Empowering Youth: Student-Led Conferences

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Long day, but worth it.

When kids get a chance to take the lead as they reflect on and share their progress, they begin to take ownership of their own goals and achievements. It’s so amazing listening to them articulate to their parents what they’re good at, and what they can continue working on. I’m just there to support the conversation.

Had a bunch of monkeys tell their parents today that they need to learn better self regulation strategies, and even told their parents to take away their videogames if they misbehave 🙈 Straight from their mouths! Student-led Conferences are so effective 😂

Inevitably, you will have kids who feel awkward taking the lead, as they are unfortunately used to being silenced for one reason or another. Hopefully, this process will help break the cycle and can demonstrate what can happen when we give kids a voice.

More of this tomorrow morning✌🏼

#StudentLedConferences #Progress #StudentEmpowerment #TeacherLife

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Core Beliefs of Successful People

Source: Core Beliefs of Successful People

1) I can choose myself – I don’t have to wait on anyone else to hand me the opportunity. I will seek out the opportunity on my own.

2) Success is inevitable only in hindsight – no one truly can predict the success of their projects.

3) I am not self-serving. I am a servant – serve others the best way you can, and you will be successful because it is genuine.

4) I may not be the first … but I can always be the last.

5) I will do one thing every day no one else is willing to do.

6) I don’t build networks. I forge lasting connections.

7) Strategy is important, but execution is everything – everyone knows the strategy, and that knowledge is accessible to anyone, but not everyone has the courage to execute. Have the courage to execute.

8) Real leadership is measured in years, not moments – build years of helping people feel better about themselves and they will want to go where you go.

9) Work comes first. Payoff comes later.

10) I can make history — and I will.

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Hidden Qualities of Remarkable Bosses – what to remember as a teacher

9 Hidden Qualities of Stellar Bosses

1) They forgive… and they forget.
2) They transform company goals into the employees’ personal goals.
3) They look past the action to the emotion and motivation.
4) They support without seeking credit.
5) They make fewer public decisions – they allow those who are most qualified to make the decisions.
6) They don’t see control as a reward – they are therefore not see as someone who exercises control, but as someone who helps.
7) They allow employees to learn their own lessons – no reprimanding.
8) They let employees have the ideas – setting up circumstances that will allow employees to have the great ideas.
9) They always go home feeling they could have done better.

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Choices

Everyone has choices in life.

We are constantly presented with circumstances, some easy to handle, some challenging enough to test our strength of mind and character. And the way we respond and react is entirely up to us. Sometimes the choices we need to make are hard, and may go against our desires in the moment; but what’s important is that our choices align as closely as possible to the values and principles that we hold dear. Because how else can we ever trust ourselves to make the right choices when it matters? How can anyone be trusted to make the right choices?

And it’s OK to falter sometimes. It’s OK to make mistakes, have lapses in judgment. We’re human; we’re not perfect. But once the mistake is made, get your act together. And make a better choice next time.

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An Ode to the Linguist

Very often, our ELL students come from countries that differ greatly from our own. Not only do we need to be sensitive and adapt to their unique language development, but we also need to be sensitive to their acculturation as well. The following poem, written as a Spoken Word piece, touches upon the following experiences that many ELL students have to deal with:

• Adapting to change: dealing with culture shock, dealing with leaving friends and family back home, dealing with the loss of their old life
• Socio-emotional growth: trying to reach across language barriers and make friends

I’ve written this as an ode to our brave students – our brave students who face learning an entirely new language in a strange new place while trying to hold on to the language of their ancestors.

Enjoy! 🙂

An Ode to the Linguist

I watch your pen slide across your notebook
Curling the magnificent script with ease
And suddenly
I wonder about your life story
The truth of old friends
The depth of your family
Your past life across the sea

You see, my dear student
It’s so easy to place blame
On you.
You, who cannot speak the same
Way as me
Cannot write with the same
Words as me
Cannot hear the same
Melodies as me
How can I even begin to share complex ideas with you?

I watch your eyes droop, as if shamed
By the shackles and chains
That have had you tamed
Since you first came
To this place you must face
With a brave face
And absolutely no tears allowed
Because you cannot go home anymore anyway
And what’s the use of crying?
This is your home now.

Yet as I watch your pen slide across your notebook
Curling the marvellous script of your heritage with ease
I see your eyes flare with light
A light that goes beyond the sounds of the ABCs
A light that goes beyond the new decrees
That you must seize
As your own
A light that burns brighter still
As your thoughts ooze down your arm
To your hands
To the pen you grip tightly
And spill out as a story to tell the whole world
And quite rightly
You do it in the script of your family
Your history

And as I watch your pen slide across your notebook
Curling the unceasing script of your heritage with ease
I realize that you are a Linguist
A Linguist for your mother
Your father
Your brother
Your sister
Your friends
So use your language, Child
Because I can see that you want to speak
Of the unfamiliar breeze
Of the 8-month long Canadian freeze
That makes you sneeze
More than you ever have back home
Or the sounds of children playing
Out in the school yard
And you are desperately praying
That you knew what they were saying
So that you can join them too
And make this strange new place your home

But keep writing, Child
So that I can watch your pen slide across your notebook
Curling the beautiful script of your heritage with ease
So you can break free of those shackles and chains
And lift your eyes with no shame
Because your spirit cannot be tamed
Take your time
Try your best
I will be here to help you
And one day, though we may not speak the same
Write the same
Or hear the same
We can write and speak our stories
Together

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Speaking of Reading… Boys, Boys, Boys!

You’ve all heard the remarks. The quotes.

Boys and their toys.
Boys will be boys.
Boys are so much sillier than girls!

And then you have the academic concerns cropping up over the last little while.

Boys ‘lag behind girls’ by the age of five.
Boys falling further and further behind at school.
Boys develop slower than girls. You don’t want your son to be born in December!
Boys hate books.

Okay, so clearly there’s a behavioural pattern being observed here. Not many people would disagree that boys tend to be more hyperactive than girls, tend to enjoy rough-and-tumble games, tend to enjoy sports more, and of course, tend to fall behind girls in school.

More specifically (an alarmingly), our standardized tests show that our boys to score lower than girls in the realm of language arts.

As a result of these findings, educators are scrambling to unearth the magical tome carrying elusive pedagogical spells that can help us “cure” our boys. “There is a problem with all these boys that can’t and won’t read!” we cry, dismayed. “We must find a way to fix them all! There has to be a solution!”

Hold the phone.

Fix our boys?

Who says our boys need any fixing?

As much as I agree with existing gender differences, it’s strange for me to think of our boys as… well… educational liabilities. Lumping them together and trying to come up with a dossier of strategies that are supposed to, in effect, save our boys. But perhaps I’m being too sensitive. They DO have target groups like this in the non-profit world for girls, such as the most recent campaign called Because I Am a Girl, and no one really complains about groups like that. As a society, we can see that girls are at a disadvantage, so we actively try to even the odds.

Why, then, do I feel so uneasy about this push for Literacy, targeted directly at our boys?

I think what bothers me about this whole initiative is the way it has been played out in the classroom. Because of the conscious effort that teachers are trying to make in differentiating their reading program, I am finding that gender differences are being leveraged in a way that segregates students and creates negative stereotypes within the class. Rather than celebrating differences, the differences are merely identified… and it is up to the students themselves to discern whether or not these differences are positive or negative.

Given the negative connotations about intelligence associated with low academic achievement, children have naturally assumed that boys are not as smart as girls. So begins the cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy: the belief that one is dumb, and so he will not perform his best.

So what do we do then? It’s not as though we should stop being aware of the fact that certain teaching and assessment strategies will more effectively engage our boys in reading. We are not going to stop integrating more hands-on activities into our lessons, designed to create meaning. We are not going to stop grouping our students according to their varied reading interests. We are certainly not going to stop differentiating our reading program to better suit the hyperactive tendencies of our boys.

So what do we do then?

Clearly, one other awareness piece needs to be in place in our pedagogy.

Yes, we need to cater to the needs of our boys. This much is clear. We need to change the way we teach and assess so that our boys can develop their love of reading in an environment that works for them. But it is also absolutely crucial that we do not systematically discriminate against them through the routines of our reading program.

What does this mean?

It means that we need to:

1) Avoid physical isolation and segregation. Some suggest creating gender-specific reading groups and creating a space within the classroom that is set aside specifically for boys. I disagree with this, because boys are not the only ones who enjoy books about dinosaurs and cars, nor are boys the only ones who may struggle with reading. There are girls who do too, on both accounts, so create reading groups according to the actual interests of the children, not by their gender.

2) Avoid using language that psychologically segregates our students by gender. For example, avoid making comments such as, “the girls are sitting so nicely and quietly” because chances are, not all the girls are sitting nicely and quietly, and not all the boys are running around wreaking havoc in the classroom. Speak to the specific child with the behaviour, not the gender of the child.

3) Make use of differentiated instruction strategically and purposefully for all students. The accommodations suggested for boys in current literature work for everyone, so it is more important that the students understand that every individual is being accommodated for. Get to know the boys in your class, and the girls too. You may be surprised at the common interests between your students!

Boys and their toys. Boys will be boys. But the boy is so much more than just the common behaviour patterns of his gender. The boy is a person, just like any other child. Let’s try to see beyond his gender then, shall we?

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Whether you like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Food for thought: We all deserve to feel cared for, like we matter. So. When was the last time you cooked dinner with someone? When was the last time you bought your coworker a morning coffee while you bought your own? When was the last time you did anything for anyone, just because?

Try it consistently for one week. Just one week. Observe behavioral differences in the people around you, in the people you work closely with, in your own peace of mind. Let me know if you’d like some ideas. I’d love to hear your results.

Students Write for Rights.

Anyone who throws the blanket note that teens and preteens are disengaged and ego-centric are clearly not seeing how amazing our kids are.

As part of our History curriculum, I have been talking to my students about how the Canadian government decided to treat the Cree First Nations people in the late 1800s (not well). Coincidentally, one of the cases that came up at Amnesty International’s 2010 Write for Rights letter-writing campaign was one of the Lubicon Cree in Alberta, who are currently living in poverty due to the destruction of their land by oil and gas companies (you can read about this in more detail here).

On International Human Rights Day, I joined millions in the letter-writing campaign and wrote a personal letter to Alberta’s Premier Stelmach, urging him to protect the rights of the Lubicon Cree to use their land and preserve their rich culture.

Today, I brought my experience to my grade 8 History class, showing them that 200 years later, the indigenous people of Canada are still being mistreated; 200 years later, our government is still violating Human Rights Laws. My students insisted I read my letter out loud, so I did. At the end of it, they cheered and asked, “Ms. Au.. Can we write our own letters to the Premier?”

My heart soared.

My students are Champions.

Scrap the formal History lesson. You can bet I said YES. “Let’s do it.”

And they did a fantastic job, at the tender age of 13. Here’s an example of one of them (grammar mistakes are preserved!):

Dear Premier Stelmach,

Greetings, Mr. Premier. My name is ——. I a writing this letter from Richmond Hill, Ontario, concerning the issue of the Lubicon Cree.

I know that it is not my place to write about such a subject, as I am mearly a simpleton next to you and your achievements, but I figured that I might be able to persuade you towards moving of Lubicon land, or giving some compensation for using it.

Indiginous people have the right to use their own lands for their own purposes. If you would like to borrow it, might I suggest asking first. Since your making a profit off of the land, maybe you could offer some sort of compensation or even a gift to the Lubicon Cree so that not only do two benefit from one, but you also get on friendly terms with the Cree.

These are just ideas, but keep them in mind. Think about how it would benifit you to have the Lubicons as partners instead of enemies. Thank you for taking your time to read my letter.

Much obliged,
——

There’s no question about it. I have amazing students. Amazing students who will someday learn to break out of the mold and do whatever it takes to make this world a better place.

It all starts here. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.

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Will I be pretty?

This, this is about my own someday daughter.. when you approach me, already stung-stained with insecurity begging, “Mom will I be pretty?Will I be pretty. I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer “NO. The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be and no child of mine will be contained in 5 letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing but you will never be merely pretty.”

One act of kindness at a time…

My friend Christian wrote about hope the other day, and it really, truly, hit the nail on the head for me. It resonated through my bones with a resounding vibration that I almost started bawling like a baby.

I’m sentimental and rather tender-hearted, I know.. now GO READ HIS POST.

Done?

You probably saw that I responded to his post with this:

I am torn by these moments of hopelessness all the time, especially lately. There is so much pain lying everywhere with no one to fix it. And we can only do so much. But I’ve vowed that I would do something, ANYTHING. In contributing to the collective conscious, we are doing our part.. even just a bit. We have to believe that.

I’ve been going through phases of pessimism and cynicism lately. Not so much about nature or death or any such thing, but of people. And aren’t we always pessimistic and cynical about people? It’s people who make the choice to hurt one another. It’s people who go out of their way to make each other miserable. It’s people who make thoughtless mistakes that tear friendships and relationships apart. It’s people who decide to take concepts and ideologies and religions, and use them as excuses to destroy each other.

People. All people.

I’m not perfect either. Less than a year ago for example, I made a poor judgment call that burned bridges with some really good people in my life. In times of weakness, we sometimes make the most painful of mistakes that can really hurt others. All because we’re people.

It breaks my heart, it does.

But as in my response to Christian, we have to do what little we can. We have to believe that in doing what we can, we will help make this world a better place to live.

Each and every single one of us are individuals, and on our own, we simply can’t do everything. By making our own small contributions though, we can push the world in a different direction. Shift the momentum the kinder way. Inspire humankind to be better, stronger, wiser. Even in our own imperfections, we must push through, one day at a time. One act of kindness at a time. And maybe eventually, though we may not witness it, we will have set the stage so that our legacy of collaboration, cooperation, and passionate living carries on through our kids, our grandkids, our descendants.

And it all starts with YOU.
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