My New Normal!

My new normal has become riding a double decker bus 45 minutes to work every morning and an hour home every evening. I no longer stock up on groceries for a week or two, but rather two or three days (due to the impressively small nature of the refrigerators and freezers here). When planning to leave the house I now rely on bus routes, train lines/stations and traffic rather than hopping in my car with the “be there in 5” mentality. None of these are negative things, but rather big adjustments to daily living that I’ve grown accustomed to rather quickly and that no longer faze me. In the last couple weeks I have started to feel like I actually live here in London, and now that I am a couple weeks into my new job and have settled into a routine it all feels so “normal” – whatever that is.

I’ve done a lot over the last couple weeks, but I feel as though I haven’t even made a dent in everything I want to do while I’m here. A couple weeks ago I took a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover – somewhere I wanted to go ever since I knew I was going to England. And they were just as impressive as they are in pictures. There’s something about standing on the edge of a plummeting cliff looking out over the sea to the cliffs of France in the distance that makes a person feel small and insignificant, yet whole and peaceful at the same time. It was probably the best first Saturday excursion I could have taken.

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Another weekend I spent the day in Windsor, touring around Windsor castle and the little town itself. As some may know, it’s been on my bucket list for years to see the queen. The current queen. Yes, the one that is 90 years old. I don’t feel as though I’m one to be starstruck by people, but I think seeing the queen would make me a wreck. So let’s just say being in one of her many residences made me more excited than the average person. Either way, it was of course beautiful and I would not have complained if I was born a royal. We ended the day with a little walk down to the shore of the Thames river with the castle towering above the little town.

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I guess a main part of my year in London is my new job! My school is fantastic and the pupils are the cutest little 5 year olds I have ever seen. I realized shortly after beginning that I have much to learn. I always knew that the first year teaching was going to be busy and time consuming, but knowing something and experiencing something are completely different. I came into the year with so many things I wanted to do and try and am finding myself not having the time to develop or implement them how I’d like. Granted, it’s only been a month since the beginning of the year and I have loads of time. I truly love it though, and have a great support system at the school happy to guide me through. I think I’ll elaborate on the England school experience in another post – way too much writing for today. But here are some pictures of my school and classroom (at the beginning of the year – it has changed much already for the better!)

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As some of you also know, I had the privilege of having my sister here in London with me for a week before she headed off to school up north of Manchester. It was definitely different waiting to pick someone up from the airport rather than being the one picked up, but I quite enjoyed it. After a week of 5:30am mornings and late nights, I can say I was absolutely exhausted but wouldn’t trade that week for anything. We started the week off by trying to fight her jet lag and went sightseeing in Central London. Over the course of the week we hit up St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, London Tower, saw the view of the London skyline from Primrose Hill, and went to The Lion King at Lyceum Theatre – which was phenomenal. We also went to a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – and had box seats (not as great as you may think – but still cool). It was a modern play but in Shakespearean language. Not gonna lie, didn’t follow a lot of it but being part of the production in the open theatre was an experience I’m glad we had.

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I know that I am not the greatest at giving everyone updates of my life or sharing pictures – but hopefully this has been a sign of good faith that I will stay on track with my blogging and keep you all filled in. I appreciate you all!

Cheers

Hey, I Moved

Hello again everyone! It’s been awhile since I was required to write a blog post – welcome to my first one that I chose to do without it being for an assignment. I think this means it has sunk in that I’m no longer a student.

As most of you know, I have recently relocated across the pond to London, England. I’ve been in the UK for 11 days now, and can say I’m finally starting to find myself getting settled. There have been many twists and turns from the first day I arrived, drenched in sweat, an obvious foreigner dragging more luggage than she can handle, to today, drinking coffee in my new home (I have yet to accept an offer of tea – I’m not ready to give up my coffee yet). When I arrived, my first priority was to find a home so that when my week was up at the hostel I wouldn’t be homeless. Within 2 days of searching, I confirmed a place and was set to move in that week!

