Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Endangered Languages and Google - a new partnership

                                                              Dr. Lorna Williams
 Lorna Williams is one of our heroes. Her tenacious work to strengthen and preserve indigenous culture, to create schools where indigenous ways of knowing are part of the fabric of the curriculum and of every child's experience, her generosity in sharing her knowledge and her wisdom so freely with our grad students, with us, with international colleagues and with everyone in the Network - these are but a few reasons why we are so deeply indebted to Lorna.

Lorna has been able to help countless teachers tap into their own sense of humanity and to deepen their sensitivity to others. She has helped to teach us the importance of language and culture  - and to understand the impact when people of any age are denied their language. She has had the patience to answer many of the questions that we have - about language, culture, Aboriginal life, and what we as settler educators can do to strengthen education for Aboriginal young people.

Last week saw the  launch of the Endangered Languages Project, a website that allows users to archive audio, video and written information about the world’s rarest languages and dialects. The project could prove a boon to cultural preservation in Canada, where dozens of aboriginal languages are at risk of fading away. Dr. Williams is the chair of the First Peoples Cultural Council and deserves much credit for making this happen. Through a partnership with Google, many endangered languages may be preserved in a way no one might have thought possible a few years ago. Please check out the websiteread the press release and consider the ways in which we can all support this critically important work. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer reading list

With only a few more days of school ahead, it is time to get that summer reading list ready! We've prepared a short list for you - some that will be great poolside reading (when the sun appears) - and others that you will want some quiet space to enjoy. We'd welcome comments on the blog about any of these books - or others that you would recommend. Happy reading!
Right now, we are working on an inquiry handbook that will be published in partnership with the BCPVPA.  Professional  inquiry is becoming increasingly a focus in many school and districts and we hope that building on the strong examples from network schools where inquiry has been driving student and teacher learning for quite a while will be timely and helpful. We are also working on a book with Helen Timperley on Leading Professional Inquiry that with any luck will be out by the late summer of 2013. No lounging about this summer! Maybe it is a good thing the weather is still rotten......

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making a difference

We are truly fortunate to be able to get to know and to work with so many wonderful educators. There are so many stories that never make the media - and here is a quick snapshot of some of the good news just from this past week.

On Monday we attended the convocation at VIU for graduates of the third cohort from the MEDL program. Wendy Nixon Strothert, a music educator from Comox Valley was recognized as the gold medallist in the class. Wendy is a most deserving recipient of this award and what her VIU colleagues may remember most about her was her generosity in sharing her talents and her expertise with others. At the invitation of one of her VIU classmates, Wendy recently spent time in a neighbouring district working with choirs from a number of elementary schools, modelling for other choir leaders how to work with large groups of singers, and then conducted a mass choir performance as a culminating activity. This was right at the time when Wendy was pressured to finish her thesis and coursework.  She did it all with enormous class and we offer her our sincere thanks and congratulations.

Then we received the news that  long time network teacher, VIU grad and  Healthy Schools Leader, Lynn Brown has been recognized nationally for excellence in teaching physical education.  The PETE (Physical Education Teacher’s Excellence) award honours exceptional teachers (one from each province) for their excellence in teaching physical education and their ability to motivate children and youth to participate in physical activity. This award is the only national award in Canada that recognizes physical education teachers for their hard work and dedication in helping to build strong, healthy and physically active children. Congratulations, Lynn.

Lynn Brown - Excellence in Teaching
Next it was off to Smithers where teachers from both Bulkley Valley and Coast Mountains School District were sharing the results of their network inquiry work.  We were inspired to hear the ways in which learners of all ages are  becoming more engaged and enjoying more success. Consider grade 9 Math students being able to demonstrate their knowledge of key concepts by creating their own video clips and creating a class TV station through YouTube.  Or Grade  8 students who were reading with much greater enthusiasm and understanding as a result of their exposure to Aboriginal fiction and non fiction. And, then the intermediate students who were getting instant feedback on basic Math skills along with specific strategies for improvement as a result of a program designed by one of their teachers. Speed and accuracy were moving off the charts. The stories go on.... the girls group at a secondary school where senior girls were designing lessons and activities for younger girls connected to body image and healthy choices....these are the stories that must be told.

Here's an image that will stick with us - Dave Margerm and his VP at Twain Sullivan Elementary School in Houston. This young man greeted us at the door, proudly showed us around the school, and was acknowledged by staff and students alike as the VP. He tries to emulate his principal in every way he can. Dave is now having to up his wardrobe to keep up  - and this boy knows what it is like to feel valued and respected.

Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when all one reads in the media is of conflict and strife. There is so much more that needs to be told. At the convocation at VIU, Chancellor and national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, explained that in this language the word for love and pain are the same. Let's make sure that the stories we tell about our schools and our learners reflect love - and the courage to make a difference.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aboriginal Understandings - Letter of Gratitude

Within the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network, we take the position that learning more about Aboriginal culture and history, ways of knowing and wisdom traditions is absolutely essential for everyone in British Columbia and in Canada.

We are deeply grateful to mentors such as Lorna Williams, Laura Tait, Debbie Leighton Stephens, Stephanie Stephens, Gail Bedard and Colleen Hannah who over the past few years have shared their knowledge and experiences at the NOII - AESN seminars.

Last year, Laura Tait shared the draft form of a learning progression for Aboriginal understandings. This resource has led to some very thoughtful discussions and much thinking in districts around the province. You can find this posted on the NOII website as well as video clips from previous seminars.

We know that with the support of our Aboriginal colleagues, we can learn much more and we can move to informed action. We are proud of the growth that is taking place in many AESN schools - and  there is still a lot of work to be done.

Last week Brooke Moore, a teacher at  Rockridge Secondary in West Vancouver spent some time in Nanaimo with Laura Tait to explore questions that were troubling her. The letter that Brooke wrote in response to this day is a must read for all of us who are determined to make a difference to the outcomes of Aboriginal learners.