Editor’s Pick: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets featuring the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts


From the first magical notes to the last glimmer of the end credits, the whole experience was magical. We saw excited Harry Potter fans dressed in Gryffindor scarves, Ravenclaw skirts, and black capes galore.  There were wands, sorting hats, and even a family in the front row who were the real-life Weasleys.  It was amazing.

Conducted by Joshua Gershen, this three-hour epic movie with a quick ten minute intermission (a bit too fast as we were still drying our hands when the warning bell chimed) was spectacular from beginning to end.  The musicians played frantically during the ominous Quidditch game as the rogue bludger chased Harry all over the pitch.  The violin and cellists played spiritly as our main character attempted to avoid imminent danger.  The musicians were wonderful at making our pulses race again when the monster was discovered in its lair.

What made the experience even more entertaining was that the audience was invited to make the whole night theirs from the very start.  We cheered for our heroes and we booed the villains.   Like TIFF, watching the movie with such a participatory feel and an involved audience made the movie even more spectacular.  Lines were just funnier than watching it at home.  We sneered at the bad guys and whooped and hollered when Harry and Ron got out of a jam.  Not a dry eye in the house when Hagrid presented himself in the large dining hall.  No doubt, the Harry Potter fans in the audience had seen the movie before, but with the whole audience so obviously charmed by the magical TSO, the undertaking was just that much more whole.


If you want to be a part of the next experience in this Harry Potter in Concert series, please get your tickets for Prisoner of Azkaban showing May 16 to 18, 2018 at Sony Centre.








MusiCounts: Band Aid Program

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MusiCounts is Canada’s music education charity associated with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Juno Awards.  They have continued the MusiCounts Band-Aid Program for 2018 which provides musical instruments to schools in need across the country whose music program could use a little enhancement.  Applications began in September and increments of $5,000 and $10,000 will be awarded to eligible schools across Canada.  Final applications are due November 20.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of MusiCounts.  This charity will distribute $720,000 in instruments to 88 music programs to schools nationwide to put instruments in the hands of children who need them most.  They recognize the need to develop and celebrate the artistic talents of our elementary and secondary students and provide the opportunities for all.  Music is for everyone!

If you are a music teacher or a teacher who wishes to apply for this special initiative, please check out their website here: MusiCounts Band Aid Program.  It is open for elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in public and separate school boards.


flyerupdated     The Markham Fairgrounds have all things happening in fall it seems!  First, the upcoming fair and now, a more recent tradition called Kidapalooza brought to you by Ell Events Inc.  This is a great opportunity for you to celebrate family as it takes place over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.  I will post a full review once I visit the event myself, but I am definitely looking forward to it.  Kid-centric and with an expansion to the outdoors, I can’t wait to see all that Kidapalooza has to offer.

     Hip Teacher Mama is happy to present a Family Pack Giveaway (2 adults and 2 kids age 23 months and up).  Kids under 23 months are FREE.  To enter, simply do the following:

  1.  Like this post.  Tag friends for extra entries (1 friend = 1 entry).
  2.  Follow Hip Teacher Mama on Facebook or Instagram.
  3. Comment on “What do your kids prefer: inflatables or petting zoo?”
  4. Contests runs from September 28 to October 4, 2017.  Winner will be contacted by PM (please make sure you can get PMs on FB or IG) on October 5.

    You can also get a 25% discount with the promo code FALLFUN at www.kidapalooza.ca for a limited time.

First Week of School: DONE


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How was everyone’s first week back to school?  Did you survive or are you reading this with a glass of wine in hand?  If it’s the latter, I don’t blame you.  Coming off an amazing summer, it’s hard to get back to the 8 – 5 pm routine.  (Yes, teachers don’t just do 9-3:30pm as some stereotypes suggest).  There’s getting to work early, getting to know the kids (memorizing their student number is my challenge), planning, daily checking that work is done, and the regular set-up and clean-up.

I actually had a pleasant first week.  My kids were quiet for the first few days (did I just jinx it) and I am hoping it will continue for the rest of the year.  They are mindful of the red-yellow-green light I use for noise and keep each other quiet once they see they’ve hit the yellow zone.  (I told them they don’t want to see what happens in red.)   Shocking, as my students last year usually had two noise levels: zombie silent or NBA finals loud.  On Friday morning after math though they started to crank their way up to food court level and I needed to remind them to be quiet and respectful of everyone’s learning environment.  It worked on a few, but not all, so the same speech will be repeated come Monday.

The classroom is pretty much the same as my helpers (now in Grade 7) have pointed out.  I’ve made little tweaks here and there, but for the most part, it’s a repeat of last year.  The new students have mentioned how they like the organization of the classroom and the inspirational quotes all around.  They like the Daily Special which is their schedule for the day.  They are happy with the Student Tools section so they can borrow a ruler or pencil crayons whenever they need.  They love the Starbucks cups washroom passes.  Sadly, a couple of students have already filled in a Homework Log which shows me that I need to help them work on responsibility.  My class was the first to hand in all their emergency forms yesterday which was amazing!

We have Curriculum Night next week so I can meet the fine parents of this group.  I’m sure the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I’ve got a bit of each this year as with every class.  Some are extremely hard workers and hard on themselves.  Some are silly and carefree.  Some need that extra attention and love.  I’m really happy with this group so far and I can’t wait to share the rest of the year with them.  Some mentioned in their journals that they were nervous about this year until they met me…eeek, that’s a lot of pressure. 🙂  Hope I can live up to their high standards and make it a great year for all.

Wishing everyone a terrific first weekend after back to school.  Go shopping, grab a bite, or simply put up your feet.  You did it!  Goooooo teachers!



Editor’s Pick: Halls Kids Vitamin C Pops and Cough and Sore Throat Pops


    It’s that time of year!  Back to school and germs are running rampant!  I take note of every cough or sneeze in the classroom only because it reminds me to chew on some Vitamin C’s during the day that are sitting on my desk. However, at school, my girls don’t have access to it other than during snack time in the form of a clementine.  Hence, they get a treat after school and build up their immune at the same time with the new Halls Vitamin C Pops.

     I’m not a big candy person and the girls are limited to their sweet treats so when I said they could have a lollipop out of the blue, they were ecstatic!  When they tried these, they couldn’t believe how great they looked AND tasted.  Scientists say that it is too late to pop Vitamin C when you are ALREADY sick so the best thing to do is to have a good immune system to begin with.  Can I convince the girls to suck on a lollipop a few times a week?  I’m pretty sure I can.  🙂  Now the only worry is that they’ll be all too happy to get sick because they know I have the Cough and Sore Throat Pops in the cupboard.

      Wishing everyone a happy first week back.  Stay healthy!

Backpack Program: Time to Give Back(pack)


The Backpack Program at our church is a great way for us to wrap up the end of the summer and get ready for school.  This year, I discovered that my friend participates in the program because it reminds her of a niece she lost a few years ago.  In honour of her niece, she donates a backpack for a child that would’ve been in the same grade.  We usually did the grades that Big H and Middle A were in, but this year, we followed our friend.  It seemed a bit more meaningful as we went to select all the items needed for the backpack and the backpack itself.  I had a face in mind.  There was a special little girl out there that we were doing this for.

This program ties in really well to the girls’ newest assignment, a gratitude journal.  They both wanted a BUJO (see my Bullet Journal post in the spring), but other than a Doodle Challenge and a couple of lists, they didn’t have much in it.  I thought the summer was a great time for them to reflect on their day (it is much longer now as bedtimes have pretty much gone out the door) and to think about how lucky they are.  The assignment was simple.  Think about one to two things they are grateful for without it being the generic “I am thankful for food because not everyone in the world has food.”  I wanted them to give a reason they are grateful.  Explanations are everything.

They have had a few entries and so far so good.  They are thankful for friendships because they can talk to their buddies and run around together.  They recognize the value in their godparents and godbrothers.  Today they were thankful for basketball and having parents coach them.  I hope they keep this up when school starts.  I think it’s important for kids to have an “attitude of gratitude” especially mine.  Although they don’t go home with something most times they go to the mall (I know some parents who promise their kids a treat each time), they do receive generous birthday and Christmas presents and have my in-laws who are very generous grandparents (despite many reminders to wait for special occasions).  Teaching  them to give back starts at a young age so it may be something you’d like to start with your child.

