Rain, Voting, Indoor Recess and Cleaning Up Paint

….an exhausting couple of days

Yesterday my grade 5 class finished, continued and started their abstract paintings. It was a crazy art class with 30 students all working on canvases and acrylic paint. It was the first time that the boys made less mess than the girls and they were really focused on their work. The girls on the other hand were silly, messy and a little too free with the amount of paint they used.

Just as we were ready to start, an announcement for grade 5 boys and girls who were interested in trying out for shot put were called to go outside. All of a sudden about half the class left. The remaining half were pleased to have more space but it didn’t last long because after about 20 minutes the students returned.

A half hour later we were well into our paintings  and wouldn’t you know it we had a fire drill. A few girls were literally up to their elbows in paint and I had to quickly cover their hands with towels as we made our way outside. I have to admit that I totally lost it with these girls, who are normally very responsible students but for some reason they turned into 5 year olds yesterdays.

When we returned to class we had another 20 minutes to work and then it was time to clean up. We started clean up a little earlier because last time we didn’t give ourselves enough time. A couple of girls volunteered to clean the paint palettes and they quickly went into my office where I have the only sink in the room. The boys quickly cleaned up their tables and put away their paintings.

The girls in the office seemed to be taking a long time to clean and when I went into my office I was assaulted with a mess like I’ve never seen before. The bell was about to sound off  so I sent them to the bathroom to clean themselves. I didn’t really appreciate how bad the mess was until I tried to organize it. I found an empty bin and put all the dirty palettes and brushes into it and then cleared the counter and emptied the sink. There was paint everywhere….. the backsplash, counter, drying rack, cupboard doors and the floor. Even my kettle was covered with blue paint. I spent the next 20 minutes just clearing the paint from the sink.

I had to stop cleaning when my kindergarten class came to the library for a story and when one of my colleagues arrived to continue with the class I went back to my office and cleaned for another half an hour. When the bell at the end of the day went off I went outside to do bus duty and when I came back I worked another hour cleaning. I left the brushes to soak and I bagged the dirty towels to take home and launder.

Today it rained all day which means that the kids had indoor recess all day. It was also voting day in the library. For the last four months we’ve been reading a selection of books written by Canadian authors. The program is called The Forest of Reading and at the end of April students across Ontario vote for their favourite books. Last week the entire school voted for their favourite English picture book and today the French Immersion students voted for their favourite French picture book. The older students (grades 3 to 5) belong to a book club that I run with the help of the staff and today was their day to vote for their favourite fiction, non-fiction and French books. Students came down during recess today and filled in a ballot and deposited it into the ballot box. A busy day.

By lunch time today the students were very restless and very loud. As I get older I find the noise unbearable and it makes me very grumpy. My class after lunch was no exception and after 3 warnings I told them they weren’t allowed to speak at all and they had to use sign language to communicate. I don’t know why it works but it was quiet in the art room for the next minutes. When they got too noisy again I insisted on the no talking rule again and once again it was quiet. This class was working on their weaving projects and they managed to get a lot done.

After recess I went to one of the kindergarten classes to pick up the class and take them back to the library so that they could vote for their favourite book. Like the rest of the school this class was busy and chatty but because I was changing up the routine they were anxious to clean up and see what they would do next. I explained to the class that when we walked to the library we were going to do some exercises to get our muscles moving and we were going to do it quietly. It was like a game of moving Simon Says. We organized the children into a line and I started doing lunges, high steps and large arm movements as we made our way to the library. One day I figured that it is about a 200 metre walk from the kindergarten rooms to the library. By the time we got to the library our hearts beat a little faster, especially mine and the children got rid of them of their pent up energy.

For the last period of the day I had the grade 5 class that I had for art yesterday. After voting I sat them down and complimented the boys for their cooperation and neatness during art and we discussed the problems that we encountered before, during and after the fire drill. I think the girls were a little uncomfortable when they realized that they were part of the problem yesterday.

At the end of the day my library helpers came in to help me clean a few more palettes and brushes, put away books, organize the shelves and count the votes. Before I left I was able to email the results of the votes to the Ontario Library Association. Tomorrow I’ll probably discover that a class forgot to vote or students who have been away want to vote. Oh well. C’est la vie!

Here are a few more finished abstract paintings and three finished weavings. When I see students’ finished work I can’t stay angry for long. In the end it all seems worthwhile.


My Summer Reading

….I’m way behind and I only have one full week left before I head back to the classroom


As you can see I may have bitten off more than I can chew but some of these books I had started earlier in the year and didn’t finish, some I’m half way through and one was a book club book that we discussed at the beginning of the month. The last one I finished and will discuss briefly in this post.

