Here you will find writings that give some insight into Trinity’s programs.

For Educators and Parents

trinityfamily

2016 Leadership Lab Students

As my Co-director and partner Sandra Crockard explained in her personal blog last month we are learning a new practice of reaching out to our network. I’m using this occasion to address educators everywhere who have ever felt limited by the present tools and practices of education to reach their students- both concerning a subject and addressing their development as competent, resilient members of our shared society. We experienced the same sense of restraint with techniques in our theatre development.

Our Past

Trinity started working with the Toronto District School Board in 1984. In those early years we created plays, with teacher’s guides , on various issues. As we encountered the limits of this traditional play-audience format, especially in terms of empowering audience members, we moved through many years of exploration both in schools and the community. Through trial and error we ‘deconstructed’ the primacy of performance when using theatre, and moved to a more interactive practice between player and audience member.

As we worked in schools we were constantly asking ourselves, on the basis of our daily exchange with young people, what do students ultimately want from their school experience beyond the acquiring of information, skills, and marks.

What do teachers and other educators want to connect with their students, and fulfill their sense of vocation in meaningful ways?

Our Present

Out of this exploration we have created many presentations, workshops and courses. Of these, our Peer to Peer and Making Connections programs in particular embody what we believe begins to answer those questions re what students and teachers ultimately want in education.

Essentially both programs are mentoring programs that extend participants’ learning capabilities by addressing their social/emotional development, both peer to peer and intergenerationally.

What do Students and Teachers ultimately want?

So what did we find? What do students ultimately want? To be recognized, to be inspired, to learn.

What do educators ultimately want? To feel that their teaching has contributed to a student’s competency as a learner, as well as contributing in a positive way to their personal and social growth for the future.

During our explorations it became increasingly important to us that our programs help students and teachers see that our social/emotional lives are connected to our capability to learn. As well, we wanted to create tools that would help both student and teacher nurture recognition, inspiration and love of learning from one another

Ultimately, all of Trinity’s education work is informed by the belief that education is all about learning, a competency in learning that is achieved by skills development and knowledge and information exchange, combined with attention to an individual’s social/emotional development. This combination of learning and personal growth for both student and teacher enables personal transformation, and participation in social and community development for everyone involved in the act of education..

If you would like to know more about our approach to education please email us at contact@trinitytheatre.ca for our free three day online mini-course Teaching Between the Lines

The other ‘educators’ I would like to address in this opening blog are parents.

Your role is crucial in both the social/emotional development and the academic development of your children. This, of course, is quite obvious in our children’s elementary years in school. But in many ways the parent’s role even increases in importance in their high school years.

From our thirty plus years of working with youth in schools we are publishing this June Surviving High School…and other challenging times in life. This eBook contains nine steps for students on how to make the most out of their high school years in terms of personal growth and developing life-enhancing strategies for their future.

As a companion to Surviving High School…and other challenging times in life we will be offering a free online series for parents, Surviving High School…a parent’s guide.

 The series will run online for nine weeks, beginning Earth Day Friday April 22, and each Friday after that. Each week in the series will match one of the nine steps outlined for students.

If you would like to receive the free online series Surviving High School…a parent’s guide please email us at contact@trinitytheatre.ca to receive your free copy.

The ultimate goal of all education is personal and community renewal. As such the role of the parent as educator is ongoing, even though it appears to be lost in the fiction we call the generation gap. While it is true that new technologies continuously challenge an older generation, the common and continuing social/emotional challenges of personal growth and aging can only be successfully addressed intergenerationally.

Trinity Blog Re-Vamp

I don’t know about you, but I have not entirely understood the value and purpose of blogging. This probably reveals a lot about my relationship with social media. I’ll admit that I do grumble about how much more demanding our work has become now that maintaining a presence on social media is expected and required. So I have had to be convinced that it is really advantageous for me to buy in to this new reality.

Why Blog?

