This post is about the fire at Notre Dame. I know, oceans of ink terabytes of pixels have been used to talk about the extent of this tragic event and what it means to people on a personal and global level. Obviously, this post is just one more in the nearly numberless pieces already published. And I also know, this is now a few days late, but I wanted to have some time to process what the burning of the cathedral meant for me before writing down my thoughts. To have written on Tuesday would have been inadequate – my feelings were too raw. When I saw the initial reports, I was literally sick to my stomach. And that was after the first ten minutes when I didn’t believe what I was seeing and reading. Continue reading “My Thoughts on the Fire of Notre Dame”
We all know the refrain: “History is boring, especially Canadian history.” As someone who has studied and written about history for almost my entire adult life, few phrases have irked me more. “History is not boring!” I would retort and yet the truth is the way it is taught so often justifies the accusation. Continue reading “The Seven Years War in the Classroom”
One of the many benefits of shifting my teaching career to the elementary and secondary sector is that I get to engage with all kinds of different histories that are new to me. I dare say that I have not been this excited about “doing” history in a long time (not to say that I did not enjoy teaching university students at the end, but there is something refreshing about this journey). Continue reading ““Two Stout Young Fellows”: Black History Month and the Book of Negroes.”
I have been preparing a mini lecture about the complexity of meaning contained in a map. Apart from having a chance to speak about something I really enjoy, the lecture discusses how the themes surrounding reading maps can be used in a intermediate or high school class. This week I had the opportunity to actual give the lesson a try. Continue reading “Maps of Space and History”
For me this is a bit of a bittersweet post. For the past five weeks, I have been taking a Global Education course which is now coming to an end. On the other hand, I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore issues surrounding global education in greater depth and as I have written, the excitement at the idea of bringing these ideas and resources into a classroom has grown greatly. Continue reading “Not a Farewell to Global Education, Just a Brief Until Later.”
As I have become more aware of the need to incorporate global themes in the classroom, I recognize that many of the issues and themes I want to bring into the classroom are found under the 12 headings of the United Nations Sustainability Goals. I will spare you, gentle reader, an overview of all 12 goals, but I do want to concentrate on one of them that is of special interest to me: Sustainable Cities and Communities. I have always loved urban spaces. I love the amenities that cities offer. I love access to culture, food, diverse and cosmopolitan populations, and the sense of community that can be built in a city. Continue reading “Teaching the UN Sustainability Goals”
I will admit to being very excited to write this post because I get to talk about one of my favourite subjects – political allegory. One of my favourite books is Animal Farm. I first encountered this book in Grade 11 and the story has never left me. In fact I bought Pink Floyd’s Animals shortly after finishing the book It was one those books that made me aware of a wider world and how words can be used to bring awareness to issues of social injustice. At the time, this idea was revolutionary and as time has moved on, I have maintained an interest in seeing how allegory can be used to educate and advocate for change. Continue reading ““… some are more equal than others.””
Back in the mists of time when I was in my undergrad people would ask me what I wanted to do for a job. My response was always to be a university history professor. Usually, that was the end of the conversation. There were instances where the person would press me and ask why. It did not take me long to develop a repertoire of stock answers. One of my favourite was that at university I would be teaching people who wanted to be there. In my mind I had envisioned the perfect Platonic classroom in which students would be always engaged, they would discuss interesting and important topics with a high degree of sophistication, and then after a rousing seminar on Jean Bodin’s role in articulating the origins of French absolutism, we would all head over to a oak paneled club where the conversation would turn to comparing literary tropes found in Boccaccio’s Decameron and the 1001 Nights. Needless to say, I was disabused of this delirium in short order.
What made me think of this was Michael Fullan’s article, “The New Pedagogy: Students and Teachers as Learning Partners.” In his article, Fullen begins by addressing what
he referred to as the push-pull factor of schooling. On one hand, students find schooling increasingly boring. He points to the stat that kindergarten children have a 95% satisfaction rate which by time students hit grade 9 the rate drops to 37%. As disappointing as this trend is, it is not completely surprising. Although there has been considerable efforts made to modernize the school system, the fact is most schools are still primarily little changed from their 19th century origins. The result is that a lot of the natural curiosity of a child is eventually suppressed in the effort to grade the student. In this case, the EQAO bears considerable responsibility as it focuses on the ability of students in grades 3, 6, and 9 to answer test questions with little regard for the vast variety of learning styles of these students. It is difficult to be engaged in learning if all you’re doing is learning facts to repeat every three years.
