Monthly Archives: September 2014

Everyday; anyday- but not all day

I awaken to the morning sun
Bathed in the glow of “Tomorrow”
Knowing; fully well;
That tomorrow is finally
It is –

I prefer the whir
of the cars on the Allen
Whooshing (by)
outside and below-
than the sounds of the clanking, hissing,
and croaking; keys dropped, shoes knocked
steam through the pipes;
FOLKS!wouldn’t it be nice if they were humming:
“morning. its morning, Morning, its morning”
Inside and

Famous words: always a question-

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.Or does it explode?

Many people around the Globe will be recognizing what is known as Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.  Unlike December 31st, it is less a time of resolutions, more a time of recognizing, recalling past years, recalling the recent past year, and offering thanks for the simple gift of “Life”.  Traditional celebrations include dipping a piece of fruit – often an apple- into honey, attending services, hearing the blowing of the Shofar (a ram’s horn) meeting with loved ones, and sharing a meal.  It is a time defined as a Holy Day, rather than a holiday, though the holiday spirit suffuses all the activities, and this coupled with a strong sense of “tradition” connects people celebrating with a sense of purpose.  To wish each other well, to offer a blessing for the coming year, to wish one another a year filled with sweetness and light – and prosperity.  The latter wish used to surprise me; as an adult the latter is now seen as the opportunity to provide for others, some of that “sweetness and light”- so to all celebrating-         Le Shana Tova Tikatevu; wishing you a year filled with                                              Sweetness, Light & Prosperity;                                                                                                  May you be inscribed for a good year!

Singing in the shower…

Looking out my window at a beautiful sky, a current strong contrast with the heavy rain showering down a few hours ago.  Right now, calm sky, true blue, powder puff clouds, and that feeling one gets when the air is so clear one can feel bathed in possibilities.

The window is wide open, and the screen hardly visible; yet as I type I find myself marveling that there may be teachers and students who dread a unit on poetry- when poetry as an expression of feeling is what I know a poet would be able to do with my current view.  To freeze frame it for a second and third look through words which could express that combination of new day, new desires that the calm after a rain seems to unceasingly bring.

Am I writing poetic prose? Not in the mood to critique myself this morning.   Yesterday I had the opportunity we each are given at a birthday; a chance to wonder anew at life itself and the gift of another year.  I spent the early part with a large crowd of strangers brought together for a good cause; cheering or running ourselves to raise funds for a relatively new centre at a local hospital; a centre geared toward making it easier for parents to navigate a hospital health care system- and one geared especially to mental health.  Kudos to the families whose hard work and caring developed the second annual  RBC RUN FOR THE KIDS; my son ran 25 kilometers and though he didn’t hear me cheering amongst the crowd when in just under two hours he crossed the finish line (!) he, and all who ran, cheered, volunteered and/or organized the event made this a truly special birthday. For in looking back over all that we as a family accomplished this past year, I am truly amazed. Mother of two, my daughter was at her part time job, so couldn’t be with us at the event, but her diligence and work also suffused my day.  When I work with children or adults, I am so aware of how emotions affect our ability to absorb information. The RBC run is for all the children and their families who might for a period have forgotten how to sing; mental health and all its variety of issues was recently brought home with the unexpected death of famous actor Robin Williams- a man who appeared to be sharing his very soul with his audiences, yet who hid his pain until the pain took over.  His death a tragedy; and within our cities today, young people suffering as well- some who it is to be hoped may be helped by the Sunnybrook hospital Family Navigation Project- the more awareness, the better chance for healthy living.

Knowing how much I care about big picture goals as well as the details to make such goals real, and having children who are able to put into practice some of my dreams- I am not a runner-but am a believer- in the fact that opportunity allows for change, and that people working together be it running for a cause, or alerting the “world” that such causes are worthwhile, can and do, daily through little acts of kindness, create that wonderful word- GRACE – for each other. Amen.







How to choose?

Profession or calling, enterprise or extension of self- how does one really decide?
Students entering grade 12, or first and second year University, or even earlier- here in Ontario, in grade eight, being asked to project forward, to pick their own learning stream, to choose applied or academic, to “guess” which courses truly will fulfill the goal of satisfied, independent adult “one day”. And then, to their surprise, when at University, to learn how many students ( just like them) are now changing direction, “discovering” through course selection new interests, new opportunities, and their own voice. Such a beautiful discovery; recognizing when to take to heart the comments of advisors and professors, when to decide one’s own goals, when and where to focus both attention and action.
When we look at pictures of High School students from the early 60s when streaming was in effect, almost an entire class when off to University in the pursuit of similar goals- I have heard first hand stories of a class in which all but one entered sciences, followed by medicine, and that one, first obtained a degree in commerce, then entered medicine as well! Today’s more individualized timetables suggest a more personalized approach to course selecting, but is this the reality?
A VIP for a Bank told me he hadn’t been considered good at math in High School, not showing interest- then took a commerce course and loved discussing what to do with “widgets”. For the record – he deals with a tremendous amount of “math” today. There are similar stories, and of course the current jokes about how it might be more worthwhile to put one’s hope into the non academic aspect of school, and encourage a student to focus on an area where showing talent; schools for the arts, and sports oriented programs seem geared to recognizing that there is more to an individual’s “one day-someday” plan than the letter grade, however, when a student’s inklings are for academics, then let us not put down the high scoring community. Too many students still suggest to me their middle school fear of being considered nerdy (actually they often use a much stronger term) if they do achieve, and wish to achieve top grades. It is therefore not surprising to recognize the way in which highest awards are often given to the newest newcomer students- students whose families continue to focus on education, students whose families risked a great deal to make life anew in Canada, and one of their dreams was a full education for their children.
When we collectively consider “school” we may need to reassess the messages we are sending to the very students involved: are we creating an inclusive environment where students needn’t wait till post secondary or later to begin to find their voice? Are we offering within the school the safety of genuine communication, between peers, between students and teachers, between parents and teachers, between administration and the entire community? Somewhere, between “get 100” and “fail forward” we need a new slogan; a concept of opportunity shared, versus hierarchical put downs that seem so accepted within our educational settings.

Together- whole child, whole heart, whole community; holistic education. Let’s get it together !

News! :)

There is a strange pause of recognition when a submitted article gets published on line; the reading through the magazine to discover that — why- “that” is me!

I work with students who range in age from the beginning readers through post secondary, and the adult professional community too.  This article references the youngest set, and I expect/hope to continue to share suggestions for each of the other age groups and school communities.   The Magazine   The article

Thank you to all the lovely followers of this blog, and to the people who have connected with me on Twitter –   mytutoringspace   – Your positive support, the likes, the personal comments which I try to answer as quickly as possible – make everyday a little bit brighter.

Boundaries: please help me set them- feedback encouraged

Today’s blog deals with security, two types: internet and personal.  There is little more frightening than the idea that someone may break into one’s physical space- and when we teach internet security we use the idea of a back door and teach students not to leave the back door open,though in my case ((English being the subject matter), my students are much more computer savvy than me, and I learn from them all the time.  But this past week, two frightening incidents occurred.

First I started a course to upgrade/refresh business skills – with the dream to expand my business and over the next two years, become a fully functioning learning center- very exciting, a dream that has been percolating for ten years 🙂

Second, I celebrated personal changes within my family, being grateful for the most basic of things, the health and welfare of those nearest and dearest.

BUT, and as my students have come to recognize when there is a “but” in an essay – look for the transition, follow the points as they appear and hear the writer’s voice; BUT the first indication that something “was out of sync” came via the internet- had I been guilty of leaving my internet “backdoor” open and allowing for hackers? In fairness instead of turning the computer off I often put it into “sleep” – so perhaps I had let the hacker on-board.   In a bizarre set of incidents my keyboard initially didn’t register, then when my keyboard did register the only strokes it would type- either the symbol for trade mark, or the symbol for  registered.  – Some one who would not want me to achieve my business ideals? – Creepy, unusual, and most bizarre an occurrence that only happened within my home following my first day away from home and physically in class; however, taking the computer elsewhere – the keyboard works.  (My children had suggested throwing the machine out and buying a newer model-fortunately this expense is not necessary as the machine indeed works) the hacker however did damage; causing days of: frustration, annoyance, time and energy.   BUT – new “but”– many people get hacked- I chose to see it as a bizarre compliment? someone not wanting the business itself to grow– competition or just someone’s mean games? Regardless- a physical object.

Back to BUT  number 2:  after an exhausting run around day and the awareness that I had an evening meeting to attend I did the unthinkable –  I sat down and put my feet up- in a space without a back door- home- a condo, with doorman and security- and another very unusual action- fell asleep with an alarm on to waken me up in time for my meetings- excuse the lengthy description but what happened was frightening: as someone who almost never naps, and who considers the after school and weekend time the most productive the entire concept of that one hour break was unusual- so it was doubly scary to suddenly hear a male voice in the unit, to, in a sleep induced blur, waken to a physical presence inside the suite and I screamed, and thankfully my son was home,  and together we made certain the intruder left.  But visibly shaken I said to my son that for the first time I had an inkling of what could happen in a household where a person were startled in such a manner and the homeowner carried a weapon- there is no question in my mind- I would have used it!   Having always been against the concept of guns, having been an advocate of peaceful negotiations, having taught children of all ages sessions on ways to sow “seeds of peace” I found myself wishing for a weapon, or at the very least a jar of pepper spray.  And though I pretended to relax and dismiss the issue, to focus on my meeting later that evening, and did indeed attend the meeting but – another but- may not have given the types of clearly formed presentations I have developed a reputation for- I realize today that we as readers of events in the news, on the media, or simply gossiped about, we lack the very real first hand knowledge of why any individual may react to a situation in a particular fashion.  I “screamed” – growing angrier and angrier with the realization of the fact that the computer games and the in-person games may have been connected.  And Today? today I realize that back door, front door, side door- none had been opened when it came to my personal space.  And I realize too that if in future  I read about an individual who took “extreme measures” to defend him/herself or family I will be less quick to wonder how someone would react- for there are times for conversation, times to shout as loudly as possible, and times to- dare I say it -perhaps even grab a weapon.  My son reminded me of my previous and, to date, anti-violence stance and the fact that we laughed together after, that it was indeed a good thing that I hadn’t had a weapon and the problems weapons cause.  Unfortunately, today, all I can think of is Roosevelt and how stunned I was as a child to discover what his famous “big stick”  was a symbol for.  As an English tutor- I deal in symbols, and attempt understanding of them, or if not clearly able to offer a definitive explanation for a piece of poetry or prose then to suggest others offer their interpretations.   And the world around us, not merely the printed or artistic piece is filled with symbols.  So this blog is a question mark-  about Boundaries, how we define them, establish them and make clear when the lines may not be crossed.  And on a personal note how we teach them – clearly, articulately but with the underlying recognition that little is as easily erased as lines in the sand. 

– grateful that journal keeping can clear the  “cobwebs” in addition to communicating.  Interested in reading any reader responses.  Thank you

Communicating with RESPECT

RESPECT: we love to share the music- attempt to belt out the song- post the word on our pinterest pages and expect “that is that”- Ugh Ugh – real RESPECT involves so much more. 

I spend more time than I ever anticipated being on line these days, reading over blogs, wondering which ones do offer a controversial stance, which ones I could use as demonstration material to share with students, which ones are written from a point of view with which some of us may disagree, however that will still maintain the academic professional concept of “respect” – this way I would be able to demonstrate how disagreements do take place over issues, without descending into cussing or personal hurtful swipes.  When working with older students, looking at debating and beginning the analytical questioning of argument, it is useful to use real life issues; the ones in the news, the ones affecting their future.  It is therefore so discouraging to read a blog which may begin about a topic, and read its quick descent into rude language- students may use this language, they may hear it – that is not the point- the point is that when I click through other blogs written by educators, I plan on using these blogs as examples of Free thinking, the ability to agree to disagree, about issues. 

