Can We Please Drop Mothers Day?

I must admit that inside, I cringed when my 9-year old came down the stairs smiling, presenting his mothers day card to myself and my wife, his two moms. He wrote a sweet message in the card and I appreciated his display of love and our relationship together, mother and son. And I love being a mom to my two kids, who teach me so much every day and we have together created a home of laughter and love.

However, I still cringed. Quite frankly, I felt uncomfortable the entire day, from the moment of waking up and scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing all the ‘Happy Mothers Day’ messages (the smiling faces, the breakfasts in bed), to calling my own mom to wish her a Happy Mothers Day. I’ve been reflecting on what is going on for me, and why quite frankly, I wish this day didn’t exist.

And this is it: people are hurt by mothers day. Many families don’t have mothers. And that is not a deficit to their family, but is the beauty of diversity of families. When I got that card from my son, I thought through the activity being done at school, and if there are kids with no mom. Was any child excluded? I know that teachers say to kids without moms, ‘make a gift for a ‘mother-figure’ in your life – your aunt, or a special family friend’. But this is problematic. By pointing out that they don’t have a mother is framing it as a deficit – they are being told that there is someone missing from their family. They are missing a ‘mom’. And a ‘mother-figure’ – who does that even mean? The mother-figure needs to be a woman? Feminine in display? Baking cookies or making crafts or doing the laundry?

Mothers Day, all of the celebration and smiling faces we see on social media, causes extra hurt for so many who are struggling with difficult relationships with their mothers, or moms who are experiencing difficult relationships with their kids. As well, anyone who is mourning the loss of their mom or child can find these images painful. These are painful experiences by themselves, but to be reminded of the pain through the ‘celebration of mothers’ isn’t necessary and feels cruel. People need space and time to go through their own process of struggle or grief when they are ready.

I struggle with my own identity (or more accurately, lack of identity) as a mother, and while my kids call me ‘mom’, I always experience dissonance. It’s such a loaded term – heavy with expectations of giving of yourself, while smiling, at all times of the day (exhausting), apron-wearing and constant cooking (keeping the fridge filled with cut-up bright and beautiful fruits and veggies). Even though I identify as cis-gender with pronouns she/her, I would far prefer kicking a ball and wrestling with my kids over baking cookies.  

And so I ask – why do we need this day? Is it supporting our vision for community that is full of love, inclusion and creative possibility? I don’t believe so. This day doesn’t resonate with my vision and values, and my heart goes out to all who have been hurt by mothers day. It’s 2021 – is it now time that we could drop mothers day (and fathers day while we’re at it?)? Can we reimagine new ways of celebrating life without harming others? Can we make each and every day a celebration of surviving and thriving in this complex world, without giving it a name or putting people in a category? Can each day be wide open for each of us to decide we need in that day, as a day of celebration or a day of grief and sadness, or a mix of both?

Open Education 3-5 Year Plan for our Community Services Department, Centennial College

I believe in plans. Plans are critically important to move enthusiasm and passion into action. I am passionate about making post-secondary education as accessible as possible to all students. I believe that education is a human right, and is a site of transformation, self-actualization and imagining a collective better future. It has been a privilege for me to witness students learn to ask hard questions, self-reflect, be honest with themselves and others, and find their path forward through their post-secondary studies. I have also unfortunately been witness to students who have withdrawn (or been pushed out) from their educational journey, after facing multiple systemic barriers. For these students especially, I am committed to do everything I can in my power to remove these barriers, and make education accessible and in reach for all.  

Open Education and Open Education Resources (OERs) is a relatively new concept to me, but as soon as I learned that it was a practical strategy to make education more accessible for students, I wanted to figure out how we can move in this direction. This plan is my commitment to this work, to learning and trying new ideas, evaluating and sharing what I’ve learned. I am incredibly grateful that I work with an amazing faculty team in our Community Services Department, who are open to learning and trying new teaching approaches, and are passionately committed to making education as accessible as possible for our students.

This plan was inspired by conversation with Professor Paula Demacio, who suggested that I put my plan down on paper, and publish it as an OER, to ‘walk the talk’. Thanks Paula, for the push!

What Defines Open Education?

Open Education is any resource, tool, or pedagogical practice that is openly and publicly shared through the internet. Open Education includes Open Education Resources (OERs) as well as Open Education pedagogy. Open Education arises from a social justice belief that knowledge should not be owned or controlled but should be free and open for all, as education is a human right.

Open Education Pedagogy is the practice of teaching where students are engaged in creating and/or co-creating open education resources and contributing to overall knowledge creation. There are great examples of open education pedagogy practices found in the Open Pedagogy Notebook – http://openpedagogy.org/open-pedagogy/. Examples include: students co-creating OERs, developing test or assignment questions, and contributing to Wikipedia pages. I especially love the idea from SNOW, which is for students to create alternative ways of learning the course content, that can be shared with future students, such as creating a drawing or poster, video or mind map (https://snow.idrc.ocadu.ca/the-inclusive-classroom/open-educational-resources/). This idea connects beautifully with our UDL strategy, with one of the key principles to create multiple means of representation. Open Education pedagogy takes inclusive teaching one step farther, as the students are creating and co-creating their collecting multiple ways of learning and understanding course content. 

OERs are defined as open and free resources that can be accessed through an open license. UNESCO defines OERs as: “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” (https://en.unesco.org/themes/building-knowledge-societies/oer) OERs are in direct contrast to commercial textbooks that are owned by publishing companies, and sold to students.

Why Open Education? The Benefits:

Centennial College is committed to Open Education and adopting Open Education Resources, and this commitment is reflected in our new Academic Plan. One of our Wildly Important Goals is to:

“Embrace the open-access revolution, creating, adopting and adapting Open Educational Resources. We will embrace the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, with a vision that all students will have access to the same information (content) at the same time.” (p. 44)

Open Education has clear benefits, with the most obvious and practical being that in replacing commercial textbooks, OERs decrease the cost that students have to pay for their education. Students already face increasing tuition costs, and these costs create an uneven playing field for those who can afford to be a student in higher education and those who cannot. Commercial textbooks are getting more and more expensive, and research shows that very few students actually purchase their textbooks. Faculty also notice and comment that many students are not doing the readings assigned in their textbooks. Would more students read if their textbooks were free?

Therefore, the goal of decreasing the cost of education through replacing commercial textbooks with OERs directly ties to the goal of ensuring higher education is accessible for all students, no matter what their socio-economic background and situation is. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26) asserts that “Everyone has the right to education…higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” (https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/). Therefore, creating and/or adopting OERs to replace commercial textbooks is a concrete step forward in increasing access and affordability of higher education.

As well as decreasing the cost of education, OERs have other advantages that are important to note. Especially in the time of COVID and teaching online, OER’s are digital and accessible through the internet. Some commercial textbooks have digital copies available, but many are still only in hard paper copy. With teaching online, and especially teaching international students who were not able to travel during the pandemic and were learning from their home countries all across the globe, the ability to mail and receive hard copy textbooks proved to be a major challenge or not a possibility at all. Some of our courses had to run without using the textbook at all. Having digital OERs that are accessible through the internet removes this barrier of students having to purchase and receive a hard-copy textbook.

At a transformative level, through the intentional creative pedagogical work of creating, revising and remixing OERs, faculty have more autonomy over their curriculum, to ensure that content is both relevant to their course learning outcomes as well as reflective of the diversity of academic voices and perspectives. While it seems challenging to find research on this, anecdotally, it seems that most commercial textbooks in higher education are written and/or edited by white authors. I did an analysis of our current textbooks being used in the Community Services Department, and while it was hard to confirm the race of some of the authors, out of the ones I could confirm, 90% were white authors and/or editors. The other 10% were Indigenous authors of textbooks that we have adopted specifically in our work of Indigenizing our curriculum. These two textbooks written by Indigenous authors are: Strong Helpers Teachings by Cyndy Baskin and Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories & Strategies by Renee Linklater. However, there are no other confirmed BIPOC authors in our curriculum. Therefore, our textbooks do not represent the diversity of academic voices and perspectives. In our new Academic Plan, one of our goals is:  

“We will deeply reflect, review and revise program curriculum and learning materials to even further address and integrate inclusion of all equity-deserving groups and communities. Our programs and courses will reflect and amplify the contributions and voices of Black, Indigenous and other racialized and minoritized scholars, community members, and industry experts.” (p 40)

Therefore, developing OERs is a great way for faculty to bring these diverse perspectives and voices into our curriculum.

