I walked into a classroom recently where the student teacher I supervise for the university had made a sorting chart with the children. On one side was the label NATURAL and on the other MANMADE. In each section of the chart the children had pasted appropriate items. In the lesson I was observing, my student teacher was talking about community helpers and referred to them as firemen, policemen and garbage men.
In our post lesson conference I mentioned that MADE BY PEOPLE would have been a better chart heading than MANMADE and that words like firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers were more inclusive than firemen, policemen and garbagemen. Apparently my student teacher’s exclusive language had already been pointed out by the regular classroom teacher and my student was a little embarrassed about unconciously slipping back into using terminology that might send the wrong message to the girls in the class or children who may not be sure about their gender identity. In another class I visited, the student teacher was leading a science lesson on the characteristics of animals. Every single time an animal was mentioned she referred to it as ‘he’. In the post lesson conference I suggested that perhaps the word ‘she’ could have been used equally when referring to animals or a more neutral ‘it’ could have been used. The student agreed completely telling me how dedicated she was to feminist ideals. She thanked me for pointing out the exclusivity of her language.
Language is a powerful thing and using exclusive language in even little ways sends a subtle message to some children that they aren’t included. We’ve come a long way since my childhood when exclusively male language was the norm but there is still reason to be vigilant about trying to raise a new generation for whom the use of inclusive language is a natural thing.
I Remember When……..
Proud of the New Words to Canada’s National Anthem
From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander
I was visiting a grade three and four class in one of Winnipeg’s inner city schools as part of my job as a university faculty advisor and I saw these marvelous paintings on the wall in a classroom where one of my students is doing her practicum. The classroom teacher had introduced the children to the work of the great Canadian artist Emily Carr and then led them through a step by step process to create their own artworks in Emily’s style. The display in the classroom included photos to show how the children had experimented with color mixing, learned about contour drawing and looked very carefully at Emily’s paintings of trees. They experimented with layering shades of the same color and thought carefully about every brush stroke. The children had also written stories about what it might be like to spend time alone in a British Columbia forest the way Emily Carr did. Emily is always a favorite subject for children when I take them on tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I tell them about her menangerie of animals that included a pet monkey. Her animals accompained her into the forest when she went out in her little trailer she called The Elephant to camp amongst the trees and do her artwork.
A writer in Macleans magazine who eulogized Emily Carr after she died entitled her obituary She Made Trees Dance. So did the amazing students in a grade three four classroom in inner city Winnipeg who inspired by Emily and guided by a creative and enthusiastic teacher made trees come to life just like Emily did.
The photos of the students’ work have been posted here with their teacher’s permission.
Talk About Defying Convention
Old Sun and Emily Carr
Klee Wyck- May Your Spirit Dance
The day after my brother -in-law John’s funeral in Leamington, Ontario we toured the hospice where he had spent the last days of his life. What a beautiful place! Spacious light-filled rooms with private patios, fireplaces, desks and every amenity a resident or their family might need. A grand piano to bring music into the building, a sunny garden room, a play area for children, a diningroom and kitchen where staff provided snacks and made to order meals to residents and their families, a library, and a special room for loved ones to rest or sleep or gather to talk. The morning we were there a group of women was busy creating the handmade quilts they stitch for every person who spends time at the hospice.
There was lots of beautiful art on the walls but I was particularly drawn to a display of work by middle school students. They had studied Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists and then created their own paintings in that style to display in the hospice to cheer those who came there. A plaque on the wall explained their project and its name In The Footsteps of Tom Thompson. Thompson was the founder of the Group of Seven art collective.
I love children’s art and the work at the hospice was especially meaningful because I knew how much my brother-in-law John had enjoyed art too.
Stopping By Woods
Through the Eyes of a Child
Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival
One of the first pieces of advice I always give the student teachers I mentor is that when their students enter the classroom they try to give each one a smile, a hello and make a comment or personal connection with them.
With my Advanced Composition class in Hong Kong
Now there is scientific evidence this is effective. A new study shows that when teachers routinely greet students and say their name, make eye contact, provide a high five, handshake or thumbs up and/or give a few words of encouragement it sets a more positive tone for the day, increases student engagement and reduces the amount of disruptive behavior. In an article by Youki Terada she notes the study showed that when students feel welcome in their classroom they put more energy and effort into learning.
With our waiter at a restaurant in Lisbon
I’m wondering if this would have implications in other areas. If I’m friendly and smile at a waiter in a restaurant will I get better service? If I smile at people at the gym and say good morning will it improve the quality of their workout? If I make a personal comment to someone in the church library when I volunteer there will it make them more likely to return for more books? If I say hello to the person beside me on the bus or in the bus shack will they have a better day? If I smile and greet people who serve me in businesses will they give me better service and feel better about their jobs?
Isn’t it great that everyone can easily smile and greet people in a friendly way and there is scientific evidence it will make a difference?
What is Your Body Saying?
What is the difference between indoctrination and teaching? Some recent posts by my friend and fellow blogger The Meanderer has me pondering that question particularly in the realm of religious education. I received a comprehensive religious education in church, at home, and in the private religious post secondary university where I was a student. Was I being indoctrinated or taught?
The church I attended as a child
It seems to me the key difference between indoctrination and teaching is that when you are teaching someone you are providing them with an opportunity to explore ideas, information, beliefs and knowledge and you are allowing them to ask questions, have different opinions, argue and come to their own conclusions. But when you are indoctrinating someone you are simply supplying them with the ideas, information, beliefs and knowledge in a didactic way and they are not allowed to question, or argue or demand evidence.
