Category Archives: experiential knowledge- practical experience

Input Welcome

A note regarding “point of view

Do you recall the excitement of being anywhere different? The heightened expectation of “the new,” along with the slight concern about all the expectations others may have for how and where and what you may now experience?

Learning a new language can be filled with all of the above for the individual learner even without the extra pressures which travel (perhaps miles away from home) can impose.

And we, as Educators must become aware that our students have the ability to open up our points of view as well.

They – the students- will share with us, the confusion and the missed communications and the real distress over grammar, structure, vocabulary choice and test preparation most of which we both expect and may even plan for but… points of view are the sparks in a classroom that not only surprise with shared insight but which also ought to challenge each of us to reflect and consider how, globally, perspective is challenged via the environment, the politics, the arts appreciation, the science and technology a region had not only available but also “taken for granted.”

A quote from a poet who began his life in one country before moving to America and suggesting how important the new language became and why even more so to him than to his classmates at University who took their reading of English texts “for granted.”

“My knowledge of this subject is qualitatively different. It is an active knowledge, the knowledge of someone for whom all these texts are precious. More precious …because my life-to say nothing of my world view-was changed by these texts… and American students as a rule never come across that kind of approach to literature.” Joseph Brodsky on the difficult art of not only acquiring “proficiency” in a subject but to become engaged in the depth of the variety of points of views on the subject and how to then share, using language, actual human feelings that others may enter into someone else’s point of view.

We share words, divided into levels; teach first the single paragraph then the simple short point of view spoken and written that a student may exclaim, ” I am ready, bring on the “TOEFL” or any other accepted formal exam process for qualifying the student for the next level of participation. But we may not make the time, the so precious time, to offer our students opportunity to demonstrate how and where and when and why their original points of view about “anything” were challenged if not actually changed-What may have became “precious” for them? How did learning a new language challenge their points of view? Did this newly acquired “tool” allow for communication about ideas and ideals, or did it remain the necessary “thing” for purely academic and employment advancement?

If the former- then we as “teachers” increased dialogue that may one day help make those bridges that do connect people not only places to be traversed. But if the latter, then we merely offered a box- ticking off for ourselves which slot to file the learner into-passed or not, ready or not- but for what? Real world experiences? More than a smattering of language levels is necessary for both higher level academics and employment and friendships- Connections count.

The current and upcoming American inauguration is sparking much public and private debate. Points of views are continuously being challenged – dare we open discussions to our International Students? My point of view is we must. What is your point of view on how to best remain as neutral as possible that we may listen to learn other perspectives, while also encouraging these voices to not merely participate within classroom discussion but also in coffee shops and private/public spaces – and thereby broaden each other’s points of view. Is a panoramic point of view with respect for differences possible?

Welcoming your perspective.

A Blog posting…

A Rant about “Labels”

“Fresh before” does help us grocery shop- we can buy with ease products that we believe will stay fresh on our shelves or in our cupboards until consumed.  And when we understand about such labels that products may still be both tasty and healthful even after the stamped date- we can buy the products often on discount and not only save money on the goods, but also contribute to the environment via causing less waste and with the current public awareness of “less than perfect” produce being equally tasty and good, awareness is changing the way we shop for food-

Labels, and awareness of how they may be positive and negative at the same time is essential for all connected to Education. For every sign that used to be posted on a clasroom and which read “Failure is not an option” the counter (or opposite) sign in a Science lab might show Edison and his maxim about trying to find the right formula at least a thousand times.  What then is the “ideal sign” for a classroom wall?  WELCOME! and in here there will be no labels.  

For children learn quickly what is considered their own ability and their own strength in relation to the others in the classroom.  Affixing additional labels may help administration in using computers to slot the children into various groups- it doesn’t however help the students themselves.  Most labels in Education have to do with funding- how a school, or a district, or class, or individual students may receive “extra,”- and when the entire school district receives funding, the neighbourhood benefits- however, when a student is mislabeled the student may be removed from one group of peers and placed instead within a community of “misfits” to then on struggle to not only make sense of “Schooling” which becomes a place where little learning is happening, but to, if actually graduating – to graduate with the label of “problem, trouble, slow, applied, special needs, remedial,” and then either reject what schooling offered, or challenge this same system anyhow by going for a future that those labels couldn’t have predicted! In particular the concept of “Special needs” ranges from highly gifted and talented to students with multiple exceptionalities- who may also be gifted-and students who are mis identified as hyper or attention deficit when their inquiry or their attitude or their foundational knowledge base or their background makes the particular class and teacher student interaction one of challenge versus “empty vessel to be filled.”

In so many ways though, that concept of children as “empty vessels” must be overturned in favour of children as learners- period.  And children must challenge, everything and nearly everyone in order to grow- new ideas will not come unless children and adults are both thinking, and both actively willing to be “imperfect,”  to make, create or build something that might not in the completed project match the original vision, but then to question how to improve upon the construction.  Classrooms where inquiry is respected have students who challenge themselves, and who bring extra information to the benefit of the group- like in the workforce where cultures aimed towards growth will find employees participating beyond clocked hours in contemplating how and where to focus energy on improving, and no one is saying or groaning “homework” because the problem solving is the challenge and the actions to be taken provide a stimulation for brain and body- healthy challenges that permit contradictions and design thinking.

We speak of “design” as if it were a simple process, when in fact design is a holistic attitude towards the combination of use (function) and form.  And then in schools we over crowd, underpay, and underfund the neediest of school districts, whose students may even later be sent as “overflow” to higher income neigbourhood schools and once again relabelled; how to “use” as in place these extra students? with the goal often of continuing to claim “setting standards” which may translate to keeping the formal test results up and proving on paper that learning took place.  Integration?  Diversity? Ministry tests as goals or as cumbersome to the whole concept of education?

Labels matter- we all are aware of this – and even the popular “you matter” becomes another slogan when much needed time per pupil, per person, per individual is shortened to mandated minutes, and a stopwatch always clicking off minutes prevents the actual interactions – creating encounters instead of communication.  Young, youngish, older, and seasoned Educators can agree that statistics do not capture commmunity, that labels, even the so called positive ones, may mask the personality of the person and that as human beings, each of us recognizes almost instinctively when in fact we do matter- and when we simply do not or have not “fit in.”

The produce table is now selling “less than perfect” vegetables; and in many elementary schools the notion of wearing “less than perfect” hats continues to catch on- almost like a movement spread from teacher to teacher, and community to community, this new ideal of accepting “not perfect” doesn’t mean “discard” but instead encourages taking a chance- try the produce – try the exercise- try and try again.

For 2017- do “try” until the right combination of people and place and actions allow for the almost unexpected exclamation “perfect!” till we begin- again.  Best wishes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Teachers, Everywhere

April might be the official Poetry month, but this poem written by Naomi Shihab Nye seems “just right” for back to work/back to school after any type of holiday: 

Famous

 

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.


Teaching tends to feel like this – from one Educator to another..best wishes for 2017! …to learning, and not forgetting this is what we do…  #teaching

 

consider…

 

dmd-1

dmd-2

Definition of normal

  1. 1: perpendicularespecially :  perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency
  2. 2 a:  according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b :  conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
  3. 3: occurring “naturally”          (Webster’s Dictionary)

Whatever you are celebrating and however you celebrate, Wishing  YOU pleasant experiences and a “positive” Holiday!  

( and if like me, you believe the Arts may teach us something, enjoy this movie too!)  

Dressing Up, Acting Out, Enjoying being a Student!

 

Junior High and the first foray into – wait for it- Makeup!

and in schools today there are still students who exit their homes, faces scrubbed, to make it to the school washrooms fifteen minutes early- in time to apply the newest in eye shadows or lipsticks etc. to apply a slightly different persona for the duration of the school day- a little flirty maybe, a little tough?

Not only the girls – many a young man adjusts his cap, the walk, the talk, the total “attitude” to either appear cool or to be what he considers necessary to “fit in” and there is the unspoken recognition that some of it is also to be different from the adult expectations of the day. And Schools furiously dictate notes and send home written mandates for what is expected dress, and style, as if this surface view ever truly reflected the students posturing, or the student’s understanding of where they fit into the hierarchy of a campus, the code of “behaviour” that operates beyond principal, teacher or family and is centered in “teenager” – the wonderful growing space between twelve and twenty!

Shouldn’t we be celebrating these changes instead of being afraid of them? Fashion after all is a clear example of not only how ephemeral “the right outfit” may be, but of politics, the arts, technology, power structures, group versus individual behavior, male versus female dominance, cliques, teams, belonging and experimenting. And while our children may not actually wish for our votes of approval regarding their specific ways to not necessarily rebel but indeed to grow, we needn’t be the ones constantly worrying about societal approval when instead the people truly deserving if unable to ask for our approval are our kids! And kids do find it hard to ask for that so very basic statement of “I trust you!” that some parents forget is central to allowing children to take chances- for that trust doesn’t and mustn’t mean that if a child wishes to share his/her being upset regarding anything, that guilt (the result of disappointing trust) be laid on top of anyone – or any other type of discomfort.

Guilt is not a cleansing nor a helpful emotion- and the discretions kids make rarely deserve such a depth of negative control; instead children require the openness to discuss what did or not appeal- what did or did not in their opinion “work.” And to be given the time to communicate without pressure to conform. 

We worry- that is part of our role as adults, but we mustn’t worry so much that we forget to indulge and enjoy the wonderful uniqueness that our own children display- thankfully not clones– young, growing, learning, and displaying their own personalities enroute to being what society will later label, “adults.”   In the interim, let’s note their individuality with respect, let’s smile at what they find amusing, let’s recognize who they feel are hurtful, and do what we can to understand how they must, to grow, experiment on their own- not living vicariously through an older generation but making their own mark and establishing and dismissing their own set of goals and dreams while they gradually and sometimes fearlessly break away from the staid and the safe to attempt to understand what skills they possess, how these skills can be further developed, and whom they might inquire of for opportunity to learn more.

Principals, teachers, administrative staff and parents will continue to appear to be communicating about the kids in the exchange of letters home or phone calls or in person “meet the teacher,” nights, but the reality is after and for a number of years all of the above will be talking about and around the children, while the children make plans themselves to challenge one another, to encourage one another, and to spread the very basic attitude of “growing up” by either supporting one another or in the worst of situations, ostracizing one another.  The best we as the recognized adults may do is be there, to listen without preaching, and to love without scolding.  We owe this to each new generation. They depend on us for it.

————————————————-

 

For an interesting overview of clothing and the concept of vulgarity- tops too short, hair too spiked, pants worn too low, anything “different,” an excerpt on the “idea of vulgarity” (remember people make these rules up and they change constantly over time!) –  is shared in the recent Harpers Bazaar magazine Sept. 2016 – Vulgarity-The Basic Instinct-As Joan Juliet Buck writes- “in your face is never out of style!”

School uniforms may be the rule- but kids- they just wanna be cool! Remember the old mantra- “Don’t sweat the small stuff” – and focus on encouraging instead of confining. Ms Buck also mentioned “Decibels” and tiny children enjoying a “shrill shriek” – enter a Junior or senior High School and listen for a brief moment! “piercing shrieks for the sheer fun of rendering the air” and laughter, and …yup- Learning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clear Example of STEAM in Action

Rio Olympics 2016! Absolutely lovely-

How can anyone still be questioning the value of either the Arts in Education or Sports on the curriculum?

Technology brought us the action and thanks to Time Zones and solid internet connections we were able to enjoy the blend of cultures and courage that strutting one’s talent in front of millions demands- and in “real time” watching as spectators from home while the action in Rio splashed or danced or cycled or ran or jumped…across our screens.

So Science and Technology and Engineering developed and improved the internet allowing the Olympic events to reach Global audiences – unlike those earlier Olympics which took place even before radio announcers- Imagine! when only those in the stadiums really were able to participate as spectators – the rest of the world believing that such events were for the economically wealthy who could afford to be there in person – today we rejoice alongside those in attendance or empathise when an athlete sheds a tear…

But the ARTS improved on the entire set of performances- from the opening ceremonies which greeted athletes and spectators alike, through to the closing speeches and the recognition for Tokyo to carry the torch.  In between we watched, cheered, groaned, and admired the marvelous differences in HUMAN BEINGS- from the gymnasts to the wrestlers; seeing the marathon runners feet firmly on the ground and the pole vaulters defying gravity to surprise themselves at times with their own wins; and quietly cheering the people working behind the scenes – yes the coaches who actually appeared front and centre but also all the designers and artists who helped build the stages and platforms, e.g. the landscape for events like the final Olympic mountain biking- blending with natural structures and terrain but finished by landscape artists who enhanced a “natural” area; and Kudos to the designers and artists who used fashion sense and modern technolgy to create the costumes the athletes wore- combining the best of known materials with the cultural symbols expected at a multi country event;  -ARTS< SPORTS<TECHNOLOGY, Global reach- all exemplified in that amazingly constructed new space for holding the Olympic torch-

Four years of participatory planning and practicing and communicating and learning and growing- for everyone co-ordinating the events whether as particpant or volunteer would have experienced the sense of competition that goes into every milestone each of us accomplishes. Ultimately, like each of the athletes, we are competing with ourselves.  And from the youngest in preschool through post -secondary education, every formal or informal student of life knows this.  And as Humans we need that encouragement from one another to become the front runners, to have the ability to “pick ourselves up and try again” or even to keep believing in our abilites and desires to do more- to learn more- to achieve more…

As countries look at expenditure for the Sports, the Arts and for Technology – let’s look at EDUCATION- and recognize that there is a place for each type of learning and learner- for only through working together could any event produce such positive results- the Olympics celebrate the HUMAN SPIRIT; our schools should be celebrating this too!

 

 

 

 

Rio 2016- & “me”

As to Politics: when we can figure out why people would rather waste money creating problems for people or using people instead of spending money to prevent problems in the first place- we will have created a better world! the Olympics are far from “perfect” and do cost a fortune to prepare for- but – at least for a brief moment we get to see “healthy competition” and a variety of mutual respect – athletes encouraging athletes; “giants” shedding tears; surprise challengers taking the podium, and real emotions on display- too many pictures to select only one to demonstrate the gratitude and awe I feel each time any of the athletes steps up and shares- young and old we each may learn something…