I haven't really done any planning for the coming school year. I filled my summer with distractions: work, visiting Vancouver Island, and attempts to rest and relax. In spare moments, I couldn't seem to develop the get-to-it-ive-ness needed to really start planning for something as cognitively taxing as the coming school year. So I didn't.
But I'm here now.
Today we had a Professional Day presentation from somebody with a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of the new BC Curriculum. I'm hoping it rekindles a little of my enjoyment of teaching and helps me feel a little more like my work has a lasting effect on people. I miss that feeling.
A few years into my teaching, it felt pretty natural, like it was an extension of myself. I felt like I could come to the school and navigate it naturally, and it didn't seem to drain my resources too much. I could come to the school in the evening or afternoon and focus on my work and enjoy it, and I genuinely felt like I was getting stuff done.
The last few years, however, haven't felt that way. Admittedly, I've been very distracted: separation, drama, and fatigue can make it difficult to focus on work. Come to think of it, my inability to internalize my practice coincides with my inability to write or finish writing a song. Perhaps I'm just in a drained-creativity mode, whether in career or leisure.
But I hope that acting on some of my more progressive desires will help me make teaching a more real part of my life, not just a job. Perhaps building an effective in-class curriculum will help me get get my head back in the game.
I've been trying to do a few other phone-related things to get my head back in a good place. I deleted Pokemon Go from my phone; it seemed to have served its purpose in getting me to get outside even when I didn't want to. And although I still think I'd enjoy it, I don't miss it. I turned off my data so I'd be less likely to check my phone constantly. I also have decided to stop listening to podcasts when I go for walks; this lets my mind wander a little and helps me to keep from constantly filling my mind with talk.
In the meantime, here I am. Starting my 10th or 11th school year, a veteran of sorts who still doesn't feel like he knows what he's doing, who still expects the "Fraud Police" to come to the door and kick him out onto the street. But chances are, things will work out. It will. It will.
Things will work out.
British Columbia has declared a public health emergency over the recent rise in fentanyl-related deaths. Good on 'em.
The numbers themselves are harrowing. The Globe and Mail wrote,
B.C. had 76 illicit drug overdose deaths in January, the highest total in a single month since at least 2007. At its current rate, the province could have 600 to 800 overdose deaths this year, Dr. Kendall said in a news conference on Thursday. B.C. had 474 such deaths last year, a significant increase from 211 in 2010.
It seems to me that "state of emergency" is an appropriate term to use, considering those statistics.
I think it's shameful that anybody needs to die due to poor public policy. I believe these deaths stem from a refusal to educate people due to matters of criminalization, which creates an abusive black market.
I don't know how to write about this as a coherent post with a beginning, middle, and end. So here's a bulleted list:
The following podcast with Johann Hari discusses an upcoming UN summit on worldwide drug policy:
Hari made this succinct thesis, paraphrasing Ruth Dreifuss, who legalized heroin in Switzerland:
When you hear the phrase "legalization" what you picture is violence and anarchy. What we have right now with the Drug War is violence and anarchy. We have unknown criminals selling unknown chemicals to unknown drug users—all in the dark, all filled with violence and disease. Legalization is the way you restore order to that violence and chaos.
I agree. Bring it out in the open and regulate it for safety's sake. Let's stop this prudish silliness and learn how to deal with culture without criminalization.
When I saw the tweet above, I started thinking and tweeting aggressively; I'm going to try to transfer that energy here.
I read both articles at The Atlantic—"Why Introverted Teachers are Burning Out" (January 25 2016) and "When Schools Overlook Introverts" (September 28 2015)—and found myself both affirmed and discouraged: affirmed because it was nice to see that other people might also see introverts' struggles with the highly social environments encouraged by 21st Century Eduucation, and discouraged because I was hoping these thoughts would continue to simmer below the surface of my daily consciousness—and disappear there.
I understand that personality labels are merely shorthand, but I share a lot of characteristics attributable to introverts. Generally, although I can be social I need time to recharge on my own; I get overwhelmed by large, continuous, unpredictable social situations. At a recent counselling appointment, when I told my counselor that I'm an introvert, she looked at me and said, "How can you be an introvert and keep yourself going in so many social situations?" I told her that I generally like people and that I generally see the good in people, that I can coast and improvise skilfully, and that I take care of myself through the day. As far as introverts go, I'm OK at bouncing between social situations and antisocial ones.
