Archive for August, 2014

Ed Camp: A Teacher Pawn Shop

Posted on August 28, 2014. Filed under: Edcamp, educational, Grade 1 & 2, teaching and learning, Technology |

Looking at my teaching repertoire, I realize that all my best teaching ideas are stolen. I don’t really think there is 1 great thing I do that I didn’t get from someone else.  If this is so, then today’s Edcamp was a complete teacher pawn shop; a space where stolen ideas were being exchanged between many minds.

Teachers are good little thieves this way!  We love stealing ideas, and we are good at it… but most teachers I know also like sharing ideas too, which is great. I had the pleasure of sharing my stolen goods with others at today’s EdcampYQR.  I saw that someone had put up a sticky note wanting to know about Genius Hour. I figured this was a session I could run as it has changed my teaching career this past year.  The first session I signed up to lead filled up pretty fast, so I decided to run another one as well.


All I did was share my journey from this past year.  I talked about how I had learned about Genius Hour from Dave Read, a teacher friend of mine from Warman, Saskatchewan. He led a Genius Hour session last Edcamp, and after talking to him, I knew I needed to try it.  Today, I explained how I “stole” ideas from Joy Kerr’s livebinder and how I got the children set up with their Genius Hour ideas that would eventually turn into Genius Hour projects. These projects were shared with their peers, their parents, and the rest of the world through the live stream.  I explained the path my students took while learning about their passion, and I explained how my own little Genius Hour project developed throughout that time.

Photo cred goes to @MrHExperience

During May and June of 2014, when my students were working on their passion based projects, I found my own little passion project within teaching.  I realized that my favourite part of Genius Hour was that I could step back as “teacher,” and become more of a facilitator or coordinator for my students.  My new passion became finding experts for my student’s Genius Hour projects! Because my students are so young, (grade 1 and 2), their reading skills aren’t always the finest.  I decided that I wanted to find an expert for every group’s topic, and I wanted them to share their expertise by either coming into our classroom, Skyping, or emailing answers.


This became a challenge for me as some of the student’s interests seemed pretty obscure; I had students interested in a specific breed of dog, a dead celebrity, the NASA Hubble telescope, paper airplanes, a Mattel children’s movie etc.  These topics seemed all over the place, but I kind of liked the challenge!  By the end of our two months, I managed to find an expert for every group, and it ended up being the moment they each looked forward to most.  When I was able to break the news to a group that they had a Judo Sensei coming the next day, or that a jewelry designer wanted to help, or that a group of professional cheerleaders were coming in to help them, the kids were ecstatic; especially because the adults were not coming in to teach the class.  They were there solely for that group of students, and it was the STUDENT’S job to learn everything they could from their expert in that time, so that they could eventually share it with the rest of the class during their GH presentation. Talk about autonomy in their learning, and fulfilling involvement for me as an educator!

fashion design

cheer team

To be honest, I really hope I “got mugged” today at EdcampYQR.  I would love to see these ideas stolen and shared among other teaching communities within Regina and beyond. I was happy to engage in conversations around this practice, and I can’t wait to see what people take from it, and what they add. Let the larceny begin!

Class blog:

Twitter: @mrsmaley

Class Twitter: @mrsmaleysclass


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The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective Part 2

Posted on August 5, 2014. Filed under: Christian, Hunger Games, reflection |

If you have stumbled across this post, and you haven’t read Part 1, you can read that here. It might give you some context as to what I am talking about!

In this post I am going to elaborate on what ideas and themes in the Hunger Games I “reject” from a Christian perspective.

The first theme I see in the Hunger Games that I reject is the idea of “owing someone something/keeping score.” Early on in her life, Katniss was given loaves of bread from Peeta so that her and her family wouldn’t starve. She let this act of kindness hang over her head, and though she was thankful, she felt as though she continually owed him throughout the story. She wasn’t fully able to thank Peeta or even speak to him before the games, and then during the games, these feelings continued to surface.  When she finally took care of Peeta near the end of the Games and saved his life, she finally began to feel as if they were “even.”

At the climax of the story where the remaining tributes were forced to the Cornacopia, Thresh’s decision to let Katniss go was also based on the idea of “owing something.” Katniss had taken care of Rue, protected her, fed her, and ultimately honoured her in her death.  Thresh was also from District 11, and so when he learned that Katniss took care of Rue, he showed his appreciation by not killing her, but letting her go.  Katniss feels connected with Thresh in that moment, because she admits to knowing what it feels like to owe someone something, and so she understands his decision deeply. Once everyone’s debts are squared up, they leave each other knowing that they are now able to fight for their lives because they don’t owe each other anything.


Though many readers may connect with this theme, and even though I feel a sense of honour at what Katniss or Thresh did, I reject the principle behind it because it lacks the true understanding of grace or mercy. The idea of owing someone something, or making things even is the exact opposite theme from my first post- self sacrifice. The Christian gospel is different than any other religious belief for this very reason. Some religions say you need to do things, and follow rules to earn God’s favour. If you do this, then God will do that.  The gospel says you can do nothing to earn God’s favour; you already have it.  When Jesus died on the cross, he died completely innocent on behalf of the world’s sin.  He rose from the dead, conquering death (and therefore sin) and he now expects NOTHING in return.  Get that? Nothing. It is one of the hardest things for mankind (including myself) to understand.  Romans 10:9 says, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Christianity only takes belief.  Technically, we owe God everything, we owe him our salvation, our eternal life, but there is NOTHING that we can do to even out the relationship.  We can’t do more, we can’t be better, because he will not love us more for trying harder.  God loves us SO much that before we were even born, He sent Jesus to die so there would be a way to have a relationship with the God of the universe. The problem with Katniss’s response to Peeta and Thresh, is that she will never be able to experience a deep peace.  If Peeta does one more nice thing, or saves her life again, she will continually feel like she will need to “earn her salvation” and keep things even with him. Though I often stumble with this concept of earning my own salvation, I am so thankful that as a Christian I can experience peace knowing that I am loved, accepted, and saved the way I am, and that I don’t have to earn my way into heaven some day.


The next principle I reject in the Hunger Games is the idea that the Capitol is a happy, joyful place. Sure they have great food, a plethora of clothes, trend setting fashions, and copious amounts of money, but we all know that the author wants us to see past that. The idea here is that the Capitol is meant to be a stark contrast from the districts, or more specifically, District 12.  The Capitol is made to look enticing and attractive, and it does, after comparing it to what the people of the districts have to face on a daily basis. The irony is that as Westerners (North Americans/Western Europeans), we ARE the citizens of the Capitol! Compared to the rest of the world, we are the fools who spend our money on outrageous things.  We are the ones that perform ridiculous procedures on our bodies, and talk about things that would sound atrocious to someone who struggles to find food every day.  So why I reject the idea that the Capitol is actually a happy place, is because when I look around, I know that as a society, we AREN’T very happy.

capitol fashion

Even though we have “things” that are supposed to make us happy, we always end up needing more.  Our consumerist culture demands that we buy the newest and latest thing, and then marketing tells us that once we have it, we will be happy. But we all know that this isn’t the truth.  Go to a landfill.  Everything in there was once NEW. It was once shiny and precious as well.  When I look at the Capitol, I can compare it to sin.  When we chase after our own desires, it looks good… it looks REALLY good.  It might even feel good, taste good, even satisfy, for a time.  Nothing in our world was created to meet that deep need we have inside of us.  Ever hear of the God shaped hole in our heart? It’s not the most perfect analogy, but I know that it often rings true for me.  The analogy is that we have this God shaped hole in our heart that we keep trying to fill with iPods, clothes, houses, love, sex, cars, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses etc.  But we are always left wanting because the only thing that can fill that void in our life is someONE who is outside of this world.  Someone who doesn’t shift or fade or deteriorate. Someone who is beyond our human standards.  Someone who is so much greater, that no matter how much we have of Him, we will never have it all.  This person is Jesus. Even though Katniss and Peeta can appreciate the delicacies of the Capitol, deep down they know it is not satisfying.  They don’t fall into the belief that the Capitol is happy, and they don’t think that if they move to the Capitol, magically all their problems will go away. They seek a deeper peace, and a deeper rest than the Capitol has to offer.

The third idea I reject from the Hunger Games is when Katniss’s mom emotionally abandons her after her father dies. This is a sad but true human response to suffering. I can’t even say I fully understand the pain people experience when they lose someone close to them.  I have experienced death before, but thankfully I have never experienced someone in my immediate family dying. I can only imagine the deep suffering one must go through when this happens. That said, I reject the idea of shutting others out when death occurs. I believe God has put us here to live in community and to do life together. I think that the best part of the human experience is when we get to connect deeply with other people on this planet. Often times the deepest connections inter-personally happen when one or both parties have experienced a type of suffering, and they are willing to share that burden with the other person.  I think that Katniss’s mom could have experienced more hope and healing had she let her daughters in after her husband’s death.  Though difficult, I think that we, as humans, need to reach out to others in our times of struggle. The times when Katniss experienced peace for her broken heart were when she was allowing Gale or Peeta to comfort her and walk with her on her painful journey. Solitary battles leave lonely hearts.

broken heart

All in all, there are few themes that I reject throughout the book.  I think Suzanne Collins has done an excellent job of maintaining a thread of hope throughout the story, even through the seemingly hopeless conditions Katniss found herself in. I only reject the above principles because through a Christian lens, I know there is a better and more hopeful way.  I don’t think that Collins should have omitted these themes because a lot of them helped to drive our protagonist, Katniss, into the circumstances she often found herself in. The dark parts of the text make for an interesting story, and an even more redemptive ending… Which I will talk about in my next blog post, part 3; The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective- what I “redeem.”

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