With that taken care of, I set out to do all the boring stuff associated with moving. I got myself a fancy new UK number (which I cannot for the life of me memorize), and bought an umbrella of course. I now carry it with my 24/7 in my purse. This is also where I ran into some small roadblocks with technical issues regarding my visa, which are still being worked out, but everyone here has been very helpful and I’m optimistic. Of course I had to get some sightseeing in and so I hit up the British Museum.

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Once I was all moved in, I could start settling and explore my new neighbourhood, which is on the very edge of West London – Uxbridge. I spent some time (too much) shopping for the essentials (and ended up with a couple bags of non-essentials – oops), and finding my favourite coffee spot. This past Saturday the agency I’m with, Engage Education, held an induction event at the University of Westminster. It was so good to see and reconnect with familiar faces from the iday event I attended back in April, and to meet new teachers in the same kind of situation as myself. A celebratory supper and evening was in order as we explored just a small part of central London.

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I will finally get into my classroom on Wednesday this week and am so ready to start working! This week I’m hoping to do a bit more exploring and a bit more settled so that I’m ready for my career to start next week!

Before I close off, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts over the last 11 days:

  1. Nothing is more humbling than squinting at coins trying to figure out how much they are all worth. I’ve resorted to only paying with bills, sorry – with notes, and now my wallet weighs about 10 pounds just from coins
  2. One of my favourite discoveries – Poundland; the equivalent of the Dollar Tree
  3. With all the different cultures and travellers here, I don’t even know what a real British accent sounds like anymore
  4. I thought “cheers” meant “goodbye” for the first while, and it was only after numerous weird interactions I finally figured out it meant “thanks”

Until next time!

Am I Worldly Now?

The end of the semester has come, as does the official end of my learning project. I’ve been working on learning the countries of the world and their capitals, and I can’t say I got exactly where I wanted to, but I have much improved in this area.

In case you missed it, here was my first post before I started doing this project.

At the beginning, I took a 15 minute quiz on the countries of the world – you have 15 minutes to name as many as you know. The first time I took it I knew 68 out of 196 countries – and not necessarily where they were, but I knew they existed somewhere beyond the horizon. Today I took the same 15 minute quiz and achieved 196/196 with 1:49 minutes left! AND I used the map below to look at a country and name it rather than just spouting out random country names.

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The capitals have proved to be difficult. I think this is because countries are more well-known and talked about, where the majority of the capitals in the world I have never even heard of, therefore they are difficult to remember and place. I took a quiz on the same site, but instead you have 12 minutes to complete it, with the names of the countries below. When I completed it at the beginning, I achieved a measly 11/196. This was quite depressing. However, now I took the same quiz and have upped my score to 104/196 – and know where all 104 of them are. I think this is quite an improvement.

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In my original post, I mentioned I wanted to do this because I knew it would go beyond this semester, and that I could use it for the rest of my life. And I know that is true. I want to continue learning this over the next couple weeks/months until I can successfully spout out any country or capital on command. That sounds kind of like a dog doing tricks, but it is something that has made me increasingly globally aware over the last couple months and I really feel more connected to the rest of the world. I really appreciated this assignment and the push to learn a new skill – I think it’s something we all need to do. Maybe when I’m done this I’ll pick up something else to learn. There’s no time limit on learning! I’m excited to continue with this project and the next one (I’m thinking maybe sign language?). I’ll let you faithful followers know how I’m doing!

My Contribution to the Learning of Others

What a catchy title hey? Not one of my best, but it is the most accurate.

Over the last 3 months or so I have learned so much about technology and the benefits of having an online community. I will come right out and say that I am not the most involved or the most prominent person online – it’s not who I am. Not online, and not even in real life. I am more than willing to help others when they need it and I have the answer (not super often – sorry google plus community), but I am much more comfortable showing encouragement in the form of a retweet or share than a comment. Maybe that will change and I just need some more time than one semester, so I’m going to keep at it. But for now, I am happy with how much I have grown since the class first started.

