Friday, October 28, 2016

Flight Day

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have... is each other”. R. J. Meehan

Four teachers with Stettler Elementary School demonstrated this with such effectiveness that I have asked them to be guest bloggers here today. Have a look at this extraordinary endeavour.

The project itself was about flight with an original driving question surrounding the importance of flight, how it has evolved and is evolving, and how these changes will affect us in the future. Albeit brief, the following are some of the curriculum implications that align with the project.

During a directed Math lesson, the students started by finding the local airport using Google Maps. After printing the maps, the scale had to be determined by measuring the bar line offered and comparing it to the actual distances. The scale given was used to calculate the actual length and width of one of the buildings and of the runway.  When students were finished these tasks, they were encouraged to research the lengths of other runways at larger airports and were in awe of the amount land belonging to airport authorities.

During their Social Studies lessons, the students have been studying the different types of taxes people pay, including income tax, property tax and the Goods and Services Tax, mainly with regard to how the government keeps things equitable for Canadian citizens by using tax dollars to provide services. They used an authentic airline itinerary to explore the cost of flying, and the types of taxes that may be added to flight costs.

On the actual Flight Day, the students created a fleet of paper airplanes that they had to design in order to complete four given tasks. That being: to sustain the longest flight, to be able to hit a target, to fly in a straight line and finally to have the longest flight. They focused on the parts of the plane in order to control the direction the paper airplane flew.

In Language Arts the students discussed imagery and envisioned their flights on Saturday.  They wrote descriptive paragraphs to demonstrate what they thought they would see, hear, smell, and feel.  With that task completed and the compiled information, the students wrote short narratives that they acted out.

The photos that are included in this post are but a few, but demonstrate how engaged the students were and the true joy of working together through this valuable endeavour.

I'm so grateful for dedicated people who continue to reach and teach our children.

~ Ellyn

Thursday, October 20, 2016

“We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here because we’re here…” I first heard these words sung, by my brother, when I was a young girl.  Any of you who came up through the Boy Scout movement, will recognize this questionable war chant but for the better part of my life, I have allowed those words to resonate throughout my being and they have meant something different to me at different times.

I am a goalsetter.

Even from my earliest days in elementary school when the Main Librarian from our downtown public library would show up in school in June, and present a summer reading program to all of us, I would think about how many books I would read that summer and make a plan. After that, I would make a promise to myself to keep waking up early and to ride my bike a certain number of times a day. I would promise myself to make my bed, even through the long summer days and, the thing is, for the most part, I remember being able to make rules for myself and keep them.

As a teacher, I make professional goals all of the time and I reflect on them, evaluating and adjusting and looking for resources to help me meet these goals. I also still create short term personal goals.  

When I was asked if I had the heart to work with a team of people to help a ministry student achieve his goals, my answer was, of course I do. And I am thrilled to be working with someone who is driven and excited about his calling. As I read through his goals, I began to wonder about my own personal ones. I always seem to have so many professional dreams that I have to pare my goals down to only three but for personal goals, I rarely set more than one at a time. And then I thought again. Well maybe that’s a good thing. Quite a few years ago now, my minister and friend suggested that I read the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and for me, it was profound. I began to work at unitasking and on being present in as many moments as I could. And I became better and better at it and, it is time for me to work at this again.

My one personal goal for the rest of this year will be to live in the present moment as much as possible. To look my KinderKids on their level and listen to their words, to smile warmly and notice nature, to enjoy each bite of food that I put in my body, to feel the warm earthy slate on the floor at my desk, through the soles of my feet, and let it warm my body, to breathe deeply and be grateful for all of the tiny miracles that are before me each day and to continually remind myself that I am here because I’m here…

~ Ellyn

Friday, October 14, 2016

Home is where my babies are.

On September 11th, 2001, my mama had to call all of her children. That very next weekend, she drove to the farm to visit us and she sat by our firepit outside, cradling a barn cat and said that she just needed to see or talk to her babies. At the time, I didn’t understand it. I thought she was overreacting. After all, we live on a farm in rural Alberta and the treacherous act happened in New York. On American soil for the simple reason that it was American soil and would harm mostly American people. But the thing is, it didn’t. It sent shockwaves everywhere, including, our little corner of the world.

Fast forward, 15 years, and I get it. My babies are 20 and 21 and they live in closeby cities. I’m thankful that I can get to them relatively quickly, if need be, because home is where my babies are too.