But introversion has led me to second-guess my decision to be a teacher. It's a lot of talking all day long and the performance gets tiresome. There are plenty of days when I don't really have a chance to recharge and I fall further and further behind. By the time I get home, I'm shutting down and using avoidance and emotional withdrawal tactics with my own family. And that's not good.
In the meantime, education is heading down a path of individualization. As a participant in the education system with introverted characteristics, these are some of my concerns:
Every lunch break, I spend most of my time in my classroom. At the school where I teach, the school culture doesn't really expect students to skip out on their lunch to get work done, but I like to tell people that I stay in my classroom because I want to be available for students anyhow. However, after 15 minutes or so, if no students show up, I usually close my door and keep to myself. I have had many different extroverted staff members at multiple schools ask why they so rarely see me in the staff room; I tell them it's my recharging time.
But with all the demands of teaching in schools today, I can't help but feel like it's not enough--like a lonely lunch break is just not enough for me to make it through the day.
So when I see articles like these, I feel a little less alone. And perhaps I can squeeze a few more years out of this career despite my incessant introversion. But I have somewhat high hopes that the increased individualization and destruction of classroom-based models might make more room for introverts like myself. Perhaps, beneath the rubble of the archaic content-area-based system, I and fellow introverts will find a place where we can master our learning and recharge our batteries appropriately.
I recently came across an copy of a textbook I used in Grade 7, back in 1993-1994. I enjoy history and I fondly remembered the textbook, so I opened it up and read it a little to see what it said... 20 years later.
I found the passages on early Christianity and was a little bit shocked to see how credulous they were about treating the Gospels as useful historical sources for the life of Jesus. Here are the passages that surprised me:
The tone in these passages clearly supports the Bible-as-history narrative, and they do so in a rather sneaky way. On Page 7, the paragraph sequence leads the reader into accepting the Gospels as legitimate sources:
Ironically, this was also the textbook that introduced me to the nature of "humanism," and this confused me greatly. I had heard sermons about the perils of humanism, but when it was described in the textbook, I couldn't help but feel like it was a good thing. And when I tried to confront the textbook with my own beliefs in my head, my adolescent anti-humanism, pro -theology arguments naturally fell flat.
I'm not a die-hard mythicist, but I do find it annoying when historical books treat religious texts as historically accurate or authoritative sources. It puts the author's intention into question when they mash up history with theology.
I don't think many Canadian textbooks do this any longer; this textbook was published in 1984 and I imagine they've been retired in most schools. But it's nice to see that I'm a more critical thinker than I was in Grade 8.
Last week I had the opportunity to take part in the BCSSA's semi-annual conference for educators. I attended as a teacher representative for my district. I stayed at the Westin Bayshore in Coal Harbour, Vancouver, BC, right above where the conference itself took place. Overall, I had a good time.
Knowing that I would be encouraged to do a lot of tweeting during the conference, I set up a new Twitter account in order to address more education-based tweets; I had no interest in filling people's feeds with my usual sets of links and reflections. Fortunately, my phone makes it easy to switch between the two accounts.
I tweeted a lot.
For example, I used my clip-on 12x lens to take these photos of the keynote speakers, namely Robert Marzano and Dr. Norman Doidge:
And I tweeted lots of responses to speakers and presenters. For example,
Now, I'm fully aware that I don't use my hashtags with skill or aplomb, and I rarely tweet incendiary comments in order to drum up controversy. I enjoyed writing tweets while people presented; it worked as an interesting way to frame my notes and memories from the content. It felt a little rude to be looking at a screen now and then while presenters were making their points, but it was fun and generally served its purpose.
Unless your purpose was actual networking and meeting real life people. I didn't meet a single one of the people with whom I shared a Twitter dialogue. All those tweets and I didn't come out of it with a single new connection. All that screentime without a new face.
The only people I really met were people I met face-to-face without the aid of a phone.
What's the point, then? Why spend all this time tweeting if you don't get to meet a real person out of it?
All of this only shows me one thing: that if I'm crummy at meeting people in real life, Twitter is not the method I need to use to facilitate more connections.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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