Inspiring the Next Generation

I have some interesting news to share.

The Grade 10s in one of the schools where I sub began their poetry unit in English this week. I subbed for them yesterday.

One of their tasks yesterday was to write a poem in one of the forms they had already learned, then share these with the class. There were some very reluctant students; they had a low opinion about this sharing business, particularly their contributive involvement in it.

 

 

I decided to break the ice by sharing one of my poems. And I had access to two: those I published in this blog.

The poem I chose to share was Van Gogh and the Moon. It was a hit, particularly when I explained to the kids that the poem was an in promptu (five minute) response to a writing prompt in the local writing club.

So, yes, I got a chance to plug the Write Group as well; I told the kids that students from the school were part of the group, which peeked more interest.

But more importantly, it got each of the students to open up and share some of their poems, not just those they wrote in class yesterday, but those they had access to through their iPhones and other devices.

It was a perfect marriage of teacher and student sharing, technology (I used the Smart board; the students used their devices), and encouragement and modelling by example.

It never ceases to amaze me how well these teachable moments go when the teacher releases control and opens up to her or his students. (Of course, it also never ceases to amaze me how badly such moments go as well at times. There is a definite case for timing and thoughtful and responsive judgement here.)

These students have everything to be proud of. They have incredible imaginations, and a deep and active appreciation for written communication.

Moments like these remind me how much I love teaching, and learning with, these students.

This article is cross-posted in Digital Substitute and Stefras’ Bridge.

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The Write Group: Recruiting New Members

This post is cross-posted and extended in my professional blog, Digital Substitute.

I have had three deep passions throughout my life so far and the good fortune to experience them all. I love nature, so I became an ecologist. I love learning and passing on my passions, so I became a teacher. And I love storytelling and penning pictures in others’ minds, so I became a writer.

In a previous post, I discussed the change in teaching style when one engages with students outside of the lesson and in camps and clubs. About a month ago, I attended a Don’t Hibernate Fair in my town. This fair is designed to connect clubs and people. I attended a table and recruited new members into the Write Group.

This was an exhilarating experience for me. I have been in many clubs and organizations, but this was the first time I recruited new members to a club. I had thirteen people sign up and express keen interest. Best of all a few of these are students I sub.

Tonight is the first meeting of the Write Group this year. I am thrilled at meeting new faces and old and seeing more “foxes around a risen altar whisper and trade incantations from crinkled scrolls“.

Story of My Name

This post is inspired by Gail de Vos who teaches Storytelling at the University of Alberta. The assignment below is from Gail’s classes and Telling Tales: Storytelling in the Family.

Your First Real Life-story, the Story of Your Name

Describe your name in a story which will entertain your audience and you, and tell them and yourself about you. Ask and answer questions like these (not all questions need to be answered) to help you tell your name’s story.

What is your name? What does it mean? How did you get it and who gave it to you? If you were named after some one or some place or some thing, what is that person, place or thing’s story? Do you like your name? Why or why not? If not, what would you like to be named and why? What does your name mean to others? Who and why?

Plunge: The Story of My Name

© Shawn Urban

My name is Shawn Travis Urban, but I have not always been so.

I am adopted, so I have two names. My initial name, given to me by my birth mother, is David. It comes from the Hebrew Dod, which means “beloved”. This, and the fact that I am alive, and have lived an incredible life raised by a wonderful family, says a lot about my original mother.

 

David = Dod

 

My Mom and Dad named me Shawn Travis. They chose Shawn Travis because its cadence is appealing, particularly when combined with my family name, Urban.

 

cadence

 

The name Shawn has a long history behind it. My parents wanted Shawn to reflect my Canadian origin, so they chose its spelling carefully. S-H-A-W-N, as my name is spelled, is a North Americanized version of Irish S-E-A-N. S-E-A-N, in turn, is the Irish version of John, in turn an English version of Johannes, which is a Latin version of Ioannes. Ioannes is the Greek version of Yochanan, which is Hebrew for “Yahweh is gracious”. Given my adoption, I think this rather fitting.

 

Shawn = Yochanan

 

My middle name, Travis, is also interesting. Travis comes from Old English traverse, which means “to cross”. It was a name given to a toll collector. In medieval times when you wanted to cross one of the King’s bridges, and they all were the King’s bridges, you had to pay a toll. The title of the toll and the toll collector came to be travis, so occasionally you might hear the saying, “pay the travis”, which could mean “pay the crossing”, “pay the toll” or “pay the toll collector”.

 

Travis = cross,toll
Stefras' Bridge

 

Combined, Shawn Travis literally says, “Yahweh is gracious. Pay the toll.” I’m not so sure whether my parents or I get the short end of that derivation.

 

irony

 

My family name is Urban, which means “city” or “city dweller”. However, it started out as Urbanoski. My father’s side of the family is Galician (Polish, Ukrainian, Austrian or German, depending on who conquered whom in this part of the Ukraine). My great-great-grandfather was the mayor of a manor town, which unlike elected mayors today, was a position of nobility in my great-great-grandfather’s time. Urbanoski was changed to Urban in my father’s time by his father. So my father was born an Urbanoski and is now an Urban.

 

Urban = city dweller

 

And that is who I am, except that the story of my name would be incomplete without some mention of my initials. Through no intention on my parents’ part, my initials correspond to three consecutive letters in the English alphabet, S-T-U, and they form a name in themselves, Stu, short for Stuart, S-T-U-A-R-T, the French form for Old English Stewart, S-T-E-W-A-R-T, meaning “keeper of the estate”.

 

Stuart = Stewart

 

So I am “toll collector”, “city dweller”, “keeper of the estate”, “beloved” and . . .

 
. . . “Yahweh is gracious”.

This post is inspired by Gail de Vos who teaches Storytelling at the University of Alberta. The assignment above is from Gail’s classes and Telling Tales: Storytelling in the Family.