A Love Letter to Canadian Publishing

Dear Canadian Children's Book Publishers,

Thank you. Every time I encounter a truly amazing picture book lately, when I flip to the front, I shouldn't be surprised that it came from one of you. Whether its a story about questioning gender roles or being fairy tale superheros, you do not disappoint. With grace and a view to the wider world, you are releasing stories rich with diversity and real life; stories about refugees as children we could all recognize, stories about children looking out for their families, stories about finding your voice, even when you are shy.

Your stories are beautifully illustrated, and the narratives are rich with grit, true friendship, self awareness, and other positive attributes that can be tricky to teach, but at the same time, your tales are not preachy or aggressive. I love the subtle normalcy that permeates the books, even in tales of dramatic differences; we're pretty different, after all, and isn't that a beautiful thing?

I'm ast…

Yes, Virginia. (Happy Birthday!)

The Google Doodle today reminded me that it's Virginia Woolf''s birthday. As a writer I've always resonated with, I was thrilled that the first exercise in the writing workshop I'm enrolled in this semester was to write a piece inspired by Woolf's "Street Haunting", which first appeared in the Yale Review in 1927.

The exercise of writing like an author you enjoy(or one you don't; this week we worked with Hemingway) can be a powerful teaching tool, in writing and other arts, but I believe in scholarly research as well. As Neil Gaiman reminds us, "Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people." I like to think I've found my various writing voices, but this exercise reminded me that maybe other writers slip into my consciousness from time to time; writing like Virginia Woolf certainly felt familiar, and even the melancholy of her style settled around me quite quickly. Still, I try to keep my eyes…

Keywords: Canon, Critical Pedagogy, Seminar

Canon, Critical Pedagogy, Seminar
When I was just starting out in my teaching career, I would have cringed from the very idea that my teaching would be described as “canonical”. Yes, I’ve loved Shakespeare since my mom and I read our way through The Tempest before my 9th birthday, in preparation of one last “just the three of us” trip, my first to Stratford, Ontario, before the as-yet-unannounced birth of my brother, and yes, I was looking forward to integrating Shakespeare once I was teaching 8th graders instead of my grade 7 students that year (since I remembered fondly encountering Midsummer during that year of my own schooling), but my teaching identity in those early years was fiercely rooted in “confronting the dominant culture”. I designed units around social justice in a rural Michigan town, where, to my horror, a student pointed to an image of a Klan member in full regalia and said, “Oh! Those guys. My grandma takes me to the picnic they have every summer.” I mostly ignored my…

Keywords, Week 1

This semester, I'm going to be experiencing a lot of keyword writing, as defined by Raymond Williams and adapted by Rebecca Luce-Kapler. Basically, the idea is to write from a keyword, construct, or quotation in an anchor text (in this case, an academic chapter or article assigned for class), using that word as a jumping off point for critical inquiry and personal reflection. I know it's more nuanced than that, but as this is my initial introduction to the idea, I'm still feeling my way into it. In fact, my first response is actually rooted in Williams' initial explanation of the concept of keywords.

Keywords, Week 1
“But for words of a different kind, and especially for those which involve ideas and values, it is not only an impossible but also an irrelevant procedure.” (Williams, p. xxix)
Clinging to the “dictionary definition” of a word with layers of meaning is something I’ve encountered regularly in my teaching practice, particularly while teaching at my last scho…

18 for 2018

I've been listening to podcasts a lot lately (I know, right??), and I loved this idea from Gretchen Rubin's "Happier" podcast.  She and her sister suggested making a list of 18 things you want to do in 2018 to increase happiness (but not letting it turn into a laundry list of resolutions). I'm shifting it a bit for this post, but I want to make my overall list of 18 for 2018 more like the original suggestion.

Today, however, I want to share a list of 18 things I want to improve/focus on during 2018, specific to grad school. In 2018, I'll begin my second semester, and in the fall, I'll also start my second year (with an eye toward comps), so 2018 has a lot of possibility and opportunity for me to tweak and change and refocus, especially now that I've got the first semester under my belt.

A further challenge I'm setting for myself: to simply offer the list here, without qualifiers, apologies, or explanations. I know I can get really long winded when…

When You Don't Realize What You're Missing

Yesterday, I had a great chat over coffee with one of the professors in my faculty. We were going back and forth about our research interests and teaching experiences, and I must have sounded more enthusiastic when I mentioned my last experience as a high school teacher, because she smiled and said, "I bet you miss them."

In that moment, I didn't; I told her I'd loved every age I'd taught, but I was enjoying my B.Ed students here, and I was so fully immersed in my studies that I hadn't stopped to miss them. And in that moment, it was true.

But today, when I was in the middle of revising an article I'm working on, I got an email, and then another, from my former students. They sent group pictures and snippets of information about their class and their semester, and I emailed right back, eager to engage with students who I taught for two years.

And now, after a flurry of email exchanges and silly group photos, after sharing a bit of my campus and my work wi…

Poetry in the Classroom

I just handed in my last assignment for the first semester of my PhD (hooray!), and I also had my last class for the semester with the teacher candidates I've been privileged enough to work with. They are working on their statement of beliefs for their portfolio (and eventual job search), and today, instead of asking them for a rough draft, I decided to explore something I've had in mind for a long time.

I asked them to write me a poem.

I shared George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" with my students, which I first encountered over a decade ago in my own teacher training program, in the Christensen text Reading, Writing, and Rising Up, and then I shared my own poem, inspired be hers, orienting my experiences as a teacher.

And then...I asked them to step out of their comfort zones and use Lyon's poetic example to orient their own statement of beliefs.

They've emailed them to me, so I have no idea what anyone wrote, but the constructive discomfort of the l…