Saturday, January 28, 2006

Oh Canada...

We are much more than hockey, right? We do have a history, culture and identity that involves more than a game on ice played with a stick and a puck, right?

I spent the last 5 months teaching my grade 12s all about Canadian History, Culture and Identity. (That's the name of the course, by the way) The course begins pre-contact, and spans until the 20th century. So we are talking close to 500 years or so of Canadian content.

Once, I repeat, once, I talked about hockey. I mentioned that during the Depression, many turned to CBC radio to listen to a hockey game to get their minds off their economic woes. That's it - the only mention of hockey.

Now to some hockey fans that might not seem like enough, but c'mon we are talking about 500 years of an entire nation!

My students wrote their exam last week (you know where I am going with this) where they had to answer the following question:

Many historians may argue that throughout Canadian history, Canada seems to have merely shifted its dependence from Great Britain to the United States and has never really achieved full independence. As a result, what it means to be Canadian has often been a difficult question to answer. Outline what you believe to be Canada’s identity.

Overwhelmingly the vast majority wrote about hockey; not Vimy, not Confederation, not immigration, the railway, or even the Acadians. Hockey.

I guess my exciting lesson on the War of 1812 couldn't compete with our national pastime.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

poetic aliens??

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. You spend countless hours explaining content and structure of poems, as well as the use of literary devices. Symbolism is another concept to discuss. The days are filled with numerous activities and exercises to prepare them for finals.

Now, I can understand how symbolism can sometimes be lost. Sometimes you just don't fully understand the meaning that some poets are trying to get across. I get that.

The poem in question: "Men In Green" by David Campbell. An exerpt:

Oh, there were fifteen men in green,
Each with a tommy-gun
Who leapt into my plane at dawn;
We rose to meet the sun.
We climbed towards the distant range
Where two white paws of cloud
Clutched at the shoulders of the pass;
The green men laughed aloud.
Oh, there were some leaned on a stick
And some on stretchers lay,
But few walked on their own two feet
In the early green of day.

They had not feared the ape-like cloud
That climbed the mountain crest;
They had not feared the summer’s sun
With bullets for their breast.
And I think still of men in green
On the Soputa track,
With fifteen spitting tommy-guns
To keep the jungle back.

What's the first thing that comes to most people's mind when reading this poem?

Soldiers, perhaps? World War One, perhaps? Or at least some type of war requiring tommy-guns and bullets.

My students?

Wait for it...


Yes, apparently the "men in green" are from outerspace.

Did these kids even read the poem?


Sunday, January 15, 2006

It's two words, people!

People wonder why I can't spell. "A teacher?" they say, "you should be GREAT at spelling!" Well, try marking grade nine students' essays for 8 years and tell me how good you are! I tell ya, I spell like a 14 year old who does not know how to proof read.

The most common spelling mistake that I come across that irritates me the most:



It's two words, two words dammit! A LOT

Unless you are allotting someone a piece of land...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What they think they can get away with...

OK, so we've all tried to plagiarize at one point in our lives. But we were at least smart about it, right?

The internet has become the bane of teachers' existence. It's so easy for a kid these days to Google any topic they wish and get a wealth of information at their fingertips. Some students' idea of research is cutting and pasting it all together!

I caught a student plagiarizing word-for-word an essay that had been posted on the internet. I confronted said student and asked him if there was anything that he wanted to tell me about his essay. "Umm, no," was the response. So I tried again, "Are you sure?". "Yep," was the reply. By now most kids would have the sense to come up with some "I-was-so-busy-and-had-a-million-other-projects-I'm-so-sorry-It'll-never-happen-again!" kind of excuse/plea.

Not this kid.

I got, "Well my parents helped me out a little with it." So I asked, "Really, is your father Dr. ____ from ____ University? No? OK, wanna try again?"

Still, denial. We went back and forth a bit until he finally admitted that he *might* have used someone else's work.

Are you kidding me?

Do they think I am an idiot?

Seriously, if they can find it on the internet what makes them think that I can't??

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Romeo, Romeo...

The next day we set out for Verona where we were first in line to enter the Arena Amphitheatre that was built in the 1st century AD. It was so cool. The acoustics were incredible! We could clearly hear conversations on the ground from the very top of the amphitheatre. A great way to hear the students' gossip! We also visited Juliet’s balcony and her bronze statue. Supposedly, couples are to kiss in front of Juliet while the gentleman touches her breast for good luck. Not the best image to leave your students with...

Venice is everything that you read about and see in pictures! A beautiful place, and it didn’t smell – REALLY! Apparently it does in the summer though. Here we saw St. Mark’s Square (yes, what they say about the pigeons is TRUE!), the magnificent Doges Palace and a glass-blowing demonstration at a Murano glass factory. The teachers took a Vaporetto down the Grand Canal. The students however, took a Gondola ride. I guess we teachers are too cheap as we felt that Gondolas were far too expensive.

The architecture in Venice is amazing. We took many photos just of people’s doorways and gardens. I could’ve spent a few more days here – except for all those pigeons.

