Friday, October 31, 2014

To Make a Jack-o'-lantern

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to carve a pumpkin at a school event.  I was helping man the "pumpkin patch" while students cycled through two different hour-long sessions.

It's been a few years since I've last carved a pumpkin and as I surveyed the room, I was struck by how silly it might seem for someone who does not celebrate Halloween or even know much about it.  Why do we make Jack-o'-lanterns?  At the moment, I could go look up the history and explain it all succinctly, but that defeats the purpose of my question here.  I just want to rest for a moment on the questions and the absurdity I see in this strange behaviour.  (In all honesty, this line of thinking most likely stems from one of my classes where we have been talking about different cultures and their norms.)

From the outside looking in,  pumpkin carving seems a little strange.  Putting faces (and other images) into the flesh of a pumpkin and then later lighting a candle to illuminate the design as the fruit sits for one night by your front door... Why?  Why pumpkins?  Why are they called Jack-o'-lanterns?

Things to think about... maybe for another time. =P

For me, pumpkin carving has a strong link to childhood and Halloween.  A few days before all Hallows' Eve, my mum sister and I would sit in our kitchen (sometimes on the floor) and pull the gooey intestines from within the fruit's thick orange walls.  After getting all we could with just our fingers, we'd draw on the power of spoons to scrape down the insides until smooth.  It never took long for our hands to become tinted orange and flecked with goop.  The smell of pumpkin hung throughout our main floor.  We would be in the clear upstairs in our rooms, but then one too many steps down the stairs and it was like stepping into a dense fog of scent with no escape.

Every year, it was always a challenge to see what faces we could make.  I always wanted to do something different than before and if possible, something more challenging.  Pumpkin art is pretty cool and you can go to Google to find pages of carved pumpkins in any number of subjects.  Usually, my sister and I would have some sort of base idea, and then we'd head to Google to see what images inspired us. I must admit that drawing actual faces on a pumpkin no longer appeals to me and neither do the stereotypical Halloween images like bats, cats and witches.  I'd much rather carve something related to current pop culture like movies or books.  Which leads to this year's pumpkin.  For a brief moment in time, I considered doing a face, but then someone mentioned Despicable Me.  Naturally, I did Minions instead.  Considering the tools I had to use, I think they came out fairly well.

Pumpkin with Minion Carving

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sending out a Probe

Blogger has a feature that lets you keep track the hits to your website, which is kind of cool.  It can break it down into the individual posts that get hits as well as letting you know where your blog traffic is coming from.  Every now and then I like to check it because it's nice to know that someone somewhere has decided to read my stuff--even if the posts that are being read are now four or more years old and were written from a, uh, different mindset, let's say.

That being said, I have noticed recently that I have been getting a lot of traffic from Russia and some other European countries.  I just wanted to say hello to any of you who are reading this from "across the pond" or even further away.  It is my pleasure to have you here today.

I think that it is amazing how the Internet has made the world a whole lot smaller than it used to be.  To think we can communicate with people living on the other side of the world with merely a quick typing of letters and a click.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Submerged: The First Week of Prac

Well, I did it.  I survived the first week of my practicum: the teaching placement where I get practical experience.

I say "survived" but I don't mean that in the sense that it was hard or painful.  No, that creates a negative image and that would not be accurate.  By "survived" I mean that I have not passed out from exhaustion because, man, being in high school is overwhelming.  Everything is go-go-go as students go from one period to the next with a brief lunch in between.  I find myself once more in the centre of the stream, being swept along from one thing to the next as I try to get my bearings and stay afloat.

One of the big challenges of the week is learning the names of all the students in my three classes.  So that's roughly 75 names and seeing as they keep changing clothes every day, the students are not making the process any easier. Haha.  I think it's important to learn their names because I want to show them that they are important enough for me to know their name.  I'm not just here to "earn a grade."  By knowing their names, I think it also allows me to exercise my authority when needed.  It's a lot easier to tell a kid that he needs to get back on task if you can say their name versus saying, "You..."  And then, in addition to learning students' names, I'm learning the names of the staff.  And while I've learned a number of their first names, I don't know many last names, which can be a challenge when a student is referring to a teacher and I'm oblivious to the fact that it's the teacher to whom I was speaking to moments before.

Another challenge is merely the flood of information.  Globally, my host school is great and they really want us Teacher Candidates to have the best placement experience possible.  We have all been told that we are free to join an extracurricular activity or that we can help out in different areas of the school should we so choose.  All we need to do is pick something.

Zooming in on my country or host teacher, this week has been busy learning where she is in the curriculum, what style of lessons she tends to give, how she manages the classroom, how everything is received by the students, what she expects of me and what (and when) I can start teaching among other details.  We have wasted no time and I've already lead a few activities in a couple of classes this week--which has been fun and a tad nervous-making.

By the time I got home in the evenings, I felt like I could pass out, but then I had tasks to do for the following day and lesson planning to start for next week.  Nonetheless, even with all the work I am enjoying my practicum so far and can even say that I am having fun designing my lesson plans.  There are so many things I want to try and so much more to learn.

As I go forward, I hope and pray that each day is full of new opportunities and that I stay afloat in the days to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Home for Thanksgiving

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.  I like the idea of Thanksgiving because it encourages us to stop and reflect upon all the things that we have in our lives that we have to be thankful for.  Really, it's not something we should only do at this time of year, but it is nice to have that reminder.

This year, I was home for the holiday and was able to see both my mum and my dad's family which is quite an amazement in itself.  Because my parents are divorced, there are always two separate Thanksgiving meals and during elementary and high school, they usually fell on the same day or for my mum's side, we would make the two hour trek, making it impossible to get back in time for my dad's.  To see both sides of my family during this weekend was a true blessing.

Not only that, but I was able to come home for Thanksgiving.  This year, it was my first time home since my first year in University, and even then I did not end up having a meal with my family.  During the past few years, I was working and though it would have been manageable (but tight for time) to come home, I chose to stay at my place.  Each year I still celebrated with friends and other families, which was awesome and fun, but I missed my own people.

In the past, when Thanksgiving was more constant, I never really thought of home and family as specific things during my thanksgiving reflections.  I'd think of the food, my friends, my house(s), clothes... But not really home or family. Sure, I know they are important, but when they are so constant and present in your life, they tend to fade from consciousness.  Really, at the end of the day, as much as people joke about the turkey and stuffing one's face, it's not about the food.  I wouldn't even say it's about the house or the clothes either, though the Lord knows I am ever grateful for those.  The way I see it, Thanksgiving is more about the people you're with and being thankful that you have each other.  (Even if that means your big meal is McDonald's or a few simple sandwiches).

I think the world could use a bit more of that.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Practicum and Pep Talks

Tuesday, we Teacher Candidates will each be out in our respective placements as we start the first practicum portion of this final year.  It's all rather exciting and nervous making as each experience will bring with it challenges and excitement and plenty of learning experiences.

I will admit that I am nervous.  As much as I "don't want to mess up" as a teacher, I am more concerned with failing the students.  It's one thing to blunder through lessons and another to merely fail at keeping the students engaged and failing to transmit the necessary knowledge.  That is what makes me nervous.

I also recognize, however, that I cannot spend all of my time worrying about tomorrow or the next day.  One foot in front of the other; that's all I can do for now.

In one of my classes this week, the professor shared the following YouTube video.  It got all of us laughing and in a positive mindset.  As I go forward, I will do so with that optimism, I will do my best and learn lots in the process.


Link to Video.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Send me a Postcard: From HoTT

Near the starting point, activity is a flurry!
As a teen, I never really understood the whole "homecoming" dances portrayed in movies and books and high schools.  Even during my undergrad, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the Head of the Trent (HoTT) weekend.  It just seemed to be an excuse to goof off and get drunk and that did not really appeal to me.

Coming back to HoTT as an alumni now, I feel my perspective has changed.  This truly is a homecoming because for four years, Trent (and Peterborough) was my home.  Here, I made friends who are now my family.  Some of them remain in Peterborough whereas others have, like me, moved away to other things.  This then, is a weekend where we can come together like one of those crazy family reunions.  Throughout the weekend, I know there are some who I'll see for an hour or more and we'll chat and eat, and catch up.  With some, I'll only have time for a quick hello and a how are you? before we're whisked away, and still others will be like those obscure aunts or uncles that you only ever see from a distance and through a crowd.  Whatever the case may be, this time together is precious all the same.

Today, though the weather is cold and rainy (as per usual HoTT), we congregate with each other along the banks of the Otonabee river, celebrating our years at Trent and cheering on the undergrads who are still there.  No matter where we come from and where we're going, we all have one thing in common: we all bleed Trent green.

Head of the Trent is Hot-to-go! H-O-T-T-O-G-O!
Race is session

Time to turn around

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...