Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What I did in class today (a.k.a. my origami journey)

Seen here are the frog I learned to make in class in grade 3, the ninja stars I learned to make at the Japanese cultural centre in grade 5, and the box I learned to make from a guest speaker that came to my B.Ed. class this past Monday morning.

How it started: The mild emotional trauma many in my program have been experiencing the last couple days led me to seek relief today during our 15-minute break in some form of sugar that would last around me a little longer than chocolate, which ended up being Starburst candies. Eating the candies reminded me of that old commercial where some chick puts a red Starburst wrapper in her mouth, then pulls a red origami crane out of her mouth a short time later...and the take-off of that Martin and I did at Todd and Lindsey's wedding (good times, good times). That and the colourful wrappers and the need to distract myself somewhat from further trauma inspired me to get folding; thankfully my course directors and professors seem to understand my need to add "enrichment" to my classroom experience ;).

Hmm, I forgot until now that I could also have made some of the boxes I learned to make in class in grade 8 (which we were to teach our grade 3 reading buddies to make as a special Christmas project); maybe next time.

Notice the neat way in which the stars fit inside the box...it's like a quiver of ninja stars. I'm so organized, I even have a place for my weapons and my weapons in their place :P. They aren't very accessible for a quick draw, though; oh well.

I think Starburst are going to return to being my non-chocolate candy of choice, since they have the same fruit-flavoured punch, chewy texture and ability to last longer around me (and therefore medicate me longer) than chocolate (which gets inhaled quickly, meaning that it really is not around long enough to serve as the medication I may be trying to use it as at the time). Also, while they lack the satisfying candy crunch factor, Starburst do not make my jaw hurt after some time in the same way that Skittles do...and Skittles do not have colourful happiness-inducing wrappers. (Oh, by the way, lest you all be worried, I am mostly joking about using sugar as medication here, though today was particularly bad at the point that I was intentionally seeking out soemething like the Starburst.)

Alright, enough procrastinating. See some of you in class tomorrow. I hope tomorrow's speaker from Environment Canada is better than the lady from a different organization who talked to us about climate change :T.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Send me?

This post is really intended for my praying friends...not that y'all can't read it to see what's going on in my head these days, but three-quarters of you will probably think I'm crazy :). Well, I'm okay with that ;).

Martin and I were at a banquet last night that SIM (Serving in Mission) Canada puts on every year. I am on the missions committee of our church and was invited to attend by one of our missionary couples, along with Martin and another committee member. I remember even in high school I had thoughts about perhaps working in Africa one day. Martin didn't seem to have feelings that way, though. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, so I kept going with that path as it seemed to fall right into place for me, leading to my acceptance into teacher's college for this 2006-2007 school year and the success I've enjoyed in that program so far (not that it's been an easy year, let me tell you). I'm training to teach high school, and my teachable subjects are chemistry and physics. Anyway, some days before we went to this banquet, Martin asked me if I thought it was some recruitment thing for the mission...and asked questions and made remarks indicating an openness to being involved in missions that I have never heard him express before. Anyway, we went to the banquet last night, which included not only the dinner but a singer/pianist duet performing some songs and some speakers. On our tables, among other things, were sheets listing teaching positions that were in urgent need for the mission's schools around the world for the 2006-2007 school year. I didn't notice it at first, but the wife in the missionary couple that had invited us picked it up to show me and joked to me I'd have to be careful or I might get convicted and decide to teach at one of those schools. These schools partly exist to teach the children of missionaries (often fondly referred to in church circles as MKs - missionary kids), who attend as boarders. If the schools shut down (whether due to a lack of teachers or other circumstances), apparently the missionaries often return home (i.e., to Canada or the States or wherever home was before they became involved in missions), removing them from the field. Well, I looked over the sheet, saw some math and science teaching opportunities, saw Martin looking over it, too, and kept it in mind. Today I looked at the website for the mission, clicked on the link listing urgent needs for Ethiopia, and noticed that there is an urgent need for several teachers there for the 2007-2008 school year, including at least one opening in chemistry and physics. I asked Martin if he wants to go to Ethiopia; he said, "Maybe we should!" However, I had to explain that it might not be a salaried position (and I've confirmed that by clicking through a few more links); we would have to raise support, and that scares him. Heck, it scares me...the 2007-2008 school year is not that far away, and being on our church's mission board means I know there is no additional funding available from them at the moment. And Martin does not have a university degree, so he probably would not be a teacher and something else would have to be found for him (which I don't think would necessarily be that hard; maybe he would be a dorm parent, or maybe something else unrelated to the school would come up). Is this everything falling into place to call me to this opportunity? It seems too uncanny. What will our families say? Does the mission want a first-year teacher doing this? Will Martin's medical condition interfere, or will the MRI in July show that he's all cured and the second AVM is no longer a concern? Well, if Martin is okay with it I'll put in an inquiry and we'll see what happens; perhaps this is nothing, and I will teach here in Toronto for the rest of my life, but I think I would be remiss if I didn't at least ask for more information. This may end up just being dropped without any further mention by me, but this is what is on my mind right now. Friends, please pray. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stupid file formats...

This is the part of the show where Joy asks her blog/Facebook readers for help.

Sooo, any of y'all know of a free (legal - i.e., without scamming a program off some p2p network) way to change a .wmv Windows-Media-Player-format movie into something I can stick on my video iPod (like a .avi or a .mov)? All my Googling only turns up programs I'd have to pay for...I downloaded a trial version of one program, but it put an obnoxious fluorescent green watermark right across the screen for the entire duration of the newly-made movie. I'm not really willing to pay for something to do this at this point as I'm not needing to transfer a lot of files, but if there is a free way to do this then I'm all ears.

Oh, and no need to inform me on how to change Windows-Media-Player-format audio into something I can use with iTunes; I've already figgered that one out. It's only the movies I'm concerned about at this point.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The tax man cometh...hooray!

You know what I love about being a student? Tuition tax credits. I finally took the time today to sort through all our various bills, pay stubs, and other financial paperwork, and to file most of it. Some things have been sitting around unfiled since May, yikes! I use a spreadsheet and Quicken to keep track of it all, so all the bills have been paid in a timely fashion, but I tend to be lazy when it comes to actually getting the physical documents into their respective file folders. Anyway, I also finally took the time today to install the new version of QuickTax for the 2006 tax year and to input all the information I had on hand, and I am very pleased with the number that shows up in the area that shows our expected refund. It's also really nice to see the amount of tuition tax credits I still have left over from this year (and previous years, even after I transfer the maximum amount of it them I can to my husband) that will carry forward to be used against the tax I'll probably have to pay next year (when I'll hopefully be much more gainfully employed than I am currently). Unfortunately, I know I won't be able to enjoy the refund for long--part of it is earmarked to help pay off more of hubby's student loans, part of it is promised in bond form to be part of our church's building program fund, and we do have to top up our bank accounts a little as they've gotten lower than I like them to be due to some excessive spending lately. However, we have been getting increasingly frustrated with our refrigerator, so perhaps this refund will provide some cash for a big new toy in the kitchen...that would be nice. I know I'm eventually not going to like this time of year so much, since my not being a student any more will mean the eventual drying up of my tuition tax credits, but hey, I'll then probably be making more $ year-round than I am now, so I'll have that $ to spend...and having more $ will also mean we'll be giving more $ away and thus increasing our charitable donation tax credits, too.

Oh, for those of you who know about what's been going on at Martin's work: they had the vote on the new contract today, and they are not going on strike after all--they accepted the new deal, although it is still a pretty crappy one. Andrew and Mira, Martin and I still have to figure out if we're going to join you for the Jars of Clay concert, but it's a relief to know finances won't be the deciding factor.

I'd better run as I'm helping to run the service at our church tomorrow (I'm on the world outreach committee, and we run a World Outreach Sunday a few times a year where we focus on our missionaries and our call in a special way) and I have to remind myself of what I have to do. Have a good night, y'all!

Friday, March 9, 2007

I will remember you...

I just had a nap. I don’t know if I had some deep dream or something, or if maybe it’s the Battlestar Galactica episode I watched before my nap interacting with the openness that the subconscious state brings, but I find myself awake now and in a reflective mood.

Part of the Facebook experience is seeing your friends list grow, finding a place to communicate with the classmates, coworkers, family members and other miscellaneous people who brighten our lives (MSTers, this includes you, you special teacher folk you) as well as a place to reconnect with and recognize those who have shared our life experiences in the past (this includes all you people I haven’t seen since the Ice Gardens, Tyndale, Woburn or even CHPS). I think part of the reason Facebook has taken off to the extent that it has is the warm fuzzy feeling people get from looking at their friends list, and the significance they get to feel when someone adds them as a friend, saying, “I remember you!”

However, I don’t think I’m the only one who sees gaps in her friends list. We’ve all lost people along the way. Hmm, that sounds morbid, and there have been those we’ve lost in that final kind of sense—for example, I flipped through my high school yearbooks recently to find one of the other teacher candidates who is working at Agincourt C. I. with me (Connie Lam, class of 2002), and was reminded by a tribute page of the passing of Vish, who was not a personal friend of mine but may have been one of yours—but that is not what I mean. I’m talking about the girl who made it clear to me (though never directly in words) at one point in high school that she no longer wanted me around, for whatever reason. I’m talking about the friendships I started to see as more-than-friendships and pushed too far, losing friendships I valued as a result. I’m talking about those friends who moved away and I failed to keep in touch with in the way I wanted to in the midst of all I busied my life with. I’m sure there are other categories, but that’s a sampling of what I mean.

Such passages are a necessary part of life; I can’t imagine trying to keep in touch with all the people I’ve ever met. Such losses are still sad in their own little way. Let’s take a moment at the beginning of March Break (for those of us who get to experience it, hooray—sorry, that was irrelevant, but I'm happy to be on vacation :)) to remember those we’ve left behind. I’m raising my glass; here’s to you.

Okay, enough of that; hubby wants to watch some TV with me now. Catch y’all later.

Bring on the Break!

Woohoo, March Break starts today! I still have to do some teaching between now and then, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If my grade 10 applied science students are good, they will get to play Motion Bingo today (they create their bingo cards from a provided list of words from the physics/motion unit, then we take turns drawing cue cards that have those words on them), complete with sugar-filled prizes. My grade 11 university-preparation-level chemistry students are doing presentations today of posters they've created on municipal and home water treatment. They get 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour to finish up their posters and consult with their groups before doing their presentations, and then they do all sorts of group, self and peer assessments and take notes from each other's posters. All in all, it will be an easy day for me...intentionally so, because it seems like every teacher I've talked to is burnt out at this time of year, and we student teachers are feeling it, too. Thankfully, we have our ways of getting the students to learn while still giving ourselves a break :).

My plans for the Break are fairly unspectacular; sleep, apply for teaching jobs, read the novel I bought yesterday (The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan - book 3 of the Wheel of Time series), get a haircut, go for my physical, wash the car, spend the gift certificates I haven't had the chance to since my b-day or even Christmas (new clothes! woohoo!), hope that Reitman's will still exchange the too-big pants my husband got me for my b-day, and generally get caught up on this, that and the other thing (housework? what is housework? student teachers have no time for it, whatever it is). Oh, and teach Vacation Bible School from about 9 to noon every weekday. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be taking a break from teaching; I guess I'm some sort of teaching addict.

Yikes, look at the time; I'd better run and get ready, because I have to beat Photocopier Lady to the punch this morning if I'm going to do all I want to do with my students...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

100 questions

One of my Facebook friends posted this and I'm in the kind of lazy mindset to do something like this now, so here goes...

1. How old will you be in five years?

2. Who did you spend at least two hours with today?
My host teacher and my husband.

3. How tall are you?
5'5.75" :)

4. What do you look forward to most in the next six weeks?
March Break, baby!

5. What's the last movie you saw?
In the theatre? Epic Movie. It was amusing (though definitely not epic).

6. Who was the last person you called?
No clue who I called last on the land line...on my cell, it was my mom, on Saturday, to clarify details for a family get-together we had that day.