This has happened in two ways. First we have been getting coaching sessions at the Centre for Social Innovation. In a session with Mike Brcic of “The Social Entrepreneur” and “Sacred Rides,” we were introduced to the idea of using blogs to first and foremost provide value – and then to ultimately funnel business towards a ‘core offer’, i.e. Trinity programs, services and resources. I appreciated his argument that we need to first build trust and respect, and what better way than to provide free online resources for consideration?

Secondly, here at Trinity we have the good fortune of having a co-op student from Humber College’s Media & Communications program with us for the winter/spring term. Khaya Matheson has been assisting us with our social media needs, and to that end has been able to give us some further advice on how to better utilize Trinity blogs.

Personal and Topic-Related Blogging

Alan and I are aiming to be recognized by a broader audience as ‘known and trusted’ experts in the areas of social emotional development, youth empowerment, peer leadership, experiential learning, kindness and compassion, acceptance, improving community practice and increasing community capacity through intergenerational engagement.

To do this we are going to write two types of ‘value-added’ blogs – personal and topic-related.

The personal blogs will appear on the third Thursday of every month. These will be directed at the Trinity community-at-large and be of our topic of choice. They will be written in a more candid journal style, natural, relaxed, and provide a platform to be informative of events and happenings at Trinity.

The topic-related blogs will appear every three weeks, on Mondays, starting on March 21st. These will be directed to a specific audience each time, either EDUCATORS, YOUTH or PARENTS. These will be useful and helpful, direct, to-the-point, and socially emotionally relevant.

Blogs For Educators, Parents and Youth

EDUCATORS can look forward to learning fresh new perspectives, ideas, concepts and techniques – ranging from dealing conflict in the classroom, helping students handle anxiety and stress, become their best self, building a positive school community.

PARENTS will be offered new ideas, insights and approaches for understanding their child’s experience as they navigate the education system.

YOUTH will be shown ways to survive high school and other challenges, how to become a leader in their own life, and take peer leadership into their school community – as well as the community-at-large, provide resources and be inspired by the stories of other peer leaders.

If I Can Do It So Can You

 So there you have it. Going forward, I am going to trust in by betters in this domain (thank you, Mike and Khaya) and commit to our goal here at Trinity of providing something of value in each blog post.   And to that end I am going to leave you this link to an easy read with 20 quick-tips when blog writing, just in case any of you are interested in learning how to write a blog yourself…

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140602121530-3161863-20-quick-tips-on-writing-great-blog-posts

For Teachers

It is time to talk about the role, work and presence of the teacher with a view to how he/she can play a productive part in the social/emotional development of their students. This is important to discuss because the links between the social/emotional sides of a person’s nature and their learning capacity are becoming more apparent thanks to neuroscience.

And important too for all of us, including teachers themselves, to develop more literacy around the role public education plays in our society’s vision of itself. What indeed does it say about ourselves and our communities that we want our young to be educated in this way? And consequently what are we actually expecting of our teachers, and what should they expect of themselves, as men and women of vocation?

The teacher is in many ways the most significant adult a young person meets after the adults in their immediate and extended family. And we have been assuming that the primary social/emotional development work is being done only in the nuclear family. But what if that primary ‘education’- given what we now know of the length of time involved in the developing brain through childhood and adolescence- is also being supplied by other adults in the community?

As well we should also examine whether we are assuming that a young person’s learning is primarily the result of a conscious act – meaning the parent or later teacher sits the young person down and transmits articles of learning. When in truth the child does not only learn but absorb information and practices from its adults and it always takes in far more than the adults actually intend! All of which makes the actual ‘education’ of the child a complex act.

There is a role for the teacher in the social/emotional development of youth. This is obvious at the elementary level of education, and largely dismissed at the secondary level. This is a mistake. There is a role for teachers with youth, possibly as guide, as mentor, as inspiration, as conscience, as model, and as friend.

What if the secondary teacher’s role lay beyond academics? What if that role was one that involved creating a pathway to community, by helping youth to learn how to learn with others- including how to balance the social/emotional aspects of one’s developing character with the engaged work/achievement aspects of conscious living?

There are simple ways a secondary teacher can introduce social/emotional development in the classroom without detracting from the academic subject they are teaching. Following is a list of some of those ways that we will elaborate on in further blogs.

(1) Use talking/learning circles.

(2) Become a peer leader in learning.

(3) Define your personal educational goals.

(4) Think like a river.

(5) Sweat the small stuff!

(6) Make it personal.

(7) Story the classroom.

(8) Strive for relevance.

(9) Make connections.

A re-cap of the best Christmas break of my life and back to school

Let me start with a Happy New Year (even though it feels like quite a while ago that we had our holiday break). I had the best Christmas ever! My son Matthew, who dances with the Stuttgart Ballet, is always performing over Christmas (like all dance companies seem to). This year, however, the company was given five days over Christmas off. This knowledge he and his twin brother Alex decided to keep a secret from their parents, and on December 23, for the first time in ten years, Matthew came home for Christmas. The guy surprises us by walking into our respective kitchens. This was, of course, captured on Alex’s cell phone camera, and posted on Christmas day. You can see it if you find me on Facebook. The video is somewhere on my home page. It was truly a dizzyingly wonderful handful of days with Matthew here. Add to that the joy that delightful grandson Wesley brings into the mix, and I will hold Christmas 2015 in my heart for the rest of my days.

Now that we are back to school, and I am once again writing blogs, I want to refer to an aspect of that extraordinary reunion – namely the cell phone on which Alex captured my reaction. Thanks to the presence of cell phones in our lives, I now have a video to look at when I’m feeling sentimental – for which I am grateful. But here’s my dilemma – what about the presence of cell phones during our training?

We are guests in schools, and as a result, not always sure what each school’s official and/or unofficial stance is regarding cell phones. I’d like to think I am easy going regarding their presence in the nooks and crannies of a training session – I mean, before we begin, during breaks, etc. – but I think that when we are involved in the actual training there should be undivided focus and attention given to the trainers and fellow peer leaders.

So what would you do when presented with a group of Grade 8 peer leaders who throughout the course of an entire day had to be constantly asked to put the cell phones away? Who put knapsacks on their laps to disguise their compulsion to continue texting? Who, in the end, were either being openly oppositional, or didn’t even hear the request to put them away because they were so caught up in whatever was on their screen?

I’d also like to think that I am always respectful of those I am training – regardless of their age. I do my utmost to treat everyone kindly, reasonably and with transparency. But to have that approach of patience and respect challenged eventually got my insides roiling. Reluctantly, I went ‘adult’ and started lecturing. But I did leave the group with this task for our next training session – “If you were me, how would you handle the cell phone issue? “ We will consider their suggestions for removing them as distraction and work with the most reasonable solution. By the way, the school has a no cell phones in class policy, so we can always fall back on that, but it would be an accomplishment if we could, as a group, arrive at a solution in which they felt they had some say.

So I ask you, what about our attachments cell phones? In the end, I am thrilled that there was a cell phone present to capture the experience for me. But, what about in school? At Trinity, we are looking for ways to integrate a role for them in our training, but I have to say that when it comes to face-to-face interaction and the very real mentoring and leadership development work involved, there is no place for split focus and the optics of disrespect that is part and parcel of looking at a smart phone screen.

Navigating Trinity as an Intern!

Khaya’s Perspective

For those of you who don’t know – I am Trinity’s newest intern for Marketing & Communications.

I’m remembering how badly I wanted this position approximately 3 weeks ago. “THAT’S IT!” I yelled aloud while frantically scrolling for internship positions related to my school program, “This is me! I can do this!”. I envisioned myself working for Trinity Theatre, knowing nothing about the organization itself other than what was presented to me through the website and listing.

