Dear Fellow Canadians, We Need to Talk. (Part II)

5 10 2015

[Link to Part One]

A quick recap

  1. Nazis were bad
  2. Some business about coming for people who aren’t me
  3. Environmental stuff <– meh, doesn’t effect me
  4. Human rights violation something or other <– meh, doesn’t effect me
  5. Activists and protesters could be terrorists and arrested <– meh, doesn’t effect me
  6. Dual citizens are now second class citizen who can looks their Canadian passport with no due process  <– meh, doesn’t effect me

If you’re lucky enough to have actually gotten all the way through there with the ‘doesn’t affect me’s, um.. Kudos? But remember good ole Martin?  Here let me toss that in here in case you’ve forgotten.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I am guilty, I have been guilty.  Even the dual citizenship, I mean that’s complete crap but it doesn’t effect me.

And then they came for me.

I’ve never been politically minded or even vaguely interested.  But at some point you have say hang on a minute, what are the people who are running our country doing?  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, growing up?  Realizing I can’t just sit idly by while someone does something horrible because that makes me complacent?   But in the last couple of years I’ve started to take note, and thinking I need to get more involved, more active.  I certainly need to be exercising my right to vote, it’s my responsibility as a citizen of this nation to educate myself on the issues and vote.

Now in fairness, the removal of the right for expats to vote was done a while ago, but it was overturned. In May (2014) last year, Superior Court Justice Michael Penny threw out the voting ban, noting that mass murderers have the right to cast ballots but long-term expats who care deeply about the country do not. Penny also said expats could well be subject to Canadian tax and other laws.

But this July (2015) it was reinstated, how convenient, just before the federal election.  But… what about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect on April 17, 1982? Under section 3:

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly [of a province or territory] and to be qualified for membership therein.

I’m a Citizen.  Why can’t I vote?  I am subject to laws and taxes in Canada.  Why can’t I vote?

In 1993 they passed  Bill C-114, which in part “removed voting disqualifications for judges, people with mental disabilities and inmates serving less than two years in correctional institutions.  And extended the use of the special ballot, enabling any elector to register and vote without having to appear in person on election day or at an advance poll”

Hang on, let me see if I have this straight, long term criminals, murders, rapists and the like, have a charter given right to vote.  Because they are citizens.  But because I reside in a different country, in which I maintain my Canadian passport and citizenship, I do not get to vote.  Ok, that makes perfect sense (no it doesn’t).

But you’re probably thinking… <– meh, doesn’t effect me

Wake up and smell the shit storm of disgustingness!!!!  Revoking the citizenship of Canadians?  Labeling people who are protesting a pipeline that has potentially horrible environmental consequences as terrorists???? Taking away the right, the RIGHT WE HAVE HAD SINCE 1982, to vote?  None of this is bad enough for you?

Ok, fine.  How about this little disgusting bit of xenophobic trash and racism?

The whole niqab issue that is blowing up in the press. The woman who wanted to wear her niqab during the citizenship ceremony, and no no no.  Worse yet according to polls most people seem to agree it’s just not on.  If this is how you feel, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, you’ve probably not thought about it much and just thought “hey that’s, yeah, weird I don’t like it”

Let me explain it to you, it’s not about confirming her identity, that was done in interviews and during the whole citizenship process in which she was required to show her face to female agents. So forget it being about security, it’s not.  It’s not about women’s rights as some have tried to make it seem, that no one should ever tell a woman that she must cover her face and that these women want to do so is only because they have be brain washed to do so.  Even if that is true, I’m not even saying it’s not.

A woman is an adult, and socially conditioned or not, if she doesn’t feel comfortable showing her face in a group of mixed company she shouldn’t have to.

Think about it this way, there are many conservative religious groups in the world, that have ‘odd’ practices.  Some always cover their hair, only their husband can see their hair.  Some wear little hats.  Some eat little cookies and drink wine claiming it to be blood and flesh. Some wear head, or face coverings. Some wear skirts only.  Some won’t wear anything modern, with zippers and velcro.  Others still wear orange and shave their heads.  And that is their right, as long as they are not hurting anyone else with their beliefs they can do so.

A prominent Canadian Leader was quoted as saying

I will never tell my young daughter that a woman should cover her face because she’s a woman

Hear hear!  But… why do you think it’s ok to tell a woman who according to her faith and her beliefs, whether you agree with them or not, that she must show her face?

Imagine there was a society that went topless all the time, it was a matter of pride for the women to show their bare breasts as a badge of honor of their femininity.  And they met one of us, and thought us so strange that we covered our breasts.  How degrading, that we have be taught to cover ourselves, we’ve been brainwashed by the misogynistic men in our society.  We’re just confused.  Should they then tear our clothing from our bodies? to force us to live their way?  We need to be enlightened like they are, they must force us to join their correct way.

Again, you’re probably thinking <– meh, doesn’t effect me

And then I see this, and this my friends, my fellow Canadians, this was the straw that broke my camel’s back.  It wasn’t even when they came for me, because meh screw em.  But when I saw this this morning, I felt sick.   {link}

pledging that a re-elected Tory government would establish a tip line for reporting “barbaric cultural practices”

Don’t be fooled by the window dressing, of it’s to protect young girls being forced into early marriages.  Or to help abuse victims. Or to protect us.  Because that is not what it is, it’s a hotline to report anyone you don’t like, especially if they have strange cultural practices.

Seriously?  What happened to the Canada that celebrated diversity?  The Canada, that when faced with the issue of a Sikh RCMP officer wanting to be able to wear his headdress, ruled in his favour?  Sure people bitched and moaned and many didn’t like it, but the Law stood for the rights and diversity of our nation.  Did we learn nothing from the Americans literally THROWING their rights away after 911?  Snowden telling everyone that the government was indeed abusing the shit out of these ‘safety protocols’

Can’t you see? This is how it starts.  This is how it has started in the past…. Do I think we’ll be another Germany with another Holocaust and spark a world war?  No…We as a people would never let something like that happen. Not here, not now.

I bet if you asked Germans in the 1920’s if they thought the same thing, they would have scoffed and said don’t be preposterous.  We’d never let something like that happen, not here.

What’s next Canada?  Marriage equality? The right to chose?  The right to a fair trial?  We’ve only had those since 2005, 1988, and I’m not even sure.. but it’s way back there.  But then again so was the right of every Canadian to vote.

And if you’ve read all this, and you still think.  Well it’s not that big of a deal, or there isn’t really a problem.  Then you, my dear, are the problem.  

Dear Fellow Canadians, We Need to Talk. (Part I)

4 10 2015

Have you ever met a German?  You know anyone from Germany?  I have, and like all people some of them suck, but the vast majority of them are quite lovely people.  But wait, makes you wonder doesn’t it?  I mean how did that whole Nazi party, thing happen?  I mean sure a lot of Germans are a little fussy, tidy, punctual etc. but evil Nazi types, not really.  But we all, well except Alex Johnstone, know about the holocaust, the Nazi reign, and World War II. So if Germans aren’t a particularly stupid or evil people, how in hell did that all happen?  How did the people not stand up and say, “Whoa hold on, you can’t do this!”  Ever wonder?

There is a famous quote, by Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Mmmm, I’m sure you’re all nodding sagely at this point and wondering what this has to do with you.  I mean, Germany in the 1930’s and Canada in the 2010’s, how is there any connection?

Maybe there isn’t, maybe I’m being dramatic, that’s what people will say.  That’s likely what people said about Martin, or anyone who though “gee… this isn’t right” when shit started in Germany.

What’s my point?  Well, I’m pretty horrified by what’s happening in Canada right now.  Never mind the environmental atrocities and horrors that have been happening, or the selling out human rights for a few bucks (FIPA).  The childish and dirty pool politics coming up to the elections.  <- all of which I’ve turned a blind eye to for the past few years, because you know I was not ‘a Socialist’ or ‘Trade Unionist’ or even a ‘Jew’.  Doesn’t really affect me so meh.  I’m very guilt of being complacent.  And now I realize my error, oh they have come for me, and it’s too late.

Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Let’s start with Bill C-51, which  has the potential to scoop up environmentalists, aboriginal rights activists, union members and anyone who is seen to stand in the way of national security.  The act’s interpretation states that it applies to any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada.” This includes the following: “Interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defense, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada.”

So, the First Nations people who are blocking the pipeline from being built on their land?  Rightfully so by the way, the pipeline has no right to build on their land.. but you know they are messing with the financial stability of Canada.  Dirty terrorists.

But I’m not first nations, I’m not an activist or protester… so you know whatever right?

How about Bill C-24, that allows the Canadian Government can now revoke the citizenship of Canadians holding dual citizenship. Plus it only applies to immigrants, not natural born Canadians.  Wrong.  It creates an inferior class of Canadians, whose citizenship can be revoked at the whim of the government. While many assume that the provisions only apply to “new” Canadians, whose primary allegiance may rest with their country of birth and initial citizenship, even though, as a matter of convenience they have also acquired a Canadian passport, this is incorrect: even citizens born in this country, with Canadian heritage going back many generations, can lose their citizenship if they also hold another passport.

You might be thinking but it’s not like they are just going to run around taking passports from people because they don’t like them, you’d need to be like REALLY bad.  A traitor, a terrorist, some kind of hideous criminal, right? Wrong.  They’ve already started taking citizenship away, Paul Watson lost the right to come home without any shred of due process. No hearing, no right to challenge the decision, no appeal. {link} <-google it if you want to know more … it’s terrifying.

But, I mean, come on I don’t have dual citizenship… so it doesn’t affect me.

Tell me your sensing a pattern at this point. If you’re not… sigh. <- you’re what’s wrong with our country right now.

To be continued…..  (because It’s going to be ‘too long didn’t read’ otherwise)

[Link to Part Two]

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23 06 2015

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21 06 2015

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The Kidney Conundrum

3 05 2015

A couple of months ago, I started going to this Chinese Doctor.  My wrist hurt, and I wanted acupuncture, but also I’ve been struggling with my weight for a couple of years.  Thought, screw it, can’t hurt right?  I mean I’ve been super frustrated, I’ve exercised, I’ve eaten well, and nothing, plus I’ve had this annoying feet swelling, leg cramps, and a lot of general aches etc.

While I’m at the doctor, he says that my kidneys are not working properly and that why I can’t lose weight, and that my main problem is water retention.  I’m like, sure, sure.  Whatever, I take my medicine and life goes on.  Well after 3 or 4 weeks of seeing the Chinese doctor, and every time he mentions my reduced kidney function, I think.. hu.  I wonder if he’s full of shit?  I mean how could your kidneys keep you from losing weight?  So I go online, and I find these lists about symptoms of kidney disease and failure.

(✓)puffy eyes, hands, and feet (called edema)

(✓)high blood pressure


(✓)shortness of breath

(X)loss of appetite (I wish)

(✓/X)nausea and vomiting (dunno, don’t think so)


(✓)a bad taste in the mouth or bad breath (off and on)

(X)weight loss (I never get the good symptoms!!!)

(✓)(✓)generalized, persistent itchy skin

muscle twitching or cramping

(✓/X)a yellowish-brown tint to the skin (hard to say… my skin tone doesn’t really help)

(✓/X)urine that is cloudy or tea-coloured (sometimes)

Holy shit…. SERIOUSLY?  That’s way too many solid yeses…  What the fuck.  Is there something wrong with my kidneys?  I just chalked the fatigue and the aches, cramps, swelling … pretty much all of that stuff to getting older.  I mean, Some of you may even remember my commenting in the past year or so, that does everyone get achey young but just doesn’t complain about it until they are a lot older?  Turns out, from the sort of horrified response of a couple of colleagues and friends when we got into this (as in beyond my vague comments, and details of my issues),That  no.. in fact it’s not normal.  I’m not nearly old enough for all of this to be chalked up to getting older.  I didn’t know, I just figured it was normal, sucks but buck up.

I figure I should probably go to the hospital and have it checked out or something but I had a class coming up, I was super busy.. meh I’d get to it later.  Well the two friends I had talked about it to, flipped out.  AREYOU INSANE you don’t fuck with kidneys, damage is permanent, they don’t heal, if they get fucked up your fucked… so I do more research and get really scared.  All the web stuff uses scary words, like disease and failure and death.. um.  But let’s be honest, I hate doctors, and hospitals and the only thing that was going to get me to go short of being dragged was fear of death.  I finally broke down and made an appointment for the Nephrologist (yeah that’s not a scary sounding specialty) at the hospital near my house a couple of weeks back, and took the morning off work.

I thought to myself..  do I tell people or no?  I thought about telling my sisters, and mom.. but the morning I was going for tests there was that wedding Crisis (you may or maynot have heard about it, in the end everything was ok).  Then I posted that thing on fb asking people about their opinions on sharing vs not, I was genuinely curious what people thought about it.  I had been thinking about the subject long before any of this came up, and then I thought hey lol lemmi posts this and the people who want to know will make themselves apparent. <- ha litmus test

It was really genuinely interested in thinking about and hearing all the different perspectives, and honestly, I , personally, still prefer people tell me.  I don’t get stressed out and scared about that stuff for other people so it’s not a burden to me, and I know for me I freak out in my own head so I’m all about spreading it around a little and self counseling so I can handle my own omigod.  But then I don’t want to be burdening others… shit’s complicated.  Anyway I did my best to help with the wedding crisis, and went in to see the doctor.

I head in, and wait.. they tell me it’s going to be ages till my number comes up, and I can go home and come back in a couple of hours.  Sweet, I can work on my homework for class!

I get back and it’s like ha no, nowhere near your number.  Fuck.  Ok, good thing I brought my laptop, so I sit on the floor and wait.  I’m getting worried I’m even going to get in, I have to get back to work for the afternoon and It’s still ages till my number, I ask the nurse and she says they will see everyone but it might go into the afternoon.  Crap, Ok well I might just have to call in, not coming, to work.  Then, not even, 10 minutes later the nurse grabs me and says, come now.  Hu? Ok, cool, I figure she just talked to the doctor and they are trying to do me a solid, I sit down and he tells the nurse I’m his daughter’s favourite teacher and he says to me.  OH my god, how long have you been waiting out there?? Why didn’t you tell me that you were coming?  I would have brought you in much earlier.  I’m super confused, because he’s wearing a mask and lab coat, he looks like.. well a doctor.  He takes off his mask and says ‘I’m Peggy’s Dad’.  My Jaw hits the floor!.  One of my kids from last year, I actually knew her dad relatively well, I even knew he was a doctor I just didn’t know what specialty or where.  What are the odds that one of my favourite student’s dad would be the random doctor out of 4 that I picked.  Wild.

