Looking out my window at a beautiful sky, a current strong contrast with the heavy rain showering down a few hours ago. Right now, calm sky, true blue, powder puff clouds, and that feeling one gets when the air is so clear one can feel bathed in possibilities.
The window is wide open, and the screen hardly visible; yet as I type I find myself marveling that there may be teachers and students who dread a unit on poetry- when poetry as an expression of feeling is what I know a poet would be able to do with my current view. To freeze frame it for a second and third look through words which could express that combination of new day, new desires that the calm after a rain seems to unceasingly bring.
Am I writing poetic prose? Not in the mood to critique myself this morning. Yesterday I had the opportunity we each are given at a birthday; a chance to wonder anew at life itself and the gift of another year. I spent the early part with a large crowd of strangers brought together for a good cause; cheering or running ourselves to raise funds for a relatively new centre at a local hospital; a centre geared toward making it easier for parents to navigate a hospital health care system- and one geared especially to mental health. Kudos to the families whose hard work and caring developed the second annual RBC RUN FOR THE KIDS; my son ran 25 kilometers and though he didn’t hear me cheering amongst the crowd when in just under two hours he crossed the finish line (!) he, and all who ran, cheered, volunteered and/or organized the event made this a truly special birthday. For in looking back over all that we as a family accomplished this past year, I am truly amazed. Mother of two, my daughter was at her part time job, so couldn’t be with us at the event, but her diligence and work also suffused my day. When I work with children or adults, I am so aware of how emotions affect our ability to absorb information. The RBC run is for all the children and their families who might for a period have forgotten how to sing; mental health and all its variety of issues was recently brought home with the unexpected death of famous actor Robin Williams- a man who appeared to be sharing his very soul with his audiences, yet who hid his pain until the pain took over. His death a tragedy; and within our cities today, young people suffering as well- some who it is to be hoped may be helped by the Sunnybrook hospital Family Navigation Project- the more awareness, the better chance for healthy living.
Knowing how much I care about big picture goals as well as the details to make such goals real, and having children who are able to put into practice some of my dreams- I am not a runner-but am a believer- in the fact that opportunity allows for change, and that people working together be it running for a cause, or alerting the “world” that such causes are worthwhile, can and do, daily through little acts of kindness, create that wonderful word- GRACE – for each other. Amen.
Posted in Tutoring
Tagged Academic Practice, adolescence, Birthdays, celebration, challenges beliefs, education, Grace, mental health, RBC Run for the KIDS, Robin Williams, Sunnybrook Family Naviagation Project, tutoring
Profession or calling, enterprise or extension of self- how does one really decide?
Students entering grade 12, or first and second year University, or even earlier- here in Ontario, in grade eight, being asked to project forward, to pick their own learning stream, to choose applied or academic, to “guess” which courses truly will fulfill the goal of satisfied, independent adult “one day”. And then, to their surprise, when at University, to learn how many students ( just like them) are now changing direction, “discovering” through course selection new interests, new opportunities, and their own voice. Such a beautiful discovery; recognizing when to take to heart the comments of advisors and professors, when to decide one’s own goals, when and where to focus both attention and action.
When we look at pictures of High School students from the early 60s when streaming was in effect, almost an entire class when off to University in the pursuit of similar goals- I have heard first hand stories of a class in which all but one entered sciences, followed by medicine, and that one, first obtained a degree in commerce, then entered medicine as well! Today’s more individualized timetables suggest a more personalized approach to course selecting, but is this the reality?
A VIP for a Bank told me he hadn’t been considered good at math in High School, not showing interest- then took a commerce course and loved discussing what to do with “widgets”. For the record – he deals with a tremendous amount of “math” today. There are similar stories, and of course the current jokes about how it might be more worthwhile to put one’s hope into the non academic aspect of school, and encourage a student to focus on an area where showing talent; schools for the arts, and sports oriented programs seem geared to recognizing that there is more to an individual’s “one day-someday” plan than the letter grade, however, when a student’s inklings are for academics, then let us not put down the high scoring community. Too many students still suggest to me their middle school fear of being considered nerdy (actually they often use a much stronger term) if they do achieve, and wish to achieve top grades. It is therefore not surprising to recognize the way in which highest awards are often given to the newest newcomer students- students whose families continue to focus on education, students whose families risked a great deal to make life anew in Canada, and one of their dreams was a full education for their children.
When we collectively consider “school” we may need to reassess the messages we are sending to the very students involved: are we creating an inclusive environment where students needn’t wait till post secondary or later to begin to find their voice? Are we offering within the school the safety of genuine communication, between peers, between students and teachers, between parents and teachers, between administration and the entire community? Somewhere, between “get 100” and “fail forward” we need a new slogan; a concept of opportunity shared, versus hierarchical put downs that seem so accepted within our educational settings.
Together- whole child, whole heart, whole community; holistic education. Let’s get it together !
The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,
U.S. Supreme Court justice
To me the quote suggests that wisdom sees the individual in a situation and is able to listen and put reason and context into a judgement.
I joined Mothers against Drunk Driving before I became a mom. I am the last person to be in a position to defend a student for being slightly under the influence- but I also know kids- and know that schools inadvertently encourage drinking when they set up rules and arbitrarily decide who will be punished. I also know that kids have their own code of honour and expecting one student to call out fifty more is a ridiculous notion.
“Zero Tolerance”- imagine if that really were put into place beyond the school system- no need for a legal profession then/ after all, no need to weigh the crime of a stealing of a loaf of bread ( Victor Hugo – yes- Les Miserables) against the crime of cold blooded murder- no need to weigh anything at all- no need for perspective, understanding-balance- just… punishment. And no worries if the punishment fit the crime- OH – but that’s a dystopia- can’t possibly be what one wants from or for an education system.
Teach Literature to students really offering them an understanding of the issues at hand and sit back and listen to how much kids do care- and stop sending mixed messages. As a mom, I know the difference between a small infraction and a major one, and silently or vocally as the occasion demands praise the positive and give thanks that the testing the waters of adolescents is, in the grand scheme of things, about generally safe exposure to new ideas and sometimes, new tastes.
Change- Kids change – when adults let them; over punishment doesn’t allow for change and may in fact push the student in the opposite direction. People -and kids are people too- need to feel a sense of control over their lives. Remove that sense and all that is encouraged is rebellion. I know of a beautiful young student whose participation at her High School has been exemplary, whose one indiscretion is being held up without being weighed or even set beside the four years of non-stop team school participatory action. Zero-tolerance? As adults, as educators, as parents, we ought to be fighting tooth and nail against such an empty slogan; a zero-tolerance society is not going to create future leaders who are capable of recognizing exceptions.