Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Essay- When is a Basket Not a Basket? November 13, 2019

WHEN IS A BASKET NOT A BASKET?

© Shawn Bird November 13, 2019

Often, when we work side by side with someone, our learning comes not from the task occupying our hands, but with the stories that come along side.

On Indigenous Learning Professional Development Day, the creation of a lovely small pine needle basket was the least of what I took away.

The elder teaching our class told of gathering the pine needles.  How she wept to discover a clear cut where her favourite trees had been.  She told of saying a prayer during the gathering in respect to earth, and how when we were finished with our baskets, the needles left behind should not go to the garbage, as that impacts our own healing, but that they should be given back to earth, with thanks.

Quietly, at our table, she told our group that what one saw as a mistake, was not.  The elder who’d taught her when she was seventeen had explained they were  meant to be there.  I found a connection in that statement, “Oh!” I said, “Like I tell my English students: it’s about the process. There are going to be mistakes, and that’s good, because it’s part of the learning.”

Her eyes down on her basket flashed.  “English!” she exclaimed.  “I tried and I tried and I tried. But everything was always wrong, wrong, wrong.  Finally, I told them what they could do with their English!”

Then she glanced up, alarmed, concerned to have caused offense.  “Oh. But not like that!”

“I understand,” I said.  “Your stories are in your baskets. Not in English.”

She stitched her basket, silently.

And I saw.

I saw a school system that scarred her papers and her soul.  I saw a sense of never measuring up.  I saw frustration growing until giving up was the best decision to preserve self.

I saw how profound it was that she was in our building teaching us her talent and skill, sharing her art, her values, and her stories with us.

I saw that there are many others in my classroom who share her experience.

I am humbled and very grateful for her teaching.

A small pine needle basket on my shelf is full of new, poignant understandings.

 

Here is the Word Document version for easy printing.

.

pineneedlebasket

.

.

(Ignore any ads WordPress has added.  I do not endorse them).

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

 

pondering- suck it up October 11, 2019

I have a smart dog.

He’s a miniature poodle, and we’ve been doing trick training since he was a pup. He earned his first trick dog title at 8 months old.  Now we’re working on his Trick Dog Championship and there are a couple of foundation things I realize I had not taught him. Since they’re needed for his championship video, I had to teach them.

Last night, I decided we would learn “hold an object in your mouth.”  There are a couple of options to show this. He could walk with me with an object for 10 seconds or stationary hold something for 6 seconds.  First, I tried just having him walk with his ball.  He is capable of holding a ball indefinitely, but, he wants to give it to me to throw, so keeping it and walking up and down the hall at my side did not work.

I switched to the dowel.  Holding a dowel is a foundation for carrying a dumb-bell which is a basic competitive obedience skill. I had been shown how to teach this and had a dowel, but I had never tried it with Kiltti.  I filled a bowl of Cheerios (our training treat) and called him over.  I attempted to put the dowel in his mouth.  He was having NONE of it.  He ran off and refused to come to me.  Evil lady with nefarious plotting in mind!

I went and got a leash.  He welcomed the leash, and then regretted it when I led him back to the couch.  I looped the leash around my leg, and we tried again.  I opened his mouth and set the dowel behind his canines. I gently held his bottom jaw and told him how talented and amazing he was.

His eyes told me he was not stupid enough to believe any nice things I was saying. I let go the jaw, he spit out the dowel he was given lots of treats.  We spent about 2 minutes on this, with his occasional attempts at escape foiled by the leash, and then he was released to go play ball.

An hour later, I picked him up and we did it again.  This time I didn’t have to hold the bottom of the jaw.  I told him how brilliant he was as I lengthened the time.  2 minutes and many Cheerios later, off he went.

Third time, no problem. I filmed him holding the dowel on his own for 12 seconds, twice the time required.  He still thinks this is a stupid trick, but he does it.

This is such a metaphor for some of my more recalcitrant students!  They spit out the dowel of whatever lesson we’re working on.  They don’t care that it’s a building block that is necessary for something they will need to do later on.

Those students who will give a couple of minutes get the task over with, are free to move onto things they enjoy more.  The next time they try the task, it’s easier.  Still not thrilling, but again, it just takes a small effort of cooperation to get it done.  Those kids get a decent report card.  No missing assignments!  In my class, that invariably means at least a B.  Their reward is success!

But those kids who are still feverishly spitting out the dowel?

The obstacle only gets larger when you fight it.  Growth comes with trying new things and trusting there’s a reason to know something, that knowledge is power.

Learning how to ‘suck it up and get it done’ is a valuable life skill.

Here is a scintillating video of Kiltti holding his dowel. 🙂  Excuse my voice. Still dealing with a cold. 🙂

 

poem-they’re all the same May 6, 2019

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pick up any yearbook

any place

any year.

Turn the pages,

you will recognize them.

That one:

always so friendly.

That one:

forever in trouble.

That one:

so cool.

That one:

Oh! The music!

That one:

skipped more than attended

That one:

kept you up nights,

worried about wise choices

safe places.

Any yearbook,

familiar faces,

each so unique,

every one the same.

 

poem- scratching January 23, 2019

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:11 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pens poised,

Paper rustling.

Begin.

