Tag Archives: Gerry Dee

Five Summer Reads For Teachers

1 Jul

Classes may have ended three days ago but to my “fantasy mind” summer vacation still hasn’t started. The first “official” day of summer vacation is tomorrow when, after a long weekend, THE REST OF THE WORLD resumes regular life and I don’t.

This is the most precious moment of the summer vacation, when it’s all about to happen, full of potential. In my first couple of summers as a teacher I learned that July and August can disappear faster than a kiddie cone at the beach. At the start of summer vacation I pause and appreciate the ten weeks stretching out before me and ask “What will I do? How will I use this gift?”

I’m also aware of how quickly the lessons of the previous year fade. In the blink of an eye I’ll be thinking and planning for next year, not considering what did and didn’t work last year. That’s why, in early July, I also try to think about what I need to know more about to make learning in my classroom better. How can I improve my knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning?

This year I’ve compiled a list of five books I’d like to read to help make the 2013-14 school year as good as possible. Here they are:

  1. Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life by Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica. This is the follow-up book to Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element about the importance of finding your passion. Finding Your Element contains strategies to help people find their passion. I’m hoping I can use some of those strategies with students so that when we discuss topics they’d like to learn about I’m met with fewer blank stares and more enthusiastically raised hands.
  2. Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman. Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist who was “relegated to special education as a child” uses the latest research to question our traditional notions of intelligence and suggests that what we consider exceptionalities or learning difficulties are really different forms of intelligence. I’d like to learn more about this. I think our current ideas about what makes someone ‘smart’ are much too narrow.
  3. Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. The subtitle of this book “What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It” is intriguing. Society and schools greatly underestimate the effect of poverty on children’s learning. Comparing student achievement without taking these effects into consideration is both unfair and damaging to student learning. I’m especially interested in what I can do as a teacher to offset the impact poverty has on my students.
  4. Visible Learners by Ben Mardell, Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, and Daniel Wilson. I’ve long been a fan of the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning but am unsure how to apply those principles in a “mainstream” classroom. This book provides “…practical ways to enhance learning by increasing collaboration and critical thinking across grade levels and subject matter”. There are also strategies to improve educators’ ability to observe learning effectively with minimal impact on the learning, something I want to improve at.
  5. Teaching: It’s Harder Than It Looks by Gerry Dee. Dee is a stand-up comedian and star of the CBC comedy Mr. D about Gerry Duncan: an under-qualified high school social studies teacher. Before becoming an entertainer Dee was a physical education teacher and hockey coach at De La Salle College (Toronto)“Oaklands”, a private co-ed high school in Toronto. This book is a collection of his funniest anecdotes about teaching and, according to a couple of colleagues who’ve read it, it’s pretty funny. I hope so. Summer shouldn’t just be about serious learning for teachers or students. It should also be a time to recharge and reenergize  Reading this will, hopefully, put a spring back in my teaching step so that, come September, I’m excited to again jump ‘once more into the breach’ with a smile on my face.

How about you? Any summer books for teachers you’d like to recommend? Suggestions in the comments please.


Why Mr. D. is good for education

31 Jan

“Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

I’ve wondered why there weren’t any good TV shows about teachers. There are good shows about lawyers, police, doctors, etc. Why not teachers? There’s as much drama and mayhem in schools as hospitals, and schools are a place almost everyone can relate to.

But education has remained one of the last bastions of professional privledge. In times past no one questioned a doctor’s authority, but patients show up with reams of information and diagnoses, challenge their doctor’s opinions and seek alternatives. We’ve accepted that doctors, lawyers, police officers et al are fallible, and make mistakes just like anyone else.

But we struggled when it comes to education. When Johnny and Janie set off in the morning we release precious children into the care of educators and schools. How can we do that daily and accept that educators may not exactly know what they are doing?

That’s what’s behind the run of “Teacher Porn”, films from the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s that celebrated educators as hard working, under appreciated saints. Think of ‘Dangerous Minds’, ‘Stand and Deliver’, ‘Dead Poets Society’ and the excreble ‘Mr. Hollands Opus’. They maintain the fiction that ‘Teacher knows best’. But now, that’s starting to change.

Last year I watched the big budget ‘Bad Teacher’, with Cameron Diaz portraying a frighteningly bad middle school teacher, surrounded by a cast of less than perfect colleagues. Then last week the staff room was buzzing about the new CBC series ‘Mr. D’. Comedian Jerry Dee plays a high school teacher who is an incompetant bufoon. The conversation amongst teachers was how we could all see ourselves and other teachers in his portrayal.

Seems that we are starting to accept that teachers aren’t the fountains of all knowledge, and this is good for education. The more we accept the idea that students are at the centre and teachers just there to facilitate their journey, the sooner the needed shift can happen.

Some educators are threatened by this, but they needn’t be. The medical professional has changed and adapted, and so can we.