Today we went to check out Castle, a board game café downtown. A few photos, some with captions if you hover over top...
Playing at Castle
Some days it's exhausting, but other days I feel so lucky to be Alex and Simon's mom!
Today we went to check out Castle, a board game café downtown. A few photos, some with captions if you hover over top...
Having just read of Leelah's suicide, I feel compelled to write a short note to anyone out there who is transgender or gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or questioning and who may have been told by so-called "Christians" that there is something wrong with you, please know, there isn't!
The tragedy of this story is that instead of remorse, the victim's parents are apparently in denial, having initially posted about their child's "accidental" death on Facebook, claiming their son was out for a walk when he was hit by a truck. (In fact, Leelah chose to walk on a highway at night, apparently 2 a.m. or thereabouts, when it was dark out, and she could easily be struck by the big truck that she walked in front of. She also posted a suicide note to her tumblr account, to be published after her death. It's reblogged here, in case her account is deleted, which it surely will be once her family gets hold of things.)
The situation this family has created for itself is worse than awful, and while many are retaliating in anger, no one can truly understand the complexity of their pain. However, the purpose of this post is not to offer them comfort, but rather, to comfort those who may be suffering in the same way Leelah suffered before she chose to end her life, as this was, after all, her dying wish.
If you are an LGBTQ Christian who is oppressed by his/her church, please know there are many brothers and sisters out there who know God's love is for you, too! Don't let narrow-minded Christians who are missing a few key pieces of the faith let you lose yours!
Please don't give up; go get help.
It does get better!!!!
In a book I read recently about the history of LGBTQ people in the church, the author made a bold statement accusing traditionalists in the church of questioning the fundamental humanity of their LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Refusing to develop explicit policies to welcome all believers and to protect the basic human rights of those who are gay, because it was still an uncomfortable or delicate topic, and therefore "inconvenient at this time" in the church was akin -- she wrote -- to admitting to the belief that LGBTQ people are less than human.
We have a similar problem in the Ontario school system. Many -- while they may in principle support the "inclusion" or "tolerance" of LGBTQ issues -- do not actively foster and implement lessons, resources and ways of doing business that work towards the eradication of the treatment of LGBTQ staff and students like second-class citizens. Even though we have documentation to support said work! Why just recently I was told -- by a school leader no less -- to be patient, that it was a slow process, but that change would come, eventually, we just had to be patient. Rather than recognizing my precarious political, professional and personal position as a queer person interested in LGBTQ rights for myself and my students, I was invited to personally spearhead a GSA or other work at the school.
I wonder if he would have said that to me were I expressing my impatience and concern with the equal treatment of blacks, or suggesting that we had to make some changes to allow for accessibility for someone in a wheelchair (especially if I myself were in a wheelchair)?
I have to tell you, as someone who has spent 43 years being called a dyke, fag, homo while first suppressing who I was and then making the decision not to lie to myself or my children (I had become a mother in the meantime) any longer, and watching students continue to bully others based on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, but being afraid to do anything truly useful about it out of fear of what my parents, colleagues or bosses might say, and then starting to finally explore some more inclusive curriculum practices while coming out of the closet myself and beginning to be the teacher that some students choose to come to for help, but still not being sure how best to help them... I'm done with waiting patiently for a magical end to the discrimination!
Equity does not miraculously fall from the sky and into our laps after a pre-determined allotment of minutes/hours/decades has been patiently waited out by those most oppressed. We have to fight for it tooth and nail, as history has shown over and over and over again in countless contexts.
LGBTQ equity is just the latest suffrage or civil rights movement. We already have laws in place that tell us teaching LGBTQ issues is our job. Let's start DOING IT already!
The following list was compiled by a colleague from another school. Below that I've included a double sided bookmark that can be printed out and kept on hand as a reference point if people want to argue about whether or not it's our job as teachers to "promote" queer issues. Please feel free to print these bookmarks and distribute widely!
SUPPORT FOR THE RIGHT/RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH LGBTQ ISSUES AS PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH:
From the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Realizing the Promise of Diversity: Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy:
“As an agent of change and social cohesion, our education system reflects the democratic values of fairness, equity and respect for all...We strive to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive publicly funded education system in keeping with our values of human rights and social justice”.
Inclusive education is defined as “education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion for all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected”.
The following Anti-Discrimination Education Statement is found in all Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents:
The implementation of anti-discrimination principles in education influences all aspects of school life. It promotes a school climate that encourages all students to work to high standards, affirms the worth of all students, and helps students strengthen their sense of identity and develop a positive self-image. It encourages staff and students alike to value and show respect for diversity in the school and the wider society. It requires schools to adopt measures to provide a safe environment for learning, free from harassment, violence, and expressions of hate. Antidiscrimination education encourages students to think critically about themselves and others in the world around them in order to promote fairness, healthy relationships, and active, responsible citizenship.
The Ontario Ministry of Education, Accepting Schools Act states:
The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:
My school board has the following policies; yours may have similar policies.
Find them! Read them! Know them!
Our Board, in an effort to accommodate various religious beliefs, has in the past made exemptions with regards to participation in certain events. Some fundamentalist groups have used this to try to promote their intolerance with their children and others by boycotting and pulling their children from participating in school activities such as Day of Pink. Currently, our board holds the following position on exemption requests made around human rights/LGBTQ/Anti- Homophobia/Transphobia Education:
"In light of the Human Rights Code, Ministry and Board policy/expectations, Peel District School Board will no longer approve or accept exemption requests for students to be removed from human rights/ LGBTQ’ anti-homophobia/transphobia curriculum. Schools are required to create safe and respectful classrooms and this can only be done when all students know that teasing, bullying, name calling and all other forms of discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression are not acceptable and are against the law. Further, for students to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion in the school and classroom, they must see themselves reflected positively in the curriculum. So students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-spirited, intersex and or who come from same sex families, must see themselves and their lived experiences reflected in the curriculum. Therefore, in Peel Board it is acceptable and expected that educators will use approaches and materials that explore identities of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression and engage students and the school community in activities such as Day of Pink, Day of Silence and other activities that support and promote anti-homophobia and anti- transphobia.
In order to help those school leaders still unclear on what the right thing to do it, our Board has developed a quick and handy Religious Accommodation Request Flowchart. The statement germane to this conversation reads as follows: “Parental Concerns regarding the Accepting Schools Act must be addressed in the context of Human Rights, rather than religious accommodation. Therefore accommodations will not be made in this area”.
A Little Christmas Recount
This Christmas, tradition danced with innovation to create a new blend of memories.
Preparations for Christmas Eve in our home have typically included a trip to the Cheese Boutique to pick up Stolle, Domino Steine and, well, cheese! This year the boys and I biked, and thank goodness we did so! The car traffic was horrific, requiring two shop employees to direct it. We, however, were able to quite easily snake through the gridlock with our bikes.
Inside the bustling shop, Simon found a quiet corner in which to sulk after he and Alex got into a blowout over who would ask for vanilla extract. A sweet gal behind the bakery counter noticed him, though, and rewarded him with a chocolate chip cookie. (She soon noticed the matcher, too, and gave him a cookie as well, while I vied for a spot in the cheese line!)
A Visit to the Airport
Having recently made the online acquaintance of a student from Singapore who was coming to Toronto to study for four months, the boys and I set out to the airport to meet and greet said acquaintance and get her oriented to the city's public transit system. (She also joined us the next day for Christmas Dinner.)
It's always fun to hang out at the airport, I find, and especially on Christmas eve, there is a buzz in the air as people arrive from all over the world to meet family or seek adventure in Toronto over the holiday season.
After the airport, the boys and I met Vinx at a subway station, and headed back to the apartment, where Tats and Rick were waiting for us to eat the Wursten with Kartoffelsalat and the fruit salad with walnuts I had prepared earlier in the day.
Then it was time to open presents.
The boys were equally pleased with their new library of books as they were with Rick's generous gift card to Mastermind. And everyone else seemed to enjoy the assortment of bike gear and various silly little things I had found for them. Vinx's treasures were the usual unusual conglomeration of yard sale curios; Rick got an 80s electronic chess game from Radio Shack, Tats got a funny t-shirt among other things, and my own box included a Jeannette Winterson novel, which I've already begun reading!
My First Communion
Alex, Rick and I had signed up to volunteer at MCCT's Christmas Eve service at Roy Thompson Hall, and so the three of us set out by bus/subway to make it downtown in time for our training session.
In addition to ushering and handing out programs, I had also agreed to serve communion. It was my first time doing so, and I felt a little nervous at the beginning. But it turned out to be a great blessing for me, and -- I hope -- to those I served.
Alex in his Santa hat was a big hit with patrons of all ages as he handed out programs and directed people to their seats, collected the offering with me and ushered rows up towards communion later in the service. He seemed to enjoy his duties, and relish the opportunity to stay up late in a useful capacity! Rick, too, seemed to enjoy the evening, despite (or perhaps because of?) its religious nature.
There is something quite marvelous about being surrounded by so many of "our people" and allies worshiping one's maker on Christmas Eve. The hall was nearly full; not many of the 2000 programs that had been stuffed the day before were left over at the end of the night. After too many years and countless examples of not fitting in, it felt nice to belong somewhere, even just for an hour and a half.
Rick splurged for a taxi home, and we soon joined the still sniffling Tatsy and sleeping Simon (insisting he did not believe in church, he had stayed home with Tats, who was sick, and had gone to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour) and fell into bed before 1 a.m.
Free at last?
It was with great delight that Tats, the boys and I learned of the imminent freedom of Sandra, a German "friend" whom we had met last year at the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina.
It turns out the 29-year-old Orangutan we had often visited and sometimes fed bananas to last year is the winner in a court decision that has found her to have rights as a "non-human person".
This will likely result in her being freed and released to a sanctuary.
Already the first time we met Sandra, we were concerned about her lonely, boring situation at the BsAs zoo, and both the boys and I blogged about her; we wondered what her fate would be, and are really pleased to hear she will soon find a more suitable home.
If you are preparing to teach Grade 7 Patterning and Algebra, this is your lucky day! :)
Having decided to teach the bulk of my Grade 8 Patterning and Algebra unit in January through CLIPS partner work and a series of quizzes and conference check-ins, our school's instructional coach and I focused this time on preparing a set of centers for Grade 7.
As with our previous Geometry unit, we began by using the curriculum, as well as various other Board and Ministry-endorsed math resources to develop a list of big ideas and learning goals/success criteria by which we and the students would measure their grasp of the big ideas in Patterning and Algebra at this grade level. We also harvested a host of problems and learning activities directly linked to each big idea.
The ppt above introduces the learning goal and success criteria, and serves as a framework for the subsequent weeks in math class.
The check-ins below will help to establish which students we meet with each time to conference and/or conduct mini-lessons. We will also use a few short quizzes for this purpose, but haven't developed them yet -- anyone got any? If so, please feel free to share by contacting me!!
Another option is having students hand in one of their problems from Center 6 or their journal write-ups from Center 8, like we did with our last unit.
You will notice that the wording on both formative assessments is growth mindset oriented. We are really trying to encourage students to see themselves as learners, regardless of how much or how little they may struggle with a particular skill or concept.
Below are most of our centers. Please note that for center 6, there are actually 5 different pages, one collection of problems for each of the big ideas. My plan is to have students visit one of the center 6s each time (or almost each time) they have math!
At the end of this unit, I will have highlighted sections on the rubric below for each student, and can send it home to families before report cards some home.
I welcome all questions and feedback. This is a work in progress, and while you are welcome to email me directly (like many of you do), leaving a public comment below helps broaden the conversation for other teachers who may also be experimenting with a centers-based approach to mathematical learning in the intermediate grades!
Amidst the flow of quintessential chocolate and bath products that has started to trickle into my classroom, another, perhaps more exiting arrival marked the onset of the holiday season this week: Readers of my blog will recall my lament about the ancient LCD projector mounted in my "classroom" (if one can really call a windowless cell used as an increasingly busy through-fare to another classroom such!)
From tall, skinny tangrams that were rather unlike the squares they should have been, to square dot paper that wasn't square, to circles which were ovals unless one planned accordingly, and stretched out the image on the computer so that it would "sort of" project with some geometric accuracy, the darned thing has been an endless source of frustration to me.
But Wednesday afternoon a box arrived in the office. A small, heavy box with my name on it.
As if on cue, the ancient projector in my room began projecting a black message on the lower half of the ever dimming image on my screen: "This bulb has reached the end of its useful life (no kidding!) -- please replace."
And that is exactly what the chipper, young fella from the board who came by later that afternoon did.
And behold, as of Thursday... I have circles again. Real, round ones!
As an added bonus, there is also a clicker that comes with the brand-new machine, so that I don't have to run over to the computer and manually advance the slides in a lesson each time.... oh, wait, it's not ppt compatible. Never mind.
Oh well, one thing at a time, lol!
Christmas has arrived
Bought our tree at the local grocer on Sat., and hauled it home. We'd had him cut a ring off the bottom for added freshness, but it still needled like crazy. Also, we ended up having to borrow a saw from a neighbour to cut off an additional branch, as the stump would not fit into my cheap stand. The friend who was helping us set up got over-zealous and sawed off another branch, too, leaving a giant gap on one side!
After a weekend filled with dance recitals, German school concert and more seasonal festivities, we finally managed to get the darned thing decorated.
Since last Christmas had found some of us with Trevor and others on PEI (and hence, without a Christmas tree), I couldn't actually remember what decorations we had kept when leaving for Argentina, and which we had passed along to Trevor.
As we unpacked our one remaining Christmas bin, I was sad to discover that I must have passed my fancy pears and apples on, along with the wooden stars that a former room-mate and I had bought together at a local shop more than a decade ago, but I was pleased to find our various birds (aviation theme, hehe) and musical instruments (including the little drum ornament I stole from the tree at the hospital the night my mother died over 20 years ago!!!) nestled in among various red balls and the five remaining straw stars made by my great-grandfather.
The boys, of course, preferred silliness and wrestling to a more picture-perfect pose once all the decorations were in place, so here is the best I got:
(click to enlarge)
It began in the wee hours of the morning. One of my kids was sick, so sleep was restless at best. I'd stayed up far too late (again), too, planning a circumference lesson for my Grade 8s, so that didn't help in terms of the sleep situation.
When I finally hauled out of bed at 6:08 a.m. it was a race against time to get out the door in time for work.
Of course this was a morning when one of my kids opted for a meltdown requiring parental intervention. It is hard to be calm, patient, a great model of tranquility and optimism when your tired as #%^!… AND YOU'RE RUNNING LATE FOR WORK!!!!
But somehow I managed to pull it off with some success, get everyone's tears dried and leave the kiddies in reasonably decent spirits as I sprinted out the door, lunch bag in one hand, folder of marking in the other, while juggling phone, keys, bus token and sheer physical and mental exhaustion!
No sooner had I gotten on the bus than I realised that the data stick on which I had saved my marginally brilliant circumference lesson was still plugged into my computer.
Ugh. Too late to turn back -- I had duty before school that day, and was already running behind!
Still half asleep and now worried about when and how I would re-plan the lesson I was to teach later this morning, I rode the bus while finishing up marking some Grade 7 Math journals, and stumbled from bus to subway to Mississauga Transit bus, backpack and lunch bag in one hand, stack of math journals and orange pen in the other, phone (hopefully) in pocket, trying not to lose anything, but reticent to pack all the marking up in my backpack due to the lost time (and resultant incomplete marking) that comes with such frequent transfers.
Safely installed on a new-ish and very comfortable Mississauga Transit bus, I got deep into my marking again... when I looked up to a strange landscape, and realised that in fact I was on the WRONG BUS!!!
REALLY, PEOPLE??!!! What kind of a loser gets on the wrong bus?! In a city she's lived in her whole life?
Happily, the diversion wasn't too far out of the way, and there was a southbound bus I could intercept some stops ahead that would take me directly to school.
I got on that bus and discovered three of my students and a colleague were also riding it! :)
Managed to make it to school just in time to dump my various piles and bags and run out to morning duty. Happily, I had a planning time this morning before my Grade 8 class, so my "to do" list got bumped in favour for the more urgent "re-make in 32 minutes the circles lesson that Ms. Teschow spent 1.5 hours on last night and then idiotically left at home".
With two minutes to spare at the end of my planning time, I logged onto my email to check the status of some colour printing I had sent off to the keeper of the colour printer in the school the night before -- ambitiously, I had prepped and sent some colour printing for THREE upcoming lessons in ONE email, in order to save everyone time. 12 pages of colour printing in one fell swoop would soon be mine, with no subsequent paper chasing over the next two weeks... at least for that stuff.
Or so I thought.
My organization was my downfall: Waiting for me in my inbox was the less-than-inspiring news that anything over 6 pages required principal approval, and could I please check with Mrs. So-and-So and get back to printer lady.
Tempted as I was to simply re-send the printing request in three distinct less-than-6-page chunks, I instead took a deep breath, brewed myself some Mate, and went out into the hall to greet my Grade 8 math class.
Sometimes such days happen... And it's good when they're finally over! So I'll skip over the part about getting home to find a letter from the building under the door requiring a whole series of actions in the next 24 hours which I can't possibly and simply won't fulfill, and instead fast-forward to the part where I got to snuggle with my kids at bedtime and read the penultimate chapter of Anne together, which we started last summer on the Island, and which has become such a regular part of our routine that the boys have requested the sequel once we finish the first book. :)
A nice, calm finish to this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day!
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.