7. Who was the last person to call you?
My husband. He was bored at work and I had a prep period at practicum.

8. What was the last text message you received?
Some marketing message from Rogers, despite the opt-out reply I sent to the last one following their instructions :P.

9. Who was the last person to leave you a voicemail?
I think it was my dentist's office :P.

10. Do you prefer to call or text?
Call...less subject to misinterpretation, and, if they're available, so much more immediate.

11. What were you doing at 12am last night?

12. Are your parents married/separated/divorced

13. When is the last time you saw your mom?

14. What color are your eyes?

15. What time did you wake up today?
Wake up, or get out of bed? My alarm was set for something around 4:30 a.m. :(.

16. What are you wearing right now?
Sweater, grubby sweatpants, slippers, housecoat. I was dressed up for practicum earlier today but got "comfy" as soon as I came home.

17. What is your favorite Christmas song?
That's a tough one...probably Silent Night.

18. Where is your favorite place to be?
At home.

19. Where is your least favorite place to be?
Right now, I'd have to say outside in the cold.

20. Where would you go if you could go anywhere?
Going back to Israel for a visit might be nice. We didn't visit Eilat when I was there and I think I'd like to check that out, besides going back to some of the spots I liked when I was there in January 2000.

21. Where do you think you'll be in 10 years?
Hmm, I think I'll have had some kids by then and that they'll be in school. I'll probably be teaching. I'm taking things as they come these days and am not thinking that far ahead.

22. Do you tan or burn?
Burn :P.

23. What did you fear was going to get you at night as a child?
Ghosts. Slime-based ones that would interfere with the electrical system. If I had a dream where I flipped a light switch and the lights didn't come on, that meant it was a nightmare and the ghosts were after me.

24. What was the last thing that really made you laugh?
I don't remember :(...I am easily amused, but my memory is fleeting.

25. How many TVs do you have in your house?

26. How big is your bed?
Double. Not like we use even that much of the surface area :).

27. Do you have a laptop or desktop computer?
Desktop...but I can dream...we are seriously considering exploring the Mac world when we get our next computer.

28. Do you sleep with or without clothes on?
That changes from night to night based on a whole host of factors (do I have the energy to put night stuff on after taking day stuff off, how cold is it outside, does my bedmate have a fever, and, um, other factors that I'm not going to tell you about...)

29. What color are your sheets?
Navy blue

30. How many pillows do you sleep w-ith?
1, but sometimes I steal the corner of Martin's after he gets up.

31. What is your favorite season?

32. What do you like about fall?
Crisp-not-cold temperatures, the changing colours, autumn rain, leaves blowing around in the wind, kicking my way through piles of leaves that have accumulated on the sidewalk and haven't been raked yet (this is how I stay young, lol...I also puddle-jump in the spring).

33. What do you like about winter?
Um...hmm...Christmas, my birthday, and my anniversary...and fresh-fallen-not-dirtied-by-cars snow is pretty, from *inside*. Actually, when I experienced the first real snowfall of packing snow this year I actually got pretty excited, I guess because of memories of snowballs and snowmen and snow forts and snow angels and tobogganing and...but really, I am a cold weather wimp :P.

34. What do you like about the summer?
I have no classes and it is warm (and since it's warm I'm more inclined to do enjoyable outdoor things like go see attractions, go for fitness walks, go on short trips with Martin and/or friends, etc.)

35. What do you like about spring?
Its arrival signals the end of winter (yeah, I know, I'm pretty down on winter, lol). Puddle-jumping. New flowers. The return of birdsong.

36. How many states/provinces have you lived in?

37. What cities/towns have you lived in?

38. Do you prefer shoes, socks, or bare feet?
Shoes, unless I'm at home.

39. Are you a social person?
Surprisingly, I think I'd have to say "yes" now. I like being around people who like me :), and I like to laugh with other people. I start to feel isolated and unliked if I haven't got together with others for a while. However, when tired I still recharge through times alone rather than by getting together with others, and I do protect my alone time, so I'm still classically an introvert.

