Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bread and Roses

As we go marching, marching,
in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens,
a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance
that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing:
Bread and Roses!
Bread and Roses!

As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.

As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.

As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.

James Oppenheim (1882-1932)

According to the Calgary District Labour Council, " Bread and Roses was written during a strike of women textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912.

"27,000 women went on strike for a 54-hour week with no loss of pay(the previous working week was 56 hours).They spoke over 27 different languages among them and marched every day to keep up their morale. Their banners called for bread and roses, and a poet among them wrote these words,which went on to become a famous song for women trades unionists everywhere.They were on strike for eleven weeks and eventually won the reduction in their working week, a reduction that gave them money in their pockets as well as a better quality of life for their families, not just bread, but roses, too."

Hope this tune carries you through Labour Day.
We'll be back on September 4th.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

speakers' corner

In the interests of dreaming big...

The Adult Learning Knowledge Centre recently announced a call for proposals for projects to "bring innovative and informed speakers to address the general public about wide-ranging adult learning issues". Their priorities for funding are:

  • literacy
  • seniors learning
  • arts and culture, and
  • prior learning assessment and recognition.

So often in adult literacy work we're put in a position of reacting to what other people say about literacy and learning. Here's an opportunity to offer the public a broader perspective on literacy. Or to initiate dialogue with someone who might help us build interesting connections beyond the literacy community.

The Speakers Program accepts applications any time and makes granting decisions at the end of every month.

Interested? Check out the Adult Learning Knowledge Centre webiste.

Monday, August 27, 2007


A few weeks ago, a colleague from Scotland wrote to me. She said that this blog

is a reminder for me that adult literacy work is going on, not just in the UK but in several parts of our world and this makes me wonder why? I'm sure that all the different countries have differences in their education systems... Is there some common bad practice we all share? Or is it more simple -- is it just a case that too much emphasis is placed on reading and writing? I must admit that a lot of the people I have worked with have got through their lives with very limited or basic reading and writing skills, and that a lot of the stress they feel is about the stigma and feeling inadequate or, more specifically, not normal.

Her words sum up what literacy workers do: work with compassion each day towards a more inclusive society. Sadly this work is often unrecognized.

Here's a thought to bolster your spirits in time for International Literacy Day, or the start of the academic year. It's from Becoming Human by Jean Vanier:

The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of...all true education and at the heart of being human. As soon as we start choosing and judging people instead of welcoming them as they are -- with their sometimes hidden beauty, as well as their more frequent visible weaknesses -- we are reducing life, not fostering it. When we reveal to people our belief in them, their hidden beauty rises to the surface where it may be more clearly seen by all. (p.23)

Friday, August 24, 2007

the whole world

Well it is 5 months of blogging and time to reflect on how this blog thing gets started:

Have a great weekend. I am going off the grid next week so you will be hearing more from Tannis. See you in September.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

crazy wisdom from manitoba

Have you had a chance to listen to any of the Critical Literacy in Practice podcasts? You can find them here. You can subscribe in iTunes or listen to the audio on the site.

Show 48 is about Communities of Practice in Manitoba.

It features a "conversation about communities of practice and critical literacy with Wayne Serebrin, Tracey Douglas, Chris Wigglesworth, Cora Campbell, Denise Murphy, and Tannis Nishibata-Chan from Winnipeg, Manitoba."

They are talking about doing critical literacy work with young children but I found a lot I could relate to. I also found it interesting to hear the similarities and differences to our practice with adults.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


This just in from the Ontario Literacy Coalition E-Bulletin:

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is now the official name, replacing the National Office of Literacy and Learning (NOLL), which replaced the National Literacy Secretariat.

Their mission is to be a Centre for Expertise. Their strategy is to influence and leverage the behaviour of others, such as the private sector and other ministries (ie: Health).

Project Funding - Call for Proposals

The call for project proposals will be released August 21 at 12 EST. The information about the call will be listed on the HRSDC website after this time.

There are 2 streams:
1) Literacy and Essential Skills in the Workplace
2) Family, Social and Community Development.

Within each stream there are 3 business lines:
a) Knowledge Generation
b) Tool Development
c) Tool Dissemination

Partnerships, while not a requirement in proposals, will be favourably looked upon. Organizations can apply for both streams and for multiple projects but each one is a separate application (20 pages). They are looking for results oriented projects. Not projects that help us cover off core expenses. They don’t want to see core activities in project budgets.

The deadline for applications is October 31, 2007
. Decisions will be made and organizations notified so that funding can start by March 31, 2008 (and perhaps earlier).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

family literacy india style

More crazy wisdom from India:

The Mother Teachers of India

Posted Jun 27, 2007

Experienced teachers are often hard to find. At the Bodh School they have embraced the concept of 'Mother Teachers,' to maximize student learning.

ABOUT EXPLORE: Explore is a philanthropic multimedia project of the Annenberg Foundation that showcases cutting-edge non-profit efforts around the world through documentaries, short films, video moments and photography.

You can see more about the Bodh School, literacy learning, the crazy wisdom of India, how music is life, and lots more at Explore.

Monday, August 20, 2007

learn anything you want india style

This video is a volunteer recruitment video but seems to represent a program that responds to learner needs and aspirations. They seem to ascribe to the learn anything you want philosophy and the time to learn philosophy. Music and life in India...

Friday, August 17, 2007

embrace what, dude?

a little more wisdom (?) from a couple of guys
who have been having waaaaaay too much fun

have a good weekend yourselves.
see you monday.
(thanks for the link, maria)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

more fun, more wisdom

In June Tannis hit the road to do workshops in Belfast and in Winnipeg.

We have finally put up the pictures and learning from
those events on our Crazy Wisdom pages.

Read all about the
Belfast group here and the
Winnipeg group here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the more fun part

I have just found, and really enjoyed reading, Teaching Adventures in the Delta. In this blog, Eddie describes his life as an eighth-grade science teacher in Lake Village, Arkansas. It seems that he is new to this gig and is exploring the possibilities ~ he talks about inquiry-based approaches, standardized testing, setting goals and creating a curriculum.

The qualitative part of the big goal is the more fun part ~ we get to say what the students will actually get out of "8th grade science." Part of putting this together was creating "essential understandings" for our subject matter. "Essential understandings" are the key points/questions a subject asks in order to carry out its method of inquiry. To put it a better way, "what are the questions that this field asks?" and "what is the whole point of this field?" Not to brag, but for once the philosophy major had a direct application to my work. The idea behind this part of the big goal is that if we get our students to understand the "essential understandings," then they'll have an easier time understanding the reason behind why we are learning the subject matter of "8th grade science" or any other subject. Some of mine are:
  • Science gives us a way to support what we believe with good evidence. If other good evidence comes along that goes against what we believe, we have to change our minds.
  • Structure determines function (what something is made of determines how it works)
  • How can I understand the world through my 5 senses and my brain?
  • What is the pattern that is developing?
  • Given these results, what is going to happen next?

That Eddie sounds like a pretty smart cookie.

The fun part for me is watching this story unfold and being reminded how fresh and exciting this teaching thing can be. He writes in a way that makes you really feel you are right there in the Delta embarking on an adventure.

Monday, August 13, 2007

music and life

good monday morning.

and could it be any better? it is a fabulous weather day here in the big smoke. clear, sunny, breezy. bluest sky and whitest pouffiest clouds.
how do you spell pouffiest?

for more from Alan Watts and the South park guys, click here.

Friday, August 10, 2007


The finalists for the Canada Post Awards were announced on July 25. Sorry I missed it. Congratulations everybody. A special shout out to some friends of the café.

Wendell Dryden Saint-John, