-term occasional position, and so on. They also walked us through filling out some forms and getting all the documents we'd brought with us checked over and into our file. One of the leaders is responsible for processing all those files, getting us our clearance with the Board and sending us our employee number--the number we need to receive before we can start doing supply work. Because she is only one person and there are many of us to process (not just at my session, but at other similar sessions as well), it will take about 2 weeks for us to receive our employee numbers if all is straightforward with our file (which should be the case for me), so it will be at least that long before I can start making money with the TDSB (well, unless I get a full-time position before then, heh). The leader for the last part of the session told us what we needed to know about how the call system works that assigns you your job(s) for the day and how to register for it. (Unlike in other boards, where a real person calls you to dispatch you, Toronto uses an automated, interactive phone system to handle their supply work.) She also detailed what to do in the event of problems such as running late for a job, a mix-up at the school that assigned the job, and needing to book time off. All in all the session was straightforward and light. While I'd worried about it dragging on when I heard it would be 2 1/2 hours, I didn't find that it did. The only time that could have been really bad was waiting for the 2 leaders to check over everyone's documents and answer their questions individually, but getting into conversation with my seatmate made that go by faster.

Yesterday one of my friends from Woburn also told me about a position that's opened up at her workplace, teaching ESL and computer literacy to adults. The daily pay is not nearly what the daily rate is for supply teaching, but depending on how many supply calls I get per week the weekly rate could be higher (or not). Anyway, I rushed off to the post office last night to fax my résumé into there (since I moved too slowly the last time this position opened up and lost the opportunity as a result), so we'll see what happens from there. The position would only be until Christmas, after which I would go back to TDSB supply work. If this place calls me for an interview, I'll have to think more about what I'm comfortable with in terms of pay (low pay, but steady work, or unsteady work with higher pay) so that if they offer me a position I'll know whether I'll want to accept it or take my chances with the TDSB for now. Hmm, using it to broaden my teaching résumé could be good, too, though, but will it "count" in the eyes of the TDSB further down the road? Lots to think about.

Overall, I am feeling much better about my job situation than when I wrote my last post. This is partly because I am accepting that it seems many teachers I've spoken to or heard about also did not get a permanent position right off the bat...supplying for months to years is far from unusual (unless the teacher had private school or overseas experience, of course), so why should my case be any different? I'm a good teacher by all accounts, but so are many others who have been through what I'm going through now. Thanksgiving also passed recently (well, in Canada, anyway), with all its reminders of the abundance that I have relative to many other people in the world. I am lucky to have a husband that already provides for me, such that we could keep going with our current standard of living for quite a while without me having to work at all. Yes, I want to work and to help save up for some of the things we'd like to do financially (buy out the car when the lease is up, contribute in a bigger way to our church's building program, save up a down payment for our own place), but we really aren't in a bad spot right now, and I know of people even from my own teacher's college program who need to find a position to help support their families much more than I (not that I'm going to back off my job search in light of that!).

This is not job-related, but I also happen to be in a great mood today. I got a decent amount of sleep last night without having to resort to sleeping in hours and hours (due to a too-late turn-in time). It's sunny out. It's my favourite season of the year, and I was out and about in it yesterday since I walked and took the subway to the TDSB yesterday. (Love those coloured leaves, the cool-but-not-cold weather, and even the autumn rain when it doesn't make me ill.) I am feeling lucky to have a husband that reassures me when I'm having one of my spells of insecurity. The new devotional material my church has started using this week has been reminding me of important and uplifting things that I forget (not mentally, but emotionally) every now and again. Bah, I'm not going to analyze it, I'm just going to enjoy it :).

Well, I'm off...there is plenty to do in the next few days and too-little time to do it if I get too distracted :P!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Alrighty then. (Joy's job journey continues...part 3)

Well, I got a letter in the mail from that private Catholic school today...turns out they will not be hiring me for that position I was very much hoping to get after all. However, it is a very nice rejection letter, assuring me that since I was asked to teach a class (what I call my "trial" lesson) I was "a serious candidate and ... possess the necessary ability to become a successful educator." (In other words, this was not one of those situations where the school already knew what candidate they were going to hire and just interviewed additional candidates to be nice and/or fulfill a quota.) It also invites me to contact the school should I be interested in being on their supply teacher list or "to do some volunteer work or coaching." I am especially intrigued by the mention of a supply teacher list, as the teacher that observed my trial lesson told me when I inquired that they cover all their absences internally and do not maintain such a list. Perhaps I impressed the school sufficiently to change that ;)...or perhaps I simply received wrong information the first time around.

My "documenting" session that will place me on the Toronto District School Board supply teacher list occurs next Tuesday. Many people attend these sessions and get processed by the TDSB all at once, as they explain how to fill out the forms, make sure everything is in order, put together your file and explain how the call process works that tells you your assignment each day. There are several documents I'm required to bring with me, including the results of a tuberculosis (TB) test. This test takes 2 doctor's appointments over 3 days--one appointment for the doctor to put an injection under your skin, and another appointment 48 hours later for the doctor to check your skin to see if you've reacted to the injection. I had the latter appointment today, and I'm sure you'll all be relieved to know that I do not have TB. Yay.

This past Monday I also sent an application package to a school in Oshawa that interviewed me back in June because they put up a new posting last week for a position exactly like the one I interviewed for (an interview which the principal told me was great even before I left the school that day, but which obviously did not result in a position). I have not yet been contacted by the school, although given how much time passed last time between my applying for the position and being invited to be interviewed it's still possible that they will give me a call. I am trying to maintain the attitude that it would be nice to hear something from them, but I won't hold my breath and won't be devastated if I don't get a call.

All in all, what this job search keeps telling me is this: everyone who interviews me and everyone who sees me in action tells me that I am a good teacher, bright, interview well, etc. The only thing which anyone in a hiring position has against me is my lack of paid teaching experience. This is a frustrating obstacle to have in my way, because it is something completely and utterly out of my hands. I am basically waiting for a principal out there to have the guts to hire me despite this lack of paid teaching experience so that I will therefore have the experience I need to secure a paid teaching position. (To be fair, I'm really waiting not so much on them to have such guts but for a position to become available which a bunch of more-experienced people do not apply for, I suppose. Hopefully those who have been hired in my place are also well-qualified, bright, etc. I'd hate to think the reason I haven't been hired is because principals have found their hands tied by unions or whatever and had to hire less-qualified-but-more-experienced teachers in my place.) Well, to that end, I do know that going on the supply teacher list is going to help me. This will give me paid experience managing a classroom of students. It's not going to give me paid lesson-planning experience, paid parent-teacher-conference experience, paid long-term-class-behaviour-management experience (well, it might if I get a long-term occasional position like a maternity leave, but I'm not sure that will happen right away; I'm sure it'll be one-day-at-a-time for a while). It's not necessarily going to give me a realistic teaching experience even in the behaviour department, since some students (or entire classes of students) act up in extreme ways when the "regular" teacher is away. However, if such paid time in a classroom is what I need to justify myself as a professional educator worthy of being hired in the eyes of those with hiring power, then so be it. Bring it on. If I can survive the daily struggles that come with being the substitute teacher, surely someone out there will see that I can handle the (different, but still present) daily struggles of having my own classroom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Joy's job journey, part 2

Remember my last post/note (depending on whether you're reading this through Blogger or Facebook) mentioned that I'm currently pursuing 2 opportunities in my search for a teaching position--a full-time possibility at a private Catholic school or supply teaching with the Toronto District School Board.

Today I returned to the private Catholic school for the 4th time (my interview was on Wednesday, and I visited the school for various lesson-prep-related reasons both Friday and yesterday) to teach my "trial" lesson. This school's hiring process is kind of like "Teacher Idol"...after your interview with the principal, you may get invited by the science department head to come in and teach a lesson so they can see you in action. I wasn't the first person involved to come in and teach a "trial" lesson, and I'm not the last...but I got an invitation. Unfortunately, the principal was not available to come and watch me teach this lesson as he had planned. The VP who is also the head of guidance came in for a very small part of my lesson...about one minute before I said, "that's all I have for you today" and assigned homework. However, the teacher who is moving to the States (creating the open position in the process) did observe me, talked with me as if I were the one who would be taking over (although he corrected himself now and then with a "...or whoever they decide to hire..."), and told me he had only good things to say about me after seeing my lesson. He told me that I am already a good teacher, and with experience will be a great one (ooo, something to look forward to, heh...that little ego boost didn't hurt my day any :)). In addition, he felt that the candidates who have already taught other "trial" lessons really didn't have their subject matter down pat, even with a week of preparation--they had trouble answering student questions, for example. HOWEVER, he thinks it is the principal and VP who will make the decision in the end...and that in the end it will come down to whether they want to go with someone who is young and has no (paid) experience but a good deal of subject matter (and thus can use the position to improve herself), or someone who has a lot of experience but maybe doesn't do so well on the content knowledge side of things. Story of my looking-for-a-teaching-job life, really. I'll post the news as soon as I hear the school's decision either way, but since at least 1 more person is coming in to teach a "trial" lesson it could take some time. This would be a really sweet position to get, if it does go through. The kids are motivated, well-behaved, and were partly admitted based on their academic ability (i.e., they're smart, too). The science department budget is a dream compared to that of public schools. Best of all, I would only have grade 11 and 12 chemistry on my timetable (I think 3 classes of each--it's a non-semestered school)! It is practically unheard of for a first-year teacher to only have 2 "preps" (courses to prepare for day-in, day-out). Whoa, slow down, don't have the position yet, no sense getting too excited, heh :). I *would* have to learn a thing or two about what is expected of a Protestant teaching in a Catholic school, too.

On the supply teaching side of things, I got a call today from the Toronto District School Board to set up my "documenting" session. Lots of potential supply teachers are invited to this session, in which the Board collects all sorts of copies of this, that and the other thing (I count 8 pieces of paper I'm supposed to bring in with me) so that they have a complete file for you and can start paying you as soon as you start taking supply teaching work through them (yes, one of the items I'm supposed to bring is a void cheque, which to me carries a promise of being paid...a promise which is very exciting to me the as-of-yet unemployed teacher). The people there will also explain how the call system works and so on. My session isn't until Oct. 9, which is good because I have yet to get the recent TB test I'm required to bring with me :-P.

That's all I have to report for now. Hopefully all this means my days of having fun but making no money playing computer games at home are coming to an end. Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Update on Joy's job search

Most of you know that I graduated with my B.Ed. back in June, with qualifications to teach high school chemistry and physics. I had a few interviews this summer, but the job hunt for a position in which to use my new degree has been tough. I'll give a (fairly) quick recap of what's happened so far, but the most exciting part is at the end (no, I'm not employed yet, but I may be getting closer).

In interview #1 (at the end of May), the Toronto District School Board interviewed me at the board level. As a result of my successful performance on that interview, I was placed on the TDSB's "eligible to hire" list, which principals can review online when they have an opening and select candidates to interview at the school level. Unfortunately, other than 1 request for a résumé, I have not heard anything from TDSB principals.

Interview #2 (early June) was with a high school in Oshawa, in the Durham region. I was interviewed by 4 people at once--the principal, a VP, the head of math and the head of science. The interview went very well, with lots of smiling and nodding and positive feedback. They seemed to want to keep talking to me, but after having talked with me for quite some time they all realized that it was time for the next period, and some of them had classes to teach! The principal told me even before I left that I'd had a great interview. Unfortunately, when she called me with the results, it was to tell me that the position had gone to someone who had some supply teaching experience and had been at the school before. A job search guide for teachers recommends that we ask for feedback on things we could improve when receiving calls of rejection, but, when asked, this principal reinforced that there was nothing I could have improved in my just came down to someone having more experience than I.

Interview #3 (early July) was with a high school in Uxbridge. I was interviewed by 3 people here--the principal, a vice-principal, and the head of science. I was fairly tired at that interview for various reasons, but it also went fairly well. When I brought up the idea of holding a Science Olympics event--something I think is fairly common in the greater Toronto area--the head of science seemed quite interested, and hadn't heard of the idea before. Long story short, however, the phone call I ultimately received stated that, although there was nothing I could have improved in my interview, there are quite a few well-qualified candidates out there looking for teaching jobs these days, and I was turned down for this position.

Interview #4 (late August) was with a private high school in Mississauga--a school a friend of mine has worked for before. Only the principal was present for this interview. He also had physics as a teachable, and we connected quite well during this interview (agreeing wholeheartedly on what the most difficult part of physics is to teach, for example--it's generally the motion-time graphs). I left that interview quite confident. Since this interview took place the week before classes were to begin, and staff meetings would be starting as early as the next day, he told me that I would hear a decision by the end of the day. When I received that call, I was told that I was #2 in line to get the job, but unfortunately candidate #1 had more experience. However, the principal was "very impressed" with me and told me he would keep my résumé handy in case something came up.

Interview #5 was yesterday afternoon. This interview was with a private Catholic school (i.e., a Catholic school that is not part of Ontario's separate school board) in the heart of Toronto...not quite south enough to be officially considered downtown, but certainly in a busier area than I am used to. The posted position is to replace their only grade 11 and 12 chemistry teacher, who will be moving. Only the principal was present at this interview. I went to this interview thinking I had been very well-prepared for the teaching interview process by the ones I've had so far (not to mention countless discussions with teaching friends and the material both in my coursework and in teaching-job-search advising sessions and guides), and confident in the positive feedback I'd received from those interviewers (even if that feedback hadn't included an offer of employment). However, the questions this principal asked were much broader that the usual teaching-interview questions, and I found him very difficult to "read" compared to the other interviewers I'd had. It certainly wasn't the usual process of showing knowledge of the right eduspeak "buzzwords" and watching for the appropriate reaction. I walked away from that interview feeling very unsure as to how well I'd done. The hiring process is also a more involved one at this school; while the principal did interview me, it's only the first step in the process (or at least the first step after the initial screening of résumés)...the principal told me he would pass on to the department head the names of the candidates he liked, and the department head might then call and ask if I wanted to come in and teach a lesson or two.

Today I got that phone call from the private Catholic school. I must have done well at the interview after all, because I have been asked to come in and teach a lesson so that the teacher and principal can see how they like me. I will be teaching a grade 11 chemistry class on Tuesday. I will swing by the school tomorrow to pick up a copy of the textbook and have a look at the lab and chemical storage area. Unfortunately the teacher involved won't be there tomorrow, so I'm also going to swing by again on Monday to see what else he has to say in terms of planning and whatnot (and maybe to take another look at chemical storage in case I decide to do a demonstration or lab with them). It's a big time investment, but I'm willing to make it if it will make my "trial" lesson successful and result in a permanent position.

