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Trinity Blog Re-Vamp

Posted on Mar 17, 2016 in

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

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

Posted on Jan 22, 2016 in

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!

Posted on Jan 19, 2016 in

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

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in

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

Posted on Dec 8, 2015 in

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

Posted on Dec 4, 2015 in

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