About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Gender equity in Haiti, in my community, and globally

I recently co-authored a book chapter that had a focus on initiatives in Haiti aimed to support girls in education. We have been working on supporting the ability of girls in Haiti to access all levels of schooling and the book chapter provided an opportunity to highlight some of these projects. Part of the motivation for the work we have been doing to support girls in Haiti came out of a video project we did in 2015. One video captured Canadian and Haitian university students in conversation with each other (click here to watch the 3 minute video). In the conversations, I was struck by the differences in dreams that our participants had.

We continue to be committed to building the capacity of girls and women in Haiti. We do this for girls through a camp that encourages Haitian children to engage in math, science, engineering, the arts, and technology (STEAM). The camp is coordinated by our Laurier university students and has seen 100s of Haitian girls and boys attend over the past three years. We also support young women who participate in a conversational English program with our Laurier university students. These conversations are rich and meaningful. They also illuminate for both our Haitian and Canadian participants the shared experiences and dreams they have. We are also supporting the teaching and leadership abilities of Haitian women through their participation in the Educator and Leadership Institute (click here to watch a 1 minute video of our 2017 institute in Cap-Haitien, Haiti). We have been deliberate and intentional in ensuring that we have strong female instructors and leaders, both Haitian and Canadian, to provide exemplary modeling for our participants.

Through this work, I have further developed my interest in the concept of agency (similar to the concepts of efficacy and empowerment). Merriam-Webster dictionary defines agency as "the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power". This idea has made me think a lot about the ideas of equity and equality. It seems to me that we are aiming for equity in Haiti more than equality. Equality insinuates that everyone is treated equally whereas equity gets at the concept of developing conditions that are fair and just, in other words, ensuring that everyone has what they need to be able to access power. I think this visual captures the difference:

Source: http://www.the-exploratory.org/2016/12/01/discovering-gender-equality-vs-gender-equity/
When we think about gender equity, it's important to realize that this is not a "Haiti issue" but one that impacts people in every community on the planet, including my own. As a father of two daughters, I want to ensure that the conditions of equal and fair treatment for them are present just like they are for my son. A person's agency enables them to recognize disparities (Paolo Freire would call this "conscientization") and work to change those inequities.

This is part of my work in Haiti ... and in my own community.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Partnerships to support global competencies in Egypt: Reciprocity in action

I've spent the past week in Egypt building the partnership that Laurier has with an international school in Cairo. It has been a tremendous week.

We've been able to formalize an agreement to support professional development for teachers at the school, engage in shared research, and foster opportunities for our Laurier Bachelor of Education students to have teaching placements at the school.

Meeting with school administrators.
A strong focus of our meetings has been on reciprocity.

Examples of this were three meetings I had yesterday with teachers and administrators at the school.

In the first meeting, I met a very creative teacher who is using technology to support global connections for her students. She engages them in a curriculum that includes developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes that reflect global citizenship (e.g., seeking to understand other cultures, collaboration skills, appreciation for diversity). We are going to work together to see how we might expose Canadian students and those in teacher education programs to the work she does ... thus supporting the knowledge of her students about Canada and supporting our Canadian students' knowledge about Egypt.
Two of the teachers I have worked with this year who are championing peer coaching at the school.
In the second meeting, I met with the English department coordinator. Dr. Zainab has a PhD in which she focused on neo-colonial literature of Africa (wow!) and who wants to develop her research skills. We mapped out a research project that will examine how literature that reflects a global perspective can support the global competencies of her students. I will also benefit from this project as it will provide a comparative perspective which might inform a similar project in Canada.

Dr. Zainab and I with a concept map of our new research project.
Finally, the day was concluded with a wonderful meal with the Egyptian administrative team. In my experience, I have found that food is the "great equalizer". It is around food that people learn to trust each other and to seek to better understand "the other." We enjoyed Egyptian delicacies and I was able to present them each with gifts of jars of Canadian apple butter!

Sharing tea together ... a perfect way to support relationship-building.
Opportunities such as this are tremendous reminders of the incredible privilege we have to work as educators across (and sometimes despite) borders. I remain deeply committed to fostering global perspectives for teachers - whether in Canada or Egypt or elsewhere - so that we might work toward building the global competencies of our students, building peaceful civil society together.

Our world needs more of this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Toronto van attack: A caution about how we see ourselves

Earlier this week, there was a terrible tragedy in Toronto as a man killed ten people and injured 14 others as he drove his van into pedestrians on Yonge Street (click here to read more).

Today, the name of one of the victims, who worked at Earl Haig Secondary School (where I have spent some time supervising a student teacher), was released. Her story, having worked only a single day at that high school and being a single mother of a seven year old, is heart-wrenching. To read more about the victims click here.

Yesterday and today, after some of the initial shock of the attack has abated, I have been amazed at how "self-congratulatory" people have been about how individuals/Toronto/Canada has reacted. I have sensed a "we're better than others" ... the police officer who arrested the man did not shoot him, news agencies deliberately delayed associating the attack with terrorism, and, on social media, people confronted those from outside of Canada who tried to conjure up connections with multiculturalism, religion, and terrorism.

I am proud of how we as Canadians generally responded to this horrible incident.


I'm also concerned that we are patting ourselves on the back and making it seem like no other city (or country) that has been involved in an attack such as this has not reacted in kind. I'm guessing that there are many in Norway (2011 car bomb attack in Oslo followed by an attack at a summer camp)  who also responded as we did in Canada. I think many Londoners would say that they have experienced multiple such attacks (2017 London Bridge, 2005 bombings) and have jolly well carried on. How about those in Nice in 2016?

For that matter, are there not many in countries which are under constant threat of attack who also respond in ways that seek peace?

We have experienced a terrible tragedy in Canada. Yes, I am proud that we did not immediately jump to conclusions that contribute to "uber" militarized and politicized responses. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We are not that different than others around the world who are reasonable, peace-seeking peoples. For that, we should be thankful.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day: Poto Mitan

Poto Mitan is a Haitian Creole phrase to describe women as cornerstones in their communities.

I love this idea.

I have been fortunate to have had many strong women "cornerstones" in my life: mother (and mother-in-law), grandmother, wife, sister, daughters, friends, teachers, supervisors, colleagues.

Not everyone has the fortune of having a host of cornerstones.

But everyone needs at least one cornerstone, one poto mitan.

As I reflect today on the idea of poto mitan, I think of the many strong women cornerstones I have had the privilege of meeting in Haiti.

One picture that speaks to these poto mitan is the one below. I snapped the picture as I stood behind a principal as she sat beside a young student and watched as educators started entering a session we were hosting.

The picture speaks powerfully to the concept of poto mitan.

Today we celebrate International Women's Day but every day is an opportunity to be the poto mitan of our communities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

International Educator Capacity-building: Educator and Leadership Institutes expand

The Educator and Leadership Institute framework continues to progress in various stages and iterations. When we launched ELI in Haiti, we believed that if it could succeed there, with the various geographic, political, and economic challenges of a fragile context, it could succeed elsewhere.

1. Haiti. The Educator and Leadership Institute is now "maturing" as we enter year three of our five year commitment to providing teacher and principal training in northern Haiti. We are anticipating 500-600 teachers in attendance with 40-50 Canadian educators involved as "lead learners". This is a critical year as we support the 20 Haitian educators who were identified last year to be future leaders of the institute. They will be working with Canadian educators over the next two years and gradually take on increased leadership and teaching responsibilities. This is our model of sustainability and transformative change.

2. Egypt. We are into the second year of a very different model of the Educator and Leadership Institute in Egypt. Not only is the context different, but the teachers involved are at a different stage of their professional learning. In February, four Canadian educators will be working with teachers in Cairo in areas of technology integration, critical literacy, and early learning. This builds on the work I did last year when I was there in February. I will return in May to complete the work I have started in November, 2017 on peer coaching. The model of peer coaching is a way to support the capacity of educators to be leaders themselves within the school and to support the professional learning of their peers. It is a different way to be sustainable but equally effective.

3. Nepal. Although faculty members from Laurier have been engaged with teacher professional development in Nepal for a number of years, we have recently provided a "made-for-Nepal" framework of the Educator and Leadership Institute. Instead of providing, as we have done in the past, one or two-day workshops, we will provide longer, more intensive courses similar to what we do in Haiti. A team of 10 Canadian educators will be in Nepal in May for three weeks to provide these learning opportunities in urban (Kathmandu) and rural settings. We are partnering with a number of organizations founded in Nepal and this will support the sustainability of the work there. Again, a different iteration of what we have done in Haiti but with equal potential for impact on teacher learning.

We continue to be asked to provide professional development for teachers in other contexts (Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, China, etc.) but we are ensuring that we are moving forward in a sustainable manner.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Teachers helping teachers: Lessons from Egypt

This week I have been working in Cairo, Egypt on a research and teaching project involving teachers teaching other teachers (that is a mouthful!). This is often referred to as "peer coaching" and involves teachers working in pairs to  provide input and feedback to each other about a focused area of improvement. For example, some of the teachers I am working with this week have asked for feedback on how they differentiate lessons to support students with special education needs and how they can better facilitate group work. I am working at a private school with about 1,000 middle-class Egyptian students.
Courtyard at the school.
I have provided two presentations to 60 teachers on how peer coaching can be done and how it can support their instructional effectiveness. The rest of my time is being spent on a "train the trainer" model involving a core group of teachers as they teach and provide feedback to each other. I am working specifically with four pairs of teachers (two in kindergarten, two in elementary school, two in middle school, and two in high school).
High school students and teacher who has a peer coach in the class observing the lesson.
I am also incorporating a research study into the work I am doing so that I can report on the experience. The research project will include collecting examples of the kinds of feedback that teachers provide to each other, identifying key aspects of teaching improvement, and interviewing teachers about their perceptions of the experience. I will return again in April to collect more data and to see what kinds of changes have occurred, both in the peer coaching approach and in their actual teaching methods.

The final aspect of work I am doing is soliciting input into professional development sessions that I am facilitating (and which other Laurier faculty will provide) in February as part of our expanded Educator and Leadership Institute. The work that we have done in Haiti, and recently in Nepal, will inform what ELI looks like in Egypt. Obviously, each context is different but there are some foundational aspects to ELI that are the same wherever we work; one of these is that our professional development sessions are determined in cooperation with our on-the-ground partners. We have had some excellent discussions about what that means for our February training.
I thoroughly enjoy this type of research and teaching experience because it has a real impact on actual teaching practices. It also keeps me mindful of those things which connect teachers globally, primarily, making a difference in the lives of students.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Starting a new school year in Haiti and Canada: Contrasts

A few minutes ago, my son left to start Grade 11 at our local high school.

Then I read this short article on students starting school in Haiti (click here to read the article).

The contrast in my son's experience and those of similar-aged students in Haiti is remarkable. One small example: My son walked a few hundred feet to catch a bus that will take him to his school of 1, 500 students where he will likely have a maximum of 25 students in a class. In Haiti, it's rare to have a school bus and, as the article states, high schools often have as many as 4,000 students in total (two shifts) and 80 students in a class. In fact, a couple of years ago, I was in a large public school in Haiti where there were more than 100 students in a class.

The sentence that caught my attention was this:

"[In Haiti] Only three of every 100 elementary school students will graduate high school without having to repeat a year or dropping out."

The vast majority of my son's classmates will never repeat a year or drop out.

So, this morning as I think about the start of a new school year, I am reminded of the many benefits and blessings we enjoy in Canada. May we not take these for granted.