Welcoming Syrian Refugees

 

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I love December 10th. On that day in 1948, many nations came together to sign The United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms. It is an annual reminder of the acknowledgement that human rights exist, despite what we read in the newspaper, see in the media, and witness all too often in daily interactions. It is also another reminder to have the conversation with our schools about human rights.

The quality of the conversation ranges from surface to particularly moving depending on the year, the person negotiating it and the students.  This year has been magic.  One of the teachers was reading Hannah’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, about the Holocaust with her 6th Grade students.  I was reading Playing War by Kathy Beckwith , to explore why war isn’t a  fun game for students coming from war torn countries with 3rd grade students.  With the help of a grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children, the conversation morphed into a project to welcome Syrian refugees.

I went down to the storage locker to pull out my Christmas decorations and an old suitcase that Ms. Collins and her 6th graders could use to decorate with images and hold all our messages to welcome the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  The suitcase holding some of my most precious and breakable Christmas decorations caused me to pause.  My paternal grandmother had gotten the suitcase on a trip to Russia.  She used it to take flight several times with her four young children away from the front line of war in Germany during WWII. Her brother sponsored her and her two sisters and all of their children to come to Canada in 1947. Margriet’s suitcase took her on to the Voldendam to travel to Canada and start a new life.

I am an administrator in a school where many families have made sacrifices to come to Canada with the promise of starting a better life.  At the Winter Potluck dinner, messages of support and advice were written to the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  Ms. Collin’s Grade 6 students have been at a booth to tell people about the Syrian refugees and encourage them to write messages to add to the others in the suitcase.  Mable Elmore, our MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, has come to talk to students about her job and work with refugees.  Yesterday Ms. Collins, on the busiest shopping day of the year, with her daughter in tow, arrived at a community forum to discuss how to support the Syrian refugees that may be arriving in our area.  The conversation deepens, the project expands and the possibility for learning and caring expands exponentially.

Building a Community of Literacy Educators

The BC Literacy Council of the International Reading Association (BCLCIRA), commonly known as ReadingBC, has long been committed to improving student engagement in books and proficiency in literacy.  Members read journals such as The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, attend conferences and get together to discuss things they have tried in their classrooms and communities and the things they’d like to try.  Coming together with people with like minds is an energizing experience and lends itself to reflecting on practices that are tried and true and substantiated with research in the field.  Members have readily embraced  The International Literacy Association’s quest to start a worldwide Literacy Movement.

image For the 2015-2016 year, Reading BC (BCLCIRA) is trying to broaden participation and the diversity of ways that literacy leaders in British Columbia can engage with other literacy educators both in person and online.

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While it is increasingly difficult to organize and facilitate larger scale meetings due to high costs and increasing demands on our time, the ReadingBC executive committee has come up with some exciting opportunities to develop a variety of possibilities to engage in professional development and engage in community focused projects to advocate for literacy.

  • Join a ReadingBC Book Club.  Choose one of the books selected by members.  Form a book club with peers.
  • Participate in the discussion about a Book Club selection with colleagues via a TWITTERCHAT.
  • Read Spirals of Inquiry (Judy Halbert & Linda Kaser) and decide on an inquiry question to pursue with a group of colleagues.
  • Form a ReadingBC Community action focus to encourage children to engage in literacy activities or educate parents.
  • Form a Literacy Committee if you have a well established group wanting to commit to regular professional development and advocacy in your area.

Check out the link below for ideas BCLCILA Projects.final (3) copy and opportunities to join the International Literacy Association .  If you are a member of the International Literacy Association and live in British Columbia, you currently have a free membership to the provincial chapter, BCLCIRA / ReadingBC.  We have designated funding to help members get started from a grant from the Lower Mainland Council of The International Association (LOMCIRA), a local chapter before it went into dormancy.  Please check out the opportunities and send applications for funding or questions to the provincial coordinator at carriefroese@gmail.com or any of the other contacts on the website.

Hopefully this will forge some of the connections to continue building a community of literacy learners in British Columbia, and perhaps beyond.

Moving Beyond Half Truths and Innuendo

In The Vancouver Sun (Jan.3,2015 page A3), Daphne Braham did an OpEd piece: “A call for a return to rationality”.   Imagine the notion of proposing the checking of facts before forming opinions.   Brilliant!  What happened to the pause button, the one that use to be hit before uninformed criticisms intended to discredit, were lobbed into conversations or amplified via social media? How did we get to a point where we opted out of taking responsibility for what we popularize?   Negative statements or decontextualized comments are intimate incompetence, lack of the required cognitive skills or general untrustworthiness.  At times, even blatant lies are presented as fact and retracted after the damage is done or not.

How do we teach kids to care about fact?  How do we teach them that half truths and innuendo are neither reliable nor moral?   I am working under the presumption that we have a role to play as educators, parents and friends of the children under our care.  If we teach our children to scrutinize information and ask good questions, certainly it follows that there will be a higher degree of insistence on reasoned and fair decisions from themselves, as well as from friends, family and decision makers.

I recently went to see the Broadway musical, Into The Woods, that recently made it’s film appearance starring Meryl Streep.  Two classic lines jumped out of the movie:   “Be careful of the stories you tell, children will listen” and “I was brought up to be charming, not sincere”.  What are the stories we are telling our children with our conversations and treatment of others people and discussion of events?  Are we quick to jump to conclusions based on hearsay?  Do we give the benefit of the doubt to the person involved?  Do we place more value on charm than sincerity?  Do we ask enough questions to try to get a full picture of the situation or person.  Do we insist on factual information to make reasoned decisions?

The Grade 3 and 4 students that I work with two days a week are starting to do research projects on Canada.  How do we get children to understand history as a story involving real people with real stories at a specific point in time?  History by it’s nature is skewed by the person who is allowed to tell the story.  If children understand this at a young age, does it impact their quest to look at the story from a variety of viewpoints?  Does it define an insistence on looking at the facts?  Does it help them to look past the personality of the person telling the story?  My training in history insists that it must be true.  My social conscience hopes it is. The Grade 3 students in my class are each researching a province in Canada.  The Grade 4’s are researching Aboriginal Nations across Canada who are defined by geography.  I am very interested to be part of this conversation.  What will the questions be?  I’m hoping it is a spark that leads to insistence that rationality reins supreme in guiding perceptions and conclusions.  The beauty of being an educator, is we really do believe we can make a difference and create positive change.

The Business of Being a Literacy Leader

International Reading Association members have now had a chance to digest (or peruse) their journal or online Sept/Oct subscriptions. Marie Craig Post references significant changes in the International Reading Association and reports the questions/concerns raised at the leadership conference (The Business of Leading) that I was attending with 114 other International Reading Association leaders across 38 other provinces/states this summer in Florida. Many of these changes in demographics of IRA members and different styles of professional engagement, you are seeing unfold in your own communities. For some of you, the most significant changes will be outlined during the International Reading Association Conference in St. Louis from July 17-20, 2015 as the IRA strives to keep up with the pace of change. Hopefully moving the conference to summer and removing Teacher on Call costs from the equation, will assist more IRA members in attending the 60th Anniversary IRA 2015 Conference. Mark the date and start planning to get there. It will be worth it!

As the BC Provincial Coordinator of the International Reading Association, I work with IRA members in the province to make connections with head office and other councils.  I encourage you to visit the International Reading Association Head Office website in order to learn more about the organization and become an IRA member.  The IRA offers several Grants and Awards to IRA members.  The deadline has been extended to January 15, 2015.  Members in British Columbia, go to ReadingBC to learn more about opportunities for IRA members to support literacy in our province.

Transforming Lives Through Literacy

The International Reading Association, like many organizations, is experiencing challenges due to retirement of baby boomers, the downturn in many economies, and competing interests for the time of literacy educators.  Although the name is changing to The International Literacy Association, reading remains at the core of the mission and purpose.  The broader term “literacy” has the advantage of being less reductive and reflects the reality that literacy professionals deal with a cluster of skills that also include speaking, listening, writing, and presenting.

The Mission

The mission of the International Reading Association is to promote reading by continuously advancing the quality of literacy instruction and research worldwide.

The Goals

Professional Development

  • Enhance the professional development of reading educators worldwide
  • Organize and support IRA Councils and Affiliates as networks of reading educators
  • Promote a broad view of literacy
  • Help educators to improve the quality of literacy instruction through publications and conferences
  • Prepare educators to assume different roles as reading professionals
  • Provide leadership in the continuously changing nature of reading in a digital age

Advocacy

Advocate for research, policy, and practices that support the best interests of all learners and reading professionals

  • Foster life-long literacy habits
  • Promote high quality teacher and student learning to improve reading instruction
  • Keep policy makers informed about IRA’s positions
  • Develop policy and position statements
  • Provide members with background information and resources
  • Collaborate with national and international policy makers

Partnership

  • Establish and strengthen national and international alliances with a wide range of organizations
  • Work with governmental, nongovernmental, and community agencies; businesses, industries, and donors
  • Develop and support IRA councils and affiliates around the world
  • Collaborate with a range of partners on long-term efforts to improve literacy

The British Columbia Literacy Council of IRA (BCLCIRA, more commonly known as Readingbc) has just passed a slate of dedicated International Reading Association members to carry on the work in British Columbia from the ranks of public schools, private schools and retired teachers.  We’re particularly pleased to welcome Mike Bowden, to bring the voice of teachers in Central BC to our provincial council.  The latest coup of this IRA council has been to secure the commitment of Kristen Ziemke, co-author of Connecting Comprehension & Technology:  Adapt and Extend Toolkit Practices to present at our fall conference on Oct. 24th, 2014 – provincial professional development day in British Columbia.  Her presentation & book, co-authored by Stephanie Harvey, Anne Goudvis and Katie Muhtaris, was very well received at the IRA AGM this past May.

In my capacity as provincial coordinator, I will be attending an intensive multi-day program in Tampa from July 10-13, which is designed to provide Council Leaders with training in the areas of governance, finance, advocacy and strategic planning.

 

Canadian Reception at IRA Conference

Hello Canadian Colleagues

Please find attached the invitation to The Canadian Reception to be held on Sunday, May 11  5:00 – 8:00 pm at La Galerie 5 (second floor), New Orleans Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.  Colleagues attending the 59th Annual Conference of the International Reading Association are welcome to attend.  This Canadian Reception is hosted due to many Canadian provincial reading associations, local reading councils, special interest groups and Canadian publishing companies.  If you are a Canadian in New Orleans for the International Reading Association, I highly recommend you attend.  You are guaranteed to meet nice people 🙂
Look for Mike Bowden, our “official” B.C. representative and Garth Brooks, who is so vital in the work of The Canadian Special Interest Group of the International reading Association.
Have fun, eeehhh and tweet throughout the conference to keep us up to date  #rdgBC
Note :  A brief CNIRAC Meeting will follow after The Canadian Reception.
A Canadian Dinner, for those who wish to attend, is being planned at Olivier’s Creole Restaurant, 204 Decatur Street – just 2 blocks away. http://www.olivierscreole.com  Send Garth Brooks your RSVP so he can make reservations.
Have you noticed these television ads about New Orleans? Discover Your NOLA!
Also do your research on the historical relationship between Canadian Acadians and Louisiana Cajuns. Homework!

LOMCIRA – The Chance for a Fresh Approach

LOMCIRA has always been synonymous with “committed literacy educators”.  Over the years, many people have come together to talk books (for old and young), kids and classroom environments.  Many of you may have attended meetings at Schou in Burnaby, sharing sessions at VSB schools or conferences in hotels.  This past year, LOMCIRA has gone into dormancy.  Although there are still a wealth of committed literacy educators in the Lower Mainland, a group of people have not stepped into the existing International Reading Association group structure.

A unique opportunity exists for a group of like-minded individuals to step forward and create a new literacy group that meshes with their needs and goals.  In the past, LOMCIRA took on large projects and invited researchers and published authors to stimulate discussion about applications of research into the classroom.  A new group may decide to meet periodically throughout the year to discuss the latest ReadWriteThink ideas or invite an author to talk about their writing process.

BC Literacy Council members could also be invited to support the group and share their wealth of knowledge.  In my capacity as provincial coordinator, I’d be more than happy to work with International Reading Association members to familiarize them with the opportunities in the IRA or ways to organize sharing sessions or meetings.  Certainly all of us can tell you about the amazing opportunity of going the IRA Annual General Meetings like the one coming up in New Orleans.  I presented with The Canadian contingent at an AGM in New Orleans.  The Jazz Festival, the food, especially the beignes were as amazing as participating in symposiums and meetings with the people have written the books we love to discuss.

Please let me know if you would be willing to work with educators in the Lower Mainland in meeting the goals of bringing current research and quality literature into our classrooms.