Monday, June 17, 2019

What #WeTheNorth Can Mean - Media Literacy and the NBA Champions

On Thursday, June 13, 2019, the Toronto Raptors, the only current Canadian franchise in the NBA (National Basketball Association), won the NBA Championship. (I say current, because from 1995-2001, Vancouver had the Vancouver Grizzlies, but they moved.)



This is the first major sports championship to be won by a Toronto team since the Toronto Blue Jays won baseball's World Series back in 1992 and 1993. As you can imagine, it's a big deal.



In education, it's important to be responsive to the lived experiences of our students. If we can bring what matters to them somehow into the classroom, the learning can be richer. I was curious to see what teachers and schools would do to celebrate, but also elevate the conversation. The Raptors win is a perfect opportunity for rich media literacy discussions. I scanned Twitter for evidence of these conversations, but I didn't see as many as I had hoped I would find. I want to give a particular shout-out to Larissa Aradj (@MrsGeekChic), the tweeter for @TDSB_ChurchStPS, Jamile Garraway (@_MisterGee), Beryl Cohen (@berylcohen) and Margie Keats (@ms_keats) for the most learning-centric examples I was able to spot on Friday June 14.

Church Street PS, based on their tweet, connected their study of mindfulness to the Raptors. They also got be involved with media production, as a news crew came to visit them at school.

Mr. G's school (Alvin Curling P.S., if his reference is to the wonderful teacher-librarian Gloria Westrik), connected the Raptors to the TDSB's character traits. (There was another school that had their students research the biographies of many of the Raptors players and show how they exemplified perseverance in the face of adversity - I apologize for forgetting the name of the tweeter.)
Mrs. Aradj, over at Lord Lansdowne P.S., made a very overt media connection, by buying and then analyzing all the Toronto newspapers and how they covered the win.
Margie Keats took it to another level with her tweets, which doesn't surprise me, considering that she is a member of AML (Association of Media Literacy).
I really appreciated the tweet written by Beryl Cohen, a TDSB Learning Coach. It's so important not to let the victory overshadow issues concerning equity and other ongoing concerns.

There have been many posts on various social media platforms. (My focus here was just on Twitter.) Most are celebratory and joyous. What I hope will happen (or continue to happen) after the parades and replays are really fruitful, productive and thoughtful conversations about some of the many aspects of this win. Thinking critically doesn't diminish the win, but can bring new understanding. These conversations can even occur informally, as students are colouring or drawing their Raptors signs, flags, and banners for their own parade (as what happened in my own school on Friday). Here are some subtopics and questions (in the style of Margie's tweets, and also borrowing liberally from Carol Arcus and Neil Andersen's radio chat with Stephen Hurley on the show "Mediacy" on VoicEd Radio Canada) for consideration. This is not meant to be an extensive list - just inspiration for educators to come up with their own deep questions!

Hashtags and Slogans

What are some of the hashtags that people use when discussing the Raptors' win? How are they the same and how are they different?

I had a kindergarten student chant "We The North" with the rest of the school, and then turn to me and ask, "What does 'We The North' mean?". Discuss this slogan. Where have you seen it? What does it mean?

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Who stayed up to watch the game? Where/how did you watch it? Does that make a difference? Why did people stay up late to watch? Who usually makes a point of watching basketball? Why do so many more people start paying attention to a sports team when it is in the playoffs? Does it matter that there are "fair-weather fans"? What about the people who don't care about basketball at all, even with the Raptors in the playoffs?

News

Compare the different coverage from different cities around the world about the Raptors win. What about St. Louis (whose team just won the Stanley Cup in hockey after a long drought)? What news might have been left off the front page that day?

Fans and Community

Two famous fans of the Raptors are Drake and "SuperFan" Nav Bhatia. What does it mean or take to be a "mega-fan"? What is the economic cost? (How much did those NBA Championship tickets go for?) Several "Jurassic Parks" evolved all over Canada - what elements were required to have a "Jurassic Park"? Why did so many people go downtown and brave the wind and rain to stand outside to watch the screen. Why do Canadian fans say "We won" when they were not themselves on the basketball court?

