Fiction/Nonfiction: Pi and Rajiv

It’s time for another fiction/nonfiction book pairing! (Here‘s the first one I ever put together.) These books go well together for a very simple reason: one book was inspired by the other!

Life of Pi is a survival story – after the ship holding his family as well as their many zoo animals capsizes and sinks, Pi finds himself alone, the sole survivor … save for a large, angry tiger by the name of Richard Parker. A large majority of the book takes place in the middle of the ocean, as Pi struggles to survive both the sea and the wild animal that is accompanying him. It’s a fairly philosophical novel (the only thing really keeping Pi company is his thoughts, and he’s a fairly reflective person to begin with) and it’s also about grief, persistence, and how to cope after difficult situations.


This novel came out in 2001, and just a few years later on the set of the movie Mean Girls, actor Rajiv Surendra was told by a camera operator that he reminded him of Pi. Intrigued, Rajiv picked up a copy of the book and fell in love with it. When he heard that a movie version was in the works, he dedicated himself to preparing for the role of Pi, and when all was said and done, wrote a memoir about it!

Here’s a still of Rajiv Surendra in the film, in case you needed something to jog your memory!

The Elephants in My Backyard is Rajiv’s account of all of the things he did (and the adventures he went on) in order to land the role of Pi. He travels to various countries, from India to America to Germany, all in his quest to play Pi in this movie. There were a few reasons why I wanted to read this memoir. First, I love any book that is set in Toronto. It makes me feel like my home is more exciting than it actually is! (Taking the TTC? Churning butter at Black Creek Pioneer Village? It’s all part of the journey in becoming Pi.) The second reason why this memoir intrigued me was the fact that Rajiv didn’t play Pi in the film adaptation of his beloved novel. In fact, he’s not even in the movie! I wanted to know how far Rajiv got in his quest to become Pi.


It was fun reading Rajiv’s memoir after having read Life of Pi. I had an adequate understanding of the character of Pi, but Rajiv truly went above and beyond to try to become Pi. Rajiv really did have a lot of similarities with Pi – they both come from a Tamil background, dabbled in various religions in their youth, and lived among wild animals (Pi at the Pondicherry Zoo and Rajiv at the Toronto Zoo). I found that there were similarities in their journeys as well. Pi was constantly trying to improve his situation at sea; he thought of problems and then solutions, one after the other, and he found comfort in accomplishing these small goals. In the same way, Rajiv looked at one trait of the character and then embarked on a small mission in order to understand that aspect of Pi better. Some fun examples: when he went to Pondicherry and befriended some teenage boys who certainly could have been Pi’s peers (if he had been real), or when he learned to swim because Pi loves to swim!

These two books are quite different. Life of Pi is sometimes referred to as a children’s novel (though I enjoyed it as an adult) and The Elephants in My Backyard is a celebrity/adventure memoir (cool genre). But if you’re interested in books about a person dedicating themselves fully to a single goal, then both of these books might be right up your alley!


A Weekend in Prince Edward County

I’mmmm backkkkk! I haven’t set foot on this blog for about a million years, but summer is nearing its end and I did a lot of fun things that I’d love to share with you!

About a month ago, I went up to ~The County~ to celebrate my sister’s and brother-in-law’s birthdays. It was a really relaxing weekend, especially since it came right after the end of a long month of teaching summer school. Though Prince Edward County is small, there’s no shortage of things to do and I’d like to go back and explore a little bit more in the future!

(I’m going to write this as a guide, which I don’t normally do. It’s been so long since I’ve written a post that it’s all going to sound awkward anyway, so I thought I’d do something a little different!)


One of the must-dos for any visitor to Prince Edward County is go to Sandbanks for a beach day! This provincial park is extremely popular – entry was closed by 12 noon on the day we went, so make sure you get there early in the morning. Climate change is a horrible thing and the water was really high when we visited, which meant that we had to wade through a ginormous puddle in order to get to the sand duney side. We found a nice spot under a triangulation of trees, ensuring that our day at the beach would at least be shady! Enjoy the sand, the water, and bring a picnic lunch with you. (There is a little snack shack if you’d prefer to buy food at the beach. Sandbanks is also a great place to barbecue!)


A quick game of mini golf at Caddy Shack is also a great way to spend an afternoon. (When we went, we split up into guys and girls – the girls played fairly and correctly, and then we’d hear loud hoots and turn around to see the boys trying to launch golf balls off the edge of the green over rushing water!)

Check out Birdhouse City if you’re into nature and/or architecture! It’s a large open space that features reproductions of famous and recognizable buildings in the County! Just make sure you bring some bug spray if you’re planning on venturing into the nearby woods. (We were eaten alive!)


For booklovers, Books & Company on Picton’s main strip has a wide selection of books, perfect for perusing on a rainy day. You might even bump into a cat while there! (I have no idea who that cat belonged to, but it added a nice small-town charm to my visit to the bookstore!)

Books and Company and Miss Lily's Cafe


Connected to Books & Company is Miss Lily’s Cafe, so grab a book from the store and then hunker down here with a coffee. It’s a great place for breakfast and the smoked salmon bagels are excellent!

Another breakfast option is The Vic Café. It’s cute and diner-esque with splashes of neon everywhere to really wake you up in the morning! Order a coffee so that you can really utilize the cafe’s adorable sugar – tiny little brown granules with random colourful dots! (I don’t know how they dyed it but I appreciated that fancy sugar! Who thinks of making colourful sugar?!?! Geniuses.)

For lunch, head outdoors to Parsons Brewing Company, where all of the seating is outdoors under giant umbrellas, and you can play lawn games while waiting for your food. The asado to share is the perfect amount for two! Try their special soda to wash down your meal. (It tastes like berries!)

For dinner, go to Flame + Smith and enjoy a tasting menu. The portions are huge so bring lots of friends (but they’ll just give you even more food if that’s the case!). The food is so, so, SO delicious and the staff are so kind and really take the time to explain what you’re eating. (Seriously, I don’t care if you forget everything I’ve written up to this point, but don’t ignore this suggestion! Go eat at Flame + Smith!!! I promise you won’t be disappointed!)

Flame and Smith

The only place for dessert in Prince Edward County is the famous ice cream shop, Slickers. Visit the original Bloomfield shop or the location in Picton – the ice cream is delicious regardless of where you visit! (My favourite flavours are jazzberry and campfire cream!)

I licked most of my ice cream away before taking this picture, sorry!


You won’t find many conventional hotels in the County, so a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb are your best options. We stayed at an Airbnb in downtown Picton, an easy walk from its main street. The house was old but beautiful, with lots of different spaces to hang out in! (Here’s the listing as well as its Instagram page.)

photo collage house airbnb picton prince edward county eilland blue

Mentioned in this post:

P.S. The last time I went to the County …

I Finally Finished My Reading Challenge!

I wrote about how I was struggling to finish my reading challenge a few months ago a long time ago, but I’ve actually been working on this reading challenge for well over a year (or maybe two). Well, I’ve finally finished! Here’s what I read:

Reading Challenge Books

A book written by a woman under 25 

  • Most everyone knows the story of Malala Yousafzai, the girls’ education activist who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out against their oppressive rules and systems which were (and still are) in effect in Malala’s home country of Pakistan. I’ve watched the documentary He Named Me Malala and I even show it to my Civics students, but I decided to read I Am Malala to try and get a better understanding of her mission. It was a bit of a slow start to be honest – Malala’s actual activism work and her story are definitely more interesting than the book itself.

A book about non-Western history 

  • This was maybe the hardest category to fulfill, despite my degree in Global Development and my job as a history teacher! I just find straight-up history books a little dryDancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink by Juliana Barbassa was about Brazil and its struggle to make itself known on the world stage during the past decade. The book explores how the impending World Cup and Olympic Games shocked the city of Rio de Janeiro into development, but often in unsustainable ways. The author is Brazilian but she definitely doesn’t shy away from critiquing the municipal and federal governments, and it was honestly a little heartbreaking to read about some of these government actions and the negative impacts they have had on Brazilian citizens. In any case, I enjoyed the book and felt like I learned a lot! Also, I think a second edition of this book has been released with an additional chapter (as a response to the 2016 Olympics).
  • I think this challenge has helped me understand what kinds of history books I enjoy. I like reading about recent history (1990s – 2000s, I guess!) and I like when the author inserts themselves into the book, because it’s just less academic that way! (Barbassa had just moved back to Rio from the US during this time of upheaval, so she shared a few anecdotes from her personal and professional life, which I enjoyed!)

A book of essays

  • American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures is a collection of essays written by famous Americans in media. These singers, actors, models, and politicians have done a great job in increasing representation of non-white people in American media and news, but a lot of them are not born writers and so the writing was a little bit difficult to get through at times. In all, I loved the idea of the book, but the execution could’ve been better.

A book about an indigenous culture

  • Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies About Indians was for some reason tough to read (maybe I’m not a non-fiction person … I love memoirs but informational books are difficult for me to get through, I guess!), but I enjoyed it all the same! As a teacher of Canadian history, I find it somewhat difficult and also awkward to teach my students about FNMI history and issues when I myself know and understand so little about the subject. This book is an accessible way of learning about Aboriginal peoples and their relationship with the Canadian government, and of course, it helps that it’s written from the perspective of a First Nations person. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about indigenous peoples in Canada! I still have lots to learn but I feel like I know a little bit more now, thanks to this book!
  • I found this cool graphic that summarizes the whole book! (But you should still read the actual thing for yourself!)


A graphic novel written by a woman

  • Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride is such a fun book! Planning a wedding was one of the most unnecessarily stressful things in my life, and Lucy Knisley perfectly encompassed so many of the same feelings and experiences I had while planning my wedding: Stress! Excitement! Dealing with family! Caring too much about minute details!

A book about an immigrant or refugee

  • I read Vi by Kim Thúy in its original French. It was simple and poetic; each chapter was like a short anecdotal account of the main character Vi’s life. I felt like the book didn’t follow the regular “elements of plot” format because there wasn’t an obvious climax or resolution. Rather, the tension came from the fact that Vi was a refugee and from her struggle to understand and reconcile her Vietnamese and Canadian identities.
  • P.S. Here is a link to an article in which Kim Thúy explains how refugee literature is different from immigrant literature.
  • P.P.S. I wrote a post a loooong time ago about a book that is also about the Vietnamese diaspora. Same historical event, but such a different story and experience!

A work of post-apocalyptic fiction

  • The apocalypse in Station Eleven is brought on by something called the Georgia Flu, which ravages the entire world and leaves only a few survivors. The book goes back and forth in time, describing the days just before the flu pandemic as well as how future generations are coping decades later. I haven’t read much post-apocalyptic fiction – this was a pretty good book but I still feel like this isn’t a genre I’d normally gravitate towards.

A translated book 

  • Ghochar Ghachar was so good, I finished it in one day! It’s short and sweet, and tells the story of an Indian man whose family quickly comes into money after his uncle starts a spice business. The book shows how the sudden wealth changes the family’s relationships and interactions. The translation was so smooth and easy to read, plus, this is one of the few books written in the Kannada language that has been translated into English!

Here’s Part 1 of my challenge!

Cafes Far, Far Away

Not that I call this a “Toronto-based blog”, but I do generally tell people that I’m from Toronto because it’s the most well-known city in the area. However, there’s still lots to do in the suburbs and outer reaches of the Greater Toronto Area, and I thought I’d celebrate this by featuring a few coffee shops that I (or friends of mine) have discovered up in the northern parts of York Region.

THE ROOST CAFE / 12974 Keele Street, King City / website

Everything I’d heard about The Roost Cafe is true – the parking is limited, the baristas are super friendly, the chocolate croissant is divine!

This cafe was recommended to me by a friend. I had work to do, and after spending most of my winter break vegetating on my couch at home, I knew I had to go somewhere else in order to have any hope of productivity.

