COVID Journal # 5 Breaking up is hard to do

Today has been an interesting day. Earlier I had an incredible conversation with a colleague of mine on how to teach online in the fall. I am still digesting this, but what struck me the most was the notion that when we teach online, the first thing we need to do is consider the emotional health of our audience.

We need to find new ways to draw everyone in, make sure in our isolated spaces that everyone is part of the conversation. This will mean, among other things, that I will need to have a one-on-one conversation with every student I work with in the fall. If I don’t do this I will lose them and it will be my fault.

Today’s conversation was an eye-opener to me. I don’t know if many of us have figured this out yet – apart from teachers who have been working through this since the middle of March.

For the rest of us, I don’t think we understand yet that most social media is unidirectional. It is designed for conversations between two people. Three becomes a crowd.

In the old pre-COVID days, conversations could become organic, especially when one or two people monopolized the conversation. In the classroom, you could redirect. In the living room, you could start a side conversation and effectively move things along. People could pick up on cues, they could usually use their social skills to sense the room.

Now, this isn’t happening. A few days ago I saw a tweet from someone who has become part of a podcast I used to really enjoy. They were asking for feedback on how the show was going. In the past, the music had been great, there had been room for many voices and lots of music suggestions.

The same show now has become a conversation between two, or maybe three people. It has lost the ability to be inclusive –  it is misreading the room. This is part of my response for feedback on the show:

The show now seems a little like a conversation for two or sometimes three people. It used to be more inclusive, more of a community – not any longer. Maybe this is what the pandemic has done.

Our current communication systems can’t allow for more than one or two voices. We haven’t figured out yet how to be inclusive and allow relationships to grow online. This will be a challenge for all of us.

This kind of pushback usually doesn’t turn out well, but after mulling this over for a few days, I felt I needed to write something. More than ever before, people need to reach out and build community.

What spurred me onto this was my last meeting with my book club. We have been meeting online since the pandemic and for me, this hasn’t worked out too well. We have been together for more than fifteen years, but I don’t know if we will survive the pandemic.

Tonight I sat through a conversation that was almost exclusively between three people. It was sad to be there. I had actually looked forward to our conversation, but there was no way to become part of what was going on. No one took the social cues, the conversation was not inclusive. I left the meeting abruptly, but I did tell the group that the conversation no longer worked.

As a group, we are not adept at creating a community online. The radio show I commented on has also lost its ability to do this. We seem now to only be able to connect in groups of two or three. More than that seems to be beyond us and our grasp of the current technology.

We can no longer retreat to the classroom or the livingroom to restore community. These options are out of reach for the foreseeable future. We will have to become much more mindful of the importance of inclusiveness in a world dominated by unidirectional communication.

I am breaking up with my book club. It is not their fault, but I need real community, real human relations. The challenge for the fall will be to make sure none of my students end up feeling as I did tonight. Everything I do will have to be about building community and trust with the imperfect tools we have at our disposal.

We all need to be doing this. We are responsible for building and sustaining important positive relationships. Look around you, think again, we need to do much better to sustain each other for the times to come.

Getting started with our Virtual Kilimanjaro Climb!

Hi everyone!
We are very excited to get our Virtual Kilimanjaro Climb started!! It begins this day – Sunday, June 21st
We have a few notes here to get things going.
1. The suggested contribution for the climb is $58.95 – the altitude of Kilimanjaro in meters. If a group of you are doing this, a group rate can be $75.00 – these are suggestions, whatever you can contribute is great.
You can make your contribution to your own Canada Helps Page, if you don’t have one, you can contribute to one of the Climb for Kids trekkers here.
2. Starting Sunday, we will send each of you a set of Google Slides representing the challenge for that day. Here is a sample page. Please go at your own pace, just let us know how you are doing!!
3. We have set up a Strava page where you can challenge people and list your daily totals. You can join our group here
4. We also have a Spotify Playlist for you to listen to. Please feel free to add songs to our list here
5. Each day we can record your total steps – or you can do it yourself here. If you want us to record your steps, please send us an email at the end of the day.
Thanks very much for joining us! Let’s have lots of fun with this!!
If you know someone else who wants to join us, please let us know and we will add them to this great list!!

Communities Move Mountains!!

Paul And Heather

Fixed or Fluid? How Should we teach History?

NEW INTERACTIVE VIDEO SERIES: What purpose should school history serve? How can history education help students better understand the past, face the complexity of the present, and build a better future? #PastFwd

The new #Pastfwd series  – new conversations on teaching history

I am trying to come out from under the dusty miasma of COVID.

In ten weeks or so, I am hoping to be teaching in some form my course in Intermediate History again to second-year education students.  I will try to give my students some perspective on how history needs to be taught in grades 6-10 in Ontario schools.

To me, this is a daunting task. Fortunately, there is a great amount of discussion now on how history should be taught and why we still teach history in or schools. It is no longer good enough to draw out a narrative of events long past that have little or no relevance to the students we work with. We are now struggling to find a better purpose; we are trying to ignite the minds of our students.

Last year I was introduced to The Big Six, now the foundational text on teaching history in Canada. No longer can we string together a series of events and call this a history course. We need to find ways to talk about continuity and change, historical significance and cause and consequence. We need to bring in the ethical dimension to our teaching. We need to focus on perspective and the use of evidence.

This is not easy to teach. We need to listen to many voices and we need to become part of the discussion on the purpose of teaching history. Reading different and new posts will help me to come to grips with how to do this. A long path to discernment.

This week I can across a new series which I will be following over the summer – #pastfwd.

The series just started on Youtube and Twitter and I will be following every episode as I try to put together a course for the fall.

The first episode dropped this week and I have already watched it twice. This one is by Arthur Chapman Associate Professor in History Education at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London. His episode is called School History and the Public Understanding of the Past and it is fascinating. You can watch it below.

This 15-minute video is called a provocation and it centers around the historical interpretation of the Peterloo Massacre. It is really interesting to me that in the Manchester Guardian article I looked up about the battle I found this.

Why haven’t I heard of it?

Because it was rarely taught in schools. Some might say that was because history has traditionally concentrated on the battles and victories of royalty and the elite, rather than the working classes.

Chapman does a great job in his short video of showing how the event has been publically memorialized over the past 40 years. How we look at this event has changed dramatically over time. History is fluid, there is no static interpretation of events.

Look at this series of memorials to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. Chapman uses these images to illustrate some of the challenges of teaching history.

Peterloo Commemoration 1972
Commemoration 2007
Peterloo graphic novel 2019

This is what is so amazing when it comes to teaching history. The event doesn’t change. How it is written about and interpreted is incredibly different. Notice in the 1972 commemoration there is no mention of a massacre, just a dispersal.

What does this say about how we interpret history? What does this tell us about our own changing view of the past?

We can do the same thing here in Canada. Between the Lines, a collective of writers and artists have created and produced a graphic novel on the Winnipeg General Strike.

1919 A Graphic History

This book, a wonderful resource for history classes, does the same thing as the Peterloo graphic novel. It reinterprets history from a class struggle lens. It offers a new and refreshing perspective on our own struggles. What is the lens we use when we teach about history? Past, present or future tense?

Even better, we now have a conversation about this new approach with one of the Between the Lines writers Sean Carleton. This is a great interview, early on, Carleton sums up their approach –  “You don’t need a cape and tights to change the world”. Samantha Cutrara, a history education strategist based in Toronto has put together an important video series that explores the teaching of history in Canadian schools. You can find the entire series here.

There is a strong link between Peterloo and the Winnipeg General Strike graphic novels. Both show new interpretations of history and how we demonstrate the struggles for democratic rights that are not normally part of our narrative.

Getting back to where we started, when we teach history we certainly want to introduce students to their stories, as Chapman puts it, students need to have a robust knowledge of their past, but they also need to have a sophisticated understanding of how we come to know the past.

This is something new. How do we interpret the past? What is significant? How does that shift from generation to generation? I know my understanding constantly shifts. From the curried past of my high school history classes through university, my own classroom and now educating history teachers. Shifting is essential to learning and understanding. Perspective.

Moving forward in our own understanding and teaching means adjusting the lens we use to comprehend the past.

 

A virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro – Join Us!

We are organizing an event for all of you starting on the first day of summer – June 21st – a virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here is your opportunity to climb to the Roof of Africa under your own COVID roof!!

climbing the Barranco Wall

 

Each day for seven days we will put out to those who are interested 1) a step count that approximates the steps you would take on that particular day (8-10,000 steps); 2) a commentary embedded for you to listen to that goes over what that day on the trail is like;  3) a video log of that day by Arienne Parzei; 4) a conditioning follow-along video by Chase Tucker; 5) some music to inspire you for your day; 6) some Kilimanjaro interesting facts and; 7) a fun African recipe.

This will be sent to you in the form of a google slide that we will add to every day. Of course, it is up to each of you how many days you take to complete the challenge.

This is a screenshot of the day 1 slide

We will create a spreadsheet so you can record your steps every day. We will use our Facebook pages so you can record how you are doing, any inspirational messages for people or any group challenges you want to put out there! If you are new to all this, we will add you to our Kilimanjaro 2021 Facebook Page – an added bonus!!

