What are you wishing for in the holiday season?
Here is my wish list, for myself and for others.
1 Joy in our work
2. Fellowship of friends and colleagues
3. Acceptance that sometimes things just don’t go our way
4. Appreciation for what we have
5. Compassion when others make mistakes (large and small)
6. Openness to alternate ways of doing, seeing and thinking
7. Generosity of spirit in how we perceive the intentions of others
8. Vision for the future and courage to carry it out
9. Recognition that our every action comprises the legacy by which we will be remembered
10. Peace and good will to all, even (especially?) those to whom we may not be especially well disposed!
What’s not to like about putting on a costume and knocking on strangers’ doors for free candy?
I grew up in a low-candy household, so when I was a kid, October 31st was my chance to stock up for the year. As fellow witches, ghosts and monsters dropped away one by one, I persevered alone carrying a heavy white pillowcase, trudging on until I achieved a self-imposed quota of sugary provisions. Months later, in the heat of an August day, lying on my bedroom floor desultorily reading an Archie comic, I would find a mass of dusty and melted candy forgotten underneath the bed.
The lessons learned?
Candy tastes really good. Scarcity makes things more appealing and desirable. Too much candy, after a while, doesn’t taste so good. A surfeit of that which is most desired siphons the magic away…Until months pass, autumn leaves turn, and the cycle continues anew.
I resolve to apply the following lessons learned from childhood to my teaching:
Don’t give out more than students want: “To teach well we need not say all we know, only what is useful for the pupil to hear”.
Make learning appealing and desirable (and fun).
Awaken others’ minds to the places where their knowledge is scarce (because that will make them want it even more).
In the end, the one who wants it most will trudge on after all others have had enough or given up.
There may be such a thing as too much Halloween candy, but there’s no such thing as too much knowledge.
Don’t judge me for liking Reality TV – it’s not my fault
Just over a year ago I wrote an article for educators and presenters titled 5 Reasons why Reality TV is not a waste of time (describing 5 lessons learned from Reality TV shows).
Since then, I’ve noticed that “Reality TV Waste of Time” comes up again and again in peoples’ web browser search terms. This makes me wonder, why is Reality TV so strangely compelling to so many?
Let’s face it. “Reality” TV is a bit of a misnomer since there is little “real” about the story arc portrayed over the course of a season. Out of hundreds of hours of video, a post hoc narrative is assembled to reference traditional literary/cinematic tropes. What we see is merely an illusion of the unscripted and imperfect.
Nonetheless, these shows tap into some deeply human essentials:
First, we all seek social connectedness and community and are reflexively interested in one-anothers’ lives. If you live in a small town everybody knows your business, but populations are increasingly centred in urban environments within which it’s not uncommon to have limited (or no) interaction with our geographically proximate neighbours. Enter Reality TV:
Television occupies our most intimate spaces offering a simulacrum of community and connectedness (Allen & Hill, 2004).
Furthermore, we think in narrative structures – the human brain is hard-wired for story-telling. Reality television simultaneously represents and distorts powerful human stories. (Roche & Sadowsky, 2003).
The modern “quests” described by Reality TV represent a contemporary re-imagining of centuries-old themes: innocence, villainy, betrayal, honour, valour, (in)justice, victory and defeat (Ibrahim, 2007).
So, from a mortifying wealth of choices, here are a few illustrative examples:
I am not saying that any time watching any TV is time well spent. There are lots of better things to do. But…all things in moderation, that’s the key.
Why teaching and learning have a lot in common with street art
I am a big fan of street art. I like how it subverts traditional conceptions of art, artist and viewer. By creating artistic encounters in unexpected places there is a sense of serendipitous discovery and personal connectedness. Street art wakes us up to the creative possibilities in environments that are taken-for-granted and thus invisible.
But is it really art? What is art?
Is art beauty? Truth? A thought, idea or emotion captured in images or words?
Or is it an experience, an evocation of some reaction (positive or negative), stimulus for thought/reflection?
All of the above and more?
And who gets to decide what constitutes art? The artist? The viewer? The museum curator? The market?
Maybe I’m especially drawn to street art as a form of conceptual/contemporary art because it has so much in common with my philosophy of teaching and learning. Just like great street art:
Real learning happens outside the classroom.
Advances in knowledge question the status quo.
Learning derives from our engagement with our environment.
Deep learning stimulates an emotional response: surprise, delight, outrage, insight.
Teaching and learning are essentially creative enterprises as much (or more?) than cognitive/intellectual processes. Educators are both curators (What will I teach? What sources and strategies will I use?) and artists (What response am I trying to elicit? What experience (curriculum) do I (co-)create to get us to that place?).
The creative imperative is all around – and within – us. We are all artists in our construction of knowledge, experience and expression.
We are tired of winter, so here is a prescription for an internet vacation
Oh to be young with time on your hands…time to devote to finding the coolest and freshest of what’s out there. This issue of educateria was co-created with a teenager. These sites are not going to further the cause of finding a cure for cancer, but they are fun and outside the box. Click on the title of each to be delightfully transported and enjoy!
Lately I am obsessed with gifs. This is the biggest archive of gifs on the internet…we think.
LifeScouts on Tumblr
Achievement badges for life. Affirmations of previously unrecognized, yet important, accomplishments. I want them!
English Russia (Russia in English)
Daily updates from Russia. Fascinating. Strangely compelling.
Have you ever wanted to be a code warrior? Tip: Do this in Starbucks where everyone can see you “typing”
The equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica, except for every kind of meme. Exhaustive and complete.
Perfect and beautiful New York stories captured in photography and bios
Will e-books ever fully replace the real thing?
I get the convenience and portability of e-readers and tablets, but this week end I was reminded of why I love print media in bound paper form.
There’s a second-hand bookstore that I love in east Toronto. You know the kind – stacks of books from floor to ceiling on every possible topic. I was perusing the collection of older and antiquarian books and was charmed by a 1922 edition of Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries.
This volume is a treasure trove of miscellany and arcane household tips, and came packed full of ephemera (old newspaper clippings, treasured recipes in spidery handwriting, and even some vintage labels for fruit preserves).
Here is a sample menu provided for a Tuesday in September ( a couple of recipes follow) – enjoy!
Ready-to-eat Cereal Top Milk
Chipped Beef of Toast
American Beauty Salad Mayonnaise
Raisin Bran Bread Sandwiches
Wafers Iced Chocolate
Stuffed Steak Mashed Potatoes
Spanish String Beans
Fresh Peach Pie