Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reading to Children


Reading to Children:

This week, my students in Grade 9 Applied English chose children's stories and read them to some young children at the school Daycare program.



To be honest, they were somewhat apprehensive at first, and entered the room which was bustling with the activity of busy, energetic young children.

I got the sense that they didn't quite know where to move, where to sit, what to do. This wasn't a classroom or an environment with which they are familiar, so it took a bit of prompting, some encouragement and eventually the natural aspects of storytelling just took over.


And then something remarkable happened...
I've tried several times this year to create some experiential learning without much success. Cost is always a factor and with cut backs being experienced everywhere, it's difficult to find rewarding experiences for my students. However, this experience was unanticipated and the payoff was something unexpected.



Reading to younger children gave my students in Applied English a boost to their confidence. I don't even think they realized the changes they experienced, but I could see it visibly in the way they walked back to the classroom, in the way they then approached their own reading. More importantly, it showed up in my data; I had them write two short reading comprehension quizzes right after reading to children, and the results were nothing short of remarkable.





Sunday, November 13, 2016

Listening to Senior Citizens at South Carleton High School

I've been thinking about the Oral Communication strand of the English curriculum and the challenges of evaluating listening skills and speaking skills. We've had many discussions in the department about the role of oral presentations and those who know me, know that I'm not a fan of the whole class presentation for all students. I've used podcasts in the past and this tool requires that they listen to their own voice in ways that oral presentations to their peers cannot accomplish.

I'm still working my way through the journey of finding meaningful options for all students and I recently had great success with interviewing Senior citizens.

My grade 9 students brainstormed a list of questions to ask a small group of Seniors who visit the school regularly to participate in some of the social activities.  The students worked in pairs and shared the role of speaking and listening.

I walked around the library and observed them practicing listening to the stories of  a generation without electricity, where attending school was a privilege, and where war became the back drop for their early lives.




When students were stuck and conversation stalled, I stepped in to model expanding questions, and ways to show the in person being interviewed that we were listening carefully.

There was a pervading atmosphere of respect and deep appreciation for the lived lives of these senior citizens.

After the students had interviewed the seniors and made notes about their responses, we walked to the foods room and sampled some of the student chili creations. This was an opportunity to learn about other programs in the school and a nice was to bring closure to our meeting with the Seniors.



Back in the classroom, we talked about what they learned from the exercise and some pointed out that they found it difficult to listen and take notes at the same time. Others found this a useful way to concentrate on what was being said, to think about the meaning of the speaker and to condense what was being said. Despite having no formal evaluation for the task, I ended the day seeing the value in the activity as greater than what information it could generate for assessment purposes.

On Remembrance Day, the Seniors were visiting again, and without much planning, I decided to invite them to share their wartime experiences with my grade 11 students. Mary, who is 92 years old, shared her story of getting engaged by mail, Vera, who grew up in Yorkshire, England, shared her stories of wearing a gas mask in the playground at school, the house exploding next to hers, yet the sense of unity they all felt in the war years which can come from a common struggle. Pat, whose Uncle was born in Germany, was seven years old when his parents sent him away to live on farms rather than be recruited into the Hitler youth movement. With pride, she shared the fact that the Canadian soldiers eventually rescued him as the war was ending and gave him bread and cheese as they brought him back to his family. In a final act of generosity upon his return, he gave the bread and cheese to his sister, who was having a birthday. It was a touching moment and the room was very quiet.

I observed and reflected on the experience; every one of my students listened with respect and admiration. I think the most important lesson that I learned is that students excel when they have opportunities to listen to authentic stories. I'm still not sure about whole class oral presentations, but I know that listening and speaking with the senior citizens was meaningful for everyone involved.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cultivating Thinking in the Classroom


Reflecting upon the first few weeks of school has helped me purposely and precisely decide what is important in my classroom. It has allowed me to shed the burden of teacher guilt about not doing enough content, not grading enough papers, not being successful in the application of new teaching strategies. I'm letting that go as I work on modelling patience, perseverance, using mistakes to revisit tasks.

I'm spending more time thinking about what I am doing and how this will be visible in the learning of my students. And because I want to see the learning, I'll need to track some of the details from day to day.

I've used two tools to help me with this and both tools require complete transparency with the students. I want them to own their learning and to value assessment as a tool for improvement.

One tool is my Observation Template:
I'm using this tool for looking at the process of learning that is visible in the classroom.


