Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (and Whimsy)

Posted on April 27, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet


In case of emergency, insert.


Substitute teaching 2.0

“Don’t know much about history,

Don’t know much biology.”

Don’t know much about a science book,

Don’t know much about the French I took

What a Wonderful World this would be – Sam Cooke

Time travel is a wonderful thing. While it’s wise to stay in the present and look forward to the future, turning back the clock can be a lot of fun. Is there anything better than reminiscing about The Beatles, Guy Lafleur or putting a man on the moon? Your first kiss? Your first beer” Those may have happened on the same day! I’m a sucker for nostalgia, something well documented on this site.

Thinking back to our high school days can evoke a wide swath of memories. They could have been “the best days of my life” as Brian Adams reminds us, or they could have been “the worst of times” according to Dickens. It’s likely a bit of both. One thing is certain, none of us will forget those years.

I’m back in the classroom substitute teaching. Why in god’s name would a 70-year-old put himself through the aggravation of trying to herd cats? The truth is that I’m a restless soul. My great friend Merle Taylor, one of the most remarkable people that I have ever met, often remarked that she would rather wear out than rust out. I’m in that category.

Last week, I documented a few tales of substitute teachings from the past and the present. If you missed it, here it is: . I’m starting to find my groove in the classroom.

“With apologies, Len, 70-year-olds don’t have a groove. They have wrinkles. Not the same thing!”

I learned some valuable lessons in my life about being adaptable. Living and working in India and my recent foray into teaching in the north, I learned how to pivot very quickly. It’s not easy when many of us have travelled on a predictable path. We’re used to routine, and we hate surprises, but if you can get outside of your comfort zone, it can be a rich reward.

On one  of those subbing days recently, I accepted a job and I knew the teacher who would be absent. I messaged her early in the morning and she gave me an overview of the day. I walked to the school feeling quite comfortable. I arrived at the office and went to pick up my classroom key and the lesson plans. One of the vice principals came into the office and told me that my assignment had changed, and just like that, I had a new assignment.

Last week, I did three days of substituting. I taught ethics, history, math, science, technology among other things. Truth be told, teachers were very kind and left me detailed lesson plans and on one day, I had the benefit of a student teacher. Much of the time, the students were given some review exercises but, in a few cases, I actually taught. It is kind of crazy when you start recalling algebra that you took 55 years ago.

“Don’t know much about geography,

Don’t know much trigonometry,

Don’t know much about algebra,

Don’t know what a slide rule is for”.

I was particularly fascinated with one of the technology classes held in the computer lab. The student teacher was in charge while I just observed and wandered around. I stopped at several workstations to chat with students and to find out what they were working on. There were two young men attending the high school who were foreign students doing a gap year. One was from Italy and the other from Mexico. They were very bright and engaging. They confided that they were loving Canada, and both hoped to move here after high school. Canada still remains one of the most treasured of countries.

During one of the days, a specialist was supposed to come in to do a presentation for one of my classes. I waited a few minutes and a few minutes more. It became obvious that she wasn’t going to show up. There was no real backup plan.

There are a few things I always keep in my pants pocket. These include a pen, a credit card, a bit of cash,  a hanky, an emergency bracelet, a flash drive and some lint. What? A flash drive? Who in their right mind carries a flash drive? Me. I have PowerPoint presentations from my travels on my flash drive and also lots of photos and music. It has come in handy over the years. For the second time that day, I pirouetted and popped in the flash drive and did a presentation from my time in India. The students seemed to enjoy it.

If you are going to substitute teach, expect the unexpected. It’s challenging but very interesting.


I saw this quote a few days ago and I just love it.

“If you don’t know the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.”

I am lucky to have good health and good energy.

I don’t take anything for granted.

I am grateful.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. A hearty East coast welcome to a former Nova Scotian living in Red Deer who is my newest follower of Week45. Brave woman!

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (and Whimsy)

Posted on April 20, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet




I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. Let’s face it. Even if you lived to be a thousand, you would only begin to scrape the surface of all the knowledge available to us. While I continue to read for enjoyment, (mostly fiction), about every fifth book or so, I try and make a conscious effort to read something historical. I probably won’t ever make it to Jeopardy like our hometown hero, Mattea Roach, but I reckon a bit of learnin’ never hurt anyone.

What better place to learn new things than at school? After slumming it for the better part of three months, I finally got off my butt and did my first day of substitute teaching last week. The call came early in the morning, and I was summoned to a local school to teach (wait for it) gym. Ok. You can get up off the floor after rolling around in hysterics. As ridiculous as this may sound, it is not the craziest sub job I ever agreed to take on.

