It’s snowing! But I (Gisela) have nothing to complain about! From January 2014 until today I have enjoyed many winter days in Toronto. I’ve been a Visiting Scholar from Brazil sponsored by Clare Kosnik for almost a year at OISE/University of Toronto. It has been an amazing experience! More than the cold weather I’ve discovered a great country: from red maple leaves to squirrels on streets, from Lake Ontario to Lake Louise, from Quebec City to Montreal, from AGO to Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, from rainbow positive to multicultural spaces. The environment and people have touched my heart and brain!
I have interviewed teachers and educators and I have observed many babies and kids at schools and Day Care Centres. I have met many smart people — undergraduate students, faculty, and newcomers to Canada (who have diverse cultures, values and languages).
This sabbatical opportunity contributed to my analysis of teacher education in Brazil. The insights I have gained came about through discussion of my data at Clare’s and Clive’s BTE team meetings and by comparing my findings to some of the points made in lectures that I attended at OISE and at conferences both in Canada and the U.S. One of the exciting developments was that my proposal on my research was accepted by AERA. I will present my work in Chicago next year.
This wealth of experiences and my academic partnership improved my own vision of education. Being a teacher is complicated because of the many dilemmas and issues yet being a teacher should connect to one’s own life. Teaching occurs in a dynamic, diverse, and interactional-based setting!
My experience in Toronto gave me spectacular new knowledge about being a teacher in a democratic and multicultural city! I have learned from OISE and the Toronto District School Board that a good and positive vision of education is supported by research. This vision is “tested” daily by students, parents, and principals. The most important piece of the education puzzle is teachers. I have been impressed with the ways that teachers think critically about education and have developed many good strategies for teaching which in turn supports student learning!
I learned also that accountability counts! More than policy initiatives, accountability should include the community’s attitude towards the kids and youths in schools! Even though Canadians complain about their schools, I have seen some great initiatives: Triangle Program that supports LGBQT high school’s students; a Parkdale school that supports ESL students who often struggle financially and has a number of refugee children from around the world; and schools with an Afrocentric-positive space to support student well- being. I have learned about connecting undergraduates students with teacher education research which will help these future teachers build a whole identity and professional practice.
Thanks everyone who supported me in the time I spent in Canada! I hope that OISE will help my country improve our national system of education. Doors are open between our countries! See you soon!
The school year began in Canada at the same time we experienced many human tragedies across the world. In this peace-less world, I’ve (Gisela) discovered, by chance, an interesting book for young children: A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, http://www.aisforactivist.com. From Activist to Zapatista, this “children’s book for the 99 percent” offers different rhymes and perspectives to small children.
The book is described as:
Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books. http://www.amazon.ca/Activist-Innosanto-Nagara-ebook/dp/B00DIGNCNU/ref=srA is for _1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410614592&sr=8-1&keywords=Innosanto+Nagara
As Corey Hill wrote in 2012 (http://www.yesmagazine.org/people power/in-review-it-is-for-activist-by-innosanto-nagara) “It’s pretty clear from page one that this is no Cat in the Hat. Billed as a book for the children of the 99%, A is for Activist is the radical vision of Innosanto (Inno) Nagara, a graphic designer and social justice activist from Oakland, California.
Although the book is said to suitable for children from birth to three years to age I wonder about the impact of reading it to such young children, and I wonder if it would be better suited for older children who have ideological knowledge and experience. The illustrations are gorgeous and the rhymes reveal ideas about the rights of all in the hope of a world more with fewer ills. It is a lovely text to start the school year in which conflicts and wars in the four corners of the world threaten children around the world! It can serve as introductory material to literacy and can serve as an inspiration to parents and educators about the social function of writing and literature for children.
Yesterday I (Gisela Wajskop) shared with Monica McGlynn-Stewart an important moment in her professional and personal life as well as in the lives of her students at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario). I attended the Second Annual Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership Research Symposium organized jointly with Fanshawe College (London, Ontario) and Sheridan College (Oakville, Ontario). The event celebrated the innovative early childhood education (ECE) program. This four-year program prepares students to be educators and to become leaders in curriculum and pedagogy development for Ontario’s early childhood settings. These include: childcare centers, nursery schools, family drop-in programs (including Ontario Early Years Centres, family resource centers and parenting programs), family support programs, and early intervention services.
I was quite excited by the students’ serious and enthusiastic research presentations that were based on their practice/placements in schools and community centres. The program believes the field of ECE requires critical thinkers and practitioners who have vision, a professional demeanour, and in-depth knowledge. The ECE program wants to prepare future leaders and educators; they hope to empower students by using a variety of pedagogical strategies (e.g., research on practice). Overall they aim to raise expectations for their students; the new standards for the profession raise the accountability bar.
Attending the Symposium reminded me of my Brazilian students and the practices we developed together the last 12 years. As a teacher educator I was committed to empowering my students to have a critical voice in the field just as those three Colleges aim to do.
Participating in this very special event reminded me that we are entering Passover: I am grateful to Monica who opened her door to me … and I wish her students all the best. Under her supervision and leadership may they develop and become better people and excellent professionals.
Chag Sameach for all!