Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Anxiety and Stress

Posted: January 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

Exam Meme

Recently, my wife and I were chatting with some friends over sushi about the rise in student stress and mental health issues in general. “Do you notice,” a friend asked, “that kids seem to be stressed out these days? What do you make of that? Like, are you seeing that in your classes?”

I’ll begin by saying that stress and accompanying anxiety are real. Other mental health issues are also real. I believe I can safely say that teachers try to walk that line between “suck it up” and sensitivity. Example: A student says they can’t write my test because they are experiencing stress or anxiety. What do I do as a teacher? Do I tell them, “You’re right. Tests are stressful. Good luck!” or do I tell them, “I’m sorry that you are feeling that way. Write it when you are feeling better.” Life is filled with stressful situations, so at what point is the stress too overwhelming and when do students need to simply “deal with it”?

I mean, is the student in the above example trying to get out of my test or are they really struggling? My suggestion is to engage in a conversation about how they’re feeling. A simple, “Tell me what you are most anxious about when it comes to the test” can uncover a quick “I didn’t study” to more complex and deeper explanation as to what is really going on.

But why now? In other words, why are stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues such big issues all of a sudden? I’m not THAT much older than my students and I don’t remember this ever being discussed when I was their age. Does life suck all of a sudden? Can we blame this on technology too? (Actually, in our sushi conversation, this possibility was brought up by my wife – her point was that many students don’t know how to communicate well with each other in order to get help. Their emotional fix is through “likes”). Are students putting too much pressure on themselves or is there pressure put on them from other means?

I assume there is simply more research on the subjects, so the awareness is becoming more important. But then we are faced with over-diagnosis, unhealthy drug treatments, and pathologizing what would be considered “normal” behaviours.

I watched a video, which I immediately shared with my students, by Dr. Mike Evans (an associate professor of Family Medicine at the University of Toronto – he is currently helping with Health Innovation with Apple in California). In his short video, he highlighted the differences between positive and negative stress. Too much stress is obviously negative, but healthy stress can help you perform at your best (he references athletes), as well as develop your coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.

So, perhaps the key is *drum roll*…EDUCATION! Maybe we need to teach students HOW to cope with stress and different strategies that may be helpful. My school has recently hired (as of September 2017) a professional in the field of mental health who is on-campus every day and is available for students to seek help from if need be. Our school has also adopted a wellness week (timely, since exams are next week), which includes a variety of activities during lunch that are free for students to engage in. These activities range from sports to therapy dogs.

If you Google coping strategies for stress, there is a long line of suggestions (less caffeine, more sleep, breathing exercises, keep a diary, etc). However, it never seems to be that easy of a fix. As Dr. Evans suggests, we need to change the way we think about stress and understand that it’s normal, but that we cannot escape from it.



In the Public Eye (pt 2)

Posted: August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


Back in October of 2013, one of my first blog posts was about Toronto’s Mayor – the late Rob Ford. I commented about his personal life and how that affected his position as Mayor of one of the largest cities in the world. To sum up: It was my position that when you’re a public figure, what you do outside of your profession directly impacts your career.

I stand by this. Now, I am not, nor will I ever be, as public of a figure as Rob Ford was, I believe that my actions outside of the classroom directly affect my career, my workplace, and my students. In short, I am careful with the way I behave – it’s not like I’m all that crazy anyway.

As of this month (Aug/2016), Nadia Shoufani (a teacher in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board) was suspended with pay for speaking at an event in Toronto last month (Jul/2016). She spoke in support for Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a group classified as a terrorist organization by the Government of Canada (

I’ll admit, I am slightly torn.

My initial reaction: I was happy that Ms. Shoufani was suspended and, ideally, she should be fired too. She teaches young and impressionable minds (she teaches elementary school) and though she may not speak on this subject in-class, her actions outside of the classroom affect her students.

My reaction afterwards: I don’t know exactly what was said by Shoufani at the event, so it is possible that she was not advocating violence (as we often associate with terrorist groups…hence the name). Moreover, if they are a classified terrorist group, why is it that they were even allowed to host an event in the first place? It is possible that Shoufani was simply exercising her freedom of speech – as long as no public harm or threat of violence was issued. Right?

Therefore, I am torn. On the one hand, the Government of Canada must have a good reason for classifying such a group, but on the other hand, there is a bit of a slippery slope here. At what point can Ms. Shoufani speak her beliefs without the threat of suspension and/or termination from her profession? At what point is the private life of a teacher separate from their public life in front of his or her students?

I believe I have landed back on my initial reaction – I need to trust that my Government has classified correctly and justly and that Ms. Shoufani should then be careful with which groups she associates herself with. Moreover, if she’s willing to risk being a part of such a group, then she needs to be prepared for the consequences.

Two Quick Thoughts:
The above incident reminds me of Shawn Simoes – a young man fired from Hydro One back in May/2015 for yelling ‘FHRITP’ on camera at a Toronto FC game. Hydro One eventually fired Mr. Simoes for not adhering to company conduct. They hired him back in late 2015.
2. An idiot phoned into AM640 to comment on the Shoufani situation and said that civics (and politics, in general) should not be taught in schools because teachers always try to force their beliefs on their students. He went on to say that it is “hard to find two conservative kids graduating these days.”

New Cover

“The Fall of Icarus” – is a collection of short stories and is now available for purchase through CREATESPACE and soon to be available on AMAZON.

A boy’s brother and father go off to war; a man purchases items from a hardware store; some kids continuously ring a doorbell; and a young boy recounts his time in a small cottage with his uncle. These, amongst other stories, aim to tell accounts of youthfulness, innocence, naiveté, and even revenge.

Please visit the “Publications” page for the link. OR click here

A Little Taste 3

Posted: July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


This is from Misanthrope – a short story included in my collection set to be published this year (The Fall of Icarus).

My Biggest Fear

Posted: June 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Poets often talk about peering into the darkness or they’ll mention something deep about their souls – the dark and disturbed poets do, anyway. Cheerful poetry hardly sells.

All I know is that I could live alone, but I don’t want to. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to fall in love, grow old with someone, and share every secret I’ve ever had just so that I can tell that person: you know everything. But that wouldn’t be the end. We’d grow and we’d continue to share. It’s not enough to say we’d share one soul (there’s that reference), I want to say that we’d both place everything we are into each other’s hands without fear, anxiety, worry – we’d just do it and do so freely.

What scares me most is doing this, then growing old, and then dying to leave her here or her dying to leave me here simply because neither of us would know how to exist without the other. That’s not dependency (some would argue that’s the definition), it’s love. Then, we’d be told by friends and family to “remember the good times,” but I won’t want to – I’d want the real thing. I’d want to continue making memories that I’ll never have to relive just to remember her or for her to remember me. If she were to go first, I’d literally stand there peering into the darkness – into nothing – making no attempt to recapture my soul because it’d be useless – she’d be gone.

That is my biggest fear. It keeps me up at night and made me hesitate to meet her.

But I did.

A Little Taste 2

Posted: April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

For Walter

This is another snapshot of a short story entitled For Walter.
It will be included in the collection of short stories (The Fall of Icarus) set to be published this summer.

A Little Taste

Posted: February 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


This summer I plan to finish up my short stories and publish them in a collection entitled, The Fall of Icarus.

Pictured above is a very small snapshot of one of the stories entitled, Woods.