Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada

I (Clare) was talking to Kim Turner who is a member of my book club. She told me about this upcoming book, Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada. I asked her to share some details with me about the book. Dana Wanger one of the authors wrote the following blog for us.
The refugee system in Canada has undergone big changes in recent years. It’s now harder for asylum seekers to be accepted in Canada, and more difficult for them to get on their feet when they arrive. Cuts to health care for refugees was part of the reform, now making headlines because a Federal Court judge called them “cruel and unusual treatment.”
Not surprisingly, serious policy changes like these are also complex. They’re hard to talk about. The issues are hard to engage with.
Maytree, a foundation in Toronto, wants to engage Canadians on this topic. How? By telling human stories. Authors Ratna Omidvar and Dana Wagner document the stories of 30 refugees who arrived in Canada after an extraordinary journey of flight, in Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada. These individuals, a mix of men and women from over 20 countries ranging in age from their early 20s to early 90s, give a detailed account of the events that caused them to flee their home countries, and the decisions that brought them to Canada. Forged passports, thousands of dollars, human smugglers, armed guards, drifting at sea, starvation, rape, death, survival – these are some of the pieces of escape, and a backdrop to a question posed at the end of the book: Would they get in today?
Peter Showler, lawyer and former chairperson of the federal Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), answers the hypothetical question by analyzing how the cases would be handled under Canada’s new refugee system. By telling stories first, the policy discussion turns tangible. The loss of appeal for certain categories of asylum claimants, for instance, is not a legal labyrinth of Convention rights and government responsibilities – it’s a simple wrong. It’s wrong that Sabreen would not have the right to appeal if she lost her asylum case today. But a few years ago, she did have that right, and she successfully appealed a negative decision to become a status refugee in Canada.
Storytelling simply works, on many levels. It’s a book you won’t want to close. The experiences of all 30 characters will break you down, their equanimity will pull you back together.The release date is set for 2015. Sign up for updates here:


Power of Reading

I (Clare) am getting ready to start teaching my literacy methods courses. I came across these great quotes on the power of reading. I will use them in my first class as a way to “kick start” the discussion of the importance of reading. I especially like Frank Serafini’s quote –  “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” As a child I did not learn to ready easily or at an early age. I can totally relate to Serafini’s position. Once I found books on topics I like, I have not stopped reading. If you want the link to these quotes here it is: http://bilingualmonkeys.com/43-great-quotes-on-the-power-and-importance-of-reading/

children reading1. A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor
2. Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. —Kofi Annan
3. Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. —Frederick Douglass
4. Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his needs, is good for him. —Maya Angelou
5. There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book. —Frank Serafini
6. Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. —Emilie Buchwald
7. One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children. —Carl Sagan
8. You may have tangible wealth untold; caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me. —Strickland Gillian
9. Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or Library book shelvesduty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. —Kate DiCamillo
10. Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. —Vera Nazarian
11. Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx
12. There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. —May Ellen Chase
13. To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. —Victor Hugo
14. It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. —Katherine Patterson
15. When you learn to read you will be born again…and you will never be quite so alone again. —Rumer Godden
16. We read to know we are not alone. —C.S. Lewis
17. So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky. —William James
18. There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. —Jacqueline Kennedy
19. The greatest gift is a passion for reading. —Elizabeth Hardwick
20. There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book. —Marcel Proust
9d21d-thekeepingquilt21. Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality. —L.R. Knost
22. Read, read, read. —William Faulkner
23. Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a stickball team. —Karen Witemeyer
24. Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King
25. Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time. —E.P. Whipple
26. A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked and could only have one book, what would it be? I always say, “How to Build a Boat.” —Stephen Wright
27. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele
28. There is a wonder in reading Braille that the sighted will never know: to touch words and have them touch you back. —Jim Fiebig
29. A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time—proof that humans can work magic. —Carl Sagan
30. A house without books is like a room without windows. —Heinrich Mannwonder
31. A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever. —Louis L’Amour
32. Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. —Tomie dePaola
33. It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can. —Jane Hamilton
34. I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. —Anna Quindlen
35. A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. —Mark Twain
36. Comics are a gateway drug to literacy. —Art Spiegelman
37. He that loves reading has everything within his reach. —William Godwin
38. Let us read and let us dance—two amusements that will never do any harm to the world. —Voltaire
39. Wear the old coat and buy the new book. —Austin Phelps
40. I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp. —JK Rowling
41. Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier. —Kathleen Norris
42. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. —S.I. Hayakawa
43. I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. —Jorge Luis Borges

Rich Hill: Documents Rural Poverty In America

“We’re not trash. We’re good people,” says Andrew, one of the adolescent boys featured in the documentary Rick Hill, a film about rural poverty in America. As directors Tracy Droz Trago and Andrew Droz Palermo chronicle the lives of three adolescent boys Andrew, Harley and Appachey, they challenge us to take an unflinching look at a cycle of poverty that often locks families into socio-economic hardship for generations. The intimate use of the camera, and a narrative that builds slowly, provides viewers with unfettered access to the intricate relationships that exist between the boys and their families and the complex hardships they face daily.

Using Pinterest in the Classroom

While wedding planning, I (Pooja) used Pinterest, the social media application, for the first time. People from all over the world create and share virtual pin boards. These pin boards are a collection of one’s interests essentially. It’s a great way to gather, organize, and share ideas. It has become very popular for cost-saving DIY (do-it-yourself) ideas for events like weddings, birthday, showers, etc.

However, I recently cam across an article which highlighted ways in which university instructors are using Pinterest in their higher ed courses. Below is an infographic explaining how it is being used (in the U.S. context):

Source: http://www.edudemic.com/guides/the-teachers-guide-to-pinterest/

Slam poetry, literacy and classroom culture: What one young teacher shares

Several posts ago I shared an example of slam poetry. Slam poetry, for me, is alluring. It captures my attention. I have always found that with poetry, all kinds, there is passion, feeling, and emotion.  It speaks to me. Slam poetry is raw and real and leaves little to the imagination. It shares the here and now of one’s experience and tells the story of one’s truth.