The other tool is Feedback:
I'm using this tool for looking at specific skills. One of the most useful articles that I've ever read about feedback is here. If I'm honest with myself, I've been doing this feedback thing all wrong.

Once a mark goes on the work, the learning is over. Feedback, on the other hand, gives students information that the task needs changes before the learning is evaluated.

I am going to let my students know that the comments will be about the work and not the person. I still value praise and encouragement, but I won't give this on papers. I will give it in person so conferencing will become a regular part of my class routine. For each assignment, I'm going to check in with the student and give them targeted praise and encouragement.

Cultivating thinking in my classroom will take time. It will take more than observations and feedback. But for now, I'm shedding the guilt and focusing on making positive changes which visibly promote learning and deepen understanding in myself and my students.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Change takes time and care

I started teaching at a new school two days ago. It's always a challenge to learn the new rules: where's the photocopier? where's the bathroom? who can fix my computer? which printer?

But, this week, I tried to see this change through the eyes of a grade 9 student at South Carleton and I realized that my anxieties are small compared to theirs. Watching the fear on their faces as they entered the gym to meet their cheering Link Crew members, nearly brought me to tears. Some of them needed some quiet, some space, more time for such a big change in their young lives.

I feel fortunate to have two classes of grade 9 students and the four days of this week will focus on making them feel welcome, and creating a caring environment where they know they will be supported in learning.

I started my classes sharing information that I thought they should know about me.







I then asked the students to complete a few short questions on a handout. I asked them what they felt I needed to know (do they play competitive sports, or music, or travel between their parents' homes). I also asked them what they would study if they could study any topic possible, what they are concerned about in English, and what they are really good at.

Most had difficulty answering questions about themselves, and even though this task is not directly linked to an expectation in the curriculum, the observations gave me information that will shape my practice around meta cognition. It's the first time that I have used this questionnaire, and I'm glad that I did it. I'm glad that I decided to follow the Finnish model and take time to learn about my students. All change takes time.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Discovery Day: Mentoring Students at South Carleton High School


I made a great discovery at South Carleton High School on Thursday, March 31. The heavy rain did not dampen the spirits of the many students who gathered in the gym to hear the keynote speaker, Jay Gosselin for Discovery Day.

Candace Carson, Instructional Coach for Co-op, OYAP, Dual Credit, and Pathways at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board told me about the day. She said,

"Discovery Day was born out of a desire to provide hands on experience for students in high school who need to see the many possibilities available to them in their future.  The most efficient way I could conceive of doing this was to bring the community to the students. I needed to bring community partners representing a variety of sectors, services, and interests to the school to share their expertise, and even more importantly, to share the details of their own personal pathway. We wanted them to tell students how they got from where they were as a student in high school to where and who they are today. The hope was for students to have opportunities to engage in authentic conversation with the community partners around pathway planning, to develop some skills in areas of general interest, and to experience something new."    


After listening to him speak, I found some more information on Jay Gosselin's website and it is clear that his personal experience led him to identify a gap for students. High School students often don't know what careers are available, and they don't know enough about themselves to make significant decisions about the future. Jay offers an interesting mentorship program for students who leave high school and want to take a "gap year".
http://www.mentoru.ca/




Some students visited classrooms and heard presentations about college or University programs. I had the opportunity to introduce students to health care options at Ottawa U.

These students went on a field trip to Versailles Academy 

Other students had a yummy visit from Edible Sins
          

and there were so many options for everyone.

I came away from Discovery Day thinking about the significance of this event for all high school students. In fact, it felt like a day could not be enough, but I know the event left the students with a sense that they have options, that they can actively consider a future in post-secondary education, and in the world of work.

Even more impressive to me was the list of teachers who helped make the day possible and who welcomed me to the event. I've heard it said that South Carleton High School is a gem in the OCDSB and I got to experience this first hand.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Setting Matters: Making Learning Stick


I've been thinking a lot about the design of my next classroom, and it's exciting; it's like buying a new house and designing the space for living. I want my classroom to create a sense of community and safety. I want it to promote critical thinking and discussion, so it will be important for  me to consider each element of the room. I will need to think about the walls as well as the floor space.






Wall space has occupied my learning a great deal this year with the popularity of "vertical non-permanent surfaces" or VNPs. I've learned a great deal from two math teachers, Alex Overwijk and Laura Wheeler, but these are math teachers, and I'm an English teacher.

