Beyond Routine

I have never been a creature of habit.  When things get to be too predictable, I get an anxious feeling that life is passing me by.  Perhaps this is the reason that eduction has been such a good fit for me.  Change and new learning are always afoot!  Meeting new people, changing grade levels, attending professional development and navigating through the politics of the time provide food for thought and a landscape to navigate that takes all of my personal and professional resources.  The quest for me is to maintain a larger perspective of what really matters and not get sucked into the vortex of ever increasing demands.

I work hard and play hard.  A good friend of mine use to marvel that one hot tub after I arrived at “The Secret Garden”, her B&B on Bowen Island, and I had geared down from “10” to a happy “2”.   This Spring Break, my play opportunity, aka Spring Break, has taken me to Vietnam for a much anticipated visit with my darling daughter.  We have escaped the humidity of Hanoi and are now settled in a little piece of tropical paradise in Phu Quoc.  One day on our secluded little beach with hammocks, a few kayaks for our use and a good book and I have officially geared down to a “2”.  I suspect the relaxation speed corresponds directly with the lush greenery surrounding us.  All that O2!  Although I must confess I pulled my hammock away from those green coconuts overhead on the beach with a remaining vestige of control.

My daughter, Larkyn, and her boyfriend, Justin, are both teaching in Vietnam at ILA, International Language Academy.  It has a carefully delineated program to ensure standardization in English language instruction in institutions around the world.  Yesterday Justin started to tell me about this new thing, PBL, that was being introduced into the courses with the higher level students.   The Project Based Learning is technology based and facilitates collaboration, communication and problem solving between students.  Students for the first time have the power to choose interest areas to pursue and develop vocabulary around those interests.

I taught practicing teachers at the Bureau of Education in Fuyang for two summer sessions in 2008 and 2009.  I worked with four other educators from Coquitlam, British Columbia, teaching educators English and ways to engage students in learning.  It was an amazing opportunity for personal learning.  I gained a much better understanding of my students from China and the challenges facing the educators in China trying to implement practices that were bringing such strong results in the Western World.  Rote learning was not just a philosophical position but a way to manage behaviour  and safety in classes of 50 or more students.  Teaching students how to write tests determined their ability to further their education, access opportunities and care for family.

Project based learning is an exciting possibility for implementing change in school systems.  My principal, Rosa Fazio, is off to China this Spring Break, to inspire educators with the ways teachers are using technology and student interest to inspire profound learning at the Kindergarten to Grade 8 level at Norma Rose Point.  There is part of me that is excited to go back to school after break to discuss what we have learned over the holidays.  Yes, I’m sitting with my coffee in  a little piece of paradise feeling very grateful to be an educator.




The Huntington Library Opens My 7 Year old Eyes

As a kid, I lived in Vancouver with my Mom and did the trek down to Los Angeles every summer to visit my father.  Going to the Huntington Library was as predictable as going to Disneyland and Knots Berry Farm, albeit, not quite as anticipated.  My step-mother chuckles every time she recounts me as a little girl with ringlets and my look of frustration and the memorable quote ” Not Bluey and Pinky again!”  And yet, this experience as a child and future experiences with museums around the world, are now highly valued.  This summer I was amazed with the additional gardens and exhibits, and that Huntington Library is now a tourist attraction.  I entered the room with The Blue Boy and Pinky and delighted.  The Ellesmere Chaucer and the Gutenberg bible were reunions with familiar friends.

It certainly led me to reflect on the childhood experiences that helped me to learn how to look at art.  I remember that my childhood eyes saw two friends.  Pinky was obviously just having a lot more fun that Bluey.  After all, they were in the same room.  I remember my surprise when I learned that they were painted by different artists and that when I looked at them more closely, it was obvious.  In order to draw kids into art, they need to be exposed to it and taught that they too can engage in the process.

The summers that I taught teachers in Fuyang, China, I was amazed that ALL of the teachers knew how to draw.  Part of their education included art instruction by teachers with training and proficiency in the area.  They all understood and practiced the basics of drawing which emerged to real talent in many.  When my own children were young, they regularly took classes at Place Des Art in the French Quarter of Coquitlam.  Once a month, The Vancouver Art Gallery had a Super Sunday filled with sessions to get families engaging in art and interacting in various ways with the work of Emily Carr, The Group of Seven and featured exhibits.  On their first trip to Europe, at 7 and 9 years of age, they went in the Roman ruins, the Leaning Tower, the Uffizi, Galleria Dell’Accademia and the Duomo in Florence with their sketchbooks.  That fall our daughter came home from school to tell me that she shared her drawing of The Birth of Venus at school because she didn’t think the kids were ready for David.

I am wondering about how we engage kids in all of the aspects  in the world of art.  I unfortunately didn’t grow up well developed drawing skills.  I remember one of my Kindergarten students snickering as I was using my Ed Emberley book to draw something on the board.  Another protective 5 year old, turned around and exclaimed “Knock it off! She’s doing her best!”  I am creative and can help students to develop artistically in some ways but need to draw in the talents of others as well.  Fortunately in my school, we have amazing number of talented teachers who share their skills with their students.  I’m wondering how we get children to connect what they are doing in schools with that of the artists of the past and of the present?  How do we get them to see themselves as artists?  How do we open up the possibilities for their continued professional or leisure activities as artists?