Category Archives: English academics, tutoring help, learning together, home schooling, test prep

Best wishes

January 2013!


   Yes, I have heard that there are people who find the number 13 scary- but I love the idea of the century moving into its teens- having worked with students through the middle years and been privy to the wonderful changes that occur as childhood becomes youth and movement towards independence grows – I have seen the maturing that the teen years do bring.  Also the experimenting and the challenging, that we as adults come to recognize as part of this growing.


In my cultural background, 13 is a lucky number.  It is a recognized time for children to begin the formal understanding of adult community and when many ceremonies publicly enhance this recognition.  Perhaps on a global level, throughout this year, 2013, we adults can extend our understanding of how little we truly know, and encourage the youths around us to continue to strive for greater knowledge, to remain curious, to not be afraid to challenge “accepted” wisdoms and to respect themselves and their dreams – especially necessary as it is a “tough world out there” and being able to – here I will defer to a well-respected former public figure for a quote: “ Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway” (Eleanor Roosevelt) can often be one of the more difficult things to accomplish.


  Simple wishes then for the 2013 Academic Year:  for everyone to keep growing. 


As always,


   Best regards.


          Alison (Ali the English Tutor)



Have your ever…?

It is such fun to present students with a topic often used as a journal writing entry and instead, open it up to discussion.  Have you ever…can become a form of “truth or dare” when students turn the question back to the teacher; whether parent or educator, “Have you Ever…?”  WILL generate story-telling.  You have been warned.  And the lovely weather means, if you are able get the students outside for this activity then do so.  

What comes next? Exams, quizzes, final Independent Study Projects, Year End wrap ups, and for some – those make-up projects to balance a less than stellar performance earlier in the term.  Much has been written and spoken about the ways in which schooling allows some to “slack off” and miss deadlines – it would be more productive of educators to note how many students each term do require the option of earning course credit through the end of year submissions- portfolios often more accurately portray a student’s ability than a single mark on a test.  It always seems contradictory for educators to rail against any form of standardized testing yet not build in the option for students to compile work that might indeed allow for personal expression.  The classroom and the curriculum is one of the last bastions of independent yet collaborative work; join with the students, try a Have You Ever…?”  in the staff room with fellow teachers, and surprise yourself – Listen, truly listen…and Enjoy!


Weekend wishes and summer dreams

Oh my goodness, the day has slipped away and I understand how a student can be surprised when deadlines loom and a project is not near done.  “Busywork”- that is what it is called; when one is truly hustling yet has little for others to take note of – despite the energy expended.  

Must be seasonal.  Confession: I enjoy summer school and have for years, participating as a student, teaching as an adult.  Now that it is May, I have the same sense many experience during the last weeks of  August, an expectation of classes and a renewal of sorts. 

With the beautiful weather expected to hold over the weekend and all sorts of local events happening I wish everyone a super pleasant Mother’s Day – if you are celebrating and, if not- a great weekend regardless.

Unusual ways to celebrate Mother’s day-home and school + freebies   This site offers ways to help others in need; purchase a cow and feed a community!

Mother’s Day is May 13, 2012 ( for a list of other dates around the world see below) . It’s easy to send a thoughtful and personalized gift, letting the mother in your life know that you share her wish for a more peaceful, nuclear-free world.  Ok these recipes look so amazing; they are almost non-traditional!  find 10 suggestions for giving back- – helping to build lives post war…  smile cards have been going around since 2003

speaking of going around- Mother’s day around the world alphabetically organized:

More on the history plus some trivia listed under fun facts;

and for school kids everywhere: for elementary grades

freebies from: 

slightly older children may like to help pick out the flowers in addition to creating their own arts and crafts;

 I have seen the beautiful creations made by a local florist –

  ask for Yien at    remember to place an order in advance so they can be delivered fresh and on time

Enjoy the day, whether celebrating this week or on one of the other dates globally; Mother’s Day is officially declared:

And if you are like me – the more homemade the gift the better!


How to destroy a student’s interest in School:

Take one student

Make sure the student you choose has an active,engaged, outgoing, participatory character

Instead of making note of all the above, instead of praising the student for his/her positive contributions to the school latch onto to a minor indiscretion and then, blow that indiscretion sky high

It is easy- it is happening at a school near you..,





simply wishing

“Too much too little too late- went a popular song” – I’m guessing it was a love song- I could look it up – but it isn’t important – what’s important is what those words do convey- the negative impact of too much- the ridiculousness of too little and the fact that once a negative situation is experienced even hearing “sorry” doesn’t matter- it IS too late.

Schools teach many lessons and for those of us who have been involved in education for years and have consciously remained learners- that is- learning together with students, learning on our own as researchers for better practice, and learning in a formal setting, do know that there is always a hidden curriculum; an agenda that is promoted by the actions and attitudes of the educators in a learning environment. Ideally, these actions ought to be singularly focused – to promote the health and welfare of the students. In reality many actions promote only one thing, an individual or an administrator within a complex.

I wish I had the answers- I wish I could write that as we go through life we will all meet intractable individuals whose focus on maintaining control is stronger than their focus on sharing a lesson.

I wish I could teach the whole world to recognize the difference between standing for something big and simply refusing to budge.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have made a difference if I had said “why did you think this would be helpful”- then I remember that I have asked-

“He Didn’t Knock”

The lines in the title for this post come from a 1995 movie Dangerous Minds. “He didn’t knock” repeats the character of LouAnne Johnson – wondering at the amazing disconnect between the principal at the school, and the students the teacher had come to know and care for. As mentioned, the movie came out in 1995- I wish I could write that things have changed, that such a scene in varying degrees couldn’t possibly continue to be played out in real schools today.

I know of a school where many of the teachers actually do “teach from the heart” and so can see their students as individuals – looking beyond type to real character. Such teachers are not unique, however they are at times hobbled by a system that would neglect the child in favour of a “rule” – I have said it before and I will say it again- people make mistakes- and children are people. And each child’s transgression ought to be viewed independently and in light of the whole environment in which an action took place. When I hear or see an administrator who is so bound up in punishment and whose attitude has demoralized staff I know that politics has taken over and the kids individually and collectively will suffer. When students attending a school function spontaneously chant the name of a former principal they are sending a strong message – when that same principal- who cannot punish everyone – decides to make a scapegoat out of one child in reaction, a child who wasn’t even involved in the chanting but who happened to be aware of the event- that principal oversteps the bounds of the job.

Teachers are continuously encouraged to be “life long learners”; to continue to learn and grow, and to take seriously their responsibility to the students in their charge. Do we really not expect as least this much from the administrator? To be able to demonstrate flexibility in relation to situations may stave anarchy; to be rigid and cruel is to practice behaviour associated with the term demagogue. Sadly, the “He didn’t knock” syndrome isn’t restricted to characters in film. LouAnne Johnson, whose text School is Not a Four Letter Word notes “too many rules can impede a child’s progress”; the wrong restrictions do damage. Principals needn’t demonstrate the overwhelming ignorance of “He didn’t knock” – such characters are modeling only one thing- power.

I have been on a soapbox today having recently met a “He didn’t knock” style principal. Have readers any advice how to awaken such a closed mind- the truly most dangerous kind?

Brand New Week-

I nearly wrote Brand New Earth, with this past week featuring so many activities around the theme of “Earth Day”  the focus on cleaning up, recycling and encouraging caring for the planet became contagious; all around I could see effort being made to get outside and engage with nature. 

I am always impressed by how quickly younger children will not only participate in the Earth Day programs at their school, but also how the students become advocates for greener living once they understand the purpose behind the suggested changes. 

-sending a global “thank you” to fellow educators for sharing great resources and posting a few links below:   for parents considering private school come September   interview with Sam Eshaghoff:Sam Eshaghoff is a teenage con. He took the SAT for other students, who paid big money for high scores. Now that he’s been caught, Sam has some test-taking advice, but consider the source.

Tax season – hope you know that academic tutoring is eligible for a tax credit!

Hello all,

  As I begin the process of preparing my own forms I am sending out receipts to all with a reminder regarding the Ontario Children’s Activity Tax Credit.   this link will take you directly to the site for further information.  To the adults that I worked with last year, please see your accountant to determine if a series of classes taken will qualify. 

– Isn’t this Spring weather amazing?  I hope everyone is  studying but also getting outside!

March Break Ideas

When I find a great site I like to share it! Are you at home this week and thinking of activities to do with your children over March Break? In addition to the many great institutions that have hands-on activities for the week, cooking together at home is an opportunity to share creativity- boys and girls can enjoy selecting the food products, planning the meals and helping with the clean up.  Reading a recipe IS reading and incorporates math and science too!  Plus when you go to a website such as the one offered above, you may compare food choices from earlier times with popular foods today. 

Hope people are getting outside too and enjoying the mild Toronto weather. 

as always, best regards, from Ali the English Tutor-

ps I am here over the break and open for students daytime as well as after school and weekends.  Also now offering lessons over SKYPE  at mytutoringspace1 . 

Other activities:        Evergreen Brick Works-    you can cook here too!     The Rom has a sale on!    Have you been to the AGO but missed the Grange?     have a student in high school working on HAMLET?     Specials for the week at the Art Gallery of Ontario        The Maple Syrup Festival is really sweet!      Hockey Hall of Fame- then lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory     March Break means SUPER DOGS at the Science Centre