The position outlined a platform of ideas that I could get behind – community & relationship building, social & emotional development in youth and experiential learning through theatre and other related workshops. It also lined up rather nicely with my acquired skills – writing, communications, marketing, promotions & social media. My heart started racing and I couldn’t seem to whip up a cover letter and edit my resume fast enough. (For those of you in need of a co-op for school, you know the type of pressure I’m talking about!). I was convinced someone else might swipe the position or catch their attention quicker than I did. Fortunately, I was wrong!

As of today, I have leapt forward into my second week at Trinity. Informative and fruitful are words I would use to describe my first week at the office; which has me eager for this week as well as what’s to come! As a soon to be Media Communications graduate from Humber College my goal is to maintain an optimistic attitude and a progressive impact on the Marketing & Communications sector of this organization. So far, I am inspired by not only the staff around me to learn and move forward but more importantly the students & peer leaders in which Trinity continues to work alongside.

I remember being in high school and having mixed emotions about it. There were some unforgettably fun & rewarding experiences, no doubt, but simultaneously there were some experiences I could deem “the hardest of my life” (thus far)! It wasn’t until I attended an alternative school for my last year of high school, prioritizing experiential & community learning, that I began to gain confidence in what I was learning and how. Sometimes all you need is a shift in perception and a little push in order to broaden your horizons and let the light in.

My point in saying this is that I understand the position of some of the students who may learn with Trinity or need Trinity’s help. I am going to make it my duty here to carry out that knowledge and apply it to all of my work. I am here to deliver Trinity’s message of compassion, community and empathy through various media platforms.

Please join me and everyone else here at Trinity on this journey to create a positive change in the next generation of Canadian youth!

– Khaya

Volunteering for the EAST Alternative Open House play…15 years+ later

Back in the 1990’s, my sons, twins, Alexander and Matthew went to Gledhill Junior Elementary School in the French Immersion program. This meant they were going to move on to a middle school before entering high school. Because we live in this great city of opportunity, I suggested we look around at options for their grade 7/8 years. That’s how Alex ended up at EAST Alternative School (and Matthew at Canada’s National Ballet School – but that’s a story for another day).

EAST Alternative was only in its second year of existence when Alex started there, but even then, in its infancy, it had a very strong arts-based enriched curriculum and its renowned equity and social justice ethic. Over the years the school has continued to grow and mature into one of the most evolved, caring and safe learning environments I have encountered. At this school you will encounter confident, articulate, respectful, engaged students, nurtured by caring, courteous, yet demanding teachers. And you will encounter parent volunteers.

Parents are expected to volunteer 15 hours a year at EAST. (I think that they even have to sign a contract now). This is how the school manages to pull off all the incredibly ambitious enriched curriculum programs, projects, field trips, etc. I was, and still am, one of those parent volunteers. Years ago, when Alex was at the school, I dragooned Alan into helping me create a play for the EAST Open House. I have continued to direct this Open House play for over 15 years now – which would put me in the running as the longest serving parent volunteer!

So I’ve just spent two days this week at EAST, directing this year’s play. The play is made up of the voices of EAST students draped on a framework of mission statement, philosophy and teacher speeches. The students write colourful descriptions of the life at an equity and social justice-based alternative school that get turned into script which helps to enliven the ‘pitch’ to parents and students interested in coming to the school. The students have their lines now that they will memorize over the holidays then in January we will block the play.

It is always fascinating to hear the voices of these 12-13 year old students as they enthuse about EAST. And it is always fascinating to work with the ten precocious ones who are the actors in the play. Far and away though, it is always fascinating to spend time in this school, soaking in the energy that envelops all who enter its midst. The walls are covered with brightly painted masks revealing ‘inner selves’, posters describing stem cell research and alternative energy; there are fish tanks containing ecosystems; there is always a buzz of excitement among the students and teachers alike. Yesterday, as I was gathering up the actors for our rehearsal, I came upon the grade 8 English class delivering ‘rants’ on social justice issues – the two I witnessed were about assisted suicide, and homelessness. As the actors gathered I overheard one supporting the other “You’re just too invested in the relationship… but that’s point of relationships, isn’t it?”

