Today marks the 75th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe – the bloodiest day of battle for Canada in the Second World War. Sitting in the Saskatchewan Archives a couple weeks ago (acting as my daughter’s research assistant as she prepared for a project), I was surprised by two things. First, news of the battle was reported in the evening edition of the Regina Leader-Post on August 19. I tend to think that news didn’t travel so quickly in the past, but I suppose with the time difference between Europe and Regina, the technology at the time would have allowed for important news to be available quickly. The second surprise was the glowing reports of the raid. From the vantage point of 2017, headlines such as “Allied Victory Was Decisive” made me gasp. There was such pride that the South Saskatchewan Regiment, based out of Estevan, had been involved. It was heartbreaking to read through the papers through the end of August, as the slow realization of what had really happened became apparent. Casualty list after casualty list was published, as well as photos of local men lost. There were frequent articles reminding readers to stay positive.

Dieppe by the numbers:
4963 Canadians left on the mission.
916 were killed in action.
1950 (approximately) became prisoners of war.
2200 (approximately) – many wounded – made it back to England
5 am – time raid began
10:50 am – time Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat

We paid so heavily to fight Nazism the first time. Let’s make sure we don’t have to do it again.

“Talk to them like they’re people”

My oldest daughter is spending her third summer at the local pool, life guarding and teaching swimming lessons.  She has become quite enamored with an almost-four year old in one of her classes, and has stories about him almost every day.  A couple comments she made yesterday were a-ha moments for her, and I think they are good reminders to many adults.

My daughter was somewhat surprised by how developed the little guy’s personality and opinions were as a three year old. After telling a story about how he had reacted to a situation, she commented, “It’s really important to talk to them [kids] like they’re people, because they have a lot going on.”

That particular comment made me think about how often we discount students and what they’re thinking and feeling, because “they’re just kids”.  Think of all the decisions we make for our students – where they sit, how they work, who they work with, what they learn – without ever asking their input. And then we wonder why they don’t develop independence and critical thinking skills.

As I prepare for a new group of kindergarten students, I’m spending much of my time thinking about how to give them voice in their learning and life at school.   Inquiry activities related to their interests will be a focus, as will choice making during centres, and the choices they will make about what to add to their digital portfolios.

I’m also committed to advocating for students in the school in general – in the kinds of recess and other policies we establish for our students. How can we include them in any problem-solving that needs to happen?

For so long, education has been “doing” something to students.  We need to change our thinking and recognize that student input is essential.  We need to treat them “like people, because they have a lot going on.”  In most cases, they know what they need better than we do.  We just need to get better at listening.

Mashable cute girl child spinning GIF

A girl who knows what she likes!

Doing Something that Scares You . . . *

*Title and post inspired by the amazing Aviva Dunsiger.

You know how it goes:  your stomach is twisting, your shoulders feel tense, and that little voice inside your head is saying, “What the heck are you thinking!  You can’t do this!”

Trying something new or out of my comfort zone often brings these physical and emotional responses.  It’s so much easier to stick with what I know and maintain the status quo.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a born risk taker – quite the opposite.  I lean towards perfection, which sometimes paralyzes me from taking chances. As I said in this post though, I’m getting better at living in beta.  I know how much I’ve gained by taking leaps and looking into the eyes of risk in the past.

The biggest, scariest thing I did in the past year was go back to university.  After a brief conversation with a colleague I admire, I decided to sign up for inclusive education classes at the University of Regina.  I was feeling a little stuck with where I was, and was mourning the transfer of an administrator with whom I loved working.  The colleague’s advice was basically, “Why don’t you just do it?  What’s stopping you?” (To which I thought:  my fear, my anxiety, lack of time . . .).  And, I took the leap, signing up for an intensive class to be completed in the first two weeks of July.

As that first day of class rolled around, I had so many worries.  What if I didn’t know how to learn in that way anymore?  What if I looked ridiculous to all the pre-service teachers working towards their degrees?  What if I didn’t like it?  What if it was just a big waste of time and money?  Was it fair to be taking the precious time away from my family?  And on and on and on, the questions and fears swirled in my head and in my heart.

And then I got there.  The two weeks flew by.  The learning was exhilarating!  There were things I read about and discussed with others that I knew would make me a better teacher immediately.  I met a person who has become a close friend and valued sounding board.  Surprisingly, I felt powerful.  I wanted more, and couldn’t believe that I’d ever been scared.  This fall, I’ll complete my fifth class in 17 months, and will obtain my Special Education Educator Qualification.  And, I’m already wondering what I can do next.

There is so much value in taking that step into the unknown.  It helps us to grow personally and professionally, and it helps us develop empathy for others who are trying something scary, including our students.  Acknowledge your pounding heart, quiet your doubting mind, and take a giant step toward that thing that scares you. You won’t regret it.