The cafe really is hard to find. I myself drove past it about four times before I finally realized which building it was in. (It’s a small, brown brick house with a hanging sign out front, currently beside a plot of land under construction. There’s no large flashy sign bearing its name!) In terms of parking, leaving your car right on Keele is fine. I double-checked this with one of the baristas, who was indeed very friendly! She chatted a lot with another customer throughout most of my time there.

I had a tasty chocolate croissant and a mediocre mocha! (I don’t really visit cafes for the food or drink anyway – I am more of an ambience person.) The playlist was amazing (calm acoustic covers) and got me in a mood of let’s-get-stuff-done! Working at The Roost was nice and quiet until around noon, when it seemed like the whole of King City came in to grab a bite to eat.

I definitely recommend The Roost Cafe if you’re looking for a cute place to sit and chat with a friend over coffee. However, if you’re needing to have private conversations, this tiny, cozy place probably isn’t the best option!

MAIN STREET BAKEHOUSE / 6236 Main Street, Whitchurch-Stouffville / website

I actually discovered Main Street Bakehouse on Instagram! I finally got a chance to visit on a sunny winter afternoon.

I’ll talk about parking first – like The Roost Cafe, parking is funny and on the street. This stretch of Main Street Stouffville is full of parked cars though, so at least you won’t feel weird about parking on the road. My parking job was made infinitely more difficult on account of the crusty snowbanks!

The first thing I noticed was the smell of the place. It smells like food and grease, which is a little bit different from other coffee-powered cafes! I’d love to try Main Street Bakehouse for a quick bite to eat one day, but during this visit, I just had myself a mocha.

Check out that latte art!

There is plenty of seating and the atmosphere was so pleasant, especially with the sun shining in through the large windows. It was a perfect place to sit and mark my horrible exams!

Main Street Bakehouse is also known for its Instagram-worthy wall, where people can place themselves between beautiful hand-painted angel wings! There is even a smaller version for children. I couldn’t be bothered to take a better photo because there was a lot of snow and also I was alone, but you have a good idea of the Instagram opportunities that this wall presents!


I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to coffee shops that exist 45 minutes to an hour from the downtown core of Toronto! I haven’t been doing too many exciting things lately, so the next few blog posts might still revolve around this coffee shop theme … Hopefully that is okay with you guys!

Toast & Jam

After driving past Toast & Jam so so so many times during my visits to Kingston, I finally got the chance to try it! While we waited for our table, Dangerous Dan and I perused the cafe’s sister bakery, Bread & Butter. The homemade baked goods looked so tasty! And if you’re like me and you don’t love baked goods (I am more of a salty person!), there are savoury foods that you can grab at Bread & Butter too, like soups, pizzas, or pies.

The cafe was all done up for the Christmas season (I went in mid-December). There are cozy couches right in front of a fireplace (right by that tree in the photo below) – not so great for eating a meal, but perfect for chatting over a warm beverage!

Toast and Jam interior with Christmas decor

Speaking of warm beverages, I ordered an apple cider! I’m not one to buy drinks when I go out for a meal because I am extremely cheap, but my sister got one and it looked so tasty that we had to ask the waitress to come back so that we could get one too. Look at those apple slices floating around in that frothy goodness!

Toast and Jam KIngston Apple Cider

The food was amazing as well! I can never say no when Mac & Cheese presents itself, so that is what I had. The accompanying baguette was the perfect amount of crunchy, and the salad was surprisingly good, too! Dangerous Dan ordered a Southern Cornbread Breakfast, and said it was the best poached egg meal he’d ever had. I asked him why and he couldn’t explain; he was too overcome with emotion.

Even my little nephew had a tasty meal! He is 3 but orders from the adult menu, and after my brother-in-law and I had both stolen a few bites off his plate (he had the buttermilk pancakes with smoked bacon), he complained loudly, “Why does everyone keep eating my food?!” So you can see that every belly was very satisfied after eating at Toast & Jam!

Toast & Jam Cafe / 1530 Bath Road, Kingston / website

Mary Be Kitchen

This winter break has got me feeling all relaxed and adventurous! A few days ago, I caught up with a friend at Mary Be Kitchen in the Yonge and St. Clair area (a neighbourhood I never visit!). It’s a really cute little place with lots of different types of seating – you can see the huge table in the picture below, there are regular 2- or 4-person tables, as well as comfier seating thanks to a couch and some armchairs. The decor is really nice, but my photos just don’t do it justice! (My phone is so old!!!)

To order, you simply go up to the front and choose different sides to put together into a dish. The (very friendly) wait staff hand you a number, and then someone comes to bring you your food! There are also soups and stews which you can order! I ordered two warm sides, which was plenty for me.  My mac and cheese and masala cauliflower (left photo) were just delicious, although I feel like I should’ve tried to have more diversity in terms of colour of my food.

To wash everything down, I ordered a mocha smoothie. Man, I am still thinking about this smoothie! There was something so special about it! It was so full and flavourful but not too sweet.

Mary Be Kitchen is also a great place to hunker down and get some work done (because teachers can’t take breaks until July – I feel like I didn’t even stop working during this holiday!). There’s quite a bit of seating, and it wasn’t so busy (when I went on a Friday morning) that I felt like I couldn’t stay in my spot and work. There’s also free wifi, which makes things a lot easier too. The cute decor also makes working less painful.

All in all, I’d be happy to come back to Mary Be Kitchen, even if it’s just for a work date and that delectable smoothie!


MARY BE KITCHEN / 21B St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto / website

Aurora Winter Festival

A few days ago, I had the lovely pleasure of visiting the hot new winter festival in town, Aurora Winter Festival. A classic instascam (i.e. an “immersive” experience which really just provides opportunities to take photos which you can then post on Instagram), the Aurora Winter Festival was pretty much what I expected – some amusement park rides, a few food trucks, Christmas market-type huts, a skating rink, and a whole lot of lights!

The entry fee is around $20 and you’re given a specific time during which to arrive. (This is supposed to help with crowd control!) My family and I arrived for the first time slot, which started at 4 pm. It was cloudy and cold but decidedly NOT nighttime, so the lights were a little underwhelming. Luckily, we stayed long enough until after the sun set, so we were still able to enjoy the neon lights!

Everything was slightly less impressive during the day!

The main attraction is Mystical Worlds, a path that leads you through several light sculptures. Trees, giant animals, a light-filled tunnel, and glow-in-the-dark benches are scattered throughout. There’s also an icicle-lined maze which was closed due to strong winds. However, we were able to walk through (when it was still bright out) before it closed.

The Mystical Worlds also had (heated) huts for various activities, like crafting or visiting Santa. My favourite was the Disco Den. The first time we walked through, a couple of outgoing kids were wriggling on the flashing multicoloured dance floor. The second time, the whole hut was filled with parents and strollers and babies! There were even standing tables for drinks; it was like a club for children!


In order to enjoy the additional attractions (tubing, train ride, carousel, etc.), tokens were available for purchase. My nephew had a great time on the 5-minute children’s train ride, while I sat by the campfire/warming station. (My jacket still smells like smoke.) The ferris wheel unfortunately was closed, again because of the wind. We ended up only needing 2 out of the 10 tokens we’d bought, so we had to sell and/or give away the extras.

All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable experience! I hadn’t been that cold for such a long duration of time in a while, and I felt slightly more Canadian in doing things outdoors in the winter. It was very cold and I immediately regretted not wearing leggings under my pants. It’s windy by the water! Contrived as this event was, I appreciated having an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the season. It wasn’t a bad way to spend time with family!

P.S. Other light festivals I’ve visited in the past.

Ontario Place, East Island, 955 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Toronto / website

Winter Things

Harbourfront Centre Lake Ontario in Winter

There isn’t much snow on the ground and to be quite honest, I don’t think Toronto will be having a white Christmas this year. In any case, I thought I’d share some of my ancient winter-related posts that are lying around somewhere in the depths of the interwebs!

