Educational Influences: Talking with my father about “les Jeux de l’Acadie” & learning from students

This is part 2 of the interview I did with my father, Guy J. LeBlanc, for a new blog series called, Educational Influences. My intention with this series is to share the stories of people who have influenced my perception of education. I know you will learn as much from them as I did, and this is why I want to share their stories here.

In the last post, my father spoke about the beginning of his career in education. This post continues from his time as an elementary school PE teacher where he answers the question, “What was one of your most memorable moments teaching PE?”

Photo taken at St. Pete Beach, Florida, where I interviewed my father

Photo taken at St. Pete Beach, Florida, where I interviewed my father

Guy: The other was to give elementary students the chance to participate in sports they had never even heard about. Like soccer: in Clare (where we grew up) soccer was not a sport that was recognized. We started volleyball, badminton. Volleyball, that my daughters, and many others participated in, started here at the elementary level. Another teacher, James Boudreau, had organized the first volleyball team that participated at the Jeux de l’Acadie (a provincial, multi-sport competition for the Acadian regions in Canada’s Atlantic provinces): they were grade seven girls from École Joseph Dugas. And from there, volleyball has always been a sport that is strong in Clare. We were often the Nova Scotia champions.

Me: So because of the work that you did, in terms of bringing sports to the community,…

Guy: It was the first team from Nova Scotia that ever played for the Jeux d’Acadie because before that it was only for the acadian youths from New Brunswick.  Because of my affiliation with recreation, I knew guys at the University of Moncton and basically they were the backbone of les Jeux de l’Acadie. So they invited me to a meeting and we left there with the participation of one team, and now it’s a full delegation like any other region from New Brunswick.

Me: And at that time the first team or group was just a volleyball team?

Guy: Yes. A group of girls. Louanne Dugas, Judy Aucoin who’s on CIFA (Acadian radio station) now, Brenda LeBlanc… that was at the grade 7 level at the elementary school. Only the grade sevens at that time. And then after that… well, you played for many years after that. (My sister – at Louizette Photography – and I played varsity volleyball throughout our middle school and high school years. My sister also played for the provincial team. Les Jeux were the highlight of our summers.)

Me: And it was because of you?

Guy: Yeah, I guess I was there. I wasn’t scared to step out of Clare to network, and so we had the opportunity, and we had people who supported us. At that time there was Yvon Samson who worked for the FANE who helped us raise money. And then the year after, well, Clare was going, so Ste. Anne du Ruisseau (the municipality of Argyle) put together a team. Then Richmond went, and then Cheticamp…everyone. In the Acadian regions if one wants to do it, the others do too. So then everyone was encouraged.

Me: In relation to the students, when you were teaching at the elementary school, was there a student who stood out for you, or something you learned about teaching children?

Guy: One thing I learned is that children up to the age of 4 or 5, at least back then, don’t have secrets. Often, what happens at home, you (the PE teacher) would hear about it in the PE class. They trusted you and they spoke about it. Often you heard strange things, and at that time there weren’t all the regulations that there are now. Some kids did not have a good time at home. I realized at that time that there were people who weren’t treated well, but in their eyes, they were happy. Today you might say they were abused, but it was just because the parents didn’t know better. And some of them (the students) turned out really great.

Me: You thought it was the PE class that helped them to speak?

Guy: The PE class was less formal than others so they could speak to you. I guess they felt they could speak more freely, more often.

Me: Do you remember if they would take you aside, or was it just random?

Guy: Well, it was just random for them. It wasn’t a big thing. They were waiting their turn to serve the ball or to go on the court, or something like that.

Me: Anything else about the students?

Guy: There were many more students back then. There were large classes.

Me: Did you think motivation was different than it was today?

Guy: There weren’t computers, so kids were looking for something to do, whether it was sports or dance. They had more time for that than they do now. Now they have time but they have more choices. They can spend two hours on the internet, or on video games. At that time there weren’t any. The only video games If you can call them that ones that existed were at Alcide’s Restaurant, or the Submarine Restaurant… pinball machines. That was the closest to video games that existed.

Me: What was after this?

Guy: I was president of the Chamber of Commerce. I was in charge of the Boys Scouts in our area. That was when I was teaching I think.

Me: You were in charge of the Boy Scouts because you were a Boy Scout?

Guy: Yes. I went through that system.  Then I went to the Chamber of Commerce.

Me: Was it volunteer?

Guy: Yes.

Me: Why did you want to do that?

Guy: I was always interested in the well-being of the community. To make sure that there were jobs and that people stayed; to develop something new in the community.

Me: I guess that’s why you entered politics. Was it because you really wanted to make a big change?

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My father will answer this question in part 3 of this interview in the following weeks.

You can also find the post I wrote about my father for International Teacher Development Institute, Outside Influences Issue, at this link.

Educational Influences: My father, Guy J. LeBlanc

This past winter, I interviewed my father on five different occasions, with each interview taking place at St. Pete Beach, Florida. My intention was to learn more about the moments he felt were significant to him in his work in education.  I also wanted to share his work with others, and of course learn more about my father — or “pape” as my sister (view and purchase her captivating photography here) and I call him.

For the most recent iTDi blog issue, Outside Influences, I shared part of an interview I did with my father in, An Outside Influence from Within My Family. However, here on Throwing Back Tokens, I will share shorter sections from those interviews throughout the next few months.

I want to thank my father for being so open with me, and for allowing me to share his story here. It is a sweet privilege.

And here is where the timeline begins.

Morning seashell hunting misson

Morning seashell hunting at St. Pete Beach, Florida

Me: Why did you enter the field of education, and when was that?

Guy: I started teaching a swimming course when I was 16 years old. That was really my first experience in education. And then when I finished college* I had an offer to work in a bank, but it didn’t pay my student loans, so at the last minute (August 15 and the university semester started in September), I decided to get my Bachelor of Education at Acadia.

*This is what we would consider as the final year in high school now. During his teenage years, my father studied at what is now known as Universite St. Anne. Although the community was francophone Acadian, this was the only school in the area where the content and instructions were in French.

Then I taught for two years at the Clare District High School. The formal classroom was never my style. I had always wanted to teach Physical Education (PE). My parents discouraged me because I had a bad back — two slipped discs at 16 or 17 years old. The discs came back into place, but I had a weak back. And so if I took a major in PE, I wouldn’t be able to teach in a regular classroom.

Then after two years at the high school, I decided to go to Acadia to take a Bachelor of Recreation.

Me: Let’s back up here. So you you had been in a regular class, and you taught…?

Guy: …Social Studies, History (what they called back then, History and Geography). We taught Health with a book from 1948, and I was teaching in the 70s. Not one of the profs felt it was right, but because we were in a school that was predominantly Catholic, there were certain things about sexuality you couldn’t talk about with students. There was little about health like we know about it today — like how to eat; how to exercise; how to strengthen yourself and be in better health.

Me: Was that one of the reasons you didn’t want to keep going in the classroom?

Guy: That was one of the reasons. When I was a student in school, I didn’t really like going to school, so teaching in the classroom didn’t interest me greatly.  But I loved working with people: with young people. I had always worked with kids in my swimming courses and in clubs for kids.

Me: So you wanted to work in PE because it was more in line with your beliefs; it was more active and more of what you had already done in your life. Then you went to Acadia to take your Bachelor of Recreation…

Guy: …and Physical Education at that time. It was a new program that started. At that time it was strange because they were talking about a “4 day work week”. Everyone was going to have a lot of free time for recreation so it was going to be a growing field. 35 years later, it’s not a 4 day work week but more of a 7 day week.

They wanted to focus on activities for the community, while now it’s about health and staying fit: to keep the mind fit and the body fit. Recreation is an integral part of almost every community. I was the first recreation director in Clare. It was a newly created position, but I only stayed a year (My father describes a controversial moment that occurs that leads to him being let go. The community was upset with this decision because they wanted the position to remain in the community and wanted my father to keep the position. Terms weren’t met and so…)

… I returned to teaching. There was position that opened up to teach PE from grade 3 to grade 7 (8 to 12 years old). I taught PE for 5 to 6 years in elementary school.

Me: I remember because I was really hoping that you would be my teacher. (I was a huge PE fanatic as a kid, and the idea of my dad being my PE teacher was big dream. When I got to grade 3, however, he began his career as an elected member of the Nova Scotia legislature.)

What was one of your most memorable moments teaching PE?

Guy: One of my greatest accomplishments was convincing the school board to teach swimming to all elementary students for 10 weeks instead of the regular PE classes. There were many drownings at that time. Every summer there was a young person who drowned. The predominant industry in Clare was fishing. Everyone spent time around wharves and boats, so for me it was important for kids to learn how to swim. So I was able to convince the school board on the basis that if the kids could take the basics, they would be safer citizens.

