Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Changing Life Roles…
October 22, 2017

I have just returned home from a wonderful afternoon with a friend who, a lifetime ago was my student. We were experimenting with tweaking the sound system in the church. He agreed to meet me and to put his considerable talents to the test to see how we might improve and make clearer the worship message. We ran wire and set up an amp and tested microphones and speakers and twisted dials and sliders for two to three hours. Overwhelmed by  rich, robust sound pulled from assorted electronic gadgetry spread out on the floor and on the table and desktop, we continued. I stand to learn much from him about the nuances of sound.

He was in my first class, Grade 5, when I began my teaching career in 1965. One of 37 young eager minds awaiting filling by me. A first year, fledgling teacher. I remember him fondly from that time because he reminded me of me at that same age. And, today I wonder about changing life roles. The student becomes the teacher! It is not just about him and me! I’ve thought about this before. At what point in our lives, do our children become our caregivers? Our teachers? It is a whammy! The realization that roles have reversed hits home and I delight in the knowledge that I have become the learner.

Today’s adventure into learning was about sound. It was about sound systems and making sound bend to our will. What I came home with is so much grander than just the mechanics of sound. As part of our finding stuff to use as test material, he introduced tome his favourite poet, Shane Koyczan. And I learned even more about the person he has become over all the intervening years since 1965. He has grown into a man of considerable depth and who finds peace and solace in the language of poetry. I rushed home to share my discovery, my learning with my wife.

Let me share it with you, too.

March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB