Tag Archives: teaching

Day 61 – And my summer is done

24 Aug

wpid-20140713_085103.jpgSixty-one days is a long time to not be working. I don’t say vacation because my job is such that I get paid for the work I do ten months a year and that pay gets spread over twelve months. When I’m not working in the summer, I’m actually not paid for that time, but it sure feels like vacation and I love it. I consider it one of the many perks of my job. To anyone who begrudges me that summer ‘vacation’, you too could have been a teacher. I don’t apologize one bit for enjoying every bit of that time. Tomorrow I officially go back to work for the 2014-15 school year.

When I started my daily blogging on day one, I mused about how blogging every day might affect my enjoyment of the summer. In fact, I was pretty certain that 2011, the last summer I blogged every day, was an excellent summer in part because of the blogging. Now I know that I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a bad summer, but I don’t think blogging made it what it was. I usually enjoyed the time spent writing. I’m proud of myself for posting every single day and I’m a bit tired of posting every single day. This summer was good. Nothing bad happened but I wouldn’t call it fantastic, as I did in 2011.

I had big plans to read lots this summer! On day two (no I won’t recap every day) I shared my summer reading list. I read five of the eleven books on my list, well I’m almost finished number five. Of the five, I recommend three booksof them. The first book I read was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It was okay,  lagged in the middle and was a long story, long enough to be epic, but fell short. It was far less interesting than its title suggests. Then I read Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. This was a great YA read that I’d recommend to most of my female friends and my students. It deals with poverty, abuse, bullying and young love. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness was my favourite read of the summer. It was the third in her Discovery of Witches trilogy and I almost never read sequels. This was a most excellent exception. If you like fantasy and historical fiction, this trilogy is for you. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a light and easy read and it was downright funny. Glenn’s reading it now. I’d recommend this one to anyone who reads; its appeal and target audience is that wide. Right now, I’ve been reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby for a few weeks because I had a difficult time getting into it and I had to slug through the second part of it. With about 60 pages left to read I finally want to know how it ends. What drew me to this book was the premise: four strangers meet for the first time on New Year’s Eve on the roof of a tall building with the intention of jumping to their deaths. They don’t jump and the rest of the book is about how they navigate through life and their newfound unlikely and unofficial support group. It’s less interesting than it sounds. I’ll see it through.

I have learned a lot about myself as a writer this summer. While I won’t delve into that too much I’d like to recap my top five posts ICYMI.

  1. Day 14 – Letting Go I wrote about my daughter’s daring summer adventureswpid-img_0301.png
  2. Day 20 – Ten ideas for stories exactly what the title suggests
  3. Day 28 – Namaste was about my path to yoga and what makes it right for me
  4. Day 29 – The end of an era was about the new subdivision being built behind my home
  5. Day 42 – BBQ Meatballs is a family favourite recipe

Each of these have been viewed by over a hundred different readers, so clearly these have proven to be the most interesting posts. Even though each post is dramatically different from the others, they have one thing in common. None of them are about my day, nor are they poetry. Those type of posts got the least traffic. I enjoy writing poetry and will keep doing so. In fact, if you didn’t see my blackout poetry, check it out. I really had fun with it and can’t wait to try it with my students. I always felt like writing about my day was  a bit narcissistic and definitely a cop-out when I wasn’t sure what else to write about, especially when the day wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

Now that my 61 days are over, I plan to continue blogging from time-to-time. Now that the summer is over, I’m looking forward to going back to work. I might as well look forward to it and go in with a positive outlook because it’s going to happen either way. It’ll certainly make it more enjoyable.

And thus, without a wing,
or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape,
Into the beautiful.
                       ~ Emily Dickinson


“Sleep, little three eyes?”

23 Nov

In tenth grade English we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. In chapter six before Jem goes to retrieve his pants from the Radley’s fence, guess you had to be there, he asks Scout if she’s asleep. He says, “Sleep, little three eyes?” Most of us, when we’re reading something we don’t understand like this, we just skip it. He’s asking her if she asleep because it’s obvious that he wants her to know he’s going in case he doesn’t come back or something happens to him. He wants her to wait up for him, but why does he call her “little three eyes”? It seems affectionate. Usually I’d skip by this too, but after reading it four times in one day, one begins to wonder.

I rarely pose questions to my class when I don’t have a clear idea of how I’d answer them. But today, I asked if anyone knew why Jem would call his little sister little three eyes. No one had a really good idea, but I figured I could google to find out, so I challenged them to do the same. One student suggested that maybe Scout wore a monocle and he was calling her little three eyes like someone might call a person who wears glass ‘four eyes’. Although the response was creative and even though I had no idea why he called her that, I’m quite certain that six year-old Scout Finch did not wear a monocle.

The author was using a literary device known as allusion. She was alluding to a character in a fairy tale. After a quick google search, I found the story “Little One Eye, Little Two Eyes, and Little Three Eyes.” It’s Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale, No. 130. Tomorrow I’ll ask my students if they found anything, and I’d lay money on it that not one of them remembered to research it. So I have a copy of the fairy tale to share with them tomorrow. It’s interesting, and reminds me a bit of a biblical story. If you have time, check it out.


22 Nov

My mother has been keeping a family tree for years. I remember when she first started doing it I told her I’d never want to maintain it. I simply had no interest in it, thought it was boring. The funny thing about getting older is that you realize just how much you don’t know. Aging is teaching me to never say never.

Last year I was doing something with my grade nine students called ‘The Reading Minute’. I modeled what I wanted them to read for a couple of weeks before I expected the students to share. At the beginning of each class period, someone would share an interesting piece of reading with the class. This sharing usually took a minute or less, and there were no immediate follow-up assignments. I encouraged them to take their readings from a range of sources, from poetry to nonfiction. They could find their texts in newspapers, magazines, novels, text-books—anywhere we, as readers, come across interesting text. All of the Reading Minutes share one goal: to demonstrate that there is a world of reading richness out there.

One night while I was visiting my mother I asked her to show me her family tree computer software. While looking over the family tree, I found an obituary of my great-great-grandfather. I decided it would make a fantastic reading minute to share with my students. I was right, some of them were really interested in it and ended up bringing in things more personal to their own families. Now, I’d like to share it with blogdom. Here it is:

DINES – Charles Wood Dines (1840-1915) – was born on January 25, 1840, in the town of Natchez, Mississippi, USA. Natchez is today one of the finest old cities in the United States of America. At the time of Charles Wood Dines’ birth there was considerable unrest in the area and Natchez had, over the past two and half centuries, been under five different flags: French, British, Spanish, Confederate and American. It was after the French/Indian War, around 1730, that Natchez became the 14th British Colony. When the other colonies rebelled against King George III, Natchez did not join them. Spain then moved in and planted the Spanish flag there which held for a while but finally the United States laid claim to all territory formerly held by the British. In 1798 Spain withdrew.

The first steamboat came to Natchez in 1811, and, between the advent of steam on the river and the growth and sale of cotton, Natchez became one of the wealthiest (probably the wealthiest) town in the world.

In the 1840’s Natchez was said to be “Queen of the Southwest”, and it was in 1845 that the beautiful Varinna Howell married the tall austere Jefferson Davis, who, 16 years later became the first and only President of the Confederate States.

The early life of Charles Wood Dines is not too clear. However it is known that he married Mary Ellen GREEN in the year of 1858 and there were two daughters, Antoinnette and Martha Ann (Annie), born before he enlisted in the United Sates Navy in 1862 to serve as a Gunner’s Mate on the “S.S. Kineo” under the command of Captain Watters.

In a diary which he kept during his Civil War Service he has written about various encounters with the enemy on the Mississippi River.

He had enlisted in New Orleans in 1862 and was discharged in Washington, DC, in 1865. After his discharge he apparently returned to his wife and two daughters somewhere in the vicinity of L’Etete, Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada. It was there on March 11, 1866 that his son Sydney Smith DINES, was born. His wife, Mary Ellen GREEN, died when Sydney was 7 months old. The three children were placed in the homes of friends who subsequently became their foster parents.

Charles remarried in 1868. His new wife was the former Emmeline McVicar of Pembrooke, Maine. They resided in Eastport, Maine, where their daughter, Viola, was born in 1874.

