Tag Archives: Toronto

A tribute and a response: here is to The Crazy Ones

In the wake of the shocking and sad news about actor Robin Williams, the discussion has turned to the hope that bringing awareness to the issues surrounding depression could prevent such happenings.  As someone who very much was disappointed to learn that the recent show-in which Mr Williams starred- The Crazy Ones* -had not been picked up for a second season, it seems fitting to note that the character Robin Williams  played in this TV comedy was a recovering addict- from the potentially lethal combination of drugs and alcohol.  Somehow the connection between addiction and alcohol and drug abuse (prescription or otherwise) and depression must be made.  And we must move beyond chicken and egg theories ( which came first ) to what may exacerbate rather than relieve an individual.

I currently live in Toronto, a city from where the exploits of the current mayor ( drugs, alcohol) have gone global, be they featured on a Jimmey Kimmel show or simply bandied about on various forms of social media.  Of great concern as an educator is whether enough young people see the diseases for what they are; addiction should not be glorified in any shape or form.  Why anyone turns to alcohol or drugs is a moot point- the options to obtain both merely a matter of cash.  And many young people have access to cash, and see images of exciting lifestyles as obtainable with a little extra help from the right pill, or boozy concoction.  This is one of the reasons I wished that more people would have noticed Robin Williams’ recent show- the show never made light of the addictions, instead it continuously brought home the message that while being an addict the character had manged to accomplish a number of things- growing the ad agency for example, the focus per episode was on the recovered/recovering aspects of the person, attempting stronger relationships with his staff, his family, and his new clients.  It is therefore even more sad that the show lacked the strong following it deserved; do we not appreciate the example of strength the Robin Williams character displayed? 

I for one intend to dispel some myths when teaching this year-and highlight instead that: not all writers are drunks (legend of the Hemingway character as example) , not all comics are depressive (Robin Williams will now be seen as suggestive), not all musicians burn out young (Michael Jackson) not all successful famous people die untimely deaths (Marilyn Monroe)…

And I will ask students to find their own examples of individuals who surpass the odds- not merely the typical SAT type board exam question dealing with adversity, but moving beyond this to the question of where myths and or urban legends come from and what positive and negative effects such urban myths/legends may hold.  I doubt we will solve the problems in these classes, but at the very least we will be questioning culture and attitude towards both public displays of excess and private suffering.  It is not about rearing a tea totaling generation, it is about wanting the future generation to recognize that no one starts out as an addict- and to encourage students to realize that more and more society is trying to focus on issues that deal with mental as well as physical health- not from the quick fix of a pill or a drink- but from the long term stabilizing aspects of community, participation and education.  Together; people getting stronger. 


*For more about the show and its characters see the tribute offered by Sarah Michelle Geller who played his daughter in The Crazy Ones


Happy Canada Day- July 1, 2014

Canada 1867-2014 – still young- still growing- come and visit!

Recognizing Influencers: Professor Maxine Greene, Professor Roxana Ng

Bartholomew Cubbins* is not the only one to wear multiple hats! Dr. Seuss had the special talent of crafting children’s stories that stay in the minds of the adults who first read them aloud to their children.  And which one of us hasn’t on any given day, wondered about the number of hats we too wear.  Or wished at times to throw some “stuffy” old concepts out the window!  Including concepts about ourselves, and the roles we “must” assume as we move through our day.  There is many a teacher who has wished to laugh out loud along with the student “mischief maker” in his or her room, many a parent who knows that “because we felt like it” may not be the best note to write upon a student’s return- to- class,  many an administrator who would rather…

What’s particularly lovely about the images in the Seuss’ book is the bemused expressions on Bartholomew; the final conclusion made even more remarkable for its opportunity to lift Bartholomew to a new station.  In such a fashion do many of us today, “try on” different positions, in keeping with the modern expectation that change is not only good- but required.  And like Bartholomew, for whom the hats are merely toppings, the core of each of us remains central, centered, and in constant development.  How then do we juggle all the different expectations? I like the idea that balance is an illusion, that Darwin and his concept of adaptation beats any kind of direct arrow of progress, and that growth indeed may occur in increments, but nevertheless, change happens. 

This blog owes its existence to numerous mentors- the teachers along my way who have not merely influenced, but at times challenged, surprised, and appreciated my inquiry into how to make /do/ explore/ learn more-

It is because of their encouragement that I was able to try on numerous hats, anthropologist, ethnographer, museum educator, teacher, Instructor, workshop coordinator, administrator, and on a personal level, it is my children and the wide variety of students, children and adults, and their families, who remind me how much I have always believed that it is important to be a part of something larger than oneself.


Earlier today I read about the passing of two very different, talented, educators, whose passion for their projects continues to influence me: Professor Maxine Greene of Manhattan, and Professor Roxana Ng of Toronto.  Their writings are not merely books on my library shelf, but words that engage and challenge, and suggest the importance of “here and now” for educators interested in challenging the status quo and contributing to encouraging the involvement of others.  One was most interested in what and how the Arts can be of value in education -Professor Greene- the other, how education can be of value and can be evaluated for the immigrant worker- Professor Ng.  Together they create an image of women, insisting on the twin values of human rights and economic justice, anti-racist, anti-standards based discriminatory practice, hands-on in their actions as leaders in education and women as change makers.  Others have written and will write about their multiple contributions to the field of education; this post is a simple “Thank you”.





The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins*– Dr. Seuss

Reflections on “Apologies”, a Mayor/ and learning moments*

Maybe it is because I grew up in the 70s, when Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw  made famous the idea that “love means never having to say you are sorry”  in the film Love Story  (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066011/), but having listened these past few days and once again today to Toronto’s current mayor, Rob Ford, stating “again, I apologize” (he left out the part about “drunken stupor” today, replacing it with “acting on impulse”) it seems that his declarations of “Love for the city” while apologizing for his actions, are finally wearing thin – what then is behind apologies?  

First off, we teach children to “say you are sorry”, and dutifully, many will.  Any parent or teacher after a period of working with others can become familiar with the difference between the apology offered up because one was caught versus the apology offered generously when the giver genuinely feels remorse at hurting someone.   The first type of apology is, as stated earlier – duty bound – expected – and rarely results in an understanding between parties.  The action is done, period.  The second type of apology may be the result of deep communication between or among people, or it may be the result of soul searching on the part of an individual – and I will digress for a moment to put in a positive word for the Arts and how they can encourage empathy; many pieces of ‘great literature’ deal with this soul searching conflict.   Back to the  problem that we, too often, encourage that simplistic “say you are sorry”  educational construct, beginning in preschool and continuing.  And the message absorbed could be, that the statement itself is enough.  

Sincerity though is different from duty.  Sincerity suggests that a person has some understanding of the pain caused, and in this case, Mayor Ford’s numerous apologies sound hollow.  He appears sorry to have been caught.  Does he appear to demonstrate understanding of how damaging the actions may have been?  NO.  Back to school, and places where educators have the opportunity to discuss just this difference in the meaning behind or within an apology.  Mayor Ford has mentioned he has been in a “drunken stupor” as if this were an acceptable excuse.  If he is encouraged to join a 12 step program he may again be told to “apologize”.  As both a parent and a teacher I have seen and heard all kinds of apologies. Little is more heart wrenching than being privy to the sincerely felt sorrow of one individual or group of people who actually acknowledge where and when they acted, perhaps without thinking, or, yes, maliciously.  Rarely is that genuine apology the result of sanctions or threats; it arises from something else.  Sincere commitment to understand another’s feelings.  As adults, parents, educators and in the case of Torontonians, voters, we are in a position to not only “practice acts of kindness” but to also demonstrate empathy.  The learning experience that Mayor Ford’ s implosion offers is strong: we can show why empathy allows us to recognize each other’s emotion; we can show whether we believe the public apologies ( recall, apologies given under threat of sanctions ); and we can take it outside the Toronto arena and look at relationships between and among countries.  Finally we can speak among ourselves, with our children, about the understanding that is reflected through our actions, and how saying “I’m sorry” needs to be accompanied by an action that extends beyond the words.  

Back to Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw  – watch the movie …. 🙂

* learning moments are like teaching moments only even better ’cause they allow for insights on both sides.