Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Touch

Early this morning, in the darkness of our little place on this earth, even before any birds summoned us, the alarm sounded. It was 2:45 a.m. Clad in our pyjamas with blankets and pillows my girly and I padded out to the living room to watch Kate marry William.
It was in 2005 when Jillian was 9 years old that she fell in love with the Royal Family. That was the year that our province became 100 years old and as part of the celebration, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visited the capital city of Edmonton. I had offered to take both of my children out of school for the day  so that they could see her on her Walk-About. However, because Max chose not to go, we invited Jillian’s best friend Jacey to join us instead. Jacey’s very English Great-Grandmother was thrilled and guided us on what to wear. Two weeks before the Walk-About, Jacey and Jillian had new dresses and shoes, hats and long white gloves. I booked a hotel room at the Westin for the night before and we anxiously awaited to catch a glimpse of our beloved Queen. Jillian had discovered that the Queen’s favourite flowers were daisies, which motivated us to purchase a bouquet for each girl to carry, on the occasion that they might actually be able to present her with them.
Following breakfast at this largely business class hotel, where the girlies received as much attention as a celebrity might, we walked over to Sir Winston Churchill Square to find a perfect spot to wait. I had purchased little folding stools for the girls to sit on while they waited. Folding stools that matched the colour of their dresses.
Not long after we arrived, a British speaking woman approached me and asked me if she could place the girls strategically and remarked that she would ensure the girls would indeed see Queen Elizabeth up close. I smiled warmly as these young girlies became little stars themselves that morning.
As the photo suggests, the morning unfolded in a most amazing way. Not only did Jillian and Jacey see Queen Elizabeth up close, they graciously presented her with the happy bouquets whereby Jillian breathily remembers the soft touch of Queen Elizabeth’s gloved hand on hers. When the Queen departed, I stepped back and allowed the girls to be interviewed by three television stations and one newspaper. It was all very magical allowing the girls to step into a little piece of history.
Jacey and Jillian centre, just as Queen Elizabeth moves on.

This brings us back to today, where it is became important to stay home from school and view another connected bit of history in the making – live.
The grace that Kate Middleton moved with, all the while obviously trying to be present and enjoy her wedding day was captivating. Her ivory dress with the lacey bodice as well as the lacey appliqué on the skirt, was perfect. Pippa’s stunning and simple gown along with her eloquent movement with all of the little people added to the personalization of the wedding. Prince Harry and his scamp-like behaviour taking a sneak peek and letting his brother know how beautiful she looked added to the authenticity of the moment.  The traditional Anglican ceremony complete with well known Hymns including the recessional, Crown Imperial by William Walton, which was also played at Charles and Diana’s wedding, tied the observance together beautifully as our dearly loved Queen in all of her radiance wore a sunshine yellow dress and hat, to match her warm personality that we have been privy to experience.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Background Parenting

I consider myself to be a valuable support person and have always loved being in the background of projects.
When it comes to my children’s formal education however, I am an involved parent. Actually I am involved in many areas of their lives. Never the less, being involved looks different as children become teens. Although I have never done any school work for either my daughter or my son, I do provide them with an environment conducive to pursuing an interest, completing a project, researching and writing endeavours and any other venture that is assigned or chosen. I offer tips and look for tools that might assist them. I engage in dialogues with them surrounding topics and offer to edit writings for spelling and grammar only, and only then do I make suggestions and then “bite my tongue”.
It has always been important to me that my children take responsibility for their own learning and demonstrate their knowledge and skills. My responsibility lies in helping them realize their gifts and talents and encouraging them to use these for their greatest good.
When my son Max entered Grade 10, I knew it was time to head even further back into the background. I knew that the pattern had been set from the time he entered school. A pattern that I was grateful he followed: when one gets home from school, one’s backpack goes on the hook and is unloaded, all notes go in mom’s inbox, the lunch kit is emptied and hung on its hook, a half an hour is spent physically riding a bike, jumping on the trampoline, playing basketball or drumming and then any homework is completed. While Max did/does any homework, I make dinner and have conversations with him about the topics he is studying. At 16 years of age, he knows his body well and knows that if he does not get his work completed by early evening, he is in dire straits. He is a person who needs his sleep and crawls in bed at 9:30 p.m. on school nights.
So what does it look like to step into the background of a child’s life?
I attend all school meetings, follow the school’s website, read school newsletters, have loaded the school calendar into our own online family calendar, regularly check my son’s online grade keeper and discuss this openly with him, subscribe to any teacher blogs, attend parent/teacher interviews, attend all events that Max is involved in with regard to sport or music and I am available to drive and chaperone school events. 
And then… I trust him to make good decisions surrounding his school work, behaviour and ethic.
At the close of a recent PTI with one teacher, I mentioned that if there were any issues, to please let me know so that I could be aware of these and work with him for Max’s benefit. The teacher looked me in the eye and told me that if there were any issues, he would take them up with Max. At this I smiled warmly, thanked him for his time and said goodnight. When I climbed into the car, I started to laugh and I have been smiling warmly ever since. Of course this teacher will take any issues up with him! This is what I have been preparing Max for and I am in awe that he is responsible and makes good decisions. Will he always? I don’t know. He is only 16 and has an entire life to be lived yet. What I do know is that I have guided him well and it is now time to move back just a little bit more.
“If I’m young and stupid, at least I’m doing it while I’m young and stupid”… (Hedley, 2009)

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Taking Ownership of Our Online Life...

As I prepare for an Internet Safety Presentation being offered at my son’s high school, I sit at my desk in thankfulness. I am grateful that my children have been easy to parent, so far. They readily ask me about privacy concerns and have opened their digital lives up for me to peruse and teach. I have not friended them on Facebook® because we all use this social media site for different purposes, but I continually engage them in a conversation surrounding SM, how to use it effectively and why one needs to be aware of its potential and value.
Am I frightened by the ease to which my teens have access to the immediate world at their fingertips? Absolutely! To paraphrase Will Rich,  
If you’re parenting right now and you’re not afraid, then you’re not parenting right now.
However, even in saying this, I refuse to act based on fear, and work at acting on hope, through education. Which brings me back to the presentation this evening and my teaching/learning journey.
As a Kindergarten teacher, when a child entered my classroom never having held a pair of scissors or not knowing how to tie her shoes, I felt it was my responsibility to teach those skills with support and guidance. It was not for me to judge that that child hadn’t been taught those skills at home before coming to school, but to assist in equipping the child with the skills that would be needed as she moved forth in life. 
I feel the same way about preparing a child for entering the Internet and encourage you to ponder David Truss’ words that follow. David can be found at where he provides anyone in need with this available poster. 

We Filter Websites At School!
·        Students will not know what to do when they are at home and they come across malicious or inappropriate websites.
·        Searches may confuse and overwhelm students at home as they will be in unfamiliar territory.
·        While at school students will not be able to use many interesting and exciting websites that they can use at home.
·        At school we will not be able to help students who have issues with social software sites like Facebook.
·        Because we filter websites at school we cannot prepare your child to be net savvy. That responsibility now rests firmly on your shoulders. Good Luck!
~David Truss
Although this has been our education system’s initial way in which to handle frightening movements in society, many within the system are attempting to change that, and for this I am grateful.
With the changes that are rapidly occurring let’s look to the Internet that exists in our hands. The mobile Internet. When I gave my fifteen year old his handheld web device I told him that its secondary feature was that of telephone and set out to teach him the responsibility surrounding this amazing tool.
"The mobile internet . . . will not be just a way to do old things while moving. It will be a way to do things that couldn't be done before." In part because of this, Howard Rheingold then suggests: "A new kind of digital divide ten years from now will separate those who know how to use new media to band together from those who don't." Rheingold wrote this in 2002 and we know that this is becoming a reality in many people’s lives. This causes me to think of the responsibility that befalls parents and educators.  I see the value in teaching our children/students how to utilize these web devices with ease as a tool but also with accountability.  David Parry, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, states that for him, “the key piece is recognizing that the mobile computing power in our pockets radically changes not merely our classrooms but, more [importantly], the spaces that students inhabit and the conversations they have outside of our teaching.” He goes on to say that he wants “to teach students to take ownership of this type of change so that they can shape the mobile transformation as much as they are shaped by it.”
       I concur and continue to take ownership in guiding my own children with regard to discerning information, using security features, and knowing that it is a joyous and interesting privilege to have Internet use especially in the palm of their hands. Will they be duped by probable negative forces that exist? Will they often view their handheld device as an expedient way to get a message to a friend? Possibly, but I also hope that they will know of a teacher that they can rely on to demonstrate viable and responsible ways to use these amazing devices, that they will know procedures that they can rely on, that they can always ask me for assistance with the handling of a particular online situation and that they take ownership for their behaviour online.
I am grateful for the conversations I have had with Howard Rheingold, Will Rich, David Truss and others all via twitter and our blogs – stranger friends, as another stranger-friend Annie, would call them, and I invite you to enter into conversation surrounding this most important issue.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

There but for the grace of God go I

Although attribution for this statement has been questioned, it was possibly uttered, by English reformer and martyr John Bradford, when he witnessed a prisoner headed for execution. 
This declaration comes up for me periodically in my meditations and causes me to wonder...
I learned to meditate when I was 18 years old and for this I am truly grateful. Evening meditations helped me get through my University years as well as when I initially began teaching. For some reason, throughout my 30’s and early 40’s, I forgot to meditate. Now in my 49th year, I meditate often, at least three times a day and sometimes for as little as one minute. The clarity that it offers me is unending and far reaching. But why now is this Bradford proclamation coming up again?
A reminder?
It is not for me to judge anyone and if I feel something unjust is being committed, it is for me to see that I too have acted unjustly and hopefully I will remember to offer love and support to those, in order for positive change to come about.
Offer love and support even when it comes to my Government, which is not The Harper Government but the people of Canada’s Government.
There but for the Grace of God go I.
The last time I was a card-carrying member of every existing political party, was when I was a young adult in University. It was important for me to go to every Leadership Convention and other political events and to have a voice while there. I know that I have only voted for a particular party once and that all other times, I have voted for a particular person.  Is it time once again, to belong to all of the parties in order to gain clarity or is educating myself along with the act of meditation, going to be enough?
I am puzzled with my Prime Minister’s actions not to answer questions from the people, citing often, “No comment.” Again, it is not his Government, but ours. When someone refuses to answer the very people he or she represents, he or she loses the confidence of those people. Is this what has happened or is there more going on? In the past, Governments have been confusing entities that now need to be un-muddled.  Some believe that partisan politics are no longer effective. This also causes me to wonder and spend much time reflecting.
And so, I will continue to meditate for clarity and direction, and educate myself with the particulars surrounding our current political situation with the intention to weed through the webs that are woven in order to vote for the person I believe is best suited for this noble endeavour, all the while knowing that I too have been evasive at times not wanting to comment.
There but for the grace of God go I.