Paths and Gaps: Part 3

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I have written about about “gap” years a couple of times — in both the general and personal sense:

Graduation Caps and Gaps

Paths and Gaps: Part 2

My daughter who took a “gap year” before going away to another city for university was recently home on her study break or “reading week”.  It is also now that time of year in Ontario when many Grade 12 students are starting to receive and consider their acceptances to university and/or college.  My daughter is now in Year 2 at university and I asked her again if she was still glad she took a gap year.  She gave me permission to document her answers and thoughts on my blog:

I benefitted by the exposure to the “work world” that year.  It gave me a new perspective on ways to live life and be successful in different ways.  It helped me improve other qualities and skills other than just “book smartness”.”

I had time to find out a bunch of things I wasn’t … in order to be able to start finding out who I am.  This happened in both my gap year and also during my first year at university.”

I thought the gap year would give me time to figure out what I really wanted to study at the post-secondary level, but it was really about learning other things instead of discovering what I wanted to study.”

In the end, I realized I just needed to try something at university in order to find what I wanted to do.”

My daughter included the subjects she was passionate about in her first year of university.  I think that this is one advantage of a first year at university — she was expected to take courses in different faculties.  This worked well for her as she could include her love of science, math, art and women’s studies.  It was through this “sampling” that she was able to decide what she didn’t want to study in depth while also leading her to what she did want to focus on.  It was something she hadn’t thought of initially at all.

My other daughter didn’t take a gap year after high school.  We had discussed the option with her, but it just wasn’t something she found comfort in doing.  As it turned out, a gap year after university before a college program was more beneficial to her.  We are happy with their paths and choices and I am sure other decisions would have worked out fine too.  There will be bumps regardless of the path!

Given all my thinking and reflecting on this, People for Education’s report released this week about career and life planning in schools caught my attention.

The press release here.

Career and Life Planning in Schools full report here.

I still need to spend some more time with the report, but they have made some recommendations for improving student portfolios for career/pathway support, the community involvement requirements, guidance counselling, and more (for a quick look start at page 14).  “Multiple paths, multiple policies, multiple challenges” indeed.  I don’t recall the mandatory “career/life planning portfolios” that my daughters brought home here and there as being very useful at all, but their community volunteer hours proved quite valuable in different ways.  I will be curious about what changes ahead.  What do others think?  What are the areas that need to change the most… and when?

informed, but full

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It’s been one week since the inauguration of the new U.S. president and I don’t think I have ever paid so much attention to U.S. politics before.  I am trying not to get caught up in a… “What did Trump do today?” sort of thing.  I am feeling quite confused about what and how much I should be paying attention to…  if at all.  Other questions:  Where should I look and read to stay informed?  Am I aware of how algorithms are determining what I read?  Yesterday I read Dean Shareski’s post about similar thoughts and questions (he links other good reading as well).  A few of his points/positions resonated with me, including:

In the end, many of us are getting obese on information. I know some would argue that’s the price we have to pay. We are forced to stay informed. But staying informed today with being somewhat misinformed is extremely challenging.”

I recently changed my “Twitter bio” to mention that I was using Twitter to stay informed.  Lately though, I have been a bit disturbed by what I have been informed about.  Maybe things will settle down soon…  It still makes me feel a bit lost and I wonder if there is any point to individuals blogging, tweeting or responding with all the information (and manipulation?) and news (and “fake news”) blasting out lately.  (Well, some of the humorous responses have eased the tension some!)

Donna Miller Fry has been tackling the topic about the challenges of our current internet and online/social media worlds through a series of “10 posts in 10 days” on her blog.  She has really dug into some important questions and current realities.  She is listing all 10 posts with further good reading and listening here.

Lots to digest and balance…

One step ahead

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I recently read Glen Cochrane’s blog post regarding a book he read about Jian Ghomeshi.  I haven’t read the book, but I appreciated reading Glen’s thoughts.  One paragraph in particular on his post had me pondering a good while,

I can’t help notice the role of technology here (texting), that enabled Ghomeshi to maintain a presence and a dialog that ultimately signified consent (in a legal and public opinion sense), without actually getting consent. Technology provides an easy way to maintain presence, yet also provides a way to remain ambiguous – this isn’t good nor bad in itself, except that courts and legal matters need to take such new forms of communication and relationship status into account. As does public opinion.”

write and think a lot (probably too much) about the impact of communication technologies on many things.  It can be both interesting and disturbing to me how new forms of communication are being “used” by individuals.  I often think about how technology can help maintain a presence in a “distant” way.  It comes with convenience, but I think it can still be “emotional work”.   But, as Glen referred to, Ghomeshi did what manipulators do… which encompassed how he communicated through texting.  With new communication technologies and changing norms with each, there is a lot to consider — context, relationship, skills, individual intent and purpose, etc.  I often think about cases and situations like this:  How would the situation and/or outcomes been different without texting (or.. insert other form of communication)?  I doubt there is any “one step ahead” in this for society.  We seem to continue to learn, teach, and be impacted “two steps behind”.  It this okay?  Is it always okay?

Just my jumble of thoughts amidst a confusing world of politics and communications today…

 

 

Re-Purpose

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I know I am not alone in pondering “mid-life” and/or changes to one’s career or life purpose.  I am also quite sure that I am not alone in wondering how it would be best to make a difference given the current issues of today and recent political news and stories.  I wonder how much this is also on the minds of younger people just starting their careers.  I don’t usually read “life purpose” articles too much, but I recently found some good questions for reflection in this article: Does “Life Purpose” Really Equal Life Happiness?  (shared by @JasonLauritsen on Twitter).  The author makes an interesting distinction between “life purpose” and living “on purpose”.  Here are the questions that caught my interest:

  • What do I feel I should have done by this time in my life? Can I create a similar impact with what I can do now or with the wisdom I have accumulated?
  • What do I want to feel more often in my life? What gives me these feelings now?
  • How can I ensure my commitment to living a life where I feel good about the impact I have on others every day?

Thought I would share, in case it helps anyone else — at any age.  I am not sure I have all the answers yet for myself, but it has helped my thinking, planning and prioritizing.

“They’re just texting…”

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I have posted before in attempts to understand and discuss the impacts of texting and “instant” messaging on youth.  As parents, we attempt to monitor who are children are associating with — in person, via devices, and online. When children are younger, it may be easier to chat about the experiences and communications that they are having with friends – both positive and negative.  When they are older and relationships become “romantic”, it gets a bit more challenging.  Experiences and communication become more private from parents.  Parents may also try to give more “space” and privacy.  It can be a tough and delicate balance though.

I often hear the messages of “letting kids fail/fall/make mistakes”, etc.  I believe kids can learn from bad experiences and relationships just as much as good ones.  They have to navigate friendships and relationships and learn from that too.  The advice to parents may also be: “Let them figure it out for themselves”.  But does this serve well as support for their “instant connecting” worlds?  How do parents know when things go too far or become unhealthy given all that can be “unseen” with communication technologies?  How do they know when to intervene and how?  I am not sure there is enough discussion or clear advice available on this, especially when kids are in their late teens and in relationships.  Are there conversations that need to happen sooner?

This is my attempt to provide some support and useful reading.  I may add to the list over time ahead:

Know the Signs:  Spotlight on Nonstop and Excessive Texting

Text Messaging:  Effects on Romantic Relationships and Social Behavior

Obsessive 24/7 Texting From a Partner or Ex Isn’t Cute

In(ternet) Love: Have a Healthy Online Relationship (a lot of good resources for relationships on this site… do explore for other relevant topics)

12 Alarming Ways Texting Controls Modern Relationships

MediaSmarts recently posted a guide for post-secondary students.  I think it is excellent and practical, as well as useful for parents to read or have handy as a resource:

On The Loose: A Guide to Life Online For Post-Secondary Students

The Impact of Cell Phones on Romantic Relationships

Have you got other useful resources or articles? Please suggest!

 

Conversations about parent-teacher interviews

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It wasn’t too far into summer when I started to catch blog posts in my Twitter feed about parent-teacher interviews.  Well at least educators were discussing the merits of… not sure many parents were yet. 🙂

I have posted on the topics of parent engagement and report cards on this blog, but not necessarily about parent-teacher interviews specifically.  I thought I would attempt a post on the topic to pull a few threads and ideas together.

