Tag Archives: school

Tuba conflict


What are the odds?

Michael and I were to head down to Nathan Philips Square to participate in the Holiday Tuba Festival at noon today. He’d been practicing some of the carols over the past few days and we were getting ready to decorate his instrument with garlands.

Yesterday, he brought home a letter from his music teacher saying that Chris Lee, Principal Tubist at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra would be at the school today to work with the tubists:  from 10 to Noon.

Michael decided to skip the festival to spend some time with Mr. Lee.

(Image courtesy of The Fluter Tutor!)

Back to School

This has been a hectic week with both boys going to new schools, one in university in a different city, and one into high school.

Alex has been experiencing the results of some of his actions, or should I say, inactions. He decided to blow off academic orientation in July, resulting in his signing up for two “wrong” courses and having to stand in long lines to talk to a counsellor this week. The first issue was resolved, but second can’t be due to timetabling conflicts and full courses, so he either needs to stick out the one term computer course intended for computer science majors or find something else to take. Second, he decided when he was packing that he didn’t want to take our old bubble jet printer with him, only to call me in a panic asking if he could buy a printer. I said no, and shipped the old one to him. He is also “desperate” for a small fridge for his room. I’ll probably order one from Costco for him and have it shipped directly.

We don’t hear from him very much, and when we do, he wants something. I’ll leave it at that.

Michael has finished his second week of high school and seems to be thriving. I attended curriculum night (which should be called “rules night” as very little curriculum was discussed), and was quite impressed with the teachers I met. Michael’s only issue with his teachers is that his French teacher is “mean” and extremely strict. She was not a curriculum night, and even the department head who met with parents alluded to this teacher’s hard core personality in a kind of round about way. The art teacher wasn’t there that night, nor was his science teacher, but his math, geography, english, gym, and music teachers all look great.

He’s also off to a great start in music. He had a private tuba lesson with his teacher on Tuesday evening that went well. His school band teacher is very impressed with Michael’s “keenness”, and has offered to teach him the basics of bass trombone so that he can play in the Junior Jazz Band. He won’t have to audition, but can just sit in on practices and play what he can at the beginning. All junior music students are in the concert band, and practices begin this week. He’s been really getting in to jazz lately (traditional, not modern) and has been downloading lots of stuff. The junior band goes away to band camp for four days (over a weekend) in a couple of weeks and that should be an excellent time for the young players to gel.

Japanese started today, and he’ll be starting back at karate as well. He tried out for junior volleyball at school and given the small number of players who have come out so far, he’s likely to make the team if they can field enough players. He also apparently did really well in football in gym class. This, a child who has never been very interested in team (or other) sports until karate.

I have a really positive feel about this school for Michael, and am glad he’s getting involved in lots of stuff. He’ll be busy, but is clearly enjoying things, so that’s great.

First impressions

We have decided to move Michael from the private Catholic school he is currently attending for a number of reasons that could be summarized as “not a good fit.”  (Alex is graduating from that school this year and it has served his needs very well, but it’s not been so great for Michael.)  Today, I dropped by the high school that he will (likely) be attending next year to pick up a registration package.

A couple of observations.  The school is aged.  But it has a cozy feel to its decrepitude.  Much like my elementary school back in the 60s.  High ceilings, huge windows and doors, multiple layers of paint on the woodwork, and clutter everywhere.  But I can deal.

A sign on each door that I tried before I found one that was unlocked said something like “Welcome to –school–.  Please visit the main office first.”   There was nothing that said “Main Office” so I stopped by the Principal’s office, and a harried woman looked up at me.  No greeting. That “whaddya want” look on her face.  I stated that I needed to visit the Guidance department, and did I need to sign in?  Nope.  Wandered down the hall to Guidance.

The guidance secretary greets me without making eye contact.  I state what I need, she asks for my tax bill and drivers license.  Takes a phone call.  Chats with an adult female who walks into the office.  Then stands up and walks out with my documents without saying anything to me.  Unsure if I was supposed to follow her, I wander out into the hallway.  She is talking with someone else.  I wait outside the office.  She returns, having photocopied my documents, and proceeds to log onto the school board website to check my address and confirm that we are within the school boundaries.  Prints off “proof” and staples it to my documents.  She asks my sons name, misspells his surname (even though she has the documents in front of her), and then asks what school he’s coming from.  I state the name of the school and she says “What’s going on over there at St. -name-‘s?  We have a lot of students transferring from there. ”  I reply that it’s a great school, that my older son is graduating from there this year, but it’s not a great fit for my younger son.  She says “A lot of people are finding that.”  I note, “It could be the economic climate as well…”.  D’oh.  Then she says “We’re going to be busting at the seams in the fall.  Don’t be surprised if the classes have 35 students in them.  Who knows, they could even shut us down.”

Simply bizarre.

She hands me a sheaf of forms to fill out, including a course selection sheet that needs to be signed by someone at his current school.  It all needs to be back at the school next Monday (that is, in five days).  For September enrollment.

The school is a Toronto landmark.  Great history, excellent test scores, engaged parents, lots of AP classes and Latin (which Michael wants to take, thank you homeschooling.)   I guess I’ve been spoiled by my time spent in the South with fawning teachers and staff (in both public and private schools) and in the boys’ current private school.  Or maybe I just caught everyone on a bad day.

Tales from school

Part 1

In response to me asking Michael whether anything good happened at school today.

Michael: “There was a guy at school and he was throwing out half his waffle! And it was covered with chocolate! So I ate it.”

Me: “Did you know the guy? Is he one of your friends?”

Michael: “Well, I’ve seen him around. I just went up and asked him for it as he was about to put it in the garbage.”

Part 2

From his English assignment, in which he was to describe a food. He chose the kiwi. The paragraph ended something like “it goes down smoother than a bottle of vicodin followed by a frosty cold one.”

I really worry about what his teachers think goes on in our household. His father had to ask me what vicodin is. I should probably cut the boy off television.

Part 3

Thursday: We buy him a $14 lunch bag. He takes complex lunches (as a tall 13 year-old male vegetarian) and needs a big container for all his stuff.
Friday: Lunch box gets lost. He has no idea whether he started home with it and left it on the street car/subway/bus, or whether it’s still in his locker.
Monday: Yay! Lunch box is apparently still in his locker, but he forgot to bring it home.
Tuesday: Lunch box is no longer in his locker. Perhaps he *started* to bring it home on Monday but left it on the street car/subway/bus.

At least he knows where the lost and found for public transit is. He will be heading there tomorrow if the lunch box has not reappeared in his locker.

Repeat a modified version of the above regarding math textbook. We have taken him to the Central library twice so that he could borrow a copy from the reference desk and copy the homework questions. He is currently keeping an eye on Fr. Malo’s office where stray books are supposed to end up.

He asks AT LEAST three times per day: has anyone seen my iPod? It’s actually a miracle that he has not lost his iPod, cellphone, or wallet at any time in the past 12 months. If the lunch box and the math text don’t turn up, he will be in debt to me until Christmas.

Loose ends are getting gathered.

Many things are finally coming together.

  • My new laptop arrived yesterday and I’ve transferred most of my data over from my old one. It’s a lovely thing, with green satin lid, large glossy screen, and Windows Vista which doesn’t seem as bad as all the reports and, frankly, is not that much different from XP, at least in terms of the interface.
    I can’t find my CD copy of Quicken though. I purchased it last summer when we arrived in Toronto and were living in the condo. I simply cannot lay my hands on it and I need it to transfer all our financial files to my new machine. I will do a detailed scour of the house today to try to locate it.
  • I have been in touch with a behavioural therapist/trainer for Wilson. He’s a doll in many ways, but he’s got a lot of anxiety and is dangerously prey driven. That includes people, other dogs, small animals, and anything that deigns to come onto our property. Jana will come out Tuesday afternoon for 4 hours of training and we’ll see how it goes. She’s with Bark Busters and the organization has been recommended to us by multiple people. I just need to be able to have a plumber over without Wilson barking his head off for two hours.
  • My car is scheduled for repair starting on Monday. The total (including rental) is about $1300….I’ve learned not to be surprised at how expensive it is to have a few scratches and dents taken out of a car. But that’s why we have insurance. Because I wasn’t at fault and got to the car to the Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours, I don’t even have to pay the deductible.
  • I’m back on track with my cleaning schedule. I’ve flipped between Flylady and the Motivated Moms planner, and am on the latter these days. I like her system because it’s slow and steady. A little bit every day and pretty soon the house is looking fine.
  • Alex was all in a tizzy because he is behind in his community service hours for school, specifically for Religion class. He is a peer tutor for math and science but he hasn’t had much business so doesn’t have the requisite 20 hours. I have lined him up some tutoring with one of his cousins who’s in Grade 9 and having trouble with math, and he’ll start that tomorrow. He and his father are also going to make some casseroles as part of a ministry that our parish has, making meals for the Good Shepherd Centre. The parish provides the recipe and large aluminum foil casserole pans. Parish members make the casseroles and then drop them into the freezer at the parish on an on-going basis.

The future is flashing before my eyes

We drove down to visit the University of Waterloo yesterday, a top choice for Alex who hopes to study mathematics in a year and a half when he finishes high school. He’d been asking to start visiting universities and although perhaps it’s a little early, the experience was well worthwhile.

We registered online for the regular 1:30 pm tour. We were a group of about 25 parents and students and were walked around the campus for two hours, visiting most faculties, the Student Life Centre, Physical Activities Centre, and a dorm. Our guide was an enthusiastic fourth year student who gave us a little history of the university and lots of good information about programs, admissions, and life at Waterloo. He was funny, sensible, and energetic….an excellent combination for leading around a group of people on what must have been one of the coldest, windiest days of the year.

After our tour ended, we were met by a student from St. Jerome’s University which is a Catholic university federated with U Waterloo. They offer Arts and Math programs and students who register there are Waterloo students, have access to all Waterloo facilities and courses, and get a Waterloo degree, while enjoying the smaller community (inclusing residences) offered by St. Jerome’s. Our tour guide was a second year Math student and she walked us through the SJU buildings and dorms.

After we were finished, we attended the 5:00 pm mass at STU, grabbed a quick dinner at a local Korean restaurant and were back in Toronto by 8:30 pm.

Alex was clearly taken by his experience and enjoyed seeing the campus. I think it kind of motivated him to work harder to ensure admission, and possibly an entrance scholarship. He spent much of the evening at home half-watching a hockey game and mostly reading the brochures we’d picked up and talking with me about university life.

I suddenly understood what so many moms before me have gone through: for me, yesterday’s visit enables me to very clearly picture myself and Z dropping him off at his dorm in a year and a half, feeling kind of weepy, and then returning to a quiet house with only one man-child left at home.

I’ve joked a lot about how I’m looking forward to having the boys leave home, but it all seems too real now, and somehow not quite at attractive….

Going out for the team

The school snowboard team tryouts are today, and so I made the 6 a.m. drive to meet the bus in the school parking lot with Michael and his gear.

Short moment of panic on the way home when I could not recall any ski-socks having been packed, but a quick call to Michael confirmed that he was in fact wearing said socks, so he was okay. He did however forget his mp3 player so he will likely nap on the bus on the way to the resort.

He is the only grade seven student trying out, and he hasn’t been boarding very long, so who knows what will happen. But kudos to him for being there. This is very much encouraged at the school…try out for anything in which you are remotely interested.

In the morning there will be a clinic with a pro, and then the time trials are in the afternoon. So it certainly won’t be a wasted day (not to mention the “side benefit” of missing a day of school.) Not sure about the snow conditions with all the rain and mild weather, but at least it’s a level playing field. They’ll arrive back at the school around 4:30 this afternoon, likely very tired and rosy cheeked. Which is great.

Snow, beautiful, snow

Well, it’s beautiful to me because I have done nary a second of shovelling.

We’ve been hard hit, here in Toronto, and there is no doubt that winter has arrived to stay. We declared yesterday a “family snow day” since our only obligation (mass) was impossible to get to given the weather and state of the streets. Even a 15 minute walk to a neighbouring parish was out of the question with the high winds and blowing snow. So we stayed put, did personal devotions, and a lot of house organization in preparation for the holidays.

Late afternoon, although the snow was still coming down, Z and the boys did the shovelling. It was hard work….we got probably 20-30 cm of snow (8-12 inches for my non-metric readers). We have a large deck, driveway, and long sidewalk (we’re on a corner lot) so the three of them were outside for over an hour. The snow-plow went down our street last night but pushed snow onto the other side of the street (blocking in street-parked cars and driveways), but kept our side of the street clear. Whew! That would have meant a lot of shovelling this morning again.

For the first time in my memory, we ran out of milk and no-one felt like walking to the store last night, so it was eggs, toast and applesauce for breakfast this morning instead of the usual cereal.

I’ve gotta hit the street today and get groceries. I need milk to bake, plus we’re out of fruit. I also have another load of stuff to take to Goodwill, and a gift to exchange, a duplicate that I just found out about.

The boy are continuing with exams this week. Alex has four down and four to go, and is writing French and Religion today. Michael has three down and three to go (writing French today). So they spent much of their time this weekend hitting the books and having Z and I quiz them. They’ll both be relieved at the end of the week when the exams are done and holidays begin.

Education reform: what works.

Very interesting item from the Economist: “How to be top: What works in education: the lessons according to McKinsey.

…[A]n organisation from outside the teaching fold—McKinsey, a consultancy that advises companies and governments—has boldly gone where educationalists have mostly never gone: into policy recommendations based on the [OECD‘s Programme for International Student Assessment] PISA findings. Schools, it says, need to do three things: get the best teachers; get the best out of teachers; and step in when pupils start to lag behind…

Begin with hiring the best. There is no question that, as one South Korean official put it, “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” Studies in Tennessee and Dallas have shown that, if you take pupils of average ability and give them to teachers deemed in the top fifth of the profession, they end up in the top 10% of student performers; if you give them to teachers from the bottom fifth, they end up at the bottom. The quality of teachers affects student performance more than anything else. Yet most school systems do not go all out to get the best.

The whole piece is definitely worth a read.