Category Archives: Year End Reflection

#Oneword 2019: Dignity

I’ve done lots of work with students on the topic of dignity over the years. In 2013, my classes participated in Global Dignity Day for the first time. We learned about dignity and created products like collaborative poems on the topic.

In 2014, I built on our prior learning to personalize the idea of dignity. A post I penned four years ago called “Reclaiming Storytelling” describes the work done to address both the overarching question “Do teens really have to care about dignity and tolerance? and the idea that digital storytelling may be a way for Anishnabek students to reconnect and learn about their cultural worldview and perspective.

With the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015, I embarked on a collaborative inquiry project with Jaclyn Calder called #craftreconciliation. Woven throughout this exploration of the report are the ideas of dignity: identity, tolerance, equity, racism, gratitude, self-worth, respect, and diversity. To answer the question, “What does reconciliation look like?”, students needed to unpack not only what it meant for others to reconcile, but what it meant for them to receive reconciliation. In other words, how could they think about reconciliation as an act of reciprocity? Is this an appropriate question? What other approaches might be meaningful?

These broad themes also shaped the work in my grade 9 class.

Reinventing Room 121 blog post from February 2015

So why “dignity” this year?

I have had a beleaguered year and in an effort to right the ship, my work with students shifted from an explicit discussion of dignity to that of gratitude. Upon finishing Alan Gratz’s Refugee, I launched my classes into a #12DaysofGratitude event. Each day students considered a pre-set prompt on an aspect of gratitude. I opened each conversation with references to the novel and then wrote my own gratitude tweet in front of them. The last prompt asked students to consider, “What do you wish for in 2019?”

So as I headed into the winter break, I had a number of obvious choices for #onewordont: gratitude, notice, note, attentive, observe. And yet, I hesitated. As each day passed, I remained noncommittal.

I ran different ideas past my husband. Then my daughter.

I talked to my 4 month-old puppies.

Eliot (named after George Eliot) and Socrates (named after..Socrates)

What about perseverance? Or persist? Or health? Or conversation?

I really wasn’t getting anywhere. In frustration, I put the whole endeavour aside and dove into the festive season. A diffuse learning approach is what I needed. Do a bit of baking and cooking. Play some cards. Tell some stories. Catch up on favourite podcasts.

On the morning of December 29, I listened to Seth.

And discovered, or rediscovered dignity, that it encompasses acceptance, gratitude, equity, respect, trust, forgiveness, and the idea of noticing or to see.

In Refugee, my students and I were repeatedly confronted with the power of being seen or not seen. In the end, being seen saved the day. The realization and recognition of our shared humanity make the world a better place.

Ultimately, I am compelled by Seth’s notion that

when we see each other, when we grant each other dignity, instead of stripping it away, we become more human.

This is what we need today, the opportunity to see and be seen so that we create a real opportunity for reciprocity in our personal and our public lives.

The alternative is soul-crushing.

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#ECOOchat takes on #OneWordOnt

Happy New Year to Everyone!

The Ontario Educator Community at large is embracing 2018 with …. well, with words that will support, guide, and possibly teach them throughout the year.

Yes, my friends, #OneWordOnt is back bigger than ever this year and to help spread the word (intended), #ECOOchat has invited #OneWordOnt to take over their next session!

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Essentially, #OneWordOnt is a community of educators who have decided to use one word to focus their attention and growth for the year. You can learn more about this community by reading this Introductory Post, by following the hashtag #OneWordOnt in Twitter, or by joining the G+ Community of bloggers.

Please join me and the ECOO Board of Directors this Tuesday, January 9 at 8:00 pm for an #ECOOchat on Twitter for the conversation to inspire you to choose your #OneWord!

 to send this message to Twitter – “I’m attending #ECOOchat on Tuesday, January 9 at 8 PM to discuss #OneWordONT.”

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2017 #OneWordOnt Reflection

It’s hard to believe another year is at its end and that it’s time to reflect on my #OneWordOnt for 2017.

Remember how I told you about wanting my students to see the walls in their lives? The ones that interfere with their learning? The ones that hold them back from engaging in and with the broader community? The walls we grapple with everyday?

I also told you about choices–how we make choices

“to participate, to be optomistic … to inquire, be curious and to challenge the status quo … To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty” (Seth Godin).

We began the semester with a frank conversation about creativity, openness, and fear.

We created “Stories of Me” and posted them in a public gallery. 

We built blogs where we posted our thinking about the course content.

We read self-selected novels.

We conferenced about our reading.

We collaboratively annotated texts using Hypothes.is. 

We curated our best work into an Evidence of Learning Document. 

We made choices in our learning everyday.

You know, decisions about criteria, about our learning goals, and where we needed to go next.

But the choices remained narrow, superficial, conventional.

So, we found the walls. We can see them now.

20171228_14484220171228_14491420171228_14495920171228_145035We just didn’t tear them down.

My next step is to find ways to empower enable students to make the choices to have the courage to tear down their walls.

Three guesses what my word for 2018 is. The first two don’t count.

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Choices into Hope

I don’t regularly follow American news. Nor do I follow their politics of the day. Heck, I didn’t pay attention to the most recent U.S. election until after Trump won. It’s not my country. I can neither effect events that happen there nor can I be affected by the decisions made there (well maybe, but let’s not get into that now). I often don’t even join the Twitter conversations between American educators (or British or Australian) in my PLN. Too much of the context is different.

But, I have been moved by Michelle Obama.

The first time was this past summer when looking for mentor texts for the upcoming school year, I stumbled upon a Poynter post called “8 writing lessons from Michelle Obama’s DNC speech”.

I was hooked. The writing, the delivery, and the passion of the speech reeled me in.

So, when I saw mention of Michelle’s last speech as a First Lady fly by me in my Twitter feed on Friday, I didn’t hesitate to curate it for later viewing. This morning while making chicken soup, I listened and I watched Michelle Obama’s final message at the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year celebration.

 

A strong contender for my 2017 word of the year was hope for all of the reasons that Michelle states:

Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.

Hers is a message for all students, in every corner of the planet. One that young people need to hear repeatedly.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people.

But it is also a message that clearly spells out students’ responsibility.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Sometimes students (and adults) think that choice means freedom from facing obstacles in their lives and freedom to do only that which pleases them. Michelle Obama’s speech to young people shows us that’s not the case. Rather, we need to learn to make the choices that make hope possible.

Full Remarks Transcript

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