Unfair Treatment

The Raptors General Manager, Masai Ujiri, was punched and pushed by a police officer as he tried to celebrate the win. Raptors player Kyle Lowry was shoved during the game by Golden Warriors part-owner Mark Stevens. How are these two incidents similar and different? What about analyzing referee calls? Are they biased?

Merchandise, Signs and Memes

When I did an image search for the Toronto Raptors, my search engine immediately brought up items for purchase. This didn't happen when I searched a few days ago. What's being sold? Why? For how much? Do you have to have a Raptors jersey to prove your love for the team? Who gets this money? What is the most common image seen on signs? Why? What message does it send? What phrases and colours are seen most frequently? Why? The Raptors Twitter account has created several memes, photoshopped images (like team members standing on a Californian bridge) and "bobble head videos" featuring their players (such as the "Full House / Raptor House" parody). Watch them and consider the intended audience.

Canadians and Basketball

Did anyone see the Jimmy Kimmell clip where Canadian Raptors fans were unable to properly trash-talk the opposing team? How much of this is stereotype and how much of this is real? Why is such a big deal currently being made of the creator of the sport of basketball being Canadian?


Parades

The City of Toronto is holding a parade in honour of the Raptors on Monday, June 17. Why do we have parades? Who decides to have them? What do they represent? What events tend not to be celebrated by a parade, but maybe should be? Compare this parade to others, like the upcoming Pride parade. What do the parades have in common and how do they differ?



I hope that this is just the beginning of some great, media literacy infused conversations. Congratulations Toronto Raptors, and thank your for providing Canadian educators with some great lesson fodder for the last few weeks of school!

Note: This same post was also published simultaneously on the AML website, www.aml.ca.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dress Code

Many years ago, in the parish I used to attend that was closer to where I lived, I used to be a lector. That volunteer job involved reading aloud part of the Liturgy of the Word at Catholic Mass. One summer day, my husband and I were scheduled to be the lectors. We arrived, and one of the elderly ladies pulled me over to talk to me about my attire. I was wearing a long sundress with criss-cross straps and my shoulders were partially exposed. She told me that what I was wearing was inappropriate for me to have on as a reader. I was really distressed. There was nothing I could do. There was no time to go home and change. When I went home, I cried because I was so embarrassed. My husband chatted with other members of the parish, who said (and this is just a paraphrase): "oh so-and-so is a bit of a busy-body ... but she's right, that dress didn't suit for church".

It was hard to find an image for today's blog. This image from Wikimedia Commons is permitted for reuse.

I bring up this personal story (which I have to admit, still stings with shame decades later) because the most current and buzz-worth news story isn't about how the provincial government is cutting jobs in schools (which it still is) but about the changes to the TDSB's Dress Code.

This is the link to the actual dress code policy - https://www.tdsb.on.ca/About-Us/Policies-Procedures-Forms/Detail/docId/204 and here http://ppf.tdsb.on.ca/uploads/files/live/97/204.pdf

Read it before you make any assumptions. It's easy to jump to conclusions when the first things you hear about the policy change are "you can wear tank tops and show your bra straps".

I have mixed feelings about the dress code.

I agree that in the past, dress code reinforcements unfairly targeted teen girls. Spaghetti straps on an 8-year-old would be ignored, but not on a 14-year-old. I also concur that it had racial undertones as well, with black boys and their preferences for worn hoodies and baseball caps penalized. I agree with the idea that the TDSB Dress Code should "draw on the principles of equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism, non-discrimination, equitable and inclusive education" (TDSB 2019, page 1). The previous dress code was imprecisely enforced in ways that were discriminatory. The more I read about autism, the more I discover that having a hoodie up helps a student self-regulate and decrease external distracting stimuli. Reading tweets from Angie Manfredi (@misskubelik) heightens my awareness of sizeism and discrimination against fat people; clothing comments are a part of this bias too. I can see why this dress code change could be good.

On the other hand, it might become quite challenging to reinforce or explain "standards" for dressing. How and where do you learn about the practice of removing your hat for the playing of the national anthem? Is it like the "broken window syndrome", where by being lax on what are considered minor infractions, it suggests that most rules don't matter because they aren't enforced strictly? A few months ago, an American school was in the news for implementing a parent dress code - not something I'd recommend if the intent is to create a welcoming and inclusive school environment, but I can sympathize with the principal's discomfort at some of the outfits worn by adults that inspired her decision. If students don't get to practice making clothing choices and getting honest feedback on their choices, when and where will they receive it?

I won't expose my colleagues' opinions without asking permission first, but I think it's fair to say more are opposed to the change than support it. I mentioned in conversation about how past practices unfairly targeted racialized male bodies and sexualized female bodies but was rebuffed by friends and family, who said that all teens would dress that way if allowed, and that societal standards should be upheld.  I don't necessarily disagree, but whose standards are being upheld? Uniforms are looking pretty good right now to a lot of educators and they are still allowed under the new policy but a clear majority of the school community (including Grade 7s and 8s who are allowed to vote for themselves) must be in favour. Would the same teachers be in favour of a teacher uniform?

A quick side-bar on uniforms. My own children go/went to TCDSB schools (publicly funded Catholic schools - don't @ me to enter a debate about this topic, okay? One controversial issue at a time!). They wore uniforms. The good thing was that there was no decisions to make about what to wear each day. The bad thing was how expensive they were, especially when they were quite specific. I felt sorry for one of the TCDSB principals who privately told me that there is very little support for enforcing dress code policy in uniform-based schools, even though uniform transgressions are expected to be upheld. In other parts of the world, lacking a uniform meant you couldn't attend school. It's not that extreme in Toronto, thank goodness. It just leaves me with some questions.

Does what you wear really impact the learning that takes place?
What research exists that supports either side of the debate?

The most difficult part of the new code is actually section 6.5, which I'll quote in its entirety here.

6.5 Professional Development and Student Education (a) As part of the Leadership Capacity Plan, the Board will ensure training and professional development support for staff to enhance knowledge and awareness of discriminatory impact of unfair application of the student dress code (e.g., assumptions or stereotypes about diverse racial heritage, creed beliefs, rigid gender roles, gender identities and expressions, socioeconomic status, disabilities, sexuality or perceived sexual behaviour related to hair, clothing colours, fashion choices, etc., that are based on or reinforce bias, prejudice and discrimination.). (b) Students will receive regular education on topics of: boundaries, consent, healthy relationships, sexual harassment and bullying and violence prevention, to enhance the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that ensure diverse student dress choices are fostered in a respectful, inclusive, safe and positive school climate. 
Equity training for teachers is not easy. This involves changing hearts and minds, not just learning what the new rules are about. Some adults don't seem ready to hear it or consider these options. Resources that are age-appropriate for the students we serve aren't always easy to locate. I tried very hard during my media unit on hair (that also addressed stereotypes) to find materials that were diverse. I found a lot of lessons, videos, and media texts that addressed gender stereotypes, but almost none that talked about race, ability, class, or other areas - is that because elementary teachers (who are often white women) feel more comfortable talking about gender bias but not others?

I started with a church anecdote, so I'll end with a church anecdote. Our current priest informed the parishioners a few months ago that they may want to pay close attention to what they were wearing at church because his upcoming homilies were going to be about appropriate clothing choices for church, and he didn't want to embarrass anyone or make them feel that he was targeting them in his talk. He spoke about the different transgressions he's noticed and asked us to dress in a way that shows honour and respect to God. (No word on all those sleeveless, shoulder-baring wedding dresses - maybe even the priest fears the wrath of a Bridezilla being told she can't wear her special outfit!)

Bitmoji Image
PS This is totally not me - my wedding dress covered my shoulders and arms!



Monday, June 3, 2019

7th Annual Red Maple Marketing Campaign and Power to Persuade

Last week, I posted my Monday Molly Musing mid-week. I won't repeat that delay this week, although I will talk about something that I alluded to in the previous post - the Red Maple Marketing Campaign.

Author James Bow demonstrates structure concepts with boxes

We've been doing this for seven years now, or at least since 2012. We've had wonderful author visits (like Ted Staunton, Richard Scrimger, Robert Paul Weston, Allan Stratton [twice], and this year's guest, James Bow). The students take the competition seriously, and below is a list of the winners.

2012 = Winner, Milliken PS ("Half-Brother") / Runner-up, Thomas L. Wells PS ("Fly Boy")
2013 = "pause"
2014 = Winner, Agnes Macphail PS ("Loki's Wolves")
2015 = Winner, Milliken PS ("Boundless")
2016 = Winner, Macklin PS (book title?) / Runner-up, Agnes Macphail PS ("Prison Boy")
2017 = Winner, Macklin P.S. ("Trouble is a Friend of Mine") / Runner-up, Milliken PS ("Shooter")
2018 =  Winner, Milliken PS ("Laura, Monster Crusher") / Runner-up, Milliken PS ("The Way Back Home")

2019 = Winner, Milliken PS ("The Last Namsara") / Runner-up, Agnes Macphail PS ("Fourth Dimension")


Alison, Jennifer, James, Diana and Tracey (missing Jackie)

Each year, we, the teacher-librarian contacts, improve a bit more in the execution of the event. This year's positive change was the flexibility at the end of the day. None of the participating schools (Alexander Stirling PS, Brookside PS, Agnes Macphail PS, Emily Carr PS or Milliken PS) took school buses, so we were not hampered by the strict schedule of departure. I had parent drivers, so that freed me up to coordinate things, and that helped tremendously. Another benefit was that the groups kept to their five-minute time limit for presentations.  Only two groups went slightly over, and the amount of time was relatively insignificant. The transitions with technology were smoother than they've ever been before.

The only slip-up this year was the no-show ice cream truck. Our judges, Kayla and Jack from Manifest, were courted like royalty from the minute they entered the space. I hope to eventually put all the links from the projects on this page, partly as a resource for future student marketers to use.

I was a lot more hands-on this year with the four teams from my school, and I have to say publicly that I am so incredibly proud of the groups. Team "A World Below", "Fourth Dimension", "Sadia" and "A Time To Run" did a fantastic job collaborating as a team, considering options, taking advice, and putting in the time and effort to produce creative, innovative projects. Here are photos and links to the various projects. (ETA: links will be added later)

Book: Sadia
Author: Colleen Nelson
School: Agnes Macphail PS


Book: A World Below
Author: Wesley King
School: Agnes Macphail PS


Book: Fourth Dimension
Author: Eric Walters
School: Agnes Macphail PS


Book: A Time To Run
Author: Lorna Schultz-Nicholson
School: Agnes Macphail PS


Book: Tracker's Canyon
Author: Pam Withers
School: Brookside PS


Book: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray
Author: E. Latimer
School: Brookside PS


Book: Skating Over Thin Ice
Author: Jean Mills
School: Emily Carr PS



Book: Assassin's Curse
Author: Kevin Sands
School: Emily Carr PS


Book: The Last Namsara
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
School: Milliken PS





Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Happy #DLweekTO

I can't believe it - I'm late! Usually my Monday Molly (Mali) Musings appears, as the name suggests, every Monday. This week, the time slipped away from me and the weekly thought didn't get published until Wednesday. Sorry about that! The ironic thing about the delay is that this week isn't as busy as the previous weeks were.

This week is Digital Literacy Week in Toronto. This is a joint project, involving the Toronto Public Library, the City of Toronto, the TDSB, the TCDSB, and many other groups. The Toronto Public Library site describing the events can be found at this link: https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/festivals-events/digital-literacy-week/


For some reason, the TDSB site isn't listed here, which is a shame because the web presence is absolutely top-notch. You can find it here: https://sites.google.com/tdsb.on.ca/digitalcitizenship/home


Even some events I had this week that were not necessarily planned to coincide with Digital Literacy Week did so in quite a timely fashion.

On Monday, May 27,2019 the TDSB Professional Library held its second TDSB Teachers Read event. They definitely used a lot of digital tools to promote literacy. Search Twitter for the hashtag #tdsbreads to see the tweets, find the Periscope recording of the panel promotions, and use the Google Form ballot to select your favourite title. It's a hard choice; I haven't voted yet. I participated on the panel last year and it was a wonderful opportunity. I'm so glad they continued the tradition.


That same night, Denise Colby and I had a return engagement on the VoicEd radio show "Mediacy" with Stephen Hurley. It wasn't deliberately tied into digital literacy, but our discussion about gaming and identity dovetailed nicely with the themes of Digital Literacy Week. We LOVE talking with Stephen Hurley and I think we are planning on the possibility of a spin-off radio show focused on gaming of all sorts with some more student voice involvement!
Today (Wednesday, May 29) was the "reunion" for the Media Literacy AQ participants from TDSB. Once again, this wasn't an official Digital Literacy Week event, but we had a great guest speaker from TorStar who gave us a behind-the-scenes description of what working with digital user experience is like.

Tomorrow (Thursday, May 30) will be the 3rd anniversary of the #tdsbEd chat. I haven't missed an anniversary celebration yet. I plan on bringing at least one, if not more, of my colleagues to meet face to face and engage in some professional learning.


On Friday, May 31, the seventh annual Red Maple Marketing Campaign will take place at the Malvern branch of the Toronto Public Library. It's an official "exploration classroom" for the TDSB. The description is below as part of the image.


I write about the Red Maple Marketing Campaign often (e.g. 2018's reflection can be found here) and this will be the first time that we will have other teachers come to visit to see what it's all about and talk about how we included digital literacy as part of the preparation. I have high hopes for the Agnes Macphail PS teams this year - I was a lot more hands-on and did more coaching and checking in than I did in previous years, and I think that helped both the learning and the quality of the projects. Maybe we can continue our winning streak, since two weeks ago, Agnes Macphail PS won the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl Non-Fiction competition. Check my Twitter feed or next week's blog to see samples of the campaign strategies.

Did you know it was Digital Literacy Week? How might you take note now or in the future? Even if you weren't aware it was happening, have a happy #DLweekTO anyway!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Many Events - Thank you Organizers!

If you read last week's blog, you know that May 13 - 17 was hectic. The success of many of these endeavors lies with the organizers behind the scene who have been planning for weeks and months to make it happen. Today's blog post is a great big thank you card to people who work tirelessly to run these memorable days and evenings. I'm doing this because of a tweet I saw mid-week. I retweeted it, not intending it for myself, but I received a wonderful DM from Zelia Capitao-Tavares that gave me such a boost that I had to pay it forward, in multiple ways.
These are just some of the thank you roses I need to give!

Monday, May 13, 2019 - Mediacy Podcast on VoicEd Radio

Thank you Stephen Hurley, Denise Colby, Carol Arcus and Neil Andersen!

Would you agree to be on a radio show, knowing that the next day was your teacher evaluation? Denise Colby did. A week before, I sent a message to my long-time friend asking her if she'd be willing to be a guest on the VoicEd program, "Mediacy". Without hesitation, she agreed. Things didn't quite go off without a hitch - Denise's computer chose that exact time to reboot. This is where I need to thank the "radio pro" Stephen Hurley, who was as cool as a cucumber considering that we were live on the air and Denise's computer was playing havoc with the audio. We chatted until Denise's technical difficulties were resolved and she jumped right in. Stephen extended the show to forty-five minutes and even invited us back again to continue the conversation. Big kudos go to Carol and Neil, the usual speakers on "Mediacy", who were so supportive and encouraging.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - Forest of Reading Festival of Trees at Harbourfront

Thank you Diana Hong, Lisa Daley, Ontario Library Association, volunteers and assorted authors!

In 2018, I attended the Festival of Trees but worked the entire time at the Research Station. In 2017, I sent my students and staff without me. This year, I experienced the fair in the most wonderful way - wandering around with students! I drove three students down to Harbourfront ahead of time so they could be on stage for the 10:00 am Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award ceremony. I drove six students back because our school bus left right at 2:00 pm and some of our students were part of the official ceremony for the Silver Birch Express Award ceremony. In between was a wonderful time seeing teacher-librarian friends from across the province, chatting with OLA staffers, visiting authors, glimpsing the action on the lawn stage (Drag Queen Story Time! Hoop Dancers! Mike Ford!) and enjoying the pleasant weather. I wish I had time to savor the TCAF tent or talk more at length with colleagues I don't see often enough, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity, brief as it was at times.






