Jesus Loves Me: Little Lumps of Oombula

30 10 2011

Last Sunday, in the Holy Cross Anglican Church in Calgary, Alberta, my son and I sang the hymn Jesus Loves Me. It was an especially moving moment, as I remembered my family laughing and smiling when I sang a child’s version of this in the mid-1960s. My father never forgot the incident, and, about a year before he died, he told me on the phone that he had randomly remembered it and he smiled about it. He even sang it, after recalling it.  Here is how I crooned it, as a toddler:

“Jesus loves me, yes I know, for the bible tells me so, little lumps of oombula, they are weak and he is straw. . . .”

In church, when I had my hand on my son’s shoulder, while we sang the song, I was both smiling and emotional about being able to sing the song with my son and due to the enduring sadness after losing my father in 2008. When I next visit where we spread his ashes, on the river flats near Cawston, B.C., I will be sure to sing the song — with the lumps of oombula and the straw — just for him. I will be sure to take my son along, too.


My Practicum Student

16 10 2011

I have a brilliant young practicum student in my Grade 4 classroom for the autumn, and mentoring her has been a gigantic eye opener. I am easily old enough to be her father, but she has some fresh ideas and perspectives that have blasted me right out of the rut I did not actually know I was in. I enjoy team teaching with colleagues who are open to ideas, and who equally share in creating them. I had some new ideas about how to conduct formative evaluations on the first assessed pieces of writing the  students did for the year, and put them on the table. I created a rubric that incorporated points from the Program of Studies and then my practicum student and I pulled up he Enduring Understandings in Language Arts document, to link to specific outcomes in the evaluations. It worked like a charm! We came up with very sound assessments, and the students (and their parents) got written feedback that was really specific and personalized. I am also enjoying mentoring her because she has some prodigious ideas and takes the initiative to find engaging ways of presenting concepts, such as using Skype to connect with an expert on Alberta’s grizzly bears for Social Studies. She is also cooking along well in teaching Character Education, gathering in library books and video clips to bring it all to life. For Science, she is having the students create their own concepts for eco-friendly houses, for our Waste in Our World unit. I relish how she brings in the concepts, how we work together to polish them into lessons and, at the same time, have them well connected to the Program of Studies. I have found the experience of having a practicum student truly inspirational, and the fresh ideas and activities have made teaching much more satisfying. I would highly recommend that if you have a good number of years in as a teacher (I have 18 years) that you, too, opt to bring in a practicum student. It is a good way to keep abreast of what is up in education NOW. Watch out though, these young puppies could show us up!

“How many hours are there in 2,000 years?”

9 10 2011

My curious son continues to come up with deep questions while we are out together, and I needed a calculator for this one: “Dad, how many hours are there in 2,000 years?”

“Why would you want to know that, son?”

“I just wanted to know. I am curious.”

When we got home, I got the calculator onto the computer screen and we went through the process of first multiplying 2,000 times 365, for how many days that would be. We found out there are 730,000 days in 2,000 years. Next, we multiplied 730,000 times 24, to find out how many hours there would be. The answer is 17,520,000 hours. When I showed James the solution, his eyes opened wide and he commented, “Oh.”



Autumn Never Leaves

2 10 2011

It was nearly a year ago that I composed a piece entitled Leaves are Spiritual. Well, leaves perpetually are more than diminutive solar panels for magnificent trees. In fact, autumn never ‘leaves’, and falling leaves never cease to recur. Leaves are golden, and have more transcendent value than so-called ‘precious’ metals.
This week I have gone for two walks through Confederation Park, purposefully walking amongst the leaves and having a distinctly ethereal, yet earthly, sense of tranquillity. The muted autumn sunlight, along with brisk cool air, provide flowing comforting ambience as the leaves drift on sighing winds. Hearing the crisp rustling of the leaves underfoot is heavenly, and smelling their pungent aroma is enticing. Autumn is, indeed, a most special season.
I went for a memorable walk in the park with my son James today, and we
collected many exceptional leaves and let a few float away in the breeze,
soulfully drifting away. We went to the duck pond area, and James was thrilled
to watch the birds come swimming and flying over to visit him along with his
bag of bread crumbs. A magical experience it is, for children, to feed chuckling
ducks and to peer into murky waters to see any sort of creepy crawly creature.
It was a grand experience, and a good time to discuss my seven-year-old boy’s
inevitably deep questions. Here are some examples, and I just put down the
questions without my responses:

“Dad, who made God?”

“How could He be eternal?”

“Why are there all sorts of animals, and some eat other animals?”

“If there were no meat eaters, would that mean the plant eaters would eat too many plants?”

“Why would God make animals that would eat people?”

“Dad, why would it take 3,000 years to get to the centre of the Milky Way from here?”

“What is air, Dad?”

“Why don’t other planets have air like we have?”

“Why is Venus’s atmosphere poisonous?”

“What is gravity, Dad?”

“How do we have gravity here?”

“Why would the gravity on Jupiter crush me within seconds?”
I always laugh a bit, quietly, when I answer a question and he shows his understanding by simply nodding and saying, “Oh.”
Tomorrow, we are going to go for a bicycle ride in the same park, but I have told him about a ‘secret’ (Shhhhhhh!) playground that we can ride to at the east end of Confederation Park. Again, we will enjoy the showers of golden leaves and all the spiritual sensations which are with them, forever.