That being said, I did my best. I made an effort to read and comment on other blogs, as you can see in some of screenshots on this google doc. I really appreciated when we all had the same prompt, so that I could see all the different perspectives of everyone in the class. We all wrote about virtually the same things, but sometimes had drastically different takes on it. Even if I didn’t necessarily comment, that did not mean I didn’t enjoy reading! Sometimes as well, as I am a slow processor, I needed some time before immediately writing as I like to think things through first. I have no better excuse than I simply forgot to back afterwards.

Sometimes, it was a simple encouragement saying I loved what they did, or else a question to further my ponderings. Regardless, I pushed myself this course to at least try and make an effort to engage with my fellow colleagues.

Twitter has SO MANY things! I have to say, I really enjoyed my first twitter chat, #starschat, for #BellLetsTalk. I thought it would be stressful and confusing, but turns out its fast paced with so many wise and thoughtful words. I really appreciated that opportunity to join. And now I have a bookmarked Ed Chat Calendar so I know when all chats are happening!

I’ve become a pro at retweeting. However, I’m slowly learning to add my own thoughts and opinions when I retweet. But I’m getting out there, and I love to share other people’s ideas and posts when I see the value in them. I took to twitter rather than google plus when I needed assistance as it seemed an easier way for me to keep connected.

Now, when you compare my contribution to the learning of others, you may think that I am not overly involved – however that’s just not me. At the start of the course I wanted to create a positive and true digital identity for myself online, and I think I am just beginning to accomplish that. I have much more work to do but compared with the beginning of the semester, I am content with my growth and contributions. I am also excited to continue the journey – it definitely won’t end here. Now that I’ve seen all the support and resources out there, I want to share my own as well as contribute to anything other’s need that I can help with. I’m excited to grow my network! Again, check out my google doc with some of my contributions over the semester!

Also, check out my summary of learning below!

 

Surprise! I Like Coding!

Last week I had never even heard of coding in the classroom, and now it turns out I actually don’t mind doing it all. Whenever I thought of coding, I always imagined some hacker in a dark room typing really fast creating “codes” without exactly knowing what they were. Turns out, they are just instructions for what they want the computer to do.

I began exploring the Hour of Code and found it so intriguing I had to do a second one. I did a quick little screencast (my first one I might add) of the first couple steps of the Frozen hour of code to give you all a little taste of what it’s like. Check it out through the link below.

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I think I like coding because it’s so technical and logical. That’s the way my brain works. I like math and science – things that have a right answer, and that you can use formula’s so figure things out. I think coding follows that pattern and you have to logically think things out.

I think that’s why it’s so beneficial in school. It allows kids to critically think about the things in the world around them – including computers which are such a huge part of our everyday lives. We can’t take those things for granted without trying to investigate how those things work. It’s important to have a critical mind that is always learning – this is just another opportunity to do that in a fun and engaging way. I encourage you all to check out coding and see you how do!

 

KAGOY

KAGOY – Kids Are Getting Older Younger

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I know I’ve seen picture like this often and give a little nod in mutual understanding, but this essentially makes light of a much larger issue. The acronym above is from the documentary ‘Sext up Kids’ by the Doc Zone that I watched earlier this week. I also watched, for a second time, ‘Sextortion of Amanda Todd‘ by the fifth estate. We only had to watch one of them for our ecmp355 class, but after the first I needed to continue to understand what was happening. And I’m a sucker for documentaries.

Both documentaries really make a person look around and open their eyes in a way to the world. Kids are being bombarded daily by social media, toys, clothes, and books pushing sexualization. One of the scariest things from that first documentary was that advertisers have found ways to advertise straight to kids rather than through parents. Whether that’s online, through tv, or toys kids are wanting to look and be older when they should be outside, using their imaginations, or playing with their friends.