There are almost too many people to thank! My friend Ruth Gretsiger (pictured above) was on one of the many Forest of Reading selection committees - they choose the books. My friend Kate Tuff was one of the many members of the Forest of Reading steering committees - they plan the festival. The staff of the OLA (mentioned in the third tweet - people like Emily, Shelagh, Lauren, Meredith, and more) take care of many of the logistics. Diana Hong, Lisa Daley, and another teacher (who prefers online privacy) should be thanked for being so organized on the school side of things; from fixing bus lists, collecting forms, setting up groups to creating information packages for the parent volunteers, they thought of everything. The presence of the authors make the event truly special. My students asked me, "Do you know everyone? Is everyone your friend?" - but that's just how genuine and giving the authors are when you exchange a few words. (Liam O'Donnell is an exception - an author and personal friend.) Shout-out to Kevin Sylvester, especially for his (and Eric Walters') public support to the education and library communities by objecting to the recent cuts by the provincial government. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019 - Track and Field Day

Thank you Renee Keberer, Kerri Commisso, Diana Hong, parent volunteers and Agnes Macphail PS Staff!

The competition was postponed three times due to inclement weather and poor field conditions, but it finally happened! To make things even more pressure-filled, the Yearbook Committee (Renee and I) needed all clubs and teams photos taken and inserted by Tuesday, May 21. The Track and Field Committee met immediately after the event to hammer out the representatives for our Track and Field Team at Birchmount Park C.I. ASAP so we'd have names and faces for the spot in the yearbook. It's a tiring day but for many students, Track and Field Day is their day to shine. For others, the same event is fraught with disappointment, anxiety, and meltdowns, and the teachers supervising each station and the support staff and volunteers helped a lot to comfort those in distress and make it as enjoyable as possible.

Thursday, May 16, 2019 - STEAM Family Night #amsteam2019

Thank you Farah Wadia, Tina Voltsinis, Jennifer Balido-Cadavez, Lisa Daley, Grade 8 helpers, Parent Council and Agnes Macphail PS Staff!

No rest for the wicked! That very same day, the second annual Family STEAM Night was held. This year, we focused on a "wicked problem" and all the stations dealt with the same topic - how do we deal with all the plastic in the world? 

Once again, the event was a hit! There may not have been as many activities for the very youngest of community members but school-aged learners and their parents made pledges to reduce plastic consumption using green screen, designed ocean clean-up prototypes (and tested them in our "mock oceans"), wove milk bags into birthing mats, transformed old t-shirts into grocery bags, and used plugged and unplugged coding methods to guide each other to wiser purchasing choices that reduce plastic consumption. 

I was so busy showing students how to use the sewing machines on those t-shirt bags that I had no time to take any photos! Thank goodness we had a Twitter contest and others grabbed visual evidence from the evening! The Grade 8 students volunteering at my station (A, V, and E) were fantastic and so devoted to helping youngster cut fabric. Thank you Value Village Markham for donating the shirts - that was the only way we were able to satisfy the demand! Also thanks to Eco and Amour for coming to sell zero-waste products. 



Friday, May 17, 2019 - TDSB East Silver Birch Quiz Bowl

Thank you Tracey Davies, Alexander Stirling PS, Allison Brandt, Berner Trail Jr PS, Lindsay McKeag, David Lewis PS, Kim Davidson, Military Trail PS, Jackie Burrell, Percy Williams Jr PS, Sara Uddin, CD Farqharson Jr PS, Taunya xxxx, General Crerar PS, Jackie Dixon, Emily Carr PS, and author Rob Laidlaw!


I didn't realize that this was the tenth anniversary of this event as it currently looks today. I only discovered or remembered this because something very exciting happened for Agnes Macphail PS - we actually won the non-fiction competition! (The prize is a book, designed by Claire Perrin, where the winning time signs their names; as I looked through the book, I saw that the very first page was dated 2009.) Winning is not usually a big deal to me - most of the joy comes from getting together with other schools, enjoying ice cream from the ice cream truck (thank you Allison for saving the day on that score with your quick contacts!) and getting an author visit. This event could not and cannot take place without these fantastic teacher-librarians (and the helpful teachers, like Macphail's own Joanna Leong) who bring kids on buses, prepare questions and supervise groups. I was super thankful for my "TL crew" because I hadn't finished writing questions for two of my four books; they gave me space and time (and pencil and paper) to let me get my contribution completed in time in the back of the gym. Sara - the banner is beautiful. Jackie - the buzzers are perfect. Special thanks to Principal Matthew Webbe and VP Kelly Funston who opened up their school to us, allowed us access to change rooms, the gym, and yard space (as well as granting permission to park an ice cream truck in front of school property).



