Thursday, August 02, 2012

a work in progress

I'm starting to write again.

This time, it's literally all for me.  I don't need anyone to see this, and I suspect that nobody will.  With the plethora of information and media and viagara medication advertisements on the internet, I'm sure that this blog will get lost somewhere between Vanilla Ice's forums and the website for the Slap Chop.  I am heartened by this, however.  For this is a spiritual and personal journey, one that I will likely share alone and will document as much as possible.   I'm tired of the false promises and unfulfilled "life decisions."  If you have an epiphany every other weekend and don't really change anything about yourself, who are you, really?  People begin to expect the same from you, with false promises of change to boot.  So, this time it's mainly between me and myself.  I say mainly because my fiance (henceforth referenced under the pseudonym "Nala") will obviously have a pretty good idea that personal changes are taking place.  First, I'd like to identify (for the sake of future matata) the major events that caused this larger idea to form:

1.  "the party"

The party was phenomenal, amazing, so well planned and well attended.  It's a building block, a life anchor.  You have to focus on the positivity that emerges from this many people wanting to see you and send you their best.  Wow, what a feeling!

Having said that, there is much that can be learned from this event.  Namely (and most importantly) where my thoughts lie.  Priorities are out of whack, evidenced by my inability to see Nala's father until the end of the party.  I didn't even think of it.  What a pitiful display.  Names were forgotten, people not spoken to, and it just wasn't my idea of an expert display of who I'd like to be.

2.  losing headphones

This is a bit of a ridiuclous reason, I grant you.  However, these are very expensive headphones paid for and given to me by my mother.  They should have meant a lot.  With my inability to protect and watch over them, I once again showed my priorities to be vastly out of whack.

3.  J-L

I met a Frenchman named JL when I was visiting a friend's cottage recently.  This man was wise, and really took his time to understand and appreciate the human condition.  He gave good advice and spoke with the confidence of someone who had seen his poorer ideas fail.  I admire this in a person.  This is someone who was truly humble, and yet was generous with his knowledge and his advice.  He gave me some other life anchors to start from, and I intend to follow much of his advice.

4.  LJ

LJ really caused me to balk and opened a wound I thought I had ignored and closed up.  She provided me with a glimpse into what people must wonder and think about me.  Of course, it's important to ignore what other's think of you, but that advice is certainly more comforting for someone who is insanely annoying or incredibly unique.  I strive to be a people person and I strive to be charitable, whatever that means.  However, my actions seem to paint a different picture of me than what I strive for.  This must be corrected with a careful and deliberate change in character.

5.  the donation

I have received assistance (not only in the form of gifts or money from the party) from an outside source and it is incredibly generous.  This person certainly has a generous heart and has provided Nala and I with some serious tools to help us plan for the wedding.  It's incredibly generous and this gift has caused me to re-evaluate my relationship, in lieu of the fleeting nature of time and our lives here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ursa Major –

Do you want to know what’s wild about being done with being a student (for the time being)?  You seem to find yourself doing probably more research and studying than I did when I was in school.  It’s sort of comical to think about how I would throw aside my history texts to sit around and play video games, and now I seem to find myself throwing aside video games to research and actually learn things.  Actually, I’ve taken a keen interest in studying the universe.  I think that the concept of what’s out there is absolutely mind-blowing, in the truest sense of the word.  Come to think of it, I bet that the vastness of the universe is probably the best example to give of something that is mind-blowing.  I’m not talking Star Trek or Star Wars here, either – I don’t think I’ll ever have an interest in that type of stuff!

Anyway, a friend of mine from work has loaned me all 4 books in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series, and I must say I’m fairly interested so far.  He said that because I like philosophy so much, I’d probably get a kick out of a lot of the references and little jokes in the book.  I’ll take his word for it, but if I find myself let down after 700 pages, I’ll probably want that time back.  He’s one of the other baseball coaches, so I’ll sit out a couple of practices; that’ll teach him.

You may not have guessed it, but the title of this post has a dual meaning.  I’m pretty clever, I must say.  (Sarcasm noted?)  Aside from being a constellation, Ursa Major is also the name of the upcoming Third Eye Blind record.  Call me crazy for hanging in here as long as I have, but Third Eye Blind writes some kick ass tunes.  It’s been a long time coming, but I’m starting to hear newer versions of the songs likely to be on the album, and I’ve got to say it’s pumping me up!  I can honestly see a revival on the horizon for this band.  If you want to hear an acoustic version of one of these new songs, check out this link:

Right click to save it, otherwise it’ll just play through your browser. 

To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say right now.  There’s a lot of topics that have had me interested (the Greyhound psycho, for one), but I think I’ve talked myself out of them.  I’m sure that I’ll have more at some point, but for now I’ll leave you with the song and this quote:

"Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.” – Eric Hoffer

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seeing and believing are both often wrong…

It’s not that I haven’t really had a chance to update this blog recently, it’s just that I frankly haven’t had a whole lot to say.  David Ford once said that “Clever men know all that and all this; And they will talk and they will talk and they don’t fucking listen.”  I have to humbly agree with Mr. Ford, although I do also admit my own tendency to become one of these aforementioned “clever men.”  It is something that I am trying to avoid in the new year as much as possible, but change isn’t instantaneous.  The Liberals have that right at least; change, but slowly and effectively.  Actually, Ford’s next line in that song is “It’s a shame…”, which I think speaks volumes towards the propensity with which these clever men have invaded our society.  It really seems like a lot of wannabe scholars grab themselves one piece of information and draw conclusions from it.  Whether right or wrong, they are sticking with their initial opinion.  I find this to be not only ignorant but also downright scary.  Scary because I have seen this way of thinking first hand in people who find themselves in positions of power.  I really think that a course on logic should be a requirement for any person who is going to be managing assets or people in any sort of broad context.

Speaking of which, I have been taking some time recently to examine the essence of good debating and argument building.  By delving into the wonderful world of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (to a far reaching extent) and John Locke, I really have gotten back to basics in terms of the philosophical discipline. There is much to learn from these thinkers and I feel strongly that I am not doing them justice by simply reading an encyclopaedia of philosophical ideas; each of them deserves to be studied in greater detail.  However, this is an admittedly busy world, the accumulation of knowledge must sometimes become a subjective endeavour, where we learn what we think we need to know.  Anyway, I’ll let you know how this studying plays out in the long run, but for now I am trying to become a more logical and humbled thinker.  Step one, in case you’re wondering, is to come to terms with the fact that you really don’t know anything.  Everything tangible (and I would include thoughts with this) can change, and we all need to listen to one another to allow that to happen.  It’s almost like the socialization of thinking and ideas – a novel concept.  Way to go Socrates.

More practically, I went out “bar hopping” in Whitby last night.  No, not because we really wanted to, but actually due to the fact that the bars in Whitby are apparently redefining the word “lame” on Saturday evenings.  I’m embarrassed to admit, but aside from the Rippers (a given) this was the first time I had ever been to any of these bars before.  It’s interesting to be 25 and still in that context.  The first bar we visited, called Serendipity, was actually quite decent I thought.  But, when it came to the other hole-in-the-wall establishments doing their best to attract drunken 18 year olds with fake ID’s, I guess I’m just too old.  Either way, it was a good time with friends and I wouldn’t have changed it anyway.

Lastly, it seems as though my trip plans for the summer are coming together quite nicely.  I’ll be spending a lot of money in the year 2009, but I think that it truly will help me reach the “promised land” of self understanding and true happiness.  I’m going to be spending time with one of my favourite people in the world, all the while being exposed to some of the most beautiful scenery and pieces of history that our planet has to offer.  I couldn’t ask for more, and I truly am counting the days.  If you’re looking for something to do this summer, I encourage you to join me on this excursion.  So far, the plan is as such:

- Fly to London in late July to meet with friends and see the city again
- From there, perhaps dip into Northern Europe while the school year ends for the English teachers
- Fly to Spain
- Travel through Spain, Greece, the Greek Islands, and the Mediterranean
- Return to London
- Stop in Iceland for a 2-3 day stopover on the way back from London
- Fly back to Canada in mid August

The more the merrier, so please, let me know!

I will probably update again soon, as this logic train has me wanting to verbalize my thoughts a bit more fluidly.  Oh, and I do have a great book recommendation for you: Naked Economics.  It will open your eyes to the Conservative mindset and ideology, which I think a lot of us “left leaners” really avoid doing.

Take care.

Friday, February 06, 2009

From sea to shining sea…

I had my first seminar today with the kids.  It was interesting to see, to be completely honest.  It was sort of like the first time you paint a picture with a brush in school: a God awful mess.  But I’ll be damned if it’s not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen at the same time.  It’s interesting to hear the opinions of people who are certainly a lot more humbled than I was at their age.  I often get caught up in the largely apathetic attitude towards school in most of the students I meet in my teaching career, but most of these students are different.  By God (whichever one you prefer), most of these students actually care.  The best part is that their opinions aren’t entirely misinformed.  They certainly make assumptions that they perhaps shouldn’t at times, but that’s all a part of growing as a philosopher and as an budding intellectual.  Either way, I was impressed with their performance.

On a completely different topic, I’ve been having a look at a plan for travel in the summer.  It’s going to be a lot to spend given the fact that I need to also take my specialist in history.  As of now, the plan is at least 5 countries in just under a month abroad.  It will certainly be pricey, but my time in London will mean at least free room and board.  For now, I’m excited to at least say that something is in motion on that front.

And lastly, what is it with people just not getting it?  I mean, I know that I make some bad choices and I’m usually trying to improve when I do, but the level of insensitivity in the world is nuts.  It blows my mind to think that someone can honestly make a decision like one that I saw today.  It’s baffling.  Cluelessness.  I really can’t divulge anything about it, but I bet that someone is agreeing with me.  I suppose it’s just amusing, if anything, to think that some people walk through life as absolutely ignorant and senseless as they do.  It just highlights why crazy things happen in this world – like George W. Bush being re-elected. 

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Found Some Interesting Things…

I was perusing around the internet today looking for some of my old poetry (alas, most of it was stolen in the tragic 2007 burgling in London).  I actually stumbled across this gem, though:

I felt really nostalgic as I looked through what I had uploaded at that point in my writing life.  There are only a few items there, but you can see where my head was going at this point in my life.  It’s a slightly bittersweet experience to relive those memories, but I’m glad that I was at least able to find SOME of what I had written in the past.  I still have hard copies of many items that I plan to put onto the computer and make available perhaps over the summer.  There just never seems to be time to take on those sort of larger scale projects anymore, unfortunately.

Anyway, I wanted to touch on my book idea from before.  As a matter of fact, it inspired me to touch on it immensely right down in the trenches with my students.  Aside from having a couple of meaningful discussions with my classes related to how elementary school treated them, I also put together something of a video.  This is going to be something that I will show semi-annually, each time I start a History class, I think.  Check it out through the link below (I apologize for the dodgy quality, but talk to Google with any complaints!)

I was actually hesitant to show it because I thought that the students would find it so beyond lame that it would be hard for them to contain themselves.  I’m proud to say that I did show it, after all, and it really went over well!  Insomuch as I complain about Central kids sometimes, they are a resilient bunch and have moments of clarity where I question how young people in these circumstances can develop such a depth of vision.  I am certainly finding this in my Canadian and International Law class.  This is a 12U course and as a result the students are far more engaged in these sorts of broader issues than most students that I come across on a daily basis.  I even set up a website to house some of the student projects throughout the semester:

Again, let me know what you think about these ideas.  Teaching is about soaking up constructive criticisms and adapting your approach to the curriculum based on the changing times, I believe.  The book idea is probably shelved (pun definitely intended) for now, as I feel that I accomplished what I wanted to with the video.  My concern with the education system was very near sighted, I know, but still stands true.  I think I just misjudged my intentions; my concern was chiefly with student success, and that’s what I need to focus on right now.  If I really want my students to grow and to succeed I need to focus my time and energy on them for the time being, rather than my own philosophical growth.

Lastly, I have held up to at least two of my New Year’s resolutions: I have certainly been busier and getting ‘out more’ AND my approach to school has significantly improved.  I’m putting in the work that I think is necessary to encourage more success in my classroom.  Speaking of which, I got my own room this semester!  I am so excited about this, you have no idea.  In sum, things have started well this semester and I hope that I can continue this trend in the coming months.  I want to thank you for reading and stopping by and remember: I always want criticisms, so keep them coming!

Take care.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The state of the education system…

Did you hear the big sigh at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon?  If you listened really closely, you could have heard the collective exhale of thousands of Ontario teachers.  The first week back after a holiday is difficult because you really need to go from zero to a hundred overnight.  The kids are talkative and don’t remember anything from before the Christmas break and, on top of that, it’s also the end of the semester.  But with that said, I also had a fairly easy week with only a few actual lessons to teach.  Either way, I’m happy to be enjoying a Saturday morning again.

I’m thinking about writing a book.  That’s a tough statement to follow, I know.  For now, it’s a preliminary thought and one that may well be better suited for a thesis or a masters paper than an actual book, but the idea is still there.  What I’d like to do is spend some time sitting down with teachers throughout the province and discussing the state of education and the “ins and outs” of their specific classrooms and schools.  I’d like to get down into the trenches, so to speak, and see what’s really going on behind the scenes.  I am confident that I am not alone in my frustrations about the state of the education system as it currently stands.  Now, there are a variety of factors that play into the success of a young person in education.  I am well aware that most students at Sinclair and Donald A. Wilson are doing just fine, but those students would do well in most circumstances.  Essentially, I’m upset with the “buzz words” that permeate throughout the world of education.  Say the words, get the job.  But does it all work? 

Sure, some of it does.  Take the new push on assessment for starters: It’s no secret that assessing more and evaluating less is going to mean that more kids pass.  It has to, whether the students are more successful or not.  The thought is that students will learn what is most important in a given course and only get evaluated once they have had quite a few opportunities to practice a given task.  This idea isn’t ludicrous.  In fact, I agree that it can work in certain contexts and with certain types of students.  My problem lies in the fact that these ideas are expected to be implemented in any given context, without being tested there first.  It doesn’t matter that assessment is the LAST thing that students from school’s like mine need.  They’re already lacking accountability and have attendance issues.  How exactly are we planning to benefit these students by effectively telling them “It’s not your fault that you don’t attend class or complete any work, it’s your teacher who is to blame.  They need to entertain you more and give you more choices in your learning.  Oh, and they will also evaluate you less, not take off late marks, and not count any zeroes.”  Now, say this to someone who pushes these new ideas and their response is simple: try it and you will see the benefits.  But that’s a logical fallacy in the argument: they’re skipping the step where teachers can say ‘no, this isn’t needed in my classroom.’

I’ll try to organize the jumbled mess above into a succinct argument: I honestly don’t think that it’s about student success.  This may not be a revelation, but I’m going to point it out anyway.  It’s about the bottom line: numbers.  The more students we have passing in Ontario, the better our education system looks.  What does that mean?  More money!  And this all trickles down.  School boards want their students to look successful so that they can secure more funding from the province.  Schools want their students to look smarter so that the board will be impressed and offer the school more funding and better resources.  Teachers want their students to succeed so that they don’t like poor educators to their administration, thereby allowing themselves more job opportunities and, eventually, more money.  In effect, it’s not about student success, it’s about the big green.  This is why the quality of education in this country has fallen so greatly over the last couple of decades. 

As well, the powers that be are frightened of “the almighty parent”, who has changed immensely from when I was a child.  How can the board of education possibly point the finger at bad parenting (when we all know, deep down, this is the root cause of the majority of classroom problems) and tell parents that they need to instil better values and more discipline into their children?  They’re too scared to say something like this, so instead they blame the teachers and come up with a new way of doing things that will shut parents up and keep the big green flowing in.  Students be damned, it’s all about the Benjamin’s.

Before you ask: Yes, I am aware that I am inherently biased in this argument.  But, I’m biased in two different ways: most obviously, I am a teacher who has to deal with the true results of these initiatives on a daily basis, which could make me negatively biased.  But second, I’m biased because I am one of the minority of people in education who are actually concerned about student success and helping the youth of today improve the world of tomorrow.  The ironic thing is that this makes me an outcast in Ontario’s education system.

