Teachers don’t want or need coffee mugs…. ever.

We are getting close to another winter break in the school year and many students and parents will be trying to think of some small token to give to the teacher who keeps the kid happy, engaged… and safe during the school hours (and then some). Here is one thing that teachers don’t want or need – ever…. another coffee mug.

Do we drink coffee… sure! Most of us do. Some don’t start off drinking coffee. Maybe they are tea drinkers or a cola soft drink because they prefer things cold – but eventually ever. single. teacher. needs a vessel for caffeine. BUT…. and this is a big but… they already have… plently. Honestly, they do.

Unless you are going to plate one in gold and engrave the teachers name on something that your child created with their own hands and forged in the fires of… whatever… don’t get your teacher another mug. Just… don’t. We beg you.

If you feel you must provide a token of appreciation (and honestly you don’t need to do that), think personal and specific. The more specific you can get, the better – ask your student about their teacher(s) – a reminder, don’t send something to one teacher and not the prep teacher who takes your student to the gym or art or music – those folks deserve your appreciation just as much (if not more) than the “regular” classroom teacher.

Supplies they can use in the classroom are great. Gift cards are great – coffee, food, WINE, books, pens, etc. these are all great because then the teacher can choose and make a selection that will help them. But, if you have the time, knowledge and inclination to search for something really personal, that can make all the difference.

Failing that… the BEST thing you and your student can offer is a special note on a personally created card (or any other attempt at art work) is your best option because it will resonate with the teacher in a way that no box of chocolates, (we don’t need the calories), or coffee mug could ever manage.

Going into 2nd Covid Teaching Year…

In just a few short weeks, Ontario teachers will be returning to the classroom for the 2nd year of Covid teaching.

Let me tell you, the first year was no picnic. You probably heard about it. But maybe you’ve let it slip from your mind or blocked it out, since you don’t have to fully live it. Well, the teachers in Ontario are preparing for round two – and I promise you, we’ve not fully recovered from round one.

That’s what the summer months are for – a reminder – they are not a holiday. The “time off” that teachers get is unpaid time. Even if the salaries are spread out over the year (still, in many places they are not). Any day off from the classroom is an unpaid day. The days in July and August are recovery and replenishment time. That is when most teachers rest, relax, and rejuvenate themselves so they can tackle a new school year with positive energy. (or any energy for that matter)

In my nearly 25 years of teaching, I’ve generally needed a full two weeks in July to just sleep, lounge and clean my clothes and home to begin to feel like a normal person again. Yes, I have travelled, not since early 2019 of course, but in past summer months I have and that has definitely been a part of refilling my cup with excitement to face another year.

This summer was different.

This summer it took a full 24 days of June before I BEGAN to feel like myself again. Then, I’d have a pretty good day or two, but need another full day of rest to recover from that! So the summer of 2021 has been a total on again/off again kind of lame adventure.

I’ve gardened – a lot. I’ve binged all sorts of things, mostly comfort shows that I’ve seen one hundred times already. And I’ve tried to declutter my house. Last weekend, my mother and I had a day trip – our first in three years. It was lovely, but a bit surreal at the same time.

So what is my point? Well, my point is, that in the past (pre-Covid) hundreds of people would slyly point out the July/August break and show their jealousy because their employment isn’t structured the same way. THIS year, as the teachers around you return to the trenches, keep in mind, they’ve all been in self-preservation and healing mode for the past 6 weeks. All the while preparing for another year of potential chaos as we face new variants and challenges with keeping everyone safe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually looking forward to working with my kids again and seeing my colleagues because I hope we will all be in the building and I’ll actually be able to see them this year. But the recovery is continuing and the fear, hasn’t really gone anywhere.

Plus, it is a contract negotiation year. So, there’s that too.

Why you should not wish Educators a happy “vacation” in the summer months…(or during any school break, for that matter)

Here we are at the end of another June. The teachers, EAs, Caretakers, Secretaries and Administrators of your local school(s) have bid a fond farewell to your children. You have them all to yourself now for a couple of months. Sure, you’ll send them off to camp, or to Nana and Grandpa’s for a week or two, and maybe you’ll take a little trip with them, or head out to the cottage for a bit, but they are all yours now, and you think to yourself…”Gee, those Teachers, (education teams), are sure lucky to have the summer off! I wish I had a vacation that long.”

Do you? Do you really? Do you even know what those 6-8 weeks are like for the folks who are so committed to educating and raising your offspring to be positive and contributing members of society? You think you do, but you would be very surprised.

These days, with the progress of autopay and direct deposit, the salaries for educational staff are, by and large, spread out over the school year and made relatively equal for 26 payments. But that wasn’t always the case. And it may not be the case in your district even now. You see, teachers don’t have agreements with their employer that pay them for 50 weeks of the year with 2 weeks paid vacation (or whatever other folks might receive). Educators are contract workers. Like a plumber, or a dry-waller, or a carpenter. Educators are paid by the job. Approximately 40 weeks of the year, Educators do their direct work with their clients. And like lawyers and doctors, they do lots of after hours work, they take their work home with them. Their marking, their professional development, their planning, etc. Teachers are paid to spend time with your children, educate them on a particular topic and then follow up with the necessary paperwork and meetings to track what they accomplished. And in the past, when that final June cheque arrived, that was it until midway through September of the following school year. Budget, or else!

Since there is “no school” in the summer months, educators don’t go to the buildings, because their clients are not there. But that doesn’t mean they stop working. And that doesn’t mean they have vacation pay. Do you give your plumber extra funds when he fixes your toilet so he can fly to Vegas on the weekend? No, you don’t. You expect that person to save up for that sort of thing and if the plumber isn’t, well, plumbing… he/she/they aren’t getting paid.

Make sense? I hope so.

Here’s the other tidbit. Plumbers generally make huge amounts of cash for fixing your leaky toilet. So, they do a lot of that – maybe even more than they’d like, in order to amass more funds for that holiday. You know, overtime? But educators can’t do that. Their jobs are fixed in time. The only way they can supplement their income (and believe me, many of them need to do so) is to get another job. During the school year, or all through the summer. Waiting tables, teaching summer school, tutoring, retail, driving Uber/Lyft…. That, is in addition to all of their other professional activities that they need to do in order to be ready for the following year. This isn’t even taking into account their need to recover from spending the last school year with your offspring (and everybody else’s from the hood!). I’m sure your child is and angel, but that Jimmy… let me tell you….

So, consider this the next time you decide to tell any educator that you envy their “time off”, and say things like, “it must be nice…” or “you’re so lucky” or “I should’ve been a teacher”… They are STILL working. They are ALWAYS working. You just don’t see it, because you don’t recognize it, plus, they are pretty good at it, or you’d do it all yourself, wouldn’t you? Have your darling offspring to raise and educate 365 days of the year! Not even send them to camp, right? Am I right?

Enjoy your summer with your kids. Make the most of your time together as a family, because you’ll have to give them back in the fall.

You’ll miss them SO much!

Why Education is an Investment… a LONG Term Investment!

I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way….

We learn from the past. We fix the mistakes of our ancestors (we hope). We study, we develop, we grow… and then we hand what we have learned on to our children in the hopes that they can have a better life and in turn, pass those benefits on to future generations.

Without delving into Climate Change or economic struggles or any of the many ‘-isms’ that continue to plague the human race, the people of earth generally agree that we would like to improve our lot in life, and by extension, the lives of future people. How do we do that? Education.

There’s a really good reason that education became a free and mandatory public offering. Society understood that by educating children they would learn the skills to become good workers and good citizens. People hoped that education would bring about a more just and equitable society.

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

Nothing about that has changed. Education is necessary for young people to come together and discuss the issues before them, and to attempt to anticipate what issues may face them after they leave public school.