Fortunately no one fell into the canal. A big feat with 38 teenagers and their daredevil attitudes!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Next stop was Siena – a beautiful medieval town in Tuscany. It’s famous for its Palio horse race and it’s fan-shaped Piazza del Campo. It was so beautiful here, but unfortunately we only had a few hours and we were on our way to Florence.

Here we did everything! I had a WOW moment at the Academia Gallery when I saw Michelangelo’s David. We also saw a leather workshop and how they shape real Italian leather goods - great discounts at the factory! We gave the students 8 hours or so to roam the city by themselves (which meant we had free time too). By the end, I
was beginning to feel human again, finally getting over the jet lag.

We shopped on the famous “Ponte Vecchio”, almost waited 240 minu
tes in line to the Uffizi’s Museum (gave up after about 5 minutes), debated long and hard about purchasing a leather jacket from the Peruzzi shop and ended up buying an ancient roman coin set in white gold. Finally we climbed the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun set – an amazing view!

Our hotel in Florence was an old lemon orchard, designed like a villa. A few pools, both swimming and reflection, were on the grounds, and the gardens in the spring would be magnificent. The rooms had curved ceilings and some had lofts and brick walls. Each had a chandelier of Murano glass in them. It was a really nice place.

I can't believe that we packed in so much culture on so little time...

Friday, January 06, 2006

When in Rome...

Last year during Spring Break a colleague and I took 38 students to Italy. It was, needless to say, quite a challenge. I will be recapping the trip over the next few days.

OK first let me start off by saying that I had jet lag for about 3 days. I was tired and crabby and had to deal with 38 students aged 16-18. After the Rome experience (which you’ll read about) I was saying to myself that I would NEVER take another school trip again. By about Florence though, I changed my mind - call me crazy, more on that later!

Our first day in Rome was an exciting one – for many reasons. We got up bright and early to line up to enter the Vatican. We took a tour of the museum with a guide who gave us a lesson in art history of the differences between ancient Greek and ancient Roman art. Then we entered the Sistine Chapel. It is every thing you read about. At first I wasn’t really sure what the big deal was, but when I looked closely and saw the details that Michelangelo expressed in his work, I understood the importance. We also went into the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, climbed all the way to the cupola and had a great view of Rome.

After a while we realized that we were missing two students. We had no idea where they were. Since the security at the Vatican is extremely tight, you can only go in one direction – no turning back. We had a feeling that they we upstairs in the dome, but security wouldn’t let us back up to see. For 4 hours my colleague and I tried to hold it together. We left a supervisor at St Peter’s square to continue to look for them, while the rest of us had to continue the tour to the Coliseum and the Forum.

I don’t remember much of those two places as my thoughts were elsewhere. For the first hour, I was angry, by the 3rd I was worried and by the 4th I was terrified. Finally on the way back to the hotel we got word that they had made it back to the hotel after being stuck up on the roof of the Basilica (where we thought they were) and unable to find the exit. Which admittedly is a little hard to find, but the other 36 students found it just fine.

I guess if we are going to lose someone in Italy, the best place for it would be the Vatican...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My favourite moments in teaching...

This is a true story, honestly!

I taught Junior high (grade 7-9) for a number of years in Cowtown. One particular year I was teaching grade 8s - by far the most challenging grade. In fact, I swear I did not have a grey hair on my head until I began teaching them.

One day, as I was addressing the class a student kept talking to the student beside him. I ignored it at first, but it soon got to a point where I could no longer let it go. I told the student, "Please be quiet." In return, I got the following: "Why don't you lick my left nut!" Yes folks from a grade 8 student! Now I had to bite my tongue from asking, "Why the left one? What's wrong with the one on the right?"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


OK, so I have been marking like crazy, trying to get all the stuff done before school starts up again. Before the break, I had my students turn in an essay on To Kill A Mockingbird. Direct quote from one said essay:

"Atticus does not give his child Jem this advice just to blow hot gas."

Ahahaha! Makes me laugh!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Well here I am, dragging myself kicking and screaming into this blogging world. I feel that I need to do this, if only to prove that I've still got 'it', whatever 'it' is!

See I am a High School teacher and have been for eight years now. I am only now beginning to realize that I am no longer cool, or hip if you will. I don't feel uncool or unhip. In fact I would tell you that I am the grooviest gal around. My students, however, would say something different, and probably not as nicely. So here I am, trying out the newest trend of them all!

Part of the issue is that over the years I have grown. I have changed, learned new things, experienced different events and happenings. My students do not. Every year the same phenomenon happens; I grow a year older, my students stay the same age. Their issues are the same (gossip, GFs, BFs, etc.) their behaviour stays the same (loud, vivacious, rude at times, and moments of brilliance) their clothes even, for the most part, stay the same (gotta love those baggy pants!). Although I have to say I am a little pissed off at the clothing industry who have decided to bring back the eighties fashions. It wasn't pretty then, it ain't pretty now.

Because of this, I don't feel I am any older. I still feel that I am only a few years older than them and can totally relate to their world. Ha! Not so...I realize this as I walk down the halls and can no longer understand their slang, and can no longer recognize the music they are listening to.

I have now become as uncool as my parents...sigh