As this card demonstrates in a rather funny way, sometimes our best intentions, don't turn out quite as we expect sometimes. Christmas time is busy season one in which we spend so much of our time preparing. Whether we are buying and wrapping gifts, baking, getting/decorating a tree, and preparing Christmas cards, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that need to be done. Increasingly the importance of Advent and the religious significance of the season is replaced with rush of commercialism. I invite you watch the videos below and reflect on importance of Advent, and think how you can spiritually prepare for the season. The second video is humourous retelling of the nativity story using modern technology. I hope you have a great holiday, and encourage you make the effort to get to attend Christmas mass this year.
New experiences are an important part of life and our openness to learning on a daily basis, is essential to growing as a person. The summer is a time to take a break from an academic focus, to pursue other areas of interest. In order to get away and travel somewhere different, my family and I planned a vacation to Boston. Since none of us had previously visited the history rich port, we were excited about the tours, shopping and unique dining opportunities. Any doubts about the cost of the trip were quickly forgotten as I witnessed the interest and enthusiasm showed by my sons in touring famous historical locations, like the site of the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party which eventually lead to the American Revolution and emergence of an independent United States.
I must confess I am a bit of a closet Food Network fan, so another highlight for me was visiting some food trucks and enjoying some street eats. The "Go Fish" truck served a mean fried Haddock sandwich, and remains one of the best things I have ever eaten. As we drove on the crowded interstate on our way into town, we were passed by JESUS in a black Esclade (see picture below). Obviously a new and funny moment, who would have known.
With the return to school, there are real and obvious signs of "newness". Whether it is the unscuffed shoes purchased for the year, or the assortment of recently acquired school supplies, students are usually ready to go. I challenge you to put this same effort into the preparation for and openness to the opportunities that the year will present. Your work habits, attitude, and willingness to take risks will go a long way in determining how much you take away from grade 8 and the person you will become. I look forward to the year and learning along with you.
What were your experiences this summer? What did you learn from them? Why do you think it is important to continue learning?
“It's about engaging students with technology and using technology as a tool to teach.”
In order to consolidate our class' understanding of x-y planes and provide genuine learning experiences, we played co-ordinate plane battleship via Skype with Mrs. Durnin's grade 8 class. As an icebreaker each class asked and answered 10 questions from their counterparts more than 600 km away. What was immediately evident was the common experiences and concerns the students shared including high school, dress code and sports. There was also a some friendly competition as student cheered hits and enjoyed calling out,"You sank my battleship". While my class was excited by the opportunity to video conference with another class, they were also intimidated with the prospect of having their image full sized on another class' Smartboard. I believe it was an educational experience both for the students and myself, and have no question that Skype will be a tool I use to help students gain a greater appreciation and perspective of the world they live in. What do you think are the benefits of Skype in the class? How does technology improve learning?
Growing up Christmas was always an important holiday in our home. While my mom was busy in the kitchen preparing a number of traditional dishes for our feast, my father was equally involved in preparing for company and making sure we were ready to entertain. As for myself I would always help in any way possible (doing dishes, cleaning the rec room, vacuuming), perhaps spurred on by my guilt for any wrong doings during the previous 364 days, and my hope that these last minutes acts, would keep me on the nice list. While some of my fondest memories of a childhood revolve around Christmas morning and the excitement I shared with my brother and sister, it was the feeling that was in our house and in people's hearts that stands out. Now don't get me wrong, I loved the wonder of what was wrapped under the tree and still remember tearing into my Atari 2600 and my new high tech Bauer Challenger skates (see pictures below), but it was then and still now more than a gift exchange.
While we regularly attended mass together as Catholics, there was always something special about attending
Christmas mass as a family, and remembering the true reason for the season. As commercialism continues to creep into our holiday traditions, I hope you work to keep that feeling alive in your hearts and to help spread this cheer to others. Your generosity and hard work in our school canned food drive is sign of Christ's presence in your lives. I wish you and all your family a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you make an effort to get to mass during the season. What are your Christmas memories? What traditions make Christmas special for you? What links or videos would you include in your holiday favourites?
