Sunday, April 14, 2013

Compassionate Eye

Last Friday afternoon we were busy.  Phyllis came to photograph the kids working on their visual journals for the display at the school board and then Luella came to tell them about Compassionate Eye.  This is a foundation begun by her brother, photographer, Robert Kent.  The foundation's main source of revenue is a photo shoot in a several cities held on the longest day of each year.  Photographers, models, stylists etc. give a free day's work to create stock images that are sold to Getty Images and the profits are put into the foundation's projects. 

The first project was improving a school in a small village in Guatemala and more projects have been added.  At this point the foundation has raised 1.2 million dollars and it all started with a group of friends at a barbecue, including Luella, thinking about how fortunate they were and how they wanted to give back.

Several years ago I attended a Room to Read event (Compassionate Eye has partnered with Room to Read on projects) and met Luella and Sue Dick who is also very involved with the foundation.  They needed a couple of Spanish translators and I recruited a couple of my friends for them, and a friendship began.

Luella heard about the class' fundraising to fight Poverty in the fall and made a financial contribution so that the class regarded her already as a friend.  Having had a good session with Sharon from Room to Read (with $300 raised already for that group), I thought it would be great to invite Luella to the class as well.

Luella is a former teacher but hadn't been in a classroom for 10 years but you can tell how good she must have been.  I mean WOW!  Her presentation was awesome.  The kids were captivated.  And it was good learning for me as well because I realized I hadn't known what stock photography really was.  For instance, a company may want a certain image for an advertisement but doesn't want the expense of doing their own photo shoot so they will buy the image from Getty Images and Compassionate Eye will get money.  The kids loved how Luella's image had been used in several ad campaigns (much to her surprise when she saw them-note she had given her "modeling" for free). 

They also loved the film of the children in Guatemala seeing their new school room and the film of a
photo shoot session.  They learned concrete examples of  how you can use your own talents to give back.  We talked about how they had already done that with Arshpreet's chai and hot chocolate making talents for instance.  We talked about how you really feel better giving your time and it really doesn't take much.

My class already has a few fundraising ideas in the works.  Next up Lemonade and Lemon Bar sale for Room to Read and then I know the kids want to do a fundraiser for Compassionate Eye.  Throughout this article you will see some of their images of their impression of Luella's visit and their perusal of the website.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Visual Journals etc.

I have a list, quite a long list, mainly things I don't seem to want to do but know I must...And of course one item on this list is catching up on the blog.  I seem to being less diligent about doing this than I used to be!  For one thing, there are so many things to report on when you teach!

I don't remember too much about the week prior to the two week Spring Break.  Somewhere in there was a field trip to the MacMillan Space Centre to enhance our Earth Science unit; we went bowling.  There was also a great deal of report card writing on my part.

The report cards didn't go home until after the Spring Break, this Friday.  The public probably has no idea how much time and effort go into report cards.  A bit different than my fourth grade report card that other than marks just said, "Good Work"!

And then after handing out report cards, I made the mistake of reading my students' Foundation Skills
Assessment results; some of which made absolutely no sense.  According to the FSA results, a top math student is not yet meeting expectations in math while a mediocre student is.  There are two math sections, one done on computer so I can't see his answers to that assessment.  The other test was composed of two questions that we haven't yet covered in class (the assessment was in February).  I use a government recommended text and I am on track in my math teaching schedule.  All I can say is what a waste of time and money!  And the harm that has been done by the Fraser Institute using these results to rate school and the local papers publishing these!
Well, I try to be a positive person, so I am not going to dwell on this, in this column.

Earlier, I had written about the beginnings of our visual journal project.  And my class is into it.  Only one or two small journals have temporarily disappeared because of course although you say not to take them home, they do.

The theme has been Journeys-different types, imagined and real.  Needless to say there are a few Planetarium sketches.  There has been a bit of time pressure as the sketchbooks were back ordered and arrived late and the exhibit is happening in a couple of weeks, so I found myself quite often last week saying, "Work on your visual journals if you are finished your other work).  The kids happily do so, even though at times I see puzzled looks as they are thinking about what to do next.  This project is happening in four other classrooms and we will be meeting to share the journals and the work will be displayed at the School Board Education building.  This week we have been trying to figure out the logistics of having 130 elementary students there, in the building that is dedicated to their education but doesn't really have space to accomodate children!  I have to say it's going to be fascinating to see them all there!  I don't think anything like this has ever happened in this building.  Occasionally choirs come and once we had two classes read in the boardroom as part of the Charlotte's Web Read Aloud.  But this is the most elementary students ever to descend into this building!

Needless to say, my kids are also writing about the experience, their drawings.  I think the small size of the pages have made it less intimidating for my less confident artists, but they all seem happy participating.  I have done visual journals in the past but I think this is working better!

For me the other bonus is getting to do this project with four other teachers that I have happily worked with in the past.  Four of us all taught sixth grade together at Moberly but we are now all at different schools.  The fifth teacher  had the class I spent the most time in experimenting when I was at the school board, and she now teaches third grade at a school with one of the other participants.  Children from kindergarten to grade seven are involved.   The project is really driven by Phyllis, who worked with my class last year as an Artist in Residence, and aided and abetted by Peggy, the Arts coordinator based at the school board.  Anyway, it is kind of exciting!

Yes all over the province exciting learning is taking place that can't really be captured by "tests".  The big day at the Vancouver School Board is the morning of April 23rd and the exhibit will be on starting from mid April for three weeks in the lobby on the main floor.