Teaching Environment

This Monday I had the privilege of watching David Suzuki and friends share their insights about the environment and about our right to have environmental security and stability in our Canadian Constitution. As Dr. David Suzuki noted, “what’s more important than the right to breathe fresh air, drink clean water and eat healthy food?” What amazed me most about the Blue Dot Tour is how everything is interconnected. David Suzuki’s overview did not just include environmental history – Medicare by Tommy Douglas, heterosexism/racism/sexism, voting rights, equality for all, democracy, sustainable economics, social action, taking care of the weakest, planning for the future, First Nations rights, etc. were all discussed. All the things I am really passionate about are interconnected and this was a liberating realization. (Now if I could only get my hands on that speech)!

David Suzuki’s point that resonated most with me was that there is no environment. “WHAAAAT?” I thought, “that doesn’t make sense coming from an environmentalist?” But it is true! There is no separate entity that is environment and a separate entity that is humanity We are the air. We are the water. There is one blue dot and everything in it is connected. What we put into the world, we put into ourselves. What we do to those less fortunate or animals or Mother Nature, we do to ourselves (in the long run, at the very least).

I left feeling inspired, yet so small. It is a daunting task to change the worldview of many and to put eco back into economics. How do we change our habits? How do we reverse the damage we have caused? I know I cannot begin to solve all of these issues but I can contribute to the solution by TELLING politicians what I want and what they can do for me instead of letting them pull the strings. I can recycle. I can walk. I can take the bus. I can research and try to only purchase organic foods and fair trade products (to the best of my ability). I can avoid using chemicals. I can sign petitions to save the bees. I can encourage my municipality to embrace eco-friendly choices. I am NOT POWERLESS. I will be a positive drop of water in the bucket… and maybe I am just one drop, but if everyone is a positive drop in the bucket Dr. Suzuki reminded us that “we can fill any bucket.” So far over 55,000 Canadians have signed the petition to have environmental rights be recognized in our Constitution and I have faith that there will be many more “drops” to come. POSITIVE CHANGE IS WANTED. POSITIVE CHANGE IS NEEDED. AND POSITIVE CHANGE WILL HAPPEN!

For more information visit:

Blue Dot

‘Shoulders’ by Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

Today is the day we Decide

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Saskatchewan Standardized Testing Plan Scrapped Leader Post

Over this past year the standardized testing debate has been at the forefront of discussions about education. Over the last few months, the implementation of standardized testing had been put on hold. During this time, school boards, professors, educators, students, and parents expressed their general unhappiness with this movement. Don Morgan, our minister of education, stated that “”we know that kind of large-scale testing regime wouldn’t work for teachers… I don’t think it benefits the students and I don’t think it benefits the province.”” I could not agree more!

My biggest concern was that they were going to put standardized testing on hold until educators calmed down. However, Don Morgan notes that “”it wasn’t put on pause so we could turn around and go ahead with it three months later after things had cooled off.”” I am very pleased and inspired that the government listened to the voices of educators, students, and parents. It is inspiring that teachers stood up for something they believed in and were able to determine the future of education in Saskatchewan. As someone on the anti-standardized testing side of the line, I could not be happier. This was the best news I received all day! If I have learned anything from my third year classes, and ECS 410 in particular, it is that students all learn in different ways and need to express their knowledge in different ways. Testing is not the answer for many of our learners. Paul Tough’s work in “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” talks about how “character is at least as important as intellect.” Research shows that students’ GPA scores have a lot more to do with their self-discipline than their IQs. This is problematic for our at-risk learners. Thus, in a sense, standardized tests only disadvantage our at-risk learners even more and they do more to test behavior than actual intelligence. I also feel like there is a disconnect between standardized testing and our curriculum outcomes, broad areas of learning, and general goals.

Instead of standardized testing we will focus on a sector plan. This plan focuses on reading and First Nations/Metis education. “The target is to have at least 78 per cent of Grade 3 students reading at or above grade level by 2015” and I think this is a challenging, but important goal. Written literacy and numeracy are also important areas to focus on; areas that should be addressed in all classes, just like reading. This takes a lot of pressure off our ELA and math teachers. It makes sense to have reading and writing instruction in all classes, as writing and reading are a muscle that requires as much or more practice as nailing the perfect three pointer in basketball. Dan Florizone, Deputy Minister, stated that our focus needs to be on “curriculum… instruction, assessment, professional development” and teacher training, rather than only assessment or testing. By 2020 the goal is to have “85 per cent graduation rate (10 per cent higher than the current rate), 90-per-cent of kindergarten students scoring age-appropriate marks and 80 per cent of all students performing at grade level in reading, writing and math.” This news makes me extremely excited to be a future educator in Saskatchewan. It is news like this that makes me believe that change can happen for the better!

Here’s to working our butts off in the next bit to create a more inclusive school culture and a group of literate students! 🙂

Be The Change: #nicenominations #raknominations

If you have been alive in the 21st century and do not live in a cave, then you have probably noticed the neknomination craze that has infiltrated social media. Yes, infiltrated. For those who do live in a cave, a neknomination involves young adults, often teens, who record a video of themselves drinking and then nominate two others to “up the ante” within the next 24 hours. Neknominations have led to many deaths, whether because of alcohol poisoning or poor decisions after the fact (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/deadly-online-neknomination-drinking-game-has-officials-concerned-1.1673468; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/neknomination-craze-claims-fifth-victim-as-20yearold-bradley-eames-is-found-dead-after-downing-two-pints-of-gin-9131987.html). Furthermore, they are a desperate cry for attention and shine a light on how we glorify binge drinking in our society even though it poses a major issue in all aspects of our society: health care systems, families, unplanned children, mental health issues, crime rates, etc. Adults over 18, although legally allowed to consume beverages, should reconsider their decision to participate in neknominations. Although it seems like “just a fun thing to do” it can have large consequences on future generations and those that take it too far. And if they think it doesn’t impact the future generations of underage children, they are wrong. About 11% of alcohol is consumed by underage teens. Furthermore, about 40% of underage children binge drink regularly making them more susceptible to alcohol dependence. Drinking also impacts memory and learning development in teens (http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm). The neknomination trend is now in our high schools and our students will face peer pressure to participate. There is nothing to be proved by chugging a beer and so I wonder why are people participating in this like a herd of mindless sheep? I miss the days when the internet was about cat videos. If we could bring back that cat videos, that would be great – or people could go get a hobby!

However, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. What started as a terrible cry for Facebook likes was turned into raknominations (random acts of kindness nominations) or nicenominations by Mr. Lindeque of South Africa (http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/south-african-man-brent-lindeque-turns-neknominate-on-its-head/story-fnjwmwrh-1226818264791). Since then, people have started to pay it forward (http://globalnews.ca/news/1136156/online-drinking-game-neknominations-inspiring-canadians-to-pay-it-forward/). I think as educators we need to promote what we love and make our own raknominations or nicenominations. Bashing what we hate will not work but educators and adults can be leaders who steer kids in the right direction. My attempt at a nicenomination was made for just that purpose: to get students to do something positive with their time. Children are the next generation in this world and I want it to be a happy future, where kindness is the only thing people binge on. This video also highlights how easy it is to do nice things. My best friend and I simply cleared out our closets and donated to Carmichael Outreach. It was easy! But it felt great (a level of greatness that cannot be accomplished by chugging a few beer).

There is always a way to make things better and I think nicenominations do just that. I do not have a classroom currently, but I would invite teachers to do nicenominations with their students, as it ties into the cross curricular competency of becoming responsible citizens and relates to their daily lives. Furthermore, I think it is important to get students to be themselves and not follow the crowd of “mindless sheep.” Be the change!