A moment to reflect

reflectionI couldn’t agree more with Confucius on this one. As I near the end of my first unit towards upgrading my qualifications, I have been asked to post a reflection. I have likened the past 12 weeks as obtuse angle learning rather than a steep learning curve! But I must say, I am proud of my achievements to date.

Week One saw me very much as being in Stage One according to Salmon’s Five-Stage Model (Salmon, 2016), a ‘lurker’. This was a term that sounded quite terrible but aptly described my position as I began studying after a long absence. screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-1-58-01-pmI was also very hesitant in getting involved in the online forums. In fact, my first reflection in Week One saw me write this on post it notes…img_3963

Now at Week Twelve I think I’ve made my way through Stage One to Stage Five, although each ‘step’ was taken slowly and tentatively and I’ve moved up and down them in various weeks. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the wonderful lecturer I had in this unit, Mr Adam Staples at the Australian Catholic University, and the amazing eCoP of fellow students who were supportive, and encouraging and most definitely helped me take each ‘step’.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained they say.

Salmon, Gilly. E-Moderating. : Taylor and Francis, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. Web. 30 October 2016.

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Fundamentals of education

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Education is an essential right, which permits each person to receive instruction and to blossom socially. The right to an education is vital for the economic, social and cultural development of all societies. Taken from  HUMANIUM – Together for Children’s Rights 

The importance of a child being able to learn is paramount, anywhere in the world. When we realise how many children do not have access to education because they are refugees, we should take a stance to make a difference. Children who are fortunate to perhaps have a school in their camp may not have the possibility to learn in a safe environment or have suitable resources. How do we improve their learning? How do we engage with children in less than desirable circumstances when we are comfortable living and learning on the other side of the world?

Watching Clouds over Sidra certainly made me gather my thoughts about the expectations and hopes these children have for a brighter future. They are living in camps under difficult circumstances and having a safe place to go to be able to learn is their basic right. They need to be able to learn in a camp in the same way they would learn in their homeland.

So what do I consider to be the fundamentals of education for a child in the future? The exact same things for my own children as for refugee children. Their circumstances and environment may be different but that should have no bearing on their expectations to receive a quality education.

CHILDREN NEED…

  • a safe environment where they are welcomed, valued, included
  • to have their voice heard
  • access to appropriate resources
  • to be respected by their peers and their educators
  • to have education be inclusive of boys and girls
  • opportunities to be creative in all forms of the arts
  • models of positive mindsets
  • the ability to achieve success as an individual
  • open communication between school and home
  • to have fun

CHILDREN DON’T NEED…

  • their success measured only by standardised tests
  • bullying of any kind from adults or children
  • to be exposed to any form of discrimination
  • models of negative mindsets
  • lack of opportunities to be able to succeed

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR NEW LEARNING SPACE DESIGNS INCLUDE…

  • children being part of the design process
  • physical spaces to be mobile to cater for different needs, situations, circumstances
  • consideration given to wellbeing programs
  • availability and access to up-to-date technology
  • suitable funding for technology and resources
  • opportunities for connections to be made locally and globally
  • ability to develop empathy by children and adults to all learning/living situations
  • exposure to creative ways to teach and learn

The Six Learning Spaces, as documented in an earlier post, would all have valuable insights in helping to establish these and many more considerations for learning in a refugee camp. Developing an eCoP/CoP would be paramount in the success of any educational programs being implemented.

Children can develop their understanding of their Personal Space and their Liminal Space. They can be in a class/school environment that facilitates quality learning. They can have opportunities to work in a group, collaborative and cooperative setting. They can develop their skills and exposure to technology to be a 21st century eLearner. Finally, they can have the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere beyond their camp to gain further experiences and insights to compliment their educational needs.

Now to unwrap each child’s gift of learning and education.

Muhammed and me

img_3934Today, as I searched the www for inspiration, I ‘met’ a delightful young boy, four year old Muhammed Ali.

His mother says, “Yes I know, it is a big name and a weighty name. I think that it will help give him a strong personality.” Gaili Aziz, 33, Alexandreia, Greece.

Muhammed is certainly displaying this personality trait. He was only 5 days old when his mother fled with him and his two siblings from Syria. His father and sister are in Germany. He knows no other life other than the camp in Greece. Three days a week he goes to a Safe Space for children, set up by the International Rescue Committee. He learns and participates in things we take for granted, things that our children often do on a daily basis.

Gaili goes on to say, “The very best thing he has learned there is not to rely on your muscles but to use your brain.”

“I am not super strong, I am super smart!” Muhammed Ali, 4, Alexandreia, Greece.

I have been struggling to make a connection to a refugee camp but in spending time searching the web today, I think Muhammed found me. His infectious smile and his love of music and dancing made me want to learn more about his camp in Alexandria. And I love that at four, he knows he is “super smart“.

I want to use the creative arts to enhance their learning and seeing him dancing around with the phone to his ear made me smile. Smiling is not what you usually do when researching refugee camps. I was happy to read that he attends school three days a week and I am now thinking of a connection to a Teachers Without Borders initiative.

