I (Clare) was watching the Academy Award last night and I was struck by the number of winners who thanked their teachers. I recently had an unusual experience. My nephew ran into a former student teacher of mine from 20 years ago and they started talking and somehow made the connection. The former student teacher said that I had had a profound
impact on him. Huh! So teachers and teacher educators you never know the difference you are making. You may be thanked at the Academy Awards. We make a difference often in ways we do not see or know.
On the weekend, Clare and I (Clive) saw a wonderful production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. We were struck (once again) with how “dark” the play is; but it is so well written and was so well done that we really enjoyed it.
A central theme of the play is how boring life can be. And one thing that occurred to me is how important it is not to take plays (or any literature) too literally. In experiencing such a play – or discussing it with students – we don’t have to accept that life is utterly boring, or even think that Chekhov believed it was.
Rather, we can take this idea as a starting point and go on to consider ways to overcome boredom in our lives, to the extent possible. We can enjoy ourselves, both as we experience the beauty and cleverness of the literary work and try to resolve the problems it raises. We can use the work for our own purposes, rather than feeling tied to a literal interpretation. I think this is part of what is meant by a “constructivist” approach to learning, and it can make literature more enjoyable and useful to teachers and students alike.
To mark National Poetry Month (April), the Toronto Public Library launched the poetry map, an interactive map that allows users to explore Toronto through a collection of poems associated with the city’s neighborhoods and landmarks. The project was the result of a collaboration between the Toronto Public Library and the city’s poet laureate George Elliott Clarke. Clarke suggested, the “map brings the city alive in terms of it being a living, pulsing, breathing organism that gives creative people – poets – inspiration. It reminds us that Toronto is a great city for the arts.” The Library hopes to expand the project by encouraging the public to submit their favorite poems related to Toronto.
In this blog we have had many postings about literacy, the changing nature of literacy, ways to teach literacy, issues around the teaching of literacy …. This past week I (Clare) experienced another form of literacy – one that has been on my doorstep but I did not even notice it was there. With my amazing book club we did a tour of public art in Toronto. I was truly shocked at the number of pieces scattered through the city. Many I had walked by many times but was wholly ignorant that they were art. On the tour the guide pointed out pieces of art in public spaces, explained the significance of each, described the materials used, and provided some background to the author. It was an amazing trip. I know that I will never be so inattentive to my surroundings again. So readers look around your city to find some public art. Here are some photos of what we saw in Toronto. Our guide told us that there are many more in the city – I just need to look for them. In addition to stopping to smell the roses, I am going to also stop to enjoy the art.