Tag Archives: respect

Talking and Walking- in another’s shoes…

A wonderful on-going project in Toronto involves encouraging immigrant women to share their stories via a pair of shoes, reminiscent of “if these walls could talk…” only with the shoes actually becoming the focal point for the story telling.  What a lovely reminder for what really is the concept of empathy– the ability to not only give someone the opportunity to share stories, but for others to take a moment and attempt to understand the stories, and then, to grasp at the significance of the stories being told.   Like many a person, I too have a “junk drawer”, one of those places that collects what a person is not yet ready to throw out.  Objects in that drawer hold little significance for anyone else, but like the shoes on display, (see: http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/snapshot_exhibits/theshoeproject/index.shtml   to read each of the short stories gathered over the three years of the project), may remind me of events, people, and life’s changes.  With the school year coming to a close, it seems a lovely idea to have students write about something that they might have found when cleaning out desks, lockers, or even helping in the lunch room or gym.  Over the years I have used a beautiful book by Sherri Fitch – If You Could Wear My Sneakers – main poem found here: http://www.edu.pe.ca/vrcs/resources/poetry/text/poems/what%27s%20fair/ifyoucould.html , to discuss children’s rights and matched this set of rhyming tales to other courses, political science and social science, not only the writing lesson of a language arts class, and not only with younger students.  Sometimes a little bit of nonsense rhyme allows the older student to relax about what is really a very complex topic.  For how difficult it truly can be to move beyond labels, stereotypes, cliques (think school- really), professional titles (think work and socializing, please), and other inscribed role playing that individuals are expected to comply with.  To shake it up a bit, and if the students don’t object, objects could be placed in a giant container and then redistributed- two stories per object, one by the original owner and one made-up tale by whomever pulled it out of the “hat”. With one overriding rule prior to the sharing of the stories- no criticisms of the tales.  Respect being tantamount to encouraging empathy, beginning as young as possible sounds like a plan. 

 

to read the Toronto Star write up go here:http://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2014/06/03/the_shoe_project_lets_listeners_walk_a_mile_in_an_immigrants_shoes.html

 

 

 

 

 

Honour your kids

A friend sent me an email with a link to an older article published in The Chronicle for Higher Education in 2010- two years ago when I was starting this Tutoring venture.  The link opens to a story on a tutor who happily is a ghost writer for students- the friend had been worried that I might grow disillusioned quickly as this trend to hire tutors specifically to cheat on behalf of students appeared to be growing.  Fortunately I continue to connect with parents who wish to have their children grow and develop their own skills in Academics and Socially- not to merely purchase a paper or have me “just sit beside the student throughout his/her online exam” – as one parent did (not- so- subtly) request.   

Have you listened to your children lately? Have you heard them when they say things like “so and so is in the smart group”  and aren’t referring to themselves? If yes, please find an activity that you know the child excels at- or if not excels, then actually enjoys- for it is far more important to continue to help your child grow in his/her best fashion than to be grade focused.  I have heard students excitedly share insights about topics that they have become curious about but which weren’t directly on the school curriculum, and definitely weren’t going to be featured on a standardized test.  And I wished I could bottle that excitement and display it so the child would receive credit.

All of us are constantly picking up subtle clues about where we fit within different systems.  K-12, is a lengthy expanse of time and thankfully one in which students will be exposed to a variety of situations, teachers, classmates, and I hope, challenged by ideas.  With the “new” buzzword being “innovation” and the suggestion that perhaps emphasis on standardized tests doesn’t in fact encourage lateral thinking because, to do well on these tests students must respond to the tests in a particular fashion, problem solving is being seen only from one perspective.  Problem solving is not just the ability to combine ideas and “create” new methodologies- problem solving is also the ability to work through a problem – as basic as this sounds.  There is an irony in this situation for the student who is outspoken, who is generating personal connections, who may try to challenge a teacher or, without trying, be seen as challenging to the teacher, can find the confines of the classroom, stifling.  If your child does complain about the above, respect the complaint.  Recognize the grade for a score on activities presented within a classroom and not as a mark that a student (like the Scarlet Letter!) must bear. 

If your child’s “problem” is getting through the school year, some questions to ask the teacher(s) as this term comes to close:

1) Could you tell me something positive about my child?

2) What have you noticed my child enjoying in your class? Which activities did He/She seem most engaged with?

