Thinking and Becoming

image from: The Cabinet of Curiosities

A scream of a shout-out this time, once again, to Jose. I finally got around to reading some of his poetry on The Poetry Cafe and this one ripped a hole through me, enough to consider adding it to my short list of poems I insist kids read.

You too, read it.

I Think Therefore I Am…
By Jose Vilson

If there’s one thing
every leader agrees on
It’s that you are what you say you are
You become the person you think you are
I cried as a baby, so I stayed close to the womb
I crawled for food so I stayed under the parental umbrella
I followed the rules in school,
so I stayed subservient to my teachers
I said I wasn’t worth this life as a young one,
So the rest of my body almost followed suit with a successful dip by the
Williamsburg Bridge
I thought I couldn’t defend myself,
so I became roadkill for bullies, bullshitters, and racists
I thought I couldn’t face myself, so I became ugly
I told myself I wasn’t worth shit, so my skin started to reek
I thought I was too broke to hang with these preppies in my high school,
So I found my wallets empty often
I pinched my skin and thought it was thin,
so even people I thought were friends tried to get under it
Because I thought these friends were,
but they thought not to act on that thought
Hence, the thundering in my chest was
my heart beating from the bleeding in my back
from the knives slicing down my spine
And I said G_d existed,
but because I thought he was
from me and what I was doing,
I found myself looking for him in hood heroes,
NBA superstars,
and everyone but the father I couldn’t will back into my life
My thoughts turned to a revolution
Delusions of grandeur turned to self-improvement
So the first thought I thought was
And instantly my own holy spirit glowed like a torch
Its light shown all across the room
And I thought I was a poet so my pen flowed furiously
Through thousands of unused looseleaf
Letters to the universe to set my verse free
From the pressures of perfection felt from my youth
And I thought I’d live forever through the memories
Of my many loved ones, acquaintances, my disciples,
People I might have even just brushed upon
And people reading this in a similar condition
A promising living legend thinking this might come to fruition…

(Pre)flections for Next Year


In Native American spirituality, the Raven is the messenger of magic from the great void where all knowledge waits for us. He is also the symbol of changes in consciousness, of levels of awareness and of perception. from

So, this year is done. Yesterday was my final pedagogical day of the 2007/08 school year – my first one at HSB. I don’t yet know what I will be teaching next year though I do know…

that I will be returning to HSB where I have been offered a permanent contract :)

and that whatever I teach I will:

…be more proactive in my teaching than ever before

…map out literacy competencies for/with my students and how we will get there

…introduce my students to youth twitter, thanks to Mr. Mayo

…need to balance teaching, studying, private life

Apparently we receive our teaching loads on June 30th, though they are subject to change up until October 15th! And apparently one should expect it to change by the beginning of the school year at the end of August.

After a few conversations with my principal, I seem to have basically two possibilities – Bridges teacher or Alternatives teacher. I’m focusing on Alternatives teacher. That is where I would like to be in the future. Alternatives is like a school within the school, for students in their last two years of high school (Secondary 4 and 5 in Quebec) who need an alternative approach to graduate. Here is the blurb from the HSB website:

Directions Alternative School
Using alternative methods of instruction, community-based learning, high structure and behaviour modification, “Directions” attempts to aid learners who, for a myriad of reasons, have lost touch with their own educational path. By redirecting their at-risk behaviours and helping them to face the obstacles in the way of their learning, the atlernative school program increases their likelihood of success. Directions has a comprehensive procedure for entry into the program which includes recommendations from teachers and administrators and interviews with prospective students and their families.

I had begun this year as a Bridges teacher working with students on life skills programs, though after 2 weeks they added 8 other younger students to my class of 5 older students. All in all it created a difficult dynamic to teach in – unfair to both groups, though necessary due to numbers. If I am offered the Bridges group again I fear that the same story will unfold. I don’t want that to happen. I would rather see them integrated into a new work-oriented program, with resource support, that the school is offering next year than integrated with the younger learning centre students as they were this year.

All in all I am excited about returning to HSB and excited about seeing what challenges are in store for me next year. Also, I’m glad that I have documented some of my reflections – both positive and not-so-positive – from this year so at I can return to them in the future and always move forward.

But for now…bring on the margaritas because I am definitely ready for vacation!

