More podcast love

I’ve talked about podcasts on MANY OCCASIONS. Some of the ones I listed previously, I’m no longer listening to. Others are still going strong. Here a few favourites right now:

MILLENNIAL

I love that this podcast is about navigating life in my current age bracket. Megan Tan shares deeply about the big and little things in her life, and I look forward to each new episode. 

THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME

It’s technically a parenting show, but it’s actually relatable to everyone who exists in a family. They’re currently doing a few reruns before the next season, but since I only started listening a few months ago, I’m so grateful. Following the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents” right now. A story that is melting my heart. 

ART OF CHARM

So I hear this podcast is actually geared towards men, but I really enjoyed their episode with Chris Guillebeau about finding and pursuing work that echoes with your entire being. I continue to get these inklings that teaching in its current iteration is not what resonates most with my life purpose, but I’m still trying to navigate through what that all means. I know public education is where I want to be, but I don’t see my current classroom as being that learning and thinking incubator that I envision for children. Shall continue to work through this. 

INVISIBLE CITY

So this is a fairly new podcast hosted by Jennifer Keesmat, the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto. I love all things related to urban planning and design (thinking that intersecting this with public education would lead me to what I feel is my maximum impact in the classroom) and have been feeling a dearth of input into my life on this front. Alas, I am soaking all of this in. 

And there you have it – that’s what I’m consuming and chewing on as of late. 

A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

On Reconciliation

For the last two days, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. To say it has been enlightening would be the understatement of the century. I have enjoyed it immensely, and I’ll do a follow up post with some of my sketch notes and thoughts, but I did want to mention one thing that really challenged me.

The keynote speaker yesterday afternoon was Wab Kinew. I will be entirely honest – I had not heard of him before. I have read Boyden’s The Orenda, so I had that connection, but I was otherwise unfamiliar with him. 

Anyone who keeps up with Canadian current events will know about the TRC report and the 94 recommendations that have been outlined in it. It is undeniable that we have a really ugly past when it comes to our nation’s relationship with indigenous peoples. The notion of reconciliation can seem overwhelming and I’m sure there are many who are desperate for examples of what it looks like. Kinew’s late father provided a poignant example, taking the matter into his own hands, by personally extending reconciliation with representatives (e.g. the pope) of the Catholic Church. To see these ultimate acts of forgiveness touched me in such a profound way.

I continue to be reminded of the brokenness that is present in our world, and how we so often make terrible decisions due to ignorance, misunderstanding, or fear of the other. Regrettably, as long as we live, we will continue to see things that are hurtful and unjust. However, I have been challenged in two ways:

  1. To consider more deeply what it means to be an ally to the aboriginal peoples of Canada
  2. To demonstrate forgiveness daily in my own life because He first forgave us

Thank you Wab for your message, and for what you are continuing to do in the name of reconciliation. 

An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I recently finished reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me in the last few weeks, I will have mentioned it. I talked about it incessantly.

In a nutshell, the author – Jen – embarked on a 7-month project to examine and reduce seven areas of excess in her life. She started off with food, consuming only seven types of food the whole month. Then she moved on to clothes, wearing only seven items the whole month. And so this continued. During the very last month, she committed to praying seven times a day – each time with a different focus.

There were definitely moments in the book that challenged me to consider whether I would be willing to part with some of the excess that exists in my life. We live a very fortunate and blessed life, but what good is that if it isn’t shared with others? What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus? How does a modern day Christ follower live out their life according to His purpose with His blessings? I definitely want to do a rendition of this project for myself, but I’m not yet sure what this will look like. For a little while, I thought maybe I could focus on a different global issue to learn about so that I might be able to pray more boldly and take specific action in that arena. However, I think part of what this book draws out is the need to take action against seemingly mundane choices that we make, and to be more conscious of the areas of excess in our own life.

In the mean time, I shall continue pondering the convictions that I have, but if you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it. And if you’re in the KFPL service area, I’m returning my copy to the library on Monday.

 

Living on One Dollar

Living in North America, we often forget how fortunate we are to be in our current situations. We have clean, running water. We have food and shelter. We often have stable sources of income, and most of us have a means to make it through each day. But for so many people in the world, that is not a reality.

Kelvin and I have a bad habit of watching Netflix through dinner, and today was no different. It was a very fruitful time, though. Instead of watching Top Gear or Friends or Once Upon a Time, we watched this documentary called Living on One Dollar. The notion of wealth has been at the forefront of our minds lately – our church is going through a sermon series on it, we are reading multiple books around the idea of wealth and living a more radical life, and it just seems to be a pervasive topic of discussion – and so it seemed fitting that this caught our attention.

The documentary really held our attention, and it made us think long and hard about the luxuries that we have, and the means that people have to go to make ends meet. We were introduced to these amazing individuals who, despite making around $2 a day, have such big dreams and big hearts. They love each other and their community, and give so freely of the little that they do have.

I’ll be heading off on maternity leave in 3 weeks, but this is definitely something I want to introduce my future classes to. I want to look at poverty and micro financing and encourage my students to think bigger. Beyond just their own personal experiences and the daily problems they face.

And of course, with all of this comes the question…what can I do to help?

Craving

Once again, it’s been a while since I blogged.
However, I wanted to share something I wrote in class today.
Every Thursday, my kids have writer’s workshop. It’s a chance for them to have focused writing time, and I get a bit of time to write as well.
The piece below is called Craving. I’ve only just begun it, but it’s my first foray back into creative writing. I don’t know if I will continue it, but for now, I’d like for it to be enjoyed by a wider audience than just my iPad.
Also, on a completely different note, I’m attempting to blog more regularly in pursuit of this things called reflective teaching. I’ve revived scribbling on the walls. We shall see how this goes.

It started off as just a one time thing. A friend of mine slipped some to me on the bus after school. I was hesitant, of course, because it was so unfamiliar. So new. So dangerous. You know those people that your parents tell you not to hang out with in school? She was one of those people. Always pushing me to step just a little bit outside of my comfort zone.

But I couldn’t resist. The packaging was just too tempting. And so I took it. And I opened it. And that first snickers bars was unlike anything I’ve ever experience before. It had been in her pocket for quite some time, so it was hot, melted, gooey. The sensation wrapped around me like a warm blanket on a cold winter day. It was the perfect blend of chocolate, nuts, and caramel.

All through first period I could think of nothing more than having another taste of that snickers bar. My pencils turned into snickers. My binder was a box of 48 snickers. At one point, Donalda, who sits two seats down from me had a nosebleed and I thought it was a river of caramel flowing from her nostrils.

“Keegan!” Mrs. Landon screeched, snapping me back to my snickers-less reality, “what would you say was the most important event during World War 1?” My face turned beet red. Did my teacher and classmates know what I’d been thinking about? Was it written all over my face? I glanced over at Mrs. Landon and it took every ounce of my strength not to think about her glasses as a pair of half eaten snickers bars.

The bell rang, and I bolted out of there as fast as I could. Only one more period and it would be recess. Then I’d need to track down Pauline to get more bars.

Inspiration

Kelvin and I got back from NYC a few hours ago. As good as it is to be back, I find myself missing it. I miss the convenience and the buzz (even late into the night). I miss the oodles of culture and quirkiness in every nook and cranny. I miss the transit system.

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But I think what I miss most of all is the way in which the city inspired me. It encouraged my creativity and it left me with a sense of wonder. Now don’t get me wrong – I love living in Kingston, and despite its small size, it is a wonderfully rich place to be. However, there’s something about New York that makes me dream just a little bit bigger. The few short days I was there, I wanted to capture everything I saw and sketch everything I encountered. I asked questions and posed solutions.

Now the big question is – how can I keep that curiosity up in Kingston? How can I continue to fuel this momentum and spark more ideas? Is the solution a daily regimen or maybe frequent conversations? I’m not quite sure. Either way, I know it’s something I don’t want to lose. And knowing that my imminent return to work comes on Monday, I hope this sticks around a little longer.

Taking a Leap

I love reading. Mostly non-fiction, though I am learning to like fiction more these days thanks to book club. Unfortunately, as much as I love reading, one of the biggest challenges I face is my inability to read quickly. I am possibly one of the world’s slowest readers. Maybe it’s because I like to read each word and paint pictures in my mind? Or maybe I just need to train my brain better.

Anyways, reading slowly was not a challenge I encountered at all for the book I just finished…about 20 minutes ago. Called The Leap Year Project: Learning to Risk & Risking to Learn, this short book by Victor Saad documents a journey – a year-long journey of learning, growing, and taking risks (leaps, if you will). Funnily enough, I stumbled upon The Leap Year Project a few weeks ago via twitter and had exchanged a few tweets with Victor. Then, about a week ago, Story Cartel started following me, and I was introduced to a collection of books that I could read for free! The Leap Year Project was one of them.


Now, let it be known that I love colour. And I love things that are designed purposefully and beautifully. From a purely aesthetic point of view, this book is a work of art. The simplicity and vividness with which this book is laid out made reading this book (via iPad) most wonderful. There wasn’t a whole lot of text (good for slow readers like me), but any text that was there was necessary and thought-provoking.

On to the content. In the book, Victor shares his thoughts and new-found knowledge gained by working alongside new companies and individuals month by month. He ventures near and far, but regardless of location, he continues to be overwhelmed by the generosity of others and the spirit of people. He writes conversationally and his voice flows seamlessly throughout the book. Full of words of wisdom, this is a book that inspires you and compels you to take your own leaps of faith. At the end of every month’s entry is a collection of stories. These stories highlight the experiences of other “leapers” around the world – people who have joined Victor in stepping outside of their comfort zone to learn something new. It shows us that we can affect change, no matter how old, young, or inexperienced, regardless of background, resources, or education.

A book I literally couldn’t put down (I was up until the wee hours last night reading it…until chrome crashed and I was too tired to wait for it to load again), my only wish for this would be to that it included a disproportionately large number of stories of people in Chicago. I would have loved to read more from those around the world (though it makes sense that this gained the most momentum in Chicago, seeing as how that’s where Victor is based).

All in all, this book is fantastic and I recommend it to everyone. Yes, everyone. I give it 5 stars. 10 brownie points. And can I hope the idea goes viral? Maybe I should buy some copies and give them away to people I meet…

Anyways, over the past few weeks I have been pondering what leaps I will be taking in my own #lyproject journey. I am thinking it has something to do with education, but I am not entirely sure yet at this point. The idea still needs some nurturing. Either way, I intend to take a leap, and I hope you will too.

An aside: If you want to read some free books, check out Story Cartel, which I mentioned earlier. The books are literally free for downloading. All you need to do is write a review. And reviews are good for you – they force you to synthesize all the goodness (and some of the other stuff too) that you come across. Seriously…check them out.

New Cardmaking Techniques

Michaels had a crazy sale today. 40% off your entire regular-priced purchase. So of course, armed with my iPhone (and thus the appropriate coupon), I entered the store with the intention of buying all that I needed for heat embossing. I am happy to report that I came out with a Martha Stewart heat embossing tool, embossing ink pad, watermark pen, and two embossing powders. I brought them directly to Cards and Crop with me, and after a few failed attempt, here’s the final effect!

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I also fooled around with tissue paper today, and came up with some cards I really really liked!

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They’re so simple, and yet so effective! Now that summer is here, I believe much cardmaking will ensue :D

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Normal is overrated

Today, I spent the day in bed and indoors, sick and tired, trying my best to do a bit of work from home. Sickness is a funny thing – it makes you unable to perform functions that you normally wouldn’t think twice about, and naturally you find yourself craving that normalcy you once had. At the same time, having the free hours gave me the freedom to do things I tend to push to the backburner, like writing actual heartfelt emails, taking time for myself, and cleaning my house. Perhaps it’s unhealthy for us to be well all the time – these seasons of illness and health are necessary to remind us that productivity isn’t the be all and end all of life.

Also, because I was in bed all day, I was able to finish this month’s book club book – Lisa Genova’s Left Neglected. Even though I missed tonight’s book discussion, I’m glad I had a chance to read it. In a nutshell, it’s about a woman who was a high-powered executive in a Boston consulting firm who gets into a car accident, leaving her with this brain disorder called Left Neglect. She essentially has no recognition of things that are in her left field, and has little to no control over the left side of her body. The story documents her physical recovery as well as the emotional healing that happens in her life. “Normal is overrated” is something that stuck out to me from within the story – used to frame her understanding of how her child with ADHD was integrating into the classroom. It was a mindset that she also started to apply to her own situation, as she came to terms with how her life would continue to be affected by her disorder.

The whole idea made me think about how we treat our students and the way we approach education in general. Are we striving to make our students “normal” all the time, or are we doing what we can to accommodate for their needs? Are we giving them opportunity to excel in areas that they demonstrate an affinity to? As teachers, do we keep hoping for “normal” classrooms or “normal” students? Why do we want to be normal?

If you ask me, normal is overrated.

Happy Posting in Kingston

The internet is a source of many wonderful and quirky ideas. In a not too distant post, I talked about this project I had stumbled across called The Happy Post Project. In a nutshell, it is a project slash quasi-experiment to spread happiness around the world through sharing things that make you happy. Their goal is to reach 100,000 post-its, and I am hoping to make a fairly sizable contribution to that goal through this little activity I’ve organized in Kingston for next weekend’s Culture Days. Called Happy Posting in Kingston, it is a joint community effort to collect 1,000 post-its filled with things that make people happy. I am going to get a head start to that by asking for your help! Share what makes you happy by posting a comment below, tweeting to me at @EduScribblings with the hashtag #HappyPostYGK, or even writing it on a post-it and taking a picture of it (you can email it to me, and I will try my best to recreate it with some semblance of your penmanship). Thanks everyone!

For more information, or if you would like to come out and support the activity, check out the Culture Days activity profile.

Amazing Things Around the Web

I love to read blogs. On my iPhone, I have an app called Newsify, and every morning I try to make it through all the posts that have come up. Admittedly, some of them I will gloss over, but there are others that draw me in and move me to action. Here are four posts that I dwelled over for a while – 2 of which I would like to see come true in Kingston, and 2 of which were more for my own personal interest.

The Happy Post Project: Spreading Cheer Via Post-It Note (via GOOD)

Last year, I initiated Kingston Through My Lens. It was an amazing experience, and my plan was originally to run it again this year. However, as circumstance would have it, I need to do something a little less involved for Culture Days this year, and I am leaning towards organizing a Happy Post Project in Kingston. Simply put, people will come and answer the question “what makes you happy?” on a post-it note, and then you display it in some shape or form. Then, you take all the post-its and mail them to The Happy Post Project to help them reach their goal of 100,000 happy posts.  If you live in the Kingston area and want to help me out with this, just send me an email!

Little Free Libraries Around Toronto (via Apartment Therapy)

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As it says in the article, the idea of book swaps is not a new one. I came across Book Crossing a few years ago, and really liked the idea, but I wanted something that kept the books more so in the local community. This idea of little free libraries is great, but the price of purchasing one of their libraries is quite prohibitive, and I really don’t trust my ability to create one from scratch. Most likely, the thing will fall apart, and we will be left with a yard full of books that have been destroyed by Kingston rain (though lately we have been getting no rain…and my lawn is definitely showing evidence of that). That being said, I think Kingston could really benefit from doing something like this – maybe we could use little mailboxes or something like that. According to the little free libraries global map, there is one in Landsdowne, Ontario, on a boat dock…but alas, I do not have a boat. Don’t worry, I will find a way to get this off the ground. Again, I am sending out an open call to people who live in the Kingston area, if you can help in some way (maybe you just happen to have a vast quantity of mailboxes that can be used for this project), please email me!

A $10 Bicycle That Actually Works! (via Apartment Therapy)

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Can you tell I love Apartment Therapy? =P After watching this video, I was amazed not only at the bicycle, but at the man behind it. His process of trial and prototyping, his determination for success amidst the skepticism of others, and the way he used his skill set were inspiring. Though this is not something I would do, I have so much respect for him, and would love to try out the bike!

Monday Giveaway! (via A Cup of Jo)

There are a few personal blogs that I subscribe to, Joanna Goddard’s being one of them. I have this attraction to people who live in NYC and SF, so it seems most of the individuals that I follow are from one of those two cities. Anyways, her giveaway yesterday was this SWEET diaper bag from So Young. I am not yet at that stage of life where I will need a diaper bag, but I forwarded it to Kelvin nonetheless, after which I received a text that said “That is one of the best baby bags I’ve ever seen…How much?”. We then proceeded to scour their website, amazed at all the cool features the diaper bag has, and how it has such a rugged exterior that Kelvin would proudly tote around. In particular, we liked the built in sunglasses case, though Kelvin and I will need to determine whose Raybans will go there. And for those of you who are curious, it is $175, and available at a number of fine retailers as well as online (with free shipping for orders over $50, which this bag definitely is).

Now that I am at the end of this post, I just want to say that I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts. Often times, these thoughts will get sent off to twitter or in emails to Kelvin, my sister, and my parents, but perhaps I should use this outlet more to share cool things I find.