Teachers Need to be their Own Resource

Students at Legislative Building

I don’t know about you, but I love getting out of the classroom. As much as possible, I like to take students to archives, conferences, legislative buildings, museums, and even on walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes “place” can be the curriculum. I love getting out so much, that I suspect I annoy colleagues who are trying to plan assessment tools and wrap things up at the end of a term. For this, I apologize – sort of.

Place is just one resource that many teachers use as a means for making the learning experiences educative, meaningful, and transformative for students. Many teachers use authentic and global events to direct the learning that goes on in their learning communities. Others collect real-life resources through guest speakers – an easier feat given new technologies and a shrinking world. There are still amazing history teachers who I adore who use their stories and storytelling abilities to make learning about imagination, empathy, and progress. Desmond Morton graces us a few times a year, and we could listen to him all day.

What all these strategies come down to is the idea of teachers collecting their own resources to make the teaching and learning process as exciting and engaging as possible. Two recent events started me down this path of how it is we create resources for and with our students. The first was an article printed in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled Human Rights Lessons not Easy. In this article, it was revealed that almost 50% of teachers across Canada do not feel that they have the resources to teach about human rights.  

Immediately, I had a few issues with these findings. The most alarming was that there are teachers out there who feel that their schools, divisions, and provinces should be creating resources for them on any given topic.

Part of being a professional is doing research, not only on teaching and learning, but on what you are supposed to be teaching. In the case of human rights,this might involve going to a library and reading a book, looking at Aljazeera, or as my teacher-friend Marc Kuly said, “driving through Winnipeg with a video camera.” Isn’t the onus on teachers to know, deeply, about our subject areas? This practice, for me, involves getting rid of my cable, not watching the NFL or the Bachelorette, using Spring Break for study and not Vegas and actually participating in discussions related to the fields that I teach. The excuse of “not enough time” is played out. Make time.

The second event which was a catalyst for this reflection about resources was the release of the viral video which involves a student in Texas telling his teacher that simply putting packets of worksheets together is not teaching. His outburst is a cris-de-coeur and clearly he is an engaged learner who is frustrated by mediocre teaching. My heart broke for this kid, Jeff Bliss, because we have all been there. My Grade 11 Canadian History class in 1993 was not much different – I just wish I had the gumption to challenge teachers whose notion of teaching was slapping together random “resources.” The student in the video demands excellence from this teacher and this excellence comes down to sound pedagogy, subject matter knowledge, passion, and a joy with connecting with young people through the curriculum. all of these elements are resources which we must think deeply about.

As teachers, we need to strive for excellence, even though on most most days, I know for myself, we shall short. Part of this journey, however, depends on research, thinking, and hard work in order to amass resources, tools, and ideas that engage students in the learning process and the joy of knowledge we are creating and contributing to.

The alternative is to complain that we don’t have enough resources and that it’s someone else’s fault. We can no longer moan and groan in staff rooms about how governments, administrators, and parents “don’t get it”; that we’re too busy. Teaching is hard work, demands sacrifices, and consumes almost all our energy. We also get paid very well to do it.  Jeff Bliss, the kid in Texas is right: “You want a kid to change and start doing better, you gotta touch his freakin’ heart…You gotta take this job serious. This is the future of this nation.”

Trayvon Martin: Walking While Black

By now, most of you in our US History class will have heard of the Trayvon Martin murder which occurred in a Florida suburb on February 26th. As of last Friday (March 30th), his killer had not been arrested. Here is a great report from Democracy Now:

How do we begin to deconstruct and make sense of this event? How can we use history to help us understand how a young African-American could possibly be gunned down in the middle of the day? Here is a video from Democracy Now that attempts to compare the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century with this recent event:

Please comment on what has been posted before you and try to incorporate what you have learned about the racial divide in the United States to help shape your answer. Comments are due on April 5th at 9:00 AM.

Commodity Snapshot – Demand & Supply

Here is the Commodity Snapshot from last Saturday’s Globe and Mail:

High on the Hog
“Hog futures have been rising as many consumers choose pork over more expensive beef, which is selling near an eight-year high. Disease outbreaks in Asia have also lifted North American hog prices.”
90.4 cents – Price, in US dollars, per pound of lean pork on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Friday.
15 – Percentage increase in the price of beef over the past 12 months.
7 – Percentage increase in the price of pork over the past 12 months.
21.1 million – Number of hogs slaughtered in Canadian packing plants in 2010.
Here is your task:
1. Represent this scenario graphically.
2. Provide a written explanation of the shifts and changes in supply and/or demand.
3. Email me a picture of your graph and explanation and I’ll post it.
4. Feel free to comment on what your peers are thinking….


photo (4)Leanne

Newt a Founding Father?

Check out this campaign ad created for the Newt Gingrich 2012 Campaign for the Republican nomination. I was struck by it based on our recent conversations about the Declaration of Independence, Article of Confederation, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and Howard Zinn’s take on all of it.

What are the creator’s of this ad (and others like it) trying to tap into? Are there themes from the 18th century that are being rejuvenated? What is Gingrich’s angle? Finally, if Zinn was correct in assuming that the Founding Fathers only created a society for rich white men, could history repeat itself?

Does it Matter Who Shapes Us? (Can His)

John Ralston Saul asserts in A Fair Country that “we are a metis civilization.” Firstly, do you agree with his historical interpretation? Secondly, why does he bother to write such a book? What is the point of writing about the past? What is history? What happens to our society if we become A-historical? Why are we bothering to teach this stuff to you guys?