With the recent improvements in technology and the inclusion of video cameras in most mobile devices, posting videos on websites like Youtube and Vimeo has become commonplace. Many people in the "iPhone Generation" enjoy living their lives publicly on the web and and posting videos to gain an audience. While I can't resist some of these entertaining productions, I also watch them with a healthy degree of scepticism. Due to green screens and advanced programs, often what you is see is not necessarily an accurate depiction of a real life events. Unfortunately some young people emulate what they view online, with tragic consequences. As part of our media literacy unit this month we will focus on questioning the authenticity of supposed "reality productions" and learn to critically evaluate their messages. We will also consider the role public acceptance plays in what we view in the media. Below is a series of two videos, which detail how green screen effects can easily mislead a viewer. The third video explains the serious and dangerous consequences of imitating without thinking. (Sorry the site won't allow an embedded link. Please go http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeAHKMkG4us to watch.) Have you ever seen a video you thought was fake? How do you did decide if something you watch on the web is authentic or the result of editing magic? Why do you think some teens ignore the serious consequences of such acts?
While my summer was filled with socializing with family and friends, travelling and swiming in our new pool, my greatest satisfaction came from the completion of a building project. Now to give you some background I have some handyman skills, but am by no means "Mike Holmesish" in my carpentry abilities. When my wife and I decided to build a sauna to extend our pool season, the easiest and safest choice would have been to hire someone to complete the job. Perhaps inspired by too much HGTV or a need to reconnect with "my outside self", I decided to tackle this project complete with framing, electrical rough in and finishing the interior and exterior of the sauna. In order to accomplish this daunting task I spent time each night on the internet reading articles and watching videos to prepare for the next day. I am pleased with the finished product and have a far greater appreciation of complexity of the task and effort required. With hard work, dedication and some preparation almost anything is possible. I challenge you to set the bar higher for yourself (academically, socially, extracurricularly) this year and work to accomplish goals you previously thought were beyond your reach? Have you ever had to work to achieve something? How did you you feel when you succeeded? What are your personal reactions to the videos below? Let me know what you think...
As a culminating activity in media literacy and my narrative writing unit, students animated digital stills into what I believe are compelling and entertaining submissions. Below are links to the best Stop Motion videos produced by grade 8's at my school. I am always amazed at the creativity and technical expertise students demonstrate when they are able to create media projects relevant to their own experiences. Which video(s) are your favourites? What did you think student's learn through digital story telling? Do students learn best when they can complete assignments in ways that best suit their learning styles?
Many times in teaching the greatest "moments" occur when our students surpass our expectations/limitations. While marking a question on a English assessment written in class, Daryka Murray, a grade 8 student, provided one such moment. Below is her response to the question: "Think of something that you have had to work hard to achieve or learn. Write a piece to explain who has been your teacher and what you have learned?"
Dogs can teach you a lot. That is certainly the case for my dog Molly. She has taught me every important lesson that I need for life. Patience comes first. Sometimes you need to wait until 7 am to be let out or until 5:00 pm to eat even if you're hungry. For her efforts I am now successful at controlling my temper (which is hard) when I need to wait for my morning bathroom time or for my TV dinner to be done in the microwave. Next comes faith. No matter how many times I pretend to throw the ball, Molly always jumps to catch it. This was a great lesson for me because it brought me closer to God. I now know that He may not answer me right away, but one day He will. Then there's forgiveness. No matter how many times we tell her that she's bad or leave her out for a night, as soon as she senses we're not that angry she returns to the generally happy, goofy dog that she is, and pretends that nothing actually happened. I can now diffuse an argument before it starts, know when I have to say sorry and when it's my time to forgive. Finally there is love. As soon as someone poses no threat she loves them and it's always the same amount for everyone. I now no longer accuse my mom of loving my sister more because I understand she loves us both the same. Dogs can teach you a lot. I know mine has.
Congratulations to Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who yesterday became the youngest MP elected to serve in federal politics. The nineteen year old won the Sherbrooke Quebec riding, demonstrating that youth can have a voice in politics when they participate in the process.
"Dusseault ran a grassroots campaign in the university town east of Montreal. He says he always believed he had a chance." Instead of working at a golf course this summer, he will be preparing for his role in parliament. In addition to the prestige and attention he has gained for accomplishing this feat, he also takes home a Member of Parliament's starting salary which is $157,731. Check out this link for the full story:
The second young person which inspired me is Mike Tompkins with his beatbox musical acapella covers. Rarely is a cover version of a song better than the original, but his version of Katy Perry's Firework, takes the song, in my opinion, to whole new level. What makes the version even more impressive is that every instrument and sound in the song, is done using only his voice. Let me know what you think...
As I patiently wait for spring temperatures to arrive, I find myself starting to anticipate the summer warmth and days on the lake. I recently found this link for a device that would make anyone's time on the water unforgettable. At $99500, it is not exactly a steal, but at least now I know what to tell my wife I want this year for my birthday. Imagine people's faces as you went flying by on the St. Lawrence River. If money was no object what would you like to receive?