Anyway I tell him the whole story, the Chinese doctor, the internet stuff, the symptoms, everything.  And I’m kinda freaked out, but trying to stay chill.  They took my blood pressure, and it was through the roof (stress).  While I’m talking, he’s typing the symptoms, and looking at the screen he begins to talk, and he says ‘”yup, well that sounds like some kind of kidney failure so we’ll order some tests… oh my god no no don’t cry, sorry, sorry it’s mild it’s certainly mild it’s ok!”  Because I’ve started to weep, I’ve got dialysis machines and kidney transplants swimming through my mind.  I calm down a little and explain that I’m just really scared, because these symptoms have been going on for well over a year closer to two maybe even three, and everything says you need to catch this early.. or there will be irreversible damage.

Well it turns out, that ‘early’ is in the many years category.. like 2 years IS catching it early, it’s more like don’t let it go one for 10 years.  Oh.  and by the by, FUCK YOU internet, like that wouldn’t have been a good thing to include in your scare mongering?  He orders tests and sets up an appointment the next week for the results.  I go back the next morning to give the urine and blood sample, and that was an unexpected gong show, but I got it done, and made it to work.  I honestly felt a lot better, shit was being handled and one way or another I’d have some answers and a plan of action. Plus I was pretty enthused by the idea that the exhaustion and other issues had a name and a cause.

A week later, I went back for the results.  And mostly yay.  Let’s be honest here I didn’t want it to be BAD, but I did want there to be something.  Because if it’s nothing then why the fuck do I have all these other problems??  I had checked my blood pressure a few times in the week and it was fine and on that day it was totally fine, so I was right I was just ouber stressed that first day (you know I always kinda thought that “you’re stressing me out and raising my blood pressure” Thing was just something people say.. hu turns out no, it’s a real thing.)

The results:  I do have lowered kidney function, my kidneys are working at 88% of capacity so not the end of the world but indicative of a problem.  All my numbers are high, but not dangerously high, salt is fine (thank god I would have cried if I had to take salt away).  Blood sugar was too high, which worried me because of the Diabetes in the family but he said it’s not high enough to be worried about that yet but we’ll keep an eye on it.  My liver function is lower than normal.  My Cholesterol is too high. And I’m super dehydrated, according to the tests.  But, nothing is high enough to warrant medicine even.  Basically, just keep doing what I’m doing (exercising a few times a week, and eating reasonable food) and try to up the exercise a little if I can.  The only real change I need/ed to make  is I need to drastically increase my water intake.  Um, but I generally drink 1-2 liters most days it’s closer to two.. how much do I need to drink?  Bare minimum, 3-4 liters.  OOF do you know how much water that is?  Let’s be honest though, having to drink stupid amounts of water is like nothing compared to how bad it could have been.  (Note, I have actually been really good about it and have been drinking on average 3.5-4.5 liters every day for more than a week)
There it is, there’s my story :).  Some of you already know, but here’s a bit more detail and the results.  Those of you who didn’t know, look, yay all good.  I just need to go back in tomorrow, for a sonogram of my liver and kidneys to see if there is any damage, liver whatever it will heal even if there is damage, and kidneys he’s hopeful that it’s just reduced function and no damage which means it should all go back to tickity boo as long as I take care of myself.  He did deliver that news about the possible damage with a keen eye on me to make sure I didn’t burst into tears again, lol I guess we can’t break the daughter’s beloved teacher, chuckle at least I know he’s invested in keeping me well!

Worst case, is there is damage, and my kidneys will not go back to 100% function, but even if they stay where they are as long as I drink copious amounts of water, and take care of myself it’s nothing.  Will be going back in, in 3 months to do the tests again, but I’m pretty confident that everything will be fine, even good.  I already am feeling a bunch better, less fatigued, the Chinese medicine has been helping with the water retention, and weight loss (I’ve lost about 5 kg in the past 3 months).  I just need to pee every 15 minutes and I hate, nah loath the water.. I call it names.  It’s agony trying to get all the water drinking in, but I power through because, let’s be honest as far as medical treatments go, it’s pretty much nothing.

Any questions?  I leave anything out?  Ask away 🙂

Pre course Paper Magda EDUC 925

12 04 2015

Finished my pre-course assignment for my upcoming class, I don’t really have any idea if this was what the professor wanted.. but I’m hoping it is.  Regardless, I’m done, nay DONE with it.. it’s handed in and bleh.  So there.  All grow-ed up about the topic.

The two books are “How Children Learn” and “Drive”.

Reaction Paper:                                                                                                           Magda Vince

April 13, 2015

I feel as though much of what these two authors, Pink and Tough, had to say were not actually on the same topic and neither implicitly discussed how their concepts applied to how children learn in the assigned chapters.  Pink primarily discussed motivation and what drives us to succeed, improve, and do more in business.  Where Tough discussed how environment, and life experiences can affect one’s health, well being, and ability to learn.  With that in mind I can still see how one could make them relate, because in the end, how well one learns is greatly based on their own motivation and the cards that they have been dealt in life, so to speak.

The two women in Tough’s book, the teacher  Elizabeth Dozier and the doctor Nadine Burke Harris,  are both shining examples of ‘Type I’ personalities (Drive, p64).  They are both women who are driven by their own personal goals to be altruistic and make the world a better place.  And while they came from very different backgrounds and had a much different experience in their youth, they both learned to be Type I motivated individuals, an idea that is supported by Pink (Drive, p64).

I found it to be very interesting how so many, experienced, and even later applauded individuals were unable to turn Fenger high school in Chicago around.  They had done it before, or went on to be very successful in makes changes in other schools (How Children Succeed, p21), they had funding support, and nothing changed.  Some would look at that and see a lost cause, or perhaps even a cursed situation.  Dozier’s approach, to install afterschool programs, trauma counseling, and mentoring programs (How Children Succeed, p25) as well as to attempt to involve and engage the community was really quite clever.  I have seen examples in other situations, where if one invests in the community, and is able to get the community to invest in itself there is a much greater chance of change.  Community gardens, or breathing life into a community with small businesses run and partially owned by locals, brings a sense of pride and ownership, a desire to make the place better.  I believe that she is on the right track and the documentary ‘Chicagoland’ seems to agree, according to the Huffington Post article that I read.  (  They reported that Dozier has made great progress where all those before her have failed.  The Fenger graduation rate has gone from 47% to 73%, while still below the national average, it is significant progress and quite impressive.   Ultimately, I do not find her success to be that surprising given the approach that she took.

I had not heard of the theory, presented by Tough in How Children Succeed, that our physical well being can be so strongly affected by experiences, especially traumas from our youth.  I found the idea that having a higher ACE score can have profound effects on adult health even when negative behaviors such as drinking, drugs, or overeating  are not present (How Children Succeed, p31) to be fascinating and eye opening.  The numbers were astounding to me, that someone with an ACE score of 4 is far more likely to smoke, drink, and be promiscuous at a young age. An ACE score of 5 is much more likely to be a drug addict, and a score of 6 greatly increases the chances of suicide (How children Succeed, p 30).   I would genuinely like to look into this further, take the ACE, and find my own score as well as that of some colleagues to get a better understanding of the whole process. I intend to look into this more in my free time because it is a very interesting concept and I can see far reaching implications, not only personally, but in how I interact with others and perhaps even how I approach new students.

Conversely, much of what Pink had to say in Drive, are concepts I have personally believed to be true.  I have not actually seen any research, read his books, or heard any of his talks on the matter before so it was extremely validating to read this book.  For many years I have refused to give out rewards, goodies, prizes or any ‘carrots’ with any kind of predictability. With the exception of verbal praise, of course, which I tend to be rather lavish with.   I have always feared, and thusly avoided, that if you ‘pay’ students with points (or whatever your system is) consistently for any positive action that you  are setting yourself up for disaster.  Ultimately, the payment, or prize will become expected and therefore is no longer an “Oh goodie” reaction but a “excuse me where is my xyz, and if I don’t get it I’m doing nothing.”  Which is beautifully illustrated time and time again in Drive, for example when they rewarded the children for drawing and the children who expected the reward lost interest in an activity that had been such a treat before the ‘payment’ (Drive, p35).   I frequently reward students to engage interest, but I try to mix up how and when.  I have been asked, “Why did he get a point and I did not?” and I explain that the reward is being engaged and participating or learning, not the ‘prize’.  You should answer the question because you want to take part, not for the ‘prize’ you may or may not get one, but you will always have the satisfaction of a job well done.  I have had great results with this, and my students are generally very active and happy in class.  They are usually engaged, and always volunteer to join in, speak up and even help out in class, with no expectation of any rewards.

I believe it is an important life lesson, that can have far reaching effects, but to frank I had no idea how far reaching.  In my own experience, I can attest to the ineffectiveness of the carrot and stick in the workplace, yet it is the first thing that we all seem to go to when we are discussing how to motivate people.  Some could say that mentalities have changed a lot on this subject, but have they really?  Pink’s example of Encarta vs Wikipedia is a perfect example of this, no sane sober economist would have predicted the result of that battle ten years ago(Drive, p19).  But forget economists, forget the encyclopedias, couch it in different terms to present it to most people today, and I think the majority of people would fall on the side of paid for work, carrot stick ,Type X behavior even though it has been proven to not be effective.  To use Pink’s metaphor, our operating systems are slow to upgrade, even though motivation 2.0 is no longer particularly effective in motivating people, most of us have not gotten the memo, in our conscious minds, yet.  Even myself, when I think about how to modify behavior, I may have intrinsically somehow known that the carrot is not effective when used as payment.  Yet to modify negative behavior the first thought I have is ‘stick’, a fine or something to make said behavior an unpleasant prospect.  For example, I have been considering running a private class from my home, but I would not appreciate the parents being late to pick up their children.  When brainstorming solutions I immediately thought, I will just have them pay a fine if they are late that way I will be compensated at least a little.   Then I read the example in the book that proved this is a terrible idea, where the fines actually brought about an increase in the negative behavior the parents showing up later and more often late because they felt it was now ok as they were compensating someone (Drive, p46).

A lot of what was presented in Pink’s book is about the workplace and adults, but I see many applications for children, youth and school.  For example, the sawyer effect, which as adults we see in children all the time.  I certainly remember a time when I longed to be able to use the lawn mower to cut the grass, or was dying to be allowed to help vacuum the floor.  But the moment I grew up, and HAD to do these tasks, I loathed them.  I believe we all know that when a task is voluntary it can be and often is fun, but when it become mandatory it is work and therefore is undesirable (Drive, p34).

I was also very intrigued by Pink’s concept of goals, and how they can be beneficial and detrimental.  He said that goals that people set for themselves are healthy and lead to mastery, whereas goals set by others can not only lead to unproductively, but can even be dangerous and lead to unethical behavior (Drive, p44-45).  Negatives such as, risk taking, theft, cheating and dissatisfaction are all serious problems to be considered.  He even sites a survey where they asked MBA students about regular cheating and 56% admitted to it (Drive, p109).  Cheating is a big problem, and I teach my students that the one they are really cheating is themselves, but it’s difficult when society, schools and parents put so much pressure on students, and athletes to perform and excel.  The idea that setting your own goals is far more effective is supported by an interesting book that I highly recommend if you have time, Influence Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini.  Cialdini talk about POWs in Korea, and how they used commitment and consistency pressures to gain compliance from their captives(Influence, p61). You might think, hang on how do communist POW camps relate to goals and even more alarmingly to children?  But actually the core concept behind what they did is really interesting and works amazingly well on all people.  Once someone has made a commitment to something they are intrinsically driven to follow through, and to be consistent.   Also giving people choices, once they have made a choice even if both are less than desirably, they have a much stronger commitment to it than if you had just demanded they do what you ask.  This ties in perfectly with setting your own goals, you will be far more invested in them if you have been involved, or even just feel as though you have been involved, in the creation of the goals.

Something I had not considered before were the different kind of goals, such as performance goals versus learning goals.  I must get an A on this assignment versus I will be able to use this information effectively in my work.  It is simple yet profound, that performance goals may lead to results but they rarely if ever lead to mastery.  Whereas a learning goal, like I am able to speak French may be difficult but has a much higher chance of leading to mastery (Drive, p97).

I look forward to exploring how I can use what have I learned from this assignment in my own life, to improve myself as a teacher and to improve the educational experience of my students.

TESL 928 Reflection Paper

18 03 2015

Here is my reflection paper from my first class ….  Not sure how I feel about it.  But I got an A in the class, so musn’t have been that bad 😉

Self Reflection Paper:                                                                                                 Magda Vince

February 23 – March 14, 2015

For me The Element and Ken Robinson’s ideas about finding that magically something, was a touchy and slightly difficult topic.  While the studies and cases that Robinson talks about are interesting, and I agree that finding passions and following happiness are the way to go.  I personally have always struggled with my own “element” and as such I find it to be a difficult thing to foster in others.  I find a lot of people who I discuss this sort of topic with are just as lost as I am on the subject when it comes to how it relates to them and their lives.  What do you like? Lots of things.  Ok, what do you have a passion for?  Nothing really, well not for any extended time.  What are you good, or talented at?  Many things, and at the same time, none. Nothing stands out.  In the end you end up feeling even more lost and inadequate because you can’t even identify a passion, that can be disheartening.

On the other hand, I really feel that there is something there.  I agree whole heartedly with Robinson when he says ” For most of us the problem isn’t that we aim to high and fail – it’s just the opposite – we aim too low and succeed.”  I have always believed in setting the bar for my students and their progress high, foolishly high some might say.  But, and here is what I consider to be key, I communicate with the students.  I tell them, depending on their age, motivation and lot in life, that other people think it’s too hard  and it may well be but I think they can do it.  I also lay it out, using lines on the board or my hands saying, if we aim for here most of us will make it, a few people will ‘excel’ and a few of us might miss the mark.  But if we aim up here, this lofty goal, and just try to reach it something special will happen.  There will be no ‘good enough’, everyone will exceed “the other expectation” the one other people think we should do, some by a little some by a lot.. and heck we may even surprise ourselves by reaching that lofty goal!  It’s worth a shot, let’s show “them”, them being the common enemy that doesn’t believe in us.  This has always brought out the “HEY, who do they think they are, holding us down.  We can so do this” in my students in Taiwan.  I suspect that a lot of this has to do with cultural attitudes and expectations here, but at the same time I think there is something universal about it.  I always say I think they can do it, I believe in them, and they usually rise to the challenge.

I try to foster an environment where it is ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to be wrong.  I teach my students that the most important thing is that we are learning from the mistakes.  That it is perfectly reasonable to get something wrong, but pay attention, learn from it, get better, stronger, more confident.  Which can be a challenging concept for anyone, but especially in Taiwan where it is more of a say nothing unless you are certain that you are correct environment.  As a result, I find that kids will berate themselves, tear themselves down and give up.  I have had this exact conversation with many kids over the years. “Are you smart?” And they say “No.”  I ask, why they would say that? Who told them that they aren’t smart?  Because I am their teacher and I know they are smart, I ask them to repeat ” I am smart” and tell them if I know it, they should too.  Invariably, I see an improvement in that student’s performance and attitude in class, it is such a small thing but seems to make such a difference in how they see themselves and then how they project themselves to the world.

I found it quite interesting that when you used the word pedagogy in your email to me, the first thing I thought was “Hang on, what the heck is pedagogy?”  I have a pretty expansive vocabulary, though I will admit that living in a non English speaking country has stolen a plethora of my words, and I was pretty surprised to find a word that I had to look up.  It is interesting that I have never run into the word before, but then again perhaps it is because I did not seek out teaching as a path for myself.  This is a career that I fell into, I happened to be pretty good at it, and I find it satisfying and rewarding.  Would I call it my element? No, but I am somewhat convinced that some of us may not have one, or perhaps we do not have just ONE.

You asked if I have made connections between pedagogy and culture, and to be entirely honest, I do not know.  I have only worked and taught in this culture, but I come from a western culture.  I have tutored at home, I taught my friend Becky grade nine math because her teachers wrote her off when I was in grade twelve.  But have I been a formal teacher with my own classroom in Canada?  No.  As a result I am not entirely certain that I really know or understand teaching culture back home.  I do have my own beliefs about the role of education and the teacher’s role, but I honestly don’t feel that my philosophy is a reflection of the education that I received in the past as much as what I have learned and come to believe over the years via trial, error, and my own experiences.

I believe that my role as a teacher is to guide and direct the students into learning on their own, to be independent in their education and to ultimately make myself somewhat redundant.  I want my students to be confident that they can achieve what they want, or that they are attempting to learn, on their own and come to me to discuss, confirm, and help them when they get stuck.  That is not to say I abandon them, but that I spend a lot of time and effort trying to give them the tools to learn with minimal interference on my part.  I believe that my role should be more of that of a guide than a leader.  This is certainly not the educational culture here in Taiwan, here is it more I am your teacher, nay your god.  I have all the wisdom and knowledge and you will soak it up, you will study what I say and memorize everything.  I often buck the system, trying to convince and show my bosses or parents that while I may be doing something different that they do not fully understand, it is effective.  Something that I hope I give my students, are the skills to compensate for a teacher that is less interested or dedicated to their future.  Because that is a reality that most kids will have to face, that I had to face, teachers that are just going through the motions and do not really care what you learn.

Ultimately though, does this come from my culture as Canadian, or my own personal culture?  I have been an expat for most of my adult life, and I know that it has coloured my experiences and views on life, the universe, and everything.

While reading this text on the SIOP model, I was frequently struck by the thought “Of course, who doesn’t do this?”  Then I realized this book, and the whole method, is written and aimed at teachers in the states who are expecting to be teaching “American” kids.  Who may not be trained, or in any way prepared to deal with language and cultural barriers.  How to cope with a student that doesn’t understand what you are saying and how to reach those kids, to give them the language to be functional and even succeed in English.  I come the from the unique, or perhaps not so unique in our class in Taipei, perspective of teaching primarily ESL students.  And on top of that, they are homogenous ESL, they all come from the same or at least similar cultural and language backgrounds.  I even speak their mother tongue well enough to assist them in L1, and have lived in their country and culture long enough that most of it is very familiar to me.

