Archive for October, 2014

Lockdown

Posted: October 27, 2014 in Education

9-11-09 School Lockdown WEB 2009

My school has recently been reminding students of our fire drill and lockdown procedures.

I have introduced the documentary Bowling for Columbine into my grade 10 course this year. If you are unfamiliar with the film, Michael Moore (director, writer, narrator) aims to get to the bottom of why gun violence in the U.S is far more apparent in comparison to other nations with similar violent histories. Part of his documentary looks at the Columbine shooting, which took place in Colorado in 1999.

I often reference this now out-of-date massacre (since grade 9’s are now born in 2000) to make students understand that intruders into a school can happen anywhere…even Canada. My school, as it happens, is out in the middle of nowhere – so we joke that if an intruder wanted to attack, we’d have plenty of time to hide because we’d see them coming from a mile away. Nevertheless, we take our drills seriously.

For lockdowns (intruder in the school), we are to hide away from the eye line of the window attached to the classroom door, shut off the lights, lock the door, and remain quiet. It all seems very obvious. If students are in the halls during this time, they are to head into the nearest classroom and if students are in the bathroom, they are to lock themselves in a stall and crouch on top of the toilet seat. Students are to stay where they are until it is announced over the P.A system that classes can be resumed.

Students typically treat these drills with a high level of seriousness and respect, which is good. The scary thought is that you simply never know when something may happen and it is obviously best to be prepared.

I have been prepping my unit on Bowling for Columbine and in doing so I have been watching the school surveillance tapes of Columbine during the shooting – they are horrific to watch. Students ask: “The classroom doors are not bulletproof, couldn’t they easily get in if they wanted to?”
Sure – the intruder can look into a dark classroom and will see backpacks strewn across the floor – they aren’t dumb, they won’t just assume the whole school is on a field trip, but the best tactic for survival is time. When we lock the doors (which are reinforced and difficult to get through) we buy ourselves time for police to arrive and that is the best thing we can do.

Re-Release of “Nostalgia”

Posted: October 22, 2014 in Literature

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I have re-released a copy of my short novel, Nostalgia.

It is available on Amazon for only $9.99CLICK HERE

The Fall of Icarus

Posted: October 15, 2014 in Literature

New Cover

In 2015, I will be releasing a collection of short stories.
I have always been intrigued by the myth of Icarus – the boy who flew too close to the sun with wings of feathers and wax.

Are we all destined to fall?
We have been given a life and we are in way over our heads.

When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire,
To loftier aims, and make him ramble higher,
Grown wild and wanton, more embolden’d flies
Far from his guide, and soars among the skies.
The soft’ning wax, that felt a nearer sun,
Dissolv’d apace, and soon began to run.
The youth in vain his melting pinions shakes,
His feathers gone, no longer air he takes:
Oh! Father, Father, as he strove to cry,
Down to the sea he tumbled from on high,
And found his fate; yet still subsists by fame,
Among those waters that retain his name.

– The story of Icarus (Ovid’s Metamorphoses)

The “Interview”

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Education

meeting

Parent-Teacher interviews can make for a long evening.
My school refers to them as “Learning Dialogues” and I’ll admit, I’ve adopted the carefully-constructed phrase.
I even find myself using it with my friends.
*recent conversation*
Friend: Hey, I dropped by last night. No one was home.
Me: Yea, I had learning dialogues until like 9:30p.
Friend: You had what?
I am then forced to use the age-old term.
I also like “Education Exchange” and “Informative Interaction.” – really, anything with alliteration is fine.

The learning dialogues at my school runs over the course of two nights per semester (we have two). The first night runs from 4-9p with a break for dinner, of course. The second night only runs from 4-6:30p. Again, it can make for a long evening.

However, these nights are important. They are important for a few different reasons: 1. You get the parents/guardians that simply want to meet the person in charge of their child’s education (I can totally understand why – I’d be curious too), 2. You get the parents/guardians that want to know why their child is not doing well, and 3. There are in-class issues, which simply need to be discussed because it hinders their child’s learning (#2 and 3 often go hand-in-hand).

There are other reasons, of course, but these are the three I meet the most.

I will get back to these reasons in a moment.

Our learning dialogues are hosted in our school’s gymnasium. Not a single learning dialogues goes by where I am not mocked mercilessly (by my colleagues) for my visual display including my course outlines; short stories packets; and any films, novels, and plays on my course. These are displayed carefully to the side, while I have my list of visiting parents and their child’s grades set in front of me. Out of the 50 individual dialogues, about 90% of the parents will pick up/and or reference the material they see before them. Parents can be visual learners too!…I’d make Howard Gardner happy.

Back to the reasons. The dialogues can be tough. I have 8-minutes to try and explain what my course is about, how their child is doing, and (if the child is not doing well) develop a plan of success for their child. Most parents are not surprised by the results shown so early on in the course (our dialogues are held a month into the semester). But when the parents are surprised, it can be a tough conversation. Many parents want to simply give some extra insight into how successful their child has been in the past and what strategies have worked for them – that information is welcomed with open arms. For my English literature courses, time, effort, and practice are key. I have to try and explain to parents that it’s early in the semester and that there is plenty of time for their child’s grades to improve.

It is an important night and it’s important for parents/guardians to try and attend – though only a limited amount of time slots are given. Subjects like math, science, and English fill up quickly – as they are often viewed as the “core subjects.” The difficult dialogues can be parents with specific inquiries like: How can my child finish the course with an 85% or higher? My immediate response is that the how is up to their child, but I will provide them with the material and assistance they need. If I can reference The Matrix – “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

I try not to use that precious time to talk too much about my course and certainly time isn’t spent on the behaviour of the student…unless, of course, there is a direct correlation between their behaviour and their learning. Difficult dialogues can be with students who are achieving really high grades too! I remember joking with a parent…
Me: Well, your son is doing very well. He’s currently sitting at a 92%, but I suppose we could talk about why it’s not a 93%…(I chuckled)
Parent: *turns to their son, expressionless* Yea…why is that?
*awkward silence*
I try not to joke too much with parents…

At the end of the dialogues, parents just want to know their child is well taken care of and that the teacher has taken the time to get to know their child. I think we can all understand that.