40. What was the last thing you ate?
Pancakes. For dinner. Yup.

41. What is your favorite restaurant?
I think still Red Lobster, but I haven't been in forever :P.

42. What is your favorite ice cream?
Laura Secord's French and Frosted Mint. Mmmmm.

43. What is your favorite dessert?
I like dessert, period, and I like to mix it up. Anything involving chocolate and/or ice cream is usually (but not always) a sure bet, though I do also enjoy things like apple crisp (with french vanilla ice cream).

44. What is your favorite kind of soup?
I've had this thing for Italian wedding soup in recent years.

45. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?
I do not like PB&J...only PB...and it's got to be smooth Kraft peanut butter.

46. Do you like Chinese food?

47. Do you like coffee?
I don't even like the smell.

48. How many glasses of water, a day, do you drink on average?
If I fill my water bottle and keep it with me, generally 4. No water bottle...no water.

49. What do you drink in the morning?
Milk. Chocolate milk on the rare occasions we get it when we go shopping.

51. Do you sleep on a certain side of the bed?
My left (as I'm lying in it). That's the side my clock radio is on and opposite to the side my husband's clock radio is on.

52. Do you know how to play poker?
Sort of...I didn't do too badly at Texas Hold 'Em during our B.C. field study, but I think that's because we all sucked :).

53. Do you like to cuddle?
Yes, unless I'm preoccupied with trying to get stuff done.

54. Have you ever been to Canada?
I have hardly ever been out of it.

55. Do you have an addictive personality?
Depends what you call an addiction. (chocolate? cola drinks? wasting time on the Internet and generally staying up too late when I know it's going to hurt me the next day?)

56. Do you eat out or at home more often?

58. Do you know anyone with the same birthday as you?
Yes, including 1 Facebook friend.

59. Do you want kids?

60. Do you speak any other languages?
No, though I understand more French than I speak if the pacing isn't too fast.

61. Have you ever gotten stitches?
Yes...chin, wrist and fingers (I was not trying to kill myself...I used inappropriate force with a stubborn window :P).

62. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
Yes, when we worried that Martin was having another brain injury "incident."

63. Do you prefer an ocean or a pool?
Pool...warmer and zero seaweed. Mind you, I've never swum in the ocean, just lakes and the Dead Sea.

64. Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?

65. Do you know how to drive stick?
Yes, that's all we've got, and Martin says I'm amazing at it :).

66. What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
Food. If I had more of it I would buy more clothes...got to build that professional teaching wardrobe up, after all ;).

67. Do you wear any jewelry 24/7?
Yes, my engagement and wedding rings.

68. What is your favorite TV show?
TV? What is that? I guess Buffy. There's really nothing I watch on a regular basis anymore; I waste time in front of the computer rather than the TV screen.

69. Can you roll your tongue?

70. Who is the funniest person you know?
Hmm...not sure.

71. Do you sleep with stuffed animals?
No, just Martin.

72. What is the main ring tone on your phone?
The one that came with it...some kind of salsa thing.

73. Do you still have clothes from when you were little?

74. What red object is closest to you right now?
Some long-overdue thing I was supposed to send my sponsored child. Whoops!

75. Do you turn off the water while you brush your teeth?

76. Do you sleep with your closet door open or closed?
How full are the hampers?

77. Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees?
Um...probably the bees.

78. Do you flirt a lot?
I hope not...I be married an' all.

79. What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
Honey, BBQ sauce, or sweet & sour sauce. Usually honey.

80. What is your favorite food?
Does chocolate count?

81. Can you change the oil on a car?
I've never tried...I would need guidance and probably someone with stronger wrists to do any wrenching/unscrewing required, but I'd be willing to give it a shot.

82. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
No. The one time I got pulled over, it was because, according to the cop, they thought my engine sounded noisy. I still don't understand that one.

83. Have you ever run out of gas?

84. What is your usual bedtime?
Sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight.

85. What was the last book you read?
As in completed? The Great Hunt - book 2 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

86. Do you read the newspaper?
If one is handy, I try to flip through the entire thing.

87. Do you have any magazine subscriptions?

89. Do you watch soap operas?

90. Do you dance in the car?
Depends what you call dancing...I've been known to bounce, wiggle and sway the odd time...but mostly I just sing along.