But here’s the thing… education is what your financial advisor would call a Long Term Investment. It isn’t house flipping, or a quick franchise that is a licence to print money. It is a low interest GIC or RSP that you put a small amount into every year, so that many years later, you have something of which you are really proud. Something that will look after you in your old age.

Photo by Taha Mazandarani on Unsplash

If quality educations become available only at private schools, well, it isn’t difficult to see where that can lead. The wealthy will have the knowledge and therefore, the power. They can, (and they will), do what is in their best interests, whether that happens to be beneficial to the rest of the population or not.

So, ask yourself, if you have to pay taxes for education to be free and accessible to all in an equitable manner, don’t you want your personal taxes to offer you and your children as good an education as the wealthy kids? If you answer yes, (and I sure hope you do), then you have got to put in the long term investment. And you definitely cannot skip any payments.

Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash

5 Reasons Jon Batiste is the greatest!

In this era that we are experiencing… it is inconceivable to me that you would not be watching Stephen Colbert on a regular basis. And if you are not, I hope that you will give the show a chance – at least in the coming weeks before SNL returns to the airwaves.

The comedy inspiration is off the charts and I tune in on a regular basis to watch or catch up with whatever has been jibed at the Mango-muncher-mooch-upon-the-life-of-the-people to try to heal with laughter.

But apart from watching my delightful Stephen crack wise and chum with his guests, I thoroughly enjoy the show for the delightful Jon Batiste – the leader of the band for the Late Night show.

Jon Batiste is a delight. He is a joy and extremely talented.. but here are some great things about him that you should know and tune in to check out!

So… here are some reasons why he is the greatest!

1) Jon Batiste has some WICKED wardrobe choices!

I tune in to just to see what he might be wearing – cause from day to day it could be ANYTHING! Check it:

Looking SLICK!
Looking SLICK!

2) Jon’s laugh – I could link to a clip of his laughter, but then you might not go and watch the show, and you should. But there are times when I’m certain he’s surprised by Stephen’s material because his laughter is off the HOOK! It is infectious and joyful. Go to your on demand, play all the monologues and listen to his reactions. So much fun!

Jon Batiste's Laughing
Jon Batiste’s Laughing

3) He plays the melodica! And it is joyous! He said once that he decided to choose that so he could move out from behind the piano. I think it was a good choice – for many reasons. Check this link to him playing and disappear down the YouTube tunnel for a few hours.

4) His kanoodling on the show is TOP NOTCH!

Jon continually accompanies the show with little melody discourses that are absolutely brilliant and on point.  He is so sensitive to the material that is being delivered and to the lively energy and enthusiasm that is being pumped out each night, but he’s improvising all of that and it is exceptional. Ask Paul Shaffer! He should know! He recently visited the show and commented upon Jon’s noodling… Watch this link – he starts to interact with Jon around 3:15 or so. Amazing.

5) He is just SO MUCH FUN! And he’s assembled a pretty hip, slick and professional band to support Stephen Colbert and The Late Show. Tune in for JB and Stay Human even if you don’t tune in for Stephen. But tune in for Stephen as well, because the commentary is going to be historical!

JB and SC Dancing on the Late Show
JB and SC Dancing on the Late Show

Have to keep going… or I’ll stop.

Here I am “knee deep” in the summer break, (as they say), and I’m looking for the next activity. I really want a real break, I do. I really want to stop, smell the flowers, garden, clean up, all that good stuff (and slow down on things), but I’m already starting to think about the future.

I don’t think it can be helped. I think it is a plague of those who are perpetually creative, or those who strive to be perpetually creative.

Once an idea is out of the brain, the vacuum is something abhorrent. Something we NEED to correct. We either need to create something new, or learn something new or PLAN to learn something new.

This is where I am now – and I regularly find myself here. I never know exactly what to do with this phase, how to deal with it or how best to channel the “energy”, (if you can even call it that).

There are projects looming in the distance, for sure, but in the mean time, the idle brain starts to worry and plot and fuss and fret about what to work on in the mean time.

I don’t know what you do – but I enjoy travelling, cleaning (if the mood suits), drawing and rewatching favourite shows that have inspired me in the past.

What about you? What do you do when this strange feeling strikes?

Losing Steve Whitmire

I’m not going to sugar coat this post. I can’t. If your opinion is different from mine, I respect that and your thoughts, but I’m going to say what I feel on this abrupt and painful event that has occurred this week.

In 1990, we lost Jim Henson. That was enormous. I was depressed and in denial for ages. I was in denial until Steve Whitmire and the Muppet/Henson team brought back the beloved Frog. Then, I began to feel better and heal. Steve Whitmire brought back hope and love and laughter when I thought it was gone.

He has done so for 27 years. He has done so while he was hurting. Far more than I could ever imagine. I lost a hero. He had to try to REPLACE his hero. I’m my eyes, he succeeded. I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform live. He’s tremendous. I’ve heard stories of what he is like to work with and to meet. He’s delightful.

No one can deny his skill, talent or dedication. No one.

And yet, Disney has seen fit to summarily dismiss him from his roles with The Muppets. His job since he was 19. His only dream as a youth. Over 40 years. People is that excellence and expertise are generally given lavish celebrations and opportunities to have retirements when they choose. They are also, frequently, given extra benefits to their contracts and perks that younger, newer folks generally would need to “pay their dues” to receive.

Steve didn’t receive these. Steve was quietly and abruptly dismissed. People noticed. People talked. People missed him. And then, a quiet little announcement came out with very few details that he was gone.

Think about this for a moment… when there’s a new Bond or Doctor Who, the outgoing actor, writer, director for the show is given a fanfare, a special episode, and loads of attention and appreciation.

WHY would Steve not merit, at the very least, something like that? Disney is hoping this change will be quiet. They are hoping we will all move on, and that most won’t even notice. After 40 years of dedicated and excellent service, this is an appalling way to say farewell to any performer, regardless of what the reasons for the departure may be. This is APPALLING AND SHAMEFUL.

Dear Steve, (in case you see this), THANK YOU. Thank you for restoring my faith, for healing my loss and for making millions of people happy for over 40 years. You have been brilliant. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this role (and this period of time) has been for you, but you are a star. And regardless of anything hanging onto this controversy, I feel that you deserve the appreciation of our planet. At the very least, know you have mine.

Thank you, Steve.

Spring Shows and Youth… Ah… Youth!

This is the first week of Spring and the new season of shows are busting out all over… (I know, that’s supposed to be June, but I couldn’t resist), and every year, there seem to be more and more and MORE shows going on that one needs to try to get to see.

This spring is no different.

Last week, I managed to snag a ticket to the completely sold out run of The Addams Family produced by LYTE at The Palace Theatre. I love that show. I saw it on Broadway with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane and I thought it was tremendous good fun then, and I’ve now seen it performed by two delightful younger casts and enjoyed it both times. It’s a fun, silly, campy romp that doesn’t ask you to think much, but still delivers with some clever quips and great melodies. The set was FANTASTIC and the costumes were great, but the enthusiasm of the young people on that stage was what made it feel like spring was on the way for me. In particular the performances of Gomez, Morticia and Wednesday Addams – I found them all delightful, but these characters have the best lines in my opinion and these talented youngsters delivered!


This week, a truly wonderful play, (with music) opens at Original Kids. I really wanted to be involved in this production – and I mean really – you can imagine after seeing it twice on Broadway and twice at the Shaw Festival that I must have a special place in my heart for this show, so you can bet I’ll be picking up my ticket in short order for their production of Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan with many theatrical twists, surprises and ridiculous humour to keep you laughing as you read the script, let alone when energetic youth get to perform it! You’ve probably not heard of this little gem very much, but I guarantee, if you make the effort to head out to the market this week, you won’t be sorry – the script its that good.


