This air is thick enough to drown in
Wading through your words
Lightning flashes in the hills like my
anxiety after the press conference.
Summer storm raging.
They announce back to school plans.
I’m watching the hills for forest fires,
fearing the burning.
Brief respite: rain splatters on the back deck,
before oppression descends again,
and our power goes out.
poem-they’re all the same May 6, 2019
Pick up any yearbook
Turn the pages,
you will recognize them.
always so friendly.
forever in trouble.
Oh! The music!
skipped more than attended
kept you up nights,
worried about wise choices
each so unique,
every one the same.
poem- scratching January 23, 2019
into this exam.
Future doors open or close.
You can ruin your life!
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-care March 8, 2018
She shouldn’t care more about you
than you do yourself.
Your success should be on your shoulders
not on hers.
She can guide, support, aid,
but you must do the work,
think the thoughts, stretch your brain,
believe you can.
There is no easy way.
You need to care enough to be your best,
trust the tools and safe venue for risk,
let her cheer from the side,
as she watches you ride
away into your future.
You need to trust, this isn’t a place
poem-instructions January 25, 2017
So much difficulty
when we read the instructions.
If you don’t know what is asked
why do you try
I’m marking exams at the moment and astonished at how often answers in no way reflect the question asked.
poem- deep December 12, 2016
I’ve fallen into a fog
that fills my head with cotton
and adds sandpaper to my throat.
Bed sounds like such a good idea,
but work requires my presence.
Mentally, I’m home, buried under quilts.
Physically, I supervise workers,
who all wish they were home in bed.
We may lack spirit for spirit week;
but today is pajama day.
poem- noise November 29, 2016
Wherever I put you
you erupt in explosions of sound
You are a Tower of Babel
oblivious (or indifferent) to the distraction you are.
The constant cries sound like
See me! me! me!
It’d be nice if you looked at others for a while,
perhaps they need to be seen, too.
poem-worlds beyond June 8, 2016
There are worlds beyond your doors
and opportunities reaching out to you.
“Future” is such a big word,
and so is “college” if no one has been before.
But you have just as much right
to take those chances, as any one else.
Don’t doubt the power of your ability.
If you choose to do it,
are willing to put in the work,
you can do it:
break down stereotypes,
forge new ground,
accomplish something beyond
what judgmental people
think is all you can be.
What’s your dream? Fight for it.
poem-fear June 1, 2016
That explains everything, doesn’t it?
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?
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.