Motivation.

Scene: The classroom. J is having a hard time with his vocabulary exercise. I give him some hints, but he isn’t motivated to figure it out; it’s hard. He gets one answer right and I make a funny face: “HellOoo! Look at that! You’ve got it!”

J: (Uncontrollable laughter) Your face! Your face!

Me: (Lightbulb moment) Okay. You get one funny face for every word you get right.

J: (Busily works on vocab, hands it over) Here.

Me: (Scanning) You got one right. Here’s your funny face. (pulls face)

J: (Grabs vocabulary) Only one? (works busily, hands it back in record time)

Me: (Scans) WOOO! You got them all! Okay, that’s, um, let’s see. Seven funny faces. (Proceeds to look like a constipated gargoyle, a surprised emu, a Cabbage Patch Kid and a lot of other undignified things.

J: (Laughs uncontrollably, then works well for the rest of the class)

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your dignity to get things done. Thank goodness, I am not that attached to my dignity.

Sparkly Decorations!


Sparkly Decorations
Originally uploaded by Liz du Canada


I had such a great time eating and talking with Els and Arwen and Rachel that I totally forgot to take pictures of my food, which was my original intention for today’s photo.



I must say, I’ve become much less shy over the last month at just whipping out my camera and snapping happily away. Good thing the staff at the restaurant didn’t take me as an Undercover Malaysian Restaurant Spy, hoping to clone their decor for a rival Malaysian joint.



Although if I couldn’t teach kids to read, I might give it a go as an Undercover Malaysian Restaurant Spy.

Pink Things.

Kinga delights in serving her signature drink, the Pink Thing. I thought they were nonalcoholic. Ahahah. Ha. Not in Kinga Land. She makes them strong to hide the tang of the gin and the pungency of the Cointreau.

So now while I am looking over the Essay Clinic work, I am doing it slightly less tensed up and worried than I was before I went to Kinga’s house.

I think it might be quite good, actually.

Friday Confessions.

I am a big ball of fear.

My eyes have been really light-sensitive lately. I fear a sarcoid relapse, because I have also been needing more sleep. But then, it has been sunny. There’s more light. And I have also been fighting off every bug in the world. Seriously. Viruses are flying in from Calcutta to try and get me. I’m sure of it.

Arwen sent me a link to a bunch of agents to whom I might pitch my Regency romance novel. I am so scared to pitch it. I just wrote it. It’s not like it’s a REAL book. It’s just me writing stuff. Not a professional over here!

I’m so scared I’m not getting this Essay Clinic thing right. In a regular classroom, you plan a unit, and you tweak it on the fly, when you see what’s not working. Now, I’m sending a Finished Product out to be tested by other teachers. Our boss has no education background. I don’t know if he’s going to ‘get’ tweaking.

As a side note, I love John Mellencamp. I suppose that’s a confession in its own. He’s probably a Republican.

>wibble< Anyone else a freakazoid this week?

Oh, Bum.

So I pitched the outlines of the first three Essay Clinic lessons to the boss today. He seemed less than impressed.

But then I realized, I did the thing I always do: I concentrated on the details first. Even though I know I am better at Big Picture thinking. And what I was doing was designing lessons that were less abut the whole than they were about the individuality of the lessons themselves.

Note to self: Design the Big Picture first. Then niggle the details.

3AM Is The Perfect Time To Take Pictures.


Deb’s birthday rocked the casbah. Especially the parts I can remember clearly.

I’d like to thank the following people:

Deb, for having a birthday and being deeply fabulous.

Erin and Phil, for making me cry with laughter at their hysterical card.

Rick, for pretending to be Satan.

Elissa, for making him pretend to be Satan.

Gen, for her brown velour tracksuit rant.

John, for being a stand-up guy and dad.

Arwen, for her stamina.

Duncan, for his gin and figurines.

Our lovely waitress, for her opinions on blue cheese and her patience.

Oh, and the random guy from Smithers, for the Classical references.

Friday Confessions.

I had such big plans for this week, and then it all just kind of slipped away in a low-grade tummy bug that had E and me kind of lazy and ‘ehn’ about everything. As a result:

1) I didn’t get the new soil into the garden.

2) I didn’t call the friend I promised I would. Even though I know that she really misses me and would like to connect.

3) I skipped tutoring Wednesday night and my daytime students Thursday morning. I probably should have gone to the Thursday students, but I woke up and my stomach was still sore, and I am a big, pantsy wimp. But then, last night, I felt well enough to go belly dancing, so I feel slightly hypocritical.