Literacies – digital and otherwise…or not.

It’s a recurring theme – how do we develop our students’ literacy skills? Literacy is “an essential component of a learning society” and as educators we strive to ensure that our students develop the keenest literacy (and numeracy) skills possible so they can be active and productive members of society…blahblahblah…so that they can belong.

Lately I’ve been thinking on how literacy is becoming more complex. Dennis has brought out this conversation in me, first on Learning 2.1 in response to the blog post: What is Web 2.0? and then on his own blog via Boy in the Bubble Revisited.

(I made this, er, image with the tools at Pretty fun little image collecting site. Go play :))

Basically, with the technologies that have become a way of life – especially for our kids who didn’t know life before myspace, facebook, im, texting, etc…- literacy has whole new dimensions to do with immediacy of communication. We need to recognize and honour it in our teaching – this I believe. I also believe that we need to see it as a subset of the larger context of literacy.

We can do this, perhaps, by asking questions like:

Dennis responded:

Both have value, both need to be tapped. Stretching the mind is ALWAYS a good thing. And understanding culture and thinking and the wonder of human ingenuity and creativity has to continue.

Personally I think there is more than a ‘both’. Looking at literacy as either digital or everything that came before is too dualistic for me – if I see literacy as a system (and I do) then digital literacy has an affect on all of literacy and vice versa. But I see where Dennis is going with this. It is a way(s) of reading and thinking and interacting with words, numbers, and thought that affects the way we need to teach.

“Literacy is on shifting sands,” [Heather] Blair says. “It’s a moving target. Our definition of what literacy is is a moving target. Our definitition has changed radically.”(from What is Literacy, Nov. 2005, CBC News Online)

Teachers struggle with motivation all the time. Intrinsic motivation – the motivation that comes from within ourselves – is seen as the type of motivation that triggers authentic and meaningful learning. By using tools that students are already comfortable with to access other forms of media/text is one way of developping intrinsic motivation – it may encourage students to ask: how does this fit in my world? And. more importantly, how do I fit in the world?

So, all of this is leading to why I don’t think we can look at literacies as one or the other, as dualistic. I think that an essential question for educators today is how do we integrate literacies in our students? and in ourselves?

If we continue to look at new ways of being literate in contrast to more traditional ways then I think it will only be all the more difficult to make connections with our students while we are teaching. And isn’t that what we are trying to do?

I’m just starting to think about this. I’m hoping y’all comment, ask me some questions to help me clarify exactly what I am getting at here…


Ouch…important feedback

yelling teacher

image found here –> Ms Teacher

Well, I thought that none of my students were able to complete the end of year feedback assignment due to technical difficulties at school, but evidently one was able to…and I quote:

…and what I didn’t like of this year was the teacher that I had becuase I she made us have meetings and she was yelling at my friends and I didn’t like that. and the outher thing that I didn’t like of thst year was peopple where picking on me more then last year…


That teacher was me. Her last memory of me was of me raising my voice at students in the class who felt that summer vacation had begun before it really had.

Regardless of the reason, she remembers me as the teacher who was ‘yelling at my friends’.


Note for next year…remember that the end of the school year is trying for everyone. And that there are other ways to give students a reminder of what they need to do than by showing them my frustrations.

And I don’t remember who said it, some have attributed it to Maya Angelou I think but…

…they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care…


…People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel

Residential Schools Apology: Toward a Positive Future in Canada

**Aug. 19/08. My thoughts on this apology are shifting. See the progression here**
Yesterday afternoon I sat in my car with tears rolling down my face as I listened to words of healing in our government’s apology to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples in Canada for residential schooling, and in the various responses to the apology.

Connie Brooks in a letting go ceremony

image from…Connie Brooks, who attended the Shubenacadie Residential School in the early 1960s, during a “Letting Go” ceremony in Shubenacadie, N.S., on Wednesday. (Mike Dembeck/Canadian Press)

Here is some of that response, a country in conversation.

Reaction to apology video on cbc

As a teacher who works with First Nations students (Mohawk from Kahnawake) I was moved by the sense of hope for the future that this conversation holds for all of us, together. And by the simple humility it is to give and accept an apology.

For more information about how this conversation got going, take a look at this cbc site