For several years prior to his death, he operated a billiard Parlour owned by Charles Hume on Water Street in Eastport, Maine. To his friends and associates he was known as “Skippy”.

Charles Wood Dines died in Eastport, Maine, in 1915 at the age of 75 years.

NOTE: It is interesting to note that at the end of the Civil War in 1865 the United States passed a law whereby all discharged military men were to receive a pension.

At the time of his death, in 1915, Charles Wood DINES was receiving the sum of $30.00 per month.

The preceding was taken from the Dines-Gates Connection Newsletter # 1, 1981 by Ann Dines Theriault.

Two marriage dates 1857 or 1858?????

Charles Wood Dines served in the Navy during the Civil War in the United States.

Happy Birthday to Me!

6 Feb

For the graduate course I took in literacy last semester I had to write a short autobiography introducing myself. I wrote about where I live and what I do, and a bit about my family. It was vague to say the least. Now I’m taking the second part of the same course and we were asked to analyze our autobiographies and discuss what was excluded from the first. I thought this might be a fun thing to share with you on my birthday…

I’m not even sure where to begin. Obviously there is so much more to who I am than what I’ve shared. I could go back to birth and tell you that I was a breech baby. I could tell you that after my brother was born I was convinced that my bum was “broke”. Would it interest you to know that as a child I prayed for freckles and blonde hair like my cousin Lisa? My mother told me that if God wanted me to have freckles and blonde hair he’d give them to me, and I told her the next day that God said he’d give me blonde hair but she had to take me to the hairdresser.

Perhaps sharing a little bit about what I remember of grade school would let you know me better? My first grade teacher hit me over the head with a ruler on a regular basis. In second grade my cousin Cathy and I got kicked out of class for passing a cereal box pencil holder back and forth. I spent much of the third grade worried about a project that I had crumpled and hidden in the back of my desk because I didn’t complete it. I peed my pants in forth grade because my teacher would not allow me to be excused to the bathroom. Isn’t interesting how my memories of elementary school are bad ones?

In seventh grade I had a love-hate relationship with the boy who had his locker next to mine, so I smashed his head with my locker door every chance I got. In ninth grade I ran for class treasurer but did not win. I started dating my ex-husband. I feel like I missed major parts of what I was supposed to experience in high school and university because I was too wrapped up in this relationship.

The best part of my ten year marriage to my ex was having my two beautiful children. My daughter will be a teenager next week, and my son will hit double-digits in the spring. I met my current husband on the internet shortly after my failed marriage ended and we had a long distance relationship between small town eastern Canada, and metropolitan New Jersey for a couple of years. He moved here to be with me and the kids, and we were married in 2004. Does it help to know that I now know the meaning of a marriage between equals that includes mutual respect and love?

All of this doesn’t even scratch the surface. I could share with you bits and pieces of my spiritual journey. I could share the joy I found in my faith as a teenager or I could tell you how my beliefs caused me to stay in a toxic relationship far longer than I should have. I left out information about my physical appearance, with the exception of the extremely small thumbnail image on my profile.

You didn’t hear it from me that I was diagnosed with type II diabetes after my second child was born and that it has taken my nine years to get serious about it. You didn’t know until now that I swam competitively as young teenager, but my parents encouraged me to quit because it conflicted with church time. I still blame this lack of necessary exercise as a teen on much of my weight gain in high school and university. (My parents do too.) I didn’t tell you that my self-improvement plan doesn’t just involve getting my masters but that I’m also on a weight loss journey where I’ve lost 30 of the total 85 pounds I need to lose to be healthy. Or, that I have found the love of exercise again at my local YMCA.

I told you where I teach and how long I’ve been teaching there, but I didn’t tell you that those six years were split up by a two year stint at a rural school an hour away where I landed my permanent contract that allowed me to apply for a transfer back to the high school that is two minutes from my home. I didn’t tell you that when I started teaching I taught BBT (Broad Based Technology) not English. I didn’t tell you that often I wish I was still teaching BBT because it was nearly turn-key, especially compared to teaching high school English.

One of my classmates broke down her autobiography by the decades of her life. I think I’ll wait until I’m forty to write that one.

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