Once upon an English adventure

Posted in EAP Augustana with tags , , , , on September 13, 2016 by onepercentyellow

It’s hard to believe that it was nearly 15 years ago that I first decided to move abroad to teach English as a second language.  Now, as I sit here in my English for Academic Purposes class at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, I think back to those first classes and how much I have improved as an English teacher.

“Free talking!” Mr. Jung would say when I asked him what I was expected to teach my Korean students.

“What’s free talking?” I asked.

“You know. Free talking!” He said with even more excitement.

I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I decided I would ask the other teachers about these “free talking” classes.  I would learn that the school generally had very little in the way of curriculum and I would be expected to design the course any way I saw fit.  I would try out many terrible lessons, including Tongue Twister Tuesdays where we would recite a grouping of tongue twisters for 50 minutes every Tuesday, musical Fridays where my students were expected to sing along with me as I struggled with learning guitar, and games day where we would play Monopoly or Scrabble for the allotted time.  I would have a one-on-one class for 3 hours a day for 3 weeks in order to prepare a vice-president in LG for his upcoming move to Toronto.  We both fell asleep in class one day!

All this trial and error has refined my teaching style and ability.  I now spend time crafting assignments aimed at fulfilling specific learning objectives and I try to integrate multiple ways that students can engage with the English language.  I hope that my students in EAP 140 can read this post and consider themselves lucky that they are taking class from me now, and can be thankful for all those students who suffered for so long in my classes!



Book review of the Giver

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 by onepercentyellow

Vanessa gave us this prompt today – March 24th

The Giver was a facinating look at a dystopian society, and I have breifly discussed it with a few friends since reading it.  One of my friends thought that the holding of memory and emotion was very similar to our own society.  I was taken aback at first, but now that I consider it, the truth begins to reveal itself.

Within our society we have individuals who hold the weight of remembering.  They don’t necessarily remember those erased details of history that the Receiever of Memory does in the novel, but they hold the deeper wisdom of human kind.  These are the gurus, the spiritual leaders, and the scholars in our society.  They are the Dali Lamas and the Noam Chomskeys of the world.  They seem to look down on society from some kind of meta-level and are able to act almost as prophets for the rest of us. We also have those in our society who hold and process (or at least help the rest of us process) emotion.  In practical terms, we have psychologists and counsellors, spiritual leaders and “those friends” who have a particular gift to calm a worried heart and sooth a weary soul.

Of course these are positive, healthy modes of processing emotion and holding memory.  We also have the more insidious methods that the Elders of The Giver would appreciate.  We have retail therapy, over-prescribed drugs, and illegal vices where we can dump, delete, or delay our emotional reality.  We have media and political mechanisms that erase or alter our collective memory.  We have manipulative leaders that employ memory and information to perpetuate their own power, and we use the concept of Sameness to create divisions across borders.

The Giver, says author Lois Lowry in an interview, has been on the list of the most contested books since its release in 1997.  In our class we asked why this book would be so dangerous.  Of course the consideration of Cold War America came up, but I think the disquiet of the book touches something deeper.  There is a fakeness to this utopia that mirrors our own in the West.  It permeates our collective psyche and we can rarely break through it except by experiencing Elsewhere.  My own travels to foreign lands have led me to question if this society is the best way to build.  While others return from trips saying “Oh I appreciate Canada so much when I go to other countries,” I come back from a trip thinking “thank god it doesn’t always have to be this way.”

The Time Warp

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2016 by onepercentyellow

A creative writing exercise from my EAP 145 class – March 8th

Prompt: Making up a rule from the “older” generation

Young people these days!  None of them know how to communicate with each other when they’re in the same room.  They never look you in the eye and they can’t concentrate for longer than a television commercial.  What a crew!  We must ban the use of smart phones and texting.  People should only be allowed to make calls but not be on the internet 24-7.  Have you been on a bus recently?  Or merely walked into a classroom?  No one talks anymore.  There’s no challenge of seeing another human being – a stranger – and talking to them.


The world of silence where people’s vocal chords have deteriorated from misuse.  Finally the vocal spoken language dies and we only have text.  Then the internet dies and we have to rediscover speech.  gestures and movement again become a primary form of communication but we haven’t LOOKED at each other to communicate for so long that we are nearly unable to understand.  There is a lot of fighting and misunderstanding before we before we begin to interact peacefully once again.

