About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stoplights: How a set of stoplights in Haiti got me thinking about social innovation

Five or more years ago I was traveling through Port au Prince and came across the first set of stoplights that I had seen in Haiti.


In Port au Prince.

As I approached the stoplights, I quickly realized that there was no operational green, yellow, or red light. There was no electricity.

So, of course, drivers ignored them.

A week or so later, I was returning through the same intersection and recognized that the lights were working!

But no was obeying them.

I've used this story many times in talking about how well-intended ideas may not make sense for the context (click here to watch a TEDx Talk I did that uses this story).

It has also helped me wrestle with the idea of social innovation.

Traffic can be crazy in Haiti. First-time travelers flinch as they see trucks hurtling toward them on the wrong side of the road. Yet, amazingly, there seem to be rules for the road that are not easily evident. Drivers have developed innovative means to determine who goes first, how one passes, and how one navigates the road system.

Social innovation is a funny thing. Systems (like stoplights) can help support social innovation or they can get in the way. In my experience, I have learned that it is critical is to be a keen observer of human behaviour and to look for the ways in which innovation naturally "bubbles up" from our interactions with each other and with our environment.

Let's remember to not put stoplights up too quickly in the way of innovation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Teacher candidates in Ayotzinapa, Mexico and Waterloo, Canada: Glocal solidarity?

Two months ago, 43 teacher candidates from a teacher's college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico disappeared during a political protest. Another 6 were killed. For an overview of the situation, please click below:

Globe and Mail "Thousands protest..."

Although separated by 1000s of kilometers, teacher candidates from our own Bachelor of Education program at Wilfrid Laurier University have tried to demonstrate solidarity with their colleagues in Mexico. One way we have done this is through spreading awareness. A group of our teacher candidates met last week to take a picture that they have distributed through social media to help their friends and family become aware of the situation.

Our Bachelor of Education program at Laurier is small - approximately 125 students. If 1/3 of those students were to disappear it would be devastating. When we met for the picture above, there was no fear of reprisal or persecution. We understand that many teachers around the world go to work every day without that same sense of security. As a result, our students are supporting their colleagues in Ayotzinapa in an act of "glocal solidarity."

If you are reading this blog and want to support the family and friends of the students in Ayotzinapa, please consider taking action through Amnesty International (click on link below):

Amnesty International (Canada) petition for Ayotzinapa

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Educating for Peace: Meeting with Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala's father

Can we develop a curriculum for peace education?

That was the question today in our second meeting with Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. In our spring, 2014 meeting we started the conversation; today we hoped to develop some concrete action steps to take us forward.

Ziauddin is well-known as a peace activist from Pakistan. His daughter, Malala, recently co-won the Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times has an excellent documentary that tells their "back story" before she became famous. To watch the video click below:

The Making of Malala

Today's meeting brought together about a dozen educators and academics at University of Waterloo's Conrad Grebel College. As we talked about how we could work together to develop a peace curriculum for students in Pakistan, I kept coming back to two key questions:

1. How can we, as western educators, even begin to conceive of (or contribute to) such a curriculum? What could we offer?
2. How can a peace curriculum lead to peace? I'm a strong believer that a "living curriculum" (i.e. lessons learned from our interactions with each other) supersedes a written one. Yet, one without the other is problematic as well.

I don't have answers for the above questions.

What I was struck by was the suggestion of one of the other educators at the table, a gentleman from Congo who has been part of an African peace initiative sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee. Esau suggested that we should not worry about the specific details of a peace curriculum; that should be designed and developed locally. What we can all contribute to is a framework for what peace education should be in a global sense. That is, what are the universal aspects to peace education that parents, children, and teachers can work toward no matter where they live?

I learned a lot today.

Some I learned from Ziauddin and the other guests who were from Pakistan. But I also learned from a new friend from Congo who taught me (once again) that I have much to learn from my colleagues from other parts of the world.

I am intently looking forward to spending more time with Esau to discover what peace education can be.