Tag Archives: 2018

Being the Change: Making Connections

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 7.24.29 AM

In 2012, I joined #Cyberpd and the book we studied was Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. I’ve been thinking about this book as I work my way through Being the Change (no surprise that Opening Minds is listed in Ahmed’s References). Johnston taught me about the power of language as not only a force to build relationships with students and to support students in developing a dynamic learning stance, but also one that can build worlds. And isn’t this the end game for building social comprehension?

[Being the Change] is based on the idea that we can build skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations. Social comprehension, like academic comprehension, is how we make meaning from and mediate our relationship to the world. (xxv)

Teaching students to be able to have and manage candid conversations by confronting their biases and identifying the biases of others is about grappling with the power of words. And this takes time. Time to model what bias looks like and sounds like; time to locate the microaggressions in our lives; time to challenge labels and develop the confidence to assert ourselves.

While teaching is vital work, it is also complex work. The diversity that exists in each classroom stretches our capacity to see and hear each student, to have the right words at the right time to not only support the student in developing a ‘dynamic learning frame of mind’ but to connect the student to the larger community.

You can read my final post for the #Cyberpd 2012 Opening Minds here. Below is an excerpt from that post that connects the two texts.

on Opening Minds, first read 

Listen.
Create space and time for dialogue.
This means
—slow down.
No rushing in with the answer,
allow uncertainty to feed wonder and discovery.
Make room for confusion in conversation.
Give it permission to spur dialogue,

to build collaborative thinking
to create knowledge
together.

Remember that teaching changes worlds.

How will I know?
Listen to the students. What are they talking about?

There is the answer.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under #CyberPD

Being the Change: Context and Consideration

Sara Ahmed’s book Being the Change is a book I could’ve written.

But no author wants to hear that.

Actually, no one wants to hear that. It’s like looking at an abstract painting and declaring, “I could have painted that!”

Or my sister-in-law telling my mother years and years and years ago that Holly Cole, a Canadian jazz singer who was all the rage then, wasn’t a big deal. That she could do what Holly Cole was doing. The thing is, my mom said, Holly Cole is doing it; you’re not.

Sometimes artists’ work—visual art, dance, music, writing — explores and articulates ideas that resonate so deeply with our own that we think to ourselves, “Ya, I could paint that painting, dance that dance, sing that song, and yes, write that book”.

I love reading books like this one because I am not writing a book. But I am teaching my heart out, every day in my classroom. And books like Sara Ahmed’s can both affirm that work and challenge me to re-examine it.

So let me dive right in.

In the opening section of Being the Change, Ahmed sets the stage for teachers who want to build social comprehension with their students. Social comprehension is “how we make meaning from and mediate our relationship with the world” (xxv). What happens if our relationship with the world is damaged? How do we approach the world then?

I teach First Nations students and their relationship with the world is as varied as it is with all people, but First Nations people have had (and continue to have) a particularly difficult time generally and with education specifically. The history of cultural genocide in Canada is now well documented through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that produced a report with 94 calls to action. These calls are meant to spur Canadians-from the national government to the individual citizen-into a  journey towards reconciling the past and building a more just and equitable future for all.

I cannot here go into the range of responses from the Indigenous communities some of which have created opportunities for non-Native Canadians to personally engage with Indigenous people, art, books, music, and knowledge like #Next150

and some of which are focused on developing opportunities for Native and non-Native youth to come together because “youth are at the heart of redefining relationships between Indigenous & non-Indigenous people’s on this land” (CanadianRoots).

But there are other voices that articulate the depth of the work and ask the tough questions that are in no way rhetorical. Billy-Ray Belcourt, writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation, articulates a response to the TRC report in 2015 that demands a response:

What of the deeply stubborn traces of a governmental enterprise that lawfully desired our elimination, that corralled and still corals Indigenous peoples in prisons and cemeteries in order to disappear us and the ancient legal and political orders hidden in our breathing?

