A Puff of Absurdity: On Obama

I don’t agree with everything he did, but I love the way he did it. Obama was (is – he’s not dead) a classy guy. He’s a role model for behaving under stress, a legendary orator, and a gentleman with his partner.  A recent NYTimes article described one daily practice of his – to read ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Sugar and Socialization

An Agenda discussion on sugar use is timely for me. I typically let students eat something small and healthy in class to tide them over until lunch, but, in one class this semester, I ended up having to police their choices. A few shovelled candy into their mouths before I’d tell them to put it ...

A Puff of Absurdity: More on Critical Thinking

Owen at Northern Reflections wrote about Crawford Kilian‘s recent article in the Tyee about the need for critical thinking in schools, which referenced Jeet Heer‘s twitter essay on Sartre where I found this nugget from Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew:  (And somehow I wonder why my house is such a mess.) This one passage isn’t reserved solely ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Is This the Sixth Estate?

The “Fourth Estate” is an antiquated term for unofficial social and political forces, primarily the media. Use of the term recognized, over two centuries ago, that the media affect social change. But once that became clear, it became a tool of the establishment. The church, politicians, and corporations started using the media to sway the ...

A Puff of Absurdity: The Irony of Advocating for A/C in Schools

This was a hot start to the school year. I taught a few classes with sweat dripping off my face as I spoke animatedly and enthusiastically about my courses. It was uncomfortable to be sure. And it was no better for students staring back at me all pink-faced and glistening. It’s hard to learn when ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Fixing French Immersion

The Agenda with Steve Paikin had a segment on French Immersion in the schools this week. The panel raised some interesting points but neglected a few issues. A Bit of a Summary (skip down for more interesting bits) The guests were Caroline Alfonso, an education reporter for the Globe & Mail (with a young child in immersion), ...

Dead Wild Roses: The Bathroom Conundrum in Public School

   “I don’t want to see penis when I go to the washroom; he just stands there with the stall open and it makes me uncomfortable.“. That was the quotable bit from a conversation I had with a female student I happened to be teaching at an elementary school this week.  We were walking in ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On That Time I Fell and Hurt My Head

I fell on ice a few days ago. My feet were swept clear out from under me, and apparently I injured my brain. At the hospital, they said it’s either a migraine or a concussion, and since I don’t have a history of migraines, and since I wiped out earlier that day, it’s probably a ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Appropriation

I’m teaching First Nations in Canada this semester, and it’s a bit of a challenge for me. I spent 7 years in school studying philosophy and social sciences – all from a western European point of view, so I feel confident teaching those subjects from that perspective, but I know little more about First Nations ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Cold Calls in the Classroom

I do it, sort of. I don’t call on kids who don’t have their hands up generally, but I do evaluate their level of understanding through classroom discussion, one way to better triangulate marks between products created, observations, and conversations. And I often make lingering eye-contact with kids who haven’t spoken up in a while. ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Unions and Boycotts

The elementary schools in our board have decided to boycott the local paper because one columnist has been known to take a decidedly negative view of teachers. So a local MPP, Michael Harris, petitioned Sandals, the Education Minister, to… I’m not really sure what he wants her to do. But he wrote her a letter ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Student Stress

I’ve been teaching long enough to have watched a generation of students file passed me. It’s fascinating from a social science standpoint because I can watch trends evolving before my eyes. And, being a bit of a hoarder, I’ve kept everything I’ve used and all my marks along the way, so I feel like I ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Expectations and Time Limits

In the words of Tina Fey, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s eleven-thirty.” I had a rough semester with several students pushing every boundary repeatedly. I set down expectations, and sometimes students question them a bit and see if I actually mean it. But this term was full ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Those Counterfeit Diplomas

An editorial in today’s NYT suggests that some recent high school graduates are not competent in basic skills that should be required to earn their standing. The headline refers to these students’ diplomas as counterfeit, implying that students had a hand in conspiring to be granted documents under false pretenses. A better word for them ...

Dead Wild Roses: John Bowlby – A Secure Base – Five Therapeutic Tasks

      To be honest, I could excerpt most of Bowlby’s book.  It is that good.  However, little things like time and copyright concerns limit me to providing some of the highlights of attachment theory and how big a change it was from traditional psychoanalysis. “The first is to provide the patient with a secure base ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Reading and Writing

I teach grade 12 university-level philosophy, and I teach it as a university prep-course. So we read primary sources, and we write essays longer and more complex than the standard five paragraphs. And then I brace myself for the complaints. Why do we have to read about other philosophers? Why can’t we just explore our ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Call for Questions

Another civics teacher and I are hosting an all-candidates debate for potential MP of my school’s riding, which, for the first time, is not my own riding even though I live just three blocks north. So I’m not familiar with the specific candidates. We contacted all parties, but, unfortunately, the Green Party candidate was very ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Just in Time Learning

The experience that most prepared me for teaching wasn’t teacher’s college, it was working in a huge insurance company. They trained me to work efficiently and stay working until the job’s finished, which, in an insurance company, means forever. It’s a very useful skill when I’m marking. There are a few efficiency slogans that come ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Dear Orli

You wrote about the education system ruining your health because you started having panic attacks when you realized your future would be based on a set of criteria created by exam boards. You think young people are feeling pressure that shouldn’t be imposed on anyone.  You ask, “How can we justify putting the health of ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Teaching Philosophy to Children

There are several articles and discussions being reported about teaching philosophy to children. They largely focus on the question should we, why, and how? Britain has a program, Philosophy for Children (P4C), in which student get in groups to discuss philosophical issues after seeing a video or reading a story together that prompt a big ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Finnish Schools: What Do They Have That We Don’t Have?

Everyone’s a buzz about schools in Finland being awesome, so I read a book and some articles and their curriculum documents to figure out what’s so special. In a nutshell, copying their school system will do little unless we can find a way to copy their entire culture, but let’s look at their structure nonetheless ...

A Puff of Absurdity: Hedges on Education

Yesterday Hedges wrote on a profound relationship he had with a teacher who passed in December, and he had much of value to say about education: Education is not only about knowledge. It is about inspiration. It is about passion. It is about the belief that what we do in life matters. It is about ...

mark a rayner: Did I Miss Anything?

Question frequently asked by students after missing a class by Tom Wayman The Astonishing Weight of the Dead. Vancouver: Polestar, 1994. Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here we sat with our hands folded on our desks in silence, for the full two hours Everything. I gave an exam worth 40 per cent of the grade ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Being an Ally

I’m not sure how to say this without being blasted, but I’ll try:  I might understand a little piece affecting Rachal Dolezal decision to present as black rather than be a white ally. I just have one story.  It was about ten years ago.  I had just finished reading The History of Mary Prince: A ...

A Puff of Absurdity: On Measuring Well

In Plato’s Protagoras, Socrates and Protagoras argue over the language Protagoras uses to explain what happens when, as he describes it, pleasure overtakes reason and people make horrible choices.  Socrates insists that it’s not pleasure that overtakes reason, but ignorance.  Here’s some key bits of the passage: They maintain that there are many who recognize ...