As I sit here numbly, thinking about the events last night in Quebec City, I feel compelled, to take a few moments of time to reflect on where it appears our world is going, including our own country.

I have not taken the time to frame my thoughts, organize them or even think them out.  I am just going to write a bit.  In the last few years, I have watched with horror, the events that have resulted in our current state of affairs in the world.  Where do I even begin?  The troubles in the middle east, leading to migrant crises, leading to xenophobia in cultures that are never too far away from that mind-frame.  The civil war in Syria, the challenges in Ukraine, the millions of people all over the world, who are living unspeakable lives, while in Canada and the western world, we worry about how we are ever going to lose weight, and fret about not being able to afford the SXT instead of the SLT of whatever new vehicle we are looking at.  I am no different.  Then, I watch with equal horror, how so many of us believe that the answer lies in solutions like those proposed by Mr. Trump, the Brexit crowd and Marine Le Pen.  We have seen this play before, many times, and it never, ever works out.  It only takes us backwards and fuels the rhetoric and activities of those we want to stop.  It is utter nonsense.

However, it appears as if a fraction of what is transpiring in the middle east and Germany and France, as well as the US has firmly arrived in our land.  Early reports suggest, a home-grown attack on the Mosque.  The last report I read, indicated that of the two people originally arrested, one was released, and the person in custody has, at the very least, a Francophone name, suggesting he is a Canadian citizen.  Again, I do not know that for sure, as the information seems to be changing, but if it is so, then all the border walls and background checks and xenophobic behavior in the world, would not have stopped this mass killing.  Much like the deaths of two Canadian soldiers at the hands of home grown jihadists, this may be the same thing.  Of course, information may change as the day moves, on but it is looking more and more like this is the case.  So, it has arrived on our shores too.  No one can say for certain at this time, the motives of the killer.  However, I cannot help but to believe that mood that has been exploited by the forces of extreme right in the western world, would certainly have done nothing to discourage such an act.  The reasons for such an act will of course be so much more complex than that, however every little element that might add to justifications and reasoning, must be considered.

So, it has arrived, and everything has changed.  I was in Quebec City this summer, I marveled at the European feel to the city and loved its joie de vivre.  Quebec city is a bastion of Quebecois culture, and ancient French city, but is also vividly cosmopolitan and multi-cultural.  Quebec city is now bleeding because of that quality, and there will be those who will argue loudly and vociferously, that events like this happen because of multi-culturalism and our desire to build such a society.  They will want to retreat behind the walls, both literal and figurative, to protect what we have.  Wanting to protect it is understandable.  However, that will only increase the challenges down the road.  It is a classic Band-Aid solution.  It will not work.  Ultimately, it is a medieval reaction.

I have my own theories about the reasons behind the type of hate that brings people to do these things, but they are not relevant.  They are just my ideas and are not going to amount to anything.  However, I wonder, where it all goes from here?  I wonder what changes in my own life will be brought about by these events in my own country?  I have been in the undergrounds of both London and Paris, and while the heavy presence of the military and police was a little bit unnerving (my daughter and I played an open piano in the Gare Austerlitz in the summer, while three soldiers with automatic rifles watched us) it was somehow reassuring, but more than anything it felt like we were somewhere else in the world, which of course, we were.  How long until our subways and train stations and city streets have a similar presence?

It is all so sad, and regrettably, the forces that have combined to create this world, are so complex and have been in place for so long, that there is no quick solution, no easy solution, and even the best possible solution, will leave some outside of the sandbox, quietly fuming about being remainders in the equation.  They will harness their rage and eventually direct it in a violent manner, trying to ensure they will never again be remainders.  There are so many factors. Religion, politics, culture, language and deeply antagonistic views of the world.

Where do we begin?


Broken Record

I am a broken record, I know.  Oh, wait, how many people even know what a record is?  Sigh….I age myself.

It is always about engagement, in my mind.  If you have engaged students, and you can instill even a touch of growth mindset in them, they will soar, most times with or without us.

However, not all of our students are engaged. We know that, and we live it everyday.  The reasons are multi-fold, but it does not really matter what the reasons are.  We only need to know them, so they can serve as a diagnosis for us and lead us in our efforts to change.  Not easy.  Quite difficult in some stages.

My daughter, who is engaged, at least in the game of earning marks to get into university, so she can get into a program she is interested in, within which she needs to be engaged, or she will falter, had a conversation with one of her friends the other day.  A young man, grade 10.  He is disengaged.  Many reasons, however disengaged.  He was quizzing her about how she gets good marks, and even more so, why she gets good marks.  She told him about an experience she had, where she set a goal of a grade 11 average of over 85%.  She worked at it and actually achieved it.  Then, in conjunction with some learning she has been doing on her own with Growth Mindset, she set higher goals for grade 12, assuming that there was a correlation between working harder, staying engaged and results.  It also does not hurt that she has recently discovered she is allergic to many foods and beverages, which sort of takes her out of the “party circuit”…so she has more time than she might have if she was participating in more diversified “social” activities.  However, as usual, I digress.

So, she as I said, explained this to him.  His answer was simple.  Something along the lines of :”I could never do that”.  Now, this young man is 12 years into his education experience, assuming he was in JK.  Can we change that?  Does he have to want to change it? Can we find a way to create an epiphany?  I am relatively satisfied my own two children are engaged in learning.  My eldest, in her last year of a Chem degree and Faculty of Ed on the horizon, will have to be an engaged learner if she wants to have a career in education, so she is in.  My youngest, about to head to University in the fall, will have to find a new level of engaged when she arrives there.

But what about the bevy of kids we have who are not overly engaged?  Not failing, and all going to succeed in getting a high school diploma, and many will go on to successful careers and university and college programs, but the potential could be so much more.  As well, this is not just in Civics, or in grade 10 applied English.  It is there entire approach.  Even in Outdoor Ed and shop, they are less engaged than they could be.  In gym class, fit athletes, who like sports, will often participate for 20-30 minutes, then expect a short break.  Many old-timers like myself, are tempted to use the “L” word, but I think it is more than that.  I think it is an entire approach to life, that somehow my generation of helicopter parenting and the social environment we have created in the Western world, has created this generation.  They are just not too into anything.  Some or many are, but I fear it is getting less.

So, do we even understand it?  If we do not understand this generation, how can we possibly find solutions, to the problems we see?  And, as a last thought, are we only labeling it a problem, because it does not meet with our expectations?  Is it possible, that this generation, that I feel are even more disengaged, are simply different than us, and will create a brave new world that when I am really old, I will marvel at, and not understand, but have to admit, works?

Oh, BTW (my kids taught me that one) I thought for a while on finding a way to integrate Trump, Brexit and the shifting European political spectrum, but I could not.  So I am just going to end with:  A large portion of the upper management of the US State Department resigned today leaving a huge vacuum in a brutally important department.  It reminded me of the Stalin purges, and the resulting chaos in the Soviet Military in WWII.  Not the same violent purges, but the same result.  Wow, how are the next 4 years going to turn out?  Fasten your seatbelts.


As the year comes to a close….

As the calendar year comes to a close, and brings to an end 2016 (our dating system always makes me smile….we ascribe so much to it and use it as a basis for understanding our world, but it is a very random date….anyway, maybe some other time I will reflect on that..) I am faced with mixed emotions as I always am at this time of year.

We always seem to find so many ways to name the year that was.  We tend to focus on negative aspects, but also positive ones too.  Personally, there were challenges in 2016 both personally and professionally.  However there were also great highlights too, that will surely go down in my memory banks as fantastic times.  As a musician and lover of music, I saw 2016 as the year we said goodbye to Prince and David Bowie among others, but also the year that I happily downloaded a new Rik Emmet CD, worked on some of my own compositions (coming someday to an iTunes near you…) and had the opportunity to play with some other great musicians and let music provide the relief to my life it always does.

While my travel itinerary was not as active as it has been in past years, I was able to travel to a part of Quebec I had only seen briefly many years ago, and renew my love of rural Quebec culture and life.  I was also thrilled to host some friends from France and allow them to understand firsthand the beauty that is Canada and our part of the world.

However, as the year comes to a close, and I think of the challenges that lie ahead in 2017 as well as the joys I hope to experience, I look around at a world that is just a bit crazier than it was 365 days ago.  From a macro, geopolitical point of view, how many of us, on December 31st, 2015 truly envisioned a successful Brexit campaign, a turning to the right in much of Eastern Europe and of course, the Donald?  Really, not many saw those things coming.  As a student of history, I do believe that humanity is on a constant path of improvement and an inevitable march towards a better world, but that it will always ebb and flow.  I think we are in an ebb and only entering it.  However, while it is easy to look at it and suggest in the long march of history it is not much more of a blip than the Terror during the French Revolution was, there is the undeniable fact that during all of these historical “blips” or dips along the path towards and enlightened society, many people suffer.  I suggest we all pay closer attention to Syria and Aleppo to see the harsh reality in that statement.

So I am left to wonder to myself where it will all go.  I routinely try very hard to focus only on positive and let the negative go, but I know I am not always successful.  So, moving into 2017 I have many things to be thankful for, and there are many more things that I can consciously do to make my life even better, but at times it is a struggle to not allow oneself to fall into the boiling cauldron of negativity that is perpetuated by so many of the institutions we have in our world.  Furthermore, connectivity and social media have made it almost impossible to hide from it, without completely leaving the modern world.

So, how will I fare in 2017?  Will I manage to be a beacon of inspiration, hope and positive thoughts, surrounded at times by the vortex of the world we live in?  I hope I am and I will pledge to continue to do so.  Stay tuned.  Fare thee well, 2016, welcome 2017 and stay tuned!