History Refresher: About A Border

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When I noticed that the War of 1812 was trending on Twitter this past week because of a dialogue between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau, it caused me to refresh my understanding!  Having taught Canadian citizenship classes for adult newcomers a number of times in the past, I went directly to my teaching resources and reviewed the information on Canadian history, which includes the War of 1812.  I taught the material provided for newcomers in the Discover Canada study guide developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  This is section on the War of 1812 (plain text below as well):

In plain text:

The War of 1812: The Fight for Canada

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), the Royal Navy ruled the waves. The British Empire, which included Canada, fought to resist Bonaparte’s bid to dominate Europe. This led to American resentment at British interference with their shipping. Believing it would be easy to conquer Canada, the United States launched an invasion in June 1812. The Americans were mistaken. Canadian volunteers and First Nations, including Shawnee led by Chief Tecumseh, supported British soldiers in Canada’s defence. In July, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock captured Detroit but was killed while defending against an American attack at Queenston Heights, near Niagara Falls, a battle the Americans lost. In 1813, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry and 460 soldiers, mostly French Canadiens, turned back 4,000 American invaders at Châteauguay, south of Montreal. In 1813 the Americans burned Government House and the Parliament Buildings in York (now Toronto). In retaliation in 1814, Major-General Robert Ross led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House and other public buildings in Washington, D.C. Ross died in battle soon afterwards and was buried in Halifax with full military honours.

By 1814, the American attempt to conquer Canada had failed. The British paid for a costly Canadian defence system, including the Citadels at Halifax and Québec City, the naval drydock at Halifax and Fort Henry at Kingston—today popular historic sites. The present-day Canada-U.S.A. border is partly an outcome of the War of 1812, which ensured that Canada would remain independent of the United States.

The history chapter can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers to Canada.  To prepare them for writing the citizenship test, I would highlight a few things, including the support that the British got from people already in Canada (volunteers and First Nations) during the War of 1812.  They learn that the name of Canada became official in 1791 (The Constitutional Act of 1791), but they also learn that it wasn’t an official country until 1867 (Confederation).  I also highlight the war’s outcomes regarding the border and Canada’s independence from the United States as mentioned in the study guide.

If all the above details from the study guide are correct, the “Americans burned Government House and the Parliament Buildings in York (now Toronto)”, and in retaliation Major-General Robert Ross (a British Army officer) led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House and other public buildings in Washington”.

But I don’t mean to be petty 🙂

I try not to let the uninformed and flippant things that politicians say get to me, but sometimes… well, sigh.

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Cookbook Attachment

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I saw a post from Gastro Obscura calling out for submissions:  “Tell us about your most unusual cookbook”.  I didn’t plan to submit one, but I remained somewhat curious.  It prompted me to see if Doug Peterson wanted the topic of cookbooks for his “Whatever Happened to…?” series on his blog.  His readers had some fun interacting with Doug’s take on the topic and his questions here.  Nothing like food and cooking to start up a conversation and spark some memories!

Eventually I returned to the Gastro Obscura website to check out what came together.  There are some interesting and unusual cookbook examples featured for sure in that follow-up post.

In my (long) comment on Doug’s post, I mentioned that I should probably write my own post on the topic.  I have noticed that the topic of cookbooks often brings up stories of “first cookbooks” and stories about when cooking becomes cooking for two (remember the old saying, “The best way to a man’s heart…”, but let’s move on…).  I enjoy stories about favourite go-to cookbooks and recipes that get passed down and shared amongst family members.  It can be a such a strong connection to our past and our loved ones.

I have a very old cookbook meant for kids called Kitchen Fun.  It was my mother’s.  I am not sure how long she had it, but she still used it at times when she cooked for our family.  Most of our suppers would include a meat dish, but sometimes she would pull out that cookbook and make “Yummy Eggs”.  I found it to be a great treat.  Those beaten eggs (with butter) cooked in a “double boiler” were so tasty and fluffy!  I had forgotten that the recipe was from that kids’ cookbook until I received it after my mom’s passing.  The hard cover is worn and stained, as are many of the pages.  I was thrilled to find information about it online since — it was published in 1932 and one can still get a copy or a revised edition through Amazon or eBay (at the time I searched for it).  I also found some blog posts about it!

This blog post has a few good pictures and some interesting details about it.  I had a good giggle at this part,

I have a friend who was a pioneering food writer, and she told me she made the recipe for “Yummy Eggs” from Kitchen Fun on her honeymoon.”

Another blog post shows a few of the vintage cookbook’s pages — I always loved the graphic symbols of ingredients and the measurements required to help young cooks.  This post also mentions “Yummy Eggs”!  Both posts claim that it is a great cookbook for children to use.  (Is it “cookbook” or “cook book”?)

If you were to ask my adult children about “Yummy Eggs”, they would likely tell you that it is a dish their mom made for a quick supper on Halloween night to make sure they had some protein before going out… 😀

I am pleased to see that my adult daughters are developing skills and a good interest in cooking.  I would hope that I would have the same expectations if I had sons.  At times I hear that young adults are not interested in cooking and it gives me some concern.  I hope that is not the general case!  I know it can get very boring and tedious at times, but don’t complain to me unless you have been cooking for over 20 years 🙂

Is there a good “recipe” to keep children and young adults interested in cooking?  Is it still important?  Share your thoughts, or a good story!

And if you wish to try Yummy Eggs… I also have the easy recipe written out on a recipe card:

 

 

Not in Kansas…

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I am extending a conversation started by Lisa Noble on her blog and a response by Doug Peterson on his blog.  Both posts have further comments and responses that extend this “not in Kansas anymore” theme.  I think the conversation is a good one in light of the many on-going discussions about “kids these days” and the concerns about their resilience, independence, and mental health.

Lisa, through her post, reflects on past experiences and travels away from family and compares them to the context of today with technology impacting those experiences and the connections made with others.  Her “not in Kansas anymore” experience (I will refer to it as NIKA from here on in) was a continent away from her family.  Doug’s “NIKA” experience was his time away at university.

I think many of us can recall our own “NIKA” moment:

From Lisa’s post,

That “out here on my own” thing we were all experiencing together, with no opportunity for helicopter parenting – no cell phones, no e-mail, no Skype or FaceTime. I sent a couple of postcards, but my parents were very far away – literally and metaphorically.”

Lisa’s questions:

What was that defining experience for you – when you knew that you weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that you were okay with that? Who were the people you shared it with? Are they still part of your world?”

And also,

Do those opportunities still exist for our students and our children in this ultra-connected world? Do we encourage our students and kids to take them, and then get out of the way? How might the technology that enriches our lives be getting in the way of this kind of adventure? How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?”

Doug shared about two NIKA experiences in his post — away at university and later returning to his home that had changed.  This part made me giggle, but well said,

No matter how tired and tough the day was, we had to cook and clean or go without.  How can people live like this?  And raise kids?  My parents were saints.”

Doug answered the rest of Lisa’s questions on his post with references to current issues of travel and added this point about technology,

Why wouldn’t we use the available technology to ensure a certain level of safety or, in this day of the selfie, fully document the experience?”

It all got me reflecting on my past and now my children’s lives.  I will extend the discussion to a parent perspective as well.

I had a few school trips away from my parents:  3 nights in a cabin for outdoor education in Gr. 6, a trip to Toronto in Gr. 8, and a trip to BC for about a week in Gr. 11.  I have no idea what my parents worried about, but I am sure they did.  I don’t recall having much worry or apprehension about the trips and I only have memories of the fun.  Maybe such shorter trips also help parents prepare for even more natural separation that will occur as their children grow and mature.  I am trying to imagine what it would have been like for my parents — there would be no contact from me and if there was, it would be an emergency or for a serious reason.  As a parent now, I haven’t had to go through that with my own children.  They haven’t had that many trips away, but texting easily provided assurance and helped put worries aside for all.  But do we come to rely on that too much?

Like Doug, my own NIKA defining moment would have been going to a different city for university.  I don’t think I thanked my parents enough for driving 2 full days to drop off their youngest in a city they had never been to (not to mention their drive back to an empty nest).  I was eager and felt ready for the experience (did Gr. 13/being 19 help?), so I don’t recall too much sadness on my part.  My contact ahead with my parents would be letters in the mail and usually a phone call on Sunday nights (cheaper after 6 pm 🙂 )  I did get a landline in my residence room and my phone cord would stretch into my closet to get some privacy from my roommate.

And so, for Lisa’s question, I was okay with this defining experience — no regrets.  As for people who I shared it with, some connections have faded away.  Two close friends from my program travelled to my northern hometown for my wedding a few years after graduation.  Unfortunately, I have kept contact with only one of them over the years (Christmas cards, Facebook.)

Fast forward 30+ years to the experiences of my own grown children away for school in other cities.  We often have discussions about the impacts of communication technologies and the many differences of life experiences — then and now.  The capacity now to stay in touch is great, but it can also feel like “too much” at times.  It also sets us up in a way, as now when a check in or confirmation isn’t received by text, it can be easy to worry the worst.  The convenience of technology to stay in touch can ease worries and create them!

I believe that the some NIKA experiences can help independence, maturity, and confidence.  Families will “scaffold” supports in different ways for each child, with or without technology.  Ideally, I think it would be good to have a few NIKA experiences during a time when one knows that they can return to “Kansas” as they knew it.  Life and hometowns can change fast.  Similar to Doug, I recall how I struggled with my parents selling our family home while I was away for my 4th year of university.

I haven’t really come up with any definitive opinions about “today’s” NIKA experiences vs. the past, but I suppose there are many ways to nudge the independence of children, teens, and young adults.  The process will have its discomforts for parents as well, but the confidence building and letting go can go both ways.

Whenever I came to write a bit more on this topic, I would find myself humming the song by Melanie called Kansas.  I found a cool video created for the song.  As the description says, “Trippy little rocker…”.

Memory matters

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Sad, but true, I finally finished a novel this past summer that I had started reading the previous summer.  I have read most of John Irving’s novels, so I was determined to finish: In One Person.  (From a New York Times review:  “In One Person is a story about memory.”)  I can always count on Irving’s stories and characters to make me think deeply and differently about social justice and issues.  After I finish his novels, there are always a few lines or passages that stick with me.

The main character of In One Person eventually becomes a writer.  Written in the first person, this character quotes some of his own writing and thoughts on growing up (p. 259-260):

That moment when you are tired of being treated like a child – tired of adolescence, too – that suddenly opening but quickly closing passage, when you irreversibly want to grow up, is a dangerous time.”

Ambition robs you of your childhood. The moment you want to become an adult – in any way – something in your childhood dies.”

This bit about memory also lingered with me:

Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away; it keeps things for you, or hides things from you. Your memory summons things to your recall with a will of its own. You imagine you have a memory, but your memory has you!”

It is an interesting reminder to me that while growing up is desired and (mostly) inevitable, it can come with a sense of loss.  We have our memories, but maybe some of the forgetting is important in the process of letting go of our childhood and becoming an adult.  Why do we remember certain things and forget other things from our past?  I have about a handful of experiences that I can recall from early childhood, a lot more as an older child, and so on.  It is interesting to think about the early memories that I have retained to this day, and yet they might also be forgotten one day.  I value the different things my memory has helped me with, but it is easy to take it for granted.

I know that memory is extensively researched and continues to be.  There are so many interesting aspects of memory to wonder (and worry!) about.  It intersects with the understanding of cognition, learning, aging, etc.  I recently read the article, Our Memory Quirks:  Are They for Us or against Us?  The author reviews a book about memory research and shares some good points to consider. For example:

False memory research, especially, should concern us in an era in which leaders often lie and fake news has flooded social media.”

And also,

Although some researchers suggest that education might evolve toward critical thinking skills over information memorization, in fact, there is a need for both. Critical reasoning doesn’t work on its own.”

I wonder if collaborative online sites like Wikipedia will become even more important in verifying facts ahead. Check out:  Once Reviled in Education, Wikipedia Now Embraced by Many Professors.

Does our memory have us, or are there things we should do (or should not do) to help memory (short term and long term)?  A very recent study by the University of Waterloo (Ontario), for example, found that reading information aloud improves memory.

I know that I should finish novels in a shorter time!

 

 

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?

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!

Pushing Back (together)

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I noticed “The Professional Pushes Back” post on Seth’s Blog being shared on Twitter, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Doug Peterson’s post and expansion on it to include teachers and invite further thoughts.  Doug asked:

  • Do you consider yourself a professional?
  • Give an example of how you pushed back in the manner that is used in the original post

Soon after, I read Aviva Dunsiger’s post in response to Doug’s post.  She took on the challenge to post about ways that she has pushed back as a teacher.  She ends her post inviting and questioning how other members of the school community push back,

If pushing back means helping children more, I’m happy to push back. What about you? Educators, administrators, and parents, how do you “push back?”

Whether a professional or not, I am sure it isn’t an easy task to push back within a school system.  Pushing back can be met with disagreement and conflict.  I am sure I have a blog post or two where I have stated the worth of collaborating with parents to help create and support change.  The conversations aren’t always easy, but parents might be able to push back in ways that an educator might not be able to — or together they can make even more of an impact.  (Some related points in this UK article here)  I think it might be best to have a supportive team of mixed roles and voices when it comes to pushing back in education.  Aviva extended the conversation to administrators and parents.  I noticed that trustees weren’t mentioned, but I think they could be a part of push back efforts too.  It has always been my hope that education stakeholders could work/push back together, but maybe individual efforts and leadership are still really needed and important.  Do these individuals get the support they need?

 

 

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