A very brief audiobook review of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Where to get it

The Audible edition was narrated by Noah Galvin and was 6 hours 23 minutes long. The print version is 226 pages.

The very brief review

4.5 stars. This book was interesting, painful, reflective, well-written, and well-narrated.

The brief review

I always find “coming of age” stories strangely compelling. I think perhaps it’s because the characters always make different choices than I made in high school, and that sets me a-pondering. In this story the main character, Charlie, recounts his first year of high school through letters he writes to a stranger. The letter writing part is unnecessary and doesn’t really add to the story for me. Charlie has some issues which he’s only partly aware of but which are mostly apparent to the reader/listener. It’s about friendship, choices, drugs, identity, love, mental health, and the early 90s.

The language of the book is beautiful. From beginning to end the words are thoughtful, inspiring, and gorgeously poetic. I might have to read a text copy of this book because although the narration was excellent I want to re-read and revel in the prose.

So I’ll recommend it. Enjoy.

A brief audiobook review: Tony Danza’s “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had”

Where to get it

I listened to the Audible edition read by the author. It’s just shy of 7 hours long. The print edition is apparently 272 pages.

The very brief review

4.5 stars. Good narration, good story. Fun to listen to The Boss. Made me think. You should read it or have it read to you.

The brief review

This was a well-read, interesting story of Tony Danza’s year as a 10th Grade English teacher. The reading was good, and the stories were good (I use the plural because of the many small, heartfelt tales he related from the school year). I recommend it to teachers as a way to reconnect with why we do this work, and for the general population as a way to understand the heavy burden teachers place on themselves.

As an Ontario teacher, it was interesting to note the many similarities in the Philadelphia school system; it was startling to note some of the more dramatic differences.

As a teacher who is about to return to the classroom after 6 years in central roles, I empathized with Mr. Danza. It’s not so much that I’ll be a first-year teacher again, but more that I remember struggling with many of the same challenges and that I know I’ll be facing those again full time. After all, life at the board office is a little removed from the realities of the daily work of the classroom.

I do have a few “complaints” about the book, but let me say up front that these criticisms are hardly fair. Tony Danza reads his book very well, and relating the actual events of a year of high school won’t likely fit nicely into three-act format or anything.

When reading the book, Mr. Danza doesn’t use “other voices” for other characters to any great extent. I’m used to listening to narrators who have a distinct voice for each character in the story. I realize that it’s really difficult, and that it’s a small point in an otherwise very good narration.

Second, the book doesn’t feel like it’s flowing well about halfway through. There isn’t a nice, tidy plot arc the way I’m used to from reading fiction. As mentioned, that’s more about the way the year progressed than anything, probably, but there is also less material in the second half of the year for Mr. Danza to refer to (read the book and see why). In spite of that pacing issue I still cried a little towards the end.

Read it

And that is all.

24 hours until On The Rise K-12: Enhancing Digital Learning

On The Rise is about 24 hours away, and I’m really looking forward to the learning for you and for me. We’ve been planning for a really long time, and I think it shows: I’m not really that nervous about it, because everyone on the planning team has done such a great job.

When you get here tomorrow morning, you’ll register to get your name badge, you’ll pour a cup of coffee, and you’ll join over 500 other educators in the ballroom. It’ll be a little snug, I promise.

At some point, in that massive room, pause and look around at those 500 other Ontario educators. And instead of seeing them as conference attendees, participants and presenters, realize for yourself that those 500 other people are there because they are committed to improving education in Ontario, to improving the lives of students and families, through the use of Digital Tools. That’s why they’re here, and that’s why you’re here. Not to hear about a neat trick you can do with your favourite web service, and not to show the devices your board purchased this year.

We’re all here because we are striving to be better at what we do.

So keep that in mind on April 1st and 2nd at On The Rise K-12: Enhancing Digital Learning. Maintain that focus on improving what we do for the sake of our students, their families, and our future.

