Friday, August 31, 2012

Inspiration.

As you all may, or may not, be aware, it's that time of year again: back to school.  I gather that if you're a person in the rest of the world, without any school-aged children, you might not know that the school year is approaching.  However, does anyone really forget the renewal that comes with a new September?

I have to say that I'm looking forward to the new school year.  After a summer of travel and loads of fun, I'm feeling ready to go back into the classroom.  On top of my optimism for a great new school year, the past couple of days have brought me some extra inspiration.

First of all, a colleague/friend lent me a book called "What Teachers Make" by the poet/teacher Taylor Mali.  I purposely saved it to read at the end of the summer to give me some inspiration before a new school year.  Mali is best know for the poem below:



I really enjoyed the book.  Currently, Ontario's teachers are in the process of negotiating a new contract with the government, and with that comes anti-teacher comments following newpaper articles online.  I've learned to stop reading comments following any newspaper story about teachers, however I made the mistake lately of skimming some, and I read a comment that described teachers as "under-worked, over-paid, and over-benefitted".  GROSS.  Luckily for me, Mali's book is a wonderful antidote to this attitude.  It was a great reminder of how wonderful and important my job, and provided me with great inspiration before the new year.

Also, I have to comment that we are lucky in Canada: our teachers are fairly compensated.  Often people complain teachers make too much money.  One of the hallmarks of a good education system is that teachers are well-compensated and respected (eg Finland - the best in the world).  If teachers aren't, you won't attract the best people to the profession, and students will suffer.  You want great teachers?  Pay them accordingly.  Don't think it's a hard job?  Come shadow me.  I'll put you in front of my *best* class, and see how you fare, then ask you to teach one of my more challenging classes. Good luck.

Anyway, I think reasonable people will agree with me there.

I've spent the past two days at school working with 40 student leaders to organize and run an orientation day for our incoming grade nines.  (This is just one of the many activities that I donate my own time to organize because I see the inherent value in it to students.)  This has been another source of inspiration for me.  It was an exhausting task organizing the day, but we got it done, and today the leaders did a fabulous job of running the day.  Cue to me standing around, doing nothing for most of it.  In education, you know things are going well when the teacher has nothing to do.  After the grade nines left, I gave my best "you guys are amazing" speech to the leaders, and it felt good that the school year hasn't even started, but I've already had an opportunity to make students feel great about themselves.

One of my favourite moments was when a spunky grade nine tried to grab a basketball out of one of the leader's hands, and the leader said patiently "just hold on, you'll get to play basketball outside, okay?" and it really put the niner in his place (but very kindly).  Afterwards, I told the leader that I thought the way he handled the situation was awesome, and you could see him just shine when I gave him praise.  I'm so lucky to have this job.

Finally, I'm inspired to create a "Science Wall of Fun" in my classroom this year.  I've been an itinerant teacher for years: jumping from this classroom to that one.  This means that I'm never in one place long enough to decorate it, but this will change this year: I'm in one place for all of my classes.

The idea for the Science Wall of Fun, came from this quote that I came across on Facebook the other day.  It made me really excited to share the amazing-ness of science with my students!



I've come across many nerdy science jokes on Facebook, and I spent about a hour last night printing out my favourites at home (so they'd be in colour).  I can't wait to post them.  I think this one is in the lead for my favourite!

So those are the three things that have left me inspired for a new school year.  Tomorrow, I'm taking the train to Stratford, and my pal Vern is going to be kind enough to drive Ms. Rilo and I back to Toronto.  I'm looking forward to having my buddy back!

Hope you all have great long weekends!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The tricky part is to come back home.

The above line is from the song "Sure Can Start" by Two Hours Traffic.  It always goes through my head when I return from a trip, especially one that precedes getting back into the swing of things at work (I go in tomorrow for some planning).  Anyway, TO's been OK so far.  I've been trying to get back to Ontario time, visited my buddy down the street, and got my hair cut.  However, there have been a couple moments that have left me feeling yucky.  I guess that's just post-trip hangover.

Anyway, as a change of pace, I'm going to post pictures (!) instead of merely writing.  Here are some pictures from the last part of my post.  I'll go back in time and post some earlier photos another time.

Rawbean told me that I had to find this market on the Island that had goats on the roof.  Luckily, it was on route to Tofino.  We were driving and I asked Alison "what's the name of the market with the goats on the roof?" Before she could answer, the sign did the job.  (I love that it's called what it is.)


And this is why we came!  Actually, the market is pretty neat too.  I got pressies for my parents there!


After the market, we stopped at Cathedral Grove, which is a nice little trail where you can see some of the biggest/oldest trees in Canada.


We spent the night in Ucluelet, which is described by my guidebook as "Tofino's ugly stepsister".  I completely disagree.  It had a couple nice small beaches, and we had drinks on a boat.  The next day, we walked around part of the Wild Pacific Trail that brought us to a lighthouse.  Here's a picture of the view:


Alison walking the trail:


The lighthouse:


After that, we drove to Long Beach which is in between Ucluelet and Tofino.  It's a very long beach.  :)  It was pretty windy that day, so I had to walk down the beach in a hoodie.


 It was a good day for para-surfing... I think that's what this is called.


My feet in the Pacific.  (Note the nice pedicure I got in Vancouver... and my annual summer Birkenstock foot tan.)


After Long Beach, we drove into Tofino to see the town.  It was your average beach town.  We stayed long enough to visit an art gallery, take a picture of the sign, and have a quick dinner.


The next day, I drove to Victoria, and met up with Jabba for dinner.  On Saturday, I spent a full day in Victoria with Jabba.  Yay!  We did high tea (with mimosas!) at the Empress.



Here's a picture of the BC legislature during the day...


... and at night.  I love how it's lit up!


Well, that's a brief wrap-up of my trip with photos. 

ps If you are a Stars fan, you can stream the new album here!  I love it!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I came here to bring the noise to the island girls and the harbour boys.

I have to say that I am enjoying island life a lot.

Since I've been here, I've been having a great time.  I stayed out late on my first night catching up with my friend Alison.  Yesterday, she took me to a really nice waterfall where you can walk out through shallow water over a rocky surface and actually go sit near the falls.

I decided not to bring my camera, as I was worried about slipping and falling (I'm clumsy).  However, I made it all the way to the falls no problem, and almost all of the way back.  Alison said "watch out for the hole!" and I said "I see it!"  However, the misfortune was that we were talking about different holes, and in I went.  I stubbed all of the toes of my left foot on the rocky surface.  Ouch!  See, good thing I did not bring my camera!

After that, we ended up driving to a beach with a funny name - Goose Spit Beach.  It was really nice.  Here's picture of my rental car on the beach.  Can I tell you that I am in NO WAY a car person, but I love this little guy?  It's so fun to drive!  Tight parking spots are no problem!  If a jerk parks behind you and kind of blocks you in, no worries, you can three-point turn yourself outta there!  (This happened at the waterfall.)  Driving with the top down is SO MUCH FUN.  Alison and I joke about missing the car when we spend time away from the car.


After the beach, we had a nice dinner at a pub by the Marina in Comox to close out a nice day.

This morning I went for a run along the River Walk in Courtenay.  Alison, who is not a runner, was game enough to join me.  We did a good 5K run/walk, and came to the kayak rental place near the end of our route.  We were already kind of sweaty.  Why not hop into a kayak?  We rented two singles, and off on the water we went for almost two hours.

I'd never kayaked before, so I was apprehensive, but I had tonnes of fun!  The best was that we saw lots of seals in one section of the river.  At one point we saw five at once, including a cute little pup.  It was awesome!  Definitely a trip highlight for me!  Unfortch, I decided it was best not to bring my camera (see above clumsiness), but Alison did get pictures of me in a kayak, and hopefully some seal heads.

After a snack, and a shower, we met up again to go on a road trip.  (The Mini will get you anywhere on a thimbleful of gas, I swear.)  After some debate, we decided to take the Oceanside highway to Campbell River, which is north of Courtenay.  The southbound part of that highway is supposed to be prettier, but we'll be heading that way tomorrow, so north we went.

The way up was pretty.  We passed farmland, wineries, and ocean resorts.  A few kilometres outside of Campbell River is a little park with all kinds of wood carvings.  They always change because they get purchased or moved around town.  Here I am with my favourite! 


After that, we went on a mad hunt for a fish and chip place that my Van Island travel book recommended.  The GPS did a horrible job of finding it, but after some back and forth driving, I figured out where it was.  When I finally spotted it, I yelled "Dick's!  There's Dick's!  We found Dick's!"  (Obviously the place was called Dick's Fish and Chips.) I didn't mean to sound inappropriate but it was pretty hilarious, and I shocked and appalled Alison just a little bit.  We made jokes about it all evening.

After some very delicious fried food (good thing we got all of that exercise in the morning), we took a walk along the harbourfront.  We even saw some giant cruise ships.  We ended the even with giant ice cream from a store on the pier.  It was excellent.  Campbell River was a fun place!

Tomorrow, we're taking the Mini for a roadtrip to Tofino!  There are a lot of fun places to stop along the way and it will be great.  I hope the weather will be nice so we can cruise with the top down.  Seriously, I've never loved a car so much.  Even though it's so small my suitcase will not fit in the trunk.  Whatevs.  What it lacks in trunk space it makes up for in awesomeness.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vancouver!

Here I sit in my homey B&B in Courtenay, BC after spending a lovely evening catching up with my dear friend Alison, who was one of my besties/roommates from university.  After a ferry debacle (more on that another time), my rental Mini Cooper convertible (free upgrade!) and I made it to Vancouver Island.

However, I should catch you up on my adventures in Vancouver, in point form only since it's really late at night, but the time to write might escape me later, so I'll do it now.  I'll post pictures later Jabba, I swear!!!  (I know, I'm the worst with pictures, but I always want to write things down before I forget.)

Itemized List of Vancouver Fun!

1) Taking a train DIRECTLY from the airport to downtown is one of my favourite things ever.  Take note Toronto.  You should have one of those.

2) My first meal was at Japadog. Take note Toronto.  You should have one of those.

3) I rented a bike and biked along the seawall in Stanley Park and across some awesome downtown bike lanes.  Take note Toronto.  You should have more of these.

4) I braved the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  Last time I was in Vancouver, Becca T refused to do it, so I figured I'd do it.  It was slightly terrifying, and heights usually don't make me very nervous. 

5) I ate sushi.

6) I met up with Rawbean for drinks - I had Watermelon Beer.  It was almost as great as the company.

7) I slept in and got a pedicure.

8) I met up with my pal Wes (who visited me earlier in the summer) and his girlfriend for sushi, the beach, and the Richmond Night Market.

9) I DID THE GROUSE GRIND.  Last time I was in Vancouver, Becca T and I *both* refused to do it.  However, I've come to enjoy fitness challenges (OK mainly running) in the past five years and I really wanted to do it to say I'd done it.  I DID IT!  2.9 km of wicked outdoor stair climbing to an ascent of 900 m.  Both Rawbean and Wes joined me!  Blogger mountain summit, anyone? Anyway, it was HARD, but the endorphin rush at the end, and the sense of accomplishment, was well worth the pain and exhaustion.  Also, the people I met along the way were super fun!

10) Rawbean and I celebrated the GG by going shopping downtown.  Unbeknownst to us, the Zombie Parade was happening at the same time.  It was super long!  We kept going in and out of stores and there were still more and more zombies.  It was awesome.  There was everything from Zombie Thriller Michael Jackson, to Miss Zombie Universe, to the zombies who reminded the rest of the zombies to obey traffic signals.

11) I finished my Vancouver adventure by joining Wes and friends for a local show at a venue that used to be a sushi restaurant.  It was fun, although I was so tired from the GG.  I also got to meet more fun people (shout out to Crystal, who might be a new reader!).

Looking back on my few days in Vancouver, I had such a great time.  I think Vancouver won me over more this trip than it did the first time I traveled there, and that's not just the remnants of the GG endorphins talking.  I'm not sure what the difference was, because I liked it in 2007 and had lots of fun, but it shone more this trip.  Maybe it was leftover Olympic sparkle, who knows?  Anyway, I had a really great time, and now I'm looking forward to a laid back quiet week on the island.  Yay summer.  Please don't end!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Awesome.

Rawbean and I met for drinks and dinner in Gastown tonight. 

It was the stuff of legend.

p.s. Claire, she's in on the PEI plan.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We won't leave it all in our heads.

I got home this evening from a super fun few days in Kingston.  I got to visit a friend, make new friends, explore a cute little city, and go to a music festival on a cute little cottage-y island.  Fun!