————————————WARP BACK——————————-

And if these kids continue to be hunched over their phones they will lose the ability to stand straight for themselves.  Wobbly-spined question marks is no way to live a life.  What a weird world.




moocmooc: critical pedagogy week 2

Posted in MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags on January 27, 2015 by onepercentyellow

While I didn’t get any writing onto this blog for moocmooc week 1, I’m happy to share some reflections on week 2’s readings here.

bell hooks – engaged pedagogy

The discussion of liberatory education is not new to me.  I have been studying Friere, liberal arts, open education, cMOOCs and other contributing thoughts for some time.  I was also fortunate enough to complete my undergrad at Augustana, a small, liberal arts university that is teaching-centered and dotted with educators who are grounded in critical pedagogy and experiential education.

Having started my degree at a conventional university, I understand what we’re pushing against, but for much of my educational experience, I have felt the wave on my side.  Why, then, have I felt so reluctant to swim out into the great ocean of academia as a teacher rather than a student?  I suppose this is the difference between riding the wave and being the wave.

I’m not sure where this metaphor has emerged from, but it feels good, so let’s run with it.

At the risk of providing too much background information and making this post longer than anyone would care to read, I’ll tell you where I’m at.  I’m a masters student in the MAIS program and am currently working on my final project in which I would like to host a cMOOC on a critical examination of the digital world.  Over the last 5 years I have been digging deep into the digital world, searching for the meaning and affect of this revolutionary space on my own and our collective Being.  As I approach my final project, I would like to share those questions (and some of my own reflections) on this space in an open dialogical space, but I must admit, I am afraid.

I am afraid of merely providing content.  I am afraid of dictating my own reflections without being able to join others in the emergent qualities of the conversation.  I am afraid that all this meaning that I have encountered is irrelevant and that no one will want to engage.  I am afraid to fail.

As I read bell hooks, I began to have hope again that this engagement may be more about my own self-actualization as a teacher than it is about the content of the course.  This is a moment I have waited for.  It’s taken years and a humility as a student that I had to actively cultivate.

I think this is where the practice of hooks and Freire comes in.  The teacher in the teacher-student must recognize her place as the ocean.  She has spent years deepening the knowledge well – reading, writing, watching, discussing, contemplating, swearing (#F%&#(F paradigm shifts!).  She is sought after by student-teachers seeking to understand the currents of thought connected to one another throughout history.  The ocean takes joy in the swimmer, the surfer, the scuba diver who is brave enough to enter the water.

While the metaphor is entirely new to me…. and would take time to develop, it helps me to consider the balance of power and ability.  The ocean has the power to make waves and the surfer has the power to stand upon them.  The teacher-student helps explore the deep currents and the student-teacher joins in navigating them.


On an entirely different note, I question how this happens in a second language classroom.  I have been asked to work in this field, though I have had my doubts as to my ability to foster an emergent classroom where so much is truly by-rote.  I suppose I’ll leave with that question, and bring it to the #moocmooc twitter conversation tomorrow.

If you’ve made it to the end of my ramble, ramble on, friend.


Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being” by Joe L. Kincheloe

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2014 by onepercentyellow

Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being”:

Using Indigenous Perspectives to Consider Conflict

The author of this article, Joe L. Kincheloe, served as Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education at McGill University and was the founder of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. From this foundation in critical pedagogy, his chapter proposes tenets of critical ontology to penetrate the identity construction of would-be educators and researchers. He uses Indigenous epistemologies as foils to the Cartesian construction of self, society, and reality, and pushes scholars to engage with the Other as a way to critically examine the Western construction of selfhood.

(Click HERE for a wonderful video in which Kincheloe elucidates some of his pedagogical beliefs)

Engaging with Kincheloe was easy for me as I also subscribe to the values of critical pedagogy (that being exposure of inequality in the dominant paradigm through examination of and action on the emergent nature of reality, or conscientization). The reading made me question when and where my own critical consciousness awakened. I wish I could say that it was when I first went abroad and lived for 4 years in Asia, but I know that my first foray into the land of the Other was not marked by reflexivity, but by exoticism. I found the cultural differences fascinating, engaging and interesting, but had very little to say about the contributions these cultures made to my understanding of the world and myself. It was not until I was introduced to Sociology, Linguistics and Literary Theory and then participated in a study abroad program to Cuba that I began to see differently. When I returned, all I could do was shake my head at all those who claimed the greatest gift travel could offer was knowing how wonderful Canada is when you return.

So with this intimate knowledge of critical ontology, one could dream I have “cultivate[d] humility without which wisdom is not possible” (Kincheloe 198), but the waking reality is far more steeped in Western ideology than I care to admit. I recently realized this when I came into a heated discussion with my boyfriend’s brother (I’ll call him Tom) over topics ranging from economics and politics, to the value of socialism and community, to extractive industry and the philosophy of work. I left the conversation exhausted and was frustrated with myself at my inability to communicate my point effectively. As we both retired, he mentioned the community group he is a part of and the work they were doing on land use in the area. As I went to sleep that night, my own entrenched Cartesian dualism struck me hard. Why did I feel the need to push him into my own way of thinking? Why did I refuse to concede any of his points? How had everything become so black and white?