Because, I think when we look at the sextortion of Amanda Todd, this is just one result of this sexualization. Boys have expectations of girls and can find them online, and girls have ingrained in them what they think boys want. This sexualization at a young age is becoming ingrained in kids when they are at such a crucial point in their development. Before they have time to figure out who they are and who they want to be we have everything telling them what they should be. I would compare it to the picture of a frog in water, if you throw him in a pot of boiling water, he will obviously jump right out. But if you put him in and slowly turn the heat up, he doesn’t even realize he’s boiling to death. I think society as a whole has been increasing the sexualization of EVERYTHING, and now all of a sudden it’s at a point that is impossible to control.

With technology becoming so widespread and common (it’s now rare if someone doesn’t have access to the internet 24/7), if kids want to go online they will. We can put all kinds of filters and restrictions up, but at the end of the day kids are sneaky. Now part of our job is teaching these kids how to be kids. Giving them real, authentic experiences and expectations. Giving them the freedom to be kids, and to figure out for themselves who they are and who they want to be. However, this is difficult. So let me ask, what are some things you think we can do to change this generation of sext up kids?

 

You Are Too Kind

Not you. Well, maybe you. I may not even know you so you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I’ve been continuing on with my learning project of learning the countries and their capitals (yes, all 200).

So far I’ve nailed all the countries and their spelling (98% of the time). The capitals are proving to be a bit of another story. For one, they are not talked about or as familiar as the countries. Most of us can recognize the names of countries and even probably tell you what continent they are on, but the capitals – most of them I’ve never even heard of. Which is crazy! Well, maybe not crazy but I do feel more educated the more I learn.

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So here’s how I’m doing – from this quiz – I’ve got the countries down, and the capitals…I have a ways to go. I find that when the capital is given to me, I can usually figure out what country it belongs to. It’s when i look at a country and try and figure out what the name of the capital is that I struggle.

So back to the title. I was working through the capitals of Oceania in the library while studying (or not studying) for a test with a friend. As I was complaining about how difficult it was, she plainly asked why I would even try to do this. Which was good for me to look back and remember why I started this process. I want to have an increased global awareness and to be able to relate even on a small level with the news that constantly bombards us on twitter, facebook and tv and even to people as Canada has such a diverse place. I help out with a conversational english program, and we have people who come from China, South Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uganda, Spain, Uruguay, and India to name a few. I love that I actually know where these places are. Maybe it’s selfish to just be happy that I know things – but I think it’s more than that and it’s increasing my awareness and also desire to learn more about global culture.

So I told my friend that in not so many words, and she said how incredible it was that I could memorize all of them and she would never try. She was too kind. But the fact is there are many things I cannot do. That’s the point of this learning project – we are stretching ourselves and trying new things, and developing new skills. Whether it’s building on a previous one or starting from nothing.

 

What’s Your Role in Changing the World?

I think one of the best uses for technology has been when it is used for positive change. What a better platform to spread your cause than the world?

As I was sifting through my feedly account this week, I came across an article called Changing a Changing World : Teaching Social Media for Social Activism. What a great connection to what we’ve been learning about in our ECMP355 class. I wanted to share the most powerful line from the article with you because it’s too good to just keep for myself.

“Facebook and Twitter will never replace voting or marching, but it’s a tool to organize; a way to convince your friends to register to vote or be aware of a cause.”

Though technology does not replace certain rights and ways of supporting a cause, it can provide awareness and empowerment to others who are passionate about the same cause as yourself. One organization that has embodied this is called World Camp and I had the opportunity to be a part of it in the summer of 2014. This organization was founded by a group of college student in 2000. They saw a need for improved access to quality health services, education, and resources through community-driven initiatives in Malawi, Africa. I found out about this organization through technology and the university.

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Above is one of my classes that I had the privilege of providing education too with the assistance of my translator, Chimwemwe. This organization has been able to expand and grow to include not only an education program, but a healthcare program as well. It has grown through the use of blogs, twitter, instagram, facebook and email. This organization was started with a group of college students who wanted to do something to better the world, and then acted on it. I encourage you all to check out their website. They are doing incredible things in Malawi and working to bring about local leaders of change! With international women’s day happening yesterday, I wanted to share another photo with you. We were able to spend time with all the women in the school for an hour each day we were in the villages to give them encouragement, answer questions, and empower them.

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What incredible women!

Now a word of empowerment to you kind folks. I’d ask you read and consider another article, What Role Were You Born to Play in Social Change? Yes, technology is able to spread awareness about the social issues we are passionate about, and we can encourage our student to get involved and to become socially aware. And then they can act on it! Through technology we also have countless opportunities to choose from. Start your own organization, your own campaign, your own world-trending hashtag, or your own blog simply raising awareness. The article I just mentioned has the different roles in social change – the advocate, the helper, the organizer, and the rebel – and how they can be used positively or negatively. So which role will you play?

I can't get enough of these smiling faces!
I can’t get enough of these faces!

Too Much Information? You Decide.

It takes about 142.18 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie pop.

Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.

A normal raindrop falls at about 7 miles an hour.

In a world where we can google almost anything, and with limitless information at our fingertips, how do we decipher what is important and what isn’t? The facts I shared above are interesting and weird, yet also completely useless. I mean, who cares if “stewardesses” is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand? Or if catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers?

I’ve been thinking about these things as a result of my learning project (which is going great by the way). I’ve learned the names, locations, and spelling of all the countries of the world, and am pretty well done the same with the capitals of all 200 of those countries. Then I thought to myself, what should I learn next? The flags? Other important cities? The currency used? The main language? Maybe I should learn a language. Or sign language. Or brail. Or maybe I should learn morse code. That could come in handy one day.

I’m currently taking a history class as my elective on Ancient Rome. Why do I need to know anything about ancient Rome? Will it help me in my life to know that Appius Claudius Caecus created the manipular army formation that won them the Third Samnite war in 290 BC? Probably not.

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If you’d like, here is a whole site with 77 ways to learn faster so you can pack as much knowledge (useful or not) into your brain as you want. But don’t be fooled. There are also articles dedicated to the opposite, such as this one called “Know Your Limits, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much.”

So how do we pick out useful information and discern what is worth our time learning? Or what is worth remembering? I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog that I don’t have the answers to. I’m simply pondering and sharing those thoughtful insights with the world at large. I would, however, love to hear (or read?) your thoughts!

What Does Your Commitment to Reconciliation Look Like?

Last Wednesday evening, I tuned in to a live stream of a lecture given by The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair who is the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The following bio was taken from the TRC website.

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He was such a powerful speaker and said a lot of things I think every educator and resident of Canada needs to hear. He talked about the impact of residential schools, and he described them not as educational institutions, but rather welfare systems. The more I think about what I already know, the more sense this makes. They (we?) didn’t want to educate these kids to their full potential, they wanted to get rid of the “problem”. Every child was abused in some way. I’m going to say that again so it sinks in. Every CHILD was abused in some way.

Justice Sinclair also talked about the hiding of aboriginal identity from others, as well as themselves. I don’t think anybody can argue that identity is unimportant. If you have to hide your identity, what does that leave you? I’m not going to answer that but I would invite you to think on it.

I don’t feel like I can do justice to this talk. It was powerful, inspiring and an eye-opener. However, I will briefly touch on his call for us. He mentioned we need to understand each other and that this is not a one-sided conversation. Yet we also need to be realistic and that we can’t carry around this anger forever, but we must never forget, which I think is the essence of the TRC and what Justice Sinclair was speaking too. He declared that we have a lot of work to do (which I don’t think anybody can deny), and that we need to make a commitment to reconciliation. I would encourage you to take a look at the TRC, and to make your own commitment to reconciliation. I would also ask though, what does your commitment to reconciliation look like?