How can these surfaces work on the walls of an English classroom?





How can I use wall space and stations like my former student, now Elementary teacher, Kim Noxon? These are photos of her classroom.

I also read this article from Edutopia about classroom design and it got me thinking about a new classroom model for next year when I'll be teaching at South Carleton High School.










Another inspiration came from this picture posted on Facebook by Kelsey Brown from Longfields Davidson Heights High School.

She said "the idea started with the thought bubble post it notes that I found at Walmart. My grade eleven class has some very enthusiastic learners and some very observant students. I find with Life of Pi, the discussion part of the course and sharing ideas is quite important for comprehension. Depending on the day, discussion can occur and be quite successful; however, I decided to put up the 'What Stuck with you today?' board to encourage the students who are not as comfortable with speaking in front of everyone. The board is getting a wide mixture of ideas - some direct quotations, some interpretations of theme, and some general words of wisdom."


Next Steps:

Finish reading Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

More Lessons from Collaborative Inquiry: Using Prediction to select a Novel

I am so excited to observe a lesson study at Woodroffe High School tomorrow. The collaborative ideas have created such an interesting lesson.

The English Department Head, Scott Gordon, identified a problem with student selections of novels to read independently. The would use the images on the cover, or the number of pages as factors in selecting a novel to read. He wanted to encourage them to engage with the story, the content of the novel, before they chose what to read, so he copied the first few pages of each novel and let them read before they could even see the cover or the size of the novel.

This class of Grade 9 students is still at the stage of building their reading capacity, so the amount of text to read in a period is an important consideration in designing the lesson. Courtney Callahan suggested that we have students sort the writing to match with the cover of the novels.

These pictures of the novel covers will be on ledger sized paper and posted around the room. In small groups, students will be given one page from the beginning of two novels. They will read the pages in a group and decide which piece of writing fits with which novel cover.


 
 

They will also use accountable talk and sentence stems to make predictions about the novel. These cards are laminated so they can use dry erase markers to write on. We won't use all of these; instead, we selected a few from "Make a Prediction" so we can begin using reading strategies.


Anne Marie Reid is so open to new strategies and techniques and brings a genuine concern for students to the table. And the experience of Allison Loness gave us insight into the use of large amounts of text in a pre-reading activity. Both of them kept the students in mind during the planning.

We also want to make sure that we are observing the skills required to complete the task. Janice Isaac suggested that we use both quantitative and qualitative observations. She suggested we consider a scale "to what extent" for each of the observable behaviors, and I created this Observation chart. It will be so interesting to see how it worked in our debrief.


Observable Behaviours
Student 1: ______________
Student 2: ______________
To what extent are students engaging in Accountable Talk?

_______________________
1            2            3            4

_______________________
1            2            3            4
What is the quality of the Accountable Talk?







To what extent are students able to make a prediction?
_______________________
1            2            3            4

_______________________
1            2            3            4

What is the quality of the prediction?








Group interactions:







Friday, April 1, 2016

Balloons Lifting Learning: Collaborative Coaching Lessons

Collaborative Blog Post by Melanie White and Robin Small
Melanie White is the English Instructional Coach and Robin Small is an ELL Coach in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.

Last week, we walked down the hallways of John McCrae Secondary School with 8 colourful helium balloons and students couldn't help but engage with us. They asked if we were having a party, if it was someone's birthday, and they smiled as we passed. We observed that balloons attract student attention.

Bring a bunch of helium filled balloons into a classroom and watch students engage with trigonometry to solve a mystery.
We recently had the fortune of observing students in a lesson study, who read an article and used math concepts to solve a mystery related to a helium balloon accident on a farm.


We wanted to collaborate on this blog post to include the voice of the math teacher, Brad Pinhey.


Having now been through a lesson study for the first time with my grade 10 applied math class, my understanding of the meaning of a lesson study has changed and I have learned. How did this understanding come about?  

When Melanie and Robin met with my colleagues at John McCrae Secondary School for the first time in February to introduce the collaborative lesson study, I was simultaneously eager and nervous. As a young teacher, a new opportunity to extend your learning is exciting, but the revelation of missing classes and having others come into your classroom are sources of anxiety. I had never heard of the idea of reciprocal teaching - a high yield strategy we learned about - but I realized that parts of it were already part of my teaching practice. I left the meeting with a strong feeling of curiosity - Where was this going? What would it look like in practice? 