In late July, Doug Peterson posted a personal story and reflection about parent-teacher interviews in his “Whatever happened to…” series.  He offered some good questions for educators that are worthy of repeating now that “the season” of interviews is well underway.

He states in the post,

Parent/Teacher interviews are still the lifeblood of communication and I do hope that Faculties of Education are not failing their students like mine did.  But, is there a more effective way of communicating with home?”

Doug’s curiosity/questions:

  • did you ever get good advice before your first parent/teacher interview?  Have you mastered them now?
  • do you use report cards and attachments as communication tools?
  • do you have a class blog/website and use it effectively?  How?
  • does social media fit into your communication plans?  Is it effective?
  • do you worry about the privacy of student/parent information in any of these formats?
  • where would you be without computers to facilitate this?
  • is a physical meeting a thing of the past?  Couldn’t you just do a hangout or Skype instead?

Please read his full post and I am sure he would welcome comments still.

Also in the summer, my friend Nancy aka @withequalstep shared this post with me (and probably on Twitter): Reporting to Support by Janet Goodall.  It is also a worthy read to challenge ideas about traditional parent-teacher interviews and reporting on learning.  The idea of shifting reporting to supporting is interesting.  The article has some good suggestions and insights.  I was left wondering about the delicate balance that K – 12 teachers must face.  How do they communicate (be “accountable”, as much as I don’t like that word) what may be expected about how they are teaching to support learning, and then also determine what is appropriate to suggest to parents to support learning at home, especially during a short “interview”?  Perhaps that comes clearer over time and through relationships and partnerships, as the post mentions:

What if, rather than being focused on the teachers, the event was focused around a partnership between parents and the teachers to support learning?”

Another August post that I read and appreciated was by Rusal Alrubail.  She wrote, as her title suggests, How To Create a Culturally Responsive Classroom for Refugee & Migrant Students.  I also took note of some good suggestions for connecting with immigrant and refugee parents, including:

Another piece of advice is to connect with parents on a regular basis, whether that may be through messaging, letters, phone calls or face to face, to update them on their child’s progress. Many immigrants and refugee parents might not feel comfortable asking about their child’s progress as they don’t want to take the teacher’s time. In some cultures, asking about the child may seem like an act to undermine the teacher’s authority. So it’s important to let them know you’re available if they have any questions or concerns.”

With all this reading, it prompted me to wonder what I learned about communicating with parents while taking my B. Ed program (over 20 years ago).  (I posted previously about the research that Tracy Bachellier conducted to look more closely at current programs in Ontario’s Faculties of Education.)  Since our family moved houses recently, I found and tossed all kinds of stored paper and files.  I did find a few good notes and handouts specific to preparing for parent-teacher interviews and being sensitive to parent needs.  This was before much technology of course, but I was still rather impressed with the tips that I had noted during a lecture.  Interestingly, I found this quote copied down in my notes:

Teachers in consultation with parents must strive to know each child as soon and as thoroughly as possible in order to provide learning opportunities which will help their child.” (Min. of College and Universities, 1979-80).

We still may not have all the answers or best approaches, but it is clear to me that the conversations about parent-teacher interviews carry on through the years and over the summers!

Poetry, man.

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I thought the news today about Bob Dylan being a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was pretty cool.  I appreciate the poetry in his song lyrics, but I read that some didn’t agree with this recognition.  I came to know his music and songs through my following of Melanie’s music career.  I often think of her music and lyrics as poetry, so if she also covered Dylan, than it must be poetry… 🙂

Blowin’ in the Wind was probably one of the first five songs that I learned on guitar, but my favourite Dylan song is Mr. Tambourine Man.  I heard and fell in love with Melanie’s version of it first, of course.  I loved singing along to those lyrics.  I had to listen to both today:

 

Check out this live performance of Bob Dylan in 1964:

 

Who do you consider to be the poetic songwriters of today, or who might be ahead? I have been trying to think who else comes close to Bob Dylan (and Melanie :)).

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