In linking my ideas to a learning space, I think Muhammed is well and truly learning how to be comfortable in his Personal Space and his Liminal Space. I now need to decide which spaces I want to further explore.

I think his mother named him well. She says, “He warms our hearts.” He has warmed mine today.

I’d like you to meet Muhammed too.

A future learning space

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SO… I seem to be overwhelmed with ideas and choices at the moment with my next assignment. I need to choose one of the nine Teachers Without Borders initiatives. I need to choose two learning spaces that the initiative can work within.

However…

I was first drawn to girls’ education but now feel I want to create spaces for all children.

I was drawn to Nauru as it is on our doorstep but after some information shared by a fellow student (our wonderful eCoP working together) I feel they are quite well-equipped and now I am looking further afield.

I am drawn to young children, the early years of school.

I am drawn to thinking of creative spaces as I love all things involved with the arts.

I am still drawn to the liminal space but I can see all the learning spaces being relevant in this situation and need to choose, or work within my limitations, to get this assessment done in an achievable manner.

I am drawn to technology which is a huge mind shift for me as I am the least technological person I know (my children will back up that statement 100%!!)

I am drawn to simple ideas of collecting and donating arts materials to send to children in a refugee camp.

I am trying to draw on ideas of how to make this work when I am a casual teacher, not attached to one school in particular.

SO… I seem to need  to stop ‘drawing’ and start ‘doing’.

What would be in your bag?

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-4-57-45-pmI asked my children this question after dinner this week…

“What would you pack in your bag if you had to quickly leave everything behind and flee from your home?”

11 year old son answered…”clothes, food, iPad, books, laptop, something to remember like a trophy.”

15 year old daughter answered…”clothes, food, photos from home, phone, iPad, charger, leather jacket.”

We then looked at this link to the International Rescue Committee’s “What’s in my bag?” It gave my children and I a powerful understanding and emotional reaction to what it would be like to have to flee your home and then be labelled a refugee. It made them realise that they focused on quite material things. Were they really important? What else should they have considered? Would we all be together as we fled? Should we have packed more?

My son was particularly surprised at the hair care and skin items that Iqbal, 17, from Kunduz, Afghanistan chose to take. And then we read his story…

“I want my skin to be white and hair to be spiked — I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee. I think that someone will spot me and call the police because I’m illegal.”

As I continue to research about the worldwide refugee crisis, there are many stories that break my heart but they have also allowed for enlightening conversations with my children, giving us all a greater awareness of what is happening.

It is also encouraging us to talk about what we can do. As a family we are now trying to learn, share and inspire to make a difference.

Getting back to nature

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I have been interested in discovering schools that take ‘outdoor education’ to the next level. 21st Century Learning advocates that we need to allow children time outdoors, not just to ‘get dirty’ but also to educate them on the world beyond the classroom. And with Web 2.0 technology we can go anywhere in the world and be ‘outside’ our classroom. We can ‘visit’ and connect with other spaces that are not within four walls.

Here in Melbourne we have Fitzroy Community School and Candlebark.

And today I came across Forest School, north of Auckland, NZ.

I thought this quote from Head Teacher, Tennille Murdoch, was quite apt…

“How can we expect the future generations to save the environment if they haven’t first learned to love it?”

Murdoch goes on to say…

“Everything is tailored to the individual child – if they need to spend half the day up a tree, then that’s okay. Once they’ve satisfied that urge, they will move onto the next thing they want to learn.”

The school is based on the model of Scandinavian Forest Schools, which began in the late 1950s.

Maud Hyde, pedagogue at Stockholmsgave Centrum describes what happens when 3 year olds start at a forest preschool…

“They come in pink dresses but a month later, they have worms in their pockets.”

I thought their Operation Spring Chicken was very innovative.

In Australia, I’m certain there would be a lot of planning meetings involved in getting that to be considered part of the curriculum!

But I am encouraged to think of possibilities to move beyond the classroom.

Catalysts of change and hope

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“…the notion that the label ‘refugee’ shouldn’t limit what we aim for. It may not always be possible, and at times our plans may be interrupted due to the harsh realities of life in Za’atari.  But, by creating educational connections to their passions, interests, hopes, and dreams before becoming a refugee, I feel we help children to become invested in their future.” Kayri Shanahan, The Learning Space, EDFD459, 2016.

My new assignment for the unit I am studying has me connecting with Teachers Without Borders. This organisation does amazing work throughout the world, educating children in areas that are far from their homelands, sometimes under conditions that are less than satisfactory and often without many of the resources that we can access in our classrooms.

The above quote, from a fellow student and mentor in my unit, resonated with me as I believe it is important for these children to not purely be known as refugees but as students and future leaders. It is imperative that we connect with them, to let their voices be heard, for their stories to be shared and for them to be given as much opportunity as possible to pursue their passions.

While reading about the nine initiaves that Teachers Without Borders work within, I am realising that we can make a difference to these children. We can engage and interact with them through technology and we can give them hope that people do care and are eager to be involved in their learning.

They are children who are eager to LEARN SHARE and INSPIRE.