Burned out, turned in, searching for inspiration again

It’s been just over a year now since I officially resigned from my permanent full-time teaching contract with the Prairie Valley School Division. Exhausted, depleted, I felt like a failure, unable or unwilling to find myself fullfilled in my new profession! I wanted to rock the teaching world, (or so I thought) , and stumbled hard out of the box — trying to fit-in, I was flying, by the seat of my pants, I felt overwhelmed and overworked, but I still had some fun days trying… But in the end I could not mend the feelings of inadequacy from within. I found myself having less and less to offer, and give. I gave away to feelings that I needed to part ways with my profession and just move on. I now work for local eavestrough, and home exterior construction company. Working with hands in the outdoors all day, through each of the seasons has been a refreshing change to say the least.

It’s just now, a year later, that I’m beginning to feel the inspiration to return to the world of education again. The inspiration that is now coming, in part, relates me to resurrecting this blog again and turning it into an inquiry blog around Community Based Education with a focus on Sustainability.

I seem to come upon this inspiration every time I visit Treaty Park, situated just behind my house in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sk.  The park is site of the Treaty 4 monument, built in 1915, to commemorate Treaty 4.

Treaty 4 Monument, Fort Qu'Appelle, SK

It still seems puzzling to me that despite the focal point of the park being this grand old  monument, this park was commonly referred to as “Cannon Ball Park” when I grew up here.  There used to be war memorial cannon that was also sitting in one of the back corners of the park. I can tell you from growing up here, that there was and still today, a great deal of ignorance or shared understanding of our societal history since the signing of Treaty 4. In many ways the social realities of our history have been hard to face. The oppression and injustice brought on by the Federal Government of Canada, with the implications of the Indian Act and over a hundred plus years of Residential schools, stripping First Nations of their languages and cultural identities. Years continue to pass and the movement towards truth and reconciliation continues. We need to find the path towards collective healing and understanding.

It is with these and other thoughts that I lit up an incense stick, offered a prayer to all my relations and asked, ‘how can I help?’ How can I help bring about about positive change within my hometown community? How can I support and create bridges to the efforts of people like my friend Sheen Koops who committed to a two hundred day journey reflecting on treaties in her blog Treaty Walks. That’s when the inspiration started to come to me. My Roots of Education blog could be resurrected once again by exploring my own Educational Roots, within the place that I come from, by putting forth questions that will lead to a greater understandings for me and my community.



Re-igniting the Fire

Well, it’s been quite some time since my last post in September. I’m not sure if I have any readers any more, but I’m quite excited to resume my practice and development within the field of Education, now that I’ve had an opportunity to take a step back from it all through the month of January.

Since my last update, I successfully immersed myself in a temporary teaching contract at Fort Qu’Appelle Elementary Community School as a Grade 6 homeroom teacher, as well as a Grade 1 & 2 Phys Ed teacher. Although I have loved working with the staff and students at the school, I found the structure of the daily time-table — planning and marking for 7, 45 minute classes per day — to be a bit frustrating to work around. I find this type of schedule is not conducive to engaging students in meaningful learning, (and for me to engage myself in meaningful teaching), as you barely have time to let students engage themselves in their own learning processes before having to transition to a new subject area.

At the conclusion of my contract, I continued to subsitute teach until Christmas, before deciding to travel west to Rossland, BC where I have had a chance to take a break from my teaching practice; spend some time skiing amongst the beautiful slopes of Red Mountain, BC, and re-evaluate what sort of direction I hope to head with my Education degree.

Something I’ve been extremely interested in for quite some time now is student directed/self-design/project based learning. That is why I’m very excited and honoured to have a chance to drive to Nelson, BC tomorrow to meet with Mr. Brent Cameron, who I consider to be a guru around self-design learning. Brent, along with his wife Maureen, helped establish and develop the Wondertree program for their daughter Ilana, along with many other students in the province of BC over the past 25 years! Self-design learning begins with the assumption that as humans, we all have an innate wonder, curiosity and ability to engage ourself in learning, and that as teachers, we can either act as facillitators in developing and assisting this curiosity and wonder, or adversely crushing this sense curiosity by attempting to force learning down our students throats. Self-design learning attempts to nurture a student’s curiosity by allowing them more freedom to choose what direction they would like to take their learning in. This meeting with Brent is something I’ve been envisioning for some time now and is re-igniting my passions for exploring my own growth and development within the teaching profession.

