Category Archives: education

This College-Admissions Scandal Could Have Been Avoided If Everyone Had Just Watched the Live-Action Direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo Prequel Daphne & Velma

Daphne Blake, played by Sarah Jeffery in the 75-minute film produced by Ashley Tisdale’s Blondie Girl Productions, starts her first day at Ridge Valley High by asking her smart home to turn up her pump-up playlist. She walks over to her ClotheMe Closet™ and tells it that she’s looking for “the perfect first-day of school outfit”, dresses in the robotic wardrobe’s selection, and descends the stairs while musing aloud that she hopes that it’s French toast she smells.

ready

Sitting down to her accurately guessed breakfast, she makes small talk with her family before noticing a book on the table. After she asks what it is, her father tells her that “those are the moons of Saturn.” After flipping through it she addresses her parents’ concerns about the big day ahead by telling them that “School’s going to be awesome. Things always have a way of working out.” Continue reading

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Wait to be a Teacher

John and I recently found out we were accepted into the education program we’d applied to. I wasn’t exactly surprised that we were accepted (since we both have a great deal of experience working with kids), but I was surprised at just how ecstatic the news made me. Maybe I’m feeling motivated by my student loans, since they’ve just been there, looming. Maybe I’m just excited to move beyond the academic world of writing essays for affirmation. Then again, maybe I’m just excited to start a job that I love doing.

As I head towards my new career I feel a little torn by the stigma the profession carries. Here in Canada, many people accuse teachers of being overpaid for a job they don’t consider very difficult. Then there are the teachers who have worked for years only to be burned up and spit out by the system they dedicated their lives to. Some of them have asked me if this is really the route I think is best. There’s also the general sentiment that “those who can’t do, teach,” so despite my own excitement over my career path, I often feel the need to defend my choice or explain that “I might explore other options later.” Not to mention that, as a woman, it feels like I’m giving in to that traditional cliche of finding the kind of job that people can classify as “women’s work”.

Yet in spite of all the ideas about teaching that I’ve internalized, or at least had thrown my way, I keep feeling drawn back towards the profession. Finally, I’ve allowed myself to recognize what an amazing and rewarding career path it is. Don’t believe me? Well, let me explain.

You get to be creative

Last summer I got a job running a kids’ program at the local library. My role consisted of reading books to kids, encouraging them to read at home, and doing a few crafts with them. Basically I was babysitting them for an hour so that their parents could have a break.

While I knew I would enjoy entertaining the kids and reading children’s books (who doesn’t love reading children’s books?), I had no idea I would become obsessed with crafting and building forts. After a year of focusing my attention on a computer screen, I was suddenly able to make stuff by hand. It was bizarrely exhilarating.

forts

A few things I made out of old fridge boxes for the kids to play in. The Minecraft creeper is a little worse for wear, but that’s because the kids were throwing beanbags into his eyes and mouth. The fishing poles that the kids would drop into the fishing pond also became thoroughly destroyed.

Continue reading

Am I Disablist? 2 Surprising Ways We Still Oppress Disabled People or: How A.J. Withers Changed the Way I Think About Disability

A little while ago, I was chatting with Evan when I made some offhand comment about something being “crazy” or “lame”. Honestly, I can’t remember what the comment was about. I do remember Evan mentioned that he was making a conscious effort to avoid language that helped embed our negative cultural attitude towards disability and mental illness.

At the time I was somewhat dismissive of his comment. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly do believe that our words matter.

But in that moment, I just filled away his comment without much thought.

I wonder if the reason I was so dismissive is because of the social invisibility of disability. As a society, we tend to ignore the voices of disabled people, unless they have a particularly tragic and/or inspirational story to share. We don’t want to hear about the ways our society continues to be stacked against disabled people. And we certainly don’t want to hear that we need to change. Continue reading

We Need More Women in STEM, But I’m Not One Of Them

Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am bad at math. Sometimes this makes me feel like a failure as a feminist.

See, I’m a nerd at heart (surprise!), and a lot of my favourite websites and blogs accrete STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) news alongside covert footage of the new Millenium Falcon. I certainly don’t mind after all, I follow NASA on Facebook. I really am truly interested in most of the science news that comes across my dash, but it’s like being a child with a crush on one of her parent’s friends: I think it’s so incredibly cool and it thinks I’m kind of silly. Left-brainers range from befuddled to downright arrogant when dealing with us right-brainers.  

