About the Editor
Kim Wrathall is a Kindergarten Teacher from the Calgary Area working in a High Needs school for 15 years. She is currently completing her final semester of her Masters from the University of Calgary in Mindfulness-Based Research and its benefits for K-3 students. After having implemented her own daily practice 3 years ago she saw a significant benefit to her own well-being and therefore implemented it into her classroom. A classroom culture that included mindful practice allowed both teachers and students to build strategies and coping skills for some of our life’s most challenging experiences.
Shelley Moore is a huge advocate for Inclusion and what that truly means in Education. She uses her own journey to share why things need to change. As a dynamic and passionate speaker her session was engaging and wonderfully full of truth telling and humour to guide us through deep questions about what Inclusion should really be.
As a youth she found school challenging as it did not meet her needs and there was little movement in the education system to support her learning. Too often students that are deemed “problems” are removed from the regular classroom and placed in some type of specialized setting. Sadly, the help that students need is not met until severe crisis, trauma and failure have been endured.
As a youth, being transferred into a situation where her needs were being met did not happen until complete failure and rejection.
She asked us all to consider how are we going to change the educational system or machine? This seems like an overwhelming task she acknowledged but one that is necessary.
Every child needs a relationship, connection, community and a sense of belonging. When you don’t feel like you fit in or that something is wrong with you happens way too often. So how do we shift the infrastructure so that inclusion includes the teachers sense of community as well.
Shelley continued in her conversation asking us to think about how being inclusive in our classrooms supports those that are in the space but we need to consider who is not there and why? Who is also not at the table when conversations about inclusion occur?
How many times do we swallow “it” and do what we are told- but are still bothered by a situation or expectation? She asked us to get to the heart of the matter and used a quote by Barry Bennett “How many of you are refined at a practice that you don’t believe in?”
Having the amazingly talented Ruth Ohi join us again for another day of learning was truly remarkable. She is an award-winning Canadian Author of many books and a talented artist.
Each time she has joined our conference she has openly shared her journey into the publication of her work and her process in drawing and writing.
Her sessions are always dynamic and engaging and she invites both adults and students to visit her website and engage with her in a multitude of ways. Drawing, writing and celebrating language and fine arts are truly her passion. This comes to life in her work and the way in which she speaks about it.
She spoke about her process in that it is one of working on many ideas at once. She lets them percolate and then comes back to them at a later date often having many books and ideas in process at the same time.
The journey in this transformation is not one that we can do alone. You need to build a community with others. She used a fantastic analogy of driving a bus where you are trying to single-handedly drag people onto the bus but now no one is actually driving the bus.
She asked us to take the following words and consider them like this:
Inclusion- something that cannot be forced
Segregation - community oppression
There needs to be resources for genuine inclusion to occur, however communities and school are often limited in these capacities. When and if a level of resources return on our province education cannot continue in this way. So how do we make sure that exclusion, segregation and integration are not the focus of this work?
Ending her discussion she asked everyone to consider moving inclusion up as a priority by be strategic in our requests and critical in ways that make the education system better.
Check out all of Shelley’s amazing work at:
This session was a beautiful mix of talking and drawing demonstrations where she focussed on the idea of encouraging students to draw in their own style. She also mentioned how she uses scraps from the recycling bin to create her works as then she can change ideas, make mistakes and there is no sense of permanency. It gives kids the permission to create freely and openly. She also mentioned how she does all of her drawings in marker so that every stroke is an attempt and when she doesn’t like something she can tear a new piece, layer it over and try again.
One of the biggest takeaways from Ruth was encouraging educators to ask kids about their art by saying “Can you tell me about your art? “ not by saying what you think it is. This way their story comes out more. Also encouraging exploration about everything that we learn about math, science, art etc. Let kids take you on the journey of their exploration through the art that they create.
Make sure to check out Ruth Ohi’s website, and YouTube and social media pages:
She also has a new book launching July 6, 2021 called Choose Kindness.
Ending our Conference for the day with this incredibly thoughtful and genuine speaker was truly wonderful. I have loved her books and have used them often in my classroom but had not heard her speak.
Her words were so profoundly validating and I was immediately drawn into her openness and acknowledgement of everyone. She spoke to how educators are helping to raise up our young citizens and what an important role that we have. She reminded us that it isn’t always what we have done but how we have felt in any process. When we are in alignment to gifts and messages they change our lives in significant ways. She spoke about her own experiences and how many times people said to her to pursue her dreams and write a book, go to post-secondary etc. and for the longest time she resisted. When she finally realized her calling she saw the power of her ancestors help guide her on her path and she felt that she was in alignment.
She spoke to the wellness need for everyone and how each day you need to reflect on the best parts of your day before falling asleep. When we don’t do this we are easier to tears and anger and will find it harder to fall asleep.
She asked us to think about how you fill a space with love, things like salt lamps, smudging and colours bring love into a space.
She reminded us all that when cortisol is high it is hard to learn. You need to as educators connect with students first before introducing the curriculum. Lower the cortisol and increase the dopamine through this connection.
We also need to think about the words that come out of our mouth as being medicine. The power of one person's words can change that trajectory. You choose the words out of your mouth and you need to know that the children are watching- make sure you are as congruent as possible.
Monique challenged us to think about how we nourish our spirits? Where are the places in your world that are nurturing you? Where in nature can you go to replenish? Love is medicine so what fills your heart with happiness? Gifts in this world are those unique contributions only we can make.
What emotions do you want children to feel:
-in your presence
- in your class
- in your school
- for your families of your school
What kind of relationships will you foster:
-in each other
Making the invisible visible is so important. We all have stories to tell. Telling them both orally and in written form are of significance. When reading someone's work it is important to acknowledge both authors and illustrators as it is a coming together of two peoples gifts.
Monique ended her session with the following important thought. Who are your cookie people? These are the people who come into our lives for a moment or a very long time to bring us a message. These are the people who when we are in their presence they lift us up and when we are out of line we are reminded. Think about one of your cookie people and make a connection. How have they impacted you and what you're grateful for about them? Perhaps it is time to reach out.
You can follow the amazing Monique Gray-Smith at her website and the following social media: