As an educator, I certainly couldn’t help contemplate the ways in which the increasing income instability of such a large chunk of our communities may be manifesting themselves in schools. How might we be responsive to students and their families in this reality? What is our responsibility in working to improve present and future life outcomes for them? Reading this report has made me realize my family and I are among the most privileged living today. If you want to learn more about this reality, I highly recommend you to click here to read the report. It’s fascinating, unsettling, and begs for a call to action.
And perhaps the person I’ve learned from the most, Sylvia.
If you ask me what a “21st Century” or “Modern” Learner looks like to me, I would say it’s someone who has the self-efficacy to cope with, if not thrive under, the demands of both a metaphorical and literal blank page. Teaching students how to sketchnote continues to be one of my greatest experiences as an educator because I’ve seen with my own eyes how the skill supports this “blank page mindset”. Imagine being confident at grabbing a pen or a stylus and documenting your own thinking, or explaining your ideas to another. I’m still learning myself, but a few people have asked, “How, exactly, do you teach it to them?”
First of all, I’ve learned that it is much more an act of facilitation than one of explicit, technical teaching. You need your learners to leverage one another as a collaborative group and give them plenty of time to get messy in their sketchbooks. When sketchnoting is going well with your group, you will notice:
a lot of positive risk-taking and learning off one another;
no pencils and no erasers (literally and figuratively)
a sharp focus on clarity and simplicity over “artistic” detail;
time to reflect.
Like all creative endeavours, sketchnoting is both a communal and private activity all at once. So students need to be nurtured more than taught in the traditional sense.
Here are some images of my student generated sketchnotes, and slides that might help you teach it to yours. Share and share alike, please.
Click the photo above to see an album of students sketchnoting.
Click the slide above to see my small Google folder of resources (I’ve written in the slides’ notes).
This guest post was written by my good friend Andrea Haefele, an innovative leader in our district with Health and Physical Education, and a devoted wife and mother to a beautiful family. In addition to meeting the demands of being a family woman and professional, Andrea spends a significant amount of her time advocating for her first born daughter, Bella, who has exceptional needs. Recently, her family welcomed a beautiful guide dog named Kadence into their fold. This is their story. Read her post on my blog last year here.
We’ve waited almost three years for you to come into our lives. I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am that you are finally a member of our family.
I know that you’ve already been through a lot and have worked very hard to get to where you are today. From birth, you were exposed to different noises and obstacles to help encourage confidence and curiosity. You were then raised by a foster family who gave you basic training and socialized you to as many sights, sounds and smells to prepare you for your future career. When you were only one-year-old, you left your foster family to endure many assessments, and you were carefully selected to become an Autism Assistance Dog Guide. Since February, you were matched with our daughter Bella and have officially joined our family. Our household is now filled with high-pitched screams of excitement every morning when Bella sees you. You’ve brought such a sense of joy and hope into our lives.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve carried a lot of weight on my shoulders. I wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying. When Bella was a baby, I would worry about why she wasn’t hitting her milestones like the other babies. I worried that she would never be able to walk. I worried that the doctors would never be able to provide us with a diagnosis that would explain why she was different. Now that Bella is 6 and in kindergarten, I worry if she has friends to play with at recess. I worry about her hurting herself because she does not walk steadily. I worry about her wandering away and getting lost because she has no sense of personal safety. I worry about her getting sick and enduring another seizure. I worry that I’m not doing enough to help her reach her potential. Most of all, I worry about her future.
One of the hardest challenges that I have faced as a parent to a child with special needs is having to rely on others to help my child because I can’t. Although as a teacher I help students on a daily basis to reach their goals and soar beyond their potential, there’s only so much that I can do for my little girl. I’ve had to learn to trust doctors, specialists, therapists, educational assistants, and her teachers to provide the tools that I don’t have to help Bella. Over the past years, granting these experts our trust has paid off because their training has helped Bella to learn how to walk and communicate with us with the help of visual aids and picture cards.
We’ve worked very hard to get Bella to where she is today. However, I never expected to, one day, welcome the expertise of a four-legged furry creature who wags her bum, drools and passes gas unapologetically.
We are now on the journey of, not only embracing you as part of our lives, but entrusting you with our happy little girl. The trainers have told us that it may take up to a year until you meaningfully bond with Bella. Because she is non-verbal, I know it is challenging for you to read her and understand her needs. However, in just the few months that you have been with us, you have already learned Bella’s pace as she tiptoes while she plays, and stomps while she walks. You quietly lie beside Bella when she is in her IBI, speech and language, and physiotherapy sessions and provide her with the self- assurance and confidence that she needs. You tolerate her pulling and whacking on your tail because you see that it makes her giggle. You lick her hand because you know she likes the feeling of your teeth and your tongue. When Bella wakes up crying in the middle of the night, you’re beginning to check on her and turn Bella’s terrified cries into reassured smiles.
Kadence, I admire your work ethic, patience, and manners. As I load the kids into the car, you sit by my side until you are given the command to jump in. You always wait patiently for your food as Bella is learning how to place it into your bowl, and refuse your dog treats before we give you the command to go ahead. When other dogs bark at you for your attention, or when a squirrel runs across the road, you continue walking straight ahead because you know you have a job to do.
I wonder if you’ll ever truly grasp the importance of your role, not only for Bella, but for all of us. We will never be able to provide Bella with the companionship and emotional support that you can. Nothing makes Bella’s smile larger than seeing you. I look forward to witnessing your growing bond and seeing Bella thrive with you by her side.
Now that Bella is getting older and taller, she is beginning to stand out when we’re out in public. I can see it in people’s eyes. They stare and wonder why she wants to lick everything, why she makes funny noises, why she spins around and around, and why she still wears a bib. Before you came into our lives, Kadence, I would sometimes feel self-conscious and carry an arsenal of tools to calm Bella down and to help her cope. We sometimes have to put her in a wheelchair for family outings to keep her safe. Now, with you walking by our side, I feel a sense of pride and comfort. The red harness that you wear is a poster creating awareness for autism and advocating for Bella.
People are now more open to approaching us with questions. Meaningful questions such as: How does Kadence help her? What do you need Kadence for? What kind of training did she have to go through? Does your daughter enjoy Kadence? I love how people have the courage to ask.
We are working towards having Kadence go to school with Bella in September so that Bella can continue growing, learning and moving forward as you provide her with confidence, competence, and independence. Thank you, Kadence, for providing my daughter with laughter, companionship, strength, and courage. But most of all, thank you for being a friend to our Bella.
Although a dog guide is valued at $25,000, they are provided free of charge to families who apply for a dog guide (whether it be for the vision and hearing impaired, seizure response, autism assistance, diabetic alert, and other service dogs). The Lions Foundation of Canada is the founder and primary funder of Dog Guides Canada. Lions clubs across Canada contribute 25% of the revenue for the organization, so they depend highly on donations, sponsorship, and fundraisers.
Every year our family has done an annual run to raise awareness for people and families who live with special needs. With the addition of Kadence into our family this year, we decided to do the Purina Walk for Dog Guides on May 24th at Harbourfront Ontario. Please consider making a donation to help provide dog guides to other families by clicking here.
For more information on Autism Assistance Dog Guides, please visit this link. Check out the montage of Bella, Kadence, and the rest of the family below.
When I was in high school, I suffered from mental health issues that tormented my existence and left me unable to meet my potential. If it were not for two important teachers and one great friend who listened to my calls for help, I’m not certain if I would have become the energetic, confident man I am today.
I reflected hard on this today after seeing this just-released video created collaboratively by our great YRDSB Mental Health and Learning Design & Development Teams. I’m proud to know these people.
I listen to podcasts so you don’t have to. The Podcasts for Pedagogues series exists to clue you in on great podcast episodes you may have missed. Click here to see all of my posts in this series.
There’s an old adage that, for students to success at school work, they must have active, involved, helpful parents at home. It’s not until recently, however, that researchers have actually investigated this claim. According to education journalist and author of The Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein:
[T]here is a negative correlation with student achievement. So, the more involved the mom and dad are in the homework process, the worse the kids do. Why is that? The researchers posit a few explanations… when the children know that the parents are always there to scoop in and save them from mistakes and wrong answers, they take less responsible onto themselves. There is a sense, when they are in a pickle, that the parent will come in and rescue them.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, excessive parental intervention and its consequences have been on my mind as of late. If you want to hear The Mom and Dad podcasters and Goldstein discuss the research behind parents and homework, check out the Podcast for Pedagogues below.
Want to learn more about a recent study on the impact of parents helping children with their homework, as well as new research into how we should deal with lice in schools (spoiler alert: we’re a bit too crazy about it).
You know that feeling you get when, after a long work week, you meet some old friends for beverages at a local haunt? That’s a little of how I’ve felt coming back to Instagram. It’s not that I’m particularly down on Twitter or the blogosphere in any way. I still cherish the interactions and connections I have in these spaces. I just can’t help but juxtapose Instagram with my go-tos because I’ll admit that I’m finding some aspects of the former quite refreshing. There’s one difference, in particular, that hit me immediately.
It’s so easy to comment on Instagram.
Unlike most blogs, which still makes the commenting process a little 2010, if not completely onerous (yes, the irony of me posting this on my WordPress blog has dawned on me), Instagram makes commenting almost a must. There is absolutely no barrier to it. Just a little box waiting for you to write, with no character limit, and no pressure to be highly eloquent.
And, my goodness, sometimes emoji speak so much louder than words!
I know that I’ve arrived late to this party, so it must feel to some of you like you’re a Parisian being told by a foreigner how great croissants are, but I must say that the ‘Gram sure is making social media fun for me again.
I mean, where else does one get to live vicariously through someone travelling in the bamboo forests of Kyoto?
Playgrounds today. They’re beautiful, colourful, inclusive, and safer than ever. If you’re privileged, like my family is, to live in a place like the suburban Greater Toronto Area, playgrounds are also in abundance. You can’t go a few blocks without hearing, “Can we stop and play there, daddy!!!” It’s wonderful for families, kids, and communities. There’s just one thing.
From my absurdly casual data collection, there is approximately a 2:1 ratio of parents to children on most of the playgrounds where I live. To go to your average middle-class playground is to witness adult intervention at its most active. I dare you to think of even one instance of this from your childhood just a generation or two ago. This cultural shift fascinates me, especially in light of how unsafe some of the structures from the past actually were. These days, we are literally putting ourselves in the middle of kids:
Climbing very safe structures;
Creating imaginary scenarios for play;
Meeting and socializing with new children.
And I’m not waving my finger here at everyone else. My wife and I are as guilty of this as anyone, especially in the early days of parenting. But I’m starting to think that our playgrounds are symbolic of both our strengths and flaws as modern parents. What are/will be the consequences of us constantly mediating play and social interaction?
I have this exceptionally simplistic belief: if siblings stick together, the world will be alright.
I know, it lacks any kind of nuance or inclusivity for all the single children out there, but I think you know that I’m being at least a little bit figurative in my use of “brother” and “sister”.
It’s actually a very selfish hope more than anything. My wife and I spawned three monsters, so it’s really me hoping that they’ll text each other when they’re older, and buy pho lunches for one another when days are rainy. I always tell them: If you’re going to conspire, at least conspire together. I still get ridiculously delighted inside when I see my youngest daughter draw a glorious stick figure picture of her big bro, or watch my middle boy get reluctantly sad about his big sister being away for a night on a sleepover, or witness my eldest teach the other two how to do things without parental provocation.
It’s not surprising then that I enjoyed watching the steady stream of posts for #NationalSiblingDay #SiblingDay this past week.
Social media can seem awash in hate, misery, and bitterness, but frequently it is full of love. I was reminded of that this past #NationalSiblingDay.
Yesterday I was joking around with one of our closest family teenagers and suggested we take a selfie together for fun. Her response?
“Ew, that’s so mainstream.”
I then asked her if selfies were ruined by adults like me.
“No, it’s not that. I’ve just always hated selfies, and I don’t know why people go crazy about them. It’s like you have to do them to be cool”
As someone who believes that teenage rebellion is one of the most important ingredients to maintaining a stable, balanced society, my conversation with our family friend reminded me that sometimes the biggest act of rebellion is refusing to take part in the things that make up the canon of cool.
There’s a word in Korean that is arguably the most important in the culture:
밥 (pronounced “bahp”)
It can mean cooked rice or a meal, and for people who grew up with the word in their house, it’s usually thought of in the context of:
밥을먹고! (COME EAT!)
Before starting school in Canada, I only spoke Korean at home, so I thought 밥 was the universal word for food. I either wanted 밥, had too much 밥, dropped my 밥 on the ground, or got 밥 shoved in my mouth. I’m pretty sure I knew that a banana was different than a spicy bowl of Korean soup, and that short ribs tasted different than octopus, but I still generally considered all of it to be 밥.
This is quite different to how my own first-language English children are growing up. Perhaps because of both linguistic and cultural differences, they started naming specific ingredients in food pretty much since they could utter words. “That’s rice”, “this is chicken”, and “I don’t like asparagus”.
Let me tell you, I grew up eating good food. Sure, my parents fluctuated on the spectrum of income, and we were certainly low on that continuum in the earliest (and various other) days, but we always ate well. I did not complain.
Until I started school.
It was at school that I started learning about the food groups and how important it was to eat healthy. As soon as I learned about it, I remember coming home to tell my mother.
“Mom, we’ve got to start eating vegetables.”
“Vegetables. We have to eat more. Like broccoli or spinach or peas. C’mon mom, please!”
Meanwhile, my dinner that day probably resembled something like this.
A photo posted by royan the dragon🐲 (@spicylearning) on
Koreans eat a ridiculous amount of vegetables. But, obviously, I didn’t even know that myself. I wasn’t in the habit of naming and compartmentalizing individual ingredients on our dinner table. It was all 밥 to me. I’ll never forget seeing a TV dinner for the first time and dreaming about how much healthier my diet would be if I had some of those baby carrots and mashed potatoes on the side of my meat.
I thought back to this time in my life recently after having a conversation with other educators about English as a Second Language Learners and standardized testing. We talked about the importance of making the tests equitable by making sure vocabulary and cultural references were not specific to just one dominant culture. One person noticed that “plywood” was being used in a math problem, and was concerned about which cultures might be unfairly puzzled by the concept. This immediately made me think of 밥, so I reminded them that perhaps it wasn’t that some students are puzzled by the thing itself, but just by the word.
Being a child of colour or low income doesn’t necessarily preclude you from having rich, intricately-woven life experiences. Instead of always thinking that fostering equity means filling in knowledge and experiential deficits, let’s remember that social assistance recipients go camping, Iranians are engineers, and Koreans eat vegetables, too.