EAST has an ambitious mission statement. “EAST fosters personal responsibility, self-discipline, independence, critical thinking, community spirit, and an appreciation of diversity.” These students leave this school well prepared for their transition to high school, and even better than that – they leave as aware, awake, responsible citizens. Don’t let their age fool you, these young people have been challenged to take a look at themselves and at the world around them, and really do have something to contribute. I hope they get to do so.

 

 

Holiday Reflections

How to celebrate a non-religious Christmas on the road to “finding yourself”?

The miraculous birth in humble surroundings for instance and a flight into Egypt…

When we become aware of the incredible complexity involved in the growth of a fetus – from the union of a single cell, an ovum, with a sperm cell literally trillions of special function cells develop to form tissues, in turn to form organs and systems of integrated activity-

It is apparent every birth is a miracle

And given the frailty of our human condition

Every birth occurs in humble surroundings

Because when our species evolved larger and more complex brains

The period of post-birth dependency of offspring lengthened

Till it means today it takes longer for a newborn’s thinking patterns to mature and for enough learning to occur that they might join the social systems we as primates are always building

Humble and perilous beginnings

And none more so than sifting through

The inherited mindsets and practices

Of your communities and culture

Of coming to know all you couldn’t know

But could only absorb as you were growing

Images of miraculous intentionality

And dangerous intimate struggles

Not particular to our Christmas alone

But of the growth of consciousness

And compassion in everyone everywhere

Closing a Chapter

The end of my residency at Trinity is upon us and there is only a week left in my term here. The last seven months have flown and were full of learning, new relationships, and self exploration. These seem to be the purpose and calling of Trinity- to challenge people and push them toward growth through learning, relationships and self-reflection. I can certainly attest to this.

Speaking to the first element of my journey with Trinity- new learning- I can say without question that I have learned an immense amount from my time here. Whether that’s the technical skills of programs like Adobe Illustrator or the ins and outs of the education system and most importantly, what students now are experiencing, worried about, and facing on a daily basis. From my time in the classrooms I’ve learned more about how I engage people (youth specifically), where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and who I want to be in that fight for stronger public education that develops the whole person.

Over the course of the seven months I’ve met so many incredible people from students to teachers to impassioned community members and beyond. I think I have been most blown away by the passion of individuals and the genuine curiosity that people have for the life experience of others. So often, young people are not given credit for their intuitive knowledge. Let me tell you, after 7 months working with this group of youth, they know a whole lot more then society gives them credit for and a conversation with a young person is a reciprocal learning relationship not to be ignored.

Since May, I’ve questioned what I believe about life, society, and myself on many occasions as a result of working with Trinity. As with any deep questioning this was both a positive and negative experience that was by no means a simple process. It is inherent in the questioning process that one’s reality be shaken and thus discomfort occurs, but what emerges at the end is a more empowered, honest, and clearer sense of self. This is a powerful process that any participant in a Trinity program must be prepared for.

Don’t let that scare you! Like any worthwhile program or process, there is work involved in a Trinity program. The difference with this work is that it is in the interest of improving the participant’s life in the long and short-term. By exploring your self in the context of new learnings and surrounded by supportive relationships, you just cannot lose.

So a cheers to Trinity and the growth I’ve experienced in this short period as a result of the association!

