Question everything.

There are many people who have moulded me into the person I am today, and influenced what I’ve accomplished so far in my life, and what I will accomplish in the future. But there is one person in particular who made this life path of reading, writing, learning, and wondering available to me. Mr. G , my Grade 8 History teacher, offered me a way of seeing the world in which questioning the way things are is both vital and fulfilling, as the way things will be is up to us, the students.

One thing that gets me fired up and frustrated and desperate for change is the approach to education in high schools. Despite this frustration, I don’t yet know how to fix the education system. I haven’t learned enough about how brains learn just yet. However, I do have an idea of where we need to start. And Mr. G has unknowingly provided a foundation for me that has directly influenced the development of this idea in my head.

Firstly, we don’t need better curriculums. Fantastic curriculums exist already. Albeit, they seem to only exist in extremely expensive private schools, but they DO exist! So we DO know what to teach kids. What we need more than that is a different attitude to learning. And that change starts with annoying children…

Note to all parents: scientists confirm your suspicions: each kid can ask dozens of questions every hour. From my own observations of parents and kids, it would appear that after a few rounds of “But, why???”…it is no longer cute or funny. According to Frazier, Gelman, and Wellman (2009), parents only give explanatory answers to their kids’ questions 50-60% of the time — less for younger children. And we know that kids really are asking questions to learn, not just to get attention, because kids react differently to explanatory answers (“You have to stay close to mummy when we’re at the mall because getting lost can be dangerous and scary.”) than they do to non-answers (“Because I said so”, “Ask your dad”, and “Not now”). Explanatory answers cue kids to be more curious and to ask more questions, whereas non-answers force kids to ask the same question again or make up their own answer. Furthermore, kids either learn that asking questions is a fruitful activity: self-directed learning is good!; or that asking questions gets you nowhere: people will tell me things if I need to know them.

Too often, students are encouraged not to ask disruptive questions like “But why did that happen?” or “But what if I did it this way?”. We are asked to learn the information as it is, without questioning it. Parents and teachers: when kids ask “Why?” , they are learning to learn. If toddlers and kids and teens get solid answers and are encouraged to be curious, the cycle will continue and they will learn all the things! If they get shut down every time they ask why things are the way they are…they’ll stop asking. And that alone is utterly terrifying to me.

Back to Mr. G… He once told my class,

“A good teacher is just a student who had a bad experience in school.”

And that thought has stuck with me for 7 years. But it’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I did some research. Mr. G, if you’re reading this, it turns out you were exactly right. Ronald A. Beghetto has done a lot of research on teachers, creativity, and the learning experience. One of his studies confirmed that “prospective teachers who viewed promoting creativity of students as highly important were significantly less likely to report that they enjoyed school” (2006).

Mr. G taught me that being inquisitive is one of the greatest, most admirable traits someone can have. Because the people who ask “Why?” are the people who effect change. They are the people who make all the difference in the world.

Mr. G made it okay to nerd out. He gave the go-ahead for students to be who they wanted to be and learn how they wanted to learn. And (though I was a brat when I graduated from his class) his lessons and encouragement have had the greatest impact on my life, now that I’ve had time to think about them. And I won’t ever be able to explain how grateful I am for that. Because I am now one of the biggest, proudest nerds you’ll ever meet. I love learning. I love going to class. And more than anything, I love sharing what I’ve learned with other people. Before Mr. G, I was one of those kids who tried to dumb it down to look cool (or something approaching cool), who tried to hide the fact that I powered through a book a day, who had stopped asking questions.

Mr. G was a teacher who didn’t just “teach”. He didn’t recite and quiz and discipline and check our notes for accuracy. He did everything in his power to light a spark in students that made them want to learn on their own. Maybe we didn’t see that then, but I can certainly see it now. He gave us permission to question everything, including authority (even his own), because authority is not always right by default. He did an incredible job of giving us the clearest, most accessible, most enlightening answers he could. And that is the greatest gift any student could ask for.