I had to laugh at myself during the lesson delivery when I realized that the students I was observing were feeling the same emotions: excitement, anxiety and curiosity. Why are all these extra teachers here? What are we going to do? What’s that for? Within minutes, as the lesson started, those questions melted away and the students worked diligently on the task at hand. 

Then, like a bolt out of the blue, the nerves returned - it was my turn. Even after being reassured (and reassuring students) that the goal of the study was not to evaluate or even observe the teacher, there was a sudden worry. What if it did not go as planned? What if my lesson was not as exciting as others’ lessons had been? What if my students showed no improvement? Once the planning started, the worry evaporated. 

When the day of the activity dawned, only excitement remained. The balloons at the front of the room sparked the curiosity of my students as they walked in. My small class was augmented by six adults - a twinge of apprehension entered the back of my mind. Would that overwhelm them, or me? Neither occurred. The announcements finished, and I got the ball rolling. The lesson ran smoothly and I accomplished almost everything I wanted to do. With only minutes to go before the bell, I stepped back, took a breath and smiled. But what did I learn?


About twenty minutes passed before debriefing began, and I used the chance to start reflecting. As the debrief progressed, I was pleased to hear that my colleagues saw many of the same things that I saw - and many things I did not. Those new ideas gave me a fresh set of eyes through which I could view my class anew and began a process of synthesizing and analyzing. How could I use this information to help my students? No longer was I thinking about the lesson in the lesson study - my focus was turned, as it should have been the whole time, towards my students. I noticed that they made connections to the lesson from the previous day, and they made connections to the Literacy Test and bought into the process.

To anyone on the cusp of entering a lesson study, I would advise you to prepare for excitement, anxiety, and curiosity, but most importantly, lasting learning about your students. It was a fantastic opportunity for a young teacher, like myself, to work collaboratively with administration, department heads, instructional coaches and colleagues alike. It was a great learning experience for me, and has whet my appetite to seek similar opportunities in the future. 

The curiosity lingers - where will this go next?    





Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Poetry and Music of Lesson Study


During this March break, I started thinking about my role as an Instructional Coach and wondering about the conceptual metaphor I chose (bridge) to frame my work this year. I'm asking myself some big questions about some recent lesson studies in local schools.

How do I authentically reflect on the journey of learning bridging understanding among the participants?

How can I be present in the moment of instruction, both acting and observing, while trying to capture all that happens on the path to understanding?

During my morning run, I listened to an On Being podcast with Joe Henry who talks about his daughter who is currently in her senior year of high school. He notes that in Grade 12  "everything is about later as opposed to having an experience and giving that value" now. He says that all experience becomes a checklist of actions to be completed. Joe Henry writes poetry and music; he understands the unknowable act of living, but still attempts to explain it.

In my role as a coach, I meet Administration and teachers in the middle, as co-learners, and  I try to focus my work on the facilitation of lesson study. It is rewarding work that takes time, energy, and commitment on the part of everyone involved; everyone's voice and observations must be valued. I have to let go of what I plan to allow the poetry and music to happen.

Yet, I've heard and observed much hesitation, much reluctance to participate in lesson study. It is messy and can feel uncomfortable. Teachers might feel a loss of control, or perhaps reluctance to participate is based in fear - perhaps if we try to understand too hard how it is working, we stop understanding the mystery of why it is working.


I also know there are many legitimate defenses against lesson study - the amount of time out of the classroom is significant. However, even in my limited experience with the process, lesson study has been pivotal in changing my professional practice and I've seen the same transformation in others; lesson study has shown me the tremendous value of observations.


When a lesson study is done with a focus on objective observations of student behavior, participants gain insights from a shared experience. It is a powerful process of cooperation and collaboration.

At a local high school, I had the opportunity to observe two lessons with a focus on reading strategies. The lessons had a common article, but one lesson was in a Learning Strategies class, while the other was in a Science class.

In both lessons, students worked together to make meaning and write responses to questions based upon the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.




In the debrief, one fragment of observation provided some insight into the struggle of one student; in both lessons, the student struggled with vocabulary words. "sow" was misunderstood as "cow" and the student had no understanding of the word "aviation". This momentary observation connected all five teachers in understanding the student; it was a bridge shared.

The challenge of lesson study is observing without inferring. It can be difficult to find the right balance between general and specific observations. It often feels more like art than science, more like listening to poetry or music - part of it is completely unknowable.


