The School Down The Road

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A friend of mine does some excellent writing on her personal blog about life and growing up in Northwestern Ontario. A few years ago, I confirmed her approval to feature a couple of her initial posts on my blog. I am finally getting around to it! I grew up in the same township as “Little Monik”. It was a “township” at the time, but the area eventually became a part of the new boundaries of Kenora when it became an official city instead of a town. I still think of the area as the small town I grew up in.

This area of Kenora has been mentioned in the news more lately since Gord Downie’s Secret Path advocacy project. I got thinking again about Monik’s posts about living near “CJ School”, which we called it back then. She wrote about some of her memories and reflections in two parts:

CJ School Part I

CJ School Part II

My family also lived within walking distance of “CJ”. The children in our area attended elementary school for several years in the building adjacent to Cecilia Jeffrey Residence. I attended for Grades 1 through 5 together with a number of children who were living in the CJ residence during that time (late 60s/early 70s). I also had friendships with a few of the girls that Monik had mentioned. We played at school and occasionally in the community in the evenings. I remember a few of my classmates being invited into the residence to see their rooms. I am not sure why a number of children still lived at the residence during that time. I think they returned to live with their families on the reserve in the summertime, but I am not really sure. Through researching and reading a few documents online, I found closure dates for the residence ranging from 1960 through 1976. Monik mentioned the closure date as 1974 in her post. Maybe there were different dates for the residence and the school building itself and also a transition period. CJ residence was run by the Presbyterian Church. My report cards from the time have “The Kenora Board of Education” listed.

I don’t recall questioning much about why the children had to live at the residence and attend school there. As a child, I was only aware of this one residential school in our small world that was Kenora. I think I understood that their parents lived far away on reserves – but I didn’t know very much about reserves. As a child, I think I just accepted this as the way their children would be able to attend school. This would have been the time during the final years of First Nations children living in these residences in Canada. I don’t recall being aware of the previous history of residential schools at the time. I don’t think I was told much about it at age 6 or 10 during those years at “CJ School Block”.

In the summers, I remember attending large pow-wows hosted on the residential site. The experience was rich for the senses for sure. I still remember much about the site back then – the playground, the field, the baseball diamond and the forested area that separated it from Round Lake.  I visited the site just over a year ago.  An office building sits where the school had been – I think it is the same building. I took this picture of the monument that is now on the site where the residence building used to be:

I also located it on Google Maps as, “Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Park”.

I just wanted to write down a bit about this time during my childhood – a statement that Monik wrote in a reply on her second post prompted me:

 Thanks, that was a tough one to write. Strange how my memory seems to get better when I write it out and then think about it more… I think it’s because at first I’m just remembering what the “little me” could process, but then on reflection I can understand more of what else was happening. Hindsight is a new perspective.”

I am still learning, listening, reflecting, questioning, and filling in the gaps too.  It is like we lived so close, and yet so far away…

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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?

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 :)).

Moving

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This has been a year of moving stuff — new house, adult children moving back and forth and away again… needless to say, I moved away from social media a fair bit in the process.  I just checked in on this blog and noticed that I had missed my “5 years of blogging congratulations” a few days ago.  I see I still have some followers and stats tell me that some of my past posts are still being read.  So while I am no longer posting much, I have been pondering what to do with this blog.  Should I ‘move’ to something else?  Get a new “place” for different stories?  Use my blog or social media differently?  Facebook’s algorithms and engagement “tricks” can annoy me.  Twitter seems less personally engaging and interactive now.  Many people who I have followed for some time don’t tweet and/or blog much anymore.  I miss their voices and messages, but I can’t expect them to post for my benefit.  Have I let it become all about the news and trending topics, or is this now the general experience of social media?  I have chosen to be less “active” with social media and blogging, but will I continue to enjoy a more passive participation?  “SheilaSpeaking” doesn’t quite fit now 🙂  I could move to something like Instagram, but then something would have to go…

I have two posts in draft on this blog, so I might get to publishing them ahead.  There is one thing — this blog can still feel like more my own space considering all the promotions and advertising on other social media platforms (well, there are those ads that show up at the bottom of my posts via wordpress…).  I still like (need?) to write and place my thoughts somewhere.  Maybe a private journal would serve me well, once again.  I wouldn’t have to complain or reflect about social media use and impact there 🙂

See how it goes… but feel free to unfollow this somewhat abandoned blog.  My post topics may be less about education ahead as well.

Sincerely,

SheilaSpeakingLess 🙂

Pass the jam

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A somewhat random music-related post this time…

Have you seen the Nostalgia Machine? Doug Peterson posted about it recently and I finally tried it out.  It includes music from 1960 to 2013 and it will take you a menu for your chosen year with links to music videos on youtube. Very cool.  It is nice to have another way to round up some good tunes.  The “machine” encourages you to get your childhood jam on, but I can enjoy and get curious about music from pre-2000 just as much as post-2000 🙂

I always have my on-going favourites, from the past and the present.  I like that I experienced the music interests of my 3 older siblings when I was younger.  There was always a good mix of music in our home. And now my daughters share their music with me, “I think you will like this one, Mom…”  They will usually send their recommendation via a youtube link.  I often get lost down the rabbit hole after that.  When I get curious about a song, I usually want to find a video of it performed live. If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know this from my random live music sharing.

I recently went down the ’70s rabbit hole on youtube.  I was checking out some tunes by Lobo (Kent LaVoie) — not even sure how I got there as I wasn’t really a big fan, but there were a few pleasant and simple tunes of the past!  One music video included his version of Reason to Believe and I thought it sounded familiar…  Eventually I figured it out:  I was more familiar with Rod Stewart’s version. And now the curiosity starts.  It often goes something like this for me:

“Then who wrote that one?”.  Youtube suggestions list many others singing that one: Neil Young, Johnny Cash, The Carpenters, etc.  A Google search confirms: Tim Hardin wrote it.

Who is Tim Hardin?” More searching… oh, he sang at Woodstock.  He also died young.

“So, what did he sing at Woodstock?” Ok, I see: If I were a carpenter.  “Oh.. look how many different singers continued to sing that one….” and now I am in the ’60s… and then in the ’80s…

Back to the Nostalgia Machine — what a handy resource for the home and school.  A few posts later, Doug also shared this option to explore more music around the world.

Keep passing the (preserved) jam… always something new to learn through music!

For Joe

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Although I am not blogging and tweeting about education as much as I used to, I will always remember and value many people I “got to know” through these Twitter conversations and blogging. I still look forward to following their work ahead. Even if some of these people stop tweeting and blogging, I know they will still be busy trying to make a difference in education and in the lives of children.

Needless to say, I was so sad to hear about Joe Bower’s death. I didn’t think I would write a post about him since I struggled with whether it was my place to do so.  It is his family and their loss that matter the most.  Yet, I felt unsettled that I wasn’t writing something to honour him or say the thanks that I didn’t say enough.

Recently I read Jennifer Marten’s tribute post to Joe Bower, Mourning a Friend I Never Met.  She was also hesitant to write a tribute. Her words matched many of my thoughts. Her post nudged me to write as well.

Like Jennifer, I first connected with Joe on a few topics. I followed the changes to standardized testing in Alberta through Joe’s posts and it made my own personal stand against standardized testing a little less lonely. Joe reached out to so many… supported the voices of many, and he could be counted on to take a stand for children. His blog is so real, rich and well researched. It was so kind of him to reblog one of my posts to do with Ontario’s standardized testing on his blog. His wise words and influence extended over many borders. It is reassuring to read so many tributes and see the intentions of others to ensure that his impact continues. I am thankful to have known his work and efforts. I am now following the Facebook tribute page respectfully set up by Chris Wejr.

I hope the tributes bring peace and comfort to Joe Bower’s family and friends for years to come.

 

Show Time

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A mix of TV series trivia, silliness, and nostalgia in this post…

Like many families, we often watch certain movies and TV shows with our children — simply for the fun and shared experience of watching them together.  We did this throughout our children’s younger years and it somehow continued as they became young adults.

This past year, without really planning to, we started watching Grey’s Anatomy together each week.  When the show’s season ended in May, we seemed to need something else to keep this viewing time together going.  Since we had recently bought the entire (and only) season of My So-called Life on DVD, my husband and I suggested that.  The girls were skeptical at first (“that’s your old show…” ).  Early in our marriage, my husband and I watched the TV series, Thirtysomething. When we learned that My So-Called Life was created by the same producers, we tuned in.  We were new parents at that time and we thoroughly enjoyed the show during our quieter evenings… until it was cancelled suddenly after one season!  One of the reasons for the cancellation may have been because it competed in the same time slot as the series, “Friends”.  We weren’t big fans of that series, so #mscl it was. (I was surprised to find an active hashtag for the show on Twitter!)

And it turns out, our girls got hooked on #mscl and the characters.  We managed to watch the whole season over the course of the summer.  Although my husband and I recalled many of the episodes well, we still enjoyed the revisit to the stories.  As a family, we laughed, cried and discussed.  I think the girls were quite impressed to watch Jared Leto in his first TV gig.  And just like when we watched it over 20 years ago, the show still captured the essence of high school “hell”, teen angst, and the complexities of relationships.  Our daughters’ reactions and comments confirmed that.  We also had to smile when they commented about the situations that the teens got themselves in and out of… “without cell phones”.  So that led to a few stories of our own teen years to share.  We had also forgotten that the teens on the show inserted “like” a lot into their verbal communication.  Did that, like, start in, like, the 90s? 🙂

It was great that the show still led to many insights and affirmations about being a teenager for our girls, as it did for us in the past.  It captured teen angst, but also parenting angst as well!  I suspect that our girls may have gained some insight and appreciation of their parents as both people and parents.  It was nice to experience a sense that “some things don’t change” when it can seem that so much has.  From the back of the DVD case, “Whether you’ve memorized every line, or it’s your very first time, My So-called Life remains as fresh and honest today as when it premiered”.  I definitely agree!

So if this winter gets long, you can borrow our DVD 🙂  We also enjoyed checking out some related youtube videos about the show and the characters:

What happened to the cast of My So-Called Life

The Collected Wisdom of Angela Chase

Angela and Jordan – The Hallway Scene

The Evolution of Jared Leto: From My So-Called Life’s’ Jordan Catalano to Oscar Nominee

What old shows or movies have become new again for your family?

 

 

 

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