The first book that I finished this summer is The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. This is one of the books that I started last year, picked it up again earlier this year and finally finished it in July. It was a struggle. It was the winner of the 2010 Man Booker prize and for the life of me I can’t understand why it won. I went over to Amazon.com to read some of the reviews on this book and discovered that you either loved this book or hated it. I think that some of the best comments that resonated for me included:  …..”You might also love it if you’re into angst and want to read many pages about people full of angst, who spend their waking hours worrying about angst, wondering what to do about their angst (or, indeed, whether to do anything at all), asking who’s to blame for all that angst, trying (and mostly failing) to find a meaning in angst, even questioning whether their angst is real or whether they’re imagining it.”……”Reading this book feels like reading an angst-ridden teen’s diary: endless self-indulgent delving into identity. Who am I? How can I know who I am? Why am I who I am? What does it all mean? What if I’m not really who I think I am? Is it okay to be who I am? Should I try to be someone else?….. are you bored yet?” 

This pretty much sums up how I feel about this story of three childhood friends, two who are Jewish and one who isn’t, and how they interact with each other later in life when the two of them become widowed. Some reviewers found it brilliant, funny and thought provoking. I tried to like it but the story didn’t work for me.

The next book that I read was Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I loved this book, as did everyone in my book club. The book was a 2013 Canada Reads contender.

The story is about Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway man from Northern Ontario, who has to confront his past in order to overcome his drinking problem. Saul’s difficult journey takes the reader through his childhood when he is  separated from his family and land and sent to a residential school where he suffers abuse from the nuns and priests who reside there. He soon discovers he has an amazing talent for hockey and he finds brief salvation in playing the game.

The novel was an eye opener for me of the harsh reality of life in 1960s Canada. We don’t often think about racism existing in our own backyard but in this story racism is a central theme and Saul’s spirit is destroyed by the harsh realities of cultural displacement. A must read for all North Americans and Canadians in particular.

Book Review -The Imposter Bride

…..by Nancy Richler


I read this book a couple of months ago and last night our book club met at the Runnymede Library to listen to Nancy Richler read excerpts from her novel, discuss her motivation for writing the book and take questions from the audience.

The presentation was part of The eh List Authors Series. This is a Toronto Public Library initiative that promotes successful authors and invites them to come to a designated location and speak to the library patrons in Toronto. 

Here is a brief summary of The Imposter Bride, taken from the Toronto Public Library website:

When Sol Kramer sees his intended bride, Lily Azerov, fresh from the Levant and waiting at the Montreal train station, he takes one look and he bolts. His brother Nathan is mortified. And charmed. Nathan steps up and proposes to the beautiful Lily himself. But Lily has a secret. She is not Lily Azerov. 

Nancy Richler carefully chose passages from her novel to share with the packed house at the Runnymede Library. Most of the audience had read the book, so she was delighted to discuss the theme, the characters and her own personal connections and experiences that helped her write this wonderful book.

Hearing how and why Nancy wrote this book made it even more special. It took her nine years to write this book. Some of the characters are loosely based on her own family and childhood friends. Having grown up in Montreal in the post war years in the 50s and 60s gives Nancy first hand experience of the broken Holocaust survivors and their struggles to make a new life in a new country. 

Most of the book is told in the voice of Lily’s daughter, Ruth. When Ruth was only 3 months old, Lilly abandoned her daughter and husband and disappeared for decades. On Ruth’s sixth birthday she receives a mysterious package from her mother with a stone inside. Over the years Ruth receives several parcels from her mother, each with a new stone inside and each return address is from a different city in Canada. Does Ruth ever meet her mother? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

Rating:  4 out of 5

Grade Two Masterpieces

…..children’s art always puts me in a happy mood

Happiness File – Day 10

Today in my grade 2/3 art class we critiqued the art work done by the grade 2s. You may recall seeing some of the finished monochromatic abstract art pieces that I posted a couple of weeks ago. We discussed what worked and where some of the pieces could use some tweaking to make them better. Many of the students took their pieces back and added some more detail and then signed their work. Here are some more of their masterpieces.


Two of my happy moments happened today in my art class. The first was how willingly my students listened to the critiques and then actually took some of the suggestions to heart. The second moment was watching my students tackle the drawing assignment I assigned. Some found it difficult but after showing them some simple techniques they started to create some very beautiful designs. I’m really looking forward to their finished still life paintings.

Tonight I had book club and we discussed the book The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love the time spent with good friends. We don’t always agree on how much we enjoy a book but the discussions are always lively and friendly as we defend our positions. I enjoy the circus and I really liked the book so I tended to give it a higher rating than some of my fellow book club members who don’t like the circus and weren’t as enamoured with the book as I was.


If you like fantasy and magic, I recommend this book. Reading a good book can increase your happiness quotient.