 

We want to raise some money for Christie Lake Kids, but we are not emphasizing the fundraising nature of this experience. We are suggesting each participant contribute $58.95 – the height of Kilimanjaro in meters. If this works out well, we might do this as a full fundraiser this fall. We are still committed to raising over $40,000 for Christie Lake Kids before we actually climb Kilimanjaro in 2021. Right now, we are at $26, 722.

If you want, you can get sponsors to raise more money – we leave this up to you. With the pandemic, Christie lake Kids stills to raise money – most of its regular fundraisers have been postponed, but they still plan to run a really cool virtual camp this summer called Camp in a Box.

This is a good opportunity to invite more people into the Climb for Kids experience. If friends and/or family join, we will add them to the spreadsheet, to our Kili FB Page and make sure they get the link to our climbing slides.

Our poster for the virtual climb!

So, please let us know if you are interested and we will get you signed up! Write me here – mcswa1@gmail.com

Remember – Communities Move Mountains!

Covid Journal # 4 Walking the Walk

And now as long as space endures,
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.

—Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

I think it is important to continue to write these journal entries. It will be good to have something to look back on once all of this is over.

Today I did another of the COVID walks I have been doing for the last month. It was a long one – over 8 kilometres. I have a constant companion, our dog Dory who patiently goes on these treks no matter what the weather is like.

Dory

I almost always take photos on these walks and post them on Instagram and Facebook. The photos mirror a bit my mood on these long walks – thoughtful, a little sad, taking in the stillness.

COVID Walk Today

Today I listened to a Pema Chödrön talk called Walking the Walk: Putting the teachings in practice when it matters most. I have included the first nine minutes of her talk here. The quote at the beginning of this post comes from this talk and is repeated by the participants in this retreat at the end of each session. In the passage, she talks about a young Buddhist monk who is told by his master that one day he would travel to teach people in North American. His mentor explains that there he will find people who will be much more interested in staying asleep than waking up.

This is a really good talk and I listened to it for the rest of my walk.

It does describe in some ways what I see going on right now. We are probably into the 10th week of the pandemic. The initial rush of ‘we are all in this together’ is now well over. The crisis is not nearly over, it is just morphing into a new and more challenging phase.

The violence and protests in the United States are part of this pandemic. The growing anger I see on social media is part of this too. The uncertainty about what the future holds now is a big part of what the pandemic looks like.

The uncertainty about what the school year will look like in September is palatable. While large events continue to get cancelled right up to and past next September what will schools look like? Already many universities are saying that classes will be online. There are new webinars offered almost daily by my university on how to adapt courses to an online environment.

What will elementary and secondary school look like in September? We do need to do some waking up as suggested by Pema Chödrön. The pandemic is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The initial rush is over, we are now in this for the very long haul and we need to open our eyes to this reality. I don’t think we are talking about this enough, maybe we need another few sleeps.

Many experts say that things really won’t change until there is a good treatment or a vaccine. Vaccines take years to make and many are only partly successful. The disruptions that we are experiencing now many lift, but only temporarily. Last week, one infected doctor in New Brunswick was able to expose over 150 people to the virus and effectively shut the province down again. (New Brunswick copes with return to lockdown after increase in COVID-19 cases – Globe and Mail, Monday, June 1)

It only takes one person to lock us all down again.

Wake up Wake up! We are in this for a very long time and we all need to start looking at how we are going to live in a very new world.

Schools have to look at how they are going to structure things to reopen in September. They will need a better plan than what we have seen in Quebec where schools with an outbreak close for two days, clean up and go at it again.

Wake up Wake up! We need to see our world with new eyes. Every sector of our society has to change. We need to start asking ourselves some very hard questions. From what I have seen, we are not doing this.

Cycling back to the violence in the States, this lack of awareness is limiting our deeper understanding of the swirling crisis that envelopes us. John Doyle writes about all-news coverage in the United States

When is the real life of American cities covered? Where is the punditry and analysis of the vast racial disparity in health and wealth? What this current crisis illuminates is all-news TV’s preference for extolling itself. It’s not the real basis for the protests and riots that matter, it’s the alleged bravery of its peacocking reporters on the inflamed streets.

Globe and Mail – American all-news TV is fundementally unfit to cover this crisis

Are we fit to understand and really grasp the depth of the crisis that we are in? Are any of us taking the long view on this or are we still trying to sleep through this by finding more and more distractions?

Maybe we all need to take a very long walk, listen to Pema Chödrön and start the process of waking up to this new and daunting reality. It’s not going anywhere soon.

another COVID shot