-Meredith

Becoming You

 

FINDING YOURSELF PART SIX

Playing Kitten

…expect that there may be several ‘versions’ of you in your lifetime

or another way of saying this?

what is essential in you may find ‘application’ in different professions or work pursuits in life

you will not find the truth of this idea in conventional thought

in conventional thought the dedicated practice of a talent is considered success

implying that the person displaying the talent really knows their self

while it could just as easily be understood as a person captive to that talent to feel fulfilled

finding yourself rests in finding what is essential in your nature

what desire or what passion is asserting itself within you

paradoxically you can find what’s essential in you not by looking deep inside yourself or by looking at your skills or talents

but by considering what you like doing

those activities that when you do them make you feel good inside

or feel like you’re more you when you do them

even if they involve certain challenges and difficulties

because we are ‘wired’ to love, to learn, to forgive, and to grow

and the deeper paradox here is that while we are essentially unique, we are also sharing a common store of essential human capabilities

like the ability to create thoughts, express ourselves in words and other media, be in relationships, extend ourselves in imaginative empathy, create beauty

right now the limited popular thought is that the personally unique and widely appealing expression of these essential capabilities are acts of genius by individuals

when we grow in discernment we realize that genius actually lies within each one of us in the act of being able to clear away the debris of daily living- its failures and successes, our attachment to ego, fear and the various other awkwardnesses that can drive our lives-

and doing one thing, one thing we care about, doing it as well as we possibly can

like raising and educating our children, writing symphonies, or managing an organization

strive to be the best you

you can possibly be

doing what you like

and finding yourself

will follow

Building Relationships Across Age, Distance, and Field

Since my last blog I have been to Montreal to present at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Issues of Substance conference, helped prepare packages for distribution to TDSB schools, travelled to London, ON to attend the first Middlesex London Health Unit hosted Community Drug Strategy meeting, connected with Peer Leader alumnae, engaged in an evaluation model planning meeting with YouthREX, and met with our Toronto Retired Educators Circle (TREC) to gather advice on the development of our intergenerational mentoring program.  Meanwhile our Peer Leaders at Central Technical School and Central Algoma Secondary School delivered their second workshop, gathering knowledge about the issues and concerns in their school community.

RE:  Issues of Substance… Our wonderful peer leader Abigail Laulman accompanied us in making our presentation with Health Canada on “The Importance of Engagement in Community-Based Prevention Projects”.  Having been put on the spot to have the last word (seeing how the focus of the session was on youth engagement), Abigail rose to the occasion to make an appeal to the audience to be patient with youth, that investing in youth may not reap immediate rewards, but to trust that caring adults make a difference.  I’m so grateful for Abigail to have reminded the audience that it is crucial to include the youth perspective.  Tears well up in my eyes just remembering her contribution.

At that session, we were approached by Khalidah Bello of Middlesex London Health Unit and asked to attend London’s first Community Drug Strategy meeting.  Both the impressive turnout – easily 100+ stakeholders in attendance – and their commitment to the Four Pillars Approach (Prevention, Treatment, Enforcement and Harm Reduction) bodes well for the future of this initiative.

While I was grateful that Trinity was included at this meeting, getting the chance to have lunch with our Peer Leader alumnae Jasmine Channana and Jai Fadia, who are attending UWO, really helped make the trip worthwhile.  Talking about the value of peer leadership development and youth engagement as an effective prevention measure at a meeting, then an hour later meeting the ‘real deal’ was so rewarding.  Such accomplished, assured, compassionate, involved young people… Yet again, the tears well up…

Then today – we had the very good fortune to have two university students / Peer Leader alumnae – Khadija Waseem currently at UofT and Aman Patel at Ryerson U – and a retired educator, John Maitland, join our brainstorming session with YouthREX to develop a logic model for Trinity.   We learned a wonderful new term that Khadija uses to describe what Trinity endeavours to do: she calls our work ‘social counselling’.  Eloquent, articulate, empowered young people…  Geez – those tears are cropping up again…

Later in this same day, our gathering of retired educators engaged in a lively discussion about how to support young people as they navigate the education system.  Likeminded, caring older adults figuring out how to continue their connection with youth…  If my experience proves anything, Abigail, Jasmine, Jai, Khadija and Aman are the living, breathing, walking, talking, “qualitative and quantitative” outcomes of Trinity’s intergenerational relationships.