92. Who is in the picture frame closest to you?
My husband and I on our wedding day :). Sitting unframed beside it are pictures of Laura & Andrew and Karen & Dan on their wedding days.

93. What was the last note you scribbled on a piece of paper?
"2735 40"...notes relevant to the Rime Age in realMYST.

94. What is your favorite candle scent?
Vanilla, I think.

95. What is your favorite board game?

97. When was the last time you attended church?
This past Sunday...but I taught Sunday school, so the last time I heard a sermon was the week before that (unless that was the week I was sick...well, I'm generally there weekly, anyway).

98. Who was your favorite teacher in high school?
Mr. (now Dr.) Seshadri. Wah!

99. What is the longest you have ever camped out in a tent?
Probably about a week. It was in Girl Guides or Pathfinders. The details are fuzzy.

100. Who was the last person to do something extra special for you?
My husband. He made me a whole teapot of After Eight hot chocolate last night (then brought me 2 mugs of it right away) when I was feeling overwhelmed with stuff I was trying to get done.

Friday, March 2, 2007


In my post titled "musing..." on Feb. 27, I mentioned a poem titled "open" that I wrote August 11, 2004, the day my husband finally opened his eyes days after sustaining a brain injury. I've decided that that poem is worth re-posting, so here it is for those of you who never got the chance to read / hear it the first time around. Enjoy.


Here I stand, beside your bed.
I watch you sleep, watch you dream.
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
Your neck swells in a swallow--
such a simple sign
bringing such peace;
you are awake enough to feel the tube in your throat.
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
Scarce did I know
how precious you are to me
As I see my life, my all
being kept alive by fluid lines and vacuum tubes.
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
Now folding shirts is so much more
than a daily chore
Every crease speaks of love.
This place will be ready to welcome you home.
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.

There you stood, beside his bed.
You saw my sorrow, my longing. You said,
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
My neck swelled in a swallow--
a sign of holding back,
"keeping strong,"
strong enough to keep the faith, but still feeling the pain. You said,
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
Scarce did I know
how precious we were to you
You are our life, our all
keeping us alive with every breath and loving beat. You said,
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
Now our prayers are so much more
than just religious chores.
We return our thanks to you.
You have always been with him, healing in love. You said,
Open your eyes, my love.
Open your eyes.
And my eyes were opened
along with his.
I see him, I see you
and there is light.

This is PD?

Today I experienced my second Professional Development Day on the teacher's side of the equation. Being on the teacher side of the equation means that a PD day is not a day off but rather a day you're paid to come in and learn something (well, I would be paid if I were a "real" teacher...obviously as a student teacher I don't get that privilege :P).

The first PD day I experienced this year, back in November, was run on the theme of "student success"...one of the current edubabble hot ideas out there. It focused on differentiated instruction, learning disabilities, multiple intelligences, Bloom's Taxonomy, meeting the needs of specially-identified students (those with IEPs, if you're up on the edubabble), and so on...essentially, helping all students succeed in some way. (By the way, just because I call something edubabble doesn't mean I disagree with it, but the theory of teaching does definitely have its own language.)

