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Feb 27, 2011
Comments Off on An Education – Strip the Streets 2011

An Education – Strip the Streets 2011

On Friday night, I slept on the street.  But unlike many of our community’s homeless I was not alone.  I was surrounded and comforted by about 200 students and teachers from 14 different high schools, including public high schools, catholic high schools and private high schools.  This event brought together a community.

Strip the Streets 2011 is the second annual event that raises awareness of the over thousand youth who are accessing the services of local homeless agencies.  The event is a rally, a march, reflection, storytelling, experience, connection and compassion-building.

This event leaves a profound mark of empathy on all who participate.

As one of the founders of this event, I am incredibly moved by the scope of the event this year.  It doubled in size yet lost none of its intimacy.  The energy balanced between electric and sombre.

It is events like these that change education.  Because the education that these students walk away with is not theoretical, it is not teacher-directed.  It is personal.  It is relevant.  It is real.

These students walk away tired and cold aware of their privilege and of their responsibility.  Students walk away recognizing the power of actions.

Here is some video I shot asking a few students and teachers for their immediate reflections:

Each of these speakers share something in common, yet each person’s experience is incredibly different.  Isn’t that what we want from education?

In that video, I talk about the event being multi-levelled.  Education is too.

It is about community.  We all build community in our learning.  Learning is incredibly social. By enabling students to build community, we enable our students to learn authentically.  The event of education is about bringing a diverse group of thoughtful people together and sharing and building the skills we share.

It is about energy. Learning is an electric event.  When we are in the midst of flow, learning moves in our body.  When we create an environment when students are excited, engaged to learn, others build off of it.

It is about suffering. Learning is hard.  Learning is a struggle.  The search for excitement and engagement should not undermine the rigour required of education.  It is also about understanding another person’s struggle to learn and helping them overcome that struggle.  When we create atmosphere of mutual struggle and aid, we create environments of exquisite learning.

It is about action. Learning is doing.  True education comes with not learning about our civic duty, but enacting our civic duty.  Learning is about taking what we read and changing behaviour.  Education and our schools should be harbingers of action.

Strip the Streets is an example of education gone right.  Absolutely right.


The Kitchener Record wrote a little article about our event: Youth rally against homelessness

Feb 7, 2011

Twitter Conversations

Today I had my students read an article.  It was an inciting article that labelled them, my students, part of the dumbest generation.  The article was from a reputable source, Newsweek, and decried many aspects of their lives.

Then I put them to Twitter.

They responded:

“it’s not the students’ fault; it’s the teachers’. if we’re not being taught the material, how are we supposed to know?” @alicephilipp

“the quote at the bottom of the article was made up in 1905. obviously the problem has been around for a while. it’s not recent.” @alicephilipp

“even though there is no evidence that the new technoligy is to blame I strongly think that it is to blame.” @littlewrestler1

“I think it’s kind of hypocritical when adults complain about the present generation because they raised this generation..” @beccasnarr_

“maybe kids reply “huh” to certain references because they’re about boring things that don’t interest us.” @beccasnarr_

The responses were somewhat expected.  Then the re-tweeting happened.  This encouraged students to not only write for an audience, but it was authentic feedback that they wrote something, meaningful.  There was an obvious sense of pride for some who were re-tweeted.

It did accelerate my thinking that students are ready to go to the next level.  We may be responsible for “dumbing it down”.  The conversations, both online and offline, reminded me that they were still hungry.  They felt a sense of low expectations.

It reminded me to keep raising my expectations.

It showed me that a Twitter conversation, even in its 140 character limit, could be extremely powerful.  When else does pith and language construction get celebrated as much.

This was effort one, in a closed environment, watch out world I’m going to be building this up.

Feb 3, 2011
Comments Off on Be Great.

Be Great.

Well, today was day one.

I outlined the course, what we’d be doing, how it was to be structured (unstructured).  We talked about what we liked and didn’t like about school as we know it.  We asked the question, “What is our class going to be all about?”

We talked about structure and our natural tendencies once we get into familiar environments and how to work through them.  Just because we are in a classroom, doesn’t mean we are “playing school”.  We talked about community and connectedness.  Mainly, we talked about learning.

Then I outlined my rules.  Ok, my one rule.  Just one. The rule that I’ll keep coming back to, again and again.  It is what informs my understanding of their role in the classroom and their learning.

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I watched as students looked at each other.  I could see the questions on their minds. This defines everything. When we work towards excellence we engage completely in our learning.  That is all.

And so we try. To be great.

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