Here is a short clip of a young teacher who shares with us what he tells his students:  tell your truth.


His 4 core principles (literacy related):

Read critically

Write consciously

Speak clearly

Tell you truth

This teacher speaks of classroom culture, modelling ways of thinking and being, and his experience as something worthy of words and sharing.

On the eve of a new school year, I want to wish all teachers, students, and teacher educators a year filled with passion for learning and inspiration. Teaching is not easy but when the fire for learning ignites in our students we know, as educators, that there is little more gratifying or rewarding.


The Baby Liked the Questions: The Joys of Research on Teaching

As Clare mentioned back in May, I (Clive) had to serve as “baby whisperer” for an hour or so while she interviewed one of our New Jersey teachers, and I acquitted myself quite well. This past Thursday a similar situation arose, only this time I was on my own.
One of our tenth year Ontario teachers, Serena, had a baby girl in March and has been on mat leave since then. She kindly agreed to let me come to her home for her annual interview, and when I arrived I was pleased to see that “Sara” was to be part of the event. She is an exceptionally happy baby, but like all 5-month-olds likes to go on to new things fairly often.
Sara appreciated having a visitor in the room and bounced around on Serena’s knee for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on the interview. Next came 10 minutes suspended in a jumper surrounded by toys, followed by a feeding time. As new distractions failed to impress, it become obvious she had to transfer to my knee. I was very comfortable with this arrangement, but after about 20 minutes the novelty of watching the interview from that perspective also wore off.
Back on the sofa next to her mother, Sara then discovered Serena’s copy of the interview questions and took great delight in them. Gleefully tearing them up and chewing on them occupied her for a full quarter hour! We were able to finish a wonderful interview and everyone was happy.


Louise Erdrich wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Author Louise Erdrich has been named as the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Dayton prizes recognize “literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.” Erdrich’s written works, which includes novels, short stories, poetry, and children’s books, candidly explore contemporary Aboriginal life. She has been praised for “weaving a body of work that goes beyond portraying contemporary Native American life as descendants of a politically dominated people to explore the great universal questions – questions of identity, pattern versus randomness, and the meaning of life itself.”



Little Free Libraries

“The “take a book, return a book” boxes are catching in even on places where Kindles and brick-and-mortar books abound.”

 I love the concept of the Little Free Library! The Little Free Library movement operates from a universally understood “take a book, return a book” policy. The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin. Since then, Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over the world:

There are now 18,000 of the little structures around the world, located in each of the 50 states and in 70 countries—from Ukraine to Uganda, Italy to Japan. They’re multiplying so quickly, in fact, that the understaffed and underfunded nonprofit struggle to keep its world map up to date.”


Little Free Library in Qatar


Little Free Library in Toronto (St. Clair Ave)


Find a Little Free Library near you!


Muay Thai is education: How martial arts impact learning

This past weekend my (yiola’s) family was involved in a Muay Thai Expo.  Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) is a martial art that originates from Thailand  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muay_Thai  and is now taught all over the world.

My partner is a Master of Muay Thai and has schools here in Ontario: http://www.ajahnsuchart.com and http://www.siamno1.com.  This past weekend we held a Muay Thai expo in Toronto. People from across Ontario, Quebec and Mexico attended. Here are some images from the weekend:

a local instructor gives a talk on Being a student: An approach to learning muay thai
A local instructor, Kru Nick Bautista, gives a talk on: Being a student: An approach to learning Muay Thai


Master Suchart taking a group through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai
Master Suchart taking a group of students through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai


World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence
World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence

As I observed the teaching and learning that took place this weekend I was reminded how valuable this type of education is to a society.  From all walks of life, students come to learn a tradition, a martial art, and a way of life.  The outcomes are far reaching and extend to many areas of life including: heightened self-confidence, increased physical fitness and technical skills, and improved health. Through these developments individuals are able to participate in their communities in more creative and productive ways.

I watched on in amazement as each instructor brought to the Expo their expertise and passion for learning.  The instructors’ ability to demonstrate martial art while also teaching elements of the martial art was inspiring to me as an educator. The tone,  language, sequence of instruction, and balance between physical practice and presentation were effective and kept students/participants engaged for 5 hours of learning each day. Students learned a great deal about Muay Thai and I suspect that they walked away from the experience  more confident, stronger, and educated in the art of Muay Thai. Moreso, I know that many students of martial art are able to take their learning and apply it to their lives in general.  Teaching and learning martial arts (and most sport for that matter) extends beyond the art/sport itself into the realm of human experience: morality, ethics, and everyday life.

In teaching sport as a particular kind of human practice, however,  it is the physical educationist’s responsibility to see that the ethical principles upon which it is based are properly understood and that the manner in which a sport is conducted is in accord with its rules and in keeping with the best traditions of its practice. The physical educationist can guarantee nothing, but as an influential guardian of an ethically based practice he can do a good deal to uphold its highest ideals, its most cherished traditions. As in all forms of learning much depends on the attitudes and judgments that are brought to bear upon what is done and whether what is taught and encouraged, is regarded as worthwhile in the context of life. Like morality, sport is a species of evaluation, a kind of appraisal of human conduct. 

Taken from:  Arnold, P.J. (1984).  Sport, Moral Education and the Development of Character. Journal of Philosophy of Education 18(2). 275-281.

Children, teens, adults have much to gain from learning a martial art. Well beyond how to punch, elbow, knee and kick Muay Thai teaching and learning has the capacity to influence and foster character development in many ways.