What does the number 504938C stand for? I found out while visiting a grade eleven English class this week where the student teacher I supervise is doing a unit on documentary films with her class. The documentary she showed the day of my visit was called 504938C. That is the number filmmaker Ervin Chartrand had when he was an inmate in Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Prison. In his short film he shows the choice he had to make upon leaving prison. Would he go back to join the gang he was part of before going to jail or would he try to walk a different path?
Stony Mountain Prison
Before she showed the film the student teacher asked the kids to share what they knew about life in a prison. They came up with lots of ideas. Then she provided them with some factual information about Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Finally she posed these three questions. How did indigenous spirituality play a role in this documentary? What did you learn from the flashbacks in the film? What did you think of the lack of dialogue? The students were busy writing answers to the questions after the film was over.
You can watch the film yourself here. I told the student teacher I was impressed with the way she was introducing her class to topics relevant to their community and province and the way she was encouraging them to become thoughtful critical viewers of media.
But He Wasn’t Unbroken
Image from the Bear Witness series by photographer Jeffrey Thomas
On Wednesday the Winnipeg Free Press ran a story about the new Manitoba First Nations School System and used the Sergeant Tommy Prince School on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation to illustrate the changes that are happening because of increased government funding for First Nations schools. In the case of Sergeant Tommy Prince School funding per child has nearly tripled.
According to the Free Press article as well as one on the CBC website the increased funding is being used for all kinds of things including new library books, tablets for every child, new backpacks and school supplies for all the students, and the creation of a more culturally appropriate curriculum. The item that caught my eye however is that some of the funding is being used to increase teacher salaries to make them comparable to those in other school divisions in Manitoba.
Image from the Bear Witness series by photographer Jeffrey Thomas
I think qualified indigenous teachers who understand the communities in which they teach and can serve as role models for children are the key to the success of the new school system.
I work with university education students. Some indigenous students upon graduation choose to teach in Winnipeg where they can earn higher salaries and where their own children have more education opportunities. I totally understand this and know these teachers will make a difference in the Winnipeg schools where they work. But there is also a need for qualified indigenous teachers in First Nations communities. Hopefully better salaries, resources and facilities will encourage more indigenous education graduates to teach in the many schools that are part of the new Manitoba First Nations School System.
Who Are the Wendat?
I missed the International Day of the Girl yesterday. Here are some photos of school girls I have taken in different places in the world.
I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.- Queen Rania of Jordan
School girls in Bali
School girls in Jerusalem
School girls in Jamaica
School girls in Palestine
School girl in Borneo
School girls in Phnom Penh Cambodia
School girls in Hong Kong
School girls in the Philippines
School girls in Vietnam
Real change happens when we invest in girls. Every year, millions of girls are denied an education at a time when it has the power to transform their lives and the world around them. – Nigel Chapman, CEO, Plan International
International Women’s Day
What I Saw in a Classroom Yesterday
My Grade Two Class Photo is Part of a PHD Dissertation
When I was five years old I started grade one at Marion School in St. Boniface. My father was an intern at the St. Boniface Hospital and so our family lived in a large apartment block on the hospital grounds. While my father put in long hours at the hospital my mother was home caring for me, my infant brother and three year old sister. Our family did not have a car. So when September rolled around and it was time for me to start grade one the only practical solution for transportation to school was that I take a city bus. And I did. Alone. Mom walked me to the stop at first with my younger siblings in tow but after awhile I walked on my own. I remember riding the bus and can still recall the face of one of the drivers who was often assigned to my route. I sat on the long front seat right near the driver.
I thought of my grade one experience when I read a Macleans magazine article about Adrian Crook a single father of five in Vancouver. His oldest four children aged 7, 8, 9, and 11 have been riding a city bus to school on their own for two years. His children have been doing this without incident and in fact he has received affirmations from other bus riders complimenting him on how well behaved his children are. But an anonymous report to the B.C. ministry of Child and Family Development has resulted in Mr. Crook being ordered to accompany his children to school on the bus. Mr. Crook had practiced the bus route with his children many times before allowing them to travel on their own. His kids were acquainted with the bus drivers on their route and the children carried a cell phone to call their father if they had any problems. But one report from someone Mr. Crook doesn’t even know has changed everything. Mr. Crook’s case is getting national attention because it addresses the issue of how we can keep children safe while still allowing them to grow up to be independent and responsible.
Mr. Crook argues that evidence and not fear should dictate the rules in cases like his. Buses are twenty four times safer than cars and in Canada your child has the same risk of being struck by lightning as they do of being kidnapped by a stranger. Criminal activity in Canada is lower than it’s been in some forty years. Mr. Crook believes that should prove he is not being irresponsible about allowing his children to take the bus alone to school. Other people seem to agree with him because a Go Fund Me page to help Mr. Crook mount a legal challenge against the ministry has already received $25,000.
I lived in Hong Kong for six years and there children took public transportation on their own all the time. They wore their transportation identity cards around their necks on lanyards and happily rode around the city unaccompanied by an adult. No one seemed overly concerned about their safety.
I certainly don’t believe my parents were negligent in allowing me to ride the bus to school on my own. Yet when I think of my own five- year- old grandson riding the bus alone in the large Canadian city where he lives, I admit to strong misgivings. Why is that? Why do we think the world has become a much more dangerous place all evidence to the contrary? And how is that belief impacting the way our children grow up?
Standing Up For Children
What’s the Best Way to Raise Children
Technology and Family Time
I was having lunch in a Steinbach restaurant last week when a woman approached me. I recognized her right away as the mother of one of my students from many years ago. Her son had made such an impression on me that I had taped a photo of him in my journal during the year he was my grade four student. The reason I remember him so well is because of something that happened while I was reading aloud Anne of Green Gables to the class. We had just finished the chapter where Anne tells her adopted father Matthew she believes the two of them are kindred spirits. The little guy pictured below came up, tapped me on the arm and whispered “You know Mrs. Driedger I think you and I are kindred spirits too.” It was the highest compliment I could have received and I’ve never forgotten that moment.
The boy’s mother who came over to me in the restaurant last week told me about her son’s stable career, his happy marriage and the fact that he was now the proud father of twins. She even showed me a photo of his two tiny newborns. I was glad to hear my kindred spirit was doing so well.
Stopping by Woods
Kids and the Flood of the Century
The Children are Watching and Listening and Wondering
Filed under Books, Education
“Are there any hidden messages in the paintings?” I was starting a tour with some elementary school students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I told them we would be like detectives or explorers looking for interesting details in the art. One girl put up her hand to ask if I knew of any hidden or secret messages in the paintings. Luckily I had an idea where we could find one.
Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944
As we viewed this painting Picasso made of his lover Dora Maar I asked the children if they could find Dora’s name hidden in the painting. It didn’t take them long to pick out the four letters. Check out the arrows.
The upper case D
The letter o
The cursive r
The letter A two ways- a lower case backwards one to the right or an uppercase sideways one to the left
The children thought it was very cool Picasso hid Dora’s name in his painting of her. It got them searching for hidden messages in every piece of art. The intense looking that inspired helped them discover lots of other interesting things about the artwork they viewed.
What in the World is That?
Plants That Talked to Me
Two Artists -Me and My Grandson
Mr. Melvin Toews (father of noted Canadian writer Miriam Toews) was my grade seven teacher at Woodlawn School in Steinbach during the 1966- 1967 school year. Canada was celebrating its 100th birthday. In the fall of 1966 Mr. Toews decided to put together a magazine called The Woodlawn Journal. Each student was asked to contribute a piece of writing about Canada or write a report about how different areas of the country were preparing to commemorate the centennial.
The journal opened with a poem about Canada by my friend Audrey. On the second page was my essay entitled This Land of Ours. Mr. Toews printed up many copies of our journal, probably at his own expense, and we all felt great about being published authors with our work available for others to read.
Here’s how my essay started………..
Canada is a rough vast land nestled between two foaming masses of water. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean where the lonely wails of fishing schooners fill the air to the Pacific Ocean where you can hear the harsh blasts of ocean liners as they chug out of Vancouver’s harbor. It reaches northward to the snowy land of polar bears and reindeer and south to the blue waters of the Great Lakes.
Pretty poetic wasn’t I?
As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday it is kind of neat to look back at the journal my classmates and I created fifty years ago for another milestone in Canadian history.
Staff picture Elmdale School 1976-1977 I am second from the right in the back row. Mr. Toews is sitting to the far left.
By the way I didn’t save my copy of the Woodlawn Journal but a decade after I was in Mr. Toews’ grade seven class I got a job at Elmdale School where Mr. Toews was on staff as this photo attests. On my first day on the job I walked into Mr. Toews’ class to say hello and he went straight to his filing cabinet, pulled out a copy of the journal and opened it to the page with my essay. He gave me the copy to keep. Thanks Mr. Toews.
On the Eastern Edge of Canada
An Interesting Interview