Today's PD day theme was "teacher success." Here is what the structure of the day looked like:
  • nutritious breakfast provided by the nutrition committee
  • session by a former principal of my host school: he taught all of us how to juggle (first by balancing peacock feathers, then juggling scarves, then bean bags, all in a very pedagogically proper progression)
  • nutrition break in the staff room
  • choose-your-own-workshop time, with sessions available on:
    • investments
    • Powerpoint
    • the fitness machines (treadmills, etc.) available in the weight room
    • ping pong (not learning about it, but playing it)
    • badminton (playing it)
    • auto maintenance
    • getting a free manicure from salon professionals brought in by the principal
  • session on "healthy choices" by a guest speaker who founded a particular weight loss program for men
  • lunch - this was not brought in, but a list of restaurants recommended by one of the VPs was provided and we were encouraged to check one of them out with other teachers
  • 1.5 hours in the afternoon set aside for the various departments to run their own sessions. The science department head didn't program anything for us but allowed us to do what we wanted. (I helped clean out the chemical storage room with 3 other teachers, including the former head of the department who is now retired but covering a long-term supply teacher position. Among other things, we set aside for proper disposal probably about 8 containers of moth balls -- naphthalene -- as they are now a banned substance in schools. After that, I did some of my prep for my grade 10 applied science classes.)
Looking back over the day, there were aspects of it that I did enjoy. The juggling session was a lot of fun and was surprisingly a bit of a workout, though I'm still not sure what the point of it was. I did learn a little bit at the auto maintenance workshop, but I was amazed at how much my limited knowledge was an improvement over some of the other female teachers who attended (at least one of whom had never read her owner's manual and had no idea how to check the oil, let alone that you're supposed to do it on a regular basis). I gladly volunteered to help with the chem storage room because that is part of the job, after all, and I wanted to see the kinds of procedures that would be used (mind you, I thought we would be doing more actual cleaning up of spilled chemicals, stuff left in open, unlabelled containers, and so on; just handling closed bottles like we did really didn't educate me about the safety of the thing, but it did still all need to be done). I can also see that there was value in trying to educate us about living healthy lives, even if we'd heard much of the information before and really are capable of eating healthily and exercising outside of school time. Overall, I'd have to say I was disappointed in this PD day compared to the last one I attended. You win some, you lose some, I guess, even in terms of the PD activities that taxpayers' dollars go towards funding.

I suppose the weather that we had here in Toronto deserves mention, too. This morning was an annoying one for me, but not because of the weather. Today was the last day that I could hand in a particular assignment for York. Problem: it had to be submitted in hard copy (not by e-mail), and today was a practicum day. This meant driving from my home all the way out to York early in the morning, then driving back to my host school which is normally only a 10 minute drive from my house (if that), all the while hearing the radio tell me time and time again that it was a dangerous time to be out and about and that I and everyone else should stay home. Oh, and guess what, I was the first person to park in the driveway last night, my mother-in-law and one of my sister-in-laws both parked behind me (Martin and I rent my MIL's basement apartment), both of them hadn't planned on going anywhere today and all our cars were covered in the results of last night's freezing rain. Thankfully both my MIL and SIL were generous enough to come out and clean their cars off and move them for me when they realized I had to go out in today's conditions (I was going to do it myself, but it was sooo much easier this way)...it was a real family effort, with Martin (who took the day off work) chipping in as well. It is true that I stalled 4 times trying to back out of our driveway (apparently the snowplow came by 2 minutes after I finished heading down our side street, grr). However, once I got to the main roads there were no issues...like I said, the radio kept telling people over and over to stay home (and not to even walk outside in case a power line fell down and the amount of water on the ground would lead to anyone within 10 metres being electrocuted), and people must have been listening because I hardly had to share the highway with anyone compared to a regular day. As long as people stayed out of the left lane (which was sometimes flooded) and drove at a reasonable speed for the conditions, all was fine, but I am glad there weren't more people out there to contend with. It's always kind of weird being back at York after a practicum block (or, in this case, in the middle of one), but it felt kind of homey this time as well. (Thankfully the parking garage only charged me $2 for the short time I was there; I would have been much less happy this morning if I had been charged my usual rate.) I was amazed that the trip back from York to my host school took pretty much the same amount of time as it does on a day with perfect weather, and I only arrived at the PD day 10 minutes late (which didn't matter as we were in the middle of the breakfast buffet portion of the day anyway). I suppose it was an adventure of a day, but nothing a Young Drivers graduate couldn't handle ;).

Other MSTers, did any of you have a PD day today? Were your PD activities more worthwhile than mine were? How many students did those of you who had to teach end up with? I'd be interested in hearing what all you folks did today. By the way, weektwoisdone weektwoisdone weektwoisdone...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The best-laid plans...

One of the classes I'm responsible for teaching this practicum block is a grade 9/10 split class. It is a science class run at the "essential" level. When I was in high school, we had advanced, general, and basic level classes; now those levels are called academic, applied and essential (well, they are at the grade 9 and 10 level; grades 11 and 12 have their own designations for the levels). In other words, my essential kids are the ones who supposedly can't even handle the applied level science course. I say "supposedly" because my host teacher and I feel that the students in my class have been mis-placed. It is easy for us to say this because there is a total of 3 students in this class, so we get to know them pretty well.

Anyway, this "essential" class is the one I still had to plan for when I got home from my sanity-inducing time out with friends last night. I had some resources from my host teacher and was reminded by him that any essential class really is a literacy course, regardless of the subject; I just had to put it all together and wrap in any ideas of my own that I had. I think the lesson I ended up planning was a good one, and I even managed to include a literacy activity from some Ministry of Education resources and my way of doing the water current/electrical current analogy that is suggested by the curriculum and that I incorporated into a York assignment earlier this year. I was kind of nervous about the lesson because it was going to be
the first time I actually taught these students (my block has been going on for a while, but they've been doing research on a poster project my host teacher assigned before my block started), but I could see it going well.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. At the start of first period, my host teacher received a package he'd ordered for this class a while back: a kit for these students to assemble a working electric motor as a group. He seemed keen on having them start that today, so I went along with that (he did eventually give me the choice as to whether to do this or not, but you could tell the motor thing was what he wanted, and it was a great idea anyway). Okay, lesson plan out the window. Then we actually went to the classroom when it was time for class, 2nd period. Remember I said we have 3 students in this class. Well, 3 students were absent from our class today. Motor idea out the window for today, at least. The students had a poster due today, too (which made me wonder if they all skipped because they weren't done, but my host teacher doesn't think they'd be like that), but I guess they'll just have to bring them in next week, seeing as tomorrow is a PD Day.

That is my story about how an entire class skipped on me. Then I ran a lab with my 3rd period class, cleaned up after it, waited after school for 20 minutes for a student who said he'd show up and never did, and drove home in the worst snow I've driven in yet (but that was fine thanks to my Young Drivers skillz :)). The end. Oh, the exciting life of a student teacher :).

friends = cures for anxiety :)

As many of y'all are aware, I have been quite busy with school (both practicum and my own assignments) this year. Many of y'all are also aware that I generally find this time of year to be quite difficult -- my motivation is usually close to nonexistent, I whine a lot about having to do anything, I do not get nearly enough sleep and I generally start voicing a belief that humans should have been created as hibernating beings. Whether this is due to the lack of sunlight in the winter, the cold weather that I am very sensitive to (and living in a basement apartment that is not heated quite enough due to cost-cutting measures upstairs doesn't help much, though I fully understand and support said cost-cutting measures), the fact that I've already been inundated with way too much schoolwork since September, just some attitude problem I need to fix, or some combination of said factors, I'm not sure...but I know that I've been suffering from whatever it is in recent weeks because there have been times when the stress of how much I need to do combined with my perfectionism have led to larger than usual bouts of procrastination, an at-times-paralysing anxiety, and some pretty lackluster lesson plans.

However, I wanted to thank everyone who came out to Jen's get-together at Jack Astor's and Dairy Queen last night. I know it was Jen's get-together, but it did me a world of good. You all saw the sugar-and-readiness-for-stress-relief-induced giddiness I had at Jack's (I'm glad that most of the people who were at the table last night have seen me in other, much more level-headed contexts and thus were hopefully not too scared by said giddiness ;)) followed by what I thought was the beginning of a sugar crash a little before I left Dairy Queen. Sitting down at my computer after I got home, though, I didn't feel like I was on a sugar crash. Rather, I was struck that I actually felt a sense of sanity, clearheadedness, and calm that is unusual for me at this time of year. Practicum planning no longer seemed like such a big deal. I felt more "normal" than I have felt for a while this winter. Now, sugar alone hasn't seemed to do the trick for me in the past (I had another day this week that involved a lot of Twizzlers, cinnamon hearts, and Coke, and I think in that case all the sugar just made me more anxious). This means the cure must have been being giggly and giddy with my friends (or at the very least some combination of my friends and sugar ;)). Thanks for being there last night; it was fun times and just what I needed right about now. I've also taken a couple steps to restore my spiritual life, which is helping immensely in this area as well, but that is a whole other story...