If you are interested in involving your children in the St. Patrick’s Backpack Program in Markham or perhaps a similar program in your community, now is the time.  If you are on Facebook, please contact me and I will gladly forward you some information. Backpacks are due soon so if you are interested, please contact me by Thursday, August 18.



Last week, our school had a special visit from Aussie X, a division of X Movement, a program geared towards school-age children to promote physical activity and positive thinking.  Through the use of sport, specifically Aussie Rules Football, the coaches engage the students through play and team building.

T-Bone (Phil) and Meatball (Cade) were the two instructors from Aussie X.  We learned that in Australia, many people go by nicknames so we called them by their nicknames during their time with us.  They were at our school for three days teaching classes from kindergarten to grade eight.  On the evening of the last day, parents were welcome to attend the lessons at the school so they could participate in the same fun activities their children did earlier during the week.

We were given a two-hour window where my students were first shown a video about footy.   After a brief introduction, Meatball asked a few questions to make sure they were listening. They discussed the basic skills and rules of Aussie football and then out we went.

The students warmed up with some simple games involving listening skills and partner work.  They danced, skipped around, acted silly, and generally, had a good time.  Afterwards, they tossed the football and learned how to kick the ball properly with their hands in proper position. One of the later games involved them aiming the balls at Meatball and myself.  Not MY favourite game 😛 however, I was lucky that the kids hadn’t perfected their kicks yet.  I left unscathed.

At the end of the session, Meatball handed out some green bracelets and taught them some Aussie high fives, which continued to solidify the friendship between him and the kids.  They liked his cheesy jokes so why not a goofy handshake.  Mix it in with some dance moves and they were hooked.  Everyone left happy and with an accent (LOL).

I had a chance to sit down with the two instructors and picked their brains about footy, X Movement, and life in Australia.

HTM: Is footy the national sport in Australia much like hockey is in Canada?

T-Bone: Yes.  It’s the Australian Football League.

Meatball: AFL.

HTM: What attracted you to the sport?

T-Bone: Everyone’s doing it.  Every town has a league.

Meatball:  You grow up around it.

HTM: Is playing professionally part of the plan for you?

T-Bone: Not for me.

Meatball: When I was younger, it was part of the plan.

T-Bone: Well, you kinda play professionally.  You get paid to play.

Meatball:  Sorta.  It’s not a lot, but yeah, I get paid.

HTM: How old are you and how long have you been playing?

T-Bone: I’m 29.  I’ve been playing since I was six.  The league here is like your little league.

Meatball: I’ve played local league and interleague which is like rep since I was 9.  I’m 20.

HTM:  Who decided to pitch this sport outside of Australia?

T-Bone: The main guy is from Australia, Emile “The Dragon” Studham.

HTM: My husband mentioned seeing this on Dragon’s Den.

Meatball: Yes!  So we were on Shark Tank too.  They came to North America and then expanded.

HTM: Was the focus more on the physical aspect or teamwork for this program?

T-Bone: It was more on the teamwork aspect where everyone is learning a new sport.  All the kids are on equal playing field so to speak.  There are always the kids who are the athletes, some are the artists, etc. Here everyone can learn to kick the ball the same.

Meatball: Footy makes them all equal.  Kids get to shine for those two hours because it’s new to everyone.

HTM: Besides the physical exercise, what do you enjoy about teaching footy to the kids?

T-Bone: Kids can just hang out.  We like the interaction, it’s fun!

Meatball: I like having impact on the kids.  Showing them how to be positive and caring to others.  It’s treating people equally.

HTM: My students wanted a class nickname.  What would you give us?

Meatball: I think something fierce.  Markham Redbacks like the spider.

HTM:  Thanks so much for your time.  Much appreciated.

T-Bone: You’re welcome.

Meatball: No problem.

For more information about Aussie X and X Movement, please check out their website.

Bullet Journal: I LOVE IT!