After these two vastly different productions, even more delightful fare is on the way – there’s never any shortage of shows in this town – but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the delicious little production of Anne & Gilbert – the Musical, that I’m working on for OKTC. Again, you’ve probably never heard of the show, but you will recognize the characters, their story and the feel of the music! This Canadian tale takes over from the end of the Green Gables story everyone (should) knows so well and follows Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe on their further education and romantic entanglements. It is going to be running in rep with the original musical during April. This is a new thing for OKTC. They’ve worked in repertory type situations in the past with their Playfest, but not with musicals and not with two shows so closely related. I can tell you, without the staff and facilities of the Shaw or Stratford Festivals at our disposal, we are working quite diligently to make the shows technically blend well into one space – for almost a month. Be sure to get tickets to each show, so you can get your fill of Anne and let us know how well we succeed!

Fingers crossed! And hey, go see a show!

The Spring Musical… and Facebook memories!

Ever since Facebook started offering a look-back on memories from each day, I’ve been checking the postings and, in general, they’ve all been really fun and up-lifting. Posts of my recently departed kitty-cat do cause some pangs, but I still love looking at pictures of him, so that outweighs the sadness.

The biggest thing I start to realize with all these memory posts are the patterns in my theatrical creations and how they coincide with certain times of the year. Not just my work in theatre, but also my friends and I love when our memories coincide.

For example:

Kerry Hishon’s post about our production of:  Little Mermaid

Kerry Hishon’s post about our production of: Peter Pan, Jr.

My March Break production of Jungle Book:




And now I’m seeing Kerry posting about a project I know is near and dear to her heart: Peter and the Starcatcher

I haven’t done a March Break show in quite a while, mostly because I really need the break at that point of the year, but I’ve done a few May shows for OKTC in the past year and THIS year, I’m working on a show for April for them, (Anne and Gilbert) and ANOTHER show for June for my school (Xanadu).

Fingers Crossed… I don’t need to cross my fingers, I know they are going to be great. But I also know that NEXT year, my memories will fall at a different point and still be ever so poignant.

Is it ever enough…?

This time of year is a tough time, for a lot of people. Students are prepping for and taking exams. Teachers are prepping their report cards. Everyone is getting ready for the new semester. Award shows are gearing up to evaluate the work of some of the performing arts and if you started a New Year’s Resolution… by now you probably have had a lapse or given up completely on that resolve. At least, I would have, if I did that sort of thing. I gave up years ago.

But as I come to the close of this semester, I get to enjoy the final efforts of my students in their performances. It can be a really fulfilling time for all of us, even if they don’t quite realize their full potential. I’ve had the privilege of watching them progress through the semester, and I hope, I’ve given some good pointers along the way to stimulate improvement in their skills and creative process.


Today, I had the joyful experience of hearing my vocal students perform their final pieces. We had an excellent artist in our accompanist Marque Smith, and the students definitely benefited from having him there to play for them. The selections they chose for their exam songs were almost exclusively from the world of Musical Theatre and they were all very high quality choices. This, by itself, was a pleasure to listen to for the course of almost 2 hours. Their support for one another was delightful and each of the students rose to the occasion and have all improved over the course of this semester.

Just to tantalize you, some of the selections were:

Memories, Steps of the Palace, You Don’t Know This Man, Nothing, Don’t Rain On My Parade, Burn and many more beautiful pieces.








Regardless of how well they did and how beautifully they progressed this year, I can’t help feeling that it wasn’t enough, that I could have done more. I have these kinds of thoughts every semester with every class. I have these kinds of thoughts with every show and with every project. Sometimes, I even have this kind of thought when I make dinner.

I’m sure I’m not alone. The end of anything is tough – semester, year, show, job… whatever. I guess we are supposed to wonder if we did enough. Maybe that’s the point.