Actually, my very first day of paid substituting was in 1976. I was not the one who took the call nor was I was I the one who agreed to paid employment. You see, the night before this fateful event, I was celebrating with my fellow B. Ed colleagues. We had graduated that day and went to the graduation dance and pub later that evening. Well, you know how these things go. My last cogent memory was sitting at the top of the grandstands of Oland football stadium , in full academic regalia, at 6:00 a.m., sipping beer. I crawled home through the field leading to my home on Hillcrest Street.

A bad dream quickly became a nightmare. “Wake up, Len. You have to teach.” It was my mom, excited that her newly minted teaching son was about to finally earn a paycheck. Bleary eyed, I looked at her in utter disbelief. It was 7:30 a.m. In an alcoholic haze, I asked her about the call. The school had called and asked if I was available, and my mother had given the principal an unequivocal yes. I told my mother in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t be going to teach because I was still intoxicated. Has your mom ever given you one of those withering stares that would make a Viking quiver in his boots? I would be teaching.

I staggered across the same field that I had traversed a scant 2 hours earlier, to St.Andrew Junior High School. I had to cross the Trans Canada to get to the school. Such was my agony that I momentarily thought about playing in the traffic. I got to the school and reported to the office. The principal might have thought that I was shy or nervous, but in truth, I kept my head down to prevent him from getting alcohol poisoning just by smelling my breath.

“You will be teaching sheet metal.”

In my stupor, I thought about the doctors’ creed: “Do no harm”.

I let that sink in for a few seconds and realized that this might be the start of the shortest teaching career in the history of education. Yes. I was worried about the safety of my students, but I was far more concerned about my own personal wellbeing. Perfectly sober, I am not safe with machinery. It was one of the longest days of my life.

It would take me far too long to tell you the back story about how I came to be substitute teaching in Fairview, Alberta, after I had finished three years of teaching in the town. I was passing through the town on my way to Victoria in the spring of 1979. I thought it might be good to earn a few extra bucks. I got a call to do a full week of substituting for the grade 1 teacher. Luckily, I got the call on a Friday and was able to go to the school on the weekend to do some prep. Now, I had never taught children that young before. I knew from pedagogy that young children were sponges. With this in mind, I prepared enough work to keep these tykes busy until they entered junior high. By 11:00 a.m. the following Monday morning, the children had devoured every stitch of paperwork I had prepared. I realized that I had underestimated their thirst for learning.

Back to the present.

I messaged the secretary of the school before leaving home. In a stroke of unadulterated luck, I found out that I wouldn’t be doing much teaching at all as student teachers from the B.Ed. program at the university were in school this week practice teaching. I walked to the school toting my backpack. “Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go”. (I changed the lyrics so please don’t get on my case!). I went to the office (fully masked of course) and received the day’s lesson plans and a lanyard to convince disbelieving students that father time had somehow miraculously appeared in their school.

The second piece of luck was the student teacher. He was a high energy, affable young man. I looked at the schedule for the day and saw that the students would be learning about archery safety. After five straight one- hour classes, I learned about finding the dominant eye, techniques of holding the bow and releasing the arrow, and dry firing. The cardinal sin of archery is pretending to fire an arrow without an actual arrow. Pulling back on the string and releasing it could cause severe damage. My lifelong learning got a serious boost that day.

Such was my confidence that I thought that I could go out in the forest with a “band of merry men” and rob from the rich to give to the poor. However, lacking serious charm, it would be doubtful if I could have wooed the beautiful Maid Marian. My prospects of thwarting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham might have been marginally higher!

Be afraid, Robin Hood. Be very afraid.

A few final thoughts.

I was messaging with a friend last week. She was inquiring about my health, specifically my lingering Covid symptoms. She knows that in normal times, I’m a pretty energetic guy. Here’s what she said:” I’m really rutting for your health to return and the spunk in your step”. We all know the perils of autocorrect. A broad smile crossed my face followed by a loud guffaw. I think my breeding days are in the rear-view mirror. I don’t think I’ll be part of the rut this year!

It was brough to my attention (Thanks, MK) that I erroneously attributed the lyrics of “The End of The World” in last Wednesday’s post to Great Big Sea when in fact it was Michael Stipe and his bandmates at REM.

Absurdity #4. (I’m almost certain that this will put me in hot water with pet lovers)

Last week’s post was about absurdity. I feel compelled to add this one to an ever-growing list. A CBC story caught my eye last week. It was a dispute about a cat and who legally owned the feline. The matter was so serious that it ended up in small claims court. “The issue is not who is the better ‘cat parent’, but who in law is its owner”, wrote the adjudicator. While the crux of the matter was serious, it was a comment made by the adjudicator that still has me chuckling.

“Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.”

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I want to wish my son, Peter a happy birthday today. Pete is a great guy, a talented musician and producer and my travelling partner. “Long may you run”, Pete!


robin hood stood smiling and holding a bow

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (and Whimsy)

Posted on April 13, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

No five hour lineups at Mary Brown’s Chicken


“It’s the end of the world as we know it,

It’s the end of the world as we know it,

It’s the end of the world as we know it,

And I feel fine.”

End of the World – Great Big Sea

It’s the end of the world and I don’t feel fine. With all due respect to that wonderful Newfoundland band, Great Big Sea, I’m not so optimistic about the end of the world. But is sure feels like it’s coming. Fear not. This is not a doomsday piece, but recent events have given me cause to ponder the end of civilization as we know it.

Absurdity: The quality or state of being ridiculous or wildly unreasonable.

There are many things that I just can’t get my head around. Like so many others, I am watching innocent people being slaughtered in Ukraine. Sadly, this is nothing new. Man’s inhumanity to man has been on display for centuries but watching it in real time, is hard to fathom.

Almost daily, we are witnessing wildfires, floods, and hurricanes of biblical proportions. Climate change deniers would have you believe that this is simply Mother Nature doing her thing.

While these things are a threat to humanity, nothing can match my concern about the human condition than recent behaviour at the official opening of a fast-food restaurant in Halifax.

Mouth- watering crunch and juicy fried chicken bursting with Louisiana flavor.

Tell me. In all honesty, would this description of a fast-food item cause you to get in your car and drive to the newly opened Popeye’s franchise in Halifax and have your car idle for 5 hours, waiting to get an 8-piece box of fried chicken? Oh, merciful god, please spare me. Psychiatrists must be having a field day. Margaret Mead, the noted cultural anthropologist, would be licking her chops (or Popeye’s chicken legs) trying to explain this seemingly (?) rash behaviour. With the ever-escalating price of gasoline, the person who spent 5 precious hours of their lives queueing up to grab a box of nuggets, might have eaten one of the most expensive fast-food meals in the history of mankind.

I realize that gas is very expensive these days and I don’t want a convoy of angry truckers lined up outside my apartment, blaring their horns because of my insensitivity. In more normal times, gas prices fluctuate a few pennies a liter. When I think about absurdity, I often ponder lineups at gas pumps when word leaks out that the price of gas will be going up by say, three cents a liter. People will line up (with their vehicles idling) to save maybe a buck on a tank of gas. If you drive a Hummer, it would be considerably more.

Why are humans prepared to line up for an eternity to get something that is precious? Those of you old enough will remember the pandemonium around Cabbage Patch Dolls in 1982. This “must have” Christmas item created a frenzy like no other. People suffered broken bones while jostling to get into department stores when word got out that the store had received 6 new dolls. The laws of supply and demand writ large.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

I am the first to admit that I will line up at The Wheel Pizza and Sub Shop on a Friday at supper hour to pick up a slice of pizza but that usually only takes a few minutes.

Let me give you another example of absurd behavior.

Last week, The Masters golf tournament was on television. It is my favourite televised sporting event and every year, my loved ones know that, barring a tsunami down at The Landing, I will be perched in front of my television for 4 days. It’s bad enough that I watched about 24 hours (4×6) of coverage, but it was my behaviour that would give Margaret Mead nightmares. Let’s just say I’m passionate when it comes to certain sporting events, especially The Masters. Luckily my behaviour is generally not witnessed by sensible people. When things start to get tense, I start yelling at the T.V. Like curlers who yell “hurry hard”, I may yell “stop” as a putt trickles off the green into a water hazard. Imagine. A 70-year-old man screaming at his television asking the golfing gods to change the trajectory of a single golf shot. My neighbour, who lives above me, must wonder if I am in mortal danger or if I have finally gone off the deep end.

I will let you, dear readers, decide whether or not lining up for fried chicken for 5 hours is any more ridiculous (absurd) than watching 24 hours of golf… while yelling at the screen.

Have a great weekend and Happy Easter!

P.S. As part of my exhaustive research for this piece, I went to Mary Brown’s Chicken at the Bayside Centre in Afton. Mary Brown’s Chicken is an Atlantic Canadian delicacy. To steal a line from the Colonel, “it’s finger licking good”. There were no five- hour lineups. The staff was remarkably friendly, and the chicken, taters and coleslaw were delicious.

P.P.S. Absurdity #3. According to a U.S. source, Nova Scotia has the highest per capita Covid positivity rate in North America. We’re averaging about 1,000 new cases daily. Which is why it is a headscratcher when you watch the province roll out an advertising campaign encouraging Nova Scotians to “get back out there”. Really? Very strange (pun intended) messaging.


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