Tag Archives: Teaching

The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes you need to have done something pretty dumb to remind you how great the people in Toronto are.


How I relish the opportunity to write thank-you notes because of my silliness.

Today was the Track & Field Meet for our region of schools. While our school is wonderful in every way that is truly important, we are still growing in athletics – and we only had a handful of our students up for our regional meet. Along with a fabulous student teacher, I drove our kids from our downtown core to the east end.

And left my headlights on when we got there for our day-long meet.

Imagine our delight and pleasure, especially mine after a long day in the sun supervising teenagers, at finding their teacher “in charge” had so wisely emptied her car battery, leaving us stranded in Scarborough. And of course, I would front-end park – facing a nice, big curb, making it impossible for a car to make it close enough to give me a boost.

Still miraculously full of energy (or trying to avoid making it back to school in time for the last class), I heard suggestions of “pushing the car into the parking lot” so another car could get near enough to give me a boost – which would leave any teacher with more imagination any number of scenarios involving crushed children.

And who should save me but Mama and Papa Bear – I would need no more than a bashful phone call to explain that I needed a rescue but that they would hop into their truck to hope to jump a curb.

And of course, the kind soul owning the car – and a set of jumper cables – next to mine should appear, promptly offering to do a little hero work. Papa Bear’s prediction of having someone else rescue me before they arrived came true.

The most beautiful part was how this stranger tried to say it might not have all been my fault – one of the terminal things in the battery is loose, which might have caused some battery starting issues…

Within twenty minutes, I managed to inconvenience quite a few wonderful people with my absent-mindedness, and solve a crisis of my own making.


The hand of a friendly stranger.

But I’m pretty glad that in Toronto, you can always count on people to help you out.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Phone: A Case for Writing Things Out

I love this article on FastCompany, which discusses how writing by hand can differ from tapping away at a keyboard or smartphone. I know I love my iPhone, and couldn’t get by without it, but there’s really something about how the brain works when you write something down.


I remember a parent of a student once coming to talk to me about how her son, in Grade 7, was unable to read or write cursive, and explaining to her that in Grade 7, our curriculum focuses more on the ideas and language of writing, rather than the physical writing process. While this emphasis still remains, on the ideas and creativity, the physical writing process may also have a lot to do with the idea process.

Berninger told the Wall Street Journal in Oct. 2010 that as your hand executes each stroke of each letter, it activates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions than typing, which whisks your attention along at a more letters-and-words pace.”

Maybe it’s not so important the attainment of perfect handwriting, but the stimulation of the brain as you form the letters and think about the space your letters and words are taking up.

Sometimes my most active students, the students whose minds seem to have a hard time focusing on one thing doodle or draw while I’m teaching or when they’re stuck on a tough problem. Their doodling may only be very, very tangentially related, but sometimes enough of their brain may be stimulated, and they just might figure something out.

All my 12- and 13- year old students need to fill out their agendas at the end of the day, listing homework and reminders, and while many of them may never even glance at it at home, maybe the simple act of having written it down at the end of a long day is enough to get them to finish their math questions. Sometimes.