Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bullying in schools by principals

I would say that this is an issue that will never go away.
In Canada, we are hearing stories about bullying and harassment by male RCMP officers, towards females. Workplace bullying, especially after the stories of student bullying, are increasingly in the media. I do not believe that this is anything new. Always it was so, bullies found any chink in one's armor. You were too short, too young, too old, stupid, smart, skinny, fat. They beat you up to build themselves up. Homophobia seems to be a small part of this. The result, in young people in schools, is depression and suicide. The result in the workplace is unproductive workers, lost work time, overuse of the healthcare system, and it takes a toll on employee, colleagues, staff and the public. Stress, lack of confidence, mistrust, anger, and angst.

It happens in all workplaces, from nursing (Rowe, M & Sherlock, H 2005, ‘Stress and verbal abuse in nursing: Do burned out nurses eat their young?’, Journal of Nursing Management, vol. 13, pp. 242-248.) to the public law enforcement institutions we have grown to depend upon:

  • Female Mountie (RCMP) alleges she worked in 'fear'

I have had a comment or two on this blog about teachers facing bullying by school principals, those who act as bosses, rather than leaders. This many years later, I still have nightmares about one principal, whom we called 'The Princess'.

Content to bully anyone she felt in her way, or who threatened her, she would yell at the alleged offenders in the hallway, in the office, or in the very public staffroom, whether parents were near-by or not. The Princess yelled at me, other staff, the Family Council chair.

When upset with something I had done, I demanded union representation. She told me she would then discipline me in the hall. My peers witnessed this, and were shocked. There was no evidence of assisting me in improving my teaching practice, only to punish, coerce, and look good at the Board office.
She favoured the younger, more malleable teachers over the rest of us.
She allowed favoured staff to control budgets, text books, organise fun events, which led to issues that resulted in ramifications for the rest of us.

She favoured the male teachers who were aspiring to be principals. Punishing me by changing my classroom and/or assignments 4 years in a row, it came to a head one year. She lost her temper in public, walked out of the school during the awards assembly, in a tantrum, leaving the rest of us to cope.

The Princess undermined my authority as a teacher, as did several principals. The new notion, about how desperately children need more exercise, has resulted in principals sending kids out for recess who have been kept in for extra help. Am I old-fashioned? Should an education preclude exercise, since many of these kids were active after school, and in organised sport? I made a decision, and even the students felt she was wrong.

Principals who bully do not hesitate to emotionally push and shove their teachers, but also their support staff. For example, the school Meal Program workers, custodians or Family Council parent reps.

There are ways to protect yourself 

  • I went through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), seeking counselling. My counsellor's comment? "Principal bullying seems to be on the rise. I have several clients complaining about this."
  • Keep an Aide Memoir. Write down each incident, with time, location, specific words said, and witnessed. Print it, keep it at home. Give it to your superintendent. I did. It then went to the Safe Schools department at the board office, where the case was said to fail to meet the requirements of harassment policy and procedures. There was no gender, race, or age bias. (We were both women, both white, and I was only older by about 10 years.)
  • Take time off. My adequate employee evaluation was not affected, but my students deserved having their teacher happy, supported, and healthy.
  • Get medical help. 
  • Look after your physical well-being. My health suffered. Look out for signs of depression or PTSD. Exercise, get massage therapy, learn relaxation techniques, eat properly. 
  • Transfer schools if you can – although that nearly backfired as The Princess was transferred to a school beside my new one!
  • Talk to your union. They were no help in my case. They did not know what to do about her, or with me. Transfer was their solution, yet The Princess affected school morale, the work climate, and student behaviour.
  • Fifteen Signs of Workplace Bullying 

There are laws in the province of Ontario. It is a universal issue, and one which must be addressed. You can read a case study from South Africa here.

  • Bill 168 - Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace), 2009

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Health and Safety Associations and other health and safety organizations

  • Brochure

  • Fact Sheet

  • Guideline

  • Backgrounder
    • Rowell, P 2005, ‘Being a target at work: Or William Tell and how the apple felt’, Journal of Nursing Administration, vol. 35, no. 9, pp. 377-379.
    • Salin, D 2003, ‘Ways of explaining workplace bullying: A review of enabling, motivating and precipitating structures and processes in the work environment’, Human Relations, vol. 56, no. 10, pp. 1213-1232.
    • Sweet, M 2005, ‘Beating Bullying’, Australian Nursing Journal, vol. 12 (1), pp. 16-19.
    • [PDF] Workplace Bullying [Excellent resource] Workplace bullying, a form of interpersonal aggression, is not a new phenomenon. 
    • Bullying in the Workplace Canada Safety Council (May 2002)
    • Addressing Workplace Violence Glenn French and Paul Morgan (May 2002)

    Dear Ann Landers – you were right. Life isn't fair!

    Another 'Dear Abby' gem!
    I used these with my Creative Writing classes!
    A teache roften acts a a wise and judicious parent. Also, pyschologist, social worker, and so on.
    I put many posters up in my classrooms. Here are two.

    10 Reasons for Swearing caused a lot of laughter.
    I recall walking into the weight lifting section of the gym one year. Two young men were using the "F" word every other word, as adjective, verb and noun. I walked over and told them that I had heard that word all day in the playyard and was really sick of it. They stopped. (You have to teach people how to treat you!)
    Two weeks later I walked in, same two men, and one said, "Shhh! It's the teacher!" and I had a peaceful half hour doing my workout!

    The famous *Ann Landers column below...
    she had wise words for all of us. This has been ripped off and attributed to various people, e.g., Bill Gates, but I saved the clipping from an ancient posting while I was teaching.

    Life is Not Fair

    Ann Landers stole itThis list is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the 1996 book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, Or Add.

    Ann Landers was a pen name created by Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943 and taken over by Eppie Lederer in 1955.

    Behaviour charts - some suggestions

    I read an interesting comment the other day about a negative teacher attitude towards behaviour charts.

    I am all for them. With all the kids with whom I have dealt over the years, a chart takes some teacher time, but it really works well to allow the child to realize that they have had some success.
    lessons for educators
    The negative behaviours are ignored, and the positive ones are encouraged.

    Despite the laissez-faire attitudes on the part of some adults towards children, when they know better they do better.

    With all the focus on bullying in schools, this type of behaviour chart will encourage kids to understand the impact on those around them, it will improve the way others treat them, and school climate will therefore improve.

    I have had a lot of success with students using such charts. Behaviour modification is an easy way to encourage and reward expected behaviours. It improves the classroom climate, as well, as the other students notice when a child gets attention for negative behaviour.

    Behaviour Chart forMiddle School (Gr. 6-8) - this chart I have adapted from one the school coach created. She demanded that kids earn the right to play on teams. No matter how gifted the athlete, she showed them that she expected them to do their school work, cooperate with staff, get along well with others, and earn the right to represent the school in the community.

    This is how I managed the interjections of a students who ended up learning self-control. He felt good about himself when he did so. He told me his dad taught him to put an elastic band on his wrist when disciplining himself to refrain from speaking out. 

    We were planning to make a board game. In the meantime, one student needed to use the 5 paperclip method of self-control. He was allowed 5 interjections (one per paperclip) during the class. We had much fun, and he did very well. Originally filmed in 2004, this is the way to handle the kid who interjects continually!

    Behaviour Chart forPrimary Students (Gr. 1-4)

    Behaviour ManagementPlan for JuniorStudents (Gr. 3-6)

    Behaviour Chart forMiddle School (Gr. 6-8)

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Bullying programs

    There is much to learn about bullying. It begins with the office, includes principal, other staff, teachers, bullies, and ends with the bystanders.
    It especially includes principals who bully.

    Bully for you

    As Ontario ponders legislation to get tough on bullies in schools, researchers know more than ever about why kids behave like mini Machiavellis - and what can be done about it, writes Joanne Laucius

    If the secretary is rude to visitors within the principal's hearing, it's usually a sign that the climate in the school allows the staff to be disrespectful to each other and the students, she says. And that gives the students permission to undermine each other.

    One of the programs that has proven effective is WITS, which encourages students who are bullied to Walk Away, Ignore, Talk It Out and Seek Help. Developed by University of Victoria psychologist Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater, WITS is being used in a pilot program in partnership with the RCMP to prevent bullying in elementary schools.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Healthcare in Toronto Schools

    An excellent article, with good news.

    A bold inner-city project brings medical care to kids at school

    From the Toronto Star
    One half day each week during the school year, physicians, pediatric specialists, a multilingual clinic coordinator and teachers work as a team to help families navigate language, financial, cultural and work barriers between them and the provincial health system.

    The two-year project, a first in Ontario, came about in part as a result of disturbing numbers that emerged during hearing and vision screenings across Toronto public schools: 26 per cent of inner-city students either did not have valid OHIP cards (often they had expired) or had no health insurance at all.

    Another finding, one year into the project: acute infections are common but learning disabilities and increasingly, a range of mental health issues, are also being detected. Early detection is a critical first step in obtaining specialized diagnosis and treatment for conditions like ADHD or autism.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Dress codes for students

    Many, many schools are responsible for developing, creating and maintaining a dress code for young people who are unable to make wise decisions about what to wear! This is appropriate. Many school councils help establish a dress code. Lakehead DistrictTorontoDSB, PDF files: OCDSBSimcoe Catholic schools.

    In some cases, parents leave the house before their children, in others the children undress, or peel off layers to reveal unseen fashion statements. The recent trials involving cultural clashes, and a family (father, mother, son) who allegedly murdered their daughters whom they felt went beyond traditional values in terms of dress, demonstrate how strongly we must protect our children. Unfortunately, the media attention for this trial puts the wrong perspective on freedom to wear anything we want.

    In my teaching career I have taken our dress codes seriously, and find that many students do not understand it. As pop stars began to wear midriff-baring tops, and low cut pants, it revealed a whole new look with the young people. I was in high school in the mini-skirt era and it wasn't pretty!
    There are several issues that concern me:

    • Do you want your child's male teacher ogling her as she languorously stretches, in the full knowledge of what she is doing?
    • Do you want your sons watching the same move?
    • Does your child understand that the way s/he presents his/herself in public tells a lot about them.

    Dress codes are not limited to students. You cannot enter a place of work, attend a business or casual function without being aware that there are (or should be) dress codes. The sleazy, flesh-revealing, haute couture styles seen on anorexic models simply do not work for the majority of women in the majority of public places. Age-appropriate dress codes apply, as well. With body piercings, that truly gross me out when faced with this in servers or wait staff, I think we must reflect. I have found that staff members with body piercings influence the students to try this out for themselves, too!

    Out of respect, staff members need some internal monitoring system. In the new casual dress policies of the workplace, young educators need some guidance. I often ask students if they want me coming to school inappropriately dressed? How gross would that be?

    I had to counsel one of my student teachers, who wore low-cut pants that revealed plumber's crack. It was simply gross.

    I watched a young gr. 6 student who would roll down her yoga pants, while wearing a shortly cropped shirt, and stretch her arms ups, while the boys ogled her. Not only did she violate the dress code, but she engaged in behaviour that took away from classroom curriculum, abusing an occasional teacher, and convincing another student to steal. She was a pistol!

    To be in school, as in the workplace, there is a purpose that is hijacked if one is busy working on a persona, not on who they really are. We had punks in middle school who insisted on wearing their gang colours, and that issue had to be dealt with. Some young men like to wear outfits with slang, sexual innuendo, inappropriate language, and off-colour jokes. The young people are told to turn their t-shirts inside out, or they are sent home.

    No student was hurt by hearing the word no. It is a good lesson to learn!

    Countdown ideas for teachers during this holiday season

    I follow a couple of Ottawa bloggers. I read and write about politics, local education news, healthcare issues, as well as having fun sharing photos of cottage country in south east Ontario.
    Many cultures have count down celebrations in December, like the lighting of the Menorah in Judaism. I have spent many a wonderful December having students share their traditions, culture and values around this time of year. From pagan festivals, to Eid-ul-fitr.

    Many kindergarten and grade 1 classes count up to the 100th day of school. When I taught a split-grade class we were Reading Buddies with a French kindergarten. It was one of the best projects I have ever undertaken. My gr. 4/5s created skits, songs, and poems about the 100th day. We performed them for our buddies.

    I found a great idea by an Ottawa news blogger:

    @glengower Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Director of Game Entertainment for the . I own and edit . I play the piano.This is a largely fictional account of my life.

    He is a parent of young children and decided, rather that the $0.99 advent calendar with the Cheapmart chocolate inside, he was going to make a fun countdown project for his kids. Older siblings, as well as partnered classes, can help out.

    This works for Chinese New Year, Hannukah, and any other celebrations we talk about in our classrooms.

    Don't you love it?

    Many thanks to Glen Gower for permission to share his photo!

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Writing in the Information Age

    How many short stories have you written in the past six months? As adults 80% of writing consists of expository writing. We write most often for a purpose: to communicate information, to ask questions, to make reports and to interact with colleagues. In the Information Age, for business and pleasure, we more often communicate electronically with colleagues, friends and family.

    It is in the reading and responding to text that we create writing opportunities for students who may be reluctant to put pen to paper. The role of the teacher in the Information Age is to guide students in communication skills, which will help them fully function in a language and communication-based economy. Young people are more than facile with electronic communication and they are not afraid to try any new technological development. In fact, educators, such as Burke (2003), believe that using digital technology can help us communicate in layers of understanding that carries a far more creative opportunity.

    We know from brain research (Jensen, Caine, Greenwood, Nunley) that when we integrate brain functions we create dendritic connections that reinforce learning and make learning easier. Expository writing incorporates data, information, knowledge and leads to a deeper understanding by linking linguistic meanings to graphic representations. This holistic integration transforms the learner from a passive writer to a creator. Anchored in specific, authentic writing tasks, students can be encouraged to refine writing skills by incorporating digital technology into permanent records of their work.

    Writing in the Information Age
    With the advent of the Information Age, educators have realized whole new worlds that are open to them. Digital communication links learners to other learners. It provides an avenue for linking us globally on the Information Highway, creating multicultural respect, and understanding of diversity and opportunities for educators to facilitate tolerance. While much has been written in the inequities of the current economic climate, there are many opportunities for technosavy educators to take advantage of technological advances and create opportunities for growth. We are increasingly limited by cutbacks to human and financial resources. Initiatives paid for by the PT3 grants have diminished as this program winds down. Universities are exploring new opportunities such as laptops, which sit on moveable carts, moving around schools on a rotational basis. Other faculties have created mentoring programs with the intent of increasing the integration of technology.

    Technology Integration
    At the 2003 SITE Conference, keynote speaker Dr. MD Roblyer asked, “If technology is the answer, what is the question?” The integration of technology into our writing is multisensory, inclusive, symbolic, interactive and universal in its design. It establishes a student’s work as a meaningful representation of their knowledge and understandings. Using technology enables students to work at their own pace as they undertake projects which integrate subjects, create relationships amongst concepts, participate in flexible groupings, and collaborate and communicate with one another.
    semantic organisers
    For or these reasons I have chosen to use technology with my elementary students as a major focus of our regular work. The bulk of the work students have created is an e-portfolio of their creative and expository writings, their major project presentations, derived from Social Studies, Science, Arts and Language Arts work. They create graphic representations of their knowledge and connect left and right brain work in meaningful ways.

    Authentic Writing Opportunities
    Will multimedia, technology-based opportunities create authentic writing opportunities for our students? I believe it will. As we begin to collect more data on the use of computer technology and come to a greater understanding of and further interpretations of pedagogy, we are realizing that we are not making students smarter by giving them more time on a computer. In the Postmodernist Era this is simply not enough. Our notion of education and learning and curriculum design must and will change if we want to move into the Information Age. We must critically reflect on where we are heading in using technology in our schools.

    The manner in which we will implement computers and create programs for our elementary students has a profound impact on both the student and the teacher. Our students have access to drag and drop applications and voice-activated computers are just down the road. We must prepare students for the learning process, not just to fill them like vessels with facts. We must challenge our students in new ways by encouraging them to use digital technology to help them construct meaning.

    Many parents I speak to insist that we develop their child's computer skills, often at the expense of other skills. They feel that the computer skills they require in the workplace must be taught at an earlier age. I believe we need to teach our students how to learn, as much as how to use our minds. Costa's Developing Minds, as quoted in Senge (1991), supported by work in chapter 13, The Good Thinker, identifies Intellectual Behaviours which demand that we develop in our student's minds these skills:
    persistence, self-control, listening skills, flexibility in thinking, metacognition, a quest for accuracy and precision, the ability to question, assimilating past knowledge and experiences, ingenuity, originality, insightfulness: creativity, precision of language and thought, multisensory data-gathering, humour, wonderment, inquisitiveness and curiosity, co-operative thinking and social intelligence.
    Senge (1991)
    Technology-based writing opportunities create problem solvers and thinkers as they rise to the challenge of communication literacy.

    To require students to record their activities on an e-portfolio ensures that they are motivated to do work at home, to do reading and writing in order to be prepared for the activities of the next day. Research abounds on the benefits of Multimedia, web-based projects that require students to provide evidence of their learning. These activities, if properly scaffolded, provide for authentic writing opportunities for learners. Students are carefully guided in word processing their expository and creative writing. They learn to edit for meaning, using that wonderful little spell check tool, creating graphics, spreadsheets, graphing data, writing scripts, connecting the visual to text and learning to use encoding tools which make their web page work much easier.

    Discovering American Memory
    The case for e-portfolios is a strong one. More and more pre-service teachers are required to prepare portfolios. The collection of various artifacts, the overviews and the reflection on learning, provides a summative assessment of progress for both student and teacher. (See Ice Storm '98 examples!)

    Web Page Content
    Student e-portfolios can be any combination of activities. Clagget, for example, encourages students to draw their vocabulary words, creating visual representations of their understanding of the written word. I have found that students are eager to digitally record events, report on its success, review the event for its meaning and purpose, and create scripts and voiceovers for iMovies and photogalleries.

    Students can create visual essays, develop literacy narratives, create digital storytelling, use the web to reflect in literature circles, perform graphic note-taking, document science experiments, After students participate in a workshop, review a movie or view an Arts performance, they have an opportunity to write a commentary. There are several ways to do this. I tend to use  a number of templates which enable even the weakest writer to create a critical reflection of an event. More able writers need not depend upon this.

    This is one way to archive student work
    and create e-portfolios!
    Norton-Meier, in “To Efoliate or Not To Efoliate? The Rise of the Electronic Portfolio in Teacher Education”, says that we must be vigilant and ensure that content is pruned and weeded. Incorporating digital images into their work provides logographic cues to the reader and the writer, for a good part of writing is writing for a purpose; to communicate information, to connect meaning and to reflect on their thoughts and their work.

    Preparing student to write is an important aspect of their projects. Pre-writing strategies vary with projects but require the use of thinking skills to critically reflect upon their work and to choose their communication strategies, whether it be text or graphically-based. This motivates students to go to the word processor and plan, write, collaborate and rewrite. Sometimes it is a simple mind map of connecting thoughts and ideas, which they coordinate at the keyboard.
    Reluctant writers know that their ticket into the computer lab is a plan, either a webbing of ideas, an outline, a prepared first or final draft which they can edit to present to the world. This is a strong motivator for students who are anxious to put fingers to keyboards. Students have often e- mailed first drafts to me in order to spend more time fine tuning details in our precious computer lab periods.

    Assessment consists of prepared rubrics designed to give student the opportunity to self and peer-assess. Students create a writing plan, web, outline, draft or good copy of their work wither on paper or on the computer. Their work is created in our word processing program (Appleworks) and then it is handed in to the “hand-in” folder on the schools LAN server. The teacher can request hard copy print-outs, as well, while not saving paper, saving time in front of the computer screen and allowing the teacher to revise and edit at their leisure.

    After word processing a project or piece of writing, students convert files to HTML and this can be placed on their web pages. The teacher, as web weaver, is responsible for ensuring that work meets the standards of school board policy. Students may not provide identifying information; nor can they put individual photos on their web pages, which may lead to identification by strangers. It is best to be very aware of school board policy in this regard. Internet safety is a new worry in this era. It is up to teachers to educate students on safe internet practices, rather than relying on artificial net minder devices.

    Peer assessment is in ongoing process. Students are eager to share new ideas and peer tutor others as they master new skills. Parents can review progress at any time. We regularly provide feedback as we reflect on our work. Their work is public and this allows for easy peer tutoring, as students refine and revise work. Students to do student-led conferencing at home and e-mail work to friends and families. I would suggest that you explore the possibilities of e-portfolios for all of your students. It is a thoughtful, transformative method of engaging even the most reluctant learners. While the computer and technology are only tools, they are a means by which teachers can provide rich opportunities for growth.
    There are many on-line rubric makers that enable the teacher to assess and evaluate student progress. Contact your Board’s IT personnel to get help. A quick on-line Google search will give you formatting help. Assessment should be on-going, developmental and should lead the learner towards improving the mechanics and the content of their work.
    The 'S' words add depth to writing

    Marking Work
    When preparing the students for assessment, the actual marking can be time consuming. My practice was to have students mark each other's work. The purpose in this is three-fold. Firstly, I ensure that a strong student marks the work of a weaker student, and vice versa. The stronger students get a better understanding of their peers, and builds their self-esteem. The less able writers can see what quality work looks like.  'When we know better we do better!'  

    Secondly, this saves much time for the teacher and gives me more time to assist those who need my help.
    Thirdly, peer tutoring usually ensues, as a student can give gentle reminders of ways to improve writing skills, without the teacher (with her proverbial red pen) having to render judgement on the student. It appears to relive much pressure in the classroom. It must be said, however, that some students may have to be taught how to respectfully give suggestions for improvement. Also, I ask them to choose to mention only three ways to improve the writing, while outlining three things the writer did well. This gives a balance, and encouragement to the struggling writer.

    1. Burke, J. (2003). English Teachers Companion. Second Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    2. Clagget, F. (1992). Drawing Your Own Conclusions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    3. Kajder, S. The Tech Savvy English Classroom.
    4. Norton-Meier, L.A. (2003) “To Efoliate or Not To Efoliate? The Rise of the Electronic Portfolio in Teacher Education”. Found at: 03_column/ , March 18th, 2004.
    5. Nunley, K. and 
    6. Senge, P., et al (2000) Schools That Learn, Doubleday, Inc., NY 
    7. Jilks, J.A. (2003) Our class web site: 
    9. Digital Resources 
    10. WebQuest: Who Wants to Be a Pioneer?
    11. Rubric-builder:

    e-Portolios for student work

    This is one way to publicly celebrate student work. For student-led conferences I have assigned students the task of reviewing their e-portfolio with their parents.
    This is one way to archive student work
    and create e-portfolios!
    In this way parents can compare their student's work with others and have a better understanding of what quality work truly looks like.

    My class web page was organised this way:
    The hotlinks are easy to navigate.

    Assignment directions are archived here
    On another file, I created a list of assignments, and allowed families to access the projects and the rubrics themselves.
    rubric of expectations provides goals

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Drama, role play, emotions with preschoolers

    We are having much fun with our granddaughters. Ages 4 and 1, it is a great time to have simple play.
    Josephine (4) has been taught not to grab a toy from her little sister, Isabelle (1), but to find another toy and exchange. The beauty of this is that young Isabelle has been doing the same with her big sister.

    While we are a high-tech family, we find much fun in drama.

    We made a fun cat mask last week. Simple, with a few materials.
    Drama and role play can be fun, too.

    We were sitting on the front deck, talking about emotions. Young kids must be able to identify their feelings, especially with a sibling around.
    I asked Josephine to show me: how you feel when...
    you meet someone new

    you feel sad

    you get a birthday present

    Mommy says NO!

    Isabelle steals your toy

    You have a bad dream

    you're making a plan

    you see a scary movie

    We do a lot of dress-up, too. Used clothing stores have been so fun!
    I videotaped the Royal Wedding, and we wore hats, gloves, and watched in fun!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Home Day Care Crafts

    Isabelle having lunch

    I drove the car the hour and a half into the Otto Subaru dealership for a major tune-up. Winter approacheth and rural driving requires a vehicle be kept in shape.

    Subaru told me it would be 5 hours for this big tune-up.
    They were having fun doing an art project. I was inspired.

    I phoned my son-in-law, and asked if he would take in an orphan for the duration. Ma Mére, his mom, was babysitting. I phoned in desperation, hoping someone would babysit *me*!

    Like this, Gramma!
    With my daughter off on a trip to Washington, studying 'Construction Dewatering' (I kid you not–she's a hydrogeologist!), my son-in-law ('Papa') is working from home as an encryption engineer consultant.

    Ma Mére was busy making grilled cheese for them all. (I was still full from my breakfast!) Papa was on a conference call.

    We raided Mummy's make-up drawer!
    Josephine wanted to make a cat mask. That was right up my alley! I have three degrees in people, B.A. (ECE), B.Ed., and M.Ed.! I can use my skills and training! I so prefer Home Day Care, non-profit day care, nursery schools for preschoolers. In the safety and intimacy of home day care, with caring, licenced professionals, kids thrive. I am against putting kids in school institutional settings in full-day kindergarten. With pupil/teacher ratios that border on criminal, the Home Day Care ratios of 1:5, or public Day Care's 1:8, preschoolers have the opportunity to thrive in an atmosphere love and family. Education is such a political thing.

    It's a cute little project, from a 'workbook' one of the grammas gave her. Me, Ma Mére, who knows! We love spotting good buys at craft stores, the second hand stores, used book sales, garage sales!

    Jofee wanted green whiskers,
    she cut them herself.
    Motivated, she will be 4 on December 9th!
     The sheet has a list at the bottom of materials we needed. This is far more organised than I was doing art with my students. I used to find some interesting materials, pine cones, bits of material from crafty parents, felt, and cheap materials. Then present them to my class. Some bright light would create a brilliant model, others would create an individual art project that didn't look like any one else's project.

    I loved having open-ended art like this. Kindergarten teachers spend much time pre-cutting materials, ensuring that each craft looks the same. That isn't art. That is structured activity.

    We discussed the lesson plan.
    I suggested that while the cat in the sample was black,
    our cat mask could be any colours we wished it to be!
    Kids need opportunities to choose from a variety of materials, come up with a plan, invent a new idea.

    Projects need not look like they are fine art, and it is the process, not the product.

    Papa found some string -for those ties that bind!

    Isabelle laughs at her gramma from the other end of the table!

    She loves acting the part of a cat.
    Jofee adores our cats, too.
    The little bit of red on her cheek was a dab of ketchup! Oops.

    Final project done.
    Thankfully they took me in. Jofee and I had fun, while Ma Mére had fun with Isabelle.

    Below is a video I made of our last forest walk.
    The kids visited us and they had a sleepover!

    Nothing like the shush of leaves during a forest walk.
    It is so much fun being a gramma!
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