Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Friendlies on the train


Holy Dinah - I'm tired. Today marks the last day of this first portion of my first in-school practicum where our focus has been mainly to observe different types of classes. My university chum and I have been visiting many classes - never repeating - and have for the most part been witness to some very cool and very inspired education.

I want to focus on that last word because I've been reminded daily about it's importance. I was also reminded of the importance of defining it properly: through an anecdote delivered by one of our faculty associates at SFU, we were reminded of Christy Clark, British Columbia's Premiere, when she spoke in defense of the cutting of higher education funding suggesting that "skill-acquisition, training, and education are all essentially the same thing." Our faculty associate suggested how cathartic it would have been to have had someone inquire of Ms. Clark right then and there if she would prefer to have her daughter receive from her public schooling, sex skills, sex training, or sex education.

Point is, there is a difference, and a lot of what I've seen has given me great pause when it comes to my approach and shifting views as I go through this year-long program. I graduated high school in 1993. I didn't love all of it, but I was comfortable enough in school. I managed it - what it was then - and made it what I needed it to be. But I couldn't get away with that level of avoidance in high school today. Teachers have been re-taught and as a result everything has been re-thought. They simply don't teach the same way anymore. I like this, but at 35 I'm feeling like a bit of a dinosaur again. 18 years is enough time for paradigm shifts to take place and take root. As Joey Lawrence (or is it Joey Lucas) would say, "woah!"

Anyway, wanted to say that last night I had a chance to meet-up with my friend, Michael, who - along with his wife, Sandra, joined me for a showing of 50/50. It was very good. There was a moment of romantic longing in this film (which also deals with rare spinal cancer and male genital grooming) that ranks right up there with Bill Murray holding Scarlett Johansson's foot in the Park Hyatt, Tokyo. Just awesome stuff, Ms. Anna Kendrick. Thanks for that.

Then off on the train to make my way home to complete a crafty task and while on the way home I bare witness to a sea of disgruntled Canucks fans who gave-up on the late 3rd period 3-0 score VS the Rangers. A nice, older couple in matching Kesler jerseys stands in front of me and I politely inquire as to the score of the game. We strike-up a conversation and I reveal that I'm actually from Calgary - a fact they visibly bristle at - but it becomes playful right away. They have a great deal of respect for Iginla. Well, of course they do. They offer me a memorial program from the Rick Rypien tribute before the game and we eventually get to revealing that I'm here for school, she's a Simon Fraser graduate and a recently retired teacher. Glad to have asked the score and regretful that I'm getting off the train only three stations away.

Nice people, these Canucks fans. THESE Canucks fans.

And still thinking about that phone-call from the car. Go see 50/50.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cambie Irregular


Finished our first week of practicum tonight. Gathered at The Cambie pub just outside of Gastown with other student teachers to celebrate and shoot the shite.

The Cambie is a hole, a block away from the Worst Neighbourhood in North America, and the only reason to go there is because it's 3 blocks from Waterfront Skytrain station and because the pitchers are $12, which is about as cheap as it gets in Canada.

There were about 20 of us there tonight, and it was a good time - time to regroup and time to check-in and see how everyone's doing thus far.

We are all in our teacher gear - mine consisting of the unapologetic sweater vest and collared shirt.

I make my way to the men's washroom, which previously looked a lot like what you see in the photo below. You can see the rusting communal waterfall urinal situation they had going on for some time, but what you can't see are the blocked toilets in stalls with half-doors so as to prevent dudes from shooting heroin on the premises.

Well, it's all changed. Gone is the graffiti, the rusty spots beside the urinal, and the possibility of users cluttering-up the stalls, all because The Cambie has installed two important deterrents: beefy bouncers at the front door, and kind warning signs saying that people who report graffiti or damage in the rest rooms will get their bar tab taken care of... or something like that.

So, sweater vest and all, I head into the restroom which now sports tiled walls, new marble sinks, and an imposing stainless steel waterfall for the new urinal, and I assume my place at the far left end of the peeing wall. Two Cambie regulars come in and take-up their place beside me. The "Cambie regular" can be recognized as one with a bandanna, a leather jacket, heroin tracks, a goatee on a wizened skeletal visage, or any combination of the above.

So, while nervously releasing, I notice Cambie regular to my right nudge his friend, motion with his head toward me, and say "That guy's the reason we got these new pissers..."

Perhaps it really was an army of bookish and plaid-clad teacher types who marched en masse to the Cambie to demand better conditions for making water, but more likely it was just the fact that when one operates a beer-serving establishment, and one serves it cheaply enough to force one's customer base to empty their bladders almost every 30 minutes on a good night, one shouldn't force them to cross into the 9th circle of hell to do what comes naturally. We're not animals, man.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is it a bird?

There is a tiny tweeting thing that has it's tweeting fun somewhere in the ceiling of my room after the sun goes down. I have no idea what the hell it is, but I need to bring the upstairs folk down one of these nights so that they can hear what it is I'm hearing. It's two short tweets, it sounds like a bird, but it can't be. It's not a bat, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, I'm hoping it shuts-up soonish.

Today was the third day of my early practicum in a school that I haven't decided if I should name yet. I'm not sure how easily I want this blog to be found through a basic Google search is all.

But what i have to say can only be glowingly positive so far. I'm journaling a lot about this stuff for university purposes, but I will say here that I'm astounded by two things at this school: 1) The amount of respect the students and teachers show each other, and 2) the extreme high quality of the teachers that have formed a community in the school.

I have observed, since Tuesday, 11 different classes with 11 different teachers. I'm getting "the lay of the land", and the land has been laid well, as it were. I watched an English teacher give a 74 minute lesson (that's how long classes are at this school, by the way) and the students were completely engaged, challenged, and inspired throughout. I know this because each of them responded to the teacher and to each other throughout. The students' unique definitions what "A poem is..." would make you weep for how shabby your own creative writing experience might have been in high school. Dang - these kids be lucky.

The teachers all view their practice as a continually growing and evolving thing. These are the kind of people that don't just line their bookshelves with impressive titles - they READ THEM and APPLY THEM in the classroom. If there are master teachers in the world, the staff at __________ secondary school are doing their darndest to increase the population of such fine folk. I'm going to learn a great deal and I have a long way to go. This, I think, will be my mantra - not just for the completion of the program, but for the rest of the time I'll be a teacher.

More about that later... but for now, let me share with you that I decided to ride my bike home from school today - well, mostly home anyway. I cruised from the far south of Richmond, East to Railway Avenue, then North past the airport and across the Arthur Laing Bridge to the southern beginnings of Granville, then followed that for a loooong time North through downtown and to the Waterfront where I ate my two $2 pieces of pizza by Canada Place and thought how cool it was that I live here for now, how cool it is that I'm becoming a teacher, how cool it is that I'm going to have my sister out here visiting at the end of the month, and how cool it is that I'm going to have the best holiday this year - how's that for expectations? What can I say? I was feeling positive.

Just wanted to add as a foot note that there are a lot of ridiculously beautiful homes in the West End of Vancouver - most notably off Granville in a neighbourhood called Shawnessy - not to be confused with the strip-mall laden suburb in South Calgary. I checked on MLS, and while there are some fine homes available in the area for between 1 and 2 million, you can really break the bank on something like this for a mere 23 million.

There are some gargantuan mansions that have been newly built in the area, but my best 5-8 million would be spent on one of the original homes with a bit more character - like the one below. Huh... so that's how some people live.

Monday, October 10, 2011

PDPool - We are Ready!


Hanging-out at home on a rainy Thanksgiving Monday and listening to the Flames game on The Fan 960 on the internet. Gotta say, and doing my best to ignore any potential bias, I truly think that the Calgary commentators and especially Mr. Maher make the folks on Vancouver sports radio look like the biggest group of ass-clown homers. If you disagree, listen to a Flames radio broadcast and then hear what Rob Kerr does with his new role as Flames play-by-play guy on the Sportsnet broadcasts this year.

Anyway, in other hockey news, I am pleased to report that our program at Simon Fraser has launched our own hockey pool. There are a great many hockey fans at school and we were able to drum-up enough interest to have 13 of us (8 lads and 5 lasses) to run a 15-player draft.

We did a snaking draft of 9 forwards, 4 d-men, and 2 goalies. I decided to do the unthinkable and draft Crosbow 5th overall - get in the game, sir. For all you hockey fans, here are my picks... and I don't want to hear anything about my 4 Red Wings - I would have had 5 if someone hadn't gotten to Zetterberg first.

1. Sidney Crosby (F - Pittsburg)
2. Pavel Datsyuk (F - Detroit)
3. Dustin Byfuglien (D - Winnipeg)
4. Niklas Lidstrom (D - Detroit)
5. Jonathan Quick (G - Los Angeles)
6. Jonas Hiller (G - Anaheim)
7. PK Subban (D - Montreal)
8. Michael Cammalleri (F - Montreal)
9. Evander Kane (F - Winnipeg)
10. Johan Franzen (F - Detroit)
11. Kevin Bieksa (D - Vancouver)
12. Olli Jokinen (F - Calgary)
13. Rene Bourque (F - Calgary)
14. Chris Kunitz (F - Pittsburgh)
15. Tomas Holmstrom (F - Detroit)

So there it is. The season began on Thursday and I'm already in 12th place out of 13. Hurry up, Crosby!