Not to suggest that there was nothing new or interesting to glean from the book or the model.  I for one, almost never clearly state the objectives, language or otherwise, before a lesson.  Stating and posting my objectives in class has even been suggested to me in the past, and I have completely failed to see any point in it.  “It’s too hard, it’s above the students, it would just confuse them, they don’t need to know that”, are among the reasons I had for resisting.  But after reading about the SIOP model, I found a lot of clarity as to how and why having clearly stated objectives can be helpful to students and the teacher.  For myself it reminds me to stay on task and for the students it can help them focus and to have a better understanding of where the lesson and the class will be going.

I believe I may have less formal teacher training than some of the other students in our class at Framingham, so one thing that I found interesting and positive for myself from studying the SIOP model was validation.  There are many techniques and suggested activities and methods that I frequently use in my own classes, and to see that they have been studied by others and have been proven to not only be effective, but also practices to be modeled by others is very gratifying.  Methods such as activities with getting the students to discuss background knowledge, group activities, getting creative in the activities, scaffolding and strategic starter sentences are all things that I personal have found very useful in my own classrooms in the past.

On one hand, I found the idea of using the whole protocol in a single lesson to be daunting and to be frank, somewhat impossible.  So when Richard and I attempted to include all thirty features in our presentation, I was concerned and felt quite overwhelmed.  Once I got into the groove though, I discovered that most of it is what I believe most teachers do, or at least try to do in most lessons.  And for me, what I got from trying to use the protocol to build our lesson on the Review and Assessment feature, was that while it may not be possible or even practical to include all the elements or features in a single lesson a lot more can be achieved by keeping it all in mind.  That we can enrich our lessons and the classroom experience by having the list handy when planning lessons.  And while the focus on this is to be teaching content and language at the same time, I think that it really can and does apply to all teachers all the time regardless of the students that you’re teaching.  They may all have the same social, economic, cultural and language backgrounds or not but elements and parts of the SIOP model can be used to round out your lessons and make sure that you are reaching more students and using your time in class effectively.

For myself, one of the most appealing aspects of this program is the human factor.  There is a real, live, in person professor, a classroom and students.  I’m fully aware that there are many ways to study and learn, and that while many may find studying online courses and on their own to be effective,  it is just not the way for me.  And I would like to think that it is a good thing that I have learned and accepted that about myself, I think it is important to try to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.  Personally I like, and have always responded well to,  collaboration, discussion, debate, and the human experience as it were.

I had a job a while back, they called it ‘editing’ but essentially we were marking stacks written papers.  There was zero interaction with students, the ‘teacher’ lectured to a hall of anywhere from two hundred to six hundred high school students.   They wrote essays, that were then brought to us in a small office or back room, we were not supposed to speak to each other or really interact in anyway, just mark and grade the fifty to seventy papers we had been given as quickly as possible.  I hated it.  It took away everything that I enjoyed about teaching, the connections I make with students, the laughs, the excitement of seeing understanding, or engagement, the humanity of it all.  The students could not come to me and ask, why I had marked this as incorrect, or why I had changed this or that.  I could not ask them what they meant in order to help them clarify and correct.  I hated it.   I learned something about myself as a teacher at that job, that what draws me to education is the human connection.  Naturally, that sort of learning also appeals to me for myself, I stand firmly behind the idea that it is far more effective than “here read this, memorize, write a test” for anyone in any circumstance.

I feel that this class has been a wonderful experience for me, for several reasons.  As I had mentioned at Mary Jane’s Pizza that Friday evening, I’ve had some negative experiences in the past couple of years that have clearly affected and scarred me.  I was terrified of the first presentation, not that I would have issues standing up and speaking in front of others, but that I would do it “wrong” and that would have long reaching adverse effects.  The discussions we had in class, and after, watching others present and then finally presenting myself with Richard was a wonderfully cathartic experience.  And even though I was not particularly happy about the topic and was concerned about the second presentation, I was able to find myself, my voice and (even though we had a little tug of war going) managed to produce a decent product that I was pretty happy with.  If only there had been more time!

I found the discussions in class to be interesting, many of the teachers (classmates) come from the same background as I and then at the same time completely different.  I didn’t always agree with what some of my classmates postulated , however it was very engaging.  I thought a lot about myself, and what I have learned and how I teach, and in sharing that found a lot of support and validation that I didn’t even realize I wanted or perhaps even needed until it was there.

In conclusion, I feel that the course was over all an extremely positive experience for me.  The material and content were good, but ultimately I have been an ESL teacher for 13 years, living and working in cultures outside of my own, Taiwan, Brazil, France, and traveling all over Europe and South East Asia, so the majority of the content was not particularly new to me.  However, the lively discussion, presentations and building my own presentations as well as the experience of taking a class with a group of adults, who all wanted to be there and are dedicated to something, was the meat and potatoes of the experience for me.  I am more energized and excited about teaching and future possibilities.  Which is something I feel that I really needed; a push, a boost in a more positive and productive direction.