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Monthly Archives: April 2012

21st Century Renaissance in Education

Will we be 21st Century Renaissance people? This question emerged from a recent conversation with a Grade 8 Social Studies class. We discussed a broad, nuanced, and emergent worldview.

Specialization and expertise are not the calling cards of success. Adaptation and transformation are at the heart of contemporary education. Transformation is not just a synonym for change and is reflective of  dramatic and systemic change. I understand transformation as a mindful, incremental process producing real change over time framed around evolving eloquent questions. What change do we need? New conversations about reimagining education producing compassionate leaders for a 21st Century Renaissance. What role will education play in helping young people become the leaders of this Renaissance? Is public education capable of transformation? Are there leaders capable of bringing forth tomorrow’s leadership? What will education of this nature look like?

Renaissance is rebirth and a time of metamorphosis and transformation. What emerges from the chrysalis stage? Ideas mature and become capable of further adaptation.  Human endeavour requires rich, inclusive conversations for profound change to occur instead of  superficial patching what the outdated models that exist. We need to prepare the soil for transformative conversations focused on eloquent questions where answers are not assumed before the conversation and invite diverse views during the course of the conversational journey.

Subversive Seuss?

Fact is stranger than fiction. Charles Adler, in an op-ed column “We don’t need no ‘educrats’”, pointed out the sometimes subversive nature of Dr. Seuss. There is more to the story than Mr. Adler revealed in his article and a more detailed account is at “Yertle the Turtle Deemed ‘Too Political’ for Fragile Canadian Children.”

I am impressed with the dedicated bureaucratic representative of Prince Rupert [British Columbia] School District who acted to make sure susceptible elementary students were not corrupted by the seditious literature of a beloved, albeit radical, children’s author. After all, those small, impressionable beings will enroll in university level classes to learn about Paulo Freire‘s critical theory or Leonardo Boff‘s liberation theology and we could have a more just, humane world to live in. When I grow up, can I be paid to sit in an ivory tower and be out of touch with the real world? The jurisdiction representative stated “It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging.” Oh my God, political messaging; what next? What is he talking about?

There is a larger context. The British Columbia Teacher’s Federation and the province of British Columbia are involved in a bitter labour dispute. The teacher was not reading a book to students in the classroom, but the quote was taken by a teacher to a meeting with management.

If there is a political statement being made here, it is in the impact on children’s learning. The book’s line “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights” points to those with the least. Dr. Seuss spoke to the greatest measure of servant-leadership. What growth do we see in those with the greatest needs? When will someone speak for the children and serve and lead at the same time? Will adults need to grow up first so that growth can be fulfilled and measured? Neither side gets a pass here.

Part of the problem for children’s learning is the use of polarizing language in the dispute. Do the children care if there is a management side or teacher side? Are adults locked in a political game replete with childish behaviours to gain real or imagined political advantage while using children as pawns? This suggests questions, not answers. Are these not someone’s children? What are parents doing? What does this say about the state of public education? We talk a good story in education and say all the right things, but I am embarrassed and angry, as an educator and as a citizen in a purportedly democratic country, when I read articles of this nature. What drew us to this vocation? Or is it just a job now? What are the qualities exemplified by great teachers: compassion, caring, collaboration, etc? Are we living up to those when we talk and act this way?

Mr. Adler has this mostly right. What is missing is the following question, “When was the last time some people were in a classroom, rolled up sleeves, and taught children?”

Seattle in Pictures

I took these pictures on the ferry ride from Bainbridge Island to Seattle on the Sunday I returned home from the retreat. I found it interesting that I could see such wonder and look across to see the human touch.

This is a picture of Mount Rainier. I love the mountains. We drive past Mount Robson regularly.

Here is Seattle and the Space Needle with the mountains framing the horizon.

Kathy liked this one with the sailboat and the mountains as I looked back towards Bainbridge.

Enjoy!

Live Your Way into the Answers

Here are words to live by offered to us by the German poet Rainer Marie Rilke. Enjoy.

ivonprefontaine:

Here is a little nature delight for all of you out there. There is some amazing photography to bring the beauty of nature to us. What if we celebrated Earth Day everyday? What would that look like?

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

This Sunday, April 22nd will mark the 42nd observance of Earth Day. According to Earth Day Network, “More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.”

To inspire you to get in on this year’s celebration, here are eight amazing nature-related blogs on WordPress.com:

Birdlightwind.com

70degreeswest-explore.com

Leahyetter.WordPress.com

Drawandshoot.me

Beingmark.com

Beetlesinthebush.WordPress.com

Theblondecoyote.com

Lookingatthewest.com

So, how will you celebrate Earth Day 2012? Maybe Picnic for the Planet, or plant a tree? Whatever you do, be sure to share it on your blog! And don’t forget to tag your post with Earth Day to make it easier for others to find.

For more cool nature blogs, check out our collection of Recommended Blogs, and add topics like Nature and Earth Day to follow in your Reader.

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Educational Theory in Practice

Where I work is a place that can bring me great joy. The word work is the wrong word actually. Since beginning this ‘gig’ 12 years ago, I refer to it as the place I teach and learn. I had two chances to interview for this role. Most of us only get one chance. I made the most of the second chance and the rest has been history.

What do I do? I teach and learn in a small school setting combining a traditional attendance model and home schooling. It was the ‘brain child’ of several families almost 20 year ago. They believed there was something of worth to take from both models and they helped to build a hybrid school.

I teach multi-grade junior high students three core subjects: English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science while students attend each Tuesday and Thursday plus every other Monday. We provide complementary programming i.e. curling, food sciences, and archery. Students learn Math at home guided by their parents and with help from the teacher, in this case me. The home school component occurs on the non-attendance days and the teacher conducts regular home visits on those days, as well. Home visits help the child and/or parent with contentious Math concepts and build relationships with families.

This community uses a three-legged stool approach. Students, parents, and educators are all important contributors to the success and quality of learning and we all are learners on a journey together. Parents learn curriculum and teaching strategies assisting the learning of their children. They assist in the classroom on a regularly scheduled basis. Students grow to accept the learning journey belongs to them. They are companions in the learning enterprise and learning is with them. Teachers learn about the children and their families through open, honest conversation. What does each child need is a central question to the conversation. Most of all, the support needed for children’s success is in a community environment where we are partners and not adversaries. This is a relationship grounded in covenant as opposed to one centered on  transactional contracts. We all commit and invest in something we dearly and deeply value.

I wanted to share this because we are an innovative educational project and some upcoming postings will share some of my experiences in this community of practice or learning organization.

A Lovely Sentiment

I am back from Seattle and will post thoughts later about a wonderful experience. I got three hours sleep last night and was wired today at school. Despite that, I felt alive. It was an affirming experience and I hope revitalizes a warrior.

Synchronicity plays a major role in life and being aware helps me to recognize that which I used to miss. Today, on Facebook, a  friend posted this Joseph Campbell quote about the way life should be lived, fully in the moment without reservation.

ivonprefontaine:

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking of words of poetry about morning. Words like awake, observed, welcomed and others appeared on my mind’s palette. I opened my blog and found this gift from Thelma that spoke words I was looking for to start the day. It was a totally serendipitous moment after reading Father Richard Rohr’s meditation about being our true, authentic self. At a retreat on Bainbridge Island (what a breath-taking place) with familiar strangers based on some of Parker Palmer’s writing and work, this is an amazing way to begin the day. Thank you.

Originally posted on Author Thelma Cunningham:

AND NOW IT IS JUST ME

And now, It Is Just Me

I woke up this morning,

I looked all around,

I beheld my environment,

I got out of my bed and bent

my knees to pray,

For you see,

For now, it is just me,

Jesus,

I know that I first should be thankful

about things,

I know that I should start

this communication giving you

thanks and praise,

So help me because,

Now, it is just me,

I do not understand how predicaments

seem to be assigned or some how

unfortunately come to be encountered,

But I know that I have had my share,

And finally,

From them,

I am bewildered,

Tossed,

Lost,

And exhausted,

Let me not forget to admit in

danger and in a state of crisis,

Since it is just me,

I know that you do not mind and

understand my sincere tears and

soul…

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Abundant Community

We talked about community today. Community is organic. Through and in it, we tell stories revealing relationships. It grows around what is held in common. We communicate what is held in common, valued, and shared. Community is breaking bread and being true companions with those who join us. We hold and share vision denoting our shared nature within community and exist in paradox. It is what is today, the present, and what was, a historical memorial.

The poet David Whyte wrote “What we hold in community is loved, because it is offered from the heart; a place of love.” Because it is a place of love, it is a place of abundance. Even in crisis, members of a community find ways to heal and regain wholeness through resiliency.  Its members know there are others to turn to and seek help from. We do not have to ask; it is given instinctively and intuitively. It is the right thing to do and not the easy or expedient thing to do.

Community is a place we identify with and it signals we are entitled to membership. It is a safe place to be and someone wants us there. It is a sacred place; hallowed ground. We share and expose personal vulnerabilities, because those around us love us unconditionally. Community is a place of discovery. We are nourished and nurtured and grow. It is a place of invitation and opportunity due to its abundance. A wonderful metaphor emerged. A community is a garden. You plant a seed and it prospers in the abundance of the place we name home and community.

ivonprefontaine:

If you look closely, you can see me up on the rim in some of these pictures. Of course, if you go to the posting called Images to Provoke Thought, you will realize the truth about this.

Originally posted on ryan johnson FILMS+PHOTOGRAPHY:

It was an absolutely crazy idea, but it could be done.

My father-in-law had done it before, and he was the one that convinced my dad and I to do it with him and a friend. A four man team, crossing the Grand Canyon, North Rim to South Rim in one day. It would be like walking a marathon, but through the Grand Canyon. I trained for a few months before, running stairs and preparing my knees. Physically I knew I would be fine, but I was trying to figure out the photo aspect of it. You can’t cross the Grand Canyon and not take photos (especially when you’re a professional photographer).

I decided to walk all 24ish miles with my Canon 5D strapped around my neck, with a lightweight 50mm 1.8 lens. That’s it. It was first and foremost a hike, and we had to keep walking. I didn’t…

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