Category Archives: Fun times

Reflections with my Grade 10 students

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In May when I received my classes for the 2014-2015 school year, my heart sunk a little because I was assigned a Grade 10 ELA class and I had been spoiled with Grade 12’s and 11’s for the past few years.

It had been a couple of years since I had Grade 10s, and as I recalled, they were challenging.  My 17 years of teaching had taught me that Grade 10s were often irreverent, lazy, and more concerned with their social game-playing than learning.

Yet, being the emotional creature that I am, I have always connected well with these woebegone, ruckus-rising creatures that emerge in the classes of Grade 10.  So, I pulled up my big girl pants and prepared for the roller-coaster of Grade 10s.

Alas, these 10’s have become the most beautiful class as a collective that I’ve ever taught in all my 17 years.  I always fall in love with my students and my classes, but this group was the heart of teaching for me.  It was like playing with puppies, everyday: I’d hold the stick of learning and their eager tails would wag and they’d bark in delight with every task and skill we’d learn.  Yes, they were easily excitable, but always respectful to me, to the learning, to the environment, to each other, and to themselves.  They were a beautiful class that brought out the excellence in learning for all of us.  They created the world of Ubuntu that I’ve so sought to build in my classes.

On days when they were away on field trip and my day would gain a prep, I would miss their energy.  Each student – just like all students I have the privilege to love and teach – is extremely special, but what made them unforgettable and life transformative for me was who they were as we came together.  We became a family.  It doesn’t seem right that our semester came to a close and that our family doesn’t get to come together daily.

I miss them dearly.  But I treasure the love they continue to sprinkle through our halls and I feel honoured for their continued visits and hugs.   They embody my motto of LAUGH, LOVE, LEARN and I will hold the hope that fate will bring us all together again in the next two years of their journey.

Recreating this world – this Ubuntu – is a practice that I hope to explore, start anew, and resurrect with my Grade 12 students this coming semester.  Having 3 groups of ELA 30-1 Diploma courses is a challenge, but I feel the ties of Ubuntu beginning to knit us together.  May our journey this semester be as magical as the journey I had with the 10s.

The following quotes I gathered from their final blog posts about being a reader, writer, and learner: http://hunniblog10.edublogs.org/

“…my journey as a learner, reader, and writer this year has particularly allowed me to understand the importance of consistency and hard work. … Through this growth, I have also realized my passion for learning, reading, and writing through which I am able to grow in knowledge and wisdom about myself and the world around me.” Carolin – Grade 10

“Ms. Hunnisett has helped me find my voice when it comes to writing, and taught me the importance of reading, … She’s taught me that even the simplest pieces have deeper meaning and many stories of their own to tell. Words can’t describe how much she has changed my way of thinking, because of her my perception of life has become so much more positive…” – Roshni – Grade 10

“The first day of L.A, I had no idea who was in my class and I was forced to choose a spot to sit. Thankfully, as the week progressed, three amazing individuals that I had the privilege to be friends with, showed up and we were all able to create a dynamic group of fun. Sitting in my group of four for the very last time was definitely a difficult thing to do but when I observed the faces of the three people around me, I realized that without them I definitely would not have progressed as an individual and I would still be a very reserved student. As we slowly began to grow in that classroom, it became terrifying, but knowing that you would always have a shoulder to lean on if it got too overwhelming, really softened the blow of growing up. Hand in hand, we got to face these challenges together and I am very thankful for that.” Sidra – Grade 10

“Being part of our amazing class has really pushed me to strive to achieve for more and help those around me. … Looking back over this semester, I wish that it had lasted longer, so that we could all stay together, but unfortunately it has come to an end. … we have all learnt something and improved both our reading and learning habits in one way or another. I will always remember the fun ‘adventures’ we had in our class.” – Madhav – Grade 10

“Within these blogs a community of writers was created, a community who supported and built off of one another’s passion. Within the hour and a half classes we made a community of learning and knowledge, but as well created memories. Within the teachings of Ms. Hunnisett, we created a class into a family. I believe that each and every individual was a piece of our classes identity, if we took away anyone we wouldn’t be the class we are today.” – Alisha – Grade 10

“…keeping a journal that we wrote in the beginning of the class was something that largely assisted in my growth, sparking certain ideas or concepts that I did use afterward in the semester. Writing blogs was another thing that at first seemed unnecessary, however I slowly came to 607baeabf469bb70e831540be8c1f72erealize how they were indeed inspiring me and helping me to improve my writing.” Ishmeet – Grade 10

“I sincerely hope to grow as a learner, reader and writer through the years that follow, but above all I yearn the desire of having Mrs. Hunnisett as a teacher again. I have profoundly learned this year from writing essays to performing plays; boosting my inner esteem and allowing me to paint that picture that lay beyond the window. Obviously, that painting will become more vibrant in the years to come, but for that I must read more and write more to escape my inner emotions so I can paint that picture in a poetic manner.” – Mah Noor – Grade 10

“As a reader, this year I feel that I have definitely improved a lot. As of this year, I have read approximately six to seven books in the few months of this course. Therefore, I read approximately one book a month. I feel that this is evidently better than what I have read last year, when I barely spared enough time for myself to read. This year, I was also able to learn that it is very important for a person to continue reading so that they can always have a chance to improve their writing. The more a person reads, the better their writing gets.” – Suchismita – Grade 10

“I’ve always been a fairly opinionated person, wanting to have people listen to what I have to say and actually understand and pay attention, something that can be hard as a teenager. When writing, now I can see that it’s a good way to do just that. The blogging has influenced that significantly as well … It allowed me to try something new and it acted as a good outlet for me to write how I desired to with a clear purpose of simply expressing my feelings on certain subjects. … I feel as though I’ve matured as a writer and even though I still don’t necessarily like doing it because of the hassle, I most certainly have grown to appreciate the art of writing.” – Paula – Grade 10

“One of the most important things that I’ve achieved from this class is wanting to read. I hated reading. but last year when I read Of Mice and MenI thought of reading more, but throughout the year I never actually got to find another book that I enjoyed. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels and that was my ” Aha” for wanting to read more which is a goal for 2015 for me.”  Gavin – Grade 10

“By the end of this semester not only did I gain confidence in my writing skills but I gained reassurance knowing that my voice was finally being heard, recognized, appreciated and related to. …coming to grade ten where reading was expected was a shock, but one that I welcomed as a challenge. …As a learner so far this year I have gained more self-confidence that success is possible for me and that I can contribute to the learning community because my opinion is valued and realistic.” Cayleigh – Grade 10

“I love writing personal, and I love reading personal pieces. You see a whole new side of that person that you didn’t see before, and maybe you can even connect with them because of that experience. Writing personal pieces can be hard because you’re showing vulnerability to an extent, and I guess that’s why I admire personal writing so much because you see that rawness in another person and I appreciate when someone shows vulnerability or rawness. … I knew this classroom would be a place of happiness, love and care. I grew closer to people who I thought I wouldn’t even have a relationship with, and I’ve created many new friendships because of this class. ” Daania – Grade 10

“I have never felt so proud of myself while doing a specific course.  I have learned so much in this short time about poems , short stories, and so much more. I have learned about how people can transform a catastrophe into something so beautiful in words.” Asna – Grade 10

 

Spreading the Sunshine

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The Sunshine Award or the Sunshine Elevens or one of several other versions of inspiration and encouragement for bloggers has been rapidly circulating the blogosphere. Thank you, Scott Hazeu, for nominating me. Scott has been an inspiring educator since we met a year ago, in virtual-land, via the ETMOOC (Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course) through the genius work of Alec Couros.   His commitment to education, reflection, and writing is a motivator in my teaching, and he always seems to pop-up when I need a boost.  Thanks for this too Scott, it’s a great blog post that I’ll use with my Creative Writing class for their blogs!

Dosia McKay - Abstract Art

Dosia McKay – Abstract Art

Here’s how this chain letter of inspiration works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger & let them know when you complete your blog post.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  6. Hunni’s additional criteria: embed links and visuals that personalize the post

Eleven Random Facts About Me:

1. My first university degree is a theatre degree.

2. I bite my nails and it drive my husband crazy.

3. I’m an introvert (few believe this, but it is true).

4. I broke a girl’s arm in three places, in Grade 8, and the kids called me “Rocky” (I kicked her in defence, I swear)

5. I am an art and music aficionado, but suck at both, being neither an artist nor a musician!

6. I procrastinate with Facebook games (sigh) – Candy Crush, Bubble Witch, Words of Wonder, and Solitaire.

7. I have loved home architecture and home design since I was nine years old.  Pinterest and HGTV continue the passion!

8. I have wanderlust to travel and experience the world!

9. My classroom is a like home and to my students I’m “mom” (I love that they feel this way about me and my class space)

10. I love being surrounded by flowers and in nature.

11. We hope to retire half-time in Argentina.  (as we’ll be doing for a semester starting next month – tee hee)

Answering Scott’s Questions:

1. What do you do for escape or relaxation?

I LOVE escape and relaxation, but usually as a lazy homebody!  People never believe I’m capable of it because I’m a workaholic.  I guess I’m like a faucet – I can be all hot (working like a maniac), but easily switch to pure cold (totally relaxed and chill). So, what does my cool look like?  