At any rate I see a lot of news about how important it is to get more girls into STEM fields, and it leaves me feeling a little guilty.  I would consider myself both a nerd and a feminist, and yet my brain seems to be built like a sieve with number-shaped holes.  Seriously, when my husband was doing his engineering degree he would sometimes vent about the concepts he was learning and even when I was trying very hard to focus and follow what he was saying, my brain would go fuzzy and I’d entirely lose track of his words.  Numbers just make my brain congeal a little.

This, but with math.

I’m not exaggerating.  I can do the same problem four times and get four different answers.  The numbers swim and change places, and working through problems feels like pushing something heavy through something thick, only to find out you were moving the wrong heavy object once the job is done.  STEM types laud math for being so reliable and utterly logical, but it’s always felt rather arcane to me. Continue reading

In Defence of the Dress Code

There are so many things I hate about dress codes. I hate that they usually target girls and their sexuality, implying that a) if girls don’t cover their bodies boys will have no choice but to “lust” after them and b) a girl’s sexuality is something to fear. I hate that they imply that a woman’s character is based on her level of purity.

I hate that they become an opportunity for grown men to ogle young girls in order to better police what those young girls should wearI hate that they project gender roles onto young people. I hate that they go hand in hand with body- shaming young girls just when their bodies have started to change and they are still learning how to deal with those changes.

In contrast, I love seeing young women standing up for themselves on social media with hashtags like #IAmNotAnObject, #MyBodyMyBusiness, and #MoreThanADistraction. I love seeing them reclaim their bodies as their own, rather than some grown (or young) man’s fantasy. I love seeing them call out our education systems for continuing to prioritize boys over girls. I love seeing them call out the innate sexism at the centre of most dress codes Continue reading

Explaining American Politics To Non Americans – Part III: The Democratic Party

And so we’re back, dear readers, with another installment of “Explaining American Politics to Non Americans”, in which yours truly attempts to guide you through the strange, savage, and unforgiving terrain of our nation’s government. Today we cover the other side to our two-party system: the Democrats.

Democrats are, like it or not, usually seen as the good guys by plenty of folks out there in the wide world. More diplomatic, less rapaciously capitalistic, more secular, less imperialistic, and so on.

Or so the image goes.

But is that reputation an accurate one?

The answer might surprise you.

No, It’s Not

Okay, I guess that wasn’t really a surprise.

I’ve made no secret of my contempt for the president and my fundamental issues with liberalism in general. But my own irritations aside, the facts must be faced- Democrats aren’t the glorious heroes that the world (or they) imagine them to be.

Let me break it down here.

Democrats Are Still Incredibly Right-Wing

And that’s going to be weird for a lot of the world. Pretty much everywhere else on the planet, there’s a comparatively broad range of political discourse, though even relatively conservative parties still tend to endorse free(ish) healthcare and education. The Democrats seem to get mistaken as being simply an American version of what many beyond our borders take for granted- a center-left party advocating universal healthcare, free education, environmental protection, and championship of the poor and working class.

That’s just not how it is.

First, let’s start with healthcare.

Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of vocal liberals within the party (we’ll get to them in a second) who advocate the principles I mentioned above, the party has more often than not capitulated to these demands, rather than having fought for ’em.

The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, as it’s more commonly called, serves an example of this. While it’s absolutely an achievement (credit where credit is due), it’s about as far as possible from the systems used elsewhere in the world.

Now I’m not going to presume to know where you’re coming from, dear readers (Canada and Northern Europe tend to be big hits for us here at CWR), but I’m guessing that wherever it is, you enjoy some degree of universal healthcare. Chances are that you’re healthcare system is subsidized through hefty taxes, if not owned outright by the state. The present state of healthcare in the good ol’ US of A, however, works like so:

Since Obamacare’s legislation, all Americans are simply required to “have” health insurance. While certain points of the law keep insurance companies from preventing people with pre-existing conditions from getting service, these are all still private companies. Some programs exist to assist the extremely poor in getting some assistance in paying for insurance, but most everyone has to pay for it on their own (and it is not cheap, folks).

Does you cell phone bill equal about half of your rent? ‘Cuz that’s about how an insurance plan actually costs…

And that’s it. The hallmark of healthcare reform in this country.

The end. Continue reading