But it doesn't mean that we don't listen and we don't observe, because there is something invaluable to be gained. We might not be able to measure and graph it. We might not be able to understand it the first time through, but the poetry and music of lesson study is in the process.

In fact, I believe the power of lesson study is the shared authority of our observations; the bridge where weight bearing is a shared endeavor. We are equals struggling to build a bridge of understanding through observing their learning.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My If/Then Statement about Infographics

This past month, I've been exploring the world of infographics using Piktochart to create flow charts and anchor charts for workshops and classrooms. I have to admit it; I'm having a lot of fun with this.


This infographic fever began during my work with the Sir Guy Carleton High School team of teachers. Sir Guy is a very unique high school; the population of students typically have Individual Education Plans, and most will be preparing for the world of work or community college. These students often have many challenges both inside and outside of school, and the teachers who work at the school are some of the most dedicated and caring professionals I've encountered.

Under the provincial funding of SSI, we met several times deciding to co creating lessons which would engage students and encourage them to answer their own questions. We realized that we would have to scaffold the learning so that students will answer the lower order questions themselves, and eventually ask higher order questions. One of our goals is to create independent and confident learners.

This was my first infographic created with help from an English teacher with students in a locally developed English class. It is meant to be read like a flow chart beginning at the top and ending with a flip book of Questions. Black covered flip books will sit on the desks with categories of questions designed to guide the student.

For example: If a student has a question about writing they have several prompts in the flip book.

How should I organize my writing?

How much writing is expected?

Can you give me feedback on my writing so far?


The math teacher in our group had slightly different needs, so we redesigned the infographic poster to reflect the needs of the math classroom.Other teachers at the school have requests for similar posters hoping that students will problem solve before coming to the teacher to ask a question.

However, I think it can be a difficult aspect of behaviour to navigate. When life is hectic and busy and students ask simple questions, it is natural to want to give students the answer. The greater challenge is to redirect students to the infographic or respond with a question.

So here is my If/Then Statement:

If the whole school celebrates the question and promotes students answering their own questions through infographic anchor charts, will students gain confidence in solving their own problems and become more independent and confident learners?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thinking about Data in the OCDSB




I'm currently involved in a really interesting project with other coaches at the OCDSB to help improve the OSSLT achievement of students in Applied courses. We began the project with a focused vision of examining student data, and developing a co-created lesson through a Lesson Study model, with the goal of seeing improvement in student outcomes using high yield instructional strategies and moderated marking.
We named of our project LAMP: Literacy Achievement through Moderation in Applied Courses.
The group of teacher and administrator participants is intentionally cross-curricular and the goal is to target one specific task on the OSSLT used in a co-created lesson study with moderation of criteria evident in student work. Our timelines are tight, but the intentional examination of data is fostering some wonderful discussions.


This week, I visited Merivale High School and we looked at a range of student data, creating Learner Profiles for students in Grade 10 Applied courses. We used past achievement, attendance, and anecdotal information as we tried to build in multiple measures of data. It was great working with such interested and enthusiastic teachers who are clearly interested in the success of each and every student.

I left thinking of an article about Dr. Bernhardt on the EQAO website and a couple of ideas struck me as important.


The article says, "It is vital to know where we are, as opposed to where we think we are." I reflected on this and considered the reading of data. Data is factual, but interpretation of the data can be varied. For example, the letter "A" is the letter "A" - that is fact. But, interpretation of "A" may lead a reader to different conclusions; it might be a part of speech (an article), it might be the first item in a list, or a grade in a course, or the symbolic hesitation in a conversation or dialogue. How we read and interpret that letter "A" says something about us, the audience, and the context of our understanding.


But, what is student data?


I must admit that in my early years of teaching, I was somewhat mystified by data and I don't think that I used it purposefully. Bar charts and pie graphs without a narrative left me cold and unmoved, until I reminded myself that student achievement is my business and data is one part of purposeful decision making.



Another idea in the article stood out for me; "data-driven decision-making, instructional coherence and a shared vision for school improvement".

This makes a lot of sense, but I wonder how do we measure a "shared vision"?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I chose my #onewordONT: Bridge



I follow Julie Balen on Twitter and she posted the #onewordONT challenge last week.

Having to select just one word, just one single, lonely word, to guide me in my work this year was harder than I thought. 

I gave myself a half hour which quickly turned into several hours and several discussions.