On my second reading of Kincheloe, I decided to take direction and investigate Indigenous modes of conflict resolution. Perhaps other cultures could assist me in further extracting myself from the Western individualist perspective. While I have only scratched the surface in this research, I have a couple preliminary considerations to offer here.

Conflict resolution in Ni-Vanuatu society uses storytelling and metaphor to avoid personal attack while exploring contentious issues. Further, they use song, poetry and silence to allow space when debates become heated. I had considered this tactic that night as I lay awake in frustration. Why had I not asked Tom earlier how his worldview manifest in stories of his life? Would this have revealed his involvement with the community land-use board and offered a different metaphor to examine the situation? Of course I also wondered why I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut!

In the Mi’kmaq society, the web of relationship is more important than the assertion of absolute righteousness. Harmonious relationship with all our relations (including the animate and inanimate natural world) is of utmost importance. The most striking image from this reading is the sacred circle, a symbol common to many Indigenous groups. “The traditions of the circle suggest seasons, lifecycles and eco-spiritual forces that both govern and protect human life and ecological balance” (Bowers 295). When conflict occurs, it is never the individual who stands trial, but his or her entire family, their extended community, and even the land. A circle cannot be formed with only two individuals present. If we are to consider our own moments of conflict, multiple relationships are pulled into play as we confide in our closest friends and allies and rally our strength to continue the push toward “right”. Perhaps if our society asked all those people to come to the town square to satisfy these conflicts, we would be more willing to approach each other with the humility that denotes wisdom.

My questions to you:

On page 195, Kincheloe speaks of the potential for Western life to appear as bizarre to someone from another culture. Share an experience where difference has revealed your own bizarre norms. Alternately, watch this scene from God Grew Tired of Us and comment on the notion of freedom presented.
In my example above, it can be argued that I privileged my own values of critical ontology over Tom’s belief in a dominant Western narrative. Is Kincheloe’s reading meant to only dismantle Western ideals and hold up the value of Other ways? In this same vein of questioning, I’d like to highlight Timothy’s response in Week 5 where he is “irritated that all aspects of colonialism are assumed to be horrible, catastrophic, and never in the best interests of the colonized.” How can we extract the positive contributions from the colonialism? What are they?
Thanks in advance for your responses!

Works Cited

Bowers, Kisiku Sa’qawei Paq’tism Randolph. “From Little Things Big Things Grow, From Big Things Little Things Manifest.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 8:3 (2012): 290-304. Web 5 June 2014.

Kincheloe, Joe L. Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being: Forging a Postcolonial Curriculum.” Curriculum as Cultural Practice: Postcolonial Imaginations. Ed. Yatta Kanu. Toronto: U of T, 2009. 181-202. Print.

Walker, Polly O. “Storians: Building on Indigenous Knowledge to Enhance Ni-Vanuatu Mediative Capacity.” Conflict Resolution Quarterly 30:5 (2013): 309-328. Web. 4 June 2014.

Right Relationship – Nurturing connection to the land through time and contemplation

Posted in anthro 610, spirit of the land, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 14, 2013 by onepercentyellow

An integral aspect of the Spirit of the Land (SoL) course at Augustana is the nurturing of a contemplative practice.  We have used a number of approaches (Buddhist, Christian, Archetypal Psychology, among others) to encourage stillness, silence and presence in a world that does not place great value on these traditions.  It is a way to push students beyond the breakneck pace of their day-to-day lives and into a space where it is possible to hear the still, small voice of inner self.  With that Being (that inner self), we can mindfully explore the existential connection with the natural world, physical space, and community of beings in which we all live.  When questions of sustainability, ecology, and right relationship are explored from this contemplative foundation, it becomes possible to consider agency and knowledge from the perspective of the natural world, rather than simply the perspective of conservationists or preservationists.

In reading Peter Bates and David Natcher et. al.’s articles on Northern Canadian First Nations groups, and Susan Crate’s article on Soviet Indigenous groups (all found in Arctic Anthropology), I was struck by the connection between the contemplative tradition as it has been expressed in our SoL class and the traditional knowledge of these groups. This type of knowledge is not the kind that one can simply look up online and Get It.  Like meditation, like yoga, like mastery of any discipline, this is a knowledge that is grounded in Being.  It is developed through practice and integration of a more conscious way of taking action.  Rather than going through the motions of doing something, we are pushed to embody what we do – be mindful, feel it deeply and make it a part of our Being.  It also points to the emergent nature of knowledge.