To be continued…

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Years Resolutions a Little Bit Late

As the old cliché goes, “better late than never,” right?  These resolutions have at least been in my head during the holidays but until today I guess I just haven’t had the ‘jump’ to actually write them down and reflect on them.  I know a lot of people who really ‘don’t believe’ in New Years Resolutions; they feel that any wholesale, sweeping changes that one must make in their life should be a change that is implemented for a better reason than simply “because I have to.”  And this logic makes sense given that so many people never truly live up to their resolutions.  (I wonder if one would see a correlation between depression diagnoses in February and New Years Resolutions to get thin?)  But, for me, the end of the year really does (and always has) mean an end and a beginning for me.  I have always seen the Christmas break as a separate time of year from the other 10 months and 2 weeks and as such I feel that resolutions do in fact help me!  So, without further adieu, I present to you the full list of my resolutions this year:

* #’s 1 and 2 are repeated from a previous post

1. Keep busier. Too often my nights were spent sitting on a couch and watching television. Not that I don't enjoy those activities with friends, it's just nice to feel like your life means something more than hockey games and episodes of Trailer Park Boys and Two and a Half Men. This has been kickstarted just today by a teacher from my work who invited me to participate in some physical activity in the new year.

2. Continue the weight maintenance. I've been good. As a matter of fact, I've been really good. As a result, I have lost the weight and reached my target weight. However, this Christmas break has brought with it a lot of laziness and a plethora of food that I probably shouldn’t have been eating.  Getting back to a routine at school where I’m eating healthier and moving around more will help a lot, but I’ve got to stay on top of the cardio as much as possible.

3.  Figure out just who I am.  This is a lofty goal, albeit probably the most important one for me.  I’ve been in a fog for what feels like a couple of years now, and as a result of this fog I have hurt a lot of people.  Essentially, I’m tired of hurting people because I don’t have a clue who I am or what I want out of life or a relationship.  I did recognize this earlier, but I’m still caught in this tailspin of making the same lame decisions repeatedly.  I’m starting to get some great insight into this from a book called “Predictably Irrational”, which I highly recommend you check out.  Once I can put together a mosaic of my own feelings and attitudes, only then can I effectively get into a relationship with another person.

4.  Better myself as a professional AND as a personThis falls into the ‘keep busier’ resolution in that I’m essentially trying to avoid sitting on the couch every single night watching television and vegging with the guys.  I have already signed up for my specialist courses in History and in English to commence in August, but my goal is to become a more diverse teacher over this semester.  I certainly learned last semester that the hardest part is getting over yourself; that is, I need to avoid falling into the all too familiar “Negative Notty” trap.  My first reactions are often very negative when I approach new issues or new concepts and by changing this I have already seen a growth in my educational philosophy and practice.  As for bettering myself as a person: this can range from the lifestyle change that is already in effect (you should see these great bathrooms!) to the reinvigoration of reading for purpose and pleasure.  The types of changes that will better me as a person, I believe, are the ones that will not only remove me from my comfort zone but also help to build on my interests and desires as I’ve grown older.  “The unexamined life,” Socrates said, “is not worth living.”

5.  Stop feeling guilty!  I have often thought that it would have been far easier to be twenty-something in the 1970’s (sorry mom).  You know, before instant communication was so prevalent in our psyche.  There would be no guilt in not communicating with people you don’t see on a day-to-day basis, because you can’t!  The invention of FaceBook changed things: no excuses.  With hundreds of “friends”, the guilt just keeps on piling up with each message or wall post not being sent.  I feel like I’m advertising for this book, but “Predictably Irrational” looks at this issue closely as well: why is it so hard for humans to ‘close doors’ in our lives?  For our parents, it’s taking people off of their Christmas Cards list, and for us, it’s got to be either deleting people on FaceBook or, the one I prefer: leaving them alone.  There’s nothing wrong with checking in and keeping up to date with the people who you care about and who care about you, but when you’re going out of your way to keep a door open that otherwise would have shut on it’s own, you’re playing a fool’s game.  I’ve got some of the best friends in the world right here in Oshawa, so my goal is to spend less time stressing about losing touch with hundreds of people from University who I will probably never see again.

So, there you have it.  Long winded I know, but I like to see it as necessary long windedness.  Either way, I’ll let you get on with your day.  Health and happiness!