I arrived on Wednesday, and went out for Vietnamese food for dinner, followed by a refreshing swim in the lake.  On Thursday, I got a thorough tour of Kingston by foot, and spent a nice evening at a pub.  We had plans to go paddle-boarding on Friday, but since the forecast called for rain, the paddle-board rental place was closed, so we drowned our sorrows with one of those margaritas with a Corona stuck in it.  Instead of paddle-boarding, we shopped around downtown Kingston, which proved to be profitable because I found a really cute pair of silver leaf earrings.

We ordered pizza for dinner, which was hilarious because it took us an embarrassingly long time to navigate the pizza place's new online ordering system.  I don't even think we'd had drinks by that time!  After we got our hard-earned pizza, we went out in the pouring rain to catch the ferry to Wolfe Island.

My pal Melly, who had been watching the weekend's weather forecast with the eyes of a hawk, had messaged me to bring a raincoat since the POP for Friday was 90%.  Of course, being the city girl that I am, I didn't own a proper summer raincoat.  I find all you really need is an umbrella in the city since public transit can get you most places, and on rainy days I just stay inside.  Thankfully, I was able to pick up a last minute rain jacket at the Eaton Centre before I caught the bus to Kingston.  I needed it for that ferry ride, I tell you.  And, I think it'll probably come in handy for my trip to BC, so it was a great last minute purchase.

As soon as we got off the ferry, the rain let up somewhat.  Wolfe Island is a very cute cottage community with little churches, restaurants, and an annual music festival.  We made it to the baseball field where some bands were playing.  They were supposed to be playing in front of the town hall, but that was moved because of the rain.  Anyway, we got some beer, and had fun seeing Mike O'Neill and the Pinecones, before Elliott Brood hit the stage for a really fun set.  The rain had completely stopped by the time we settled in for the bands.

We headed over to the General Wolfe hotel to hear a bit of Yukon Blonde.  We couldn't see them since the place was so packed.  After awhile we thought that we should get the next ferry, but didn't consult the schedule, and found out we had to wait until the 1:20 am ferry.  We walked around town for a bit, and heard someone singing "Rockin' in the Free World" from somewhere, and figured that we should crash that party.  It turned out to be Hollerado playing in a sweltering church hall, and we stayed there for awhile, obtained 2-for-1 beer, and fist pumps.  We had a super fun end to the evening dancing to Hollerado before we caught the last ferry to Kingston.

The format of the WIMF changes on the Saturday to just one stage. We got there in time to see a fun band named Nightbox, then went for lunch at the Island Grill, where we ordered too much food, and then spend the rest of the day lounging and listening to bands.  Zeus put on a great set, but the highlight of the evening was Rich Aucoin.  I have never seen such a fun and interactive performer.  I knew none of his songs, but he turns his show into a multimedia interactive experience, so I was singing and dancing along.  It was incredible.  I've turned into a convert and will be there next time he plays Toronto.  Oh, and he did it all with borrowed equipment!  Air Canada had lost his gear!

Here's a video for one his songs.  It's fun but does not translate how insanely fun he is live.  Go see him if you can!



Today was a lazy day with brunch, the Kingston antique market, and a bus-ride back to Toronto.  I'm glad to be home, but I won't be for long; three more sleeps and I fly to Vancouver!

Also, I totally would like to do WIMF again, but I'll be in Kenya for next year's WIMF.  My deposit cheque cleared, so I assume that means I'm officially going!  Yay!  Maybe my next WIMF will be in 2014!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Blow off the roof and let in the dark.

I think I just wrote the best email ever.  This is how it went.

How was your trip?

I didn't know that you were home already! I'm off to Kingston to drink bourbon and see rock bands on Wednesday but will be back next Monday and I'm going to visit P. in the evening so you should come too if you can get away from your responsibilities and such. Or, if not, let's have lunch next Tuesday because then on Wednesday I'm off to BC to climb a mountain and ride a bike and hang out with new friends and reconnect with long lost friends etc.


Let me know!


I guess I just thought it was the best because it made me realize:

a) I have a lot of fun left in this summer.  I'm very excited about my Kingston and BC adventures that are coming soon.

and,

b) One should always have a close friend or two who live within a twenty minute (by foot) radius of oneself.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

My Olympic Addiction. A Biennial Affliction.

One month of summer has come and gone.  I actually spent a lot of it in the sunshine, so my usual white pallor is gone, and my legs are covered with a second crop of mosquito bites (glamping isn't all glamour, y'all).