3) Have you any suggestions for what gaps you are noticing in his/her learning?

and finally 4) What could we do to organize differently for the coming September?

Thank you for honouring me with the opportunity to work with your children: I love tutoring and feel lucky being able to share this excitement for learning, together with students and their families.

 

 

 

What might really help?

I remember when the concept of distance education was being discussed in graduate school only from the potential to aid students in rural areas or students who might not otherwise have had access to teachers.  Many an hour was spent debating the merits of this “future form of teaching and learning” and this was only a little over a decade ago.  Today we take for granted the relative simplicity and beauty of communicating over distances thanks to personal technology. But with this growth in on-line learning has developed a new breed of student- the student who will buy a credit without doing the work. Of course, not all students who sign up for distance education plan on cheating, in fact, I think many do not even realize that this is what they are doing in asking a tutor to “just sit beside me and answer the questions when I take the test”.  Or am I still being willfully naive?

     A recent rash of requests to do just that – to either write the paper for a student, or to take the test for a student has made me wonder.  Though not yet an epidemic, is this the future of education?  And I know that there are “tutors” willing to do the full work for the student which says something else about the education system- too many underemployed.   

  Yes competition can be fierce. Today’s student is growing up tech savvy and a student’s discovering ways around a system is not something new.  What to me is new is that adults are often behind the student and encouraging the practice.  When we as tutors share knowledge in such a way that students, regardless of age or background, can feel empowered and able to use the skills and move beyond the basics to create their own set of “personal, practical knowledge”  then as tutors we will have achieved a basic goal of education: to encourage curiosity in others, to facilitate growth.  “Character education”, “problem solving skills” “lessons in empathy”, are the new buzz words and hardly a curriculum can be found that isn’t touting these phrases.  What might really help? Reading skills everyone, comprehension practice, readings from the literature of other countries/ other cultures/ other time periods.  Learning by doing happens when the words on the page have an effect on the reader and affect change.  Change is good – it is a part of growing.  I challenge you to find a classic, modern or traditional, or one of today’s “best sellers”, that doesn’t, in one way or another, through the story, further the development of all three.  Active reading is a wonderful key.

Sound and light shows

Given the flooding that recently hit the east coast I now realize that the storm I was listening to and seeing flash across my otherwise calm skies managed to leave a great deal of damage in its wake.  This note was written on Saturday evening, August 27th, and upon wakening to news of the flood I hesitated to share it… see post script as well, thank you …

It’s raining, it’s pouring and the last thing I want to do is fall asleep and start snoring…I confess, I LIKE a good rain storm.  The sound and light show this past hour has been terrific, rock concert loud with electricity appearing to be bouncing off the lower than usual flying planes on route to landing.  And I am the only one on my street standing outside revelling in it! It could come from my enjoyment of movies, where rain is such an often used symbol for change, but I; I don’t know, but ever since I first learned about Thor and the others who might be wreaking havoc or simply playing a game of bowling in the sky I have enjoyed contemplating what (other than the scientific facts) might be going on up in the skies. Which brings me back to the Humanities, the wonderful fables, analogies, myths, legends, archetypal legends, and narratives that suggest how rain is both a fertility symbol (plants do need rain to grow) and a cleansing, quieting prelude to new beginnings.  The images are strong and can be found throughout cultures- My front door was wide open, and Nature’s Rain Stick was helping me plan for tomorrow-

The News of Hurricane Irene brought home the strong potent reminder that “Nature” can be a lot more than merely entertaining.  While I had enjoyed the power that the sky was sharing, and been distracted from personal worries by the local storm (Toronto was not affected by Hurricane Irene) many were experiencing horrific scenes:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/americas/irenes-death-toll-jumps-as-us-towns-battle-floods-millions-wait-for-power/article2145442/

“We were expecting heavy rains,” said Bobbi-Jean Jeun of Clarksville, a hamlet near Albany, N.Y. “We were expecting flooding. We weren’t expecting devastation. It looks like somebody set a bomb off.”

Irene killed at least five people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The first known casualty was a woman who died trying to cross a swollen river in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The death toll for 11 eastern U.S. states had stood at 21 as of Sunday night, then rose sharply to at least 38 as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were struck by falling trees or electrocuted by downed power…”  (Globe and Mail see ink above)

Not exactly the simple poetry of idyllic walks or fantastic dreams- a harsh reminder to respect nature and our place within it.