My mama died 11 years ago this past Thanksgiving and this year was the first year that I have actually felt present for the celebration weekend. I wasn’t numb. It was also the first year since my mama has left this earth, that I didn’t consult my dad or invite him for Thanksgiving, I didn’t fall into an obligatory dinner with anyone and I just spent it with my husband and my babies, somewhere else, not at our house. And it was wonderful.

Sometimes it takes years to step away from something one feels duty bound to be a part of. For me, this year, it was necessary to just take care of me and be present. Integrity of word, even to self, this is my focus right now and if home is where my babies are, then that is where I need to be.

~ Ellyn

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Job Guy

My 21 year old son Max has a cool summer job. He’s working as the Recreation “Guy” at our small town seniors’ lodge and he loves it.

A couple of weeks after he started, Mother’s Day was upon us and a Tea at the lodge ensued. He dressed up in his finery complete with a bow tie and just happened to be standing by the entryway when an elderly cousin of ours, walked into the building, towards the gathering area and assumed Max was there to seat her. He immediately held out his arm and lead her to her table, which caused the other ladies to assume that he was there to do that for them too. And so, of course, he did. One by one he escorted each lady to their table and then helped serve tea. There are about 58 ladies in our local lodge and they were delighted. But more importantly, so was he. The Monday following that event, he mentioned to his supervisor that he really wanted to do something special for the fellas that lived in the lodge, for Father’s Day. They started to brainstorm when his supervisor mentioned that maybe they should take the guys to the local pub for beer and wings. Max was thrilled and added that he would find some men in town that he knew of that had vintage vehicles to come up to the lodge, pick up the gentlemen and then head to the pub. I was in awe and Max came home so satisfied that the few men that resided there, I think 14, enjoyed their celebration.

Fast forward to yesterday, July 4th, a male resident died. Overnight. In his sleep. Max came home from work last night in such a funk and I knew something was wrong. It’s hard to make relationships and then lose them so quickly and Max is in an industry where he is going to experience this. He began to tell me about this man… 
Clifford was quiet. He mostly operated in a solitary manner. He didn’t have a television, nor radio, but he did read. He didn’t take part in any of the activities that were offered at the lodge. However, after the Mother’s Day Tea, Max noticed that Clifford had yet to receive any visitors and he asked him if he had any children. Clifford said that he had a son but that his son was very busy and would probably not be around on Father’s Day weekend. When the plans were in place for the Father’s Day event, Max encouraged Clifford to join a good friend of ours in an old fixed-up 1948 Fargo truck and to head to the pub for wings. Clifford came out of his shell and talked and talked and talked. He ordered a beer and enjoyed a few wings but most of all he loved the old truck and the camaraderie.

I hope that Max knows just how important this summer job is. 

I do.

~ Ellyn

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Don't Have a Bucket List

I do not have a bucket list.

Not that I don’t love stepping into an adventure, trying new experiences and travelling. I just don’t feel the need to create a bucket list.

I remember a couple of years ago when I heard about two teens, who had created a summer bucket list, and I was saddened to think that at 17, they felt the need to accomplish things before they moved away for college. I guess I was judging them against my 17 year old self who was most definitely scared, but also overly excited about starting a new life rather than checking things off.  

But is that what a bucket list is?

In 2007 when Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson starred in the movie with the same name, I remember enjoying the film, but knew then, that I couldn’t imagine creating a bucket list. Two of the questions the movie asked viewers however, did inspire me.

“Have you found joy in life? Has your life brought joy to others?” (Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers)

Presently, and on a temporary contract, I am teaching 5 & 6 year olds in Kindergarten. I had no idea that I would be spending my days with these little marvels once again. And so it is easy for me to be thankful each morning when I wake up, easy for me to see the magnificence in each one of those Kindies eyes, easy for me to stop talking, smile warmly and just listen.

I see... hear... feel... joy in life.  

My husband and I have created a veritable paradise in our own home and yard. A place where we love to sit and just be. And as I plant trees that I may never see mature, I know that someday someone else will enjoy this space that we have loved. “What does a snail have to do to reincarnate? Create the perfect trail of slime?” (Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole)

Do I plan for the future? Of course, but I practise living right now.

Do you have a bucket list? If so, I’d love to hear from you so that I can fully understand this notion.

Thank you.

~ Ellyn