Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Repeat customers at Rockford School

It seems to me that I can't visit Rockford School often enough.
Today's trip was a return engagement and Ms. Seigel had another group of eager Grade 5 and 6 students including my friend Bluma, who is shown above.
Bluma is a born storyteller. She had me on the edge of my seat as she told me about her father's adventures. I also met Leo, who I called Liam and who I understand worked security detail for a recent book fair.
I met Rhusudan who is the most wonderful, chatty, spectacular girl.
Evra Trought-Pitters was my guest interview and she told an amazing story about her parents choosing her profession for her.
We had about 75 students in the library and we talked about the IPE or I write Perfect English formula.
IPE stands for Idea, Plan and Edit.
There were several young writers at Rockford and they had terrific questions. One student asked what to do when encountering writer's block.
My advice was to set the project aside. The mind is amazing:  it will solve problems for you while you think of something else. Mark Twain, a very famous writer, said every book he wrote aged a little in his dresser drawer.
I hope to return to Rockford next year. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Great time at Kennedy School

Some of my new buddies at Kennedy
I made the drove to Markham today to meet with about 120 new friends at Kennedy School. The invitation came from librarian Khadijah Saleh who is in her second year at Kennedy.
We had two sessions, a mixed Grade 4 and 5 class and another group of Grade 5 and 6 students.
What a morning. We talked about one-room schoolhouses and summer camps, people who inspire us and how much fun it is to write compositions that make people laugh.
We learned how to find an idea, construct a plan and add detail to our idea.
"It has become a steady point of focus for me in my endeavours that the colour, usually known rouge, elicites nary a positive feeling. In fact, were I to be blunt, I find it offputting and unpleasant."
That means "I hate red."
Rachel So is the new record holder for fewest times it took to answer the world's hardest question. She got it two. Bright girl.
Teacher Jeff Hui told us a wonderful story about how he learned he wanted to be a teacher. Ms. Csombok told us about her early inflences: the one-room school in which her mother taught and how her dad would give her botany lessons in the garden.
The students at Kennnedy were great although the first group seemed to have a lot of trouble counting to three. I hope to return next year.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Thorncliffe Park: The World's Biggest School

Ok, the biggest elementary school in North America.
Thorncliffe Park has more than 2000 students. I met more than 200 of them.
We had three sessions and talked about a variety of subjects including the great kindness showed by Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri.
I came at the request of Miss Williams who was so kind she even arranged lunch with an outdoor view.
I interviewed Jeff Brown about his teaching experiences in Asia, Miss Bordornaro about the many jobs she has held and Miss Bates about her amazing experiences in South Africa.
We talked about how to write stories, how to listen with your whole body and how to grab a reader's attention.
I answered great questions from Asim, Fardin, Sara and Maryam.
I'm coming back next year to Thorncliffe Park.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Questions on the writing process at Rockford

The students at Rockford School have writing on their mind.
I met 60 students who peppered me with questions about writing books.
We talked a great deal about the process of writing: how long it takes, how to build characters, how to map out a story.
What a dynamite group. Diego and D'Andre had great questions. I met Phoebe, a budding author who has been reading and writing since she was three years old. Dana asked me about Banting and Best and the discovery of insulin
Mrs Seigel and I demonstrated how to interview and I learned all about her wonderful Dad and the new baby her sister gave birth to just yesterday.
I'd go back to Rockford anytime.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Talking Masai at West Humber

The Raptors new general manager is Masai Ujiri, a native of Nigeria.
At West Humber Collegiate, we talked about Masai's amazing 10-year-journey from European pro basketball
players to the Raptors' GM.
Masai is an example of where passion for what you do can take you. His first job involved working free of charge, scouring the globe for basketball players.
One of the great elements of the presentation is the Interview the Teacher segment. Invariably, I find the teachers have extraordinary stories of their own.
That was again the case at West Humber where Ms. Singh told me how she used to arrange her dolls and Barbies in a row so she could play teacher. Ms. Rahman told me the fascinating story of her family's struggle in Southeast Asia and how those struggles eventually ensured she would be born here in Canada.
Everyone has a story. The important thing is to listen with your whole body and ask questions based on the answers you receive.

The motto at West Humber is Build Character, Build Success. So true. Thanks to Ms. Rahman's gift, I will remember West Humber whenever I go for a cup of coffee.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Lots of questions at North Prepatory

It's amazing how certain students will be fascinated with a story.
The students at North Prepatory School on Spadina had loads of questions about the Dionne Quints.
One of my favourites was which quint was the oldest.
Oriana knew that no one person was more Canadian than another. She was the second person I asked. I have never had anyone answer the Great Canadian Trick Question on the first try.
I interviewed Mr. Mendoza who had a great story about teaching Grade 1 students. He also talked about his relationship with his Dad and how, in his home, food smoothed over any conflict.
I had a great time and even got a freezee for the road. Can't beat that.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 27 May 2013