Me: What were the basics?

Guy: Some kids could swim, but some kids had never seen a pool and would never see one because their parents couldn’t afford to bring them to the pool at Universite St. Anne. Like this, transportation was provided for the students and the “foyer ecole” (home and school association) raised money to pay for the buses and the school board approved. This way everyone learned artificial respiration and other basic life saving skills, basic swimming skills…if they fell in the water, they learned how to put on a life jacket and save themselves.

Looking back, that was probably one my best achievements at the elementary level.

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Part 2 of this interview will come out next weekend. Thank you for reading!

Questions I ask myself before class

I’m currently working on a project that asks me to question what teachers may need to consider and do in order to confidently teach an English language class. To do this, I wrote a list of questions that have come to my mind during my years of teaching, and thought it might be of use to you as well. The list below relates to questions I try to ask myself before class, with “before” being subjective to time. I also intend to create a list of what I think about during and after class.

  • Individual learners – Who are my learners? What do they already know about English? What are their interests in life? Why are they here? How do they feel today? What’s going on in their lives that might affect their time here?
  • Group dynamics – Do the learners get along? What can I do to create a community (collaborative rather than competitive)? What are the cultural dynamics at play? How do the learners relate to me?
  • Classroom dynamics – Is the layout conducive to discussions or the tasks I have in mind? From what I know about them (how they may feel today or their personal preferences), or based on the task I have planned, will they need to move around? How can I display visuals?
  • Materials – Do they have a textbook (assigned audio)? Will I use what’s in it or will supplement it? Will I disregard parts of the chapter? Will I create my own material? Will they create their own material? If so, with what and how? Will I tell them what to create or will they decide?
  • Language – Are we starting with target language in mind? How could I visually or conceptually clarify the language that comes up? Do I have examples or visuals (audio) to help clarify the language skill (i.e.: genre; communicative purpose; register)? Do I want to be explicit (deductive approach) or implicit (inductive approach) with my clarification, or both? Is metalanguage needed (thanks to Chia Suan Chong for this inspiration)?
  • The language lesson – How can I structure my lesson in a way that the learners feel supported yet also challenged? Do they need a heavily structured lesson or do they work well with a more laid back, organic approach? Writing skills – What do they need to know in order to write a successful text? What is the genre or purpose of the text? What kind of language (register, grammar, lexis…) is needed to write in this genre or to communicate a desired message? How much time will I give for thinking, planning, outlining, revising, editing, and sharing with the audience? Will they share their text, and if so with who and how? Reading and listening skills – Is the text meaningful to the learners? Do I need to pre-teach lexis? What language may they find challenging? What skills (prediction, scanning, skimming, listening for details or gist…) will be needed to complete the task? What questions can I ask to help them catch the main idea and specific details? Speaking- What are they trying to communicate? Is it a conversation or a presentation? Is the topic meaningful to the learners? What is the context (i.e.: what is appropriate or inappropriate  language)? Do they have a reason to use the language (i.e.: is someone listening and does that person have a reason to respond)? Do they have enough time to practice the language? How will I help them clarify the pronunciation? 4skills – How will I help learners balance accuracy and fluency? How will I deal with errors? Can they self or peer correct?
  • Approach – How does what I know about how languages are learned inform how I create opportunities for learning (i.e.: input theories, output theories, affective learning theories…)? How will my past experience with learning language inform my approach? What methodologies would would work best considering the needs of my learners (audio-lingual, CLT, TBL, grammar translation…)? How can I mix these up to serve them best?
  • Teacher (self and intentions) – How am I feeling today? What do I need? How do my past experiences influence today’s class, and what am I ready to do about it?

Now for the last question: what am I missing? If you notice I’ve missed an important question, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 years – a brief story

Just before leaving classes for the day, a teacher-trainee earnestly asks me, “This is kind of private question, but do you think you are going to stay in Korea forever?”

This is a common question. I get it at least once a year. For the first time in a long time, I felt comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”

I came here ten years ago, and at that time one year was all I knew. I never could have imagined 10 years and the stories that came along with that timestamp. But here I am. 10 years. And why do I still say, “I don’t know?” Because what do we ever know? I think we all look back with awe: awe at the joy, the sorrow, the celebration, the gratitude, the compassion… the magic.

I often felt unease with my answer, but now I realize it is the most realistic answer I could give. Although Korea and I have deep karmic currents, my heart longs for Canada and familiarity. And although it has this longing, my heart also realizes this wonderful Korean connection.

So what do I do? I just do, and I try to be. It’s all I can do. And for the first time, I’m ok with that.

Let’s see what the next 10 years bring. In the meantime, this is just a touch of what the last 10 years have brought.

Christmas 2004

Christmas 2004 – le chemin du moulin

Picture it. New year’s eve 2004. Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fireworks, my parents, and dear old friends. Korean visa gratefully (FINALLY) in hand.

Flight to Incheon. January 1, 2005.

The magical and mysterious land of Daegu, South Korea.

Bulguksa > Byongchan. 나는 청말조와해요.

at the end of 2005...hehe

proud, but wow… that picture!

Meditation. Contemplation.

Moonkkang/Youngmoon English Institute.

to the core

to the core

MA TESOL at SIT. Heaven.

Facebook.

Reflection.

Marriage. Transition.

Keimyung University.

NVC practice group at FIN English, Daegu.

KOTESOL.

Teacher training – KIETT.

Reflective Practice Special Interest Group.

Writing.Blogging.Journaling.

Twitter/iTDi.

Compassion.

Centro Espiral Mana.

Friendship.

Love.

Family.

Travel.

Gratitude.

Coming home.

home

Home

 

2015 :)

Taking that leap

Tara Mohr meets Chuck Sandy

Tara Mohr meets Chuck Sandy

I finally took the leap.

I took the leap from playing small and took some steps towards playing big. (click here to tweet)

You see, since I began training teachers, I’ve dreamed of facilitating sessions on the concept of compassionate communication, where I’d ask the teachers in our program to delve more deeply into empathy for the self and others.

But instead of doing this, I listened to my inner critic. My inner critic’s favourite story has been that I am not qualified enough to do such a thing, and that the teachers probably wouldn’t want to participate. And, who am I to push this concept on them anyway?

Then walks in Tara Mohr.

I first heard her speak with Tami Simon on the Insights at the Edge podcast about how common it is for women to stay small mostly due to the voice of this inner critic. Playing big, as Tara explains in her book, is about:

“learning how to use your voice to change those systems. It’s not about “opting in” or “opting out” according to our society’s current thinking (…) It’s about turning away from those labels, refocusing your attention and longings and dreams, and playing big in going for them.”

One way she suggests doing this is by taking a leap. What she said got my psyched, so guess what I did?

Below are six criteria that Tara suggests for taking a leap. I’ll explain my leap while looking back on what happened in relation to these six.

1. It gets you playing bigger now, according to what playing bigger means to you.

Playing big for me means helping teachers deal with teacher burnout via healing strategies such as of self-compassion, and empathic listening within a community.

2. It can be finished within one to two weeks.

The discussion group ended in less than five months. But to be fair, our meetings were quite spread out. We met a total of 5 times over 5 months.

3. It’s simple: an action that you could describe in a short phrase.

My phrase was – to facilitate a bi-weekly discussion group.

4. It gets your adrenaline flowing because a leap stretches you out of your comfort zone.

Yes! Although I was comfortable with facilitating a group of this nature, I was going out of my comfort zone offering this idea to the teachers in our program.

I started out by giving an introduction to everyone in the course (16 in-service teachers) about the concept of compassionate communication — basically helping them develop their literacy of feelings and needs. I also lead a session where we read the article on teacher burnout and self-compassion. With this basic foundation, I felt comfortable about telling them about my ideas of starting a discussion group. 10 teachers volunteered, and about 8 stayed until the end. My adrenaline has definitely been flowing.

5. A leap puts you in contact with the audience you want to reach or influence.

I have learned so much from these teachers: about how my approach has influenced them and could also influence them in the future. I have recorded each session and I am currently waiting for individual feedback. But that being said, I already received the best feedback I could ever ask for during our last session.

On the last day our group met (December 23, 2014), I asked the teachers to share what needs were fulfilled by their final discussion. I’ll save the details for another post, but let me just say I felt incredibly touched and connected.

At the end session, I gave each teacher one of these magnets below, and encouraged them to use it as a reminder to not to give up on themselves. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

I feel pretty confident there’s no playing small anymore.

don't give up #redthumbforlove

*Cynthia Gray is the artist behind the “Don’t Give Up” magnet project.

*I also want to thank Chuck Sandy who inspired me to take my first leap at the beginning of this year. Chuck inspired me in creating the #redthumbforlove Self-Compassion for Teachers project. This first leap gave me great strength to try this new leap.  This is what Chuck does. He inspires people into faith (a nod to the picture at the top of this post), and I am ever grateful to him for helping me find faith in myself. My inner critic will forever be annoyed with this little glitch in its storyline. ;)

Turning Points & Right-handed Blogging with @AnnLoseva

Can you describe an important turning point in your life?

This is one of my favourite questions to ask, but it isn’t always a pleasant question to answer. It may require letting go of some barriers. It may require trusting the listener. And so, I finally sit here at my blog — the barriers were safely in position for 6 months — contemplating this trust. I want to provide a response because I want to record this moment. It was a turning point after all, and turning points are pivotal parts of one’s narrative.

6 months ago, right after I finished observing my last lesson of the semester, my body spoke loud and clear. It cramped up and it was sweaty when there was no logical reason. I felt dizzy and couldn’t breathe well. My body was asking me to do what my mind didn’t have the language to articulate: to take care of myself (body, mind, and spirit).

I don’t feel ready to write about the details of what lead to this turning point, but I am excited to share what came out of it.

I’ve been getting more sleep; I’ve been exercising more; I’ve been eating better; I’ve been meditating regularly; I’ve been turning off my computer; I’ve been letting go of the expectations I usually put on myself.

But the most exciting thing is this — I am in the midst of developing the curriculum I have always wanted to create: a curriculum based on helping teachers connect to their inner lives. I began the semester with language lessons based on helping teachers develop their emotional literacy (looking at feelings and needs vocabulary from a variety of perspectives and language skills, namely reading, and writing.) My goal here is to give them the time and space to connect to the challenges and celebrations of the teacher’s life, while also helping them develop their language skills. Six weeks into the semester, and I know I am on the right track. This feeds my soul in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

A turning point turns into another.

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I am grateful to Anna Loseva for coming to visit me this weekend, and for the right-handed blog party that ensued. Without her, I’m sure that this post would have been written much later.  This was my first time blogging with someone, and also my first time pressing publish without being totally satisfied with what I’ve written. Another turning point perhaps?

Right hands

*

Researching Research & Learning via #iTDi

I was excited to blog about research for the latest iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) issue, Ongoing Research, because I knew it would kickstart my research into research. This is what iTDi does: it kickstarts your professional development. I’ve been involved with iTDi for almost two years now, and I have learned from various teachers from around the world, mostly from the comfort of my home. Each of them brings a fresh perspective to teaching, and the amount of inspiration they bring seems never-ending. For this latest issue, I had the privilege of writing alongside three of these inspiring teachers: Divya Madhavan, Kieran Dhunna Halliwell, and Nina Septina. Click here to read their insightful posts. I have a feeling you’ll learn something about research you probably hadn’t thought about, or maybe you’ll learn you aren’t alone in your worries about research. Either way, you’ll learn something new. Again, that’s what happens at iTDi: you learn and you grow.

Below is part of my post where I explore my understanding of Narrative Inquiry as an approach to research.  Follow this link to the iTDi blog to continue reading this post, and to find many posts about teaching and learning.  I also encourage you to sign up as a member of iTDi. There are no strings attached; the only strings are connections to amazing teachers.

iTDi Ongoing Research Banner

I have a craving to learn. Part of this craving is satisfied by writing about teaching and learning here on the iTDi blog as well as on my blog, and also by talking with my inspiring community of teachers, but sometimes I think I need more. I think of working towards a PhD. The idea of diving deep into my topics of interest – how reflective practice and compassionate communication intersect in teacher education – seems like it would satiate my appetite. However, my research into research methods always left a bad taste. I just couldn’t imagine myself crunching numbers. My areas of interest seem to be beyond equations (re: quantitative methods), and too big for what I understand about action research. Then finally, this part of my search was over.

After class one day, my colleague, Darryl Bautista, and I were talking about research, and I told him about my distaste. This was when he told me about his professional experience with narrative inquiry as an approach.  And just like that, the world of research opened itself to me. What follows is a description of where my ongoing research begins: in discovering narrative inquiry. (…)

Related Link

Synchronicity Visits a Teacher – This is the post I wrote while I was doing my research for the issue. I learned that Throwing Back Tokens has a story that needs to be explored.