Some faculty have voiced concern about the academic quality of OERs, as compared to commercial textbooks. While there are good and bad commercial textbooks on the market, there are also good and bad OERs. However, research does show that students overall are achieving at the same level, or even in some cases at a higher level, when using an OER versus a commercial textbook. (Hilton, J 2016).

My Goals:

Therefore, my 3 goals in this plan are:

  1. Lead a culture shift in the Community Services Department, so faculty have buy-in for creating and using Open Education Resources instead of commercial textbooks

Strategies to meet this goal:

  • Reflective Practice and conversations, deep listening to understand the fears and barriers
  • Support ongoing learning and capacity building for OER development, including presentations at Department Meetings, connecting faculty to COLT and library staff and resources, encouraging more faculty to take the OER TLHE course and/or join the OER community of practice
  • Identify and nurture the OER leaders and enthusiasts, build their capacity and identify mentorship opportunities with other faculty who are interested but nervous
  • Celebrate our collective successes

Benchmarks:

  • Make OERs and Open Pedagogy the topic for reflective practice sessions in 2021, to benchmark where faculty are at, how they are feeling, what their concerns are, and then do this Reflective Practice again in 3 years to see how perspectives have changed
  • CoRE – two CS faculty publications there (Cheryl McPherson – article and Hasan Mahbub – podcast)

What Success Will Look Like:

  • More OER activity within the Department faculty team and less commercial textbooks being used
  • More Open Pedagogy approaches used within teaching and assessments
  • More faculty openly sharing their own work through open licenses and developing OERs
  • Increase of sharing publications through Centennials CoRE
  • Overall enthusiasm for open pedagogy, and lots to celebrate! 
  • 2. Replace commercial textbooks with OERs and/or other learning resources that are free for students (such as library e-resources), so that students are paying less (or nothing at all) for textbooks.

Strategies to meet this goal:

  • Create an OER plan and timeline for OER development after reflective practice sessions, strategically choosing OER development based on faculty capacity and interest as well choosing high-impact courses with current expensive textbooks as well as common courses across the department that use the same textbook
  • Develop a clear and supportive process for faculty who want to adopt, adapt and/or create a high-quality OER, including SWF time – make sure they are well connected and supported by COLT and the library, and have access to the best sites and technology needed

Benchmarks:

  • The current cost of textbooks for students in each program is (from most to least expensive): CJSP – $901.09, AMHW – $598.70, DSW – $688.50, SSW – $650.25, CDEV – $270.45, and CCSF – $156.45.
  • We currently have 47 Zed-Cred courses in total in the department, and we don’t have any Zed-Cred programs in the department.

What Success Will Look Like:

  • Decrease in the overall cost that students pay for textbooks  
  • Increase of the number of ‘Zed-cred’ courses
  • Create two fully ‘Zed-cred’ programs in the department (Community Development Work and Community and Child Studies Foundations)  
  • Increase in diversity of voices, including more BIPOC authors 
  • 3. Lead a culture shift in the Community Services Department, so faculty embrace Open Education Pedagogy, with more students actively creating and co-creating knowledge

Strategies to meet this goal:

  • Build my own capacity for better understanding of open pedagogy approaches and opportunities within curriculum development and teaching
  • Reflective practice and conversations to assess where faculty are currently at in integrating open education pedagogy in their teaching practice and what buy-in there is to explore further
  • Identify and nurture the Open Education leaders and enthusiasts, build their capacity and identify mentorship opportunities with other faculty who are interested but nervous
  • Provide tools, training and support for faculty to embrace open education pedagogy
  • Celebrate our collective successes

Benchmarks:

  • Make Open Pedagogy the topic for reflective practice sessions in 2021, to benchmark where faculty are at, how they are feeling, and what their concerns are, then do this Reflective Practice again in 3 years to see how perspectives have changed

What Success Will Look Like:

  • More Open Pedagogy approaches used within teaching and assessments, and overall enthusiasm for open pedagogy
  • Gathering feedback from students to evaluate their experience learning from open pedagogy teaching, and learn from their feedback
  • Celebrate and share our collective success beyond our Department with the rest of the Centennial community, as well as with the wider Open Pedagogy community   

Writing this plan has inspired me to be intentional in my commitment, to open our higher educational doors wider and wider, so all students have opportunity for transformative learning. I hope reading this has inspired you to join the open education movement!

References:

Brookshire, Bethany. ‘College biology textbooks still portray a world of white scientists’, Science News: July 17, 2020. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/college-biology-textbooks-representation-white-men

Hilton III, J. L., Fischer, L., Wiley, D., & William, L. (2016). Maintaining Momentum Toward Graduation: OER and the Course Throughput Rate. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(6).

Hilton, J. Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research Dev 64, 573–590 (2016).

Lumpkin, Lauren. “Textbooks are Pricey. So Students are Getting Creative.” The Washington Post, Jan 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/textbooks-keep-getting-pricier-so-students-are-getting-creative/2020/01/17/4e1306b8-30b9-11ea-91fd-82d4e04a3fac_story.html

Open Education Plan 2018-2023 – By: Kwantlen Polytechnic University – https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/openeducation/

Open Pedagogy Notebook – http://openpedagogy.org/open-pedagogy/

SNOW – Open Education Resources – https://snow.idrc.ocadu.ca/the-inclusive-classroom/open-educational-resources/

 
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The Warmth of the Cold

 Cold can feel so warm
 Frozen toes as we sit on your porch laughing 
 Staying as long as I can before I burst from holding my pee
 And I can hardly feel my toes
 But hey hey  
 Laughter and sweet connection will melt the coldest ice. 
  
 Cold can feel so warm 
 The wind whipping my face as we walk along the beach 
 Shivering under my wet scarf as the ice rain drops and drips into my eyes 
 Stopping to admire the resilient ducks glide through the icy water
 Peaceful under all of these layers 
  
 Cold can feel so warm
 Six feet apart but close enough for 
 Eye contact 
 I miss hugs (a lot!) but 
 Our eyes embrace as we laugh 
 Joy will melt the coldest ice. 
   
 Soon enough, we’ll find ourselves back inside together again 
 Enjoying the warmth of 
 Indoor heating and friendship
 Sipping tea and chatting  
 Playing music and singing  
 It will be like the old days again but 
 We will be forever changed 
 Our hearts softened from the warmth of the cold.  

Singing At a Seniors Home

Helen:

You wheel out to the hallway to listen but you stay back

You’re not interested in getting in the middle of all of the action

But you don’t want to stay in your room either

I can tell that you are enjoying the music.

I thought you couldn’t speak until you wheeled by me and said quietly

‘Thank you for the songs’

Dorothy:

Your enthusiasm is infectious

Wheeling in as quickly as possible so as not to miss a single note

You know all the words, singing loudly and doing actions to the songs

Smiling from ear to ear

Until I sing a cheatin’ song and you’re angry, and as I finish the line,

‘My friend stole my sweetheart from me’, you yell out ‘Bastard’! 

And then I sing a sad heartbreak song, ‘For I…can’t help, falling in love with you.’

And you burst into tears, continuing to sing like your life depends on it, as tears flow down your cheeks

Your connection to the songs inspires me

How you feel so deeply, the music rocking you to your core

When I leave to walk home, the snow softly falling on my eyelashes, I feel more open and connected to this universe

Thanks to you

Mary:

You sit unresponsive in your wheelchair, eyes closed, body hunched over, when I come to sing

Until I sing your song: ‘You Are My Sunshine’

You wake up, the song’s chorus stirring your soul

Eyes open now, your head lifts up, your body moves with rhythm as you sing with me  

‘You are my Sunshine’

Actually, you keep singing this line over and over, loudly and with spirit, like a mantra rocking your body back and forth

Which makes it challenging for me to sing other songs.

My friend, with your enthusiasm, you make quite a beautiful racket.

And so, you’ve helped me to find my signature Encore – ‘You are my Sunshine’

We now end with it every time.

Your voice loud and alive with spirit and everyone singing together

You are my Sunshine.

Not So Ordinary

What really is ordinary, anyways?

When life surges through the air, under the ground, beneath your feet,

Pulsing like your heart pumping blood through your body every second  

Ordinary is a lie keeping us asleep

Wake up! Wake up!

Breathe in the air and what do you smell?

Can you smell the worms wiggling in the soil under your feet?

Look around and what do you see?

Can you see the bright colours of the flying dragonfly flashing by?

Be still and listen

Do you hear the creaking of the tree branches in the wind?

Go ahead and take your shoes off, wiggle your toes and feel the wet grass under your feet

If you fancy, lie down on the ground and  

Taste the rain falling on your tongue

The ordinary is not so ordinary

But truly extraordinary

Each moment to be loved with our full hearts 

From Observing to Feeling my Breath

I always thought that meditation instruction was simple (but not easy): watch your breath. And so when I started meditating, with the hopes for peace and calm to replace the ball of anxiety growling at the pit of my stomach, I did exactly that. I observed my breath like a hawk, with the focus of a Type A over-achiever, like a scientist observing their science experiment. And as I meditated every day, I did achieve the sense of calm and peace that I was looking for, and my anxiety was held at bay. Meditation was like exercise or brushing my teeth, something that I knew I needed to do daily for my mental health.

But all that changed when I read this in Susan Piver’s book ‘The Four Noble Truths of Love’:

“Meditation on the brain is a deeply intimate situation in which we train in being with what is….in meditation, we don’t observe the breath, we feel it. Just feel it…Feel the inhale. Feel the exhale. It is extraordinarily simple…In meditation, you ‘ride’ the breath with your attention and the emphasis is on being with.” (p. 102 – bold and italicies is my own).

What?! Don’t observe the breath?! This instruction, to feel instead of to observe, was nothing short of a game changer, and it continues to be a game changer to this day. Feeling breath is profoundly different from observing breath. When I was observing my breath, I was separated. I was literally watching my breath like it wasn’t me, but instead a different human being breathing. There was no feeling to what I was doing, and without feeling, there was no intimacy to my experience of meditating. I was able to meditate and I was giving myself an A+ in focus and concentration, but it was a technical exercise.

Now feeling my breath is a deeply intimate and emotional experience. As soon as I started to feel my breath, floods of tears came rushing up. It’s so bizarre. It’s like when I would be thinking on my way to therapy: “I don’t really have much to talk about today, I’m doing fine” and then as soon as my therapist sat down, I would burst into tears. My breath, when I feel it, always reveals the truth of where I am at. I can feel when I am anxious (throat clenched, breath pulsing at my throat), or when I am truly relaxed (my breath easily flows down to my belly and back like an ocean wave). And I am learning to just be with all of my feelings that surface during meditation, with no judgement and no shame. My breath sometimes feels alive, miraculous, as it washes across my ribs. Sometimes, when I am feeling especially joyful and alive, my playful breath rolls through my legs and tickle my toes. When I am quietly feeling my breath, I feel the pulsing of my heart beating, and I feel so thankful to be alive.

So now when I meditate every day, I sit down and feel my breath. And in learning how to feel my breath, I am learning how to open and be with myself through all of my feelings. That has been such a gift, thanks to Susan Piver.

What Babies Teach

He was my teacher for a slice of time

Reminding me to

S…L….O….W      D….O….W….N

So I don’t miss the moments of

Feeling grass between our toes and the wind tickling our face

Picking up dirt from the ground and throwing (with a giggle)

Watching the sun sparkling rays dancing across the grass

Hearing the birds singing their songs

He told me (with his eyes boring into my soul):

‘Embrace the small wonders in each and every moment! This is LIFE right here right now!’

With my heart expanded tenfold, I promised him:

‘I will try to remember each and every day.’

And then he left,

For he needed to take his nap.