Sunday, September 30, 2007

chicks that kicked ass

volunteered at a muay thai kick boxing match today. it's a form of fighting that's as popular as hockey in thailand but is new to north america. a friend of mine started learning how to box in this tradition a couple of years ago and, when she noticed that there were a number of women in the city who shared her passion for the sport, decided to create an opportunity for the women to fight competitively.

was a fantastic day where i was inspired by the way that all of the women involved kicked ass. the organizers rolled up their sleeves, put their heads down and had the place ready to go about 3 hours ahead of schedule. they were organized, resourceful and efficient. bumps in the road were met head on and resolved.

the place itself, was gorgeous, the postering in the neighbourhood effective and the presence of media wonderful. couldn't believe what they had accomplished on their own schedules, on top of their day jobs. so inspired by the way that they saw a need that needed to be met and made it happen.

the guys i worked with, security, soft drink promoters, tattooists, sat around alot, chatted in corners and were for the most part biding their time until their shift was over. to be fair, it was likely just one event among many to them but still...

was given some time to see a couple of fights near the end of my shift. this is where i was completely blown away. the fighters, all whom i had met earlier in the day, sweet, down to earth, friendly transformed into real champions. they entered to their own theme music and met their opponent with confidence and grit. they threw punches, kicked, kneed, elbowed, like nobody's business.

at the end of the fight, when the winner was announced, it was incredible to see the women smiling from ear to ear, hugging their opponent, winners embracing losers and whispering words of encouragement to them. interesting to see all of the aggression just left in their corners when the headgear came off. so admirable.

though my role was a small one, was still glad to have been a part of it, holding my own in a crowd of kick ass chicks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

cult of personality

don't really think about the power of personality much except when i'm faced with a negative one. am finding myself pleasantly surprised by the positive power of personality in the form of a barely four foot kid with a big grin and an even bigger heart.

he's an odd little guy who can read people and situations like nobody's business and has a way of relating that is so honest and unfiltered it's a little unsettling. when i called out a student for misbehaving he commented "you tell 'im miss". Later, when he was stuck on a question that i had already reviewed and he was still stuck on, he refused to let me go on without him, saying "wait a sec! i'm not ready. you're the teacher,right? you have to teach me first" it was priceless. he was well within his rights but few ever advocate for themselves so directly.

he's one of the ones who always remembers to say hello and good morning. seems a small detail but it's truly a dying art. so civilized and, well, friendly. it's a personal acknowledgement that helps to constantly remind me that obsessed as i am with curriculum, these are three dimensional people i am dealing with. love how it keeps me on my "remember the big picture" toes.

what's even more incredible about this particular character, is that his spirit is such that struggle as he may, he's always the first one with his hand up to give things a try. so inspiring to me, this ability to risk, repeatedly. the ability to take things in stride, not to take oneself too seriously. pretty impressive thing to already have under control at such a tender age.

like a great documentary or a story about a friend who has done something incredible with their time here on earth, it's moments like the ones i had today with this little life force that help to refocus the proverbial lens.

Friday, September 21, 2007

surrounding myself with who i want to be: putting a philosophy i read on a classroom poster into practice

like most women on the planet, i find myself watching oprah from time to time. last year on one of her shows she featured a panel of people who co wrote a book called the secret. while i found myself cringing at the mystic corniness of it all, i stayed tuned long enough to hear something i had instinctually understood for a long time, that when you focus on the good and surround yourself with positive people, good things will start to happen.

sounds straight forward enough but it's actually harder to achieve than it sounds. especially as a woman. in almost every staff i've been a part of, every workshop i have attended, every gathering of women who've just met, i have noticed that one of the ways that bonds are formed is through the act of complaining. we put the misery in comiserate. in trying to support one another through rough times by listening to one another vent, we almost don't know what to do with ourselves when times are good.

trying to find happiness, then, means that we have to separate and go against the grain in our peer group. i paid for this in my teens when i wouldnt befriend the bitch and sought out friendships outside of my immediate circle. paid for it when i would side with administration because i shared their desire to invest my energy in finding solutions to problems by trying something new instead of shrugging my shoulders bemoaning the things i couldn't change. paid for it when my enthusiastic approach to take on a new initiative threatened the naysayers who don't like change.

all last year i was frustrated by the fact that the reading i was doing and the workshops i was attending which inspired me to blaze a new path in my work was met with disdain and animated opposition by my peers. feared that the vision that was within my grasp would fizzle before it had a chance to spark.

when i took the time to listen more carefully however, i found that there were some others who were frustrated by the negative, defeatist attitude in the room. found that, to my surprise, i wasn't as alone as i thought i had been. found that it just so happened that the same people who were on board intellectually were the same people who i admired on a personal level. liked the way they lived their lives.

after having struggled with trying to come up with a strategy for change that would appeal to all, we decided to go it alone and devote our energy to engaging the minds of those who were open to change.

had our first meeting today and was thrilled to hear suggestions, ideas and solutions being bandied about rather than quips and complaints. such a simple solution. surround yourself with people who want to be there and things will happen. we already have a clear cut agenda for the next two meetings!

am realizing that finding happiness is not so much about rejecting what is bringing you down as it is seeking out what will bring you up.

ironically, just as i was leaving work today, a skip in my step, inspired by the potential that lies ahead, i was faced with the two key naysayers who've actively tried to sabotage my efforts, they made a dig about what i was trying to accomplish and disappeared into their room, glaring oh so subtly.

wonderfully, it didn't phase me at all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

where is richard krause when you need him?

it's film festival season in toronto and i am up to my eyeballs in work so i haven't made it out to see anything yet.

undaunted, i found solace in the fact that i could still get my star sighting fix by watching the rushes on reel to reel. it's an annual tradition i have where i settle in on my couch and lose a few hours watching the stars and directors speak to the creative process behind the work and recount the behind the scenes comaraderie they experienced. i'd even have a pen nearby to write down titles of a movie i wouldn't have otherwise given a second thought.

so you can imagine my frustration when, day after day, i have searched, in vain, to get my cable sponsored festival fix and come up empty. i've scanned hundreds of channels at different times of the day, tried to look for info about where my precious friends have gone in festival literature and NOW magazine.

it wasn't until today when i was watching et canada (something i never do) that i heard a host say that i could catch the rushes on bell express vu on some crazy, have to pay extra for it channel!

it's just so wrong on so many levels! this is supposed to be the people's festival! the easy access to it on rogers cable with our cheesy but reliable reel to real hosts and the cheap chairs and cardboard backdrop was charming and inclusive. made it all seem somehow more artistic and earthy, an opportunity to get a sense of what is was about the story that inspired a group of people to come together to tell it. hate that this has been lost to a pay per viewish environment.

come to think of it the schmooze was weird too. not the same now that the ctv crowd usurped the city tv crew. didn't even try to collaborate, the old faithfuls were nowhere to be seen, and on their own turf!

guess this is one of those instances where bigger isn't translating into better.

hope you've had better luck this fest. and please, if you've found a way to see the rushes on normal person television, for the love of god, let me know!

Saturday, September 8, 2007


sitting here watching an episode of mtv's the hills and am loving every minute of it.

in fact, i love it so much that it's provoked some cause for concern. what could a thirty four year old woman such as myself possibly find entertaining about watching a gaggle of blonde socialites bitch about each other while squinting through oversized glasses, poolside?

after a lot of searching (felt compelled to rationalize it somehow so that i could look at myself in the mirror in the morning) i've discovered that, at its heart, it's one of the only true representations of female relationships ever put on film. all of the nuances are there. the loss of a friend to another clique, the loss of a friend to a boyfriend, the support of a friend when said clique and boyfriend dump your ass. the pep talks, getting together to get ready before going out, the shopping trips,the awkward conversations with the acquaintance your close friend has brought into the group and you just have to tolerate,the deconstruction of a date the night before.

refreshing to see more of the whole story told. that teenage girls stress as much about their friendships as they do about guys. that there is a constant jostling of power and that insecure girls travel in packs, giving power to mean girl leaders. that standing up against a wall of followers at a party or in the nail salon requires courage and nerves of steel.

from a distance, it's fascintating to see the power of gossip. how it's another character in the story of how it is diseminated, how it destroys. really is the thread that runs through all of the drama for both the girls and the guys. it's the last taboo that's been untouched by the pc gods. the one sin it's ok to indulge in.

interesting to see the girls be charmed by the bad guys just as you yourself were at some point in your life. find myself cringing as characters go down the path that as an older, wiser viewer, i know will only end in disaster. kind of like the sick experience of being drawn to watching an accident and its messy fallout.

guess part of the interest comes from the fact that i am a teacher and see these machinations daily at recess and during group work. seems that cat fights are as old as the hills themselves (pardon the pun).

so that's it. my rationalization for a developmentally inappropriate addiction. not sure how i did. am sure that it won't stop me from tuning out any time soon.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

to the creators of "to sir...", with love

how crazy is this. i had just finished posting yesterday's entry where i mentioned the film to sir with love was a perfect thematic accompaniment to the day when i noticed that it was playing on tv!

it's one of the first films of the "bleeding heart teacher turns around a group of iner city youth" genre. typically, i shy away from these films as i find them hokey and derivative but this one has real meat.

sidney poitier is the star and it takes place in london's east end during the 60's(?) . the cast is ethnically diverse,echoing the true face of london at the time no doubt, but refreshingly, race is not treated with an after school specialish brush. any references made, though kinda cornily acted, seem fitting to the situation and aren't overemphasized.

poitier plays an engineer who took a teaching job as a means to make cash until he can find something in his field. he's seen some life so he's not intimidated by the unruly bunch and gets them listening to him in no time. what i found most interesting, and shocking, was the nature of the things that bothered him about the students, namely the girls. when chastising them for their behaviour, almost all of his comments about the girls centre around them looking like sluts. sluts! aside from documentaries on the women's network or episodes of degrassi, i can't think of a time when i've heard the word spoken aloud.

it was jarring. so personal. such an insult. mentioned things like, your sluttish ways will only keep a man's interest for so long. was so entirely inappropriate that i can't imagine how it must have played to an audience of teachers at the time. at one point he even asked a female colleague to come in and teach the girls how to apply makeup.

love the films from the late sixties and seventies. such great writing, such unique characters. you never knew where the story was going to go. was genuinely surprised by what came out of the character's mouth from moment to moment. a rare treat in the age of the formula film.

love the way they come to respect themselves, to expect more for themselves as a result of his influence. love the theme song too, as well as the video montage of the class trip to the museum. all the ingredients of a feel good flick that's not to sweet to swallow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

back to life, back to reality...

so i am a couple of days into the new school year and my desk is already piled with papers, four bins of work and sheets and forms are piled upon a table near my rocking chair. incredible. kind of like getting sucked into a vortex.

seems like they will be a good group. there's a great buzz when they work in groups and i've heard a couple of really thoughtful responses to my questions over the past couple of days. love to see the brows furrow when i push them to dig deep, love to see the hands fly up in the air when the penny does drop.

a couple of them have tried to carve out an identity for themselves by talking a bit louder than they should (when doing an art activity of symbols of things that are important to them one yelled, i like rap, can i draw a gun?) or by bringing in random toys from home to adorn their desks (one was a bobbing hula girl!). can already see who the pleasers are, who the gossips will be, who the task avoiders are,the lateral thinkers are, the ones who've not heard the word no very often...

my real challenge will come from a quartet of really challenging boys, two autistic, one esl and one add. have had to keep my finger on them and redirect them a million times already. requests for the washroom, destroyed and misplaced worksheets and trips to the pencil sharpener are coming at me constantly.

had a great lesson today introducing government. got into wonderful tangental conversations that piqued their interest (why do only citizens get to vote? if we evolved from animals, then when were the first kings and queens, did the cavemen just decide to become a king one day? is a governor kind of the same as a lord?...).i introduced it the way that all the good books tell you to and it worked. knew so much more than i had anticipated. could tell that they liked playing around with the vocabulary they hear peripherally, they like being able to talk about important things like politics.

my mind is spinning with all of the deadlines that loom, modifying plans for special needs, long range plans, launching my action research project, launching my professional learning communities, working with a student teacher, finding resources for the music program i'm teaching for the first time...also trying to take in all of the survey data i had them fill out and actually use it...

but i digress...all this to say, i am back in work mode and hope that i'll find my footing in terms of giving myself a life in between, sooner rather than later.