Reconciliation is an absolutely historiographic project, one that forces us to ask: in what way will we — the nation — relate to the past, and how will it give way to a future that might better contain our feelings in the good? Indeed, how might it re-distribute the good life to those for whom that fantasy has hitherto been outside arm’s reach?

Reconciliation is a contradictory object: it emerges out of bad feelings but, at the same time, stalls in the face of them in the present. It only wants to collect the good public emotions it needs to keep going, to push itself outside of History, to narrate a present bereft of legislated pain. But ours are bodies that still shake, that traffic in the bad because we know that a world reconciled is not necessarily a world decolonized.

In a world that wants you to constantly accumulate things — ideas, objects, capital, apologies — at the expense of literally everything else, not wanting emerges as a sore point, slowing things down and getting in the way, so to speak. It’s heartbreaking: knowing that this world didn’t want you in the first place, but that it nonetheless doubles as your condition of possibility, your everything, the only thing you have.

*italics my emphasis

This excerpt illustrates the troubled relationship that my students may have with the world. Trusting the world to hear them and see them for who they are is a huge leap, and it’s made wider because, through the act of disappearing a people, cultural knowledge and identity is stripped away, and re-discovering that lost knowledge is heartbreaking work.

What then is the role of the teacher?

What I decided many years ago was to get close to the stories of the students I teach (129): stories of their lives, their families, their history, and their culture. We explored our own identities by creating digital stories, word snapshots,  “I am” poems, Our Image stories, and blackout poems. We explored other perspectives and cultures through the texts we read, in particular, using events like the Global Read Aloud. And we built knowledge of our identities through collaborative projects with other schools. But since the work of social comprehension is as Ahmed reminds us “a constant recalibration of one’s relation with the self and with others” (xxx), it is important for me to now get close to the work itself and reflect on its current relevance and authenticity. Is the question “What does it mean to be Anishinabe in the 21st century?” that I have posed to students over the years, still relevant, meaningful, fair?

Being the Change has come to me at the right time, not because I am unfamiliar with social comprehension, but rather because I have been so immersed in this work. Reading this book now reminds me that now is the time to reflect, reassess, and renew.

I hope the #cyberpd community will confront and provoke my thinking, work, and pedagogical approach throughout this book study.

9 Comments

Filed under #CyberPD

#Cyberpd 2018

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 5.58.10 AM.png

This is my 5th year participating in #cyberpd. I teach First Nations students and the focus of the work is helping students find their voices, so that they can stand up to the effects of colonialism that they encounter in their lives. It’s not easy work. Sometimes the message is perceived negatively. Sometimes the students are indifferent. But sometimes students connect deeply with the ideas and weave them into their lives. I am always on the lookout for new approaches to support the tough conversations that oppression, reconciliation, and self-actualization generate. I am sure Being the Change and this community will offer me valuable learning.

 

If you are interested in participating in #CyberPD check out the community hashtag in Twitter and the G+ site.  And in this post, you can get the “nuts & bolts” for this professional learning event.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under #CyberPD

Building Baby’s Library: Part 3

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 7.54.17 AM.png

I’ve begun building a library for grandchildren. What a joy it is to peruse the shelves of books aimed at babies and toddlers! It’s been a long time since I spent time in that part of the bookstore and there are so many new treasures there. But, I am drawn to titles that my #nf10for10 community members have curated over the past five years. Their expertise is not to be ignored! So, without further ado, here is my 2018 list–a mix of all-star non-fiction titles and a few new ones to round the list out.

FROM THE #NF10FOR10 COMMUNITY ARCHIVES:

Award-winning artist Sylvia Long has teamed with up-and-coming author Dianna Aston to create this gorgeous and informative introduction to eggs. From tiny hummingbird eggs to giant ostrich eggs, oval ladybug eggs to tubular dogfish eggs, gooey frog eggs to fossilized dinosaur eggs, it magnificently captures the incredible variety of eggs and celebrates their beauty and wonder.The evocative text is sure to inspire lively questions and observations. Yet while poetic in voice and elegant in design, the book introduces children to more than 60 types of eggs and an interesting array of egg facts. Even the endpapers brim with information. A tender and fascinating guide that is equally at home being read to a child on a parent’s lap as in a classroom reading circle.

The biggest snake, the anaconda, can swallow a deer or goat whole. The smallest mammal, the Etruscan shrew, could easily sleep in a teaspoon. In a striking full-color collage, each spread of Biggest, Strongest, Fastest portrays an animal that stands out in the animal world as the largest, slowest, longest lived. Readers can see the animal’s size in relation to something familiar, and a chart on the last page indicates the size, weight, and diet of each animal, as well as where it can be found in the wild. Biggest, Strongest, Fastest is an entertaining, informative introduction to the world records” held by fourteen members of the animal kingdom. “

We can be sure of this: It’s a circle without end. It’s pumpkin seeds to pumpkins to pumpkin seeds again! This treat of a picture book comes cloaked in the colors of fall. Bouncy verse and glowing photographs show a backyard pumpkin patch move through its natural cycle — a bug’s eye and a bird’s high view of seeds sprouting, flowers blooming, bees buzzing, pumpkins growing . . .and then going back to earth.

The clouds drift across the bright blue sky–all except one. Little Cloud trails behind. He is busy changing shapes to become a fluffy sheep, a zooming airplane, and even a clown with a funny hat. Eric Carle’s trademark collages will make every reader want to run outside and discover their very own little cloud.

Over the snow, the world is hushed and white.

But under the snow is a secret world of squirrels and snowshoe hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals who live through the winter, safe and warm.

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW takes readers on a cross country ski trip through the winter woods to discover the secret world of animals living under the snow.

How do snow crystals form? What shapes can they take? Are no two snow crystals alike? These questions and more are answered inside this exploration of the science of snow, featuring photos of real snow crystals in all their beautiful diversity. Perfect for reading on winter days, this book by a nature photographer and a snow scientist will inspire wonder and curiosity about the marvels of snow. Snowflake-catching instructions are also included for aspiring young snow scientists!

Wonderful Worms encourages an appreciation for the small creatures of the earth by explaining the vital role that earthworms play in the planet’s ecosystem. The book also contains informative charts and cross-section illustrations of the worm’s underground environment.

ADD TO THE LIST SOME NEW TITLES:

Now babies can learn all about the things that go in a book that’s indestructible. With call-out identifications on each spread, Things That Go! is a vibrant introduction to those irresistible vehicles that fly, drive, sail, dig, lift, dump, and more.

Apparently, this book is 100 percent baby-proof, chew-proof, rip-proof, and drool-proof, which sounds amazing. Indestrucibles are not new, new, but they are certainly new for me!

Look for Momo hiding on a farm, in a bookstore, at a construction site, and in other unlikely locations (the photos are also loaded with other hidden objects for kids and parents to find together). Perfect for bedtime reading, car trips, playtime, or anytime, Let’s Find Momo is part art book, part puzzle book, and all fun!

BORDER COLLIES! Whether the dog’s name is Momo or Satchmo, we love border collies. Here is our Satchmo looking as intense as only a border collie can.

Finally, LOVE.

Love is an abstract idea and artists of all ilks attempt to capture its essence. I needed to include this book because love is not fiction, is it?

Here Matt de La Pena and Loren Long illustrate love for us in ways that are deeply satisfying and terrifying. They recognize the complexity of love and its ability to sustain us in spite of its intangibility and its guises.

This book will always come at the right time for us as we work to understand ourselves and others in our lives.

 

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.



Posts in this series.

Building Baby’s Library 

Building Baby’s Library: Some old. Some new. Some Tried and true.



#nf10for10

#PB10for10 Information

by Cathy Mere

Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We’ll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn’t easy, is it?  We’ve seen some crafty ways to get around that number.
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don’t have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one — or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week — there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three.

So…

Pull out your library cards, load up your Amazon accounts, or better yet – plan a trip to your local bookstore on August 11th because you’re going to be unable to resist checking out (or purchasing) a few new picture books.  We hope to see you on the 10th!

A Few Historical and Informational Posts:

2 Comments

Filed under #nf10for10

#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!

image

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.”

