Shawn L. Bird

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

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!

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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.

 

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poem-fear June 1, 2016

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

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

~Annie Liebovitz

 

poem-attendance issues April 7, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:54 am
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Again

an A

beside your name.

Nine boxes for nine days.

Six A’s.

You, with that great brain,

want A’s

on your transcript

not your attendance record.

What is happening in your world

that keeps you from learning?

Ties shackles to your potential

for excellence?  Your health is fine.

Oh, dear girl,

What can we do

to advocate for you?

 

quote-Ken Robinson on creative people July 15, 2015

Filed under: Quotations,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 pm
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Some of the most brilliant, creative people I know did not do well at school.  Many of them didn’t really discover what they could do–and who they really were–until they’d left school and recovered from their education.

Sir Ken Robinson in The Element

I am doing my Masters in Education at the moment.  Specifically, I’m on campus at University of British Columbia Okanagan taking two courses, each three hours a day, for three extremely intensive and exhausting weeks.  As I write, I am exactly half way through my degree.  In another week and a half I will have completed 6 of 9 courses. I am presently trying to determine what I will do for a project to reflect the research I do around my question which explores passion-based learning and teaching in a high school.

I come to this research because since I have fulfilled my passions as an author and poet, it has completely changed the way I teach.  I am happier.  I believe my students are happier because of it.  I suspect they learn better because I bring my outside passions (as a writer) into my class room.

Unlike the people Robinson knew, I did do well in school, in the classes I loved like English, History, and Choral, at least.  I didn’t do as well in math and sciences.   I knew I wanted to be a writer even back in high school.  I was in the yearbook (publishing a book each year!), newspaper (publishing a column each month!), as well as musical theatre (applause!).  Back then, all three of those were extra-curricular activities.  How great would it have been to have been earning English and art credits for all that learning?  Our kids today do.

I was so jealous of Sue Hinton who’d written The Outsiders while she was in grade eleven!  Consider: she failed English that year. What a travesty! Next year, I have 2 students who are planning to do Independent Directed Studies writing novels (or perhaps novellas) for credit.  Sue Hinton would have loved English in my school.

I may have known my passion, but I didn’t leap in and start (well, finish) writing that novel in my head until 25 years after leaving high school.  That’s a long time to have a fire smoored, awaiting the flash of flame and burning of achievement!

How about you?  What’s your passion?  Is it smoored or burning?  Did formal school help or hinder development of your passion?

 

poem- haunts May 1, 2015

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:38 pm
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Haunted

Full days.

Wishing

Spinning

Devouring.

Turned inside out.

There was a rainbow.

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This was a poetry exercise I created for my class today-

The prompts by line were

I am…

I have…

3 -ing verbs

I feel…

I wish…

 

I got some really interesting pieces!  First we did this as a class activity, rolling the paper over and trading with someone new for each line.  Then we shared the results.  Finally, they created their own from stratch.

 

poem-bone bling March 30, 2015

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:51 pm
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“So what happened exactly?”

the students asked,

and I told them about the fall,

casts, surgery, plate, and screws.

“Ha!” one laughed, “That’s perfect for you!”

“Why?” I asked

“Because now

even your skeleton

has bling!”

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True story.

I love my students.

🙂

 

 
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