My son is doing pretty well

I thought I’d better give a brief update on my son’s health after posting “Painful reminder” last week.

He’s doing pretty well, and we’re very relieved. Basically he looked like he had strep throat with some redness around his mouth and in his armpits so we took him to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with scarlet fever and given antibiotics. He got worse, much worse, over the next couple of days, including cracked and peeling skin. We returned to the hospital and were sent to another, larger hospital with a pediatric centre. There he was tentatively diagnosed with staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome and given two more, stronger antibotics. He was also quite dehydrated, so IV fluids too.

He lost a lot of skin, and it’s still not great: peeling, scabs, redness, and other welts. It was really awful to see, and scared us a lot. He’s on his fourth antibiotic at home now, and he’s in good spirits. He’s crazy itchy, as you would expect. We’re watching closely because he’s had a few more symptoms that we’re worried about.

The hospital staff at both locations was excellent; I can’t say enough how well we were looked after. I know that emergency room wait times can be bad (we’ve waited a long time ourselves before), but there’s no question that the medical staff is great in our area. No one we spoke with had ever seen a case of this illness before, and it’s to their great credit that they diagnosed it immediately once a few more symptoms presented themselves.

Thanks to everyone who sent gifts and kind words. We appreciate all the support we received, and we’re all recovering well from one of the scariest things that’s ever happened to us.

Upcoming #OTRK12 Session Highlights – Part 3

Another chance to hear about the great opportunities at On The Rise K-12: Enhancing Digital Learning on April 1 and 2, 2014 in Mississauga, Ontario. You can read all the details at http://otrk12.ca. If you want to attend, you can register there (the cost is $100 per person per day).

The awesomeness continues

I’m sure you’ve already read through Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Here are a few more beautiful learning opportunities.

Note: If you have already registered and wish to change your session choices, just send me an email with the new session code(s).


Session Block 1

D1S08: Leaping into Literacy Test Preparation with D2L

This session will look at the TVDSB OSSLT preparation strategy using D2L. We will demonstrate what the course actually looks like, the data that can be collected when utilized with students (individual/group, skill/competency) and how it is being put to use in a variety of different ways in our schools to suit their unique needs.
Intended Audience: Secondary Teachers, eLCs/DeLCs, Administration
Experience Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Presenter(s): Shereen Miller and Carrie Huffman

Session Block 3

D1S22: Blended Learning Meets Science & Technology (Elementary Focus)

Join us for a look at Ministry provided Blended Learning resources specifically for K-8 Science & Technology, including the provincial Virtual Learning Environment (vLE). Did you know that Ontario teachers have access to blended Science and Technology packages, carousels of OERB objects, as well as tools such as ePortfolio, News, and Calendar? Did you know that Blended Learning provides flexible and engaging ways to help students demonstrate their learning and focus on activities that highlight communication, collaboration and differentiation? Come and find out more about how you can make Blended Learning part of your students’ learning experience.
Intended Audience: Elementary Teachers, eLCS/DeLCS, Administration
Experience Level: Any Level
Presenter(s): Sharon Korpan


Session Block 1

D2S08: Building a diverse, digital learning ecosystem

Just as a carpenter wouldn’t get very far with just a hammer in his toolbox, so to the e-teacher wouldn’t get very far using only a single digital tool. This presentation will look into various online tools for replacing classroom techniques as well as unique digital tools that offer opportunities that can’t be found in a f2f learning environment.
Intended Audience: All teachers
Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate
Presenter(s): Tim King

Session Block 2

D2S13: Inspiring Technology Training

This session will cover lessons from voluntary and incentivized tech training. Examples include lunch and learns, after school professional learning “tech” groups, and earn a laptop type session. The session format will be a short overview of what other boards have done, followed by discussions and questions by attendees on how to encourage this type of learning in their own boards. Attendees are encouraged to share their own stories and questions regarding how to expand PD opportunities in their own boards.
Intended Audience: eLCs/DeLCs, Administration
Experience Level: Any Level
Presenter(s): Gino Russo, Corrine Pritoula

Painful reminder

I’ve been up for the past few days and nights, snatching sleep in one- or two-hour chunks. My boy is pretty sick right now, and I’m exhausted. Exhausted from driving, coaxing, reassuring,…. but mostly from wishing and worrying and crying.