Name calling, racist remarks, ignorant rants- you name it – the blogsphere permits all of the above- but though times have changed in this past century and teachers today may take a stand on issues, may stick their necks out without fear of losing their jobs, may get married, and have children and return to work- (yes there was a time when for females anyhow, such was not an option) – If labelling oneself and one’s blog as part of the “team Teachers” which ever side you are on- I so wish that the simple concept of RESPECT would reverberate ( lovely word hunh? like the idea of a ripple in a pond…) and that I could comfortably know that RESPECT is both a noun and an action, applied, generated and appreciated- then students will observe such thinking in action, and perhaps – just perhaps, recognize how to apply the concept themselves. 

respectfully yours,

  Alison (ali)

Essay writing made simple

The mini essay, 6 word style, is a definite challenge for students in terms of understanding how to pick and choose words (diction) to make each word count.  Of particular importance to the High School students when they begin essay applications, and must restrict themselves within a prescribed number of words, younger students too benefit from this form of word play; they may create a six word definition using words which a teacher supplies, or by first coming up with a series of words then deciding if the words relate to a topic.  Initially six word style writing works best when done as a class then in mini “teams”.  Each team may be given a particular word, a dictionary and a thesaurus, and a few sample six word “stories”.  Ideally students begin by writing out way more than is needed for a particular blurb, then eliminate extraneous material until the focus is clear. 

Here is an example: The essay in 6 words : Brainstorm, write it out, share, revise

yes, I know we are encouraging students to use the internet and more and more online resources such as a mapped Thesaurus, however sometimes the tactile aspect of using books to look things up provides a different result.  When students in the elementary to junior years are presented with the wonderfully visual texts that junior dictionaries have become, they almost immediately find themselves curious to learn more, distracted- a bit – but in a positive way, recognizing that these “old fashioned tools” may offer information in a “cool” way as well. 

Six words about me:  I love learning, and sharing results

Your turn!


Seriously, dig deeper to find “success”

TEASING; and why there is a huge difference between children learning word play and playing with words, and actual taunting. Taunting doesn’t work in business relationships, either. The carrot before the donkey is an awful image because it reduces a human to the level of a beast of burden- a donkey- an animal traditionally used to conjure up the image of a “foolish beast”. Another word for a donkey- an “ass”-and to be “a donkey’s ass”- is an extreme insult.

To taunt is to hold out a promise and constantly withdraw it-think of children and adults at play. Sometimes parents will use bribery to encourage a certain form of behaviour; the award must then be received if the change in behaviour is to take effect. Otherwise, the game is not a game at all- it is an exercise in power, and simply proof of the power of one party over another. In this day and age where words like “collaboration” are a little too loosely spread about, what needs to be made clear, be it in business or personal life, is that teasing creates resentment, not community. Why then do we allow for, nay, even encourage between adults, behaviour which would be criticized in a kindergarten classroom?

Word play sample: “Pete and Repeat (or spell it Repete and then it is a visual homonym) were walking along the bridge; Pete fell off- who was left?” Answer: “Repeat” = child asking question gets to repeat it – ad infinitum – laughter will ensue for a brief moment- but if it continues…the word play has become mean play.

 In life doing the same task again and again, and here we get to paraphrase Einstein, becomes a ridiculous exercise- punishing rather than building someone up.

Yes, as tutor, I will have older students proof their work, recopying it until they are satisfied that it says what they wished to express- but this is not a futile exercise, it is an exercise meant to have students become owners of their thoughts, and willing to share these opinions in the public forum which they participate in- a school.

If as a community we are going to build up the youth in our care, we want them to feel confident to share their opinions, to express ideas, and to recognize when a piece of writing is making a point, to think about the points other authors are expressing, and to not be afraid to show that they too can communicate. Our corrections must address the separate areas of content and grammar and structure, while bearing in mind, that our students have experienced different lives from ours, and may read into a piece something separate, special to their understanding; which is why we must teach go to the text, find where you feel this idea is being developed, and do not be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

If I am going to share with students an image with a carrot in it, then this one seems more appropriate:

As Teachers we are entrusted with all the reasons for digging to find that success.

Home brewed-

coffee and books

what I consider relaxing 🙂  weekend wishes to all!