Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Okay, here goes my third or fourth post. At this rate I might do 10 before I'm fifty.

This has at least been a really busy couple of months. Now we are at the end of June and I don't know where the year went. I had student teachers in April and I think May, then it has been all fast from there.

A friend's wife passed away, and I wasn't even aware of it until the time came to try to call him up for something. I knew he called, but the phone message was so unclear that I had no idea what he was saying. Lesson learned, get closer to your friends and keep in touch. I felt awful knowing he called me when it happened and I didn't get back to him to even ask what the message he left was.

Next, Mom was sick. No big deal, but even when you are on the far south end of the baby boom, you know that your parents can't last forever. I understood and felt the point when my Grandfather died. The mantle was passed, and in it's own way, it felt right. I can't see myself feeling that again when my parents pass. It will be tough. They are supposed to always be there, First to raise you and then for good counsel. And, I need a will. Bloody hell - a will. I won't live forever either. Except perhaps in the memories of my students ( hopefully remembered fondly).

I also have learned to hate it when the pieces of tech you rely so much on break down. I never thought that I would be so connected. You wouldn't know it from the frequency of these posts.

What is witchcraft? Black magic? Dark arts? Is it bad to attend the Charismatic Renovation Conference and believe in healing by laying on of hands, and in the same week put crystals out in the light of the full moon because there might be chance of there being something to the "power of the universe"? Is it possible to actually believe fervently in the appearance of the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe while at the same time hearing a priest say this is not something to pay attention to?

I have hit up a couple of thrift stores lately. Very little for me. A tiny blue glass and filigree stainless steel salt and pepper set from the 20's, with a bunch of junk in a bag for $2.00. Probably a $40 set in an antique store. Nice to put in the china cabinet. A set of 4 crystal tumblers to use daily. Hey, for $1.00 each, they will beat the glasses that Ikea candles come in, at least for daily use. The last crystal glasses for the kitchen got chipped and now live on the buffet with votives in them.

The last great find I had was a pair of "Hudson's Bay" pebble calf oxblood brogues. Good solid double soled shoes in the most fabulous shade of cherry brown. $3.00. Unworn, just old and stiff and really dusty. A little leather cream and a good polish and they are an awesome match for anything from dark jeans to khakis to grey flannels. I am pretty sure they are actually a second level pair of Florsheim Imperials. Made in England stamped inside, right time period when Florsheim made lines for retailers, exact cut of imperials except seamed where the vamp meets the sides, and the leather is little thinner than imperials. Florsheim details in the cut of the heel and wings. There was a plant or two that did good pebble leather in the midlands up until the 70's. Nowadays, I think the only real quality manufacturer of pebble leather in quantity is Horween in Chicago. They do all the leather for the NBA, NFL balls and good golf shoes.

The weather has been great. I tossed out the seeds and guts from a pumpkin that was in the house since October. It made good soup. I threw the seeds and guts (what else do you call the stringy, slippery stuff inside a squash) out on the compost pile. Magically, now there are a whole lot of baby pumpkin plants sprouting and growing like wild. Since this was sincerely done, maybe the great pumpkin will rise out that pumpkin patch. Yes, I almost believe in the great pumpkin as well.

Whatever, it is year end now and report cards need to go out. Why is it that every year the school system and "administrators" come up with some kind of  new and improved version of what the end of the year report card comment needs to have or not have. We can't even say "Have a good summer." any more. Now, it has to be scaled and staged and differentiated and give goals to work on. Your son, daughter, charming offspring passed/almost passed/ slipped through/ failed this grade. Have a good summer. Isn't that good enough? We never did get to write out, "Thank you, you were one of the kids that made my year really worth it and I wish that I could have had a dozen who were great people like you." "Have good summer." did seem kind of fake, like it could have hidden a "good riddance" in it.

And "Good Bye"/ "Good Luck" to the other teachers who are moving on to whatever else in their lives. Sometimes you will miss that colleague, sometimes you won't, and sometimes you wonder who the hell will be in the room next door. It doesn't matter in the end, just like it is for the kids in our classes, you do well with some one year, make friends with some, and sort of put up with others.

Speaking of that, another former colleague of mine has invited me to his place for "Garage Day". This a mad Porsche fest, Usually his back alley looks like a museum of  Stuttgart's best. I asked if he needed help setting up. Somehow I feel like a jerk not to have kept more contact with him this year either.

June 22, 2015

Monday, 22 February 2016

Today, I want to express how hard it is to find time to do all of the things I need to do. First of all, I need to talk about the fact that as teachers, we do have lives and families and need to be with them. Sometimes, we are lucky and they understand the rhythm of the life of a teacher. Sometimes they don't.

I have had to explain to people that we don't work a straight 9 to 5 job. Instead, it is more like 7 to 4, and then a break before putting in another hour or more after supper. Yes, we get the summers "off", but that doesn't alter the facts of our time demands. Right now, I am getting report card comments and marks ready. For teacher's, this is more pressure than a company month end report. End of year report cards can be as tough as corporate year end, tax time, and a root canal all at the same point. Never mind if the teacher has said root canal in late June...

Besides all of what I do as a classroom teacher, I can't stay static. I need professional development. Real professional development, not the time I often spend keeping a plastic chair warm in our school library while somebody drones on about something that may not really even be that important to them. I want to have the time to follow blogs, keep abreast of issues in the world, learn from others, have video conferences, and develop as a teacher. Where is the time in the day for that? I just found out what the acronym for Science and Technology and Math is - STEM. And I am supposed to be teaching in a Science and Technology school.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I had less paperwork and more time to do it in. Maybe I need to work smarter. I just feel that the day/week/year is not enough for me to be me anymore.

That said, I did score 2 pairs of brand new driving mocs for $23. Yes, that's a deal. I had to travel out of my usual shopping habits to do it. I hope these will fill the bill for new casual shoes to wear with khakis and jeans.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Sick today; we went up to Edmonton on Saturday. I managed to hit the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store off of 106th. Not there for me, I was looking for stuff with a friend. They did have a kind of neat, 1920's waterfall style cabinet. It had 3 drawers and once had two side doors with shelves inside. The condition was about a 6/10. Missing side doors, ink from a fountain type pen had spilled inside the top and stained the felt in the dividers. It had all the original brass and bakelite handles. Overall, if I lived in Edmonton and wanted a conversation piece for a room, I might have spent the $100 they were asking.

Anyway, I am getting the feelings that start to come when report card marks are going to be due. I don't know about my philosophy on grades or no grades, but I do know that spending nearly a month perfecting and polishing up a document that 95% of kids will take home and most parents look for numbers on - and only doing this twice a year - really doesn't do what we do in the classroom justice. If the mentioned 95% take this home, why do I see about 12% of parents at best, and then only when interviews are held. And, there is no interview at year end. That would be a pointless exit interview anyway.

Maybe a weekly email sendout with "Here are the outcomes we have in play this week, your son / daughter has shown full understanding of x, y and only a partial grasp of z." " By the way, could you please stop giving them money to bring energy drinks to school." This might be more valid and engaging for all.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

This is the first Blog post I'm putting here.

To introduce myself, I am a junior high school teacher living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am starting this blog to chronicle the life and times of a teacher, to be a place to store stories and tales from the blackboard jungle, and to share my triumphs and more than occasional failures.

I am passionate about a few things in life. One is my interest in menswear in general and most specifically the "Trad" genre if such a thing actually exists. I've been diagnosed with OCBD. I am an iveterate scrounger and love to mine for fins in thrift and second hand stores. Truth be known, I'm pretty sure that the old saying "They don't make them like that any more" is pretty true. The thrill is in the hunt and in the satisfaction of grabbing something rare and in great condition. Of course, it has to be useful. Living in an apartment leaves no room room for extraneous junk. Therein lies one of my challenges, my eyes could easily be bigger than my closet space.

Kindness matters, so do manners. I may rant here from time to time about the degenerating lack of civility I find in our society. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself - not do unto others before they do unto you. Sometime this requires patience, especially with teens who mimic the examples they see and tend to shoot first and aim later.

I like to travel and to try to include visits to farmers, wineries, and little out of the way eating spots along the way. Perhaps I'll share some of the photos I take in my travels.

People who know me know that I am most happy when I am around dogs. All animals are like little kids to me, but dogs are my favorite. My wife goes gaga over babies and little kids. For me, I get the same feeling from being around anyone with 4 legs, poodle or pitbull.

The intention of this blog is also to throw out teaching ideas I come across which either I use and can comment on, or which I have heard about and haven't yet tried. Today's student needs a wide variety of teaching techniques and modalities. You have to change it up and try different things to get the buy in, gone are the days of textbooks and group projects and notes off the overhead. I've been around long enough to have made copies on a Gestetner, but I am more than open to the latest ideas too.

Anyway, if you care to you can follow me on this blog. I have it connected to my page as well. I can be found on Twitter @MrWiersma