Destiny scratched

into this exam.

Future doors open or close.

You can ruin your life!

.

Don’t stress.

Life is not a straight road.

If an exam slams a door,

wiggle through windows,

force up foundations,

drop down the chimney.

Destiny is carved in determination,

not scratched in this exam.

 

Education- Small but mighty learning November 24, 2018

The following article was originally published in The Gateway newspaper, Sicamous, BC, June 2014.  I no longer teach at ERS, but the school continues to engage in innovative programs with some of the most skilled teachers in SD 83.  When I left, half the teachers had Masters degrees and a third of them were published authors!

.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY LEARNING AT ERS.

© Shawn L. Bird 2014

Eagle River Secondary (ERS) has been the educational heart of Sicamous since students began learning on the property nearly a century ago. In recent years, declining enrolment has required the school to become creative in order to offer programs that keep students in town. These successful innovations are causing a stir throughout the province.

The changes have included offering grade specific Core classes (English, Social Studies, Math, and Science) in the mornings and multigrade electives in the afternoons. The electives have embraced the teachers’ varied passions, allowing students to learn through classes in geo-caching, horticulture, international cuisine, cake decorating, hockey, outdoor education and guitar as well as more traditional classes like volleyball, biology and art. Of special note is the Social Justice class, which has students in the community helping at the thrift store and Meals on Wheels, harvesting vegetables for the food bank, gardening, and collecting for various charities.

A new focus on flexible learning by the Ministry of Education became the key to Eagle River’s innovations. The school has been given freedom to develop unconventional approaches to timetabling and course offerings. As a result of the success of these efforts, ERS has been recognized by the provincial government as a flagship school of the BC Ed Plan. Grade eight and nine students have had the opportunity to learn together in their choice of six mixed Science/ Socials classes throughout the school year; grade ten will be added in 2014-15. These courses have provided hands on, project based learning exploring local plants, controversial issues, water, astronomy, sound, electricity, revolutions, world religions, and cultural fashions among other offerings.

ERS is also very active in Career Education initiatives. Students are able to earn credits for their work experience in their jobs outside of school. There are two ERS students working in the community as Secondary School Apprentices, collecting hours with BC’s Industry Training Authority and gaining high school credit while they work as a marine mechanic or electrician. ERS works with School District 83 to provide two other students with dual credits (both college and high school) for career training as an automotive repair technician or a hair dresser. These students do a semester or year of training at another SD83 school, and will return to ERS tograduate with their friends.

Students also have the opportunity to parlay their own interests into Independent Directed Study (IDS) blocks. Students develop a set of learning goals, based on existing Ministry courses, and then leave the building to explore. Presently a pair of students is doing an IDS in fly fishing, learning about insect and fish life cycles, creating flies, fishing, and recording their findings. This is science and physical education for real life! Other students have created IDS courses in music, mountain biking, fitness, and long boarding. ERS partnered with UBC’s Okanagan campus to offer Maker Day. This was a chance to explore creative thinking and problem solving by students and community members working in small, multi-age groups to create prototypes of inventions. Maker Day is a movement dedicated to inquiry learning. Three ERS teachers are working on Masters degrees at UBCO, and the university is keen to have greater involvement with the school.

Eagle River’s innovations are making waves. Schools from all over the province are calling or coming to see what is happening within the walls. With only 150 students in grades eight to twelve, ERS may be small, but it’s mighty. Great things are happening for Sicamous’s kids, and the province is taking

You can find the original article in situ here on page 8. GatewayJun2014-SmallMightp8.

Shawn L. Bird BA, MEd.

 

 

poem-fear June 1, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 am
Tags: , , , , ,

That explains everything, doesn’t it?

You’re afraid.

You’re so afraid of someone’s opinions

that you won’t risk anything.

You’re afraid you’re not perfect,

that you’ll make a mistake,

that someone will laugh at you.

All of this failure to complete your work

to present to the class,

to hand in an assignment

is all because you’re so concerned about image

you’ve turned yourself into a failure.

THAT was the image you wanted for yourself?

Really?

Life is a series of risks, of mistakes, of rough drafts,

of trying, and failing, and working and succeeding.

Are you so critical of others that you think everyone

is that critical of you?

In this time of social media,

confidence is your power.

My dog was happy and friendly.  After he was attacked, he became fear aggressive.

He growled when other dogs came near, lunging at them.

He built a wall.  He’d learned he had to defend himself.

It took a trainer with care and many friendly dogs to teach him to feel safe again.

I wonder what it will take,

for all of you?

.

.

.

.

Interesting conversation before my class today as we discussed students who refuse to present to the class.   A new teacher was asking what to do about this situation.  My student over-heard the conversation and said that  if there’s someone who doesn’t like you in the class, they’ll be judgmental. She said No one wants to be judged.  So- It doesn’t matter it’s a life skill.  It doesn’t matter that not being liked by the odd person is normal.  I was told, “We’re afraid”  and that was the end of it.  It is unfair of teachers to expect them to try things that are difficult because they learn and grow that way, and they just want to stay as they are.

 

 

quote-teach April 25, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Quotations,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

“You can’t be an art teacher until you’re an artist.  Duh.”

~Annie Liebovitz

 

 
%d bloggers like this: