Sunday, October 25, 2009


"It is really raining outside" my 5-yr-old daughter Lu says as we are driving towards the art gallery for Sunday afternoon drop-in crafts (our alternative to church). It was more sleet than rain, maybe even snow, as the road was slushy and the cityscape was whitening. I wasn't sure if she was saying this because we had an argument about rain vs snow. Earlier she said that snow was slower, rain was faster. Hard to argue with that.

"IT", I is raining? I ask "who is IT?"

She pauses and responds "the clouds have decided to really rain today."

"The clouds decided? The clouds are IT?"

"Yes daddy."

I could have drawn this out.. the purpose of IT. I considered and then jettisoned the notion of having our monthly discussion on whether something exists beyond ourselves, something higher, something lower. something connecting, something animating, but we had scooched by city hall, the art gallery was in view, and we started talking about parking lots and swimming pools and who would be in the art gallery, etc. 2-yr-old Finn, of course, was just watching the sleet as Lu and I yakked on and on like the external processors we are. Sort of.

While this was happening my mind dwelt on the nature of IT, the fascination of why we construct an IT to balance the world or prop up a supposition, an OTHER to act as scapegoat, deity, friend, or foil, a THEY to posit origins, causality, and establish credentials. I wondered whether the use of IT correlated to the rise of individualism (and the reminder that I need to read Charles Taylor's book Sources of the Self), or if IT (the referring IT, maybe the cleft IT) fulfills a need to be feel connected to a community... as in IT takes a while to do this, IT's interesting that you say that. Maybe IT is a grammatical lens on the origin of consciousness (IT is the self that makes things be, but IT is also the rest of THEM that makes a self possible). I tried to analyze a stereotyped modern perspective on self... was the digitally-raised teen more reliant on the construct of IT than someone of my generation? Was the stereotype valid considering that I also believe that SELF drifts into OTHER in a virtual environment. I wandered into Daniel Dennett's ideas and the arguments about who the SELF was that constructed IT and I was also thinking about the renovations to city hall and the compacted soil, the rainwater sitting on the mud midst the elms and ashes. Also, was IT rainwater if iIT came from sleet? All these things came to conversation and to mind as we drove from Patricia and George St to 7th and Quebec... 2.5 blocks!!! Amazing I didn't crash into a tree. Is IT any wonder why I appear to many to be drifting off or distracted? This junk swirls around in my brain all day long and I can't shut IT off. Someone please help me and switch my brain for one that focuses on deadlines and gets things done.

Friday, October 02, 2009


I've had two experiences in my Socials 10 classes in the last week that have refreshed my perspective and reminded me of how important a role student inquiry plays in meaningful learning.

1) I was talking about generational differences and used my parents/their grandparents as examples. I asked a few student to volunteer evidence and soon everyone was turning to a neighbour and chatting. I was about to enter "teacher-mode" and get everyone to shut up so I could move on to my next point when I realized they were doing exactly what they should... making connections between curriculum and identity, between suggested learning and prior knowledge... they were, literally every one of them, swapping stories from their family about heritage skills, traditions, history. I stopped my "interference" and walked away for a few minutes.

2) I tried a "pioneer experience" role-play in class and the students went wild with it... they're 2 hours into it now and are still enthusiastic about making deals, banding together, selling off their children, trading a plough for 5 muskets, swapping blacksmithing for cobbling. etc. Both classes would have kept this up for days. Chaos, noise, no props at all, just imagination and conversation and pretty much everyone is "on task" with making connections between curriculum and identity. A wealth of unexpected and powerful outcomes. A real treat from a generation that is stereotyped as lacking imagination and having no attention span.