Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thank you to my students: Part 3: Academic Skills

There were only eight students in the grade 8/9 Academic Skills class, but their "free spirit" personalities made them seem like a larger group.  I enjoyed them for their sense of fun, their spontaneity, their willingness to try just about anything, and for the way they embraced the opportunities offered by an international environment.  As with my other classes, I found there was much to learn from them.  Warm memories come flooding back as I look at the picture below.  From left to right, I am happy to introduce you to Andy, Mike, Michael, Emily, Girardo, Nikolay, Lee and Tommy.  
One day, I glanced out the classroom window and noticed the sun shining on Mount Baker. Everyone quickly got into the spirit of the moment.  (Much better than doing grammar!)  After a quick trip outside to see the mountain a little bit closer and to take in the fresh air, we came back inside, where we did some research on active volcanoes.   This site was a surprise for me.  I had no idea those of us in British Columbia should at least be aware that we could be affected if Mount Baker erupts. Below is Mount Baker as it appeared to us that day. 
Gerardo (below) introduced me to two active volcanoes near Mexico City.  
They are Popocatepetl (Smoking Mountain) and Iztacc√≠huatl (The Woman in White). I was happy that day to learn a little bit about the area around Gerardo's home. The picture below is taken from the Nasa site and shows how those volcanoes look from outer space. If you look really closely at Smoking Mountain on the left, you can see that there is a plume of steam coming from its centre.  
I took the next set of pictures one day when the students were working on their posters for presentations on the novel Walkabout.  We used a Penguin Reader version of this novel, one that takes into consideration that the students were learning a new language as well as studying literary themes.  Below, Michael works so hard, I don't think he even notices my camera. 
He is determined to do a good job.  This is what 100% effort looks like.
Nikolay returned to Russia at the end of the semester.  He learned a lot in Canada, but in the end, decided there is no place like home.  Your English came a long way, Nikolay. I hope you are enjoying life back with your family and that your studies are going well.
Lee seemed to be having fun with his project. A straightforward guy, quick-minded and bright, he was a "say it like it is" person.  
He and Girardo worked really well together, and I wish I had taken a picture of their poster. It had little doorways that opened to reveal some of their ideas about the characters and themes in the novel.
Tommy, you also came a long way this semester. Writing about the characters wasn't your favourite activity, but I think you really understood their feelings and emotions. You often analyzed the people around you.  I will always remember your warm heart and your thoughtful questions.  
Mike (on the left) and Andy were great buddies.  They played on sports teams together, sat together in class, and worked cooperatively and efficiently on this project.
Andy looks so serious in this photo, but if you check his other photos, you will see lots of smiles. He knew how to focus when necessary, but once his work was finished, he put equal energy into having fun.
Emily was another of those people who found a great balance between work and play.  Here, she uses her time well, writing prolifically about the conflicts in the novel.  
Although she had many passions like Justin Bieber, shopping, Facebook, and friends, she always made time for her schoolwork.  Kind, good-humoured, and conscientious, Emily really was fun to have in the class.  She taught me several things, but one will stay with me for a very long time.  I confess, I used to sort of laugh at Justin Bieber, but truthfully I hadn't listened to any of his songs.  She showed me this youtube version of a song of his called Pray, and it really opened my eyes to another side of him.  If you have three and a half minutes to spare, watch how much pleasure Justin gives when he visits children around the world.
Here is another example of Michael putting his whole heart into everything he did. He is at the school picnic, but found some time to practice his drum skills for music class. 
 He identified with Peter in the novel, Walkabout.  As he told me, he is a happy, friendly, outgoing boy who just wants to enjoy life, just like Peter was in the story. 
 Below, he puts equal energy into the Terry Fox run.
Mike (below) also put his heart into everything he did, but maybe a little extra if it involved a sport.  Here, he plays baseball at the school picnic in September, while Mr. Smith looks on.  
Below, he starts out with a burst of speed during the Terry Fox run.
As he nears the finish line, 
he is still running strong.
The next three pictures were taken on Halloween Day, when we did our "scary story" activity.  From the left, you can see Emily, Mike and Andy (under the table), Michael, Girardo, Lee, Nikolay, and Tommy.  Tommy was especially good at making his voice spooky and keeping us all in suspense. 
I love the expressions on Mike and Andy's faces.. 
when they saw my camera zooming in on them.
The photos below were taken during our trip to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston. Emily enjoyed spending some time with her friends from one of the other classes. She got along really well as the only girl in her class, but sometimes, it was good to be able to talk about "girl stuff."
Below, they check out the cannery gift shop.
The next photo makes me smile.  Just a bunch of guys (Mike, Michael, Tommy, and Gavin) hanging out together, happy to spend a school day outside of the classroom. Gavin, on the right, was not in my class that semester, but I felt like he was an old friend, after teaching him in music and English classes in previous semesters.
In this next shot, you can also see Lee (4th from left), Andy (white jacket) and one other student from a different class.
The tour guide was absolutely excellent.  They have developed strong programs to teach young people and adults about B.C's early history.  Since we had booked well in advance, they were prepared for our "English as a Second Language" students.
The students had studied a vocabulary list and other material that had been sent to the school.  During the presentation, the guide had the students identify the various parts of the demo salmon.  I have to admit being proud of our students.  They were quick to respond, friendly and fun to watch as they called out their answers. There were many dangers for the workers during the early history of the cannery, and the guide did not hold back.  If you read this poster about the Singing Knives, I'm sure you can imagine some of the horrific accidents.  
Just one more example of Andy's great smile.  I really enjoyed his positive attitude to everything he did.
After touring the cannery, we walked along the boardwalk of the Britannia Ship Yard to the Chinese Bunkhouse.  This was the place where most of the Chinese workers lived.  It had been recently renovated, and was a warm, attractive place to visit.  However, we learned that there would have been many more beds crowded together.
The Chinese boys quickly found the Mahjong game.  Wait a minute, the boy in the right hand corner is Girardo.  He's from Mexico.  I don't know if he already knew the game, or if he was learning it on the spot.  Just one of many advantages to going to a school with so many countries of the world represented.
There were many framed stories and photographs on the walls of the bunkhouse.  I didn't have time to read every one, but the one below has stayed with me.  It describes the life of the Chinese workers when the season ended.  Sometimes, if they were really lucky, they might have saved enough money to go back to China to visit with their families.  For most, that wasn't possible.  They couldn't even afford a small room downtown, so many of them stayed in the bunkhouse.  They had little heat and less food, and the only way they could conserve enough energy to stay alive was to spend a good portion of their days in bed.  
The final two pictures for this post represent the children of the workers and bosses during those early days at the cannery.  The toy box and the doll's house were in the home of one of the supervisors.  These were clearly the privileged ones of that society. 
The children in the picture below appeared to be unsupervised and I'm assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that their parents would have been working in the cannery. 
Those two pictures speak to me about the power of imagination and creativity in young people.  Rich or poor, children will find a way to put fun into their day.  The students in my class did that, but they did more, without even realizing it. Thank you, each one of you, for your smiles, your laughter, your conversations, your games and your positive energy.  You will go far in life, I believe, but wherever you land, I hope your sense of fun stays right there beside you. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thank you to My Students: Part 2: International Studies

There were only 11 students in the International Studies class, but as a group, they were outgoing, confident and happy to express their opinions. Often, discussions reached a surprisingly deep level, and I am grateful for the ways that they inspired me to examine my own thinking.  Some of the conversations we had continue to come to mind. I hear the students' voices and remember their ideas and say a heartfelt "thank you" to them for their energy, honesty and depth of understanding. I didn't take a lot of pictures of this class, so the ones you see here will mostly come from Hallowe'en Day, when a few of the students dressed in costumes, and we gathered together to tell scary stories. 
 2nd row: Alex, Kirill, Antonio, Seongbeom, Amir, Ing
Front row, from left to right: Maggie, Mariano, Amy, Kotoka, Nick. 
Here, I asked them to make scary faces and this was the result.  It wasn't a competition, but I think Nick (lower right corner) is the winner, with Mariano (second from left, front row) and Ing (top right) perhaps tied for 2nd place.  Antonio's wig wasn't scary, but I liked it a lot :)
Antonio, minus the wig, looked very cool in his shades and red shirt. His scary stories happened to be true ones, as were Mariano's (in the hat).  I have never seen Mexico, but I hope to, one day.  Both boys warned me that there are dangers there, but I like to think that these intelligent and aware young men might have some influence at the government level when they are older.  Perhaps, they will be able to help bring greater peace to the beautiful country they so clearly love.  

Seongbeom (below) was the only Korean speaking student in the class. One thing for sure, he had no problem respecting the EOP (English Only Policy) rules :)  He was very quiet in class (understandable), but we had a memorable conversation one day after class.  I admired his courage and his maturity, and that conversation will stay with me.  I have just two pictures of him, one when I think he was listening to one of his classmate's stories, and the second, with just a small smile for the camera. You will do well, Seongbeom.  Take it easy and be confident in your many talents.

I think Maggie (below) will one day have a job that takes advantage of her natural curiosity about her fellow human beings.  I could often feel her studying the people around her (including me). She was never afraid to ask questions, and she was deeply honest
Below, she laughs with a friend as she takes part in the Terry Fox run.  Her smile, her energy and her kind heart made her a strong presence in the class.  

Thank you for the beautiful scarf, Maggie.  I love the colour and I love that it is in a circular form.  When I'm taking pictures on cold days, I can keep my hands and my camera warm inside it :)

Nick had been at Bodwell about a year or so before, but had changed so much, I didn't recognize him when I first saw him in my class in September.  This was a very outgoing class (something that I loved!), but perhaps, Nick was the most willing to bare his soul. Life had dealt him a couple of early lessons, and although I didn't know all the details, I felt he had come out of those lessons a stronger and happier person. He told great scary stories; his soft, spooky voice kept all of us in suspense.  I didn't have the pleasure of teaching him music this past semester, but took the two photos below during the Remembrance Day ceremony. He and Seong Hung (a former flute-playing student of mine.  (Sorry for possible misspelling!) did a great job on the snare drum part. Nick had a talent for expressing himself and this became obvious in both his written and his oral  projects.  His essay and assignments all told me that he is a thinker who will make his mark on the world. 
 Don't let his "scary face" in the lower right hand corner fool you :)
Amir (above, 2nd from right, and below) was a serious student, and I can still hear his voice when he recited "In Flanders Fields." He really worked hard to perfect his pronunciation and he spoke with great expression. He put a lot of pressure on himself, but he also had a sense of humour, as you can see in the picture above. A perfectionist, I don't think he really gave his own ideas enough credit.  Trust yourself, Amir.  Your oral presentations convinced me that you need only to voice your thoughts or write your opinions and the world will listen. I feel we will hear more from you in the future.  I look forward to that. Take good care of yourself :)
Amy, on the left in the picture below, was another person who really wanted to understand her fellow human beings.  She researched thoroughly, in preparation for her oral presentation on the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  I know she felt very sad to learn of the hardships and injustices suffered by the Chinese people.  When we went to Steveston, one of her concerns was for the workers who died here, often penniless, before they could return home to China, as they had planned.  She wondered how they would have been buried, and whether their bodies would have been returned home to their families.  That question broke my heart, because the truthful answer wouldn't be very reassuring to her, but it also showed me the depth of Amy's thinking. I think we were both comforted that Mr. Harper's government finally made a formal apology in 2006 to the Chinese people.  Embracing and respecting different cultures is something that has been a long time coming, but schools like Bodwell, where so many cultures live and work together, are a great start.
Below, Amy puts her whole energy into the Terry Fox run, just as she did when she sang, and just as she did with everything that she became involved in. I'm sorry not to have a picture of her singing, but I heard her one day, and still remember her beautiful voice!  Amy is a girl of many talents and she has a huge heart to go with them!

I was lucky enough to teach Alex for two semesters. (He's on the left in the picture below).   In this photo, he is doing his scary face :)  I like that picture a lot.  It's definitely not scary, but it shows his "joie de vivre" and it shows his enthusiasm and his lack of shyness.  Alex was game to try just about anything suggested.  Like Nick, he was also willing to share small details about his life outside of school that I really appreciated.  I hope I'm not embarrassing him to include a picture of a much younger Alex with his parents and the words from his first blog entry a year ago.  You will change the world, Alex, and you will do it kindly, and with a great smile.

"I think I am a good boy.  Maybe, I will change the world."
Hi, everyone, it is my first blog. Maybe you want to know who is me. My name is Yiyang Zhang, I am a Chinese boy, I am 14 years old, My English name is Alex. I am a high school's student.  I have 3 people in my family , my father, my mother and me. My father was born in Henan Province, my mother was born in Wuhan Province, When my father 18 years, he went to Wuhan Province to go to college and knew my mother, I think it is so nice. I have a lot of hobbies, such as collect something and eat. I like to collect soccer shoes, money and electronic, I think collect is so interesting, you can learn some knowledges. I like to eat, my favourite food is Chinese food, because Chinese food has China 5000 years culture. 

Below, and to the far right, is Ingkarat.  I knew him as Ing.  That's his scary face at the right.  Not bad, Ing :)  He was the only student in the class from Thailand.  As with the students from Mexico, I sensed his love for his country but also his awareness that there are some problems there.  He warned me it wouldn't be a good place to visit, but I am not convinced :) I love this picture of him below, just finishing up his Terry Fox run.  That smile says everything about him.  Just a good natured, kind and very intelligent fellow, unafraid to ask questions, and like Maggie, deeply honest.  Don't lose that quality, Ing.  Your questions reflected your curiosity about the world and about the people around you. These qualities will take you far in life!
Kirill and a Blue Heron at the school picnic
I do not have many photos of Kirill.  The one at the left is cropped from the one of him with Amy and Alex.  It's not very clear, but it shows  an expression that was quite typical. He may have been a little bit skeptical, but he was always willing to listen, evaluate fairly and adjust if he felt the facts warranted a shift in opinion.  Kirill's written work was fascinating.  I looked forward to reading it, because it gave me an insight that was usually very different from my own, always expressed thoughtfully, and often reflective of his Russian background. Kirill won 1st place in the essay contest.  The decision was unanimous among both staff and student judges.  Sadly, I no longer have a copy of his essay, but if you read this Kirill, and are willing to send it to me, I would love to post it here.  
I love this picture of Kotoka. I took it in the morning, just before we left for a three-day 'leadership training" experience at Camp Elphinstone.  Kotoka has been in my music and English classes, off and on, for maybe a year and a half, but the past two semesters are when she truly found her voice. She traveled to Kenya, and when she returned, I was amazed to hear her speak so eloquently to the entire school about her experiences.  She also attended a lecture.  Was it Tara Teng, Kotoka, who first made you aware of human trafficking?  And then, she attended the leadership conference in November.  All of these experiences have brought Kotoka to a new stage in her life.  She has vowed to speak out about human trafficking, and she kept her promise by doing a class presentation.  She is the only student I know who is doing the Kenya trip twice.  She will go on her spring break to rekindle some of the friendships she formed on her last visit.  With such serious goals, you might think Kotoka doesn't know how to have fun, but nothing could be further from the truth.  She loves and laughs with an energy that holds nothing back. It was really fun to see her taking in all that the camp had to offer.

Last (but not least), I come back to Mariano.  I mentioned him briefly at the beginning of this post.  You may have noticed that his right hand was in a cast. He had a fairly serious accident at the beginning of his semester, and had to spend most of his first couple of months in Canada hampered by that cast.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him, because the thing Mariano most likes to do is to move.  Soccer, running, skateboarding, snowboarding, table tennis - you name it, Mariano probably did it.  He was outside, the first day after what must have been painful surgery, trying to figure out how to do the things he loves in a one-handed way.  As frustrated as he must have been, he didn't complain!  This boy is brave and he is strong!  The other thing I cannot leave this post without mentioning is his high regard for his father. His father is also a very active person, and I could sense that Mariano's shared experiences with his father are near and dear to his heart. I so regret that I didn't get a good picture of Mariano at the Terry Fox run, but he was the first male to finish the race, an amazing accomplishment, since he was running with older (and supposedly stronger :) athletes. I do have a picture of him during our trip to Steveston. He is at the left, with the camera. 
His twin, Santiago, is in the picture below.  I didn't teach Santiago, but love this picture.  It looks as if the statue of the young fisherman is whispering something very funny that only Santiago can here.
If you are curious about these wonderful statues by Norm Williams, you can find more information here. 
Photo found at this site:

Photo found at this site
My final picture for this post is of the entire group (3 classes) that visited Steveston.  The students from this class are from left: 2nd, Kirill, 8th, Amir, 10th, Santiago (Mariano's twin), 11th, Antonio, 13th, Mariano, 15th, Ing (in front of Mr. Macintosh), and then, all the way to the right, Seungbeom (saying, "Please hurry up, Ms. Carson.  I'm cold!") and Kotoka to his left.  I'm so sorry I can't see the others, but to each one of you, a heartfelt thank you.  It is my hope that you will fuel your bodies with good food, get enough sleep, and have the most fulfilling life imaginable. I am so very grateful for having had the opportunity to get to know you.