Parents and teachers are teaching kids that asking “Why?” all the time is disruptive and generally a bad thing to do. I propose that we start teaching kids the way Mr. G taught me: Yes, asking “Why?” IS disruptive. And that’s a damn good thing.

What are your thoughts on high school education? Did it work for you? Did you hate it? Did you have your own Mr. G? Let me know in the comments.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer thus far! DFTBA,

Kenzie

P.S. If you’re looking for more on this topic, read The Power of Why by Amanda Lang. It’s going on my newly official list of books teachers and parents must read.

P.P.S. My writing hiatus was longer than anticipated. I got super bored without writing and ideas were starting to get really crowded in my brain. More posts to come!

Free Speech Nonsense

Hey, folks

free speech wall articleMaybe this has been beaten to death already, but I’d like to say my piece. If you go to Queen’s, you’ve almost definitely heard about the free speech wall being taken down due to racial slurs, blah blah blah… There are two main arguments I’ve heard here: One is that people have a right to their opinion no matter what it is, and they should be allowed to express that opinion. I agree. The other is that people also have to right to feel like they are safe and accepted at their university and not feel at risk of becoming the victim of a hate crime. I also agree. How can I possibly agree to both? Let me tell you…

There’s a difference between having a different opinion from others and just being plain offensive. This free speech wall had derogatory slang and offensive remarks (and, lets be honest, a lot of happy-go-lucky “tell someone you love them” crap, too). If political leaders got up on stage and said “Gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married cuz fags don’t deserve that shit. Fuck ’em all”, we wouldn’t take them seriously. We would probably boo them off the stage for lack of tact. On top of that, if you sound like an idiot when you talk by using cuss words and words designed to be offensive, no one will listen to the rest of your argument unless they’re looking for a good laugh. If you have an honest opinion that gay marriage would be disruptive to society or whatever, then fine. If you believe that black people are actually dumber than white people due to genetics, then fine, I guess. It’s not my job or right to tell you what you are allowed to believe. But if you truly want people to take your opinion seriously, then express your opinion intelligently, in a open debate where your opponent can defend themselves. Don’t scribble it on a free speech wall. No one’s going to see it and go “Oh hey! That’s a good point! I’ve never thought of it like that before.”

The people who put the wall up (and who were pissed when it was taken down) argue that it’s not the university’s job to tell people what is offensive and what isn’t, and to make decisions based on personal opinions of what’s offensive. But let’s get real: words like “fag” and “nigger” are intended to be offensive. No one uses those words in an intelligent debate or rational discussion. I can’t think of a single situation in which they can be used in a way that isn’t offensive.

If you’ve read the rest of my blog, you understand that I’m obviously a fan of inclusivity and equality. But, like I said, it’s not my job or right to tell people what to believe. There was one thing that stood out to me about this wall though. The wall was titled “Queen’s Free Speech Wall”. Someone crossed out the “Free” and wrote “FACELESS“. And I think that is pretty damn brilliant. It’s an anonymous opinion. Sure, someone may get to share their opinion that they don’t think would be accepted otherwise, but a lot of people will also write stupid things they don’t really mean because they know it won’t be traced back to them. Have you seen the Internet lately? One YouTube personality once told a story about someone who wrote her a tweet saying, “You should go kill yourself”. The YouTuber retweeted her comment out of shock and confusion. And the person I assumed was a total asshole for telling a stranger to go kill themselves was shocked that she had been called out and apologized for her behaviour, saying she had had a bad day and didn’t really mean it. Have a look at the bottom of this picture below: someone wrote “Abolish Human Rights”. Somehow, I don’t think that was an actual call to action based on sincere beliefs.

So there, I’ve said my piece. Let me know if you have another opinion, or if you think I missed something important in this post. And if you’re someone who’s written something stupid and derogatory because you didn’t think it would be traced back to you, please know that even anonymous words can hurt. And that really sucks if you caused someone pain with something you actually didn’t mean.

free speech wall

My Last Class

I am about to go into the very last class of my first year at Queen’s University.

Time has never passed as quickly as it has this year, especially this March and April. Fast than summer break, faster than exchange, faster than vacation. You know how time flies when you’re having fun? Apparently it surpasses the speed of light when you’re having a mental breakdown. That’s basically what this year has been for me. A complete breakdown and reassembly of how I think about myself, my education, and my relationships. I’ve learned a lot about myself that I wish I didn’t know. I’ve learned that it’s hard to make all the right moves in a long-distance relationship, that I’m not so great with handling others’ illnesses, and that I have some serious self-esteem issues that I didn’t know I had. I’ve learned what a panic attack really feels like. I’ve learned that I don’t like panic attacks.

But! I’ve also learned that even if I don’t make the right move, I can still fix things, especially with the help of loved ones. I’ve learned that other people do not have to define my life and how I operate through it . I’ve learned that I have an entire lifetime to work on myself and develop into the person I truly want to be. I’ve learned that I thrive under pressure and that I have way more umph! in me than I ever imagined or wished for. Most importantly, I’ve learned that, no matter how low I feel, no matter how many crappy choices I make, there are people in my life who will push me to go further, challenge me to do better, and support me through all of it. People like T.A.’s who see that I have potential, my parents who have always been there for me, my partner who encourages me like no one else, and even myself.

Coming up to the final exams of my first year of university is the first time in my life that I’ve looked in the mirror and honestly been able to say “What the hell, Kenz? You can do better,” instead of “You should be able to do better.” And for the first time in my life, I can respond (yes, I respond to myself) with “Wait a sec. Yea, I can do better than this,” instead of “I wish I knew how,” or “I wish I had it in me.” I can’t thank my family, my partner, and my new friends enough for helping me with this incredible personal growth that I didn’t know was possible.

It’s up to me to keep the cycle of positive reinforcement going. The joy of university for me is that the harder I try, the better my marks are. That’s just not something that happened for me in high school. I was aiming for university when they wanted cookie cutter, and you don’t get marks in high school for doing more than what your teacher asks for. Every week, especially at the end of the year when all the marks start flooding in, I realize that high school was a tiny, insignificant blip on my radar, a mere stepping stone to getting where I need to be right now.

Alright, enough philosophizing. I’ve learned a lot about applying for a major lately. At the beginning of the year, I was terrified that I just wouldn’t be capable of getting the grades to major in Psychology. It’s the most competitive major to get into in the Arts and Sciences at Queen’s. Now that we’ve reached the end of the year, despite all of my panicking, it turns out that a Psych major may very well be in my cards after all. (To all my lovely family members reading this, I know you were never worried, but I honestly was for a while.) As it currently stands, I need higher than a 70% on my final exam to get into Psychology, which is definitely doable. I’m feeling very confident (knock on wood) because the topics we’ve worked on this semester (personality, emotions, social life, development, etc.) are all things I’m absolutely fascinated by, so I’ve really soaked it all in. Wish me luck!

So, time for my last class … I wish it was one I liked. :P After this, I’m off to the library for more studying and final essay writing. As of this moment, there are 12 days, 21 hours, and 30 minutes until I am home at last, and dropping into unconsciousness in my proper-sized bed for a month. This will likely be my last communication until I become conscious again.

Let me know how your first year went or anything important you learned this year in the comments. I love to hear these things. Thanks for sticking with me through my first year, folks!

Kenzie

Spring, Studying, and Summer Plans…

Hey folks!

As of Wednesday, it is officially spring! Don’t get me wrong, I love school, but I am unbelievably excited for the beginning of summer. First year has been excellent. But let’s be honest, I still have another crazy round of exams to go through. Luckily for me, I only have three final exams and one final essay this semester. And (I’m not sure if I’m happy about this yet) they’re all pretty close together. So, while my studying will turn me into crazy-eyed-haven’t-showered-in-a-week Kenzie, I’ll be done my exams really quickly and chilling out at home before I know it! I’m not too sure when the packing part is going to get done though!