I'm grateful for the chance to recharge my batteries this Victoria Day weekend and truly grateful to toil with such dedicated, hard-working, wonderful individuals. Thank you for making it memorable!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Finding Serenity in a Storm

The knob is turned up to 11 this week. (If you don't catch the reference, please read the Wikipedia article about it.) Tonight is my guest stint on the VoicEd Radio show "Mediacy". Denise Colby and I are replacing Neil Andersen and Carol Arcus with our regular host, Stephen Hurley. Tomorrow was supposed to be Track and Field, but it will probably have to be postponed; the day will still be filled with frantically finishing the school yearbook when not teaching. Wednesday is the Forest of Reading's Festival of Trees. Thursday will probably be our rain date Track and Field Day, followed immediately by our school's Family STEAM Night. Friday is our annual local literary celebration, the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl.

Usually, home is a sanctuary during this tumultuous time, but right now, this isn't true. In fact, this is a photo of my living room at the moment.


We are having our upstairs carpet replaced tomorrow, Tuesday May 14. This means that, although we were able to leave the major items of furniture in our bedrooms, we had to remove everything off the floor, any drawers (or things in drawers), and anything on top of furniture that would interfere with said furniture being moved around during the installation.

So where can we find relief from the chaos, especially when everything is in messy disarray at school and at home?

Tangent: To compound things, today I was asked to cover a kindergarten class because no supply teacher showed up. I could have devoted the entire blog post today to this dilemma. I don't envy any administrator that has to make this decision. What do you do when there's no occasional teacher to supervise a class? Choices aren't easy to make. Unfortunately, sometimes the option chosen means that specialist teachers get pulled. They are asked to collapse or close their program for the day, often at a moment's notice, to cover a regular classroom teacher's duty. In my school, this usually means either the teacher-librarian or the HSP / SERT / MART teacher takes the job. It can be a bit discouraging or demoralizing when this happens, because even though it is unintentional, the message given is that your program or classes (as a TL or special education teacher) don't matter as much as a "regular" classroom. I had to juggle my schedule to try and ensure that other staff members didn't miss their prep but the class was still operational. I lost my preps for today, but every student was taken care of in the best way we could. Big thanks to Jennifer Balido-Cadavez, our ECE, who ran the class like a well-oiled machine, and support staff members Stephanie Paterson and Joan D'Souza who filled in gaps willingly.

Back to the original question: Where can we find serenity in a storm?

The answer may be found inside ourselves. Our Student Wellness Leaders have a "Mindful Minute" every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday following afternoon recess. We listen to the pre-recorded guided meditation, where we close our eyes, concentrate on breathing, pause, reflect and relax. Stopping the roller coaster, albeit briefly, to address the stress, is a great strategy. As my friend Lisa Noble likes to remind me - breathe.

The answer can also be found in others. I came home today, ready to launch into all the tasks awaiting me. Hubby announced that he cancelled our regularly scheduled Cross Fit exercise class. Although exercise is a good stress-beater, he felt that we could use the extra hour plus to collect ourselves and not feel so rushed. I had to agree, and appreciated the reduced list of things to do. (Plus, carrying drawers up and down the stairs from the second floor to the living room was exercise enough for the day!) This past weekend, I went with Lisa Noble to attend Tim King's surprise 50th birthday party in Elora. We could have driven there and back in a day, but Lisa recommended that we stay overnight. Even though I missed my family a bit, I'm glad we did. I could enjoy libations, since Lisa was the designated driver, stay as late as we wanted, and on Sunday we spent a quiet hour back at Tim and Alanna's house chatting together before Lisa and I headed back to Toronto / Peterborough. (Don't worry, I made it in time for Mother's Day with my children and my own mother.)


So even though places are great for seeking sanctuary, sometimes when that isn't an option, turn to people to settle things down.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Two Hashtags: #tdsbPineapple and #31DaysIBPOC

Usually, this blog reflects on events that have happened in school during the previous week. Today's blog will be a reflection on what's coming up. That's not to say that last week was boring - in fact, it was quite busy with our Forest of Reading voting, continued yearbook preparations, and the Grade 1-8 school Spring Concert. The reason for the "looking ahead" instead of "looking back" is due to my need to process the information and I tend to make sense of things when I write them down.

This coming week, in the spirit of collaboration and the idea that we can learn from our fellow educators in the buildings we share, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is encouraging participation in Pineapple Week.


Our wonderful Special Needs Assistant (SNA), Stephanie Paterson and the Program Coordinator for Teachers Learning and Leading Department in TDSB, Jennifer Watt, are encouraging educators to open their doors to share what they are doing and learn from each other. I admire both Stephanie and Jennifer, so I thought I'd give it a try. According to an image tweeted by Julie Liu (@_julieliu_tdsb) and confirmed via https://www.southernliving.com/culture/pineapple-hospitality and https://www.thespruceeats.com/pineapple-symbol-of-friendship-and-luxury-4047011, the rationale for using pineapples as the image is due to their "representation of hospitality".

I don't want this visit to be a "look at the awesome things I'm doing; aren't I wonderful?" moment. I want this to be a "look at the newer things I'm trying; is this helpful? experience. That's why I'm paying a little closer attention to what I'm teaching - not because I want to impress anyone, but because I want to do it "right".


My current media unit focus is on hair, and the various social, political, ideological and value messages that are part of them. We've done quite a bit on stereotypes as part of this lesson, which has been challenging but worthwhile. I'm still considering the reminder that B gave me at the TDSB Equity Conference to focus on the positive portrayals instead of dwelling on the oppressive examples and reminding myself to respond to corrections with gratitude instead of defensiveness as I continue to read White Fragility: Why it's so hard for White People to talk about Racism in preparation for my next book club meeting. A great resource (in addition to the books by Sharee Miller like Princess Hair and Don't Touch My Hair!) has been the non-fiction book What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair? by Ndija Anderson-Yantha. Jen Apgar's tweet as she attends The FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity) contained some powerful words of encouragement for me. (If you can't read the image, part of it says "reflecting on how to bring diverse voice and perspectives into learning spaces while not culturally appropriating. As a good Ally I am trying to help others not use fear of getting it wrong to be the reason they disengage from this work".)
I confess - the fear is real. I felt like I "got it wrong" at the TDSB Equity Conference and I want to do better, but the onus should be on me to fix it instead of enlisting others to "do the heavy lifting".

My hair unit has not yet addressed those who cover their hair. It's about time I do, but I want to do it sensitively and respectfully. I'm using the TDSB Virtual Library for sources as well as a page from a picture book (whose name escapes me at the moment). I've found an age-appropriate article for hijabs and for turbans/dastars/daasters (this was an informative Google search one but is for adults) but none for dupattas/chunnis (for Sikh women), patkas (for Sikh boys), kippahs/yarmulkes (for Jewish boys) or haubes/veils/mantillas (for Christian women). I'd really prefer not to have to go to Wikipedia for the information, as part of my lesson is meant to encourage the use of the TDSB paid databases among our students. Munazzah Shirwani, excellent educator, founder of the VoicEd Radio podcast program Faith in the System, and one of my Twitter friends, has kindly offered to take a look at my task and give advice.

This leads me to some tweets I recently added to my "likes" list and then to the second hashtag from my blog title. (Speaking of which, I tend to use my Twitter "like" button as a way to save tweets for reference later - Lisa Noble told me at SuperConference 2019 about how to curate this more effectively, but Lisa, I need help - I don't want to have to unlike these tweets, then add Diigo, then re-like these tweets! What's another way to save them and keep them organized?)

@MrKitMath had a good thread about how whiteness asks as the norm and default position with regards to hair.

@teachkate shared an excellent document about improving equity and inclusion in conferences.

Several educators have shared the link to this site: https://31daysibpoc.wordpress.com/ where educators who are IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) will write, one featured contributor per day, about their experiences.

This is going to be my reading for the month of May. I couldn't read all of Dr. Laura Jimenez' post - and I appreciate that she provided a warning for the content beforehand (I find I cannot read about certain topics because they haunt my thoughts in unhealthy ways). Having said that, it's important to be more attuned to understanding others and that means listening and reading. There are too many instances of people abusing others and treating them as "less" because of their skin or heritage. So, in a way, I'm hoping that these two hashtags will intersect a bit more and that white women educators, as they open their classrooms for Pineapple Week, will consider the views and experiences of IBPOCs so that we can indeed create more equitable and inclusive classrooms. Keep learning.