How we move forward

I love the image of the fancy dancer, spinning forward, head held back. Photo by Melissa Chasse, click image for source.

I love the image of the fancy dancer, spinning forward, head held back. Photo by Melissa Chasse, click image for source.

I’ve had a few conversations with other teachers over the past 2 weeks or so about how quickly we transition into coming school years, even before the previous one is completely done.

For me, I know the students who I will be teaching next year, for the most part – they went through an interview and careful selection process – and I actually found myself letting go of my grade 11s and focusing more on my incoming groups even as exams were still going on. The exam schedule facilitated it – kids were only at the school during the time allocated for their specific exams – so we went from spending just about all day together to seeing each other for a moment or 2 before and after their exams. I invigilated a few of their exams but it wasn’t the same. The group was quiet, serious, anxious – alter egos of their loud, opinionated, emotional, wonderful selves.

Last year I promised myself that I would honour closure in a more formal way. I’m not sure I really did what I was intending to do when I made that promise last year. The schedule was somewhat confusing at the end of the year and it seemed that all of a sudden the year was done. It was the first year for senior school reform exams and no one quite knew what to do with them – these are exams that last approximately 9 hours and are based in group work, dialogue, some individual writing, video viewings… so the exam period began about 2 weeks earlier than usual. Some of my students made a point to come see me during that period for some one-on-one time, to talk about the future, to say goodbye.

Despite the slipperiness of the end of year, I did manage to create a reflective piece for the final Student in Society exam. They had two choices, to either choose a topic that we covered during the year, describe the major issues, and then talk about how it has personally affected them (topics like substance abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, date rape, self-esteem, protest, controlling parents). A few chose that one and in reading their papers I was moved in ways that I will never return. One girl wrote her exam in tears, loud sobbing tears. I asked her quietly if she preferred to write in a private room and she shook her head, I want to stay here. I think she needed to be with people.

The other choice was a letter to me about their own development over the school year, with permission to vent about things I did that drove them crazy. Some of those were very touching, some made me laugh out loud over forgotten jokes, some made me realize how much what I do sets the tone for learning – both positively and negatively.

I guess grade 11 is about letting go and allowing them to say goodbye and drift off on their own. It’s what they have been looking forward to for so many years. As one of my students wrote – I feel like my life is on hold. I can’t wait to finish school and get on with it already.

So, while they contemplate their changing futures, I contemplate mine. I know (though I also know these things can change) what I will be teaching next year. We have decided to share our students more and become subject specialists as opposed to core group teachers. With all of the work required when teaching the new reform courses it is suicide to try to do so for 7, 8 different programs. Logically it makes sense, I’m not sure yet how it will play out within the alternative program, not having core groups.

Next year I will be teaching History of Quebec and Canada, which has become a research course more than a fact memorizing course, so I will be focusing on themes in history and historical process. I will also be teaching Ethics and Religious Culture, a controversial course in Quebec. With it’s focus on dialogue and ethical process I am looking forward to it. I will be teaching a brand new course called Contemporary World, which is very much a research course designed to move from teacher presented material to student created material throughout the year. My last course is Visual Arts. I love that I am able to bring art back into my daily practice.

My summer will be filled with research for these courses and I am jived. So much more so than if I had to teach math or science (my apologies to math and science teachers) next year. I’m using my tumblr site to collect the resources I find for next year in one place. It’s called 09/10 ~ Thinking Forward.

Besides that, I will be spending a lot of time working on my new home. There is so much planting to do on 2 acres of land! I also have some art projects brewing and now that I have a room dedicated as my studio I have the space to let them breathe.

What are you doing to transition from this to next year?

Ethics or (doing what we do)

Up at the top of this blog has appeared a new little grey box. Right there, next to Home. See it? Today I’m going to introduce you to it – readers, meet ‘Ethics’. Mine.

I’ve been thinking about all of these words I’ve put into this blog, into my comments on other people’s blogs, about which blogs I read and return to again, and again, and again.

What inspires all of this? What am I looking for?

Hope for the future. That’s what it is all about for me.
When I meet/see/do/participate/read/write about actions and people who care for each other as people, who help each other be our best selves – who show each other how we can care for each other.

Who don’t put up with the opposite.
Who stand by their beliefs no matter what.
Who write about them, talk about them
live them.
(caring is biological)

It gives me hope for a future with more caring than we have now.
It gives me hope that our children can learn a curriculum of humanity before and behind any other.

Words are powerful things for me. Once said or read they resonate in me. So I prefer to read and say ones that push toward our best selves. Our ever changing best selves.

Where do I look for them?
Everywhere I can. Lately that is

a new place for me, Here.

So I adapted and absorbed and hold before you my statement on ethics. Read my blog, participate, come visit my classroom (for real) to see more. Read the links above and in my blogroll to see even more.

And answer me this question to help me to understand more:

What are you looking for?

morning hug


(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!

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

“Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!”

[cross ranted as a comment at Stephen Ransom’s EdTechTrek] [and slightly elaborated]

I am starting to think that because many teachers and administrators
still do not know exactly what we can do with technology there is a
reluctance to put it in the classroom.

Example – today the Internet had, for some reason, stopped working
in the west wing of our school. I was at the computer lab with one
other teacher. She packed her kids up and went back because she only
books the computer lab for the last period of the day so that her kids
can ‘play on the internet’.

For her, technology has nothing to do with learning, it is a form of
entertainment. I stayed with my kids and used the time to work on our
Science vocabulary while teaching them how to hyperlink in
presentations. They were linking their vocabulary words to comments and images made by their peers, creating a collaborative learning network around the new terminology they are learning in Science. (Not bad for a wing it activity, eh ;)

For some reason, this teacher has not caught on yet that technology
can be much more than a way to waste time. I can understand the frustration of the new teachers that Stephen mentions in his post, but
until the more experienced teachers and administrators at schools begin
to use technology as a learning tool, really use it, and demand that
good forms of it be available in the schools, it isn’t going to happen.

I can also understand the frustration of the more experienced teachers who are
expected to use technology but who aren’t really given the time to grow
less afraid of it and to experiment with what can be done. There is a huge divide between our students who live and breathe with technology as part of their daily lives and the teachers who don’t. Huge. and while
there are still administrators who don’t use technology in their daily lives and who don’t champion for its appropriate use and availability in the school, let alone the classroom…well…that divide can only be expected to widen.

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