I’ve been spending insane amounts of time in the library lately. I’m just finishing up with a 6 hour stint, and it’s the shortest one all week. I have a new style of studying for Psychology (hopefully one that will work a little better than last semester), and it’s been taking up a bunch of time. I just finished a long English paper, and I’ve got to get started on a longer Religion paper soon so I have time to study for Psychology! It’s going to be a crazy busy few weeks for me, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get through it alive.

boots-and-hearts-logoMy summer plans this year are so exciting that I just have to mention some of them. Firstly, I have to paint my new house some weekend this summer! Not that you care, but it’s going to be an awesome green colour! Next, my amazing boyfriend bought both of us tickets at Christmas to go to the Boot and Hearts Country Festival this summer! I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this. Names like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, The Band Perry, Dean Brody, Chad Brownless, and Jason Blaine will all be there! Needless to say, I’m dying of excitement (only 132 days until the gates open!). Finally, (can you tell I was spoiled this Christmas?) my parents have surprised my brother and I with a Caribbean cruise. After my first year of university, and all the other personal crap that came with it, I am pretty freaking excited for this chance to chill out and do nothing but tan, swim, and read. Duh.

Oh, and also, I’m just about to finish Pride and Prejudice for my English course. It’s awesome to read something I’ve read before in a university course. Realizing all the different things that I completely missed out on is sooooo enlightening. Maybe I’ll minor in English?

That’s it for today, folks! See you soon,
Kenzie

To This Day

“When I was a kid, I hid my heart under the bed because my mother said, ‘If you’re not careful, someday, someone’s gunna break it.’ Take it from me, under the bed is not a good hiding spot. I know because I’ve been shot down so many times, I get altitude sickness just from standing up for myself. But that’s what we were told: ‘Stand up for yourself.’ But that’s hard to do if you don’t know who you are.” — Shane Koyczan

This is, I believe, the original. In the 18 days since this video was posted, it’s been viewed 6.2 million times. Tells you a little something about how we’re feeling.

Stay strong, folks. It gets better.

<3 Kenzie

A Gender Studies Article

Happy Wednesday, folks

I am officially back from Reading Week! It’s been three days and I already miss the laziness….’Cause let me tell you, I have put my butt in gear this week. And considering there are only eight weeks left of school, I think I might just be able to keep this up! I’ll be posting again shortly (hopefully, this weekend) but until then, I leave you with my latest Gender Studies post, a short article on learning disability services in Canadian high school aptly titled, Learning Disability Services in Canadian High Schools

http://genderstudies125.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/learning-disability-services-in-canadian-high-schools/

Hope you enjoy it, and as always, feel free to comment if you’ve had similar experiences or opinions of your own!

Talk soon,

Kenzie

Are Women Taking Over University?

This is the first of three blog posts I’ll be writing for my Gender Studies class. It’s a group blog, so if you’d like to see my group members’ posts and comments as well, you can find them at http://genderstudies125.wordpress.com :) We would love to hear your opinions!

Kenzie

GenderStudies

According to Statistics Canada, the ratio of men to women in Canadian universities has changed drastically in the last 40 years. In 1971, just under 70% of graduates were male. In 2006, women now hold the majority at 60%. So, what is the cause of this significant change? Is it over-compensation? A change in the way females are viewed in education? Are boys being pushed in a different direction? Or is it a combination of many things?

While it has always been clear to me that the ‘real world’ of business is highly androcentric, I have always associated the world of education and teaching with women. There are far more female teachers than male teachers in primary schools in Canada and while it is not as distinct, more female teachers in high schools as well. My own primary schools’ teaching staffs are currently 84% and 90% female, my high school’s…

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