Whatever. I have almost decided what seeds to plant in my garden. I hope I can keep the blackberries out.

Anyone else want to confess?

(Re) Marked.

B came in a little late today, and his face was all blotchy. I asked him if he was feeling all right, but he, who usually gives me a summary of global current events and their repercussions, was silent, tight-lipped, and evasive.

So class went on, and he acted attentive to his tasks, but his heart was nowhere near them. I didn’t push. Another student commented that it looked like B had been crying. I pointed out that a blotchy face could come from any emotion. Maybe he was happy, or mad, or stressed, or had been laughing, and pointed to my face. “You know how I go red when I mark too much, too fast,” I said.

At the end of class, when the others had left, B brought out a tiny rectangle of paper and unfolded it. It was a writing sample.

“Two”, he said, pointing to the large, scrawled ‘2’ at the top of the page. “Out of five.”

I read it over. It was the beginning of a multi-paragraph composition on what he’d learned from a guest speaker. He’d only gotten two paragraphs in. (His paragraph structure was graceful and flowing. Impeccable.) There were subject-verb errors I know he doesn’t make when he has more time. But what he’d written was a detailed summary of what they’d learned. The second paragraph was about how the things he’d learned were important globally and locally. His thought processes reflected a first-year university student, not the Grade Five he is.

It looks like the exercise was some kind of timed writing thing where the kids were told they had a specified length of time to produce a completed composition. This is B’s downfall, because he needs time to think, to analyze, and then time to edit. He has a wildly analytical mind. But the Timed Write is an institution. It measures how well a student can think, and then how well they can articulate their thoughts, within a set time frame.

B would have received a much better mark if he had thought less and concentrated more on grammar. But do we really want to teach kids to think less? That’s my problem with the Timed Write.

I read over what he’d written, on that paper that was not simply crumpled, but deliberately accordioned into ashamed, disappointed rectangles. “This is great thinking,” I said. “I don’t think anyone else in your class analyzed the information this way. You just needed more time for grammar.”

And then I deliberately added a big ‘4’ after the ‘2’ score. “This is what I think it’s worth. 24 out of 5. So suck it up.”

He gave me something close to his familiar smile, and I was thankful for the 2387th time that I can encourage my students as individuals, instead of measuring them against Governmental expectations.

Seeds of Knowledge.

Tonight my Monday student was tired. Hey, that’s fair. I get to his house at 8pm. Since we’ve been going pretty hard with narrative essays (Yes, you can teach narrative essays to a Grade Five, if he’s smart enough, and you’re patient enough), we had kind of a slacker lesson tonight.

I taught him to read a seed catalogue.

Or that’s what we started out doing. We talked about rainfall and annual weather patterns in Vancouver, we talked about Days To Maturity, we talked about sun requirements, bolting crops, and why purple potatoes might be a bit weird if mashed.

He re-designed my garden plan. He’s brought in cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkins, beets and catmint. Oh, and advised me to maximize my sun by cutting down some trees.

I think his plan is ambitious, but I think he learned a lot. It just wasn’t…on the Provincial Curriculum. Oh well.

Baby Shower


I am not good at buying baby stuff for baby showers. My breathing goes shallow and it’s like all the tiny, heavily gendered clothing is pressing in on me leaping into my field of vision with its little “Mommy Loves Me” and “Baby Cutie” and “Little Princess!”. So, luckily, when I went to buy some little clothing, Em was at the store. Baby clothes don’t scare her, so she made all my choices and even let me use her employee discount. Then she used her mad wrapping skills to make it all pretty and stuff. Score!



But then I had to actually GO to the baby shower. I’m not good at that either. I generally try to be useful in the kitchen, because if I’m being useful, I don’t feel uncomfortable about all the little clothes and the cooing and stuff that happens at these events.



But the women hosting the shower are a powerful force, and there was nothing to do in the kitchen. So I adopted a strategy I like to call “Eating a lot and nodding enthusiastically” in the hopes that no one would ask me something like when I was going to have one, or, why aren’t I married yet, or, anything, really.I’m just not good at this stuff.



Morgan was allowed to flee, on account of he has a penis. But he fled slowly, with a few passes through the dining room for lox-and-cream cheese mini bagels, potato latkes, cookies, cupcakes, fruit salad, cucumber sandwiches, cream-cheese-and-pepper-jelly rollups and three kinds of cake.. This picture was taken as he was poised, ready to run like a deer at the first signs of delighted female squealing.

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