My boy is a lively, happy kid who doesn’t complain and loves to be involved with what’s going on around him. I haven’t hear him laugh in almost a week, and he can’t get out of bed, and I can’t hug him because it’ll hurt him, and I just want to fix it right now and take this pain away.

I don’t remember feeling this helpless before. Maybe my barely-functional brain can’t mine the archives very well right now, but this feels uniquely awful to me at the moment.

This will pass for us, to become a distant, unpleasant memory. For many other families illness is the norm. It’s a painful reminder of how generally great we have it, and how much worse off many others are. It’s sometimes hard to see the larger picture today while we’re living it, but my sympathies go out to those who live with worse and for longer.

Upcoming #OTRK12 Session Highlights – Part 2

Another chance to hear about the great opportunities at On The Rise K-12: Enhancing Digital Learning on April 1 and 2, 2014 in Mississauga, Ontario. You can read all the details at http://otrk12.ca. If you want to attend, you can register there (the cost is $100 per person per day).

Some more awesomeness

I’m sure you’ve already read through Part 1 of this series, so here are a few more session highlights.

Note: If you have already registered and wish to change your session choices, just send me an email with the new session code(s).


Session Block 2

D1S13: Blended Learning: The First 20 Days

New to Blended Learning? Don’t worry! This workshop will unveil a twenty day plan that will help you transform your classroom by improving communication, promoting greater collaboration, and differentiating student learning. By connecting powerful pedagogical practices with specific applications of the vLE, it will be demonstrated how blended learning is the ultimate teaching and learning experience for both teachers and students! Participants will receive the day-by-day plan, companion D2L manual, and access to various training videos.
Intended Audience: All New Learners
Experience Level: Beginner
Presenter(s): Sean McDade and Paul D’Hondt

Session Block 4

D1S36: Try Something. Don’t Try Everything.

The session will introduce tips and tricks for teachers new to blended learning to help avoid the common pitfalls of frustration and feeling overwhelmed. The session will incorporate blended learning best practices and introduce teachers to some helpful resources to get them started.
Intended Audience: All Teachers
Experience Level: Beginner
Presenter(s): Brock Baker


Session Block 2

D2S14: Developing a Real Professional Learning Community in a Virtual World

Building a culture of collaboration among e-learning teachers who infrequently meet face-to-face takes creativity, coordination and plenty of good will. Successful strategies used by the TDSB e-Learning team for building professional learning communities using Desire2Learn, Adobe Connect and Google Apps for Education will be explored.  We’ll share tools and resources that we have co-constructed with our e-learning teachers to enhance student learning in the online classroom. The TDSB e-Learning team will share successful strategies for building professional learning communities using Desire2Learn, Adobe Connect and Google Apps for Education. We’ll share tools and resources that we have co-constructed with our teachers to enhance student learning in the online classroom.
Intended Audience: eLCs/DeLCs, eLearning Teachers, Administration
Experience Level: All Levels
Presenter(s): Andrea Brożyna

Session Block 4

D2S36: Replace the shovel with the snow blower and you get better results. Free and cheap software you can use to engage students.

Blended learning environments allow students to set their own pace and work to their potential. Project based exercises allow students to demonstrate, analyze, re-teach in ways traditional paper and pencil busy work cannot. The amount of incredible web based software that I will share with you keeps growing, allowing teachers to give students projects that challenge them in new and exciting ways. The projects we are seeing are the best we’ve ever seen and many are professional level. The ability to update, improve and collaborate makes for better and much less expensive content.
Intended Audience: All Teachers
Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate
Presenter(s): Mitch Lapointe