I think I had some experiences in my religious education that were a form of indoctrination, but generally in my home and church and in particular at the faith-based university I attended, we were taught and not indoctrinated. I also realize that others who had the same religious educational experiences I did might view them very differently in retrospect, even people in my own family.
My friend The Meanderer suggests that parents who provide for religious educational experiences for their children may be engaging in a form of abuse. I would contend that while indoctrination is abusive, teaching is not, and that religious teaching does in fact have the potential to be a positive influence in someone’s life.
Tolerating Other Christians
Is It Wrong to Die For Your Faith?
Not My Kind of God
Looking through some old slides to prepare a visual presentation for my father’s 90th birthday I found this photo of my sister and me outside Sir John Franklin School where we were both students for the 1960-1961 school year. I was in grade two and my sister was in kindergarten.
The Manitoba Historical Society website provides this image of the school. It was built by Sutherland Construction Company for $52,000. It was designed by a local architect named J.N. Semmens. The school welcomed its first students in the fall of 1921 and in October was named after the famous Arctic explorer Sir. John Franklin. The original school only had five classrooms but additions were made in 1934 and 1951. In June of 1987 the school was closed and the building demolished in 1991.
Grade Two Class Sir John Franklin School – 1960-1961 school year- Teacher Miss L. Ushey- I’m on the far left in the back row right beside the principal Miss Hannah Fisher.
I found both the principal and teacher in my second grade class photo listed on the Manitoba Historical website. The principal who is standing right beside me is Hannah Eleanor Fisher. According to the history page about her she was born in North Dakota in 1901 and moved to a small Manitoba town called Neelin about 200 km. south of Winnipeg as a small child. She taught in both rural and city schools before becoming a principal. She served at Sir John Franklin from 1954-1961. She never married and spent some time in England as an exchange teacher. She died in Winnipeg at age 95. I couldn’t find any additional information about my teacher Miss L. Ushey. My two best friends in grade two were April and Catherine. I can still pick them out in the class photo.
With my aunt, my sister, and my brother on the front yard of our house on Beaverbrook Street
We lived on Beaverbrook Street when I attended Sir John Franklin and one day when I came home from school for lunch a car had careened off the street and driven right into the livingroom of the house next door to us. Other vivid memories of my grade two year are running back home one day because I encountered a big dog on my way to school. I got 7+7 wrong on a math test and remember being upset that I missed such a simple question.
I only went to Sir John Franklin for one year. My primary education took place in four different schools. I’d like to learn more about them all.
Hopeful Diversity- A School Classroom Very Different From Mine
My Mom Starts School
The Old Schoolhouse
I’ve done my research to figure out what city council candidate I should vote for in the upcoming election now it’s time to figure out which school trustee candidate I should support. It wasn’t really that easy to find out which of the nine Winnipeg wards I live in but thanks to the maps on the Winnipeg 1 school division site I figured out I live in Ward 6. Our former school trustee Cathy Collins isn’t running this time but thanks to the Open Democracy Manitoba website I was able to find out that Rey Sangalang and Jennifer Chen are both candidates.
Jennifer Chen is the mother of two young children who came to Canada in 2009. She wants the voices of all families to be heard at the school board table. Ms. Chen has a masters degree and her thesis focused on the health and well-being of communities. She is active in numerous community organizations. She has been campaigning since August and talking to as many people in our ward as she can to find out what their concerns and hopes and ideas are.
Ms. Chen knows parents would like better gang and drug abuse prevention resources, more support for newcomer and refugee children, safer walks to school, more help for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and after school progamming to keep kids away from negative influences. Jennifer wants to help grow math, literacy and science knowledge for kids and improve their health through more robust physical education programming.
She recognizes the economic, cultural and ethnic diversity of Ward 6. It includes indigenous families whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years as well as refugee families who have just arrived in Canada. She would like to build bridges between the many diverse communities in our ward. She sees her role as a school trustee as an important and long term commitment and believes it is time for some changes in the way school boards operate. Julie takes the campaign seriously. She has a Facebook page and website that provide important information about her qualifications and policies.
Rey Sangalang is the other trustee candidate in Ward 6. As of my writing this he had not yet filled out the candidate questionairre on the Winnipeg Election website . He does not have a website of his own where one can easily access information about him. However when I sent a request for information to the e-mail address on his online poster he quickly responded.
Rey Sangalang immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 1994 and has three children. He and his wife are very active in a Catholic Church program called Worldwide Marriage Encounter. They were the Asian coordinators for the program that offers support to couples to strengthen their marriages and family life. Currently Mr. Sangalang works as a consituency assistant for MLA Flor Marcelino. He is active in numerous community organizations.
Mr. Sangalang would like to see more collaboration between parents, students and teachers and advocates involving grandparents in the school community as well. He would like to see an aggressive cultural and physical education program in schools and hopes schools will be welcoming to refugees and immigrants and help them speedily integrate into Canadian culture. He thinks every school should offer early learning and child care services.
I commend both Mr. Sangalang and Ms. Chen for running for the office of trustee and for the work each has done in the community. I have to say however that Ms. Chen articulates her policies and priorities in a much clearer and more detailed way than her opponent and her academic credentials in a related field are an impressive plus. She is also much more conversant with social media as a way to spread important information. I would also lean towards voting for her because I really believe it is important to have the voices of women represented in much greater numbers in civic leadership.