February, 2006

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Dear Alberta Education:

Monday, February 27th, 2006

I love you dearly.  I am kind of on to the fact that you keep changing your name back and forth between Alberta Education and Alberta Learning so that you don’t get letters like this, but your methods of confusion didn’t work this time.

My school board needs a little more funding.  How much more?  Well, not too much really.  Just enough to afford toilet paper that isn’t one-eighth ply.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m regular.  So, I don’t usually time things so that I use a lot of TP within the school.  When I do, though, it hurts me.  Even if I’m just wiping my nose.

I get sad when I’m in the art room because the coloured tissue paper looks more skin-friendly and more absorbant than our current supply of bathroom tissue.

Maybe your plan is to keep people regular.  Maybe your plan is to keep washroom break-time to a minimum.  Maybe your plan is to keep people off McDonalds, because let’s admit it, Big Macs throw off even the most disciplined diets and routines.  Buuuut…  maybe this is a cost thing.  But there are 6000 teachers in Calgary… and bulk anything is fairly cost effective.  So let’s bump things up to some kind of happy medium. 

I think the end result ( pun intendended) will be a boosted morale.

back words…

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

my back hurts.  how bad?  chiropractor bad.

i’d never really been to a chiropractor before.  (I say really stretched out like that because I did go to a demonstration once where the guy told me one of my legs was longer than the other one.  I was insulted.)

i must admit I kind of like the whole cracking and crunching sensation.  it’s not something you get to experience everyday.

so what happened?  i’m glad you asked.

friday night: no possible cause.  just drove up to edmonton with jo.  visited her fam.  crashed.

saturday:  a few possible causes.  i had a swim meet during the day that played me out big time.  (i rocked by the way, and met an elderly swimmer who was having her first-ever meet… super cute)… THEN THAT NIGHT I SERVED AT RED ROBIN.  it was too too too funny.  i hadn’t served for a year.  next thing i know i’m being dressed in a uniform in david’s car and serving away.  it was neat to see how good i still was.  later on… party party, followed by crashing in edmonton.  somewhere in that mix, something went wrong.

Sunday: can’t move, shattering, jaw dropping pain.  It’s better today thanks to some snappage in the back and neck.

i guess i’m not as young as i used to be.

I ♥ Teachers; I ♥ Wendy Mesley; I ♥ Baklava

Friday, February 17th, 2006

So this was the first teachers’ convention that, as our session guide indicates, I had both “a professional obligation” and “legal obligation” to attend.  When I told my students that I was going to be swapping places with them and becoming a student in order to become a better teacher, they told me that I couldn’t get any better.  That made me smile.

It was trippy because they checked our “teacher status” at each session.  It was as if people would crash a teachers’ convention.   “Hey Bob, did you hear the teachers are having a convention?  We should see if we can get in?  I’d love to get in on that action!!”  Too funny.

There were, however, some highlights:
-Wendy Mesley was amazing.  I was kind of star struck.  She said “sh**” and as*h***” which made me giggle.  She was very candid and real.  I really appreciated her views and sense of humour
-I saw quite a few people that I knew which was fun… people I’ve taught with and people I’ve crossed paths with in the “real world”.  It was fun to be downtown and out of my LBE bubble.
-annnnnnnd the real highlight.  Thursday night there was a “social” avec “free brewski” at Cowboys.  I’m glad I was ‘in the know’ because it ended up being really really fun.  We danced.  We laughed.  We listened as they announced the name and place of work of the first teacher to… well… hit the floor.  Teachers are crazy fun people.  Imagine if students were there to see all the madness.  My Science 10 Teacher was there, and it was even crazy for me.  My favourite part was going up to people and saying, “so, what do you do?” and watching them roll their eyes.  Man oh man oh man it was a crazy night.  Teachers need to hang out as a group more often.

Tsong Kha-pa literally means ”the man from the land of onions,”

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

It wasn’t long ago I put a quote up on my Grade 5 Blackboard.  I wrote “Kindness is the highest form of wisdom.”

Providing an appropriate wait-time is all the rage in education these days.  So I read the quote… and followed my reading with a nice long pause.  Then I opened the floor by saying “What do you think of that?  Do you agree?”  Then I paused again while the wheels churned.

I wasn’t too shocked when I heard fairly uniform disagreement.  Some thought that clever prediction of the stock market was the highest form of wisdom.  That was interesting.  Some thought of scientific or mathematical giftings.  Some thought of CEO’s and media giants.  It wasn’t that my bunch didn’t think kindness was important… they just didn’t equate it with wisdom.

Tonight I had dinner with one of the kindest, most gentle couples I have ever met.  I hope my students have the opportunity for such an encounter…. because for me there was a clear line between the kindness they poured out and the wisdom they have gained in their incredible life journeys.

We were treated to incredible Tibetan food (I’m talking multi-dish courses complete with teas, and ice-cream), but more importantly we were treated to incredible accounts of what has happened in our hosts’ lives, and in the lives of other Tibetans.  I wouldn’t do justice to the stories or perspectives trying to paraphrase them, but it was an enlightenling experience.

I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be witness to such warmth and gentleness.  I really hope that someday I’m able to be that type of person.  I continue to look up to people who calm and brighten the people and environment around them.  The best teachers I know seem to have this natural sense of kindness that indistinguishable from a natural sense wisdom. 

How do you teach, or for that matter learn, “empathetic reflexes”? 

life in the fastlane…

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Every swim practice starts out the same.  I walk to the deep end.  I drop off my goggles and water bottle strategically in Lane 3… and wait for practice to start.  [backgrounder: Lane 1- new swimmers; Lane 2- new swimmers showing promise; Lane 3- more competitive swimmers; Lane 4- those who swim at the speed of light].  Practice starts… I jump in my staked-out lane and begin.

Then it happens.

Sometimes it’s a flipper stuck in the water, tonight it was a flutterboard.  I stop.  “Travis, you’re in lane 4 tonight.”  The tone implies ‘Trochu Kipper lip is not going to work here… get going‘.  I settle with an eyes-to-the-top-of-my-head death glare… and it begins.

I swim knowing that everytime I breathe four more people are going to be tapping my feet impatiently.  I breathe as little as possible.  Is that healthy?  Wouldn’t one assume that the body needs oxygen at some point in the swimming process?  I do turns on the wall knowing that if I’m even a centimetre further from the wall than I should be, I won’t get the push-off that I need to keep up with this Deerfoot Trail-style traffic of swimmers.  I kick my feet like I’ve never kicked before, praying to the gods of swimming to save me from drowning.

Ah, and then the workout barely begins and I already begin to wonder if my arms will truly continue to make their way out of the water.  Thankful that they do in-fact raise out of the water, I get interupted again by coachy dearest.  “Don’t forget to drop your shoulder.  Don’t forget to keep your head down.  Don’t forget to roll with each stroke.”


In my next life, I’m going to be a lawn bowler.