If you’re a teacher, chances are you love to organize and you love making lists.  Every September, I look forward to purchasing a brand new agenda for the school year.  I colour coordinate school events, personal appointments, kids’ activities and our family social calendar.  Until Christmas, my agenda has perfectly round bullets, neat check marks, and perfect stickers. By Christmas break, it’s no longer worthy of themed stickers and cute doodles.  It’s a mess.

One day, a friend mentioned bullet journaling to me and I couldn’t stop looking at all the results on Pinterest.  This entire phenomena is devoted to lists, creative designs, and jotting down memories.  I can write down future events and happenings.  I can decide my own layouts all the whole using cool new tools like washi tape and stencils.  What!  Where has BUJO been all my life?  It’s also a great place to write down things my kids do (I have a few pages devoted to each kid), wish lists, and future to-dos (a lot of it is for work for next September or for the house).

I came across this new hobby just around the time I turned 40.  Not sure if this is a midlife thing or just another new hobby, but anytime I get into something  (e.g. stamp collecting, Cricut, Instant Pot, etc.), I’m all in.  I mean, I go HARD!  I want all the tools, research all the tips, and Google all the sites – usually in a week.  LOL.

So after purchasing my bullet journal from Indigo on my birthday, within the week, I also had the fine liners, pencil crayons, stickers, and metallic markers.  I also went on the hunt for cute washi tape, correction tape, and the perfect ruler and pencil case.  I began to lay out my monthlies and weeklies, all the while keeping in mind what my friend said.  “Don’t worry if you make mistakes!  I did for the first few weeks and it’s okay.”  Clearly, she knows how Type A I am!  This BUJO not only gives me a chance to design my own layouts and pick my colour scheme for the pages (much like a scrapbook), I also have an exercise in retraining my mind and keeping my mental health in check.  It’s almost like gratitude journal, Smash Book, and agenda all rolled into one.  What fun!

Last week, we were in Niagara Falls so naturally, we hit up Target in the dollar section (my fave).  Amazing finds including mini-stamps (the Starbucks coffee cup got me), washi tape, and planner stickers.  For $3, you can’t go wrong!

Since I started, a couple of my friends are now interested in it and started to gather their materials for their own bujo.  I can’t wait to see their layouts and what other ideas they came up with.  I mostly modify inspiration I see on Pinterest to suit my needs.  Each month, I’ve switched out my weekly layouts to keep it fresh.  I’m going to have this current bujo until the end of 2017 and then get a new one for January (it’s hard – my mind has a Sept to June calendar because of work, but I also work on Jan to Dec time).  My middle child really wants one for her birthday so maybe she will get a Birthday Bujo.  It’s already in my planner.  😛

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: THE HOCKEY SWEATER

Everyone knows the classic story by Canadian author, Roch Carrier, about his experience growing up as a big hockey fan.  All the boys in the neighbourhood wear a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey with number 9, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, on the back.  However, Roch is accidentally sent a Maple Leafs’ jersey instead when his mother orders it from Hudson Bay.  He is afraid to wear it because of what all the neighbourhood kids will think.  He can’t be a Toronto fan!

Before the presentation of this beloved tale, the TSO presented a collection of songs inspired by travelling all across Canada.  From a wolf’s song to a regatta tune focused on the trombone, the melange of short pieces was not only fun to listen to, but educational.  Before each piece was played, the host of the event, Abigail Richardson-Shulte, explained the background of the piece and taught a mini-history lesson.  As a teacher, I LOVED it.  It also helped to see which instruments to pay particular attention to.

Our favourite piece was the farmland song, “Chicken Reel.”  It really got the audience clapping and the kiddies moving.  The musicians spinning their double basses at the side was great too.   Not only did this song get the audience into it, there were several more pieces that allowed for audience participation.  We closed our eyes and imagined The Northern Lights.  The audience did a wave.  It was really fun!

After travelling across our great nation through song (we are celebrating our 150th, after all),  it was time for the main event.  The TSO along with the author himself performed the famous book through narration, drama, and sounds.  Different instruments portrayed special effects such as the naggy mom (woodwind), church (organ), and Rocket Richard (brass).  It was great to see the story unfold right before our eyes.

Once again, the TSO did a great job of educating the young and old alike through a spectacular musical performance.  I loved the classic tale performed live.  My kids enjoyed the short pieces throughout the performance.  They were just long enough to keep their attention.

Have you been to a TSO performance yet?  Check out what’s coming up: https://www.tso.ca/

Fidget Toys: Helpful or Harmful?


       fidget cube       A recent fad has popped up in my classroom: the fidget toys.  Whether it’s a cube or spinner, these little gadgets that grew their following on Kickstarter have become the talk of the class.  Kids who have one fall into one of three categories: they have a medical need so the toy helps them focus, they think it’s cool and popular so they want to be on trend, or they follow their friends who have one and claim it helps them focus.  I say claim because kids who never had problems focusing before now say they need a gadget.  Really?

      Now I’m all for the ones who need it because of a ADHD diagnosis, anxiety, or autism or their parents or doctors recommended it. I’ve asked for parental notes if students are bringing one.  My fear is that kids are bringing it “just because” and it becomes more of a hindrance than a help.  (We all have something that helps them focus.  For me, it’s silence and sometimes tapping my pen.) No problem to accommodate as accommodations are what teachers are all about.  Gross motor movement is shown to help with memory and retaining information especially for students with ADHD.  However, no studies have shown that handheld toys have the same benefit as someone on a stationary bike for memory retention or learning.  Ironically, the toy is actually distracting for those with ADHD who are watching other kids play with it.

From the Sentinel & Enterprise news, “According to Laura Garofoli, Fitchburg State University professor of psychological science, said there’s little evidence these fidgeting devices help children with ADHD. ‘There’s no research on the actual fidget spinners yet,’ she said. “Research on fidgets for kids on their desk at school is actually very spotty.”

Garofoli said studies show physical activity helps children with ADHD concentrate, but most research focuses on the use of large muscle groups, not fine motor skills.

“Across the board more physical activity leads to better outcomes for kids with ADHD in the class,” she said. “The tricky part is does that have any correlation with the fine motor of the little fidgets at the desk? Stress balls, TheraPutty — there just isn’t a whole heck of a lot of data to support that they’re effective.”

       Hence, my concern is for the ones who are getting them “just because.”  (I’ve always taught my students to think for themselves and not be sheep, but that’s for another post.)  I’ve asked some students and they don’t exactly know why they have one or want one other than “it’s fun” or “it’s cool.”  The problem arises when they start clicking and spinning during lessons and they focus on how much they can click in a minute or how fluently they spin this newly discovered gadget rather than focusing on the lesson.  I’ve observed kids walk around the room to visit other kids to see how their spinner works and to challenge each other on how long they can spin. Kids easily miss the important steps to a math problem or what figurative language is when focused on their gadget.  They don’t hear all the instructions or miss the assignment due date.  It’s also become a distraction to others.  I’ve watched students play with their toy during a work period and I’ve seen other kids watch kids as they play.  Heck, I get distracted at times and I have enough to do.  I now have a new job on my list which is observing who is using the toy for need or for fun.  Minutes spent here and there adds up to a lot of wasted minutes in my book and anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about efficiency.

         At the end of 2016, Forbes even called it the “must have office toy for 2017.”  Be that as it may, some adults may have already established great work habits and can afford to use a spinner while leading a meeting or being on an international conference call.  Some schools have banned this toy because of students playing with the toy instead of listening in class.  Young kids are just developing these habits and this spinner fad has sort of blown up not necessarily for the better. I’m pretty sure most of my class did not develop a medical condition over the past two weeks that requires said gadget.

           A few other students in the school have these toys (this is exactly what it is to me), but I have about a quarter of my class with these colourful contraptions.  Hopefully, the students who need one find it helpful and really does keep their attention on the task at hand.  I hope the ones who are using one are doing so for a good reason.  I want my students to develop good learning and study habits and it’s near the end of the year.  E.Q.A.O. (provincial standardized testing) is at the end of the month.  We want all the focus we can get and it all starts with parents knowing which toys are being brought into the classroom.

Reference: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_30956192/spin-spin-argh