But, I eventually decided on "bridge", and I'll explain why.

According to my dictionary of symbols, the bridge enables passage from one state to another and is a symbol of transition. Bridges connect places we have been with places we are going. I have often stopped along a bridge to look back, to pause in my journey for a moment of reflection. 

Bridges require creation, they need a strong foundation, a stable structure to traverse.

Bridges unite. 

Bridges span gaps.

I often find myself pondering the strange and wondrous paradox of going back in order to go forward. But this is the nature of reflective practice, and, I suppose, of a reflective life. If I am to grow and change, I must consider where I have been, celebrate the journey, and select the destination. And this is why I decided on the word, "bridge". I want to physically connect people on their journey, to help them build their creative ideas, to bring pedagogy into practice and provide that stable frame for others to carry forward along their journey.

Bridges are the larger metaphor for connections between lands, languages, and cultures. 

But, perhaps for me, most importantly, bridges are the structural metaphor of understanding. Bridges are "patience, for patience joins time to eternity".

Poetry reminds me to slow down and none say this as lovely as Wendell Berry and you can hear him reading this poem here.

"How to be a Poet" 

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.



Saturday, January 2, 2016

Negotiating New Year's Day Reflections with poetic "Possibilities"


New Year's Eve is the night where we celebrate on the precipice between past and future. It is a time to reflect and prepare for a meaningful year, so I decide this morning that I will reflect and think about possibilities.

I woke up to the CBC radio show, The Current, with Sherry Turkle. I've used her Ted Talk, Connected but Alone, with students and we usually have some really interesting discussions about the use of cell phones in our social lives. Students readily admit to an addiction. But some of Turkle's statements in this radio interview made me wonder.


Now, I know that she is a well educated scholar who has done extensive research on this topic, but my own personal experiences with my teen aged children and my own students make me wonder about some of her claims. To begin with, both my boys, much like me, dislike talking on the phone for anything other than purely pragmatic purposes, yet we are lovers of radio and podcasts. When communicating with family, we prefer face to face interactions, or the next best thing, the written word. We enjoy long conversations at the dinner table, in the car, or on walks with the dog. Both sons write long text messages in complete sentences and tell me that they care about word choice and punctuation, knowing how imprecise diction and punctuation can skew a message. These are young people who have grown up with computers and cell phones. On the other hand, my over 60 husband frequently sends out messages, sans punctuation, which leave me frothing at the mouth in frustration as I try to figure out his possible meaning.



Another idea raised by Turkle bothered me. She talked about students exhibiting a decline in empathy, yet I see students involved, concerned for the planet, for refugees, for social justice. In Canada, we elected a young Prime Minister whose philosophies of inclusion and social justice are humanitarian and grounded in empathy. She said that the markers of empathy in children have declined in the past ten years.

Yet, I was reminded of a British documentary series which followed the lives of school children as a sociological experiment. The series recorded observations and interviews with the children every seven years starting in 1964.

In the first series of the documentary, 7 Up, young British children are seen throwing rocks at a Polar Bear in the zoo, and at the 7 minute mark of the video, the audience witnesses two young school boys having a full on fist fight in the school yard while others carry on playing, and a teacher is slow to respond. In interviews, the children say that they are "concerned for the poor". I wondered if there is a gap between the action and the word.


And as I scrolled through my Twitter feed over coffee, this Upworthy video called Cyber Seniors appeared. I open the video file and watched this with my husband:

There is a Senior's residence right beside my son's high school, so I've resolved to bring this idea to the school Administration. What a wonderful way for students to contribute to the community, to learn about patience, and teaching someone else is always the best way to learn.




This idea that New Year's Eve gives me time to reflect upon the past and prepare for 2016 requires that I step outside of my own experience and reflect. With or without technological connection, I must do this. Language, whether spoken, or written, always mediates between the lived and the shared experience. I do think Sherry Turkle's message is important; we are connected but alone. But, technology can document our experience and allow us to emotionally, if not physically, connect and hopefully, empathize. Technology is full of possibilities, if we choose.

As with anything new, time must pass, observations must be made, and reflections on the purpose and meaning must be drawn. And where there are gaps, whether they be economic, academic, or otherwise, the reflective empathetic person is called to action, called to possibilities.

May your year be full of possibilities and poetry. 
https://soundcloud.com/brainpicker/amanda-palmer-reads-possibilities-by-wislawa-szymborska