Friday, April 28, 2006

Another reason why I hate this time of year...

I should not teach grade 12 students. I just shouldn't.

I don't believe that education is a competition, I do believe that there is more to life than getting good grades. I don't think that universities should hold kid's lives hostage just for the "prestige" of getting accepted. I don't believe that your life is over if you; don't get early acceptance/don't get accepted/don't go to university at all. I always say that univeristies are businesses, if you don't get in the first time, they will let you in eventually. Even if it is as a mature student. Bottom line: THEY WANT YOUR MONEY.

The problem is, I tell my students that.

Another problem is, they don't believe me.

I had 2 students come to me the other day to talk about dropping my course. One girl was sobbing mercilessly about how stressed she was because she didn't get early acceptance to her program of choice. This is a girl with a 96% average. If SHE didn't get accepted, who the hell are they letting in?

Her course load: Calculus, Chemistry, Exercise Science and my course, Sociology. She plays 3 sports competitively, works part time, and as mentioned maintains a 96% average!!

Talk about breaking my heart.

I totally counselled her to drop my course. I believe that nothing, especially grades, is worth your health. She was still visibly upset, so I asked her what was really the issue. Was it that she'd consider herself a failure for dropping a course? No. Was she afraid of how that would look to the universities? No.

Her answer? She didn't want to disappoint me.

Rip my heart open and stomp all over it!

That answer made me sob. I hate when kids are practically killing themselves because of the pressures placed on them by the unis, their parents and themselves.

I hate this time of year.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Greek Experience

Greece 2006

So, we are back from Greece and we all lived to tell the tale. No one got lost, no one got hurt, no one stole a rock from the Acropolis - life is good!!

I have to say, these were the GREATEST GROUP OF TEENAGERS EVER! It was so much fun to take them on a trip like this. Well behaved, polite, mostly interested in what was going on, and no one got into too much trouble. Well, OK, that's not entirely true. There was the wadded up pieces of toilet paper out the hotel room window in Athens incident...but that’s another story.

The first day we arrived in Athens early afternoon. Our hotel was literally in the heart of Athens so we were very close to everything. We took a walking tour and saw the changing of the guards at Syntagma Square – I still don’t know why they wear pompoms on their shoes and short pleated skirts, but the kids were good enough not to laugh! We walked down to the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch where we got a really nice view of the Acropolis. That night at our hotel restaurant we looked out over Athens and had an amazing, non-obstructed view of the Acropolis all lit up. Incredible!

On the second day we had a guided tour of Athens. We went to the Acropolis, finally. Here we were able to see storm clouds rolling in. We could hear thunder and see the lightening. This was not the most pleasant thing to witness since we were on top of the largest structure in the city with metal scaffolding all around! Beautiful and very picturesque. We also stopped at the Kalimarmaro – the ancient Olympic stadium that was built for the 1896 games. This is the very same place the ancient Panathinae, which were one of the first sports events in history, used to take place more than 3000 years ago. For the 2004 Olympics, it was the finish line for the marathon and archery events. It’s hard to believe that it fits 70, 000 people!

The next day we took a day cruise to the Saronic Islands of Poros, Hydra and Aegina. The cruise literally took all day. It was close to 4 hours to reach the first island! The boat supplied us with a full “Greek experience” with music, food and dance. It wasn’t hard to convince our students to be up dancing to traditional Greek music at 8 am! The cruise was wonderful. The islands were beautiful and we got lots of shopping done, especially in Aegina, which is famous for pistachio nuts.

Then we boarded to bus for our road trip around the Peloponnese. Our first stop was the Corinth Canal. What an incredible feat in engineering! I can’t describe it in words, check out the pictures attached. In ancient Corinth, first inhabited in 5000 BCE, we saw what remains of the Temple of Apollo, the ancient bath houses and fountains, marketplace, the Bema and we even saw an ancient game of “marbles” that embedded over time in the stairs leading to the marble paved Lechaion Road.

Next we went to Mycenae. This place has such a rich history that it’s difficult to mention it all. The ancient kingdom is linked to Perseus, Hercules, Agamemnon, Paris, Helen, and can you see where this is leading? Yes, the Trojan War. We saw the famous Lion’s Gate, The Treasury of Atreus and the famous beehive tombs. These tombs are enormous in size. We got to walk in to one and see the inside of the structure. Amazing! Our final highlight of the day was the Theatre at Epidaurus, an incredible structure with amazing acoustics. Someone dropped a coin on the centre piece of marble and we could hear it throughout the theatre. A few students entertained us with their beautiful singing – incredible sound. Definitely a “wow!” moment.

Next day we were at Olympia. First built as a sanctuary to Hera, then Zeus, it became the site of the ancient games. What an amazing place; very spiritual and serene. The starting line at the stadium is still visible and we had students line up to race. I could’ve spent an entire day here walking around the ruins of the temples, gymnasiums, and the Palaestra. It was incredible to see that these huge stones used to build the structures are just left where they fall after earthquakes, storms or just plain age.

We traveled to Delphi to see the Oracle, at the Sanctuary of Apollo on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. It was a bit of a tough hike up, but worth it. The museum itself houses some of the finest works that survive the classical era, since at that time gifts and offerings were sent to Delphi from all over the ancient world. At night it was arranged that the students could go to a local club and enjoy a night of dancing.

From Delphi we were led to one of the most spectacular geographical sites I have ever seen. The rock formations at Meteora are unparalleled. They rise from the plain of Thessaly in huge clusters. At the very top of most of these formations are monasteries that were built centuries ago by monks who were seeking to lead the solitary life of hermits. Their only way to receive goods to their refuge was by ropes and baskets scaling the sleek rock face. We were able to walk around inside two of the monasteries, including Ayia Triada that was the backdrop to the James Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. Our return trip to Athens ended our journey.

In all, it was a pretty amazing trip. With so much history, I was truly in heaven. It really humbled me to think about the centuries that have past while these ancient structures remain and the millions of people who have walked there before me.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Whatever happened to "the most qualified"??

So, it's hiring time with the school board. When I first became a teacher I really thought that you would ge a job depending on your qualifications, references and perhaps some good lesson plans and activities displayed in your portfolio.

I thought that since we were unionized, everyone would have a fair chance at every job posted. My illusion has been shattered. Even in teaching it's who you know and what you do to kiss someone's ass.

A really annoying supply teacher, more affectionatley known as "Loopy" got a temporary contract at our school. Yes, she is seriously loopy!. I even spoke with the VP about how I did not want her to supply for my classes again because she doesn't acutally follow the plan that I leave. She decides to do whatever she wants to do. Very annoying.

She first started supply teaching in February when another teacher went off on medical leave. Said teacher was having a very rough time with her pregnancy. Loopy told us she was only here for 2 weeks, "But, you know how medical leave is"...Right in front of us! Who A) knew the situation as to why teacher was off and B) are good friends with teacher who was off.

Loopy left that class in such a mess that the teacher who was off and is now back had a bit of a challenge to get them back. Fortunately this woman is a competant teacher, and has done so quite successfully. That class was out of control when Loppy was at the helm!

This is the type of person who knows how to work the system. She sends the office staff flowers once a week. Now, I agree that the office certainly deserves those flowers for all the hard work they do, but coming from someone who had only been at the school a week seems weird. How could they not see through this blatant attempt to shmooze?!?!

After only a week at school she also volunteered to do the following:

1) Coach a team. Great, thanks, but there are NO school sports that only run for 3 weeks (the original contract term)

2) Agree to help out at a school dance but never actually show up. (again, how this got by Admin I'll never know)

3) Help out with student council. She sat in for one meeting and told everyone how she was going to take it over next year!! (more on this later)

Then Loopy got another contract as a father went off for 2 weeks paternity leave. Again, she states, "Well who knows when he'll be back." Ummm, probably after his triplets come home from the hospital. And, oh guess what? He's back at work.

As for student council, the current teacher is moving to another country at the end of the year. She knows this (sadly). The other day Loopy walks up to him and says, "Guess what? I'm your job!" WHO DOES THIS?? Especially when there are 2 other qualified teachers on temp contracts who have been at the school longer who also want the job.

She's always hanging out in the main office to "get noticed" by admin. I just kept hoping that the more time she spends with them, the more they'll see what she's like. Apparently not, she is so working the system.

So, as it stands, my pleas went unnoticed. Since we are unionized, there's a limited amount of things we can actually say or do to affect her employment. Even my Department Head's hands are tied. (And she's the one who was first off on medical leave and had to come back to the mess!) Loopy is at my school for at least the next 6 weeks. Grrrr!

Monday, April 03, 2006


I think that the universities in my area that have teacher education programs hate me.

Every year I sign up for a student teacher. Every year neither university that I apply to sends me one. Why?

Not only that, but on occasion, the universities send out pleas in September and February for students that haven't been placed. I answer those. I get no response. I feel like I'm being chosen last in Gym class.

I truly believe in mentoring a student teacher. After all, someone volunteered to take me on at one point. Also, I enjoy the discussions and I learn a lot from all the other S.T.s in my department. I look forward to adding new "spice" to my lesson plans, too. I hear a lot from other teachers that they would never take one on, and honestly I don't get that. What better opportunity to give something back, all the while ensuring that great new teachers are developed. I don't get it.

The only time I ever did get a S.T. she was absolutely loopy! I am not kidding. She would break out in to song in the middle of class (no, not related to the lesson), discuss her divorce in front of the students, and would break in to tears when I would say something so minute like; "Maybe next time you should make sure you have a pen with you so that you can take attendance accurately."

The kicker, the absolute kicker was when she showed up later for school one day. One of her fellow S.T.s asked her why she came in late (I hadn't gotten to her at this point) . She replied, "Well, I started masturbating and I just couldn't stop!". Honestly.

I must have done something in a past life to piss the Teacher Education teachers off!

This year I applied and did not get one, but a colleague of mine did not want to give up one of her classes. So, I jumped on it and said that he could take on one of mine. Fine, great, it was looking up for me!

Until the e-mail. Over March Break when I was in Greece, we received an email stating that said S.T. had a crisis at home and needed to deal with it. He would be back the following week. I'm right away thinking, wow, major crisis, and feeling really bad for him. It was decided that he would drop a course so that he could deal with the issues and still keep his sanity. Guess whose course he dropped? Mine.

I. give. up.

Oh and BTW the crisis really wasn't all that big. No worse than what many other people have gone through in their lives. Maybe I am just being bitter, but in order to deal with the pressures of a first-year teacher, you gotta be tough!