I Love Attawapiskat & Canada’s Aboriginal Youth

Attawapiskat
(Copyright : 2016 I Love First Peoples)

I am from Ontario, Canada. The place where I was born is called Mississauga and it is on the shores of Lake Ontario.  There is another place in northern Ontario that I have never been to, but hope to visit some day: it is a nation in the Kenora District called Attawapiskat First Nation – it is one of 49 nations comprising the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. It came to national news a few months ago, because of the very high rate of suicides that had occurred and unfortunately keep happening, even at very young ages. I started following the news about Attawapiskat any way I could, and saw that the people there have severe lack in housing, medicare, everyday needs.

They did not stop, they have not given up. They have a wonderful Grand Chief, Alvin Fiddler, and their chief is Chief Bruce Shisheesh. Chief Shisheesh met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two days ago to discuss the actions to be taken for the community. 

There is a website called I love Attawapiskat & Canada’s Aboriginal Youth, which shows their various activities and the things they do not only to help their own community, but other communities reeling from suicide and hardship across the whole country! Iain G. Speirs and Josee Lusignan are in charge of the Twitter account and much more for I Love Attawapiskat – they are the founders of this organisation and Josee is also the founder of I Love First Peoples; they work tirelessly, night and day! I am in awe of all that they do. On their website you can see different ways to help.

With this post, I hope to help raise awareness about Attawapiskat as much as possible. As an educator, aunt, godmother, Canadian and human, I hope to raise awareness for these amazing people, these brilliant children and their lives.

Attawapiskat, I have not met you yet, but I know you are amazing and I send all my love and warmest wishes.

Will you say I LOVE ATTAWAPISKAT with lots of other people who support the cause? Watch this video with Chief Shisheesh:

 

And here are some of the amazing young people of Attawapiskat, singing and walking for peace! 

Note: Thank you so much to Josee and Iain for helping me learn so much and adding lots of details to this post. 

 

 

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Wading the Waters in Education #TheHumanTouch

Abdul Malik and his students (Image taken from http:///www.ndtv.com)
Abdul Malik and his students
(Image taken from http://www.ndtv.com)

His name is Abdul Malik.

He is one of the most inspirational educators I have ever come across. One of the stories I have included in the Human Touch presentations I have made in person and online, is that of Abdul.

The men and women who have the right ideals . . . are those who have the courage to strive for the happiness which comes only with labor and effort and self-sacrifice, and those whose joy in life springs in part from power of work and sense of duty.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

Every morning he sets off to cross the river in his town, in order to get to school. He could use a vehicle or public transport, but it would take him over three hours. By wading in the river, he arrives in fifteen minutes and to his students much faster, as he says. He swims with a tyre-tube around him, and his clothes and food in a plastic bag over his head. When he reaches the river bank right across, he puts on some dry clothes and walks uphill for another ten minutes, arriving at school where his enthusiastic students are waiting for him.

Apart from teaching them the school subjects, Abdul also teaches them how to swim. He not only shows interest in the kids’ learning, but also their well-being, by teaching them how to swim and avoid the danger of being in the water. He teaches them great human values by swimming in dirty waters every morning to get to them on time.

This story makes me think about teachers all around the world, and what they do in order to get to class, to teach their kids. Each one of them is wading their own waters.

A teacher:

  • using their own money to equip their classroom
  • pretending they are ok when they are sick / with a throbbing headache / with problems at home
  • taking multiple types of transport to reach school
  • skipping lunch to help kids during the break
  • fighting adverse administration at school
  • working with no moral / financial support from anyone
  • missing out on free time or time with their families to get work done.

When we think of the students and what progress they make and how much they can be helped, as much as how much they teach us during the week, it makes it all worth it. 

So in one way or another, we are all wading our own waters, metaphorically or literally, just like Abdul.

Here is a video about him and his wonderful students:

Remembering Terry Fox @terryfoxcanada

Terry Fox (Image take from Reuters)
Terry Fox
(Image take from Reuters)

Another academic year started here in Switzerland a month ago. One of my students that I have been teaching ever since I came here in 2009, came back to classes full of enthusiasm to tell me that next year, he will be going to Canada on a student exchange program!

Now my joy is double – he is going to my birth country for the first time, and he is staying there for a whole year! The things he will learn and he experiences of a lifetime he will have! I asked him whether we could incorporate various lessons about Canada into our classes and he agreed. I will be sharing them from time to time on my blog.

Today, I introduced him to one of the most inspiring Canadians – Terry Fox. I remember being inspired when I was in Grade 1 in Canada and our teacher was telling us about him. Terry lost his leg to cancer when he was 19 years old, but that didn’t stop him from deciding to run a cross-Canadian marathon when he was 22, with an artificial leg. He did this to raise money for cancer research. He eventually ran 5,373 kilometres, before cancer had spread to his lungs and was the cause of his death. The legacy he has left Canada and the world is tremendous.

There is a treasure trove of lesson plans from the Terry Fox Foundation that helped us a lot today and we will be going back to it with my other students as well.

We also watched this inspiring and moving video of Terry Fox’s amazing feat. A Canadian hero that continues to inspire us many years later.

How Much Should We Care? – The Human Touch Series

(Image from www.clipartpanda.com)
(Image from http://www.clipartpanda.com)

I am sure at some point or another, we have heard things like these from our family or employers or colleagues:

– You care too much about those kids.

– They already have parents.

– You are only here to teach them, if they have problems they can solve them elsewhere.

– Can’t you just do your job and let go? 

I know that many educators reading this, because I know many who,  think like this including myself, will not even ask themselves this question: how much should we care? I strongly believe and nothing will change my mind, that they are not only there for us to teach them the difference between Past Simple and Present Perfect Simple and then show them the door. We may teach them for several hours a week. Perhaps, only one or two hours, but they do manage to make a mark on our lives.

I have been a teacher for eighteen years and I have seen many students, taught them and spent time with them. Some of them with a stable family life, with studying as their only worry. I truly hope everyone had this as their only worry (and not even a worry, but a pleasure, because that is what learning should be). Unfortunately, there are also students (not only kids and teenagers, but also adults) with family problems, a history of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, mental health issues.

Sometimes they do not even want to be helped, yelling at you to back off. And you try to get closer and help them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and then we ponder about them through sleepless nights. Some of these students find their way out on their own, some do not have a good ending.

There are instances when they come to us on their own, asking for help. What are we to do? Tell them we are not allowed by our employer, or that we have enough problems of our own? I cannot even fathom it. Many teachers cannot think about it and directly think of ways to help these students. And I am happy and moved and proud to know numerous teachers like this, and this was one of the reasons I came up with the idea of The Human Touch as a concept not only for my very first plenary back in March, but as the very center to my life, as an educator, aunt, godmother, sister and ‘second mother’ as some call me. If we can even help one student, that is great -but I know we can help many many more.

Read more on the topic:

  • This post came into my head after reading an article on the great website Teaching Tolerance. Peter Elliott wrote a great blogpost there, called Eyes Wide Open and there are many more to read on the topic of caring. A huge thank you to Peter and educators like Peter who keep inspiring and caring for their students!
(Created on Quozio.com)
(Created on Quozio.com)

 

The Human Touch Series

(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)
(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)

A year ago, I was asked by the amazing Chuck Sandy to write a blog post for iTDi under the title The Ideal Classroom. I thought about it and a few minutes later, I had a clear picture of an ideal classroom. I thought of all the environments I have worked in: some were picture-perfect, others much less so – no lighting, having lessons in our coats and gloves. But which is the best kind? The ideal one?

Some of them are hi-tech or bare floor. Some are in beautiful modern buildings, some do not even have windows or roofs. Others have tablets and computers for the students;  in other schools kids sit on the ground with little chalkboards, or even draw in the dirt.

Which is the best one? Or even better, what do they all have in common, which makes them all ideal classrooms?

The people in them. The students and the teachers. They are what make classrooms special, and ideal, and amazing.

It is the Human Touch in them.

In March 2014, I gave my very first plenary talk at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Convention. I thought that this topic would be the one for me to talk about – and I hope that the teachers who would come to listen would connect with it. I shared my own story and the difficulties I faced during my first years in Switzerland. I found other teachers I had met online or face-to-face, who each represented a specific story and I included them in the plenary talk. The teachers in the talk found themselves in these stories, and I found myself in theirs.

Then I did the same plenary for RSCON5 and the opening keynote for the iTDi Summer School MOOC. More teachers, more students, more amazing stories to share! That is why I always say: every person, every student and teacher, has their own story. No one has had it easy at some point or another, and we need to be there for each other. We are there for each other, to help and motivate one another, and that is what makes education beautiful, in addition to all the learning that takes place.

This is the beginning of a series of stories, by you, the teachers and the students.

Watch this clip from the film The Freedom Writers, based upon the true story of educator Erin Gruwell and her students.