Photo Credit: Matthew Mioduszewski
When I got the job of Vice-Provost, Students at York, my son Bennett boasted to all of his friends that I would soon be responsible for all the sports fields on campus. As a seven-year-old athlete, he saw this as the pinnacle of career success. He was devastated when I had to tell him that the job I was so excited about didn’t include driving a large mower or painting yard lines.
On Saturday, February 24, my partner Ken and I attended the Bal de Neige, an annual Oakville event hosted by AMPed for Life, a team of amazing leaders — including the Pace family — who raise funds for children and families at risk. The organization was founded to honour my sister-in-law’s nephew: Alexander Murray Pace (AMP). Since 2010, the Bal has raised almost $600,000 for local and national charities, including: Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, Wellspring Birmingham Gilgan House, Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children and Kerr Street Mission.
My partner and I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks talking to our twelve-year old son about strategies for fueling his own learning. For those of you with experience parenting pre-teens, you’ll appreciate that—at times – this has felt a bit like bashing my head against a wall. (Bennett is smart, opinionated, and articulate. We, his parents, know nothing; he is omniscient!) In those moments, however, when Bennett is open to self-reflection and contemplation … we’ve had some great conversations about learning styles — visual, auditory, kinesthetic – and how each modality might be leveraged to optimize his comprehension and retention. In the process, I was reminded about key tenets of evidence-based pedagogy and/or scholarly teaching.
Photo Credit: iStock.com/vladsilver
This past week has been difficult for every member of our learning community. Faculty and staff at Sheridan are deeply committed to delivering premier, purposeful educational experiences for students. The ongoing strike, and the consequent cancellation of most classes, is disruptive for all. In my conversations with students, colleagues on the picket line, and/or community partners, however, I have been inspired by individual and collective demonstrations of our character. We are a community committed to social responsibility, inclusivity, caring and generosity. As is often the case, those characteristics are most evident when we’re facing a formidable challenge.
Like many of you, I have lived my entire life on an academic calendar. I love September and the adrenalin rush that comes with the arrival of a new academic year. It was a privilege to welcome so many students last week at orientation events across our three campuses; I was equally thrilled to welcome back the outstanding faculty and staff who make Sheridan such an exceptional place to work and learn. For me, late August and Labour Day are like the May 24 long weekend: there’s a frenetic energy in the air and the promise of what’s to come looms large.
In the course of our Academic Planning process, I had a number of great conversations with faculty colleagues about our fourth priority: Fuel academic and career success by cultivating curiosity, a passion for growth and learning, perseverance, fun, and a sense of purpose. Specifically, we had animated discussions about the pros and cons of including the word, “fun”. Those opposed were concerned that it would further fuel an expectation that faculty members are accountable for entertaining their students, or performing a sort of theatre to keep them amused. For the record, that’s not at all the way I see our job as educators! I do, however, think we’re accountable for developing lifelong learners. In my experience, that task is propelled by learning environments and experiences that are enjoyable.
Further to an earlier post, and consistent with the timeline we’ve shared broadly, I’m pleased to report that Sheridan’s Senate voted on March 23 to recommend that the Board of Governors approve our new Academic Plan when they meet next on May 31, 2017. This is huge! Thank you to everyone in the Sheridan community – students, faculty and staff – who contributed to the drafting process. Our final planning milestone is approval by the Board, scheduled for May 31, 2017. And then … the hard work to realize the plan begins.
As we’ve marched together towards a penultimate draft of our new Academic Plan, I’ve been asked about the embedded commitment to Indigenous Knowledge. In the interests of transparency, I wanted to address the question of why this is so important.
Simply put, the learning and unlearning of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens is fundamental to being an educated person in this country. Accordingly, it should be requisite for all students – domestic and international – enrolled in colleges and universities across Canada.
I love planning. As a teenager — when I was managing the demands of high school and a competitive swim schedule — I would plan out the week ahead for my whole family every Sunday night. My mother liked it because it gave her a roadmap for grocery shopping, meal preparation and which kid needed a ride where and when. I think my Dad thought it was amusing; he has always taken pride in my independence. My brothers, on the other hand, took umbrage with what they saw as the inflexibility of a schedule — written in ink — that hung in a place of prominence on the fridge. I craved structure, routine and goal setting. They valued free-spiritedness and spontaneity (and still do!).