Memories From the Field: Part III – Rainbow of Dreams

by Melanie Stonebanks

From the author's own family archiveby Melanie Stonebanks

By looking back and by remembering the past, I have attempted to bind my past experiences as a professional educator in several contexts and roles to create patterns of my professional development in the stream of my consciousness (Green, 1991).

            Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m nosey by nature, so when the high school publication Rainbow of Dreams (http://www.nd.ca/tournoi/ref/rainbow/index.htm) crossed by my desk I was instantly hypnotized.  Leafing through the pages, I’ll never forget the countless faces reaching out and drawing me in.  There was something about these silent images that beckoned me to read their stories.  I had to find out where they had come from and why their pictures had been captured at that particular time in their lives.  I read and I read and I thought to myself that this would be a perfect literacy project for my class to undertake.

It took a few years after having discovered the ground breaking high school work (two further publications had come out in the mean time) before I was ready to tackle this type of inquiry assignment with my students.  My class’s heritages spanned from various cultural backgrounds that touched all parts of the globe.  My motivation was not only for my multicultural students to learn from and about each other in order to build understanding and acceptance but to empower them through the discussions and writing they would produce and share with each other and the community.

Days and weeks that turned into months were spent together pouring over family photographs, asking each other questions about where we came from, why we had left our native homeland, what we had brought with us on and continued to practice in our new country and what we had to leave behind.  Questions that couldn’t be answered at the moment, were sent home, discussed with parents and grand-parents and then brought back to move the conversation forward.  The students knew they were in a safe environment where no one would openly pass judgement, mock or demean them.  Together, we could take risks, we could ask questions, we could share stories, we could laugh and we could cry.

I think one of the most powerful moments during this project came when a student teacher who was in doing a final field experience with me, decided that he would like to investigate his past as well.  He worked simultaneously with my students in order to follow the process as authentically as possible.  The day came when it was his turn to share with the class the first draft of his “constructed memoir” (the major writing piece for this inquiry was for each student to take a family photograph that spoke to them, interview family members to uncover the story behind the photograph, then take the information from the interview and craft it into a memoir from the perspective of one of the people in the photograph…this involved many, many hours of instruction of reading photographs, asking questions, interview techniques, reading and writing the memoir genre, writer’s craft, oral speaking, peer editing, and much more).

As he stood in front of his young audience, he read to them a story of leaving home and family behind, a story that obviously reached deeply into whom he was and where his roots held fast.  I say obviously as part way through the retelling, his voice wavered and cracked, tears welled up in his eyes as he struggled to continue his reading.  My students were transfixed.  Their bodies in complete stillness as they sat in their seats listening to him try to get his story out.  He needed to share this narrative with them and they knew this.  Quietly and without disruption, a couple of my twelve year old students turned and questioned me with their eyes of what they should do.  I nodded to them and gestured that all was alright and that we should let him continue.  As he concluded his sorrowful and moving tale, the class burst into a round of supportive applause.  He had put himself out.  He had taken a risk.  He had shared with them a piece of himself and they understood this.  It was a transformative moment in my classroom for each and every one of us.

Reflection of Rainbow of Dreams

I am always hesitant to share anecdotes of successful teaching and learning moments in my history for fear of coming across as some “super teacher” in the likes of Ms. Frizzle of Magic School bus fame (who is my idol by the way…what better mantra than “Take chances, make mistakes and get messy!”).  The above narrative was one positive incident where there was harmony between a desired critical literacy outcome and the reality of what actually transpired in the classroom.  Occasions like that one are often few and far between with missed opportunities and inconsiderate unconscious and/or dysconscious reactions being the rule rather than the exception (according to King (1991) dysconsciousness is a state of mind that occurs when there is exclusion and disconnect of the Other’s pain).

One of those reactions took place while the students were in the midst of searching for their family snapshots.  Most of the pictures that were handed in showcased wedding photographs, images of families partaking in celebrations, outdoor gardens and homes long gone as well as individuals who had since past away but held a place of honour in the history of the family and the country of origin.  As I was sifting through the pile of pictures, noting who had brought what in, my student teacher approached my desk with a look of concern on his face.  He placed the photograph in front of me and I remember being quite taken aback by the image of the young smiling man standing behind the large anti-aircraft gun, hands in ready position.  There was no way that I was going to be able to use this photograph.  It was violent and who knew how many people had been killed before or after this picture had been taken.

That night at supper, I spoke with my husband about the photograph and asked his advice as to how I should approach the student in order to discuss the inappropriateness of his choice.  What followed was another lesson in how I had missed a critical literacy possibility and was running the risk of closing the door to learning for one of my students.  What I have not yet divulged to the reader is that the country of origin of the armed soldier was Iran and what I was dealing with was the bias I had to these types of images in relation to the country in which they were taken. After all, Christopher (whose father was of mixed English-Italian decent and served in three wars himself) asked me how I would have reacted if a child had brought in a shot of a grandparent who fought for the Canadian, British or American army in WW1 or WW2 or Korea, or Vietnam or etc., etc.  I had to be honest and say that because I had grown up seeing these types of photographs depicting “our heroes”, I wouldn’t have batted an eye.

In case you are wondering, the student used the photograph in his project and it turned out that his father was not a soldier but an informations officer who had stood there behind the gun and simply asked his buddy to take the picture for a lark.   Another bit of information I would never have learned if I had allowed my background and bias make the final decision.  The next step though is to ask myself “why does that make a difference and make me feel better”?

 Conclusion

My own personal development of any true sense of being conscious came from discussions with my husband who was in graduate school when I began my entry into teaching in the classroom.  However, it must be said that even when you become aware of what it is that you should be working towards enacting; there are so many factors that stop you from truly engaging in critical pedagogy and critical literacy.  Essentially what occurs is that the majority of your time is spent with acts of micro resistance and with the few and far between overt actions that leave you sick.   The micro resistance then becomes lost over time and it’s not those minor attempts that become the critical incidents rather it’s the ones that you lose sleep over when you worry about responses from the administration, peers, parents and community.  This is probably why they are so few and far between.

As someone who now teaches at the university level, I disagree with the often repeated notion (and one that I have to admit held myself at one time) that there is such a large chasm between academics and “the real world of teaching”.  But the one reality that did and does still exist is the fear.  Teachers often pride themselves on being the vanguard for change but after two plus decades of teaching, I am starting to agree with the social theorists that state that schools are a reflection of society; we change only when society changes.

 

References for further reading:

Green, M. (1988). The Dialectic of Freedom. New York: Teachers College Press.

King, J.E. (1991). Dysconscious Racism: Ideology, Identity, and the Miseducation of Teachers in Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 133-146, Spring.

Old School Social Networking: The Power of the Student Exchange

I vividly and fondly remember bits and pieces of my first experience as an exchange student. I was in grade 6 at École St. Noël-Chabanel in North York, Ontario.  Our class had been paired with a group from an alternative middle school located in what seemed like an exotic and far-off jewel of a city: Montréal. I can still envision my host family’s rambling three story century home near the Henri-Bourrassa metro, remember my first taste of fondue bourguignonne, and picture the lightly freckled face of my “twin”. Her name was Dominique, and at the time, she was definitely the coolest kid that I had ever met!  In retrospect, that one week living with my new “famille”, immersed in their day-to-day, may very well have trumped 8 years of French schooling (sorry mom!). The whole experience left me wanting to learn more about a language that I had been studying my entire life, and to become more deeply connected to a culture that was part of my personal heritage.

SEVEC exchange participants
SEVEC participants

Fast forward 30 years, and my son, who is now in grade 6, has just spent the week hosting his exchange twin.   This time (definitely older, questionably wiser), I now recognize and am able to appreciate how the experiential learning tied to an exchange program can significantly influence a person’s worldview…and have documented a small sampling of the participants’ reflections in this post.

Here at home, from a pool of local Pontiac youth, 23 grade 6 & 7 students were chosen to participate in this year’s SEVEC (Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada) program. These student adventurers were carefully matched with equally intrepid travellers from Scott Bateman Middle School in The Pas, Manitoba. For one week, each group would play host to the other, sharing their “best of” in terms of historical, cultural, regional and local highlights. And perhaps of even greater significance,  students would be invited to stay in the homes of their twins and experience what it really means to be part of another and sometimes very different community.

SEVEC exchanges are funded in part by Heritage Canada, and the participants bear no financial responsibility for travel costs.  However, the investment in time and effort involved in both planning and implementing each exchange is truly immeasurable. In Manitoba, teacher Korrie Hopper took on the lead organizing role for her school’s contingent. Here in the Pontiac, Barry McGowan, a retired teacher and former WQSB administrator, was this year (as he has been for many years), the driving force behind the exchange.

SEVEC exchange organizers
Organizers: Barry McGowan and Korrie Hopper

New experiences often provide new insights, which develop and refine how we make sense of the world…and our place in it.  For the exchange participants, these insights seem to speak of personal growth, of a heightened sense of self-awareness, of an appreciation for cultural uniqueness as well as commonalities, and of a strong desire to make and maintain connections. Here is what some of them shared:

When I went to The Pas I really didn’t know much about Native culture but by the time I left…I had learned a ton. I had never heard about the Northern Trapper’s festival but it was awesome to participate in some of the activities they had. SEVEC has given me a chance to learn about different cultures, as well as my own.  At home, we went on the Wakefield steam train and to the Parliament Buildings. I really fell in love with travelling! And, I am now  friends with people from all over the Western provinces. I still speak with my twin from last year on almost a daily basis. -Erika from Shawville QC

I got to see a different part of Canada that I probably would not ordinarily visit. I really liked my host family even though they were not my twin’s family.  It was hard to get to know my twin because I didn’t stay with him. I had a better experience with the exchange (last year) because my twin and I were a better match. But I still think that I anyone who has the chance to participate should. You get to see a different part of our country and understand how other people live. -William B. from Shawville QC

It was really fun to be here in Quebec because most of the time everybody was really nice to me. And that gives me the confidence to know that I could do this again. The experience also makes me realize that everybody is different…and that’s okay. I know that we’ll stay connected. -David from The Pas MB

Some things that I have learned: how to make new friends, to have more fun and…to live life! SEVEC made it possible for me to fly on a plane for the first time, and is a great experience for those who don’t travel much. I’m sad that it is over but I know that I have come out of it with more new friends and stronger ties to some of my old ones. -Emma from Shawville QC

I would definitely go back to The Pas…a place that I didn’t even know existed before visiting. I’ll always remember the family I stayed with and think of them every time I look at a map of Canada. I can’t wait to do this again…hopefully next year! -William H. from Shawville QC

I was surprised at how much extra time organizing this trip required. With two small kids at home and working full time, it was a lot, but worth it all. I really liked being able to get out of the confines of the classroom and experience positive things with the kids. It’s always nice to see the other side of your students and have fun with them; not always be the ‘big bad teacher’! I also liked seeing them experience so many new things. I had kids that had never been on a plane, never been out of the province, and for some it was their first time away from home. I feel as if  I got to watch some of the kids mature so much in such a short period of time. I had one girl that was so afraid of going that she almost backed out. I never once saw her without a smile on her face while we were gone; I think she proved a lot to herself on this trip. I felt very proud of a lot of our students. That is my favourite part, for sure.  -Teacher K. Hopper, Scott Bateman Middle School, The Pas MB

As this school year winds down, dedicated teachers across the province are already gearing up mentally for next fall. Why not consider taking your students on a cultural exchange? Yes, the commitment may seem daunting, but the impact of the experience on all of those who share in it can resonate for a lifetime.

Kristine Thibeault

SEVEC is currently accepting applications for 2012-2013 exchanges. You can find out more at www.sevec.ca.

 


“I want to tie my shoes” – Reflection and Goal Setting in Cycle One

(c) LEARN

“I believe that the theme ‘again and again’ is paramount in cycle one. Children (people) don’t always ‘get it’ on the first round, or second, or third. Children love to do the same activity again and again.” Peter Simons, Cycle 1 teacher, CQSB

Here’s the good news: children in Cycle One (grades one and two for those of you unfamiliar with the Quebec system) can set goals and reflect on their learning. I’ll say it again: six- and seven-year-old children can discuss what they did in the past, they can make plans for the future and can look back at their progress. I’ve seen their goals and heard their reflections in classrooms across the province. More importantly, teachers say that engaging in conversations about learning and not just about WHAT they are learning helps their students succeed in class. So why are some educators reluctant to embrace the practice of reflection and its alter-ego, goal setting? Misconceptions and misunderstanding abound, as many workshops on the topic target older learners, which leads Cycle One teachers to wonder if its even possible with their young students…and what it might look like in their classrooms.

Defining the terms

Reflection is thinking for the purpose of analyzing and evaluating our learning. We often talk of reflection in the context of portfolio practice, that is, in the context of using a process-based device for tracking student learning and growth over time, such as a portfolio. But even if you do not use portfolios with your students, you can still use the reflection cycle to improve your students’ awareness of their own learning. Goal-setting is part of the reflective learning cycle, and allows the learner to plan a focus for their learning.

Goal-Setting and Reflection in the Learning Cycle

So, with the intent of providing some pathways for exploring reflection and goal-setting with young learners, here are 5 myths about these practices and some reasons to let them go to the big myth graveyard in the sky:

Myth 1 – How can they set goals and reflect – they can’t even write! 

This is an easy one and immediately obvious to most Cycle 1 teachers, who are very used to dealing with early- or non-readers and writers. What do we do when our learners can’t write? We talk, of course! We talk during circle time, we talk one-on-one, we talk in groups, we talk in pairs! We talk about what worked, what didn’t and why. We talk about our plans and the choices we make when we enact our plan. Planning and choosing are precursors to the goal-setting process, or as Epstein (2003) puts it, “planning is choice with intention” (emphasis in original) which is based on a goal. The other thing we do in Cycle 1 in addition to talking is drawing! Children can make regular representations of things that occurred or things that are to come, such as planning out a project or an activity. Over time, this planning can become more purposeful and tied to each student’s individual learning path, but it rarely starts out that way. In fact, by engaging in daily planning and reflecting conversations and visual representations (drawings, diagrams, etc), the Cycle 1 teacher can help lay the foundation for future self-reflection and goal-setting tied to learning, just as she helps to lay the foundation for lifelong literacy.

Myth 2 – Students don’t get what they are doing – reflection and goal-setting are just too abstract!

Lots of things are quite abstract, but that shouldn’t prevent us from taking the first steps to understanding, right? Moreover, while the concepts of goal-setting and reflection on learning might be abstract, the habits involved are actually quite concrete. Sitting with your students during circle time is one way to look back on an activity and to set goals for another one. Let’s use writing as an example activity:

With your students sitting together on the floor, you may ask them what kinds of things they remember about writing from recent activities. Students might say things like:

  • “we learned about capitals”
  • “putting a dot at the end”
  • “making a space between the words”.

You can write these down on a flip-chart or on the board (whatever you usually do) and suggest some goals of your own that are important to you, such as: “let’s use a new word” or “let’s use a word from the Word Wall” or whatever you happen to be working on at the time. Ask students what their goals will be and listen to a few students. This will allow students who don’t quite get it to listen to other children work through goal setting. When its time to reflect, students will have something specific to say about their work – they either met the goals set out, or they didn’t and it will be easy to see. In Cycle One you might not hear sophisticated metacognitive discourse, but you will be developing habits of mind that will prove useful once metacognition kicks in.

Myth 3 – Goal-setting and reflection are for older kids

I was reading over some research data and came across a goal set by a grade one student who wanted to learn to ties his shoes. This was his global goal, and not one related to any specific assignment or activity. It was clearly important to him in his life, and I bet he had more where that came from. I could picture him sitting at his desk thinking about what he intends to get done in Grade One, and by golly, he was going to master this shoelace thing! Did it matter that it wasn’t tied to the teacher’s goals of literacy and numeracy? Not really, since the act of setting a goal and working towards it will leave an imprint on this student that he can recall when asked to set goals in the future. In addition, it is important to understand the abstract idea of goal setting in a way that is obvious to the learner – in this case, the student understood goal-setting because he was allowed to choose a goal that was meaningful to him. The act of setting goals and reflecting from an early age is what makes more complex goal-setting and reflection possible later on.

Myth 4 – Cycle 1 students just don’t have the vocabulary for reflection

What do we do when we want to introduce new vocabulary, ideas or habits? We model and we scaffold and we do both of these over and over until we reach our goal. Scaffolding can be done in the form of questions or prompts, which can be oral or written on the board or on flip-chart paper.  Here are some examples of prompts for reflecting on an activity:

  • I liked ___________.
  • I can ___________.
  • I feel ___________.
  • Next time, I will ____________.

Modelling can be done by the teacher or by peers, to share vocabulary and strategies. Listening to the reflections or goals of other students helps everyone acquire new vocabulary and clarifies new ideas. A teacher can also reflect out loud on some of her own actions. She can say “Last time, I asked you to bring me your work, but that didn’t work so well, because there were too many pieces and they fell on the floor, so this time I will try a different way and I’ll come see you at your desk.”

Myth 5 – Reflection takes too much time

I have difficulty with this one, because I always think to myself “Reflection takes too much time away from what?” From the next thing that you will be doing? Hopefully, we do not jump from topic to topic or activity to activity without pausing to tie them together in some way, to provide some coherence for our youngest scholars. And because it is THEM navigating the unchartered territories and not us, we owe it to them to allow them this time to consolidate, to make links, to understand and to set a new course for themselves. After all, if not us, then who?

******

 

Reflection and goal-setting do not come naturally, but they bear metacognitive fruit in the years following Cycle One! What myths are you busting in your own practice?

 

For more on reflection and goal-setting:

Memories From the Field Part II: “Dear Prime Minister”

(c) Todd Berman 2012

By Melanie Stonebanks
The unexamined life isn’t worth living. – Socrates, 450 BC

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my early teaching experiences in inner-city Montreal. This entry builds on that previous post and will hopefully contribute to the current day understanding of the role of critical literacy in the classroom or the lack there of.  It will lay bare my attempts, fraught with many mistakes and omissions, to bring into the classroom a critical pedagogy lived out through the day to day circumstances of a teacher and her students struggling with the turmoil and perplexity of a newly implemented curriculum.  Due to countless discussions with my husband, whom you may have met here, I was well aware of the underpinnings of what critical pedagogy was and what it was supposed to look like in a classroom setting.  But like so many others in the teaching profession, it was one thing to know what it was but to have the courage to enact it was a whole other matter.

The Context

            In order to be able to visualize the upcoming narratives more accurately, it is important that a setting of time and place in history be offered for the reader.  The two stories (one in this post and one in a subsequent post) unfold at one point or another in the decade spanning from 1993-2003 at one of the four public urban/inner-city schools where I worked in Montreal, Québec.  All my former schools were comprised mainly of children whose parents were considered to be recent immigrants to Canada and due to their economic situation most were situated below the poverty line.

It was not always easy but for certain it was always worth it.  I would not trade in my years teaching in these schools for anything.  It is due to my time engaged with my young students that have brought me farther along in my understanding of what it truly means to be a teacher.  It is a journey that is only still just beginning.  As I write, reflect and reflect some more on the narratives you are about to read, I along with you gain a deeper and more profound understanding of the awesome effect critical pedagogy and critical literacy can have on those that become woven into its fabric.  I add my piece to the quilt and encourage those that read along with me, to add their stories and pieces as well.

“Dear Prime Minister”

March 2003 marked the beginning of Gulf War 2.  We sat at home around the television and I wept.  As I watched the “Shock and Awe” of a city bombed and blasted into oblivion, I cried for the children, for the injustice, and I have to admit for the power bloc to which I was a member of for life.  I felt as though we were living in a world gone mad, where a life didn’t equal a life, where the slaughter of innocent people was brushed off as unfortunate but necessary in order to take control of a country and the oil fields that permeated its land.  Where family members expressed that it all wasn’t too bad as American technology would improve oil extraction efficiency.

I wondered how I would deal with this tomorrow in class.  How could I ever be as strong as someone like Jane Elliot, who in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination, had taught her class what it felt like to be discriminated against simply due to something as out of your control as the colour of your eyes or skin.  Her controversial risk taking, and I believe an example of true critical pedagogy in action, “blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise” was now a staple lesson in university education classes but at the time in the 1960s, her progressive and unconventional teaching brought her negative reactions from co-workers, community members and people across the United States.

I have heard time and again people say that if they had been there, they would have stood beside Ghandi, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.  I say “No way!”   It is much easier to ease one’s conscience and say in hindsight that you would have been there but in reality, it takes a very special person who can stand up to the pressures of a system so much larger than you and one that is pushing so ardently and relentlessly against you (Stonebanks, 2004).  Needless to say, I was not this type of person and was at a loss to know what I would do the next day in class with my students.  So I took the easy way out and waited to see what would happen.

