Alternative Education

Education

There are some really innovative program offered at my university, many of which I have/will take part in. My initial major, Interactive Arts + Technology, involves a trip to Seattle for one course and most course use group projects and hand on applications instead of exams and mid-terms. I just auditioned for the acting program (aka: BFA Major in Theatre Performance) which is also highly immersive. I love that when I go to an acting class I learn so much about life and humanity just by observing other people and reflecting on my own experience. Yay!

Outside of these “special” programs there are also some courses which are quite innovative. Next semester I am taking SFU’s Semester in DialogueAccording to their site…

The Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue addresses what we believe is the principal challenge for contemporary education: to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility, encourage their passion to improve Canadian society, and develop innovative intellectual tools for effective problem solving. Each semester we develop an original and intensive learning experience that uses dialogue to focus student education on public issues.

Our topic is Sustainable Food Systems and after my studies in permaculture I am quite excited to explore this topic. We have already planned a camping trip for our first week to visit a farm on Vancouver Island! Cool!

SFU also has some really cool geography courses that go on trips for learning, in addition to field studies (such as ItaliaDesign) and exchange opportunities. And I have a couple friends that did an experiential learning course called The Change Lab. I am so lucky to attend a school with so many opportunities!

Thinking back on it, I have had a number of alternative education experiences in my lifetime. In elementary school I was identified as “gifted” and received special support throughout my education as a result. In grade three I got to be part of the “challenge” program which basically meant I got to skip class once a week and the principal would drive me to another school where I got to learn about a special topic with other kids in the program. My topic was circus! In grade 6 I did some special testing and was accepted into Surrey’s first ever MAC class where I stayed for a few months before returning to my “home” school. It was really cool to connect with other kids who learned the same way I did. I am still friends with some of them today! Then in high school I considered joining Inter-A (a largely self-paced learning environment with independent research opportunities) when I entered high school, but I had already established friends and volunteer commitments at my home school so I chose to stay where I was. At my home school we had a gifted coordinator and about once a semester we would meet with her, and the other gifted students in our year to discuss our “issues”. I really valued the opportunity to meet with other kids who were “like me” and I always thought we had a special bond. We all got to make Independent Education Plans (IEPs) and the coordinator tried to put us in classes with other gifted kids, and tried to support us in doing special projects and other initiatives. I got to skip one year of high school social studies through this method. I was also a year ahead in Math. Online courses were another opportunity I took advantage of. I took English 11 online and some other courses later on (Math 12 and Chem 12 to upgrade my marks) through Surrey Connect. I also recall a district Gifted Education Coordinator (staff person). She supported me in joining a gifted environmental conference planning committee. I got trained to be an SFU Philosopher’s Cafe facilitator as a grade 10 student which was pretty cool. I am realizing that I always felt really connected to other “gifted” students and educators. I think it was my idea that we were somehow the same and had something in common if only through or labelling.

Moving forward

In my own city we have the discovery school

Discovery School is a unique program of choice within the Surrey School District. The school draws students from around Surrey and other parts of the Lower Mainland.  Approximately sixty percent of the students come to Discovery from outside the Whalley area.  This is a public school, and there are no tuition fees.

Classrooms are free of clutter.  There are no desks, tables or chairs.   Toys, books, manipulatives and other equipment are stored on shelves lining the rooms.   This uncluttered environment allows for maximum flexibility in arranging small groups for a variety of activities and, most importantly, allows the whole group to sit in a circle, which encourages inclusiveness. Students’ artwork, and other art related to the themes being studied, is treated with respect; mounted and hung on the walls of the classrooms and in the front hall.  Otherwise, walls are generally clear and free from distractions. Even the playground reflects the ideas of cooperation, imagination and tradition. Along with the common adventure playground, Discovery has ‘logs and rocks’, string games, hand games and other areas where children learn to play timeless games with their peers.

I have also heard of Windsor House School, a democratic school in BC! Cool! I am sure I will continue to discover alternative education mediums. Vancouver has a whole brochure of them!

Positivism: How Love, Happiness and Compassion Change the World

This past weekend I hosted a workshop at the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership in Calgary, Alberta. The workshop was called “Positivism: How Love, Happiness and Compassion Change the World” and the description in the program was as follows:

How did one girl go from being suicidal and depressed to traveling the world for free, meeting celebrities and living a life of unconditional love? From Vancouver to Hawaii to California, presenter Jenni Rempel has been connected with big names like Maroon 5 and Jason Mraz. By making choices about how we act and think, we have the power to change the world we live in. This workshop will looking at empowering videos, personal stories and other examples of a loving world. We will also try out techniques for communicating with, loving, and inspiring others (and ourselves).

“What is going to save the human race? Please. Thank you. Why? Because if we all started treating the people and things that we interact with every day with respect and compassion, the effects would ripple through every aspect of our lives, transforming society.” – SuperForest.org

Click here to view the Positivitism Slides! Below are the videos we watched during the workshop…

We ended by reenacting a quick version of this meditation:

If I would have had time I would have played this as well because it is beautiful:

Links!

A few things I could have done better: prefacing the Laughter Yoga exercises with the “fake it till you make it” explanation for health benefits; stating WHY I have certain opinions, being extra careful to state that everything is only MY opinion, define terms (ie: acknowledgement, unconditional love) in slides, acknowledge doubt.

The reviews were very positive… all parts of the workshop came up in feedback as valuable so I’m not sure if i’ll change the program of the workshop at all.

I feel inspired to make changes in the way I live my life.

I appreciate those around me.

Everything in life is an opportunity!

I want to call/e-mail my family and friends and change the way I think of my “enemies”

Awespirational!

It made me feel great!

I feel the need to find unconditional love for people i’ve shunned in my life.

There is always something positive in every situation.

I feel inspired, which is impressive.

This was the best session at the conference!

Positivistsm is awesome and can change the world.

I feel grateful and reaffirmed in my own positivity.

I feel great and worthy.

So much positive energy was going around the room, you were a great speaker!

I feel happy i’m happy!

I feel like smiling a big, huge smile!

I feel like a million bucks.

We have the ability to instantaneously love a stranger next to us. We all just want to be loved.

Reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

Giving space is powerful.

I feel touched.

I spend more time with the glass half empty, I need to change it to half full.

I feel happier, like I could change my life through love.

I want to spread kindness to people.

The lessons you taught and your attitude make me want to do what you do!

I learned how to appreciate the moments of life more.

You have an incredible perspective on life that is contagious, thank you.

I feel really inspired to live my life to the fullest and change my outlook.

I can affect change.

This session reminded me what it means to be human and the essence of humankind… How far off track we have gone and how important it is to get back on track.

I feel that there is hope for everyone and the potential for them to be good.

I feel inspired to banish negativity from my life and make it more positive. I feel uplifted to make change and share what i’ve learned with others.

I kind of realized that I am not always as kind as I could be and I don’t always appreciate what I have and i’d like to change that.

I feel really calm and beloved and excited that there are people like you in our generation.

The average score was 9.3 out of 10. (I think in the future I will add a “what would make you rate this session 10/10” part to my evaluation).

Summer Camp

This past week was my first week working at SFU Summer Camps! It was so much fun and I learned so much from it! It was a little crazy (okay REALLY crazy) but definitely worth it. We did so much in such a a short time. The kids made computer games, 3D characters, commercials, a green screen music video (okay so my co-worker Lanz did most of the work on that one haha), and super hero identities (with costumes!). We had four guest speakers, three of which I had a hand in setting up. It was so nice to have so many interesting people I know come to be a part of camp, but more on that later.

I had to deal with a bunch of behaviour issues that I wasn’t really prepared for. It really enforced my view of rule #1: treat other as you want to be treated. In our leader guidebook it lists “withholding kindness” as a form of abuse which I found a bit funny but also true. I learned that conflict resolution has tree parts: saying sorry, actually feeling sorry and then acceptance and forgiveness from the offended party. All three are really important.

On Friday the AMAZING SuperForest Jackson of superforest.org came in to give a talk for the kids via Skype. From Hawaii to British Columbia, how amazing! I was SO EXCITED and I think it went very well. I had a ton of technical issues so Jackson was never able to see us in BC but he could hear us and answered a bunch of the kids questions. It was a big learning experience (on the technical and logistical side) but I think the kids liked it and the other leaders were very impressed. At the beginning he introduced himself and what he is doing at Zero One in Hawaii.

This is the last 17 minutes of SuperForest Jackson’s talk.

I’m so grateful for this wonderful job. My co-workers, the volunteer and all the kids were awesome and I’m so lucky to have such an interesting opportunity.

Love,

Jenni

A Thursday of Epic Proportions

This is from June 24th.

Kids + Class + SFU’s Got Talent + AQ Outdoor Movie + Trip Home!

In the morning I helped with a Photoshop workshop for a class of elementary school kids. We turned ourselves into Avatar (well I turning Oprah into an Avatar) and it was fun. The kids came from a local elementary school which has an awesome musical theatre program and I enjoyed seeing them. The highlight for me was when I asked if the kids had Facebook. They told me “Of course! EVERYONE has Facebook.” but then they couldn’t log into their e-mail because they didn’t remember their passwords. Oh technology.

After the workshop I went home to eat quickly and pick up my guitar. Then I came back to school for my class. I had to leave the lecture early to go to the performance. Tonight was the first ever SFU’s Got Talent sponsored by the Arts and Culture Club. I played Everybody by Ingrid Michaelson.

The show was really fun. I was so happy to see all the other acts. To me, it was exactly the way I pictured a college talent show being. The audience was really supportive and several people complimented me after. I loved that even though I know I messed up a bit and could have done better people were still positive and encouraging. There was some poetry, a jazz band, and band with A KEYTAR : D

I ended up helping with the event, handing out 50-50 tickets and whatnot. A few times I ended up sneaking in front of the stage to access my guitar between acts and I created the best character ever: Awkward Ninja! Pretty self explanatory. I met some really cool people including the guy from Fractal Ferns. Check out their site, I had “Leaves” stuck in my head for some time.

Actually it was sort of funny. At one point I was talking to someone and then intermission was ending and I wanted to make sure the organizers were okay and didn’t need help (since  had been helping them before) so I told the person I was speaking with that I had to go. They knew I needed to leave for the next thing on my agenda and asked if I had to go but I told them “No, i’m just going over there” which made it sound like I didn’t want to talk to them… brilliant haha. I’ve noticed I do that sometimes. I’m really bad at ending conversations at mix n mingle type events. I usually just leave without saying anything which is awkward so I am trying to stop doing that. I need to practice this more.

After the show I left with the group I was supposed to be leading to Burnaby Campus for the Orientation outdoor movie social. We were very late leaving but we got there in perfect time because they were late starting. Proof that everything will always be fine, or better than fine : )

We watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off under the stars. At one point I looked up and it looked just like that scene in The Lion King where the stars talk to Simba as Mufassa. Magical! Also, a friend in my class brought my raspberries from her backyard so I got to snack on some local goodness during the movie. They were even in an empty soy-gurt container. LOVE!

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you might miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Afterward, on the way down the mountain the driver drove really fast and we had a super fun, super bumpy ride. I was actually flying in the air at times. The whole thing made me very excited for orientation and reminded me how much I am enjoy life right now. I really love SFU and University in general. Smiles all round.

The Education of Everyone

I have come to the conclusion that:

Teaching=Directing=Parenting

Teaching is about helping people come to their own conclusions.

“Teacher’s open the door, but you must enter by yourself,”

– Chinese Proverb, ancient wisdom via beingtricia‘s RT of RainbeauMars

This seams to put the power in the hands of the students. How can you teach someone that is unwilling to learn? But then as a teacher/director/parent sometimes you have to persevere and keep trying if you really care about your student/actor/child and want them to learn. That said, there is a fine line between being an unbiased teacher and indoctrinating your students. I think that you have to lead people in the right direction but ultimately you have to let them figure it out for themselves. There are a few ways to do this but I think the most effective are as follows.

Asking Questions: When you word things open endedly you leave room for people to think about them and respond. I think this is especially relevant in advice-type situations or when you are trying to help someone with something. For example, I can tell you what to do or I can ask you what you think you should do…

Leading by Example: This is very important. When you are trying to shape people and help them grow modeling proper behavior is essential. For example, I have a friend who is a bit younger that I am trying to instill more kindness in. I could lecture this friend about manners and compassion but that would not have much lasting impact, in fact they may just get annoyed with me. I think instead I am going to try to be especially kind and polite towards this person (despite how rude they may act towards me). Then maybe they will say way in which they can reach out to others through my example.

Personally, i’ve come to a point in life where I can recognize the lessons others have tried to teach me in the past. I had to figure most of the things out by myself in order for them to have any relevance in my life. It’s really to bad in some respects, if I had just listened to these people then I could of begun living a life as fulfilling as the one I have now much sooner. Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination though.

“Ain’t about how fast I get there

Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side

It’s the climb”

– Miley Cyrus, The Climb

I really like mentoring and helping others but I am still having trouble finding the best way to do that. Perhaps balance is the key.

What do you think? How do you “learn your lessons well”?