The Northern groups Bates and Natcher et. al. worked with, revealed a unique perspective of time and sentience that sits in opposition to the dominant Western approach.  First, the Northern groups were reluctant to place emphasis on a future orientation.  For those doing work in sustainability and ecology, this poses a considerable barrier.  The drive is to create policy or research agendas based on predictable changes in the natural world, but those who hold the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of this space do not orient themselves to the future in this way.  The Huslia residents, for example, do not “allow events that lie in the future to organize one’s life” (Natcher et. al. 119), and thus cultivate a radically present-oriented relationship with time and the natural world.  In presence, we are forced to listen to the subtle changes of the natural world, “accepting that the future cannot be known [and allowing] appropriate preparation for uncertainty, rather than condemning a traveler to futile struggle against it” (Bates 90).

As we have explored presence in the SoL class, we have attempted to quiet our future-oriented ego self in order to hear the present-oriented inner self that is connected to all other beings (both animate and inanimate).  In our exploration of the present moment, we have heard experiences of individuals (like Takota Coen) who have meditated and communicated with plants, and (like Sylvia McAdam) who have literally fallen in love with landscapes.

With such an orientation to time, I would argue, we can find a connection to the agency of the land – reflected in Natcher et. al.’s description of the Koyukon.  Individuals in this community were reluctant to speak of the future of climate change, animal migrations, or other aspects of the natural world as they felt it negated the power of the natural world to participate in the conversation.  During this reading I began to think of the natural world as a family member, and such summits discussing the possible futures of the natural world as equivalent to discussing a sibling behind his or her back.  I could picture it as a sort of gossip session in which well-meaning scientists, policy makers, and social researchers are trying to determine what to do with that troublesome black sheep of the family.  Then I pictured how infuriated I would be if I found out about such talk while I was absent. What if we were to host a present-oriented intervention rather than a back-room decision of when to ship someone off to rehabilitation.

Any good relationship requires presence and the sensitivity to see that the other has the agency to change.  When we are in harmonious relationship, we appreciate the gifts of the other and reciprocate.  We acknowledge the essential presence of the other and accept emerging aspects with curiosity and gratitude.  When we are in wrong relationship we become controlling, demanding and dismissive.  We center meaning on our own power and end up consuming rather than collaborating.  These readings highlight different ways of seeing my relationship with time and natural systems, and encourage me to foster a present and emergent relationship with the world around me.

All this as I watch winter unfold for the first time in 4 years.  As I approach winter with a welcoming respect for its essential place in this landscape, I feel better able to reconcile with this black sheep.

Works Mentioned (I apologize for any formatting problems… I just wanted to get this post up!)

Bates, Peter. 2007.  Inuit and Scientific Philosophies about Planning, Prediction, and Uncertainty. Arctic Anthropology  44( 2): 87-100.

Crate, Susan A. 2006. Elder Knowledge and Sustainable Livelihoods in Post-Soviet Russia: Finding Dialogue across the Generations. Arctic Anthropology 43 ( 1): 40-51.

Natcher, David C., O. Huntington, H. Huntington, F.S. Chapin III, S.F. Trainor, and L. DeWilde. 2007. Notions of Time and Sentience: Methodological Considerations for Arctic Climate Change Research. Arctic Anthropology 44(2): 113-126.

Conservation, Preservation and the Noble Savage

Posted in anthro 610, spirit of the land, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2013 by onepercentyellow

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  We’ve all heard it.  How do we miss the mark?  By failing to be in relationship.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been reading a lot on conservation and preservation of the natural world.  I’ve read about the National Park system, started with the landmark Yellowstone National Park, and the varying levels of success this system has seen.  On the one hand, the model has been adopted around the world, prompting governments to set aside tracts of undeveloped, unexploited land for preservation in a natural state.  Considering the clearing of forests, the breaking up of ancient prairie, the draining of wetlands, and the piece-by-piece dismantling of entire mountains, the preservation of natural spaces, thanks to the national park programs, seems a great boon to us – a gift to today’s children who have received the pleasure of visiting unplundered earth.  But this system is not without complications.  With an exercise of power, there is always compromise.

National park systems have, by and large, included removal of the human element as a part of the natural system (Chatty and Colchester), and in the tradition of Cartesian dualism, we suddenly find ourselves both in and out, living a contradiction and straining to be and not be at the same time.  Of course, humans are nature.  We are from the Earth.  We rely on her systems and cannot hope to live without this connection.  Our bodies know this.  As I’ve been exploring in Spirit of the Land, our spirits know this as well.  But our minds – oh our ego-warped minds – separate us from nature, place us above her systems, place us in CONTROL of her systems, where we begin to exercise will – severing relationship in favour of domination.

So what is the danger in setting up protected spaces?  Well, there are 3.

  • First is the effect on the space.
  • Second is the effect on the people of the space.
  • Third is the effect on the philosophy of space in general.

We are from the Earth, and our removal, like the removal of any of the natural elements of an ecosystem, has a profound effect on an area.  The introduction to Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples mentions how periodic clearing of land in Africa would open up areas for larger game to graze, and how forest fires would provide needed nutrients to increase biodiversity.  Sometimes it is not our removal but our intervention that changes these natural systems.  I took an Anthropology class at the University of Alberta in the 90’s with Eric Higgs.  This was my first exposure to the notion of preservation being a problematic intervention in the natural world. Dr. Higgs put up two slides.  One was a valley bottom full of trees.  The other was the same valley bottom sparsely populated by trees and full of grassland.  Which one is from 1910 and which is from 5 years ago?  Fire suppression in the national parks had changed the landscape and grazing animals no longer had access to the spaces opened by natural fire.   Our absence and our protectionist presence is more complicated than it seems.

Second, we have national and international interests intervening in a local ecology and economy, such as in Miguel Montoya’s example in “Negotiating the Tropical Rainforest.”  These spaces become appropriated in service of ideals played out on stages far removed from the life that happens on the ground.  Values and image displaces direct engagement with the land and demonizes those who have lived within a subsistence relationship with a space.  Sometimes, as with Paul Nadasdy’s example of sheep hunting in the Arctic, this pushes individuals to use exploitative measures not typically employed in order to reap the benefits for the community rather than for the service of outsiders who wish to appropriate and manage the wealth.

Perhaps the greatest danger, however, lays in the mentality of those who live outside of these areas.  Who do you know who would dare to litter during their picturesque drive through the Icefields Parkway?  Would those same individuals balk at litter in their own concrete neighbourhood?  Would they ever see the concrete itself as an unnatural object?  When we set aside spaces as “nature” and separate them from the rest of the earth, we create a dual space.  One where nature is valued and exploitation is prohibited, and another where nature is taken for granted, or simply not even acknowledged, and exploitation is commonplace.  It is sometimes difficult to recognize that even in the middle of the concrete jungle, there is nature all around that deserves the same respect and appreciation as other spaces.

Finally, a brief comment on First Nations, #idlenomore and the natural world.  There is so much being said about the path forward in harmony with the Earth.  #idlenomore has brought hope and energy to those who have been looking for a mode to galvanize the environmental movement, and it’s tempting to simply herald First Nations globally as the model for right relationship with the land.  As my fellow student in Anthro 610 and Spirit of the land guest speaker Daniel Bogart-O-Brein state, it is First NationS – not a single nation, and we must be aware of the multiple perspectives on land use and relationship.  We cannot simply lump all indigenous groups into a single culture.  Nor can we romanticize these relationships as inherently conservationist, as argued by Eric Alden Smith and Mark Wishnie.

So, where does that leave us?  Well, I think it comes back to a Land Ethic.  We must feel love before we can act in right relationship.  This comes from having a relationship with the land where we live.  This is the sustaining kind of long-lasting relationship we wish to have with those who are most important to us.  The kind that allows us to see each other with messy hair and morning breath.  We cannot rely on others to create that relationship for us – be that permission from government or First Nations groups.  We should not (and cannot) wait for popular media to galvanize us into an eco-fad.  If we are to create right relationship we must do it individually, mindfully, and continually.  Like any great relationship, it takes time and concerted effort.

Works mentioned (I must apologize for citation formatting, but I just wanted to finally get this post out there!)

Chatty, Dawn and Colchester, Marcus. Eds. Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples: Displacement, Forced Settlement, and Sustainable Development. Berghahn: UK. 2008. (Miguel Montoya’s paper is the second chapter of this book).

Smith, Eric Alden and Wishnie, Mark. “Conservation and Subsistence in Small-Scale Societies.” Annual Rev. Anthropol. 29:493-524. 2000.

Nadasdy, Paul. “The Anti-Politics of TEK: The Institutionalization of Co-Management Discourse and practis.” Anthropologica. 47:2, 215-232. 2005.

Higgs, Eric, et. al. Culture, Ecology and Restoration in Jasper National Park. U of A Press: Edmonton. 1999.