Friday, October 28, 2011

Heritage redux

Another year, another two groups of SS10 students embarking on heritage projects. This is so cool, and I'l trying to stay "present" for them as they have a hundred questions, and many want to share stories at once. It's becoming a tradition at our school, and the evidence that doing heritage research (necessarily a combined reflection on identity and culture) is popping up in many courses. Brandon told his english teacher the other day that he is connected to key figure in the Salem Witch Trials (which they were reading about) and showed the family charts, something he started in SS10.  Students in Ian's SS11 class are frequently jumping in with "my great-grandfather fought in that battle" or "we've got photos from the Depression, I'll bring them in. Two kids realized,  in doing their heritage projects, that their ancestors shared a Northwest Company canoe during the fur trade (pre-1820) -- one a hivernant and the other a voyageur. These new students are learning that their heritage is within reach. In class yesterday I asked what they'd save from their house in an emergency (xbox etc. covered by insurance, family and pets are safe blah blah). Jacob mentioned ggfather's war medals, Bruce mentioned grandfathers trunk (with which he fled E, Berlin before the wall went up), Alyssa mentioned family photo albums. We're in the library lab right now, and when I look around at the screens I'm seeing a Kennedy tartan, a marriage register from Halifax in 1912, a map of some village in South Africa, also lots of dead end web searches, a few kids on the #Occupy trail, one guy playing some game that messes with google searches, many kids trying to figure ot how to spell their grandmother's maiden name. Anyways, I'm excited to see how this year's projects develop.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PRO-D !!

Off tomorrow for some great professional development with the Pacific Slope Consortium. This is our 2nd annual Purden retreat, and our model caught the attention of the Ministry of Education last year. Some combination of the minister, deputy minister, and ministerial secretary thought this was exactly what was needed in our province and asked how they could support us. Ian has this dialed in, he's been hobnobbing with the higher-ups. We're looking into a camp-and-confer later this year or next year near 100 Mile? Our model is pretty basic -- bring together sharp minds, rich topics related to teaching, learning, citizenship, sustainability & identity, and a setting that inspires revery, discourse & self-reliance. This fits into the larger vision of the PSC that sees small-scale self-sufficient cells of innovative educators practicing as if the ideal learning environment already exists, combined with a willingness to take its pedagogical cues from history as much as the future-focus that drives most of the current educational discourse in British Columbia. Anyways, our topics for tomorrow's session include: role-play simulations in SS10 and SS11, what we're learning from our use of twitter, considering the possibilities for a Vimy Ridge trip in 2017, a 10-year futureshock exercise, and collaboration for call-for-papers (ed journals) & conference presentations. I must remember to update my professional growth plan with the details. Although I love my job and I have great classes, the climate for professional growth is often polluted by politics and agendas. That's one of the reasons I started maintaining a growth plan -- I would rather anticipate and respond creatively to what will no doubt be perceived as a burden by teachers in years to come... do something well now (at least to me) so that nobody can ask me to do something crappy in 2 years... I should make that my motto. So, it is with some real joy and enthusiasm that I look forward to the critical inquiry and exploration of social capital that the PSC brings to the campfire.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Day

What an amazing day yesterday... I was in Vancouver with students from 5 PG schools for the "We Day" event at Rogers Arena with 18,000 others. We heard speeches from Mia Farrow, the Kielburger brothers, Holly Branson (her dad Richard also made a surprise visit) and many more. Entertainment from Shaquille O'Neal, Down with Webster, Hedley, and others. The speakers and hosts repeated many similar themes and catch-phrases (and lots of ads), but the message was focused on human rights and social change. It was as much a celebration for work already being done by student leaders around the province as it was about inspiring kids to action. The highlight or me was the keynote from Mikhail Gorbachev! He spoke about the need for this generation to pick up the peacemaking torch. Kind of amazing to hear someone start a sentence with "When we were ending the Cold War..." I tried to give the students a crash course on the Soviet Union and the Cold War... most had taken Social Studies 11 and had the context if not the person figure out. We had a great group... curious, compassionate kids; very respectful but also energetic about making a difference in their world. Great conversations and storytelling with the other chaperones, too, about activism, honesty in education, and history.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs

Took a screenshot just now... the news today that Steve Jobs has passed away is hitting me like a brick. I'm not surprised, I guess, but sad nonetheless. Apple computers, software, and stuff have accompanied my entire teaching practice, and Jobs has influenced my approach to teaching and use of media, and wedged his way into my family in some ways. Elegance, function, aesthetics, and intuitiveness are very important to me... I'm a Mac. I suppose he is famous because of his business success and ability to read trends -- he was really good at making and selling things that people wanted to buy (even if we didn't know we needed it!) -- but more than that he had a way of pursuing high design and performance standards, often when those around him were not, or didn't understand what he was doing. That's the part I've tried to emulate.

Waffle Tectonics

What a great way to wrap up our unit on earth structure, geology, plate tectonics, faults/folds, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Nick and Nick served up waffles for the class, using each one to demonstrate some kind of plate boundary or fault type before their classmates devoured them. We didn't learn anything new about tectonics, really, didn't need to as this was explored in depth elsewhere, but we did congratulate ourselves for hard work with some great waffles -- crisp golden outside, fluffy and light inside... I skipped the syrup and choc chips with no regrets. It couldn't have tasted better if the gauffre iron were crushed on thorns of fire (I think of this reference to Pattern Language every time I have waffles). After all of the lessons, slideshows, reading, videos, quizzes, and demos in our unit, we've had some fantastic presentations that fulfilled three criteria: deepen our understanding of selected learning outcomes from the unit, reflect the interest & talents of the student as applied to meaningful inquiry, and embody learning in some way -- voice, performance, demonstration, physical construction, etc. Today was a small feast, a celebration of the interesting things we've done over the last 3 weeks, but is was also a celebration of how GOOD students are... I hear a lot of complaints about how students are tuned out and need a contstant barrage of technology to be entertained. This was a nice, slow, quiet... and tasty.