Category Archives: Teaching

Amanda Todd and sexual assault

Some facebook friends linked this blog about “What it’s like being a teen girl” that discusses sexual harassment and assault.  What stood out especially was that boys aged 12-17 are the most likely to commit sexual assault.

So then I caught up on reading about Amanda Todd, and watched her video (at the bottom, “My story…”), which made me cry.

I think I’m going to have to do more real-life lessons in the classroom.


I before E except too often to make this a useful rule

They really shouldn’t teach “I before E except after C”, because there are far too many counter-examples.   Off the top of my head:

Their, weird, weigh, eight, height, either, neighbour, protein, apartheid, Reid, vein, science, and best of all, fallacies.

The time would be far better spent explaining “you’re” vs “your”.

Psychology and Math

I think it’s interesting how if I were to tell a grade 9 class (14-year-olds) that girls outperform boys in math until age 15, that the girls probably would outperform the boys, but if I said instead that boys surpass girls at age 13, the boys would outperform.

If I say, “This course is challenging,” does that mean that students will do poorly compared to if I had said “This course is easy”?  I would say it’s challenging in order to emphasize the importance of practice (i.e. homework) and studying, but could I instill the work ethic and create a better psychological effect with a different phrase?  “This course is easy for those who keep up with homework and studying”?  Or possibly even better, a single word, “This course is ___”

I would probably do well to learn more about this, so I can figure out how to have positive effects, but even more importantly, to avoid creating negative ones.

Anyone know of any resources?

Day of Silence

Today is an organized day of silence to raise awareness about bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students and other people.  The event seems to be organized for students to participate, but I taught my full 3 lessons without speaking a word.

Students were supportive and seemed to enjoy it.  One student quipped that they learned more this way because they had to ask the questions and give the answers.  I was able to answer yes/no questions, and I could write other things on the board, but students did step up (figuratively) to give longer explanations.

It was a little difficult to communicate.  Even questions like, “Do you understand?” and “Any questions?” weren’t easy, but they followed me well enough.

As a teacher, I think this was a fun way to show my support for LGBTQ rights.  They knew what it was about (I wrote it on the board for those who didn’t know beforehand), and next class I might have a discussion about it.

This might be a privilege for math teachers (having the lesson being very writing-intensive) but I would encourage others to try it if possible!


Economic Opportunities for Youth

I made the following 3 suggestions to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in response to their question, “What would it take to transform economic opportunities for Ontario youth?”

1. Youth employment should match employment demand
Youth employment should provide experience in fields where demand for employees actually exists – so it is more likely to lead to job opportunities in the future.

2. Educate students and *parents* about the economy
Many parents believe that the only way for their child to succeed in life is to attend university, when in reality, unspecialized university degrees do little other than to provide entry-level employment. More promotion of college/apprenticeship programs would be useful. This should be done by grade 10 so students can plan ahead.

3. Universities should become more exclusive
Ontario has flooded the job market with too many young people with generic arts and science degrees. The employment demand for these people is very low and outlook is poor. Universities need to act less like for-profit corporations and more like facilities of education. Reduce the number of undergraduate spaces in generic programs, and kick out students who don’t take their education seriously. Maybe then a university degree could mean something again.

Link: Ontario Trillium Foundation – Future Fund

A collection of short thoughts #2

I notice how teachers dress up a little more on parent-teacher interview day. Some men will choose only those days to wear a suit. I don’t even wear a suit to job interviews. It’s not Halloween. I go as my self every day.

If someone used the word “stretch” to describe something getting smaller, I’m sure most people would object. And yet some math textbooks and teachers do this. I think high school math gets abstract enough that straying from intuitive meaning could confuse the hell out of students.

How do airplanes manage with the tiniest wheels?

I joined a Celebrity Death Pool this year, where you pick who you think will kick the bucket this year. Sort of like fantasy baseball, but it’s harder to choose your team. You can’t have a go-to guy like in fantasy baseball. Albert Pujols and Roy Halladay will always produce, but there is no such thing as a reliable dier.

Candy brands, like M&Ms and Smarties, have had contests of “what should the next colour be?” and let their fans vote. I think they should do this with sweet peppers. Red, orange, yellow, green. What will be next? You decide! (pick purple).

I just heard of the book, “John Dies at the End”. This is a brilliant title for a book, because now I want to read it without knowing anything about it. Well, anything else.

Lost has finally ended. I never watched it, but still was entertained by it. Know what’s better than watching Lost? Reading the various “WTF!” status updates on Facebook after each episode.

Learning French

As any Canadian, I took French in school for 10 or 11 years. I remember it being really tough to learn all the verb tenses. They talked about past participle, future progressive, past perfect, etc. What probably made this tough is that I didn’t know those terms for English verbs. I obviously knew the meanings of “flown”, “will be flying” and “had flown”, but until I taught ESL, I couldn’t have matched the terms to the tenses. I think I might have been a bad English student… maybe a bad French student too.

It was even hard to explain the general meaning of tenses. Explaining “will fly” vs. “will be flying” vs. “will have flown” vs. “will have been flying” was a huge challenge. I had to give it serious thought to generalize what time a tense refers to. Try it yourself, I dare you.

Let’s go for a fly!