Brent has also agreed to introduce me to the good folks at an affiliated Self-Design ISK school in Nelson that now offers core subject area courses for Grade 10-12 to students anywhere in the world, through a distance education program centred around self-design philosophy. I will keep this blog posted on future developments. If you’re out there…thanks for reading:)

Crazy Week of School & Work

It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride this past week. As many of you know, I accepted a one year contract teaching grade 9 English, Foods, and Phys. Ed in my home town of Fort Qu’Appelle for the year. Unfortunately though, our enrollment numbers dropped by around 70 students from last year and the administration was forced into having to transfer 3 teachers from our school in two positions in Balcarres and one in Kelliher. Given that I was only on a replacement contract, I was one of the teachers that had to be transferred. So on Tuesday, I was informed that I would have to leave my position at Bert Fox and begin teaching an entirely new set of subjects next week in Kelliwho? Kelliwhere? Kelliher.

I was not happy with the idea of communting 45 minutes a day for the remainder of the year and so I gave the administration a heads up that I might resign from my contract at some point during the year and do something else with my life. For instance, I’ve always wanted to spend a winter working and skiing in the mountains. So they looked into other options for me and luckily there is a two month replacement contract at Fort Qu’Appelle Elementary right now teaching mainly grade 6’s as well as grade 1 and 2 phys. Ed. So, on Thursday I happily accepted the offer and will begin teaching over at the Elementary School until sometime just before Christmas. I am sad to leave my grade 9’s as I was just beginning to make some really strong connections with them, but am happy for the opportunity to continue teaching in this community and then be a free-man after Christmas.

It’ll be a busy weekend trying to move stuff out of my classroom at the highschool and getting myself set up over at the elementary school but not as crazy as moving everything up to Kelliher! Deep breath. Heading home for a night of relaxation. Nobody said this job would be easy…

My First Full-time Teaching Assignment

It is the night before the beginning of 2008 school year and I am happy to have been offered my first teaching position in my home town of Fort Qu’Appelle. I will be teaching 3 sections of grade 9 ELA as well as a Foods 9 and a Phys.Ed. 9  to round out the afternoon. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what I’d like to accomplish with the grade 9’s this year but what we accomplish will largely depend on the level of enthusiasm the students will bring to the classroom to learn and grow with one another.

I know that I am going to put my heart and soul into this job and helping my students grow and develop but I realize I’m going to need their help as much as they need mine. It needs to be a reciprocal process where everybody helps one another out. I found the Jerry Maguire scene where Tom Cruise pleads with Cuba Gooding JR, “Help me, help you.” I will probably play this scene for the students to help set the tone for the class. Students arrive on Monday. I can’t wait to get started! Stay tuned for further developments of the classes I’ll be teaching…


Happy Solstice & Tech Task 6

Happy Solstice Everyone.

I’m feeling much better today having spent it out in the part at the National Aboriginal Day festivities. There was a good turn out of people and some large size circles formed during the Round Dances.

Just wanted to continue playing catch-up by posting my Tech Task #6. I created a feature piece, on Saskatoon rapper Eekwol last semester as part of the gender and media studies of hip-hip presentation that I put together with Tyson Buehler and Cam Campos last semester.

In this interview, Eekwol shares her thoughts on gender roles as constructed through mainstream media and hip-hop culture. Eekwol’s lyrics are socially concious and she carries an unique and powerful message from her perspective as an Indigenous female artist.

Stay tuned for the release of my final project on how this hip-hop presentation could be introduced to students so that they can discuss in and create a multimedia piece of their own on the presentation.


Eekwol on Gender

Tech Task 7: Google Make Me Stupid!?

My ECMP prof, Alec Couros wrote a blog last week highlighting the article by Nicholas Carr entitled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

The article explores how the advent of google-aided internet surfing, hyperlinking, and social networking is decreasing our mind’s attention span.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

Trying to complete my last 2 classes for my education degree this past spring semester has been admittedly, quite a challenge. It wasn’t until reading this article that I realized how different the mental activity is between my English course, which is novel reading and essay writing focused, with ECMP which is web-surfing, social networking and blog focused. Maybe my inability to keep up with blogs, commenting, tech tasks, my final project, along with readings and essays from my other class might have something to do with the fact that my mind is being asked to immerse myself in two very different kinds of activities.

I don’t think my mind is adapting very well to the demands of both kinds of activities. I struggled to keep my balanced frame of mind throughout the course. Being in front of a computer for too long makes me feel sick. However, not getting my school work all finished up on time does not leave me with a very a good feeling either. There’s got be a better way to balance this all…

The front cover of the latest Adbusters Magazine encapsulates exactly how I’m feeling these days…

Come summer, I think I need to take a holiday from my computer for at least a week!

I heart Miro (Feat. No Comment News)

In one of our classes last week, Alec had mentioned using the Miro application to download videos onto your computer and as I am a big fan of Miro, I thought I’d take this time to share with you some of it’s potential uses in education. Miro is essentially an internet TV application that allows you to subscribe to any number of channels that have RSS feed and release videos on a regular basis. Some of my favourite channels that I subscribe to include Ted Talks (brilliant lectures), Democracy Now (daily news casts), Yogamazing (Yoga classes), and the Onion News Network (great satire), just to name a few. New videos from each of these channels are automatically downloaded onto my computer when they are released and are easily managed through Miro.

Another channel that I subscribe to that I think is particularly relevant to teaching the Social Studies 20 – World Issues course is No Comment News, courtesy of the EuroNews network. What is great about this channel is that it provides up-to-date current events footage from around the world and offers “no comment” on what is happening. These videos are usually 2 minutes or less and have no newscasters explaining what is happening or the context behind what is being shown. Instead, it is up to the viewer to decipher what is going on and why this event is taking place. If I were showing it to a group of students, I would first ask them questions such as:

1) What do you see happening in this video?
2) What is the historical and/or current context behind what is being shown?
3) Where is this taking place?
4) Who are some of the key people that are being shown in this video and how do you see them being portrayed.

Students would then have an opportunity to investigate these questions further by viewing on-line news reports or newspaper articles that offer up commentary on the current situation.

Once students have a better understanding of what is happening, you could then have them take the assignment one step further and turn it into a multimedia project by embedding these videos into iMovie and have students layer in an accompanying news story where they would offer their own commentary on the video footage. I would expect to find that the commentary between student groups will vary, depending on where they have accessed their information fom. Once each group has offered their insights, you could then take it one step further by investigating the different biases that might be identified within each student group’s piece.

Check out the videos on their site. (Unfortunately, edublogs will not allow me to embed one of their videos I have downloaded because “it does not meet security guidelines”. Does anybody know a way around this?) Images often speak for themselves. As far as comments go, draw your own.

Permaculture Projects

After an enjoyable May long weekend spent digging flower beds, weeding strawberry patches, and planting a young community of green onions, I am feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and want to stress the importance of including gardening and permaculture projects into the education curriculum.

As I am interested in Project Based Learning, my roommate recently came across this YouTube video that documents a workshop on a spiral design permaculture project that we recently established in our own front yard. I have been thinking that this would be a great project that could be carried out with a group of students in a Practical Applied Arts (PAA) course. It is a relatively inexpensive project to fund and could have a lasting positive impact on the community where it is constructed for years to come. Watch the video and see what you think:

Sufficiency demands Efficiency…

…And just I’m trying to get caught up to speed, when what I really want us to do is just to slooooow down…

It seems like I’m spending a lot of time on the internet these days without getting much done. I’ve spent the last week just trying to figure out how to make my time on this interconnected web more focused and time-efficient. I generally don’t like spending mass amounts of time in front of my computer, but I feel like as I become increasingly connected to the world through computer, the more time is required to sort through, process and respond accordingly. I realize that it’s going to require some significant investments of my time and energy in order to establish connections with professional learning communities (PLC’s) through the Internet. But how can we integrate the use of computer technology our lives in such a way that it doesn’t end up consuming us? Could it be that “machine is us/ing us” as this video by Michael Wesch suggests. It seems there’s so much to tap into across cyberspace that you end up spending the majority of your time in front of a computer just trying to keep up with it all. My back begins to ache at the thought of how much time I can spend in front of my computer. It doesn’t feel like a healthy endeavor in my mind.

On the other hand, I recognize the enormous potential for computer technology to enhance the learning environment and increase connections with the world around us. I also recognize that I’m going through a major learning curve in my computer efficiency skills right now. For instance, I’m just now beginning to employ the use of keyboard short cuts, and have just recently formatted my iGoogle page to become the primary hub for accessing everything I need when I’m on the internet. There is much more room in my development for improved efficiency but unfortunately, that’s going to take a large amount of time and energy to get it all set-up. Things are changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with it all though. Here’s to trying!

Reconnecting our Roots

Hello Readers in Cyberworld,

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog site, which will hopefully serve as a portfolio that will showcase the work my emerging development within the field of Education. I am a soon to be a graduate of the University of Regina’s Secondary Education program. I’m graduating with a major in Social Studies and a minor in English Language Arts. I have a particular interest in engaging students (and myself) in Community Based/ Project Based Learning (PBL), with a particular emphasis on allowing students more freedom to explore their own interests at their own pace.

I have recently been hired as a tutor for an intelligent young man named Albert who for various reasons, decided to leave the school system and pursue his education in another way. Together, we are attempting to design an education program that will be based around projects that he chooses, yet strives to meet the objectives of the evergreen curriculum. I have created a page devoted Project/Community Based Learning, which I will devote to my inquiry in this avenue of teaching.

If you share an interest in developing PBL in the education system, or even community based learning outside of the system, please feel free to leave comments or get in touch with me should you feel so inclined.

Thanks for reading!