O Canada at Church Street School

Efe and Grecia, two great assistants
In all the school visits I have conducted, never once have I been interrupted for O Canada.
It happened at Church Street School, just as I was talking about The Great Canadian Trick Question.
No student has ever gotten the question right the first time and, while they were attentive and super bright, the kids at Church Street did not break the streak.
I had a wonderful visit at the invitation of teacher/librarian Nancy Woodruff and teacher Liem Bui.
I met the students in Grade 4, 5 and 6 and we talked a lot about how to be a good writer. I explained why I chose certain letters for M is for Maple and why my wife is still mad at me over not choosing Emily Carr for the letter C.
To demonstrate how to be a good listener I interviewed Mr. Bui who told  me  how his love of the Raptors began when his parents took him to the YMCA.
I loved Church Street School. For one thing, I got the chance to poke around Maple Leaf Gardens where I worked for many years. Second, how many authors get to stand and sing O Canada with so many bright, beautiful children.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Fantastic sessions at Beaumonde and Valleyfield Junior School.

Today I made two school visits to schools on Toronto's West end.
First, I visited beautiful Beaumonde Heights.
We spoke a lot about the interviewing process. As I mentioned to the students it's great to get material online but sometimes the best way to get information is face-to-face.
The ability to interview is a great skill because if you are attentive to the person you are speaking with and if you ask questions based on the answers you are given you can learn an enormous amount.
For example: the librarian at Beaumonde Heights is Rosella Doto. I interviewed her for the students and we learned her amazing family story: how her father who grew up in Italy did not have shoes until he was 15 because he was so poor. Rosella's parents came to Canada with $15 and built a life here.
Her honesty and her great story made for a memorable morning.
In the afternoon it was time to go to Valleyfield where I met the librarian, Sonia Henri and about 70 students. I used an overhead unit to demonstrate writing and illustrating. We talked about having a plan and a starting point and used some sketches to demonstrate how to start with a rough idea and then add detail and shape to the picture until it is complete.
I learned from librarian Sonia Henri that in her hometown near Thedford Mines, Quebec, they had only one light. The great Wonuola operated the overhead machine for me. She and Jaden, another great kid, are in Mr. Graydon's class.
There is a lot of French spoken at Valleyfield and since I went to a French school from Kindergarten to Grade 8 I felt very comfortable. I had a wonderful time.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Learned a lot at Sir Ernest MacMillan school.

Learned a lot today at Sir Ernest MacMillan School in North Toronto.
For one thing, I learned I could talk for 90-minutes straight which must have been very taxing for the students.
Our session dealt with writing: how to plan,  how to add detail and how to edit.
We also talked about interviewing and that's where I learned the most.
In a conversation with teacher Ann Truong I learned that she met her husband at an automobile mechanics course. I learned the root of her determination to be self-sufficient spanned a generation and was rooted in the hardship her parents encountered and overcame.
The students, of course, did not know Ms. Truong's story. I was grateful for her wonderful honesty.
Everyone has a story. The secret to having that person share their story is to be a good listener and be genuinely interested in what the person has to say.
Listen right down to your bones, ask the questions you are afraid to ask and the results will be incredible.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Great Time at Parkdale School

I learned a lot of things from my visit to Parkdale School in Hamilton
I learned that some children right great poems about their moms.
I learned that Parkdale students are attentive and polite.
And I learned there were a lot of little girls named Abigail.
The great students at Parkdale were a pleasure to visit.
Parkdale Rocks.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Great time at John Polanyi

Thanks to librarian Mary Pace and teacher Polina Kukar for inviting me to John Polanyi Collegiate in Toronto.
I had a dozen enthusiastic learners to work with including the great Amir and Wei-Wei.
We talked about the best way to write blogs. We agreed on a host of tips.
1. Write from your heart.
2. Be a good listener.
3. Revise and improve your work.
I talked about a recent blog and the pleasure of writing something that connects with the reader.
I had a great time. I hope the kids did too.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Teachers and librarians: how about a free school visit?

Since it was published in 2000 my book,  M is for Maple, has been bought by more than 100,000 people for use in schools, libraries and homes in Canada and around the world.
Its success has allowed me to visit dozens of schools all over Southern Ontario to talk about the inclusive spirit of our country.
Thanks to my employer, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, I am accepting invitations for free one-hour sessions in Ontario schools.
My presentation is geared to pupils from Grade 4 to Grade 8. 
I speak to the elements of citizenship: integrity, passion and kindness.
I use original M is for Maple storyboards and illustrations to demonstrate how students can make the writing and editing process work for them.
This fall and winter I have presented at Tecumseh Elementary School in Burlington and Perth Avenue, Kew Beach, Charlottetown, Oakridge, D.A. Morrison and George Webster in Toronto. See below.
I would be thrilled to present to your school.
To set up a visit, E-mail me at Mike.Ulmer@MLSE.com or call me at 416-523-0860.