This is one half of the problem identified by Fullen. The pull factor is that there is also a corresponding decline in teacher satisfaction. The figure ranges from 40-50% satisfaction. These numbers certainly suggest that there are problems with the current school system. There are several reasons for this. One, it is easy to fall into a routine, especially with the busy lives teachers lead. I know there were times it was easier to use past lectures that had worked in the past than sit down and revise them. The system also makes it difficult. It is structured for a 19th century industrial society that only required rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills. Also, it was based on educational theory that emphasized rote learning over what we would now recognize as student-driven or inquiry based learning.
However, Fullan is correct to note that simply embracing innovation, especially in the context of technology, is not a solution either. As seen in the experience with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), what began as a brave new world of delivery higher education as retreated as the limitations of online courses became more apparent. It seems people still prefer to have access to an actual teacher. The prophets of disruption who claimed that technology would replace teachers have come up a little short. This is not to say technology has no role. Quite the contrary, technology can bring a lot of value to a class and can be the basis of rich and deep thinking on the part of students and teachers. The engagement with deep learning goals are referred to as the 6 Cs.
In order to change the educational experience, I agree with Fullan that we need to work with students to design the 21st century school. They are interested in education that has real world impacts and as teachers, we need to be more conscious of how our teaching is relatable. This is not to suggest that the curriculum be watered down, but it means reassessing how things are done. It may mean reshaping the school day, it means ensuring the curriculum is interdisciplinary and is tied to the lived experiences of our students. It also means that teachers must transform their pedagogical practices to reflect the 6 Cs.
I will admit that I think there is value in some of the more traditional pedagogical practices, but there is no question the educational system would benefit from a major transformation. Educators need to be clear as well that as we transform the educational landscape, we are simply trying to entertain our students. Boredom may be an enemy of satisfaction, but whatever innovations we bring, they must be done with the purpose of instilling deep learning goals in our students to make them not just workers, or possessors of rudimentary knowledge, but fully developed people with a love of life long learning and a desire to explore their world in ways that we have not yet considered.
The idea of global citizenship can be traced back to as early as the 4th century BC with Socrates much repeated axiom that he considered himself a citizen of the world. Granted, Socrates’ world was much smaller than ours, and whether or not Socrates actually uttered the phrase or not is irrelevant, but the sentiment speaks to some
important truths that remain with today.
One of the underlying themes of this quotation is the idea that education knows no borders. Ideas, opinions, knowledge in an ideal world cannot be stopped. Thus for Socrates, global citizenship was seen as a result of education. However, the idea of global citizenship carries with other connotations.
I like to see myself as a global citizen. I have traveled to different parts of the world, I can speak another language passibly well enough that I can talk my way out of fight with a teenager trying to prove his masculinity. I have worked to educate myself about issues that impact different parts of the world. And yet, a large part of me remain wholly unaffected by the larger world around me. In contemplating this dichotomy, I have begun to realize that simply traveling to and reading about different parts of the world is not enough to justify my metaphysical global passport. As the current refugee crisis continues to unfold, global citizenship looks more and more like global responsibility.
This stands in stark relief in my community of Kitchener-Waterloo where the cities have taken in thousands of
Syrian refugees. As a global citizen, I have a responsibility to do my part in welcoming these people into the community; this may mean working to correct myths about the refugees, it may include being politically active to work towards solutions that are long lasting and will help preserve the dignity of these migrants, it means l
earning about government policy the local, provincial, and federal level and how these policies impact population migrations.
As someone who comes from the privilege of the global
north, I have the luxury of equating global citizenship with educational opportunities, but the fact is that the divide between the educated and non-educated is growing. Although there are major efforts to shrink this divide, political upheavals in the global south have prevented millions of children from receiving even basic education.
As efforts are made to shrink the educational divide, they must be informed by a humane approach to education. This is of relevance to teachers who may have children refugees in their classrooms. A humane educational approach will take into account the traumas experienced by these children as well as recognize that teachers have a responsibility to shrink the educational divide.
As the world continues to shrink, none of us can escape the reality of our global citizenship nor can we escape the responsibilities that citizenship places upon us.