HOWEVER, now that the Olympics are here, I can already feel my healthy glow fading, as I am drawn to my TV, which is normally left in the off position for weeks at a time.  The call of the outdoors has gone silent.  Instead, the call of swimming matches, synchronized diving, rowing, and many sports that I don't even understand is much louder.  Goodbye tan.

Every time the Olympics  rolls around I think "oh I'm not going to watch much of that... I don't even understand most of those sports" and then a couple days later, BLAM!, I'm working an ass-groove into my couch (Homer Simpson reference... sorry for the crudeness).

I was in Stratford for the first part of this week and watched the Olympics with my parents, who also get addicted like me (it's a family disease).  I made plans to see You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at the Stratford Festival with my aunt, and felt a pang of regret as I headed out the door because it was taking me away from the Olympics.  However, the play was really fun (I wanna go dust off my old Peanuts comics) and I was able to catch up on what I missed during primetime.  Phew.

I have been enjoying some of the stories that have been playing out during these Olympics.  How about that badminton scandal?  I don't think I ever imagined that I would write the words "badminton" and "scandal" together in my life! (Hey - they put the "bad" back into badminton!  SORRY! THAT WAS AWFUL!)  First of all, I understand why the teams were throwing the matches, but when two teams are trying to throw a match at the same time, isn't the game just going to go on infinitely?  It would have been zero-zero FOREVER, no?

When I saw clips of those poorly played games, it brought back memories.  Mainly of myself playing badminton in grade nine gym class.  I thought I was horrible, but looking back, I guess I was playing Olympic-calibre badminton.  Heck, I was even better than the disqualified teams; I couldn't even get the birdie to hit the net!

(Sidenote: my record in high school badminton was flawless.  I thought I was pretty lucky to be paired with our grade's best badminton player as my partner.  He would field all of the shots, and I would stand back and cheer as we took down pair after pair of opponents.  Now that I'm a teaching, I've learned that grouping strategy wasn't luck, but is called heterogeneous pairing.  It explains why I was often paired with students who had the academic equivalence of my badminton skills in non-gym classes.  Also, I think I sucked at badminton because no one really taught me how to play.  We just had rackets thrown at us and were told to play badminton.  How is that education?)

Enough of the traumatic high school gym class memories and back to the Olympics.  Other than Shuttlegate (as CTV calls it), I've been into swimming.  First of all, I don't like hearing people being mean to teenagers, so I've been disheartened at the finger-pointing at Ye Shiwen, the Chinese swimming phenom.  Good for her for being faster than the guys.  It's innocent until proven guilty, and she passed all her tests, so I'll give her the benefit of any doubt.  Also, I came across the story of Australian swimmer Leisel Jones, who was being called "fat" by the Australian media yet still was able to pull off a fifth place finish in the race that I watched.  This is her fourth Olympics.  URGH.  As if women don't feel bad enough about our bodies, now Olympians are being called fat.  She should have challenged those buffoons to a swim-off.  (As should Ye Shiwen.)

Note how all of this stupid criticism is toward female athletes.  Hmmm.

I found myself on Team Phelps on the Lochte versus Phelps swimming battle.  I don't have any reason why, that's just how my heart felt.  I was on the edge of my seat watching the 200m individual medley final this afternoon.  Yay for Phelps.  (I know, like he doesn't have enough gold.)

As for Canada, I'm happy with our seven medals so far.  Who doesn't remember Beijing when it took us one week to win a medal?  There was some major national hand-wringing going on then.  Now we're just wringing our hands over who will win the first gold.  I've enjoyed the silvers that we got in both men's and women's 8-person rowing, and all of our bronzes in synchronized diving, judo, and weight-lifting were fun to watch too.  However, I was super proud of our women's gymnastics team who surprised by making the finals and then coming in fifth.  Well done to them.  It's not always about winning a medal.

CTV is promising me all kinds of fun events tomorrow, but my friend Heather is coming to visit me for the weekend, and I don't think she's coming to Toronto to sit on the couch and watch the Olympics.  So maybe my tan isn't going to completely disappear.

PS I'm also super happy that CBC won the rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.  No more "I Believe"!  For non-Canadians, that is a song that the CTV plays whenever we win a medal or something significant happens.  It's very annoying.  Nails on chalkboard stuff.

PPS If I ever talk about competitive swimming this much in a post again, I owe you guys a coke!  (Mr. Burns reference)