“Decide in your heart what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
Tats came home late the other day, just as I was beginning to panic about what horrible fate might have befallen her. She had a good story, though... here it is:
Having ridden my bike all over Toronto for the last ten years, I've had many critters run, fly and waddle across my path. Cats. Dogs. Squirrels. Raccoons. Ducks. Geese. As of yesterday, I can add another species to the list: a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig. Yes, pig.
I was riding my bike home on Royal York having dropped off one of our kids at his rock-climbing class, when a pig nonchalantly trotted across the road, stopping the few drivers and pedestrians who happened to be around in their tracks. People were laughing and taking pictures, but no one seemed to be calling OSPCA or Animal Control, which I found surprising. I would have done it, but my phone is currently sim-card free, so it cannot make calls.
I couldn't leave the poor piggie all alone now!
And so I followed her.
That proved a challenging task, for the pig had no respect for property boundaries and, despite being pot-bellied, was able to fit through considerably smaller openings that I, especially since I still had my bike with me. At one point I lost sight of her, but a passer-by, having inquired whether I was "looking for a pig", directed me back across Royal York, to the back yard of one of the triplexes whither the pig had apparently decided to wander.
I was joined in my quest by a woman carrying a slip-on leash (just happens to carry it in her car in case there is a pig on the loose, it turns out), a man and a teenaged boy. The woman tried to coral the pig in a corner by a chainlink fence, while I stood a bit back to cut off an escape route back onto Royal York and the man and the boy hung back, yelling to the woman "Stay away from the animal! It looks agitated! It's not your job to save it! It's dangerous."
The pig -- who was obviously someone's pet -- didn't look all too dangerous, but, since the lady with the leash had her hands in her pockets, must have assumed that there were treats to be had, and was indeed becoming increasingly agitated. She started nibbling the lady's coat and eventually jumped up on her, sending the poor woman flying right into the puddle, splashes and all! I helped the lady get up and retrieve her phone, while the man and the boy walked away, not willing to risk their life and limb in a face-off with a lethal monster that is a pot-bellied pet piggy. Classy move, dudes.
Luckily, the cell phone that had landed right by the edge of the puddle was undamaged, and some phone calls were being made. Apparently the lady had already called 911 a few minutes ago, in the heat of the moment, but they refused to send out a fire truck, lights a-flashing and siren a-blazing, to trap a pig on the loose. Call us back when it's a tiger was their message. Then she tried 311, 411, Animal Control... I wasn't paying much attention to the numbers she was dialling, since I kept following the roving pig, trying to guide her away from traffic and back into the back yard.
Some residents emerged from the triplex, rubbing their eyes and asking: "Is this what I think it is?" If you think it's a pig, then yes. It is. One of the residents brought out a head of lettuce and starting feeding the pig, which at least kept her in one place. Once the lettuce ran out though, the pig wanted more and was not shy about letting us know that, and the guy had to keep a fine balance between allowing the pig to throw him into the puddle and scaring her away completely.
A few more people came and left, offering their commentary ("I hope this pig's not heading to the No Frills across the way, not unless it's suicidal, hah hah!"), but no sign of Animal Services. I was getting cold and worn out and I knew Vera must have been getting concerned about my absence: she was expecting me to be home right about now since she had to leave for an engagement in town, and I was supposed to take on child-minding duty. But what could I do?! I had a pig to save!
Finally, a car pulled into the driveway. A man came out, walked up to the pig and, petting her hairy back, mumbled: "Hmmm, Olympia, so how are we going to get you home?"
Owner and pig appeared to be reunited. Except... he wasn't sure how to get her home!
The man rigged up a harness or so out of a length of rope, but the pig -- who had been all about roaming the neighbourhood half an hour ago -- was now perfectly content to stay where it was.
She refused to budge!
After a considerable amount of pushing, pulling and head-scratching, the owner decided that she would just have to go for a ride in the trunk.
Olympia the pig didn't think much of that plan and put up a good fight as the man tried to wrestle her in. Even after the trunk closed, she continued to struggle, which made for a scene right out of a cheap Hollywood thriller.
"Don't get stopped by the police!" I told the owner, and finally, after an hour of pig-herding, was on my way.
At home, I was greeted by a very concerned-looking girlfriend who announced that she was about to call start calling the police and the hospitals. "You better have a good excuse!" she exclaimed.
I pulled out my phone with the pictures and grinned at her: "Oh, do I ever..."
My girlfriend was perplexed to find -- when she returned from PEI this winter, and discovered that my choir concert which she had missed included several solos -- that I had not auditioned for a solo in that concert, nor that I would be doing so for my upcoming concert.
Since I met Tats at a time when I was focusing on things other than music, she's only ever seen me in a leadership capacity when it comes to public endeavors. From facilitating book talks on staff at school, to spearheading successfully funded research projects, to leading workshops for teachers around the province, I do tend to often find myself in singular roles.
My musical endeavors stand in stark contrast.
With few exceptions, the choirs I have sung with and the bands I have played in over the years have found me firmly rooted in the team. Although I worked hard to learn and perform the vibes solo from Spryo Gyra's Morning Dance for a Jazz Band in high school, and was often featured solo xylophonist, those experiences were overshadowed by the carefully counted 8-bar cymbal roll I crescendoed and decrescendoed from the back of the Orchestra during Pie Jesu, or the proud timpani parts I contributed during my high school concert band's rendition of Beethoven's Egmont Overture.
The small thrill I felt during the rare occasions I was persuaded to sing solo pales in comparison to the joy that swelled my heart while lending my alto voice to the chorus of my a-cappella quintet on One Fine Day in university, or blending into a large and magnificent choir during a performance of Orff's Carmina Burana at Hart House one summer.
Performing as part of a team has allowed me to reflect on leadership, too: As I consider the various conductors I've worked under, I am reminded of what's important in a leader -- vision, preparation & organization, a good ear, empathy, high standards... Being a team player makes me a better leader, and helps me to appreciate the teams I do lead.
So, when our choir began rehearsing Haydn's Paukenmesse in January, which we'll finally perform tomorrow afternoon, I was quite content to leave the many solos featured in that piece to others, and instead add my voice to the chorus of the alto section.
A good leader, in my opinion, appreciates the value of teamwork, and is not afraid to put her money where her mouth is.
Come see my teamwork and my choir sing for FREE on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Hart House! :)
My Incredible Body is a highly visual app aimed at sharing information about how the different body systems work, in child-friendly language. When my sons, now in Grade 5, came home earlier this year with an assignment on the respiratory and other systems, I was somewhat disappointed with how "thin" their knowledge seemed.
Since the Human Body is part of the Grade 5 Science curriculum, I decided to download the app. I was also interested to see if the reproductive system would be included in this app, since it is not explicitly included in the Science curriculum, and I feel it is a shame to exclude one of the systems when looking at the body holistically (more on that later).
I sat down with one of my sons to check out My Incredible Body, and was immediately impressed with the multiple entry points the app offers: Users select not only which body system to explore, but also whether to navigate it themselves, or watch a pre-selected video introduction to that system, or read short paragraphs on different parts of that system. As a teacher, and as a mother of two students with special learning needs (both my children are Gifted, and one has a Learning Disability), I was impressed with the differentiated approach the app offered. I especially liked the fact that paragraphs were read aloud in a clear voice as they appeared on the screen with the different systems.
The visual and auditory combination is something that I can see working well in a classroom, as a resource. This app could be used as a general reference for students throughout the unit, or different systems could be set up on different iPads around the room as "stations" that individual or small groups of students rotate through, collecting information. The app includes digestive, respiratory, skeletal, urinary, sensory, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.
While we were exploring My Incredible Body, my son asked if we could download the reproductive system "add-on". At first I was annoyed that I'd have to pay extra for this in-app purchase, but upon further reflection, I am glad that downloading the reproductive system requires parental consent/input.
It's not that I was opposed to my son exploring this feature on his own, but it was good for me to know he was interested in doing so, as it provided me with a segway for a rich conversation about puberty with my child, who is on the cusp of it!
Although as a parent of twins, I was disappointed with the usual one-baby womb on display, I was impressed with how the app handles reproduction. The typical "mommy and daddy come together" nonsense was replaced with a child-friendly yet scientifically accurate description that both a woman's and a man's ingredients are needed to make a a baby.
As with the other systems, the reproductive system includes narrated videos (in this case, one for boys and another for girls -- my son watched both!)
As a parent, I appreciated the starting point this app offered for further conversations -- we were able to discuss a few questions he had, using the visuals in the app as a reference point. As a teacher, I like the high quality images and the fact that the information is read aloud. I also like that students can pick and choose what they want to read and review. In addition to using it in Science, I can totally see myself using this app when teaching the Health part of the Health and Phys. Ed. curriculum.
Since this app seems to offer such matter-of-fact approach, I would love to see what they could do with transgender topics. At the very least, I would have liked to have seen a slight modification on the "all girls/boys experience these changes at puberty" narration to include at least one sentence about gender non-conforming children, since puberty is such a challenging time for them especially.
One feature I was excited about was the quiz option -- as a teacher, I love the idea that students can quiz themselves to see how much they've learned!
Unfortunately, access to the quizzes requires yet another in-app purchase, which, for a $5.79 app seems like a bit of a cash grab. I did not download the quizzes, and am hopeful the company will consider including these in the overall price of the app at some point in the future.
Other than having to pay for the quizzes, my only other real complaint was that those parts of the app where skin colour could have been included seemed fairly Caucasian to me -- I've got nothing against white people, but as a teacher in a highly diverse school, I'm always on the look out to ensure the resources I use are inclusive, and it was pretty clear that both baby and both children in the reproductive system were pretty, er, "monochromatic"!
Overall, though, I'd have to give this app a two thumbs up: It's a visually accurate, highly accessible and interactive resource that is educational and entertaining for both children and adults. Well done, Zybright!
We stayed over at some friends' last night, and met a new friend... she's a little slow, but super sweet!
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Our PEI neighbours sent us a few pics this past week, including a satellite image of the Island, and several shots of our snow-ensconced house. Can't wait to get out there for the May long weekend!
Some colleagues and I have been reading and discussing a little book we picked up at a Board Climate Training session.
The Educator's Equity Companion Guide is a slim but rich thinking resource, available in hard copy or as an e-book. Our vice principal bought a copy for anyone wanting to participate in our book talk, and we currently have three small groups meeting to share insights about the topics.
My own group meets once a month for four months, at lunch time, in my classroom. In our first session, we read and discussed the introductory section, on identity and intersectionality. Our next meeting happens this coming week, as we begin to explore Section 2 of the book, on specific "isms".
If you have a copy of this book, I invite you to follow along on our learning journey!
More specifically, for our next session, we agreed to read the following:
As you read, I invite you to consider the following for each chapter:
Ch. 2 - Faith (pg 38)
Ch. 3 - MENTAL HEALTH (pg 44)
Ch. 4 - Race (pg 51)
Ch. 9 - Socio-Economic Status (pg. 88)
These are a lot of thinking questions, I know. Please consider reading and reflecting on ONE chapter a day or week.
Would love to see some specific questions, comments or concerns posted below, and will do my best to address these personally or have someone from my group respond!
Thank you for joining us on our learning journey.
There are few things more stressful to teachers than having to be away from their classrooms for an indeterminate length of time. Jury selection -- a mandatory process in Canada whereby each citizen may be called to sit on a Jury -- offers precisely such a stressor.
My summons first arrived in the summer of 2013. I was able to escape the call that time, as I was heading out of the country for a year. But true to their word, the good people of the judicial system were prompt in their summons upon my return to Canada, and within a year, I rec'd another summons. The paper says to expect to serve for at least a week, possibly more if I get selected for case duty. (I am confident that no lawyer would want me in her client's jury; I'm far too opinionated! So I am optimistically planning for 3 days at most.)
My girlfriend served jury selection earlier this year, as did a colleague from school. Both suggested I get to the courthouse early to get a desk. (The waiting room is HUGE, with several hundred chairs, and about 12 desks lining one wall.)
I took them up on their advice, and now find myself blogging from a little cubicle; two women to my left are discussing their prior jury experience; the fellow on my left is playing Candy Crush on his iPad, which could become a problem if he doesn't soon turn off the volume!!!! (Stupidly, I forgot to bring my noise canceling headphones.)
In my ideal scenario, I sit here for two days and get caught up on marking, planning, emails, etc., then get called in on Day 3, dismissed, and am able to return to my students/school on Monday. But the world is not an ideal place, as we all know.
In the meantime, I'm making the best of things: I have my mate and a thermos of hot water, there is somewhat reliable wifi, my computer is charged for a few hours of productive work, and I have the following on my agenda:
But first, there is a propaganda video I must watch with my fellow prospective jurors, on our collective duty as Canadian citizens.
Here we go....
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!)
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.