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Wednesday, July 5

  1. page home edited ... Alan Stange About Me ... teaching July, 2017. 2017 with the intention of substitute teac…
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    Alan Stange
    About Me
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    teaching July, 2017.2017 with the intention of substitute teaching for the next few years.
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  2. page Meditations 2006 - 2009 edited ... Extended greetings Posted on March 8, 2006 by Alan Stange {Alan August 30 2017small.jpg} {…
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    Extended greetings
    Posted on March 8, 2006 by Alan Stange
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    I was posted in Central Nigeria (Kaduna State for those who care), and the multicultural mix was dominated by the Housa. I have lost virtually all of my knowledge of the language and what remains could only be conveyed phonetically in a seriously embarrassing way. I learned right from the start that greetings were very important to civility. They would go on endlessly. Anglosaxon Canadians and everyone they have assimilated over the last two hundred years know that greetings should be brief, generally automatic and unapologetically evasive. “Hi, how are you?”, “Fine”; reality is unimportant except in extreme moments of stress. No one is seriously interested in the traumatic failure of my Palm Pilot, most people simply begin shifting away from me when I whip it out of my pocket. My students, colleagues and neighbors began each conversation with a long list of questions. “How are you in the sun? How is your family? How is your job?” It goes on. Perhaps they were not so dissimilar to us. Each question would elicit a positive response. I don’t recall anyone venting about their troublesome second wife. This would go on for some time and then the matter at hand would be addressed.
    Caught as I am in structural change, I find that there are a great deal of questions coming my way. This might seem tedious and distracting, but games of twenty questions are preferable to the alternatives. Communication is always preferable to silence in any community, particularly a learning community. I am not resigned to questions about what we do, I welcome the questions. They will tail off eventually and then perhaps something worse will happen: we will all start thinking we understand enough. Somewhere in the silence that follows monologues full of misunderstanding will begin.
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    Communities of Purpose
    Posted on October 22, 2006 by Alan Stange
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    The downside with geographically free communities of purpose is that we work within geographically bound communities of mixed purpose. Our students are overwhelmingly geographically bound communities. Shared goals and mission statements may just laminate a uniform surface over the aggregate unless time is set aside for conversation. That conversation often requires extensive translation.
    So what does this mean to me in practical terms. I enjoyed discussing narrative with my students in the 1980's. We had what is generally referred to as “farmer TV” back then. It was not a hundred channel universe in a symbiotic relationship with internet/gaming/media technology. I could draw teenage-friendly analogies and examples from the common shared experience of my students (that was of course the only reason I started watching the Simpsons). Not so now. There are so many conversations and threads out there now that cultural mythology is no longer available to facilitate the essential comparisons and contrasts that bring meaning to new experience and thought. There are moments now when I flounder for a quick example. You might respond that the breadth of experience collectively available in the classroom these days enriches the learning for everyone. True; however, such conversations take time and patience. That is not always available in the finite one-hundred hour, one-hundred learning objectives course. The same is true for us as educators as we follow our unique paths built on communities of purpose.
    Okay, Jumbo is not going to move…
    Posted on November 14, 2006 by Alan Stange
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    I sat with a new student puzzling out the credit problems of a move clearly not based on the school year and had to admit to her that we could not match her needs or interests. Like all administrators I have a magic wand that even Harry Potter might envy. I know flexibility and the importance of exercising it for a student needing to learn along the path he or she has committed to. We hammered out a plan to rescue what she had done and make it work for the rest of the year and then I had to sit back and admit that we could not go the distance at our school. Distance education covered half of what she needed but Band and Chorus were out of luck. To my shame we have no music program and no talented directors or musicians to help her move forward on her Trumpet. That hurts big time. I could salvage a credit out of the situation if she moved forward on her own but she was essentially without an available mentor. I’ll contemplate the elephant and consider what might be done, but it rankles me that this person’s metaphoric foot is still going to be crushed before I work it out.
    I stumbled across the Wisconsin State Distance Education site that actually did carry Band. I wonder how that works? There need to be so many more options and reciprocal agreements.
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    “And when those came who were hired near the end of the day, each one received a silver piece. So when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; but they likewise each received a silver piece.
    “When they had received it, they murmured against the man of the house, saying, ‘These last only worked an hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, and said ‘Friend, I do you no wrong. Did you not agree with me on a silver piece? Take what is yours and go your way. I will give to the last the same as to you…. (Matthew 20)
    Saturday{sfsv55.JPG} Saturday morning coffee
    Lory and I were not interested in motivation… as important as it is; we were considering what the school owes these chronic absentees and we adopted a critical orientation. If they are going to miss half the classes have they earned the right to the teachers help? Is their commitment to attend regularly the first step in learning? I think the problem begins when we adopt the common premise that child’s going to school is like a job and each day’s learning is both the work they do and the pay they receive. It follows then that if they don’t come to work they don’t get paid. If they want to get the goods then they have to do the time. School is not a job for students; it is just an opportunity to learn in an economical manner. When our students find the motivation or opportunity to attend we need to be there fore them. I think we need to take this one step further and specify that we will be there for them on their terms and in response to their needs rather than our terms and according to our planner agenda. This is also a significant challenge for teachers.
    When we don’t take this stance I think we systemically punish students for non attendance and inadvertently discourage their impulse to attend. We do this when we ask them to catch up, ask them to make up the time lost through detentions or extra tutorials. Another discouragement is to allow them to skip through the curriculum like a stone over water; you know, work on the day’s activity without the context of the missed learning. The day must be confusing to the student. While our inner voice may be saying “Of course its confusing guy, you have missed half the classes and the class is a mystery to you, come to class and things will start making sense”, our response aught to be let’s learn something today. The day needs to be successful, not a reminder that the task is insurmountable. I have difficulty positioning learning in any other way.
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    Some thoughts on education
    Posted on December 3, 2006 by Alan Stange
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    They have a very accurate sense of injustice
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    Square Pegs in Round Holes
    Posted on December 11, 2006 by Alan Stange
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    their gifts are appreciated. Careers that prove popular to INTJs include human resource management. Somewhere along the line I decided this was not completely accurate. It seemed to be a good summary of the characteristics needed for an educational administrator. It was largely what I thought I should be like and what others expected me to be for the good of the learning community.are.
    What I am like outside the institutional context; in my mind and amidst my family seems different. I see myself as an INFP: Introversion, iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceptive personality: Inner-directed, Imaginative, Compassionate and Flexible. INFPs are creative and complex. INFPs hold harmony and friendship close to their hearts. In their own quiet way, they want their work, friends and school to reflect these values. When they focus on these values, they can be inspired for short periods of time, especially if they work by themselves. INFPs are quiet and adaptable; they won’t easily share their inner selves (or their sense of humour) with others unless they have built a trusting relationship. They will likely be bored quickly by routine jobs that don’t relate to their inner values of harmony and friendship. INFPs need to believe in their work; they need their work to reflect their values of unity and friendship. Their work often is about improving other people’s lives through their verbal skills. They work best when they have the freedom to creatively respond to the needs of the moment for short periods of time. The type of careers that honor these traits include fine arts, counseling, writing, teaching (art, music and drama), library work and entertainment.
    What is the reliability of our self perceptions I wonder? I know that I recharge my batteries in solitude (or with my partner), yet here I am sharing my thoughts on a blog with whoever will discover my note in the bobbing bottle. I suspect that traits such as feelings and perceptions have not been my greatest strengths in my current role and in fact provide the strongest source of discord. Perhaps we all have moments when we only feel we are square pegs in round holes. I wonder if it is because we don’t fit, or because at some level we are disappointed in our roundness.
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    {watchsmall.jpg} Appropriate technology is technology that is appropriate to the environmental, cultural and economic situation it is intended for. An appropriate technology, in this sense, typically requires fewer resources, which means lower cost and less impact on the environment. In practice, it is often something that might be described as using the simplest and most benign level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location. What exactly constitutes appropriate technology in any given case is a matter of debate, but generally the term is used by theorists to question high technology or excessive mechanization, human displacement, resource depletion or increased pollution associated with unchecked industrialization.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriate_technology)
    I grabbed a short break in the staffroom yesterday and exchanged a few words with our principal about a suggestion that we acquire mounted projectors for each of the classrooms. This came soon after a staff discussion on replacing chalk boards with white boards. There are of course good reasons to have each of these technologies in the primary learning environment. I like both technologies. I wonder though about the appropriateness of either. Cost and environmental factors compete with intended purpose in both cases.
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    I like the projectors and use them when I can. They are very expensive and I have to question whether one or two flat screen TV/monitors could not serve the same purpose in a classroom of 20-25 students for less cost. The life expectancy of any of these high tech educational solutions is appalling. Schools are full of technological road kill. My son has been working with the technology department in our division and commented that they had come across three fifteen-year old computers, green screens and all that had never been taken out of the box. I found two IBM ThinkPads at our school and was told that they were essentially useless because they were Windows 98. In my last posting I commented on the usefulness of a permanent AV component in the teacher’s arsenal. I would love to insert video clips and interactive diagrams into my lessons. The dream requires some reflection though.
    First, how often would I use it and would I be using it appropriately? One function of the teacher in the classroom is to offer simplicity and structure to the natural complexity of our world. One quick and often highly symbolic sketch on a board usually serves the illustrative need when developing a concept with people. The complex map, chart or diagram is likely best examined through a color or grey-scale handout. The educational moments for slide shows and videos should be limited. I remember the first time I remarked to a resource room teacher that their classroom walls seemed bare. My colleague responded, “my students do not need the distraction.” Life flows by at an impressionistic pace, information in the classroom should not do this as a rule. Education is the examined life and people cannot do that if everything is a kaleidoscope of moving images and narrative quickly switching like an MTV video or the commercials between a show. There is a place for the illustrations of process and function in the classroom. There are many times when the AV approach is required, but this is as judicious a decision as any other in lesson planning.
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    “Always he had been like a stranger passing through a town, the ways of whose people were different, and who looked on him with a lack of understanding amounting to suspicion. Their language failed on the doorstep of his motives and could not enter the lonely mansion of his mind. They said enemy and friend; they said strong and weak — them and us. They set up a thousand arbitrary classifications and distinctions which he could not comprehend, convinced as he was that all people were only people — and there was little to choose between them. Only, you dealt with them as individuals, one by one; and always remembering to be patient. And if you did this successfully, then the larger, group things all came out right.” (Dickson, Dorsai)
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    a short poem.
    poem.
    My old
    Unfortunate Presumptions and Graceless Gestures
    Posted on April 6, 2008 by Alan Stange
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    A South Asian Pepper Pot
    Posted on November 7, 2008 by Alan Stange
    {Alan August 30 2017small.jpg}
    Careers that prove popular to INTJs include human resource management. Somewhere along the line I decided this was not completely accurate. It seemed to be a good summary of the characteristics needed for an educational administrator. It was largely what I thought I should be like and what others expected me to be for the good of the learning community.

    I was always a fan of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series. I suppose it is dated now, but I took great pleasure collecting all of the books. It is a blessing that I am the sort of person who can return to a story and savor it repeatedly. I can come back to some stories more quickly than others. I digress from the topic. In one of his books Forester has Horatio Hornblower reflecting on his circumstances. He concludes his life is like an Indian Pepper Pot. Britain in Hornblower’s time, the turn of the nineteenth century must have been a pretty bland culinary experience. Potatoes and a fried chop no doubt. Cheese and bread.
    Hornblower was reflecting on both the spiciness and variety in his life. Well that makes a pretty good metaphor for effective teaching. The blog here tends to suggest I’m wrapped up in technological innovations in the classroom: Promethean boards, desktop computers, sound systems. These things are now the environment of contemporary classrooms. They are, however, not the focus of all activity. Live, which is one long journey of learning, is best when there is a stimulating variety.
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    Learning comes through experience. That involves understanding a concept, but it might also mean practicing had eye coordination. The tools change over time. Finding the correct spelling of a word in a printed dictionary involves a number of useful skills. Many concepts are demonstrated as you analyze the guide words; but it is so much easier to Google the word or check its meaning on handy on-line dictionary, always you have to learn to work with yourself or others.
    I’m happy that I am an adaptable dinosaur. I like the new technologies very much, but my experience stretches back to the 1980’s (and farther as a student). Like the twenty-seven years of accumulated tools arrayed on my workbench in the shed, I have many things at my disposal.
    Untangling Wires
    Posted on July 18, 2009 by Alan Stange
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    The Promethean Board was installed over the last few weeks. That is excellent news for me. It means I should be able to organize my year effectively around it. I am still waiting for the software installation. The disks are here, but I do not have administrative privilege to install or update the Promethean software. As much of a relief as it is to find it in place, I am amused to see it not centered in the classroom. I think it is an architectural issue. There is a vent occupying the central location I would select for the projector. Naturally they lined the board up with the existing placement of the projector. I can already hear the complaints from the students in the far left of the room. If the enrollments are low, then I will be able to compensate slightly when I position the rows. All that is for August.
    You win some, you lose some. The sound system in the room is excellent and I have a DVD/VHS player in the room. What I have lost is the Front Row system. All the classroom computers are reconnected, checked and updated. What little furniture I have is in the room. I need to repair a book shelf, otherwise it is time to unpack. That can be safely left for August. Okay, I did put up my map of Canada. It makes me feel like I am moving into my dorm room at college: get the computer hooked up and put up a poster; all set to go, well almost.
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Tuesday, July 4

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  2. page Meditations 2006 - 2009 edited ... At all times what matters is to act with a fine intent. ObasanJoy Kogawa (1981) Excellence,…
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    At all times what matters is to act with a fine intent.
    ObasanJoy Kogawa (1981)
    Excellence,{cb1small.jpg} Excellence, the quality
    I passed a few hours in a Regina restaurant with my foster brother years ago. I have not been back since because after the first drink the staff rather pointedly ignored us. I choose to believe they thought my foster brother drunk and wished to discourage him from making merry. In fact he had Cerebral Palsy and it became rather noticeable when he became passionate, as he was on that occasion. His quick mind always worked faster than his tongue. I wish I could tell him I have learned more patience. On that occasion he shared his frustration with Terry Fox. Terry set the bar pretty high for the likes of my foster brother and nobody worked with more determination than he did to come to terms with his life, find acceptance and purpose. Terry Fox defines excellence for so many; at his funeral I realized my one time foster brother did too. He and I were rather different people, but I guess we would have shared a common horror of running across Canada. I’m simply not very athletic. He was running his own hard race.
    I have read and taught Kagowa’s Obasan a number of times and I remain fascinated by the admonition to always act with fine intent. I have never been able to get beyond the idea that Kogawa was referring to a combination of doing your best and acting with the best of intentions. The ideas swirl around. Learning is intentional. Learning is grasping. Learning is also reaching because the thing we wish to grasp is temporarily not part of us. To borrow a cliche, learning is a journey, not a destination and the path you walk is your own. That is why I like the word striving in our vision statement. I am not comfortable with excellence. I would rather steal the milk slogan: grow always, grow all ways.
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