Archive for the Annecdotes Category


Posted in Annecdotes, Teaching on December 12, 2010 by Drumly

Teaching Year 10

It has been a long-standing tradition for me to fix computers in exchange for food.  My favourite payment comes in the form of homemade cookies.  One year, new computers at school had kept me particularly busy, and I was getting batches of homemade cookies from various teachers several times a month. I owe a special debt of gratitude to our Mac server for this.

Two of my grade six girls had noticed that teachers were giving me cookies, and they asked why I was so lucky.  I explained that I spent extra time helping them and that they were repaying my helpfulness with the generous gift of cookies.  The two girls said a quick goodbye and whispered all the way back to the coatroom.  The next day,  a Friday, one of the girls casually slipped this question into the conversation: “Mr. Martin, do you like gingersnaps?”

Being somewhat of a cookie connoisseur, I replied that I was quite fond of gingersnaps and the two girls left again, whispering to each other.  A weekend surprise was in the making.

Monday came, and the two girls hung around after school, after everyone had left.  Smiling and pleased as punch they presented me with a container with 10 white cookies in it. “We made you cookies,” the one said, “because you help us with the computers all the time too!”

I was touched, really, and I thanked them profusely for their generosity.  I was about to bite into one when the other girl added, “we made them because we know you like gingersnaps. We found the recipe on the Internet!”

This caused a pause on my part.  I think I mentioned that I am somewhat of a cookie connoisseur.  I had never encountered a white gingersnap before. “Gingersnaps?” I asked.

They nodded, their faces showing their anticipation.  “I sure hope you like them!” they both said.

I bit into the edge of the cookie.  It was tasty, yet bland.  It had none of the flavor that you would associated with a gingersnap.

“Tasty,” I said, much to the relief of the two young bakers.

“Oh, good.  We worried you weren’t going to like them.  We didn’t have all of the ingredients we needed.”

“Not enough ginger,” added the other.

“Ah!” I said, confident that I was eating Gingerless “snaps”, I took a larger bite of the cookie.  I am a bachelor after all, and we are known for our particularly strong stomachs.  Bland, but made with love and kindness, the kind of thing that makes any cookie edible.

“So we doubled up on another ingredient.”

I had by now popped the entire cookie into my mouth and was chewing when I felt a little explosion of scent pop out my nose.  I had bitten into a clove.  A whole clove.  My sinuses were clearing and my eyes were watering.

“Extra cloves,” the other lady explained.

Gingerless snaps with extra whole cloves.  But made with love and care. I smiled.

“They kind of explode in your mouth,” said one girl helpfully.

They were so happy that I was enjoying their cookies.  So I did what any guy would do. I ate each one. . . . gingerly.


Call It Courage! – The Great Mascot Naming Fiasco!

Posted in Annecdotes, Stories, Teaching on July 5, 2010 by Drumly

Teaching Year Number 9

The Wildwood Wolves!

Our school mascot was (is) a wolf.  We had a little stuffed wolf, whose name was Little Wolf, and the children loved him.  Little Wolf went on field trips and visited classrooms.  He was rewarded to classes randomly through the year, and the students would take good care of him for a few weeks.  Getting Little Wolf given to you at an assembly was an exciting occassion, and there were always huge smiles on the faces of the students who would get to care for Little Wolf.

One Stuffed Wolf is Great! Two is practically a whole pack!

And all was fine with the world.  Until the second little stuffed wolf came.

Really, it was a generous idea.  Another school had closed, and the children coming to our school as new students had brought their own stuffed wolf with them, something that marked where they came from and the school community that had been their home before they came to us.

As a staff and a school having two wolves meant double the fun. Twice as many wolves meant you could have one of the wolves for twice as long!  Still, there was a little problem.  The new wolf did not have a name.  It was decided that there would be a school contest, a naming assembly!

Each class put forward their ideas.  My class came up with the name Courage.  Our school was a Circle of Courage school and it was a brilliant name.  Thoughtful, meaningful and full of opportunity. I was proud of my students for coming up with such a powerful name.  When the final three names were listed, I was confident that Courage was the winning name.  “Lucky” and “Growler” just didn’t seem to have the same class as a name like Courage.

My class started taking photographs of the two wolves, so that I could make an origin story for the new Wolf.  It was a brilliant piece of writing.  It was about how Little Wolf had been left outside in our environmental classroom, and he was really scared and lonely.  When the moon came out, he heard a howling noise and then he was so happy because he had found a nice new girl wolf and they could become best friends.    A 32 page picture book, with photos and text, all about Little Wolf and Courage frolicking around the environmental classroom, learning about the forest, and about Mastery, Generosity, Independence and of course, Belonging, the four main ideas in the Circle of Courage.

The book was filled with all sorts of interesting sentences with double meanings.  Little Wolf literally found Courage, the new wolf, of course, but cleverly throughout the story, Little Wolf also became courageous.  The final pièce de résistance, in my mind, was the title.  “Little Wolf Gets Courage”.

I was perhaps overconfident in the result of the vote.

Continue reading

Watch Your Language Mr. Martin

Posted in Annecdotes, Standardized Testing, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Drumly

(Or Another Day That I Thought I Might Be Fired)

Is it possible that stories about days I thought I could be fired is a genre in of itself?

Sometimes laughter can break the stress of studying. Especially when the teacher puts his foot in his mouth! Photo by Bill Selak. CC Some Rights Researved

June, Teaching Year 14

Standardized Provincial Exams are a reality where I teach.  At the end of each grade six year, the students dutifully study their hearts out and do their best.  For me, I always want the students to show what they can do. If they get an answer wrong because I didn’t cover the idea, well, that makes me feel somewhat badly.

We were doing a new test in Social Studies for the brand new curriculum, and I had attended workshops and done the best that I could to help the students make sense of the new materials.  I had taken careful notes, particularly about the new vocabulary that the kids would need to understand . . . everything from Wampum Belts to Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s).  For some reason, perhaps fatigue during the workshop, I had finished my list of things that might be on the test by writing down just the acronyms.  Now, a week later, I was struggling a little. There were some that I knew easily, like MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) but some that I couldn’t find for anything.

The easiest thing to do in this circumstance is to make the students do the work. I gave out a list of terms and told them we were doing a scavenger hunt to find them in our books, in order to make sure that we had them all. Scavenger Hunts are often a noisy business, with people excitedly talking about what the words mean, but still trying to keep it a secret from the others.  I was helping a cohort of students, a group of four grade six girls, with their list of terms, and we were cross referencing them back to the textbook. I had found MNAA (Metis Nation of Alberta Association) and only had one more to find. Acronyms are a pain, because unlike words, you can’t always rely on an Internet search engine or a dictionary to find them. Thus, we had the textbook out, even though it isn’t our favorite way to learn things.

“I can’t find this last one, Mr. Martin,” one of the girls told me.

“I can’t find it either,” said I and I let out my trademark exasperated cry and put my head down on the desk.

Some more students came over and asked me what I was struggling with.  They are always so helpful when I am struggling to learn things.  So I told them, “The last acronym.  I’ve forgotten what it means and I can’t find it in the book.”

“What acronym?” one boy asked.

Pretending to be hysterical, I raised my hands in the air and shook my fists, “The FNA.  I can’t find the FNA!”

All noise in the classroom stopped. . .

Continue reading

Kindergarten and Things That Match

Posted in Annecdotes, Kindergarten, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , on April 22, 2010 by Drumly




Kindergarten and Things That Match

(Or the Day I Thought I Was Going to Be Fired)

This is a picture of a girl I found on the Interweb. She kind of looks like one of the girls in the story. Photo by D Sharon Pruitt, and is licensed through Creative Commons.

September, Teaching Year 15

It had been awhile since I had taught the youngest of the young in a school, so I was really excited when I was given the chance to teach Kindergarten Music.  During those first few weeks, routines are a real challenge, but the teachers that I was going in for already had their kids sitting in spots on the carpet and ready for Mr. Martin coming in to teach them songs and games.  The first class was an odd mix, 17 girls and 6 boys.

I had prepared a nice and active set of fun songs for them.  The big finish for the songs was one of my favourites, called One Green Jelly Bean.  In the song we have tummy aches, because we ate green jelly beans.  We get lots of crazy advice on how to cure our tummy ache . . jumping up and down, patting our heads while we jump up and down . . . and more and more craziness. I always add more and more things to the end of the song, because, well, that is just the kind of person that I am.

We had just added “wiggle our bottoms” and “sticking out our tongues” to the list of cures, when one girl thought the best cure for jelly bean tummy aches was lifting her dress way up over her head. Recognizing that this was a solid teaching opportunity (I know, it comes from having 15 years of teaching experience), I started towards the little lady spinning around at the back of the carpet, all the while making hand actions trying to get her to put her dress down. I was also still singing the song, because the made up lyrics pretty much depend on me singing them once the CD is over.

Looking around nervously, I watched as three, four, five, six more girls started lifting their dresses up over their heads, while flicking out their tongues like frogs, wiggling their bottoms and jumping up and down.

Bringing the song quickly to an ending, I asked the students to sit down.  To my relief, most of the girls sat right away, dresses down and a modicum of five-year old style decorum restored. Except for two.  As I sat down in the teacher’s chair they rushed up to me, still holding their dresses up, to a point just beneath their chins.  I asked them to sit down.

“But Mister, lookit!”, the one girl said, her face peering down.

“Um.  You know, you’re big girl now, and here you are in school.  We have to keep our clothes on properly,” I started, trying to use this teaching moment.

She was not to be distracted by a mere music teacher however. “No, but lookit!  Lookit! ” came her rather forceful reply.

In all honestly, if you could have seen the excitement on her freckled face, the sparkling blue-green eyes,  the glowing smile that comes from sharing your bestest, biggest discoveries with someone, why, you would want to be a teacher.  That look is one of the most rewarding things about my job.  The face just normally isn’t framed by a red and white polka dot dress that is being lifted up to just under a chin.  I normally teach grade six after all, and they have usually mastered how to wear clothes by that age.

“Lookit! Our panties!”

Continue reading