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I had a crazy experience today.

It happened as I walked into a store with my one year old son and immediately recognized the store clerk as she was helping some customers.  Although I had no idea where I recognized her from, as I was squeezing the stroller around her customers she noticed me and stopped what she was doing.

“Hey!  I know you from somewhere,” she said.  “I know!  I had you as a teacher; you’re Mr. Rempel!”  At this point I felt a little bit awkward because I couldn’t tell you the first thing about this young woman and a little bit embarrassed because of the attention I was getting and because her customers were now also scrutinizing me.  However, I was also amazed because I knew that I didn’t recognize her from my time working in the learning centres which meant that I must have taught her when I was working as a substitute teacher eight years ago.

She enthusiastically continues, “I remember you because you made an impact on my life!”

“Thank you” I say in appreciation, “but I’m sorry, I don’t remember which school you went to.” She told me which school it was and after a bit more friendly chit chat and not finding what I wanted at the store, I left.  As I walked home with son, who was making loud exclamations at every car that passed by, I suddenly remembered when I taught her – it wasn’t when I was substitute teacher, it was when I was doing my student teaching nine years ago!  At the very most, I would have been her teacher for six weeks, and let me tell you, I really struggled in my curriculum development and delivery during my practicum.  Yet somehow, despite all my inadequacies as a beginning teacher, I made an impact on this young woman – enough for her to remember my name nine years later.

I don’t know about other teachers, but it’s rare for me to run into former students.  Sometimes, at random moments on any given day, I’ll think about past students and wonder what they’re doing in life – about whether anything I taught them made a difference.  It’s comforting to know that it’s not only about the quality of my lessons or my use of technology that has an impact on students, but in the genuine care and belief we as teachers have in who our students are as individuals.

I floated through the rest of the evening.


I love using youtube in my English classes – there are a TON of amazing, high quality resources that are just waiting to be used!  These videos are engaging, accessible to students of any ability level, and can be used in a variety of different ways for a variety of different purposes.  However, it can be a lengthy and frustrating process sifting through the massive number of videos out there; as such, I’ve created an annotated list of some of the best poetry and short films I’ve found.  I really like all three poetry videos and of all the short films I use “The Black Hole,” “Futurestates,” “Offside,” “Strangers,” and “Validation” the most.  If you have any other suggestions of videos to add please send them my way so I can add them to the list!  Enjoy!


 –          “Two Inches to the Right”

This is a powerful poem that I have found especially effective with boys and reluctant poets.

–          “Slip of the Tongue”

An engaging, spoken word poem that deals with issues of cultural identity, gender stereotypes, and a host of other issues.

–          “The Dead”

A simple, well animated poem that I often use to introduce students to poetry.  Billy Collins was an American poet laureate and has a great voice.  He has a number of animated poems online including “The Best Cigarette,” “Forgetfulness,” “Some Days,” “The Country,” “Now and Then,” “Man in Space,” and “Walking across the Atlantic.”

Short Films

–          Apricot   

An awkward date turns surreal as a woman finds out that the man she’s dating is her first love – definitely ‘chick flick-ish!’

–          A Thousand Words

A film about a man’s pursuit of love and the power of potential love.  No words are spoken (ironically) as the main character tries to find the owner of a camera he found on a train.

–          The Black Hole

A humorous film that looks at the dangers of greed.

–          Frankie   

A young, thuggish kid getting his head around the idea of becoming a father.  I haven’t fully digested this film yet – but I think I like it.  I think it could really resonate with many of our learning centre boys.

–          Futurestates

Futurestates is a series of eleven short films that look at what the world will look like in the future – they’re thought provoking and poignant.  These films would be great ways to get into some interesting ethical discussions about the world we live in.

–          Inside     

This film examines the reality and confusion of schizophrenia – with a very unexpected twist at the end.  Insightful and dramatic.

–          The Life and Death of a Pumpkin

An awesome video that could help students think from a different perspective (in this case, the life story of a pumpkin).  The idea is simple enough that students could attempt to film a similar idea without too much filming knowledge.

–          Offside   

This is a suspenseful film about four soldiers who encounter each other while on a routine patrol.  They are temporarily drawn together over a soccer match before one soldier accidentally fires his rifle and kills a soldier from the other side.  This is a great way to explore short story or to explore issues of war, commonality, and the power of sports (among other things)

–          On Time 

A short film on the dangers of trying to manipulate the future.  Well filmed and scripted.

–          Sacrifice 

A short film about choices and consequences, stereotyping, friendship, and empathy – great for boys.  A group of boys get caught breaking into an industrial building and one boy accidentally stabs his friend in an effort to escape from the security guard.  The story mainly takes place between the stabbed boy and the security who gradually empathizes with the young man and then sacrifices himself so the boy will go free.  The sound is quiet for this video – you’ll have to turn up the volume.

–          Signs

A short film about the importance of love and relationship in life.

–          Strangers

A brilliant short film that examines racism and the importance of looking beyond race and nationality.

–          Still Life 

A very suspenseful film with a surprise ending.  Great for looking at suspense and starts to move into the horror genre.

–          Still Life – Short Film

Another video with the same name – this one examines the story of a woman who is suffering from depression and also begins to bring in some elements of horror into the story.  It contains a unique third person narration.

–          Tarboy   

An animated, fun film – I use it more for engagement purposes than anything.  I also use it to get students to find theme (which is explicitly stated).

–          Validation

A great short film about the power of being kind to each other and the impact it can have on another person’s life.

–          Where the Hell is Matt    

I love this video (it’s powerful) and I’m not entirely sure why!  Essentially, it’s about a man who travelled all over the world and short clips were taken from each country with people dancing (yes, dancing) with him.  It shows how we are more unique than different – through dance.  You have to watch it to understand what I mean.


–          Anti-Bullying Ad 

A great anti-bullying ad that shows how the power of one person standing up against bullying can make a difference.

–          Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence

An anti-bullying at that could also be tied into other issues.

–          Words Hurt – Bullying Commercial

Another anti-bullying commercial


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