  • IMG_2280hanging with my beautiful children and husband
  • reading
  • writing
  • music
  • film
  • theatre
  • cooking and baking, especially with my hubby or kids
  • dinner parties, tea parties, or BBQ with friends 
  • TV shows (HGTV, Coronation Street, Parenthood, Orange is the New Black – otherwise, it is tough to get my attention to watch TV well)
  • gardening
  • biking
  • day-tripping
  • beach lounging
  • hiking
  • camping
  • travel
  • I hate being cold, but have enjoyed skiing and snowshoeing

2. What is one concern you have about the future of technology?

letter-writingAlthough I’m a strong voice for the use of technology in my teaching, I don’t believe that school should just have students hiding behind computer screens.  I believe that having my home and class lined with actual books is essential, that opening a book and smelling the pages will always be a value to me and I want to model this for my students.  I believe that students should learn the art of cursive writing – we may type more than anything else, but a paper and pen never fails you and I pray the beauty of cursive should never die; along with the beauty of journal writing and a snail mail letter!  Regarding thinking with depth and breadth, I fear students often don’t expand their thinking beyond 140 characters.  Finally, I also worry that students could lose the ability to carry face-to-face conversation. We, as teachers,  are the vanguards to save books, handwriting, critically thoughtful writing, and speaking with social etiquettes.

3. Share one Ah-Ha! moment you’ve had (in or out of a classroom).

My greatest “ah-ha” came from attending NCTE 2012 (National Council Teachers of English) in Chicago when I sat in an audience watching – in utter awe and humility – Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Jim Burke.  That moment changed the trajectory of my teaching practice, my writing identity, and my blog pioneering with students!  It lead to me finding the courage to present at NCTE 2013 in Boston!  I am a fan-girl of those three gurus and an NCTE junkie every since.  The more I experience, the better I get in the classroom!  I love the growth, inspiration, and learning and I especially love meeting great teachers from across the US and Canada!

4. Which books (one fiction, one non-fiction) would you recommend to new teachers?  1034

An Interesting Question!  And I cannot control myself to ONE of each when asked such a question, silly man!

Let’s start with non-fiction that would help an English teacher:  Book Love and Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle, Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, English Teacher’s Companion and What’s the Big Idea by Jim Burke, and Teacher Man by Frank McCourt.  For any new teacher I’d recommend: The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer and What Great Teacher’s Do Differently by Todd Whittaker.

For personal fiction – this is hard because it is based on such a personal preference (see my Goodreads).  I believe that people can connect when they have like-minded interests in books.  So, my favourites of all time are Wuthering Heights, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, The Book of Negroes, The Virgin Blue, The Last Cato, The Shadow of the Wind, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Unbearable Lightness of Being, Time Traveller’s Wife, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. (okay – I’ll stop here, but I could go on and on)

Regarding the teaching of novels, I believe teachers are always seeking “to teach” lists, so I’ll share some of mine.  These are the books I enjoyed teaching at various grades: Shakespeare with every grade from 6-12 – but I am a true devotee to Hamlet with Gr. 12, The Giver (Gr. 6), Diary of Anne Frank (Gr. 8), Of Mice and Men (Gr 9), Speak (Gr.9), Cry the Beloved Country (9), Forbidden City (Gr. 9), Joy Luck Club (10), The Hunger Games (Gr. 10), To Kill a Mockingbird – this one is my old friend (Gr. 10), The Kite Runner (Gr. 11), Flowers for Algernon (Gr. 11), Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Gr. 11), Cyrano de Bergerac (Gr 11), The Crucible (Gr. 11), Frankenstein (Gr. 11), Life of Pi (Gr 11), The Wizard of Earthsea (Gr. 12), Streetcar Named Desire (Gr 12), Night (Gr. 12), Handmaid’s Tale (Gr. 12), One Hundred Year’s of Solitude (Gr. 12), Things Fall Apart (Gr.12), and House of Spirits (Gr. 12).

5. What’s one of your guilty pleasures? (again one? I’ll take 4)

  • books (obviously from above) and reading anything from blogs, to news, etc…  coffee
  • coffee – oh, how I love thee, especially hip coffee houses with cappuccino
  • red wine
  • Indian food

6. If you had to change careers, what new career would you choose?

  • In Kati Marton’s memoir Paris: A Love Story I felt that I was reading my other life’s calling:  international diplomacy and journalism;
  • Owner of a hip coffee/tea shop with a borrowing library: a meeting place for music, slam poetry, improv games, small theatre, and classes in all art forms;
  • A travel writer;
  • An architect or home designer.

7. When you’re not immersed in the present, do you find yourself more often looking back or looking ahead?

  • ALL!  I’m a hopeless muser of the past, present, and future: a dreamer and a reminiscer.

8. What is your favourite season? Why?

  • Summer!  Although I love my work, I hate structure, bells, routines, marking piles and to-do lists.  So the freedom of summer let’s me revel in a peacefully creative state-of-being and I get to see my own family and friends.  Plus, I’ve come to love camping in the mountains!

9.  If I handed you $100, what would you do with it?

  • I’d go out to dinner at Notable with my wonderful husband!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA10. What metaphor/simile describes your writing process? (eg. My writing is like a tube of toothpaste. It flows quickly at first, but at the end it’s hard to squeeze out the last little bit and finish the tube.)

  • A small boat on a river – get in and it starts to float with ripples and rapids along the way; I love that each journey is different and I always end in a different place.

11. Which Twitter hashtag would you follow if you could only follow one?

  • Penny Kittle – a constant source of inspiring PD

Bloggers (some of these good people have been through this exercise, but they are worth taking a look)

Eleven Questions for Bloggers

  1. What do you do for escape or for relaxation?
  2. What film or play has captured your heart?
  3. What books would you recommend?
  4. What has been the best vacation you have ever had – specify where, when, and why?
  5. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
  6. If you could travel to any ONE place in the world, where would you go?
  7. What is your life mantra, or quote, or credo?
  8. What is your favourite season? Why?
  9. What is your favourite musician/band or artist (or all)?
  10. Who or what inspires your writing?
  11. What metaphor/simile describes your writing process? (eg. My writing is like a tube of toothpaste. It flows quickly at first, but at the end it’s hard to squeeze out the last little bit and finish the tube.)?

Happy blogging in 2014! Thank you for your inspirational words and efforts.

Death of the Mouse

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Field Mouse/ Mulot

Field Mouse/ Mulot (Photo credit: Max xx)

So, in case you are unaware, I have had a mouse in my room.  UGH!  Horrific!  Poison baits didn’t work.  Starvation didn’t work. So, trusty James, the superman of keeping our school clean and orderly,  put in a “sticky” trap.

Alas, the darn mouse managed to get stuck in the trap during the middle of my first class!  There it was flopping on the dang sticky pad.  The kids freaked.  I freaked!  No child would deal with it.  Me, heck no!  Some kids jumped up on the desks in terror.  Me, heck yes!  Some mousers gathered near the terrified Stanley (my name for said rodent), and within seconds my sleepy teens turned into the fervent paparazzi of Mouseville.

So, I went in search of a brave soul to save us.  Classen apparently isn’t into mice. So I continued along the hall until (drum roll please) the Wid!  Wid will be my hero!  He growled a little.  Scoffed.  And started rummaging through his drawers in search of his survival knife.  No luck!  He told me to grab Symonds from the office and we’d three meet in my room.  So Symonds “Mouse-slayer” to the rescue.

As Symonds and I came into the room, the kids were now protecting it from us.  Yuv was on a campaign to save the critter; he even Googled how to get the mouse off the sticky to save it.  Alas, Symonds said, “Move it”!  Despite the heartfelt protests from the kids, he promptly took the trap, with mouse, outside and stomped it to its death, then threw it in the big old trash bin.  The kids were horrified by the inhumanity.  So, Symonds assured them it was quick and merciful as he pointed out the mouse guts on his shoe, while adding some humour with other rodent catching stories.

In the middle of Symonds’ tall tales of rodent killing, Wid enters – mighty heroically with his Popeye pirate scowl, carrying a shovel in one hand and an axe in the other, armed for the attack: “Where is this thing?”  We laughed hysterically.

Symond’s looks him up and down and mocks, “Really?”

Wid defends, “Quick and painless! Chop off his head and scoop him up!”  Symonds disappoints with the news that he already took care of business – smirking and pointing to the blood soaked sole of his shoe.

Alas, I told the kids that if they wrote a poem in honour of Stanley the mouse, we’d have a lil’ ceremony the next morning.  So, within 2 hours, two students submitted this little ditty, with much credit due to The Fresh Prince himself.  So, on Thursday, May 30 we lay Stanley to rest in the waste container outside the school.  Alkarim and Kishan rapped their lil’ Tribute while TK offered a heartfelt eulogy. A bonding moment, indeed!

Never a boring moment in the ol’ Hunni Pot!

Here is what the boys wrote (put it to the tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire):

Tribute to your Roommate

Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down.
And I’d like to take a minute, just stick right there
I’ll tell you how Symond’s stomp made me the ghost in The Trash Lair

In Northwest Calgary born and raised
In the classroom where I spent most of my days.
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And learning some English inside of the school.
When a couple of guys, they were up to no good,
Started laying traps in my neighborhood.
I got in one little trap and Mrs. Hunnisett got scared
So Sy snarled, “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in The Lair”

I whistled for help and when it came near,

the License plate said “Widmer”  – with an axe n’ shovel for a deer.

   If anything I could say is that this man was rare
But I thought nah, forget it, yo homes to The Lair!

I pulled up to the bin about seven or eight,
And yelled to Sy and Wid “Yo, homes smell you later!”
Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there,
To sit on my throne as the Prince of my Lair.

– Kishan and Alkarim