Holiday time

My favourite holiday tradition happens a few days before Christmas. My Dad was the oldest of nine kids, so I grew up with lots of aunts and cousins, and every year for as long as I can remember, we do a “Cousins Cookie Bake.” The only word to describe it is ‘chaos.’   We don’t use any of those wimpy box sets from the grocery story – we bake gingerbread cookies from scratch – and we don’t limit the kids to regular-looking gingerbread men – we let them pile up the candies and icing just the way they like them. (None of the adults familiar with this process will eat them anyway, so why not?)

Every year there seems to be excitement around the youngest child to arrive in the cutest of Christmas outfits. Ours is a family that loves kids so we end up fighting for who gets to hold the youngest, and we may even put a time limit on each other. And every year, one of the little ones will slip away, when no one is paying attention, and find a nice quiet spot, to munch on a fist-full of raw cookie dough or candies. It happens every year….

My other favorite part of the holidays is the time I get to read. Does anyone have time to read during the year anymore? I don’t mean read a few pages before the book falls on your face in bed, I mean hours of uninterrupted reading. Now that’s a vacation.

So as we rush through these last few days of school and then squeeze in extra errands before collapsing into bed at night, all while trying to keep a sense of humour, I hope we think of what’s to come. For the holiday season will surely provide us with the gift of time. Time to think of others and time to do whatever makes us happy. Time to live in the present, and time to let kids be kids.

All the best to you as you go off into your holidays.

P.S. I polled a few CAIS Heads in preparation for my holiday reading. Happy to share their advice with you:

Hugh Burke, Meadowridge School, BC: I am reading a bunch of stuff. Have you read The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr? I ordered one copy for each of my Board. I think it is very balanced and sound thinking regarding the nature, direction, scope and effect of digital media, with implications regarding neuroplasticity and the capabilities of children…  Oh, and have you read It’s a book!…. Great new kids book that adults love.

Kathy Nikidis, ECS, Quebec: Just read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere – old but interesting (and sometimes painful) – otherwise pleasure reading – just working on Imperfect Endings by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter….so beautiful….

Jim Power, UCC, Ontario: I’m slowly making my way through Courage: The Backbone of Leadership by Gus Lee.

Ted Spear, Island Pacific, BC: I’m reading Thomas Oppenheimer ~ The Flickering Mind. Against whole bookshelves of clarion calls to the digital age, this is a somewhat dated, but still thoughtful, series of cautionary tales regarding the use of technology in schools.  Something for all of us to keep in mind as we hop on the bandwagon.

David Thompson, Montcrest, Ontario : I am currently working my way through two books Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv and The Third Teacher that was written as a collaborative exercise by a few architects.

P.P.S. If you have a book to recommend, please comment.

Lady Gaga

At the dinner table this week, when we had two extra kids joining us, I asked them if they liked Lady Gaga. The quick response from my kids was that look of dread – how is she going to embarrass us this time?  But the question sparked a resounding “No!”

And the conversation took off. The kids became animated, and I sat back, playing anthropologist, and watched the conversation unfold.

All four kids had seen her videos, knew her songs and could give multiple examples of her outrageous behaviour. Their conversation quickly moved from Lady Gaga to other popular YouTube searches – Sophia Grace (almost 25 million hits in less than 3 months), other famous child singers – like Connie Talbot andJackie Evancho – and then, inevitably, to talking dogs (with over 72 million hits). There was energy in our dining room and as soon as the plates were cleared, out came the laptop. As we tidied the kitchen, Kevin told me to, “Stop and watch this scene – five years ago, kids didn’t gather around a screen to watch YouTube videos, knowing that millions of others have watched them.”

The obvious observation is that kids spend more and more time on-line, and the implications of this increased time and access are worth exploring as parents and educators. But I think there’s a more disturbing impact.

Have you seen a Lady Gaga video? I actually like her music and think she is incredibly talented. So, last week I watched a few of them (start with Bad Romance, viewed by 431,924,757 people as of today) and then watched herGoogle interview. In case you don’t spend your evenings this way, here are two facts you need to know about Lady Gaga:

  • She is the most downloaded artist in history.
  • She is among the most searched people in the world.

The side of me that is interested in SEO and marketing is fascinated by Lady Gaga – she is barely 25 years old and yet she has managed to climb that Google search engine. Her popularity is something worthy of our attention as educators.

But the more important consideration is this – her videos, viewed by billions of people, are very disturbing. This mature content and her outrageous behavior are more accessible than ever in history.

So why do we need to talk about Lady Gaga?  As parents and educators, our greatest job is to raise mature, thoughtful adults. I don’t believe we should hide what is popular, but I am passionate about our responsibility to ensure children are informed, reflective and critical. I see it all the time in our CAIS schools, where we value values.