In other job-related news, although I haven't secured a permanent position with the TDSB, I have received an invitation to join their supply teaching list. I had to fax a form to their office, and at some point they are supposed to call and set up a time and date when I can go in and be "documented" (fill in some forms, tell them the divisions I want to supply teach, find out how the call system works that tells you each morning where you're needed, etc.). If I do get a job offer from the private Catholic school, I will obviously have to decide whether I want to teach full-time with them or supply teach with the public board. For now, though, I won't get ahead of myself...I'm going to focus on putting my "trial" lesson together first, and worry about whether to accept a job offer if and when the job offer is made :).

There you go, yet another long-winded summary-of-my-life posting from Joy :). I'll keep you posted on what further developments come up in my career life as they happen.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Update on Martin's AVM condition - Aug. 2, 2007

Update on Martin's AVM condition - Aug. 2, 2007

Hello, everyone. After I finish writing this update, it will be published to my blog (and from there imported into Facebook), posted to the Yahoo group dedicated to Martin's condition, and sent off by e-mail to various people (who all have permission to forward it to others in turn), so my apologies in advance if you get multiple copies, and/or if I am repeating information you already know...this is the easiest way for me to get the news out to all who are interested, including some I don't see or communicate with nearly as frequently as others. It has been quite a while since I have written an update on Martin's condition (basically because nothing happened medically speaking that I knew of since my last update and I didn't think anyone needed to receive multiple e-mails saying "nothing has changed"), so let me first recap what has gone on up to this point. (This will take a couple of paragraphs, so please bear with me.)

In August 2004, Martin collapsed at work after complaining of a massive headache and stroke-like symptoms. He was rushed to Sunnybrook hospital, where he remained unconscious. Scans revealed that Martin had two AVMs in his brain, one on each side, and that the one on the right side (the one I call AVM #1) had bled. (If you don't remember what an AVM is or weren't around for the first batch of updates to have found out, read this if you want more information: .) His condition was critical but more or less stable for a couple days, but after that time he deteriorated somewhat such that an emergency surgery was performed. This surgery removed the excess blood from Martin's brain (which was putting pressure on the brain as well as blocking the passages that normally allow draining of fluids from the brain) as well as AVM #1--the AVM that had bled (but without further digging around to remove AVM #2, as that would involve doing surgery on the other side of the brain as well and that have been too much for his brain to handle). After some days Martin eventually opened his eyes, got moved from critical care to the neuro intensive care unit at Sunnybrook (where he started talking, though he was still not fully "with it" and didn't make much sense), improved further and got moved to the regular neuro ward, improved further still and was transferred from Sunnybrook to an inpatient rehab clinic, improved further still such that he was allowed to come home in November 2004 and just attend outpatient rehab, and finally he was eventually allowed to stop attending rehab altogether.

Around this time, the medical team decided that Martin was stable enough to start discussing options for treating AVM #2. (AVMs have a 4% chance to bleed every year, so obviously it's better to be proactive and treat them before they bleed, especially if they're in the brain.) The three treatment options, if you remember, were surgery, radiosurgery and embolization (you can read about those treatment options at as well if you need a reminder/more information, but I will add a reminder that embolization is the treatment where they basically fill the AVM with a special kind of glue). Together with the medical team we decided that radiosurgery was the best way to go at that time for an AVM of that size (the AVM in question was about 2.5 cm or about an inch across at the time). Consequently, Martin received radiosurgery in June 2005. The radiosurgery itself only lasts for about 15 minutes total, but it required a whole day of prep, scans, and so on. I know when most people hear "radiation" in a medical sense they think of people going for multiple sessions, but that is not the case in AVM treatment; Martin received only about 15 minutes of highly-targeted radiation on only 1 day about 2 years ago, and that is the extent of his treatment...that is why I use the alternate term "radiosurgery" (a.k.a. Stereotactic Radiotherapy) to refer to Martin's treatment rather than "radiation." What the radiosurgery does is prompt the slow building up of scar tissue on the inside walls of the blood vessels in the AVM, such that they eventually choke off the AVM from the brain's blood supply. See, if no blood is going into the AVM, it can't bleed and cause brain damage. The downside of this treatment is that it takes 2 to 3 years for this building up of scar tissue and choking-off to finally complete, which means a lot of waiting to find out if it actually worked or not. Later that summer Martin returned to working full-time after almost a year away.

Okay, enough old news...on to new news. Now that August 2007 is here, we are just past the 2 year mark since Martin had his radiosurgery. Martin went for an MRI last Friday (at 11:30 pm, ugh...the MRI machines really must be in high demand here in Toronto, because MRIs are done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...I remember in 2005 sitting waiting for Martin and hearing the receptionist call people to confirm their 2 am MRI appointments!). The MRI appointment itself was fine, but we couldn't really tell anyone anything useful after it because the MRI technicians don't tell you anything about what the scans indicate about your condition (they must have to do scans for a whole gamut of conditions, after all, and they aren't trained to interpret the pictures, just make 'em).

Today was the day we got to find out what the pretty pictures had to say. A more junior doctor came in to see us first. He asked Martin a bunch of questions about how his walking is going, the process to get him his driver's license back (which we're not pursuing until AVM #2 is fully treated), how his work is going, whether he had any complications after the radiosurgery, what medication he's currently taking, which of the AVM clinic doctors we saw last, who did the radiation, and so on. He reviewed the history of Martin's case and checked Martin for any residual weakness, his reflexes and his vision. He didn't tell us very much (not that we expected him to) and mentioned that he would have to look at the pictures with the neurosurgeons again, but he did indicate that the MRI seemed to show that AVM #2 is almost if not completely gone (where by "gone" we mean "sealed off and unable to cause any problems").

When he was done with his examination, he left us for a time while he presumably went to consult with the neurosurgeons again, returning afterwards with Dr. Chris Wallace, the doctor who performed Martin's original brain surgery (i.e., the one to remove AVM #1). Dr. Wallace pulled up the MRI that was done in 2005 side-by-side with the MRI that was done last week. It seems Martin does have a scar in his brain where the original hemorrhage occurred, but that's really not of much consequence to us. What was more important was when Dr. Wallace pointed out a bunch of "black marks" indicating AVM #2 in the 2005 scan...and the corresponding area where they are pretty much missing in the 2007 scan. There are a few marks there that look kind of like grey smudges (Dr. Wallace said, "I don't know what this crap over here is"...comforting from a brain surgeon, but this is the humor we've come to expect from him :)), but yes, just like the more junior doctor said, it does look like Martin's AVM #2 is just about treated. It is too early to say that AVM #2 is fully gone, however. As good as an MRI is, it's still not detailed enough to confirm that an AVM is do so requires an angiogram to be performed. Because the MRI may indicate that the AVM is *almost* but not fully treated, the team is going to allow the third year to elapse before doing this Dr. Wallace said, we could do the angiogram now, but we may well find that it says the AVM is still there, so we'd have to do another angiogram in a year anyway...we might as well wait. Martin *hated* getting the angiogram done 2 years ago (it involves having something threaded through an artery near his groin up to the blood vessels in his head, and on its way there last time it made him feel like he got kicked in the crotch), so he didn't protest waiting another year to get another one of those done. Martin will not have another MRI done in 2008 because this year's MRI already shows so little of the AVM; he'll just have the angiogram in 2008, followed by another follow-up appointment at the AVM clinic. Incidentally, Dr. Wallace also pulled up the angiogram that was done in 2005 and showed us the old picture of AVM really showed me why an angiogram is needed to confirm that the AVM is gone, because the amount of detail in the angiogram is stunning, clearly showing blood vessels that are less than 1 mm thick.

All in all, this is good news...AVM #2 is definitely responding very positively to treatment, and Martin is almost cured! Hooray!

For those of you who are not in regular contact with us (which I suppose will be some in my e-mail-only audience, so my blog and Facebook readers will have to bear with me here), I'll also give you a brief update on what is happening with us apart from the AVM issue.

Martin's work: You might recall that Martin's loss of his driver's license for medical reasons meant that he had to take the TTC to and from work, which was quite annoying for him because it took considerably more time out of his day. After some time, however, Martin began carpooling with someone from his work, which ended up being a great arrangement. A few months ago, however, Martin found out through a friend about a job opening with his friend's company which would allow Martin to switch from fixing electronics hardware to doing more computer IT stuff--something in which Martin is very interested but has no formal training. Martin sent in an application with his friend's recommendation, and before you know it he was on the phone being interviewed by someone in New York, then on the phone again being interviewed by a team of people in England, and then heading downtown for a face-to-face interview here in Toronto. He got the job...and his new company promptly shipped him to England for 6 weeks of training! I remained behind as we did not want to spend the money for me to go over there...Martin wasn't put up in a large city, so there wouldn't have been much for us to see on weekdays (though there was freedom to travel around on the weekends), plus Martin spent a large part of each day training, and while some people wouldn't mind being left alone to entertain themselves, I generally like company when I'm exploring. Martin returned to Toronto July 22 and is enjoying his new job. Because he's in a new field in which he's not formally trained it is challenging and a little overwhelming at times, but hopefully with time he will feel more at ease in that respect. He does take the TTC to work, but since it is downtown and the night buses service the route he takes it is not nearly as much of an issue as it was at his old workplace.

Joy's life: The last update I wrote was our Christmas web page update in 2005, and since then I have finished both my Honours Bachelor of Science degree (with a major in chemistry and minor in physics) and my Bachelor of Education degree (with qualifications to teach high school chemistry and physics). This means I am now looking for a job teaching high school. While the job hunt is going very slowly at this point, I am on the eligible-to-hire list for the Toronto District School Board, which means I passed their board-level interview and am now waiting for principals to grant me a school-level interview and decide to hire me. I have also applied to positions in the Peel and Durham regions (and I have had 2 interviews in Durham, both of which went very well even though neither of them resulting in my getting the position) and I have a board application in with the York Region District School Board. At this point in the year most principals are enjoying their vacation rather than doing further hiring, so I am sitting tight for now, continuing to watch for postings and waiting for the hiring to start again in mid- to late August. Being on the eligible-to-hire list is apparently a good sign that I will have at least supply teaching work in Toronto in the upcoming school year if not a permanent position, and I know teachers get hired as late as October, December or even February. Obviously I am hoping to land a permanent contract in my own classroom rather than doing supply work, but I will do what I have to to get my career started (and start pulling my own financial weight in this relationship, as gracious as Martin is about telling me I don't *have* to work). Oh, and yes, I did finally get my G2 level driver's license, which means I am out there on the roads of Ontario driving a stick shift all by myself! It is wonderful to have the freedom to go where I want, when I want, although there are times I still walk, carpool or take public transit in an attempt to get some exercise, be a little more environmentally-friendly and avoid gas prices, rush-hour traffic, core/downtown traffic and parking fees.

That is about all I can think of to pack into this update. If I didn't cover something you're curious about, feel free to drop me a line. By the way, my primary e-mail address is changing because Martin and I are going to be switching Internet Service Providers, so please do *not* mail me at or any longer. I have several e-mail addresses you may use instead; probably the easiest one for me to give out right now is . Alternately, if you're getting this update via the Yahoo group, you probably see my e-mail address as , which you may use instead, although I would much prefer it if you'd use . If you have a different e-mail address for me, it's probably OK to use it as long as it doesn't end in . Questions, comments, concerns? Let me know. I hope all of you are well and enjoying the summer as much as you can...even if you're not currently on vacation like I am ;). As they say all the time in England (just ask Martin),


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Geek vs. nerd

I think between my Blogger readers and my Facebook friends we should be able to figure this out. I remember Laura telling me once that her friends at UofT together figured out what the difference is between a nerd and a geek. I think one had to do with having a high intelligence/knowing lots of stuff whereas the other had to do with having a lot of technical know-how, but I don't remember if that was indeed the distinction or which was which. I'm pretty sure it doesn't even matter when it comes to defining me, because I'm pretty sure I have a good smattering of both, lol (c'mon, my favourite university courses were the ones in quantum chemistry/physics and I play D&D...'nuff said). So...can anyone (Laura? Mira?) remind me what the distinction was, or make up a reasonable facsimile of the original definition? Don't ask me why I want to know, lest I have to explain the random ways in which my brain works when I have too much time on my hands :P. Oh, and yes, I know that the word "geek" originally had to do with a circus freak who would bite the heads off of chickens and such, but somehow I don't think that is in any way relevant to this discussion.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Officially certified :)

If you go to and use the "Find a Teacher" link, you will now be able to pull up my name as a fully certified teacher :).  I haven't got the fancy piece of paper in the mail yet (and I don't have a job yet, either), but I am finally certified, woohoo!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Away from it all but bringing it all with me

I am at the cottage this week, Monday to Friday. Today is Tuesday. Yes, that's right, I am blogging from the cottage. My parents and I are renting a trailer-cottage from West Lake Willows and it just so happens that all the cottages here have wireless access to the Internet.  Considering that my husband is in England at the moment and I am relying on Messenger to communicate with him free of charge (well, once I pay for the Internet access), it is great to be able to access the 'net while I'm here.  Don't worry, though, I am still making sure that I take the time to enjoy the benefits of cottage life.  This morning, for example, my dad and I walked over to Sandbanks Provincial Park, which is a hop, skip and a jump from our cottage.  We climbed dune after dune because I kept seeing higher peaks ahead, until eventually the way up got blocked by plants I didn't feel like fighting through.  My mom and I also went for a walk around the trailer park our cottage is part of, checking out the boat launch, swimming area, the other cottages WLW rents, the privately-owned trailers in the area, and so on.  I suppose our main activity the past 2 days has been taking it easy in ways we would have done at home but in a much more relaxing setting...reading, eating together, spending some time on the laptop, checking out the local towns, etc.  I wasn't sure how I would like staying in a trailer-cottage due to its small size, but it hasn't felt confining in the way I thought it might.  Yes, my room is barely big enough for the set of double-bed-sized bunk beds on which I sleep, but if all I'm doing there is sleeping (and sometimes reading), what does it matter?  Anyway, I have some more relaxing to get into my day before tucking in, so I will sign off for now.  Main event for tomorrow: Bergerons Exotic Animal Sanctuary.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The End.

Water flows under the bridge
Water falls from on high
Water breaks

Washed and washed away
New-born eyes open
To the freshness of the world

My feet are washed
The day is new
And I will never ask for sunshine again.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Martin's trip so far, the joys of technology, and feeling old

(Warning: this is going to be one of those über-long "Hmm, I haven't written a comprehensive post in a while" entries, sorry :). I'm in a rambling kind of mood :-P.)

For those of you who don't already know, yes, Martin touched down safely in England this past Sunday. For future reference, if you ever fly out there, plan on having your first day completely lost to travel. His flight took off here at about 9 a.m. our time and landed at Heathrow airport at 9 p.m. London time. On top of that, his hotel is not in London but in Cheltenham, which is a couple hours away from the airport by taxi (and remember he still had to retrieve his luggage and whatnot before getting in the cab). He and the 2 guys travelling with him got to their flat at about midnight...and they were to start their training at headquarters the very next morning, with the cabs coming to get them at 8 a.m.! Needless to say Martin and one of the other trainees found themselves napping here and there through their first day at work, but he is well-adjusted to the time change now.

Martin's hotel flat does not have a land line. His company has provided the flat with a cell phone, but they are only to use it for outgoing calls in the event of an emergency. Incoming calls from here are fine, but we quickly discovered that it is not worth the cost for me to call it; the quality and time delay are awful. However, we have been able to keep in touch in other ways. Each trainee was given a laptop on loan, and Martin has installed Windows Live Messenger on his. At first, this only allowed us to send instant text messages to each other. Yesterday, though, we finally figured out how to get both our headsets working with Messenger so that we could have a realtime voice conversation without the lack of quality and time delay we experienced with the cell phone. We also have a webcam here, and I was able to hook that up so he could see me, his mom, his sisters and the cats Unfortunately he doesn't have a webcam there, though (and doesn't want to shell out the pounds to get one due to the higher cost of everything over there), so we couldn't see him. Still, long-distance voice calls for "cheap as free," hooray! And Catherine was right, we do talk more now that he's in England than we do here, heh :)...

Based on the training he's been doing, Martin is getting quite excited about his new job. He messaged me the other day and said, "Remember how I told you 'I'd love a job where I could sit and compile Linux all day'? This could be that job." He has been trying to get out of the electronics/hardware work he was doing and into IT for years now. Having only his hobby experience and no formal training to put on a résumé, though, he hasn't felt confident applying for IT positions. The fact that one of our guildmates from World of Warcraft was able to help him get this job is a huge blessing to us (see, playing computer games isn't a complete waste of time, lol), especially as Martin had felt the job he was working at was a dead end with no possibility of progression. The fact that Martin will now be making more money doesn't hurt, either :).

*Reads previous blog entries*...hmm, I seem to be repeating myself a little bit...sorry. Anyway, where I was going with this was that because Martin will be earning a little bit more now, we've decided to get me something that will help me when I finally get my career started (hopefully in September...*crosses fingers*)...I am finally getting a laptop :D! Since I'm heading into the world of education (among other reasons), I'm also going to be entering the world of Apple, shelling out the extra cash to get a MacBook Pro rather than a PC. The fact that it comes with a built-in webcam and the ability to access wireless Internet connections also means that I'll be able to keep in touch with Martin even when I go to the cottage with my parents in a couple weeks. I'm not sure whether the wireless connection up there will be good enough for any WoW-playing, but who plays WoW at the cottage anyway? (*looks around with shifty eyes*...)

In other news, today I attended my public school's 50th anniversary. I went to Churchill Heights P. S. from grade 4 through to the end of grade 8. Being back there today was, well, odd. Jen and Mary-Beth and I wandered through the school at various points looking at how small everything was, trying to figure out how we fit into the desks, how we managed to do drama productions on such a small stage, how the entire school fit in the gym to watch Degrassi Street on rainy days, how everyone's instrument cases fit onto the shelving in the music room which used to seem so huge...yeah. If it were simply a matter of seeing size differences, it would be odd enough, but add to that seeing the area where some portables used to sit turned into a playground and the old playground tilled over, seeing the computer lab turned into a classroom and half the library into a computer lab (and being able to see all 4 walls of the library at once due to the way the new shelving is organized), seeing old classmates now taller than me (I was reminded at least a few times today that I pretty much grew to my adult height by the age of, oh, 11), and you start to feel old. Er, wait, I'm only 27. Okay, old*er* :). Mind you, when my former teachers found out that Mary-Beth and I have both done teacher's college and are both looking for jobs with the board, their conversations with us suddenly took on a much different tone, which was interesting to see...suddenly, we were not just former students, but colleagues. Anyway, the weather was gorgeous, and briefly catching up with the dozen or so people I recognized was good (though running into one's high school English teacher at one's public school is also odd). However, though it was a little disappointing that the promised Open Forum somehow got scrapped from the program, it was a bit of a relief not to have to stick around for the full 5 hours or whatever that the event was planned to run in order to see it. It's like they say..."nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." It also seemed like just about everyone I talked to today had another event planned for this evening, including me, so it's good that Churchill decided to make this an afternoon event rather than the evening thing I usually picture a reunion being. Cheers to everyone I saw, kind regards to everyone I would have liked to have seen but who couldn't make it, and as for anyone who wanted to see me but showed up after I left, well, send me a message...that's what Facebook is for ;).

Also making me feel old is that I'm going to attend my nephew's 6th birthday party this evening. Okay, yes, 6 is not that old, but he is the youngest of my brother's 4 children. If he is 6, my oldest niece is 12. Before you know it, she'll be off to high school, then university (or college or the workforce or whatever), getting married...sigh. Oh well, at least this way she'll be old enough to babysit by the time I start having my own children, lol...

Well, I have written way too much again, so it is time to sign off. I'll post my few graduation photos when I can, but since I sent my digital camera to the UK with Martin I am still waiting for my parents to develop the film photos they took. Ciao for now...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Eligible to hire :)

Today I got my letter from the Toronto District School Board telling me that I've been placed on their eligible-to-hire list! Woohoo! This means that principals in the TDSB will see my name and resume and such among the others on the list, which they browse to see who might fit the position when they have one available. Proactive people sometimes mention to principals that they are now on the list, inquire about positions, etc., but it can be a matter of figuring out whether that would help your case with that principal or whether that would just bug them and make them not want to hire you. Anyway, this is a good step, as it also tells me I can supply teach with the TDSB. I'll continue to keep you posted as my job search continues.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Back to the job hunt

Well, it turns out that the school that interviewed me (and loved me) on Monday isn't going to be giving me a position after all. The principal said that I had a great interview and said she'd certainly encourage me to apply to other positions at the school. When I asked if she had any suggestions for improvement (something recommended by my how-to-get-a-teaching-job bible), she said no, it really just came down to the fact that the other person had done some supply teaching and had been at the school. In other words, if that person had turned down the job, I'd have it. Well, I'm glad that I've still been putting applications out lately even though I thought I almost certainly had a job with that school. Hopefully something else will come along. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The story my calendar tells...

Life seems to be very focused on the career path right now.

What's been happening:
May 23 - my last day of teacher's college
May 24 - my goodbye party / year-end celebration with teacher's college classmates
May 28 - husband had 3rd round of interviews with company he applied to
May 29 - husband offered and accepted new job
May 31 - my Toronto District School Board interview
June 1 - I went to get my criminal record checked so I can be certified to teach
June 2 - I had coffee with friends

Today and the next couple of weeks:
June 4 - I got a call: I have a job interview tomorrow with a high school in Oshawa! Also: running around getting stuff husband needs to take with him on his trip (see June 10).
June 5 - my interview with a high school in Oshawa
June 6 - husband starts new job downtown; I go to the passport office to pick up his rushed-delivery passport
June 9 - sister-in-law's dance recital
June 10 - husband flies out to England for 6 weeks of training at the head office of the company he's now working for
June 13 - I graduate from teacher's college
June 15 - TBA...I'm double-booked :P...
June 16 - I attend my public school's 50th anniversary

Highlights coming up after that:
July 7 - wedding #1
July 22 - husband returns from England (having missed wedding #1, which he is not happy about)
July 27 - wedding #2 *and* husband's MRI appointment (though the MRI is quite late in the evening, so I don't think that's too much of a conflict)
Aug. 2 - husband's AVM clinic appointment (this is when we finally find out--2 years after the treatment and 3 years after his initial injury--if his second, non-exploded AVM has been fully treated, whether it just needs more time, or if it needs more/different treatment)
Aug. 18 - wedding #3

Phew! Okay, so who all wanted to get together this summer? Book now :)! (Oh, and if it's me you want to see and not necessarily me-and-Martin, I do have that 6 weeks when he is away when I'll need some company...)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Our news: Martin has a new job!

For those of you who haven't yet heard, my husband now has a new job! Through our vast networking abilities (read: by using headsets to chat with our guildmates around the world World of Warcraft), DH found out that the company one of our guildmates works for here in Toronto was hiring for a position that he was very much interested in, and sent his résumé and cover letter to the company through said friend. Things started moving very quickly after that. He had a telephone interview with a human resources person from the company's New York office. That led to a conference call telephone interview with 3 people from one of the company's UK offices (the headquarters, I guess; the people included someone on the technical side of things, a human resources person, and, um, someone else :)). Finally, he had to go in person to the company's office in downtown Toronto for a third interview. That third interview was this past Monday. Yesterday (Tuesday) he got the call from New York offering him a position, discussing salary, and so on. Oh, yes, salary...did I mention that he will be making more money now than he did in his current/previous job? He will be working some odd hours in his initial position, too, so that means he will also be getting extra pay (a "shift bonus") to make up for it.

He will be working at the office in downtown Toronto, and he will start there next Wednesday (June 6). Before he really gets into the swing of things there, though, the company is going to fly him to the UK for 6 weeks of training by their people over there, starting June 11! This is very exciting. Unfortunately, they are not paying for me to go over there, so I am examining our finances, travel sites, hostel information, and so on to figure out if I can afford to go see him over there for part of his training period; I'm thinking I'll probably go over there for a week or so about halfway through his time there. Oh, and renewing our passports, seeing as they've been expired for years :P. (Note to self: always keep your passport up-to-date, even if you have no travel never know what is going to happen, and it is expensive to get the I-need-this-passport-yesterday rush service!)

As for what his job will be, well, he is going to start off as a level 2 call centre tech support rep. Working a call centre may not be great, but at least he won't be level 1 (so he will hopefully not have to deal with people who think their CD-ROM drive is a coffee cup holder), and it is a way for him to get into the field (remember he's been working on fixing electronics hardware components in payphones and modems and such for the past 6 years or so, so this is a change of fields from the hardware to the software side of things). There is apparently quite good opportunity for growth within this company, too; when he had his conference call interview, it came up that either the person who'd been on the line before him or one of his interviewers had started where my husband will be starting, but had had 4 different job titles in the past 4 years, and of course his having a connection in the company already doesn't hurt. Anyway, he's excited because he's wanted to get out of what he's been doing and into the IT field for a while now, but didn't think he had the qualifications to do so (only a deep interest and hobby rather than any formal training in the field). I'm happy because he's happy and seems to have hope that there is potential for growth with this company, whereas there didn't seem to be that at his old job and he was feeling like he was at a dead end.

I'll keep you posted on how things go with my own job hunt (at this point, I only have the old news that I have my interview with the Toronto District School Board tomorrow). For now, I am happy for hubby: yay!

Friday, May 18, 2007

I don't hear voices, just music...

I've been noticing something annoying happening to me more and more recently. I'll be walking along, minding my own business, when I'll overhear a snippet of a conversation, and BAM! I get a song stuck in my head related to some word in or aspect of the conversation. Sometimes the verbal input that provides the related song doesn't come from another person, either. Just a few minutes ago, I happened to catch a glance of something World Vision has sent to my husband and me for us to sign and send off to our sponsored child. I haven't opened up the envelope to see and sign whatever it is yet, but I can see the exclamation "!Feliz cumpleanos!" BAM! Into my head immediately sang the song "Feliz Navidad," which is rather annoying considering that it is now May. Other songs I have had stuck in my head in the course of not even half an hour tonight have included "Do You Wanna Dance" by the Beach Boys and a song I used to sing in Girl Guides that includes the name of various restaurants ("A Pizza Hut, a Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut"...c'mon, Jen, sing along ;)). Even more annoying is that I've had a song in my head now and then over the past few days which I don't know the words to, only the tune (the music video for it played in the theatre before the previews when a friend and I went to see Spider-Man 3 and I heard it again when my host teacher was listening to the radio in our office a few days ago). It's okay, I know I'm crazy, but it probably reduces my stress load, and besides, it does make life much more interesting and musical ;).

Now playing: "I Can Hear Music" by the Beach Boys...

Monday, May 14, 2007

If Error Messages were Haikus...

This comes courtesy of Laura (who did not write them but found them elsewhere). I really am too easily amused :).

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

Wind catches lily
scatt'ring petals to the wind:
segmentation fault

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that

To have no errors
Would be life without meaning
No struggle, no joy

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

2 years of waiting is almost over.

I need to do a recap of some history in order to make this post make sense. Most of you know that my husband had a brain injury in August 2004 when an AVM in his brain popped. You probably also know that when the doctors were initially trying to figure out what caused that brain injury, they found not only the popped AVM in his brain but a second (un-popped) AVM as well that they knew they would have to treat one day (once Martin had finished recovering fully from the first one popping) to ensure that it would never cause Martin any problems. Martin received that treatment in June 2005 in the form of a single dose of finely-targeted radiation given over the course of about 20 minutes. The idea is that this single dose of radiation would slowly build up scar tissue on the insides of the blood vessels of the AVM, eventually cutting it off from Martin's blood flow entirely, although we were told it could take about 3 years for this process to be complete. How a single 20-minute burst of radiation continues to do work in one's body years after it was given boggles my mind (maybe effects lead to effects lead to effects, I don't know), but there you go.

Anyway, because of the length of time this treatment takes to work, Martin hasn't been monitored or called back to the hospital since that day nearly 2 years ago now (well, other than one day we had a scare and thought the AVM might have popped and rushed him down there, but he turned out to be okay that day). He's more or less fully recovered from his initial injury and gone back to work. This July, however, Martin will be back at the hospital for his first check-up MRI. A couple or a few weeks after that (I have to get the date confirmed again yet), we will be back at the AVM clinic finding out the results of that MRI and if the treatment Martin was given nearly 2 years ago is actually working. Let me tell you, 2 years is a long time to wait for results like that...and who knows, we may have to wait another year for full treatment. Yes, after a while you kind of forget that there is a potential bomb in the brain of someone close to you, and start to take it for granted that everything is indeed okay now, but the worry never fully goes away, creeping up again whenever that person is late coming home from work or seems to be feeling or acting oddly. We haven't risked his taking any plane flights, and for a while we didn't even want to risk being too far from the city and its particular expert hospitals. I know I mentioned the idea of my being a teacher in a missionary school somewhere, but I've decided to put off pursuing that until we hear that Martin has been fully treated; I will teach here for at least my first one or more years until we get that news.

It is good to be coming to the end of this two years of waiting. Who knows, though, what news our upcoming AVM clinic appointment will bring, and how it may change our lives? I still need those of you who are in our prayer group to pray us through this, as long a journey as it's been. You keep us lifted; I'll keep you posted.

My apologies for being somewhat rambly tonight; there is a lot on my mind. Have a good night, all, and enjoy some of that sunshine we're getting this weekend!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I have a TDSB interview!

I just found out today that I have an interview with the Toronto District School Board on May 31. For those of you who don't know, getting hired as a teacher by the Toronto District School Board is a two-stage process. In stage one, you have to pass an interview by the school board, who will then put you on an "eligible to hire" list. In stage two, you get interviewed by the school that will potentially hire you. In other words, my getting an interview with the TDSB doesn't guarantee me a job, but it is the first step in the process and is encouraging.

Thank you to all who have been praying me through this process; it is far from over, but this is good news :).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Grown Up Survey

(Got this one from Amy Ells.)

The "Grown Up" Survey
(Meant to be completed by those out of high school)

Tired of all of those surveys made up by high school kids?
'Have you ever kissed someone?'
'Missed someone?'
'Told someone you loved them?'
'Drank alcohol?'
Here are 50 questions for the people who are a little more "mature"...

1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
The car lease

2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
Boston Pizza

3. Last time you puked from drinking?
Never happened

5. Name of your first grade teacher?
Mrs. Ecker

6. What do you really want to be doing right now?

7. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Several things came up, but after each fad had passed I went back to wanting to be a teacher.

8. How many colleges did you attend?
One college and one university...oh, plus a 3 week course at Jerusalem University College in Israel

9. Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It matches the brown pants I'm wearing, which I chose 'cuz my non-faded jeans are dirty and I didn't want to wear faded jeans to today's conference.

10. Gas prices?
Filled up yesterday at 102.5 :P

12. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
No thought...just an unconscious hitting of the snooze button

13. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Likely something to do with upcoming due dates and get-togethers

14. Favorite style of underwear?
Anything I don't notice I have on...I've worn comfortable and uncomfortable pairs of just about every style.

15. Favorite style of underwear for the opposite sex?
Silk boxers.

16. What errand/chore do you despise?
Anything smelly (litter box, moldy food disposal/dish cleaning, garbage/green bin, and anything involving bleach, which my nose is quite sensitive to) and vacuuming

17. If you didn't have to work, would you volunteer?
Yes...and then I'd probably put so much of myself in that that I'd still be exhausted.

18. Get up early or sleep in?
Sleep in, though it does make me feel like I've wasted productive time.

19. What is your favorite cartoon character?

20. Favorite NON sexual thing to do at night with a girl/guy?
Cuddle and have a conversation, maybe watching TV and drinking Martin's awesome hot chocolate...or play World of Warcraft on our his-and-hers computers as we do a quest together.

21. Have you found real love yet
I've been married 6 years, I guess I'd better say yes ;)

22. When did you first start feeling old?
When I was a substitute teacher in my church's toddlers room and realized that all of them had been born since I'd started attending that church...I think I was 20 at the time

23. Favorite 80's movie?

24. Your favorite lunch meat?

25. What do you get every time you go into Sam's Club? Or Walmart?
A Cadbury Thins chocolate bar (mint chip, if they have it)

26. Beach or lake?

27. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?

28. How many people do you stalk on Facebook?
I like Amy's answer: "define stalk..." I think if my friends change something about their profile, they *want* other people to notice...

29. Favorite guilty pleasure?
Anything involving chocolate.

30. Favorite movie you wouldn't want anyone to find out about?
Nothing comes to step aerobics DVD? My favourite movies are all pretty innocent :P.

31. What's your drink?
I assume this is the usual alcohol question...I had a really good strawberry-kiwi Zinfandel at a family gathering one year. Generally some variety of sweet wine, a cooler or something fruity like a hard cider. I don't drink all that often, however.

32. Cowboys or Indians?
I don't get this question. I appreciate the culture of the Native Peoples much more than that of the cowboys...

33. Cops or Robbers?

34. Who from high school would you like to run into?
*Shrug* I'm open to running into just about anyone from there. Might be nice to see Mr. Carper again.

35. What radio station is your car radio tuned to right now?
Probably 680 News for a traffic report...I generally have on a CD or my iPod.

36. Norm or Cliff?

37. The Cosby Show or the Simpsons?
The Cosby Show

39. Do you like the person who sits directly across from you at work?
I guess this would be the person whose desk is across from my practicum host teacher's...sure, I get along with him

40. If you could get away with it, who would you kill?
No one, really. There have been times this year when I've thought the stress was enough that I wouldn't have minded if someone decided to end my life, but not really.

41. What famous person(s) would you like to have dinner with?
How about a famous chef just *make* me dinner :)...I can't think of anyone I'd like to have dinner with that I can actually see a conversation going well with. I'm trying to think of someone famous who comes across as very "normal," but I'm drawing a blank.

42. What famous person would you like to sleep with?
I can think of people who are attractive, but no one I'd want to sleep with.

43. Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
No, but I have had to put an end to fires through various other means (only one in our house that I can think of--a stovetop grease fire that was Martin's fault and that I quickly put baking soda on before he could put the water on it that he was going to)

44. Last book you read for real?
The last non-textbook book that I finished was The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (book 2 in the Wheel of Time series).

45. Do you have a teddy bear?
Yes, but the only one that sleeps with me is Martin.

46. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
The kitchen and living room? Nothing exciting :P.

47. Somewhere in California you've never been and would like to go?
Never been to the state...something involving the coast, palm trees, Los Angeles, visiting some friends who moved there, and a side trip to Disney. California is not on my list of travel priorities, but who knows.

48. Do you go to church?
Yes, pretty much every week, though I have to miss most of the service between a third and a half of the year due to teaching Sunday school

49. At this point in your life would you rather start a new career or a new relationship?
Career...since I am just finishing school and should be just starting my first career soon!

50. Just how OLD are you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Almost there...

So here's what's happening in my program for the next little while:
- Tomorrow I have class, though it'll be more like a work period once Wayne and I and some other people do our presentations and only the intermediate-senior teacher candidates will be there (since the junior-intermediate people will be on a field trip).
- Thursday I have a mandatory conference to attend (but it's at York, which is nice; no having to commute to a hotel or other campus this time).
- Friday I am on practicum...and I remain on practicum until Friday, May 18.
- Monday, May 21 is Victoria Day (though it is also the due date to electronically submit one of our assignments).
- Tuesday, May 22 the people in my program have a field trip to mulch and measure trees (and maybe plant some, too; there seems to be confusion on this point).
- Wednesday, May 23 we have a "portfolio fair" where we present our professional growth portfolios to our course directors and some visitors for evaluation. This is the last official day of our program, and indeed of the MST program in general (since York is scrapping it, at least for now)...
- the afternoon and evening of Thursday, May 24, most of us MSTers are going to get together and PARTY.

We're almost there. We still have lots of assignments and planning and marking and job applications and such to worry about, but the end is in sight. Since today was our last formal class together, lots of pictures were taken, a potluck was held (complete with entertainment from some of our classmates and dances and dance lessons of several cultures), presents were given to our course directors, and the atmosphere was fairly jolly. Everyone is already talking about how sad we will all be to leave each other; some real bonding has happened in our group, and we've already mentioned now and then that at least some of us actually miss being with the group when the weekends and practicum blocks come (must be those of us who sat in the blue groups during orientation ;)). Hopefully, though, we are moving on to bigger and better things. Hopefully we will all find ourselves at schools where the staff get along just as well as we've gotten along in MST. If not, well...let's keep in touch, MSTers. Prep and marking and such may keep us busy in our first year, but there's always time for Facebook.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

MST's poetry slam

So...this is one of those entries where I more or less recall an event that happened, more as a reference for myself than for the entertainment of others, really. There is a little poetry scattered throughout, though, so feel free to skip around, check out the links, etc. if you like that kind of stuff.

Yesterday the intermediate/senior teacher candidates in my program had a guest speaker come in to talk about poetry in math/science/technology education. Being a big fan of poetry myself, I enjoyed the session and found it relaxing, but I do feel somewhat inclined to agree with others who wondered why that session was part of our program (which we paid good tuition money for), especially as I don't think the speaker really did connect the poetry well with the math/science/technology. Putting that aside, however, I always enjoy the opportunity to revel in the poetic for a bit; I don't usually think of using the little free time I have to do so, and given the workload my program is currently under (Atlas has nothing on us), it was refreshing to be pretty much forced to take this curricular time out from more pressing concerns and enjoy the flow of words for a bit.

Our speaker first read three poems to us. One of them has become one of my favourites..."Did I Miss Anything" by Canadian poet Tom Wayman. (The others were an excerpt from Dr. Seuss' On Beyond Zebra as well as Love After Love by Derek Walcott.)

Our speaker took us through a number of exercises. In the first, we were asked to think individually of 3 things we would take on a trip, and then each table was to come up with a consensus on 2 items we would take as a table. My table ended up taking underwear and music, despite one member's insistence that it would be more fun without the former. A reading followed of The Choice by Wayland Young, which describes a very peculiar trip taken by one particular man. We were then asked to decide as a table what one thing we would take if we had gone on that trip. Apparently music is very important to the people who were at my table, as we finally decided that's what we would take, claiming that it would get us through anything.

Another exercise was the "I am from..." poem, where we were given a series of prompt questions to be answered in the poem (which he tried to modify from its usual structure to apply more to us MST folks). I am not sure what I think of this exercise, at least in its MST naturally more or less end up with a list, which I didn't find very poetic, although you are supposed to rework it until it sounds poetic (which I felt I was unable to do). Here is what I ended up with (that one mathematical bit isn't supposed to look as big as it does, but this is the only way the bit with the smallest font appears legibly):
I am from E=mc2.
Are we ready to carry on?
I am from my emergent model of education.
I am from Mrs. Gorrie, grades 2 and 3.
I am from Tim Horton's.
I am from
...and the conservation of energy.

By the way, I double-dog-dare y'all to find the limit given in that poem, if it exists. It's question 36 in Varberg, Purcell and Rigdon (8th ed.) section 2.8, but VPR only gives the solutions to odd-numbered questions and even the solutions manual won't help you :P.

We were also asked to create a lie poem--something along the lines of, "I will not die, but I will turn into a rocketship and..." The speaker mentioned that some lie poems end up being very personal, that people sometimes cry when they read them aloud, etc. Yeah, lemme just say that though my eyes are good and dry, and I think it makes me angry rather than sad, there is no way I am sharing my lie poem here; as much as I would love to show it off ('cuz it's not half bad), no one who might actually understand it is allowed to read it. Some poetry is meant solely for the poet.

Our final exercise was to create something I have never tried before: found poetry. Each table was given a place to look for words and phrases we wanted to use and turn them into a poem. My table was to look for words and phrases on signs and bulletin boards around the building. We didn't use nearly all of the fragments we gathered, but after considerable editing we ended up with something like this, to the best of my awful memory:
Slackers wanted for joint program!
Limited engagement avec your belle-soeurs!
Remember to cover breathing passages;
There is no in and out exit.
Last time this year!
Actually, I am certain that I am missing at least one line, as I know we had the word "ethoi" in there, too. (Seriously, we found "ethoi" on a bulletin board posting...I think it had to do with the subject of a conference or speaker session. On a completely unrelated note, I just found out now that 1. "ethoi" probably is not the correct way of pluralizing ethos, and 2. "ethos" means something completely different than what I thought it did when we wrote our poem.)

That's all the poetry we did in class, though we did watch a film about the use of "notebook letters" throughout a school year by a teacher in Japan that was kinda neat (and a tear-jerker, at that). Hmm, actually, I think he might have read something to us as a closing as well, but I don't remember.

This is where the poetry ended for some of the people in my program, but I couldn't let it go at that. In the class that we were to have after lunch, each person was supposed to do a very short presentation (in whatever format we wanted--we were asked to be creative) about the model of education each of us has put together in our individual minds and think we will carry into the classes we will teach in September. I had thrown together a pretty boring Maslow's-hierarchy-type pyramid drawing, but I completely abandoned that and wrote the poem below to present instead. I was not the only person to present a poem, but of course my own poem means the most to me of all the poems that were presented :). With this I will close.
i come to your class
trembling a little
for i don't yet know what kind of class this will be.
which teacher will you be to me?
maybe you will be [name removed],
who taught me who knows what
but was always glad to see me.
maybe you will be [name removed]
who wished i were not in the line of sight
between himself
and those who knew the chain rule before the first day of class.

i come to your class
wondering what kind of ground i will tread
will you set for me a level path?
will you make sure i can crawl before you ask me to walk?
or will you beckon me from the sky to fly to you?

i come to your class
wondering what kind of face i will see
will you see the intelligence in my eyes?
will you see the green things growing through
the concepts you have presented to me
with your many words?
will your face match mine,
though we may stand in contrast
to the untrained eye?

i come to your class
i see that you love all the ideas the government wants you to teach me
and that you want me to love them, too
will you and i get there?
will you take the time to work through
all the filters between me and thee?

i am sure there is a safari of science
to explore, adventure through
and wrestle with
beyond these doors,
but i need you first to help me up the stairs
and turn the key in the door

i come to your class
a wick
and a small clay pot of oil
will you be the one to light the spark?
or will you carelessly knock me over
and ruin the lamp forever?