8

One Day Events Don’t Solve Everyday Problems

By ColbyOtero.com http://bit.ly/oLGa0b

Anti-Bullying Day, Earth Day, Aboriginal Day,…

These, and many others, are important days to help raise awareness around wrong-doings that occur in our schools and society.  What we MUST be aware of is that just because we participate in these one day events does NOT mean that we have committed to change.  Change needs to happen each and every day in our schools and throughout our communities.

If we continue to need these days year after year, are we making enough progress?  Will there be a time when these days are NOT needed?  Change is slow but should we not have the expectation that the way we treat each other improves more rapidly?

I DO see the purpose of the one day events, school wide speakers, honouring ceremonies, etc but we need to be careful if we think that just because we have discussions around these issues on this day, we are going to create the needed change.  The most powerful actions are those that occur in the days/years following these events.

If the only thing we do to end bullying is wear a Pink Shirt on Anti-Bullying day, our society is in trouble.  We need to model respectful behaviour every day and encourage change by continually helping both the victims, bystanders and the bullies understand the impact of their behaviours.

Two years ago, our grade 2’s told us that “Earth Day is every day” and they modeled this with their class compost and recycling (and reduction) program as well as their awareness of the benefits of growing their own food.  As a school, we have done “litterless lunch days” but then continued on with our same (often wasteful, consuming) behaviours following these days.  Yes, the day did get people talking but I am not sure that it created the needed change.

Today, an admin colleague and I stated (paraphrased) “If we think we embrace First Nation Culture just because we participate in Aboriginal Day each year, we are doing our students a disservice… culture of ALL our students needs to be embedded in our lessons every day.”  Many of us participate in surface level activities that demonstrate equity and respect but are we having the deeper, needed dialogue around the impact of our Western values on other cultures?  Are we creating change every day so that ALL our students have a more equitable opportunity for success, regardless of race or culture?

Many schools are hosting Identity Day fairs that provide students with an opportunity to showcase who they are.  In schools, do we continually honour and provide students with opportunities to develop and showcase their passions or do we merely award select students at the end of the year? Are our students more aware of their strengths and what they can do or their deficits and what they cannot?

We need to continue t0 honour and celebrate who we are and where we come from throughout the year. There are awareness and celebratory days in which we should be participating but if we look to a one day event to create the needed major change and solve problems that occur every day, we need to ask ourselves… what are we doing to create this change every other day of the year?

Anybody can work to create change by doing something for a single day… but this is never enough.  We must ‘be the change’ EVERY day.

 

25

Identity Day: Pride In Who We Are

Identity_Day_Logo

As an educator, I have had so many moments that have taken my breath away; working with kids, we often find ourselves truly inspired.  On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, I had the privilege of being inspired by every student at our school in a way that I can honestly say, had me leave the school that evening with a memory of the best day I have ever had as an educator.

The idea of Identity Day started at Forest Green School in Stony Plain, Alberta and was shared with the world by George Couros.  I presented  this idea to our staff in 2010 and they agreed that they would be willing to take a risk for kids and give the idea a try.  Part of our school goal is to have our students “develop their unique talents and interests” so this idea felt like it was made for our school.

The idea behind Identity Day is that students create a project on themselves; there is no criteria, no grades, and no set topics.  Students were encouraged to design a demonstration, video, powerpoint,  slideshow, poster, display or anything that would help the audience to learn something about them. (see Prezi on Identity Day here).  The idea was that each student and staff member would present in a way that shared a talent or interest about themselves.

My project on "My Family"

My project on the "Wejr Family"

Students were given about a month to prepare their projects along with some class time.  Families were encouraged to be involved and those students that struggled were given extra support from older students and staff members.  After presenting to each class, I was not sure how the day would go (whenever I bring a different idea/event to the school, I get nervous about the result); there was not a whole lot of interest a few weeks before… but when students began to bring in their projects a few days prior, we could feel a huge buzz in the school.  Kids were bringing in Lego, pictures, books, posters, stuffed animals, sports memorabilia and equipment – the students were beaming with pride about their projects.

The day of our fair was nothing short of brilliant.  Each class hosted the other classes at one point during the day.  Kids were so excited to teach

A Grade 5 student's project on "Lego"

A Grade 5 student's project on "Lego"

others about what was important to them!  We had students bring in all sorts of animals (including a goat!) as well as so many things that were meaningful to the students and staff.  They presented and taught others everything from “stuffies” to “animals” to “sports teams” as well as things more personal like “things I like” to “my family”.

It is so difficult to put the day in words; you had to be in our school to truly get a sense of the pride and excitement in our students.  Our school was full of parents, community members and students all genuinely interested in each other.  I learned more about our students in one day than I do in an entire year!

Because of Identity Day, I can now approach any child in the school and have a conversation about something in which they are interested.  In the past week, I have stopped students to ask about dance, Lego, their family, and various sports.  What better way to have students proud of who they are than to have them showcase…. who they are!

Every child has a gift; it is up to us, as educators, to create the environment that encourages the student to develop this strength and passion.  Identity Day is one example of the many things we are trying to do at Kent School to help children find their gifts.  If you have any questions on bringing Identity Day to your school, please comment or email me at chriswejr@gmail.com or on Twitter @mrwejr.

I want to thank the students, families and staff of Kent Elementary for their outstanding efforts.  Also, thank you to George and his school for the idea and the encouragement to bring something truly amazing  and inspiring to our school.

Here is a video that includes a few of the projects from Kent’s version of Identity Day: