What do you do if your nature and training says “leader” but your personality says “don’t control?” You become an Educator. You lead, encourage, exemplify, and demonstrate how to bring out the best in others, without controlling them.

Teachers don’t just make things happen, they allow people to change and grow!  Format, question, draft and resolution, names for activities, but what is going on inside, the curiousity, ambition, challenges and achievements are personal; students own them and proceed forward with each iteration, constantly refining themselves and reminding us as Educators how very essential it is to make room for the surprise responses, the non-conventional answers, the real thinking to progress.






Doable; writing to express

When we teach writing skills and encourage students to blog, we also need to encourage them to try different writing styles and at times not only read but also write simply for the “fun of it.”

And as is often mentioned teachers are encouraged to model writing “off the cuff”-

This one is titled:  DOABLE

Modern multitasking: put vegetables in the oven on slow roast –suggestions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant …turn to 375 degrees as slow roasting brings out best flavour; apply hair colour; clean bathroom while waiting for hair colour to settle= food roasting will not only provide later nourishment but lovely smells; clean washroom = spa like feel when showering to remove hair colouring and refresh, and if have in suite laundry- well, then, do that too! Total time two hours from start to finish- now enjoy the roasted vegetables and walk out the door knowing home is clean and fresh upon return.

Note: buy fresh vegetables in advance and if laundry not in- suite, then while doing laundry after shower, clear emails, post correspondence, and plan week-blogging,  banking, bills, and invoicing time too!

Super woman; could even get in a pedicure and yoga meditation while waiting for nails to dry…Multitasking works!

Extra bonus points: find the literary devices inserted

Raising Global Students

World news via the internet and food-

Simple snack- a few dried figs; flip over the package and learn “product of Turkey”- then pause for a moment to marvel that this product arrived safely in America and even on a strict budget such a treat can be had- one packed with nutrients too! Then open the internet to Global News and find out a little bit more about Turkey, the place of origin… Topical and relevant to any High School IB students actually curious about how their education as future global citizens can be transferred from events which are happening “out there” to events that could affect what is or continues to be available here- and it is this broadening of recognition of ways in which trade continues to influence not only our perceptions of when, where, and how countries do work together, but also how even relatively simple products that one might take for granted- the little package of figs sold for under three dollars Canadian and is portable, makes an instant energy snack, and has a shelf life- needs no refrigeration – yet packs a solid amount of calcium and fibre in a few bites. Additionally it may be rehydrated if used in soups or stews or compotes, adding both flavour and extra “punch” to both a vegetarian and a carnivore’s diet. So how did it make the trail from growing in a Turkish garden to the grocery aisles down the street, and in what way does our purchasing this food item make a dent in helping a country overseas? Where do trade and politics intersect?

Students are encouraged to do their own further research, coming up with a thesis focus and could even plan an interactive debate on the merits of global trade sanctions, and which parts of a community may inadvertently be “punished” when sanctions are imposed. In plain English- who might still benefit- who might get hurt?

When we as educators encourage the active constructing of project based learning and not merely encourage but also allow for student input into further directions they may wish to explore, we are offering opportunity for student leaders to emerge. And of course, one needn’t stop at “figs.”

Eliminating an us versus them attitude – for in class discussions

Have you seen the first episode of “Supergirl” where there is a frank discussion about choosing the word “girl” versus the word “woman”- and the word “girl” wins– like many a young female today in certain parts of the world where opportunity to learn and participate is encouraged instead of being denied.

From the current “play like a girl” advertisements which do feature among others Olympic level girls playing, throwing, biking, rowing…to the images of scientists, astronauts, the almost ubiquitous doctors and dentists and therapists, plus the CEO of a corporation or two, women have “come a long way” – a popular quote on another TV show –one from the 70s where the police officer “Kojak” liked to remind women they had come a long way but tacked on the term “baby” to suggest much further “equalizing” would be needed. From “baby” to “girl” then might suggest the changes which have occurred over the past forty years- a generation of hard work on the part of prominent citizens, male and female alike, who have written, spoken, marched and educated women to recognize both their rights and their privileges within a “modern” social order.

And “Superman” appears to be aging gracefully, making way for not only a new breed of female, but actually the continuity of his race- if following the story line, Superman and Supergirl are family. And Supergirl is much more egalitarian and democratic than her older cousin; Supergirl isn’t afraid to work together with her friends, to share her knowledge of her superpowers, while also striving to improve her strengths through practice. Superman had appeared to spring full strength onto the scene, Supergirl may occasionally leave a bit of a mess, as she learns how to balance “work and play.”

Watching episode #1, I had to agree with the critics, the show is a delight of insightful looks at today’s society, while offering males and females images of men and women –strong, courageous and flawed, less than perfect regardless of super powers. And continuing with a very important belief – that to “save the world” people will need to work together.

Middle school and up – social media lesson to share

First of all what is a parody? what is a spoof? how are they same/different?

Who or what is being made fun of in this piece of writing- ? Does anyone use Pinterest? can we count the references to actual online boards? Let’s all make our own collection of boards to become familiar with internet use…I have made a number of sample boards here:

Guys, the person is suggesting only women or mainly women are the primary consumers of Pinterest- can you find ways in which guys are also using it? hint- chefs’ websites, sports, cars, guitars, movies, space… many home builders- what is soothing/ annoying about the site? Girls – which types of pins do you find yourself gravitating toward? For everyone in the room- please choose a “motivational pin” and then create your own.

How would you use it? what types of pins would you save? how would you get others to know your site exists? Does it matter? Do you think a site like Pinterest is more for “fun” and “relaxation” or for social media advertizing? why? why not? remember to backup your opinions with examples of/from other sites…

Take your time on the activity but be warned- pinning on Pinterest can become a real hobby…

Ali :)

Note to educators- the original article can be offered in hard copy format to allow students to move between using a piece of printed material and reading/commenting on it and using the internet to source further material. This is an open ended project to enchance technology in the classroom and reading and writing skills.  In addition a blog posting could be created with students commenting and sharing their views about Pinterest on line.

Designing Space

It is great to see and be inspired by so many modern workspaces, with their bright colours, comfy seating, and quiet nooks.  But what can the schools/learning environments that simply do not have the funds to refurbish, or to invest in the “gorgeous new designs” take from the “advice” about the ideal learning spaces? They don’t exist! Yes that is “blasphemy” in today’s newest is better culture of sophistication, but as a “seasoned educator” I have seen first hand wonderfully, excited, curious students ignoring their less than ideal surroundings in favour of the focus on the learning that was being allowed for inside a space.  Key word here is “allowed”, and that may take on a number of different situations.

Will the students be able to ask questions? Can they murmur to a peer and chat quietly even when not officially assigned to “group work”; can they get up and reach for additional material, is there fluidity within the class regarding working on assignments? Could a student or students “discover” that via researching a project they wished to change direction or are they locked into their initial “thesis” description.  In short will growth on the individual level be encouraged by the teacher/teachers encouraging the students, or will the space be so restrictive as to deny original thought?

What is truly amazing is when students themselves take “ownership” of an idea, and we as educators may step back for a period and allow this new exploration to continue.  It may mean doing exactly what was labelled but not clearly defined way back in “teacher’s college”- the recognizing of “teaching moments”, the ability to permit tangential thought, and collaborative effort with other educators within a school building/system/and globally.  The fanciest desks and comfiest chairs are still no match for the informed and genuine teacher.  And while it seems that even kindergarten students today may have cellphones, educators instill how to take the technology from a toy to a learning tool which may be used in multiple ways to enhance the student’s ability to access further knowledge.

When designing and creating within four walls, consider the input of the students and what extra space within the building may become another station.  At one point hallways weren’t for punishment, they were a second area for small groups to congregate, then slowly with “fear” entering the school systems, allowing children to freely be in an open space minus monitors became  dangerous.  When schools require metal detectors on a par with airport security, every educator must become attuned to anything and everything that could return the classroom environment to an atmosphere where possibility is still available.  It could be something as simple as plants actually growing, or posters which the students design themselves…

As a child I attended a summer camp which was held in former army barracks! Oh, those cabins from the outside- people would sigh and marvel that campers wanted to return.  But we knew that upon arrival we would be given paint and paint brushes and allowed to redecorate for ourselves /to make magical over three weeks rain or shine; the barest of spaces could come alive with the energy and enthusiasm an arts based camp in the woods encouraged.  And so the teamwork, and collaborative effort was instilled.  That culture of practice, reinforced over many a summer, prevailed when I as grad student found myself ironing the wax off of brown paper bags to help make art materials for schools in low-income districts.  We students of teaching and learning provided the simplest of tools- the children, becoming involved in making and doing before the buzzwords prevailed, furthered the design process.  With technology we must continue to provide the how and possibly where, but make sure it is the students learning to ask the “why?”

Volunteering and School Credit

I blogged a few weeks ago about how important it is to give back to a community, and with students in High School requiring a minimum of forty volunteer hours to graduate, know that many wait until their final year to grab the credit while others get “hooked on volunteering” from their grade nine year.

Students please be aware that mockery is a form of bullying.  It shouldn’t need to be said but indeed some students are so disturbed by what they see when they go to volunteer, they later adopt a bravado and can be heard joking about the very people who only a few hours earlier they were meant to be helping!  Empathy is aparently not as natural an emotion as we would like to believe.  In fact volunteering itself becomes a skill, and each station or space where one offers to be of service will have its own guidelines or rules for new volunteers to first apply, then with commitment and practiced observation skills, share their own techniques and what might further the organization.

It is important though to think carefully before signing on to volunteer, even if only to gain those needed High School credits.  Are you a behind the scenes or front line person? have you an actual interest in learning more about the particular situation? Can you do the work as it is described?

Agencies in the service industry might also appreciate office help and provide a solid reference for the needed first job. When the sign goes up to volunteer consider the following:

  • have I patience?
  • will I be comfortable in an unusual setting (as in some place of worship, or community hall where one might not regularly attend)?
  • is there a language requirement?
  • is there any minimum amount of hours for the training which could require more than the school demands?
  • am I comfortable in a crowd?
  • is it a hands on position ( hospital help, working with children or adults…)?
  • is it one to one after the training or will I always be part of a team?
  • will I have a chance to learn something new? ( always one is learning-here perhaps a new skill)
  • if athletic could I share these skills and help others?
  • if academic could I share these skills and help others?
  • have I a particular interest in any field where volunteers will be welcomed (could range from gardening, to robotics, or museum work, or learning a trade and shadowing a skilled worker, apprentice style, while helping as required)
  • have I truly considered trying something new and where my skills might be most useful?

Having worked with volunteers who ranged from High School age to seniors I have learned some come with high anticipation to simply “begin” and others shyly wait at a door pondering the fit.  Both are extremely useful once shown the ropes and allowed to choose where and how they feel they may contribute most.

Please do take it seriously and recognize that whichever place you decide to help with your time, energy, and enthusiasm will begin to count on you- and be respectful as if it were a paying position.  Some organizations are only able to do the work they provide due to the help of caring volunteers.  And don’t be frightened to try something “unusual” as you may learn something about yourself in the process.

2015-2016- a year to explore!