(The title of this post is inspired by Ariana Grande’s song, “Winter Things”, which I have been listening to on repeat! I just find it hilarious how vague and non-descriptive the song is! If you’d like, you can listen while perusing the following blog posts.)

How I Feel About Winter

Back when I lived in Kingston for school, I wrote a blog post about how I was always cold in the winter. I took some pictures of snowy places, and that is the essence of this post.

Toronto in the Winter

Lake Ontario is really quite beautiful in the winter! This post features photos taken by the Harbourfront Centre.

Lights, Lights, Lights!

Wintry light festivals had a moment a few years ago. (Actually, they’re still a thing! I just clicked all of the links on my post and they are still good to go!) Two years ago, I braved the cold and ventured outside in both Kingston and Toronto to enjoy a bunch of lights in the snow.

Christmas Cards + It’s Still Christmas in My Head

I used to be into crafting and cardmaking, but I’m just way too lazy for things like that now, which is really unfortunate! Feel free to take a look at these posts if you’re looking for some Christmas card inspiration!


A reminder of how we should be during this season of giving and receiving. Despite the secularization of this religious holiday, to me, Christmas is about the birth of Christ. The fact that He was born in a manger (probably next to manure or something gross like that!) is a reminder that He came to serve. In His serving us, He saved us. Christmas is a time for thanksgiving and for remembering the immense sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

We are staying home for the holidays this year, so we have a million and one family gatherings, a couple of friendly potlucks, and I have two weeks off of school! I’m excited for the time of rest, but hopefully I get out and enjoy the wintry adventures that home has to offer. My sister and I are thinking of going to the Aurora Winter Festival, which I foolishly thought was in Aurora, but is actually at Ontario Place. (I’ve also never been to the Toronto Christmas Market, which is extremely un-Torontonian of me, but such is life. Maybe next year.)

P.S. Bonus post! Earlier this year we went to Winter Park, Florida, which has nothing to do with winter except for its name. It’s not even very cold there.

Fiction/Nonfiction: Girl vs. Taliban

There is a month-long event in the book blogger community called Nonfiction November, during which people share their nonfiction book recommendations based on particular prompts. One of these prompts is pairing fiction and nonfiction books. I thought it was such a great idea and a creative way to broaden the types of books I read. I totally missed the boat this past November because I read too slowly, but I thought it would be fun to share my book pairings as they come along!

First up: Girl vs. Taliban. Two stories of brave women who didn’t sit idly when their countries were taken over by overzealous and violent religious radicals.

The Taliban Cricket Club tells the story of an Afghani girl, Rukhsana, who protests against the Taliban – first through her work as a journalist, and then by teaching cricket to her friends as a way to escape the country and its oppressive regime. The reason I picked up the book was because the name was so funny – whoever heard of the Taliban playing cricket?! In fact, this work of fiction was inspired by the Taliban’s real-life support of the game. (It’s one of the few sports that follows their rules and decrees. Read more here!) I enjoyed the book although it was a bit slow in some parts for me. I did learn a few things as well – for example, before the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, it wasn’t common for women to wear the burqa. This religious dress has become something of a symbol of Islam, and perhaps Muslim extremism, and yet, wearing it wasn’t common practice until the Taliban started to enforce it. At the start of the Taliban regime, women had to practise walking and seeing in the burqa, because suddenly they had a bunch of cloth impeding them from doing those two things which had previously been fairly straightforward!

I Am Malala also tells the story of a girl fighting and protesting against the Taliban, but this story is true! There’s a lot more historical context in Malala’s book – mentions of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in The Taliban Cricket Club were given whole paragraphs in I Am Malala!

One of the things I thought was great about putting these two books together is that the protest in the nonfiction book is so much more evident and bold than in the novel. While Rukhsana quietly and underhandedly protested against the Taliban by playing cricket and looking for ways to help her friends escape the country, Malala spoke out loud in public, denouncing the Taliban for their rules which prohibited girls like her from going to school. Malala was shot for her actions, but she’s still speaking out and fighting for girls’ rights! I think it’s great to see that the real-life subject of a nonfiction book is stronger and more inspiring than the protagonist of a novel.

If you’re interested in current affairs and events in the Middle East, I’d recommend these books for the subject material. In terms of the writing style, I wasn’t blown away and in some instances I was even bored (!), but the stories themselves were great!

How to Look Mature as a Young Teacher

Teaching teenagers is an extremely rewarding experience, and I’m thankful to have been working steadily as a high school teacher for the past three years. One of the obstacles that I face as a high school teacher, however, is the fact that I look like I could be a high school student! I am short! I am Asian! And I am immature, which definitely doesn’t help my case.

If you’re a young, 20-something year old teacher of adolescents, then this post is for you! I present to you, 5 Fail-Safe Ways to Exert Authority in the Classroom and Trick Your Students Into Thinking You’re Way Older Than Them!

1. Wear your keys around your neck.

You can’t stick your keys in your back pocket like a hip teenager; you need to hang them around your neck in an uncool fashion! The jingling of the keys against your belly also warns students that someone of authority is approaching!

2. Wear a blazer.

Most students don’t wear blazers, so you automatically look older when you put on one of these bad boys! I also just feel more adult, professional, and put together when I wear a blazer.

3. Don’t use a backpack.

This is actually a really important tip! For the first year or two of my career, I wore a backpack to work, and I blended in effortlessly with the Grade 12 students. The day I realized something needed to change was in the middle of my second year of teaching. I was going to be absent the next day, so I had stayed late at school to make plans for my supply teacher. When I was done working, I gathered up all of my things into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder, grabbed my plans, and snuck into the portapack where my classroom was situated. As I entered my classroom and moved towards the desk, I heard the door open and a gruff voice growl, “Hey! You can’t be in here!” I whipped around and there was an angry-looking caretaker staring at me as he disposed of the trash. “I’m a teacher!” I whimpered. “I’m just here to drop off my supply plans!” And I feebly held up my folders and worksheets. He half-apologized and I cursed my backpack all the way home, sad and embarrassed.

I don’t bring too much physical work home since most of my work is done on the computer, so a huge backpack really isn’t necessary anymore. Now, I use a fancy tote bag from Chapters! My right shoulder hates me, but at least I’ll never be mistaken for a student again!!!

Tote bag and cloth laptop pouch on white chair

Here is a photo of my trusty bag! To keep things somewhat organized, I use a laptop sleeve which I purchased on Etsy from a shop called Made by Julie. It’s got cute little cacti on it!

4. Make obnoxious comments about what life was like when you were your students’ age (even if you’re not that much older).

I try to widen the age gap between me and my students by trying to refer to a lack of certain technologies or social media apps in my youth, or by beginning my stories by saying, “Back when I was your age …” In some ways, I do feel quite a bit older than them. The world has changed a lot in the last decade since I was in high school, and kids these days seem a lot different from what I was like when I was their age. Or maybe I was just really nerdy and my high school experience doesn’t represent the norm. (Sad!)

5. Be confident!

Don’t forget – you are a teacher! Tell off that kid for swearing in the halls! Remind your students to remove their hats and pull up their pants! You are in that school to be a role model and a mentor and a caring adult for these students, no matter what you look like. So be glad for your job, and remember that you have been placed in that important position of authority, despite how young you look.

In many ways, I am thankful that I’m close in age to my students. My students are generally pretty relaxed around me, which makes our classroom environment feel safer and more welcoming. Earlier in my career, I wanted to be more strict and have a firm hand on student behaviour, but I think what works for me is simply being myself – chill with the responsible and well-behaved students, and a little bit more naggy and annoying when I need students to pay attention or hand stuff in. I approach student-teacher interactions from a more gentle standpoint rather than an offensive one, and I think this youthful kindness helps students to see that I am truly there to help them. I don’t know how my relationship with my students will change as I age, but for now, I am super happy with my job and I really enjoy working with my crazy kids!