How Children Succeed

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Wednesday, 15th May, 2013

One of the most memorable experiences on the Arts Education trip to New York was a visit to New Design High School. The principal of New Design, Scott Conti, spoke with us when we arrived; his passion for teaching & the success of his students is inspirational. He suggested we read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough; this turned out to be the most useful reading I’ve been given in my time as an education student.

How Children Succeed is not a guide book, it’s more like an inspiring lecture that gives you insight into the teaching vocation. Paul Tough shares anecdotes from schools he has visited. Psychological research from a variety of sources is included to show the value of teaching character strengths. The argument is not that subjects like History or Mathmatics don’t matter, because they do but there is a broader set of skills that really contribute to success; skills like curiosity, self-control, resilience, & integrity. Paul Tough emphasizes that these character strengths aren’t fixed, they’re mailable & building skills like optimism enable students to be more successful in life.

The below TVO interview by Allan Gregg provides a good overview of Paul Tough’s book. I highly recommend How Children Succeed to teachers, & parents.

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Lily Ockwell Changed My Life

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Friday, 5th April, 2013

The title of this post might seem like an exaggeration, but it is not.

It has been nearly two months since the Arts Education trip to New York. Not one week has gone by when I didn’t think about the McKittrick Hotel, home of Sleep No More. The design of the set, music, & lighting are extraordinarily intricate. The dancing & acting are mesmerizing. The story is based on Macbeth with a film noir twist, Sleep No More is an immersive theatre performance & unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

Upon entering the McKittrick Hotel, I was given a playing card & told to continue on down a hallway almost void of light. Through this dark maze, I arrived at the Manderley Bar; dimly lit & reminiscent of a speak easy. After a moment, the card I & a few others in the Manderly held was called. We were lead to another room. We were given masks, invited to wear them. We were told anonymity was essential, instructed not to speak or use our personal telephones. Next we were lead into an elevator; as it rose we were told fortune favors the bold.

I began to explore the dimly lit hotel; slowly at first, then with growing curiosity; reading notes, opening drawers, peeking at mirrors that had been turned to face the wall. I was in a small sitting room when a scream came from one of the hallways; Lady Macduff, played by Lily Ockwell. The surreal beauty of Lilly Ockwell’s performance held my attention completely, the seamless flow of dance & acting felt like the embodiment of beauty. That the experience is staged was forgotten long ago, as was any apprehension I’d had about seeing the show. I might have explored more of the hotel or followed other characters but I chose to stay with Lady Macduff; this involved a lot of running, being locked with her in a small closet sized room, & ended with her kiss on my cheek back in the Manderkey Bar at the end of the show.

Lily Ockwell changed my life. Her performance as Lady Macduff was magic. Never have I been so deeply captivated. This experience makes me want to do more with my life, to abandon doubt more often & embrace adventure. The dedication of all the performers in Sleep No More is inspiring. I definitely need to see Sleep No More again, & plan to find other immersive theatre experiences in the future.

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The Rooftop Graffiti at New Design

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Wednesday, 3rd April, 2013

I was in New York for a week in February, as part of the Arts Education B.Ed. program. One of the many highlights for me was the tour of New Design High School, lead by two students in their senior year. The focus on design & art at this school is inspirational. Our tour ended by sneaking up to the roof, which is covered in some of the most beautiful graffiti I’ve ever seen. Below are some of my favourites.

That last photograph shows three of the spots that have been painted white to make way for new artwork. Being up on that roof was amazing & reminded me of the Graffiti episode of MTV’s Downtown; Matt lets Fruity & Chaka tag along when he goes down into the subway tunnels of New York to paint. The rooftop space at New Design can be booked for events, awesome.

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The Broken Clarinet

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Saturday, 2nd March, 2013

The day after I graduated from high school, I stepped onto a bus & left to play clarinet in a marching band for three weeks. Stops on the tour included Oregon, Chicago, & Detroit. We slept on air mattresses in school gymnasiums. We played in competitions & parades, occasionally with rain soaking through our uniforms while thunder announced lightening was not far away.

Music was my thing in high school. I started with clarinet in grade six, & eventually moved to bass clarinet; I also played tenor sax in jazz bands. The high school I attended had several wind ensembles & jazz bands but there was no marching band. I’d never considered joining a marching band outside of school. When I was in grade twelve, I made a few new friends who played in the Regina Lions marching band; near the end of the school year, they mentioned the band needed another clarinet & I volunteered. This was the most reckless & spontaneous thing I’d done as a teenager; you might say my adolescence was somewhat lackluster. Memorizing all the music & choreography in three weeks wasn’t easy but I worked really hard. When I think back now, I still think it was a great way to end high school.

On days when we didn’t perform in a competition or parade, we’d practice. For hours. In the sun or rain. Occasionally on fields that evidently didn’t get a lot of funding for upkeep. One morning on my way out to practice, I stumbled over something in the grass. Every muscle in my body froze. There had been this snap; it wasn’t overly loud but told me the object was of far more value than a twig. I looked down. I’d tripped over one of the other players clarinets. Her clarinet was now severed in two. The clarinet is an instrument designed to come apart in a certain way but this really really wasn’t it.

The girl was furious when she found out; then she smiled, told me her clarinet had broken in the same place before & she knew how to fix it so I shouldn’t feel bad. I still felt horrible. That day at lunch, I felt like nobody would sit with me & I might have been content to become invisible but I kept going. Slowly that day went on, the tour gradually continued to be an amazing experience but I’ll always remember the day I learned sometimes life goes how you expect & sometimes you break a clarinet.

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