The following morning, the classroom was a buzz.  It was clear that most had spent a great deal of time watching the same images and news reports that I had in my home.  As they entered the classroom and found their seats, I sat back and simply let them talk.  They shared conversations that had most likely begun in their homes and their variations of what their parents thought and felt about the invasion.  I continued to wait, to give them space, part of me knew that they needed time to unload all that they had inside them, the other part of me waited because I still didn’t know what I would do next.

And then it happened, one of my students put up her hand and called out to me “Mrs. Stonebanks, I’m afraid.  What if they come and bomb my house?  What do I do?”  It wasn’t a question that I was expecting but it made sense that children would be worried about the same horror potentially affecting them especially considering that the vast majority did not come from power bloc backgrounds and have probably heard more nuanced and factual comprehensions of Western foreign policy.  So as the class quieted down, we took it from there.  In the safety of the classroom family, open and honest discussions could be held about what we were thinking, feeling, fearing, what we understood and what we didn’t.  I was careful not to promote my own personal agenda or forward my beliefs of what the invasion was based on but what I did was allow them a space to deliberate and offer multiple perspectives to broaden their understanding of each other and the crazy world they were living in.

Part way through the conversation, one of the students asked which countries made up the invading forces, “The coalition of the willing”.  When asked whether Canada was going to join in on the invasion, I told them that we were not.  That our Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, had been reported saying, “that forcing a regime change is not desirable. Many leaders in the world are not his friends, but, he adds, only the local people have the right to change government. “If we change every government we don’t like in the world where do we start? Who is next?”

The students decided that they would like to express what they were feeling about the invasion and Canada’s role.  Many of them were still fearful that Canada and they themselves would be implicated and hurt in some way or another.  Then an idea came to me.  One that would give them a voice, a sense of security and a feeling that there was an audience who would be willing to listen to what they were thinking and dealing with at this moment in history.  And one that stood in sharp contrast to the direction that my colleagues were taking in having their students write letters of support to soldiers already serving in Afghanistan.  They would write a letter to the Prime Minister, the right honourable Jean Chrétien.  I put forward my quick thinking idea and they loved it.

Constructivism?  Probably not.  But I was reminded of the fact that Joe Kincheloe, noted critical pedagogue, would often repeat to teachers in graduate classes when they felt overwhelmed by an anti banking model of teaching that being a critical pedagogue didn’t mean that you stopped being a teacher; that you stopped forwarding ideas.  It seemed to fit exactly what was needed at the time.  And by week’s end, twenty-eight letters, including one of my own explaining the impetus for the writing campaign, were mailed away to Ottawa.

Reflections on “Dear Prime Minister”

            In no way do I feel that this incident is to be viewed as revolutionary, ground breaking or even an act of passive resistance.  There was no risk involved in a Canadian class writing letters to a government who was opposed to the invasion of Iraq.  I skimmed all the pieces of writing quickly before sealing them in the large brown envelope.  They had been peer edited for fluency, clarity and basic grammar and spelling but the content of each letter was left up to the person who had penned it.  They were free to express whatever an eleven or twelve year old wanted to share.  Out of the twenty-eight letters that my class sent, twenty-seven of them were in support of Canada’s position of not joining the invasion in Iraq.

Had I been teaching in the United States at the time, would I have taken the risk to let my students write these types of letters to the President, free from my interference of what position to take on the matter or even still, did I have them send copies of their opinions to the United States government?  No, I would not and no, I did not.  Again, bound and gagged by fear of a system that seemed to call all the shots in one’s economic and career advancement, I spent most of the time keeping under the radar.  I was not brave. I was not a radical leader.  But when a large package from the Prime Minister’s office arrived for my class which included a letter of response to our campaign, thanking us for our words and thoughts and with it was a signed photograph of Jean Chrétien, the excitement and smiles on the faces of my students assured me that it was alright.  I hadn’t started a revolution but I had given these children a forum for others to hear their voice and people had indeed listened.

End note

This fall, as my husband and I were hustling through the Toronto airport to catch a connecting flight home, we walked past a gate and there standing waiting for his own flight was Jean Chrétien.  My husband immediately dropped his bag and went over to shake his hand.  What followed was a lengthy and highly animated conversation between a former Prime Minister and two delighted supporters.  Between photographs and many laughs, I was able to recount the story of our letter writing campaign to his office.  It seemed that being able to share this classroom experience with the man to whom the letters were addressed allowed me to understand yet again, the importance of engaging and supporting your students in authentic literacy lessons that come to us from the teachable moments that life brings our way whether we are ready for them or not.

Mon expérience scolaire!

Pour cet article, j’ai décidé de laisser la parole à un expert du domaine de l’éducation, un de mes élèves de 5e secondaire et ce, afin qu’il témoigne de son expérience dans notre système scolaire québécois!

Samuel Psycharis est un élève de Laval Liberty High School de la commission scolaire Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Cette école publique située dans la région de Laval se classe dans la moyenne des écoles québécoises avec une clientèle multiculturelle. En fait, elle s’apparente à plusieurs écoles de notre système scolaire.

Là-dessus, je vous souhaite une bonne lecture! Et un gros merci Samuel!

***Le texte n’a pas été modifié afin de garder son intégrité.

 

Depuis l’âge de 5 ans, je suis un élève à temps plein. Cela veut dire que depuis une décennie, ma vie quotidienne consiste à suivre des cours, faire des devoirs et interagir avec des enseignants. Au cours de ces expériences variées, j’ai beaucoup appris; non seulement à propos du système scolaire, mais aussi sur mon éducation personnelle et les différentes méthodes d’apprentissage. Cela est un voyage qui continue après l’école, puisque l’éducation et l’apprentissage sont des aspects de la vie qui ne se terminent qu’avec la mort de l’humain. Comme l’a si bien dit un proverbe chinois : « L’apprentissage et l’éducation sont des trésors qui nous suivent toute notre vie ».

Au cours de mon cheminement scolaire, j’ai eu plusieurs expériences différentes. Selon moi, le système scolaire de notre province est un des meilleurs à ma connaissance. Les différents enseignants dont j’ai eu le plaisir et le privilège de côtoyer à travers les années m’ont aidé à grandir de plusieurs façons. Non seulement ai-je eu l’aide nécessaire pour devenir mature et grandir comme un adulte éduqué, mais j’ai aussi eu une formation qui est primordiale pour mon succès dans mes études postsecondaires. En ayant été élève dans une école publique, j’ai pu me placer au centre de notre système éducatif. Cela signifie que mon environnement scolaire m’était donné par le gouvernement et n’était pas un produit de mes dépenses financières. Cela ne fait que confirmer mon plaisir d’avoir pris cette décision il y a cinq ans.   Mon école possède des enseignants très dévoués à leur métier et qui viennent en classe avec la même passion de jour en jour. C’est grandement grâce à eux que mon vœu de poursuivre des études supérieures est né. La combinaison de cela avec un curriculum très élaboré m’a fourni les outils nécessaires pour pouvoir atteindre mes objectifs éducatifs et professionnels. En conséquence, j’espère qu’un jour je vais pouvoir retourner ce cadeau inestimable en étant un membre impliqué dans la société. De plus, la culture et la diversité présentes dans mon école m’ont aussi appris plusieurs leçons et ont accru ma sensibilité à propos de mon entourage. Cela est très important puisque, de nos jours, le monde est de plus en plus multiculturel et je crois que mon éducation m’a adéquatement préparé pour ce phénomène.

Étant un élève avec des intérêts très variés, je suis très content que mon école ait pu me fournir des outils pour développer ces passions. Des exemples de cela sont ma passion pour l’art et l’illustration, dont j’ai eu la chance d’utiliser à travers plusieurs projets, tels une murale et le chandail des finissants. En plus, ma passion pour le sport a été satisfaite par le programme de concentration sport, auquel j’ai participé pendant la majorité de mon séjour au secondaire. Finalement, mon amour pour les sciences a été développé grâce à l’expo-sciences d’Hydro-Québec et par mes cours dans le programme scientifique. Grâce à tout cela, j’ai pu gagner une bourse à l’université Concordia, preuve du succès de mon expérience scolaire.

Bref, je suis très reconnaissant de la qualité de formation que j’ai eu la chance d’obtenir. Pour moi, chaque matin était le début d’une journée pleine d’apprentissages variés et d’expériences précieuses. Le système en place et ses enseignants sont d’une qualité exceptionnelle et je vais toujours garder d’eux d’excellents souvenirs, puisqu’ils m’ont permis de grandir et devenir un homme.

Sam Psycharis, élève de 5e secondaire