Every Idea Begins With a Spark

I came upon a quote yesterday that I wanted to share. It is a message that every student should hear in some form every day.

Be innovative in your thinking and bold in your learning.

– Sabine Lague 2011

(The original quote is in first person.)

I thought it would be great as part of a BigHuge Labs Motivator poster, but then I found more than one photograph that would be perfect for the poster.

It occurred to me quite abruptly that I have not posted a photo essay in a long while. So the genesis of this post — a mix of photos and quotes.

 

IMG_0486IMG_0486 © 2008 Chazz Layne | more info (via: FlickrStorm)
Every Idea Begins With a Spark

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUREKA! I Found it!EUREKA! I Found it! © 2008 g d (Gary Dean) t???????d? | more info (via: FlickrStorm)
That Grow With Focus and Imagination into a Dream.

 

 

Humboldt GasworksHumboldt Gasworks © 2005 Cassidy Curtis | more info (via: FlickrStorm)
Whatever You Do, or Dream You Can, Begin It,
– W. H. Murray

 

 

Foxy!Foxy! © 2008 Wavy1 | more info (via: FlickrStorm)
For Ideas Rarely

 

 

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

Webster, Richard. (2002, 1984.) ‘The Thought Fox’ and the poetry of Ted Hughes. The Critical Quarterly vol, 26, no. 4, 1984. http://www.richardwebster.net/tedhughes.html.

 

 

 

Life Offers Many Paths.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

 

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 

 

 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

 

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Frost, Robert. (1916.) The Road Not Taken (poem). Mountain Interval. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken.

 

Creamsicle SunsetCreamsicle Sunset © 2008 Evan Leeson | more info (via: FlickrStorm)
Keep Adventure in Your Heart and Pick the Paths that Excite You Most.

 

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

– Howard Thurman

Realize Your Dreams.

 


Success Imagemap

 

 

Everything you want in life is right outside your comfort zone.

– Bob Allen

Be innovative in your thinking and bold in your learning.

– Sabine Lague

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9.11: Where I Was

Today is the tenth anniversary of the 9.11 attacks on the United States, the first attack on the US since the 1941 Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. The choice of that year, sixty years after Pearl Harbor, and that date, exploiting the Canadian and American emergency number 911 so 9.1.1 could be repeated throughout the day, was callous and strategic.

In Canada, the attacks came as a shock and we sprang into action, helping our neighbour where and how we could. Certainly, our hearts, our prayers and our homes went out to our American friends. And so did our anger. For several decades, Canada had built a reputation as a peacekeeping force around the World. But 9.11 changed that and we went to war, taking our stand beside our allies against terrorism. For us, our role of peacekeeping returned to that of active fighting.

Canadians take the 9.11 attack on the US seriously and personally. Not only were many Canadians killed in 9.11, but we took a defensive posture over our friend on September 11th and fought alongside them since.

As a base brat and station civ, I was certainly personally affected by the attack. My Dad served in the Canadian Armed Forces and though he retired before 9.11, I felt a deep pang for all the soldiers who were deployed as a result of 9.11. My Dad served overseas under NATO command and during his service in Germany local terrorists, the Baader-Meinhof Group, threatened American and Canadian bases and personnel.

Needless to say, I am extremely proud of my Dad’s role in the defense of Canada, Europe and the World.

On September 11, I hopped on my treadmill, one year and a couple of weeks after my heart transplant, and turned on my radio. The first thing I heard was David Rutherford reporting that the United States was under an attack of unknown scope.

My parents were in the computer room. I ran in and relayed the news. They didn’t believe me until I convinced them to turn on CNN News.

That is when 9.11 struck my home, the day when the War on Terrorism began.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims and survivors of the 9.11 attacks. Today, the whole World remembers. And this Canadian mourns with you.

May you sleep well tonight, knowing you are not forgotten.

Jack Layton: A Message for All

This morning, at 4:30 am, Jack Layton, leader of the Federal NDP and of the official opposition of Canada, died of cancer at the age of 61.