3 Comments

Filed under Year End Reflection

2018: One Word.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.57.30 PM

Last Thursday (December 28, 2017), I was invited to join #ONedMentors to chat about #OneWordOnt. I had given my word lots of thought…

But at the time of the invitation, I had not definitively chosen my word. I was leaning towards “empower” because the students’ feedback shone a light on their fears and showed me where I need to focus my efforts. I need to work at building their confidence and empowering them.

So far so good, right?

tattooerr-cart before the horse

What I hadn’t yet done though was complete the process of vetting the word. I think I know what the word means, but I am keen to discover how others ‘see’ the word. Like Jen Aston, I want to consider to what contexts my word connects. Like Derek Rhodenizer and his guests (on his weekly voicED podcast, “A Word in Progress with Derek”), I want to ‘poke and prod’ the word to see what it will give up. Like Stephen Hurley, etymologist extraordinaire, I want to dig a little deeper into the word because my knowledge of the word may only reflect current usage and not its historical meanings or connotations.

While “empower” means

image

it also means to “boost confidence” which is the way I was thinking about the word until I did Google Image search on the words “empower education quotes”. To my surprise, the page returned did not support many ideas about enabling. Rather, it reflected back to me a word that emphasizes power and societal/class struggle. There are contexts where this understanding of “empower” is necessary and right, but this is not what I am after.

I kept digging.

I find John Wenger’s article on empowerment revealing. His audience is the workplace leader or manager, but I don’t think that matters because as a therapist he comes at the challenge of motivating and engaging others with much the same perspective as do educators. Here he unpacks his thinking about the word and why you can’t empower anyone.

 I bring my understanding of the word “empower” from my days as a therapist when I was working with clients whose lives were characterised by a deeply felt lack of power, or potency, in their lives. They were not the star of their own life stories, in other words. They were subject to decisions made by child protection authorities or social service authorities or parental authority or some other kind of powerful person or statutory body which held sway over important aspects of their day-to-day lives. While it is true that so many people in their lives were the agents of disempowerment, it seemed to me that to presume that I could empower them was just the opposite side of the same coin … Empower, to me, presumes that the one who empowers has the power to begin with and grants it to the other; it reinforces a paradigm of power and control to which the other person is subject. If I am the granter of power, there is still a power imbalance. This relationship presumes that I hold some kind of hierarchical authority over you and that, only by my good grace, are you exercising any authority. While I am in the position of granting power, I remain in the position of taking it back.

“Empower” is not the right word for me. I want to provide the means by which my students can develop the courage to take on their fears. I want to equip my students with the tools that can support their courageous decisions and actions. I want to encourage them to set goals, prioritize their studies and focus on personal progress. I do not want to leave any doubt as to where the power lies. 

Wenger argues for the use of “enable” over “empower”, teasing out the subtle differences between the words to make his case. And although this word can have some negative connotations, I am compelled by Wenger’s thinking. To “enable” is to emphasize “capability development and a worldview that, when fully able, people can put their abilities to good use.” And to enable,

encompasses what someone does to ensure that others have the requisite capabilities and skills to carry out a job well, to take up their own power (potency) and when necessary, showing them the door to gaining new capabilities and skills. It seems to be more akin to equipping and supplying than conferring power. Once equipped, the enabler can then get out of the way and let the person access their own power to get on with it.

Enable—>faciliate, make possible, provide the means. This is a good place to start.

Last year, I believed that providing opportunities for students to make choices in their learning would help them become persistent and productive learners. I was wrong. As one student clearly stated in her feedback to me,

Choices revolve around one of the worst phrases anyone could ever be told, ‘It’s up to you.’

This year I hope to enable my students to develop the courage to take on the academic challenges that they need to face to reach their goals and to make decisions about their learning.

Stay tuned for what courage in English class might look like, and thanks for stopping by!

#OneWordOnt 2015— Innovate

#OneWordOnt 2016— Discipline

#OneWordOnt 2017— Choices

 

8 Comments

Filed under Teaching