Saturday, July 31, 2010

Favourite Summer pursuits in Vancouver

I think I have definitely moved into lazy summer mode.  Last night a friend inspired me to work on cleaning out my office-a never ended process it seems.  Let's face it those thousands of slides overwhelm me just looking at the boxes!  And then I look at all the educational books that I have only thumbed through... and half done projects... but last night a few things did get put in boxes to give away or throw.  And my sense of urgency did get kick started...

I just thought today I would talk about things I love about summer in Vancouver.  First of all the weather-it's been absolutely perfect-warm days and cool mornings and evenings.  I love early mornings when I can go out barefoot onto my deck, check out my flowers, do a bit of watering, and visit with Holly the cat who who thinks the deck furniture is just for her or to share with a friend or two.  Some mornings I go to Granville Island, take my coffee and muffin and read the paper as I look at the action on False Creek.  The other morning I took my bike and checked out the new pool complex in the new community centre at Hillcrest Park.  I have been mourning the loss of our outdoor pool that was just a few blocks away at the old Mount Pleasant Community Centre that I used regularly in past summers, but I have to admit the new pool is beautiful and you can see outside!  It opens today so I definitely am going to use it sometime this weekend.

I love not having to rush to school!  I have to admit a friend had organized an interesting sounding seminar that started at 7:00 am downtown and I have to admit I just couldn't do it.

That reminds me.  I love Canada Line- a five minute walk away it can take me downtown or the airport in minutes and you only ever have to wait a couple of minutes.  It's amazing.  Okay I admit I have only taken it once this summer but I love having it here.  I think it reminds me of fun times in Montreal in my twenties for one thing.  Building its path was a nightmare but now that it is here...

Summer-I love walking along Spanish Banks-best in the morning or early evening.  I also love dining on the patio deck at Jericho Beach Sailing Club-wonderful view and the minute the weather begins looking like it might be summer I try to head down there.

In the summer I love to dine where there is an ocean view - other favorites have to be Monk McQueen's Oyster Bar and Steveston's Tapenade Bistro.  Just being there makes me think summer.
Steveston is a place I have always loved-I first started going there long ago and have watched the changes and developments because I am not the only one who finds it charming so now it's a tourist mecca with a lot of newer housing.  Honestly I have to stop with the restaurant guides but I love the charm for lunch of Cannery Row any time of the year.

Then there is Bard on the Beach.  A couple of weeks ago partly by chance and partly by plan I went to Antony and Cleopatra and to Henry V the same week.  The setting is magical and from the big tent you can see the sun set over English Bay.  After Henry the Fifth, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I walked with a friend back to her place just before Granville Island.  It was beautiful with all the boats lit up along the path.

Maybe I should end this here-note this doesn't really link too well perhaps to Later Literacy but we tell our students to write about what they know and love so...  Stay tuned for more favorites...I mean we haven't even discussed prowling farmers' markets, baking with berries, canoing with beavers etc.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Into summer

Hmm... summer.  Well as you can see blogging has fallen behind and that is probably okay.  I can't believe how fast time has actually gone!  I haven't gone very far afield.  I spent a couple of days in Whistler the week after school ended where I saw not one but two different bear cubs in the not very wild.   Other than that it's been quality time in Vancouver, a rather lovely place to be in the summer.

The first few days of the holiday were not good weather wise-felt like winter but then suddenly we had a mini-heatwave and then it settled into perfect weather-sun but not too hot.  Every morning is a gift it seems.  I love looking into the garden when I first get up (or not) and seeing blue sky.

I have been doing lots of reading, most of it very non serious.  I just finished the latest Elizabeth George mystery, The Body of Death.  I followed it up with another novel by another favorite mystery writer and I just couldn't get into it I think because Elizabeth George is such a beautiful writer it didn't bear well on the other book so I put it aside.  If you haven't read her Thomas Lynley series, I totally recommend them to all mystery lovers.

Currently I am on The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a book I picked off the shelf of the library, vaguely aware it was one of The Books of the year (Oprah stamp of approval).  I am actually really enjoying it and finding it quite motivating as I engage in the usual summer activities of trying to clean things out and trying to get a few projects begun and finished.  I am also thinking back to my teaching year and thinking what I want to change next year.  Several years ago one of my friends noted that people seemed to be always studying depression but not happiness, which she thought would be more productive, and it seemed as soon as she said that I started seeing research on happiness.

I thinking if I make these entries short there is a better chance of getting them up!  That will, of course, make me feel happier!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Horror anyone or Beware of Pixies

And then I think there has been the influence of Twilight.  I can't say horror or the supernatural is my favourite genre but there were lots of these books at the International Reading Association Convention in Chicago.  I guess we could also call them fantasy.  I note that Harlequin has sunk its teeth into YA so it must be fantasy!
Anyway I read a few that I honestly enjoyed. Let's start with those Pixies.  I was a Pixie as a Brownie in my childhood and I thought they just helped people in fixes, but now that I have read Need by Carrie Jones, I know better.  They are not nice, and often dangerous, especially if you let them kiss you.  Zara is having a hard time after her step-dad dies and her mom decides to send her to live with her step-grandmother in Bedford, Maine.  We initially think the main reason  Zara is sent there is due to her depression but the real reason is that her mom thinks she needs more protection than she can provide.  Leaving Charleston for wintry Maine is not thrilling for non-violent, Amnesty International fan Zara and she doesn't find everyone at her new school too friendly especially when she gains the attention of two of the school's heart throbs.  Also teenage boys are disappearing and Zara seems to be the only one who can stop this happening.  This is a fun book with intriguing characters and a plot with lots of twists and surprises.  To paraphrase one reviewer, Stephen King meets Twilight.

Another teenage girl with problems is Emma in Lee Nichol's  Deception: Haunting Emma.  Her parents literally leave her alone, managing their antique business  in San Francisco as they go off to Europe.  Their manager has quit and her daughter, Emma's best friend won't have anything to do with her anymore.  Emma's brother is off adventuring as well and nowhere to be found.  She makes a new friend at school who tells the authorities she is living alone with no parents in the picture, and the next thing she knows she is in foster care.  But to the rescue comes a friend of her brother's who whisks her off to the East Coast to attend his old school and live in his mysterious house.  Sounds sinister but of course he is a hunk and a total gentleman but he isn't home much and the servants have a tendency to disappear.  Like Zara, Emma has powers of which she is unaware.  She is a ghost keeper extraordinaire.  She can communicate with ghosts and more.  Again there are many twists and turns of plot and it's difficult to know who to trust but a great read with an interesting heroine.

Once again we are in New England for Vampire High Sophmore Year.  This book by Douglas Rees is the sequel to Vampire High, which I haven't read.  Our hero, Cody Elliot, in the first book, moved from California to New Sodam, Massachusetts, and when he wasn't doing too well at Cotton Mather High, he transfers to Vlad Dracul High, where most students are vampires but they need a few humans for the water polo team so that they can stay accredited.  Cody doesn't have to do any work to get A's but he decides to actually to take on the challenging curriculum and makes friends with two vampires and gains the school's respect.
In this book, his difficult cousin arrives on the scene and the two of them end up involved in a project to start an art gallery in an old abandoned mill in a ghost town section of town.  This project stirs up old animosities and makes him temporarily lose his best friends. 
Now I am far from an expert on vampires but these vampires seem rather different than others I have read about.  I didn't think vampires could be werewolves or selkies but I am no expert.  Anyway this book had lots of humour as well as suspense. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

More books briefly reviewed

This is an entry that I thought I posted but didn't!
This week my class and I went to Sun Yat Sen Gardens (now of course that was now a couple of weeks ago), a field trip I totally recommend.  It gave my class a real feeling for life in China long ago.  A book that I recommend to tie into Grade Seven Social Studies is  Along the River by Adeline Yen Mah whose own story told in Chinese Cinderella sounds rather interesting.  Set in China in 1942, after she suffers  a  head injury, CC finds herself drifting into the setting of China's most famous painting, set in the Sung dynasty almost 800 years before.

A new book by popular author, Kimberly Willis Holt (author of when Zachary Beaver Came to Town) is The Water Seeker.  I found this book quite fascinating but not sure if it would appeal to my students.  When I was a child, living in a rural area in Quebec, I would hear stories of dowsers who could feel water with a stick so that people would know where to dig for wells.  This is the story of a father and a son with this gift describing their journey from the Missouri Territory to Oregon.  This is the kind of story you didn't hear from Little House on the Prairie.  But again this is a story that takes you on a journey, one that would be hard for my students to imagine.  It really describes how hard life was then and how tough pioneers had to be and hopeful.  Lots of unforgettable characters in this novel.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

End of year thoughts

Well I did it-I made it through a year of teaching after four years giving advice to others on what to do.  Monday afternoon we had our special Grade Seven assembly and it felt really  special to be a Grade Seven teacher at their special school assembly.  They all looked so gorgeous and grown up, receiving their certificates in front of the whole school and their families. I thought how glad I was to have made this decision to come back to teach before I retire.  Tuesday seemed to last forever and a moment.  It was such an emotional time I think for the grade sevens, their last day as students at their elementary school.  One student who usually smiles all the time looked so sad.  My most "active" student didn't want to leave the classroom.  There were lots of hugs and a few tears.  My poor grade sixes had to just go along with all the drama.
We had our final assembly Tuesday morning.  It was wonderful to see how many kids were involved in badminton and track and field as well as how many library monitors there were and most of our grade sevens were peer helpers.  Teachers on their own time make these extras possible.

Our Minister of Education and my M.LA was moaning about how schools are getting worse today on the basis of not very conclusive data-the implication being that we are doing a poor job rather than the Ministry doing a poor job of course.  I thought why don't you see the job our teachers do?  You can't measure the success of education in the short term you have to look at the long term and somehow that seldom is done.  Many of our school's students don't have easy lives nor do their parents.  We are a school of immigrants-people coming here to make a better life for their children but that has costs-parents  busy working so that children don't always get enough time with their parents and money is often an issue.  We are losing population because of the cost of living in a city like Vancouver.  For many of our students school is definitely their second home, a place where they can see possibilities and they feel cared for and treasured.

I am tired and I know that I did not do the most stellar job this year but I feel a sense of satisfaction no matter what the Minister of Education may think.