This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote and left to the people of Canada and the World.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Though I never voted for the NDP, Canada has lost a great politician today. He was intelligent, articulate and charismatic.

The quote above applies to all people, but perhaps as educators we can take its message to our classrooms.

Update: A few days have passed since Jack Layton’s death. I have moved from nostalgically reviewing his life to constructively reflecting on his influence. And I want to share one influential role he can still model for our students. In fact, this is probably his deepest legacy, for it empowers students now and in the future while they are in school.

Another message Jack left us he wrote in his high school graduating yearbook.

“I leave to become prime minister.”

Simple words, but they reverberate against our perception of education, how we teach and how students grow.

Sometimes our students, as did we, live in life rather than shape life around them and their dreams. Sometimes they have no idea what life has to offer. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the choices we present them. Sometimes they have no idea that they can live any life they dream. Sometimes they feel tunnelled into predetermined lives.

We have to remind them that their dreams are attainable and show them how to work toward them. We have to do this, because if we don’t we crush them. What is our job? Our job is to teach, to guide, to provide and show opportunities, and to help them see how special they really are.

Like our students, Jack Layton attended school and wondered what life offered him. He had dreams and he had doubts. But he never gave up. He learned how to pursue his dreams and he pursued them.

He was a student, not different at all from each of our students. We all were students experiencing the same doubts and dreams.

What did he do differently? He believed in his dreams.

That is Jack Layton’s deepest legacy. How many Jack Laytons are in your classroom? I bet there are as many as students that pass over your threshold.

When Education Becomes Punishment

 

 

Shawn, the Dictator

Last week, I had to do the worse thing I think a teacher could do. I was subbing for one teacher, and marking during one of her Prep periods, when the school principal asked me to babysit, and I use the word literally, a Junior High class that had been misbehaving the previous period. (And no, I don’t know what they were doing.) So, I had to babysit them, and they had to read, something none of them wanted to do, particularly since they were being kept from gym.

Neither the students nor I were happy about the arrangement. They were distressed because they were missing gym and I was distressed because reading was their punishment. Most of them refused to read, which just made my job harder and more distasteful. Because of their reluctance and regular teacher and principal checks, I had to actively enforce the reading punishment order. (And the definition of dictator is … Mr. Urban?)

Really? Reading as punishment? My hands are gyrating in the air even as I type this. Punishment? What?

Some Disturbing Facts

 

 

Here, I should present some background information.

First, in Alberta, it is estimated that 40% of the adult population (16yr+) is functionally illiterate. This of course doesn’t mean that these adults cannot read and write. But it does mean that they have difficulty functionally comprehending and using what they are reading and its implications. That statistic is very sobering. And I know the problem is not due to the lack of quality teaching.

Second, I am relatively new at teaching, and have been out of a K-12 classroom for … well, let me use the word decades. I don’t remember whether students my age, when they were in K-12, hated reading. I suspect some did, but most, like me, enjoyed it. By their own admission most of the students I teach today do not like reading, ever, at all. And using reading as a punishment does not build eager readers.

Third, contrary to my students, I love reading, a lot. I have been reading for enjoyment for as long as I can remember. I started “seriously” reading when my grade six teacher read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to my class. Of course, I read since I was a toddler and some of my favorite writing themes I can trace back to these early times. My careers, ecology and teaching, rely heavily on reading. So, reading is not just enjoyable, it is practical. (Interesting, how I am reduced to defending reading here.)

Consequences

 

 

So, I am left with contradictions. To me, reading is a life-growing activity. One can not lose by learning to read and to enjoy reading. Yet, my students dislike it. Worse yet, reading is used as a punishment for them. (Actually, it is probably just used as a filler while they are being punished, but it is still being forced on them and they associate it with their punishment.) Finally, I, someone who celebrates reading and desires to pass that celebration to my students, am required to ensure the punished students are reading while I babysit them.

I don’t think anyone wins in this situation. And I worry the loss could be life-long. I personally hate being the enforcer of this punishment, for it accomplishes exactly the opposite of what I hoped to give to my students. I worry that I stole something very precious from my students, something that they will never get back.

I wonder. Has anyone had to deal with a similar situation? If you have, what did you do? If you haven’t, what would you do?

Anthems & Apathy

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Comic: Do students care? Two panels. Two perspectives.
This cartoon is cross-posted to Educational Comics.

With Understanding, Pride

What thoughts play through your head when you listen to your nation’s anthem? Do you listen to your anthem? Do your students?

As a substitute teacher, I see students who don’t listen to my nation’s anthem, who don’t stand at attention, or who even talk or fool around while my anthem is sung. Sure they have heard it every school morning for x number of years, but they seem to forget that my nation has soldiers deployed out of country defending that anthem and what it stands for. They forget that very few of these valiant soldiers return home unscathed in some way. I know; my father was in the service, thankfully during times of peace, but domestic terrorists were around while he served.

Lately, as I more deeply invest myself in my students’ welfares and futures, I have grown concerned about this apparent apathy, this disinterest, this boredom my students present over my anthem. I think more than just apathy directs their behaviors. I actually think they hold a “it can not happen to me and my country” taking-it-for-granted attitude. Under this premise, my nation’s anthem is just a song with no more meaning than a teacher’s preaching. No wonder they do not respect it as I do. I am not sure most of them even understand it. That saddens me.

I was taught my anthem when I was a kid. Because of this, I hold it with great pride. With understanding comes pride. So I would like to bring meaning to two lines of my anthem, the way I was taught them. I imagine that a class can be best taught this through query and discussion.

Into and Out Of the Canadian Anthem

The Canadian Anthem and its history are described on the Government of Canada’s website (http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/symbl/anthem-eng.cfm). The lines I wish to explore are:

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

When I was a kid, these lines read:

O Canada, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(There was a recent suggestion to return to this version, or to at least drop the mention of God.)

I will explore the version I learned, because I think it holds deeper and more identifiable and call-to-action meaning.

“O” is an address, such as the address Shelley makes to the West Wind in his Ode to the West Wind. It implies an addressee capable of understanding it is being addressed.

Canada is obviously the addressee, but “Canada” is a concept. Here students need guidance, for once they comprehend “Canada”, the rest of the Canadian anthem takes on nuances of meaning. What is Canada? It is of course territory, but it is also tradition, culture, values, history and perhaps most importantly the network or Nation of Canadians. This is what I think students today do not comprehend.

The national anthem addresses not only the territory but the people and values of Canada. It addresses the students! It is a song sung not only by the students to Canada but by Canada to the students. Furthermore, it is sung simultaneously about Canada and the students.

Every school morning in every school across the nation from sea to sea to sea Canada sings to the students. What a concept.

So what is it singing? “Glorious” means full of glory. “Free” is another tough one; a whole course can be spent on it with little more than a cursory introduction to all its implications. But can you see, when applied to the territory, the values and the students, how strong, how empowering these words really are?

The next line, particularly “we stand on guard for thee”, is significant since “we” and “thee” apply again to the territory, the values and the students. And “guard” carries more weight. How many different ways can each of the three “we” stand guard over each of the three “thee”?

The Strength of Meaning

In just two lines, the Canadian anthem captures its strength as an anthem worthy of Canadians. When understood the anthem is meaningful rather than meaningless. It ceases to be boring, ceases to be drill. The students own it. And through owning it, they own their land (the house) and their Country (the home).

Regardless of where we are or what anthem we sing, should we not all care about where we live and the values we hold dear? What thoughts play through your head when you hear your nation’s anthem? Do you listen to it? Do your students?

One day maybe, if I finally had enough of kids talking and slouching and fooling around during our national anthem, I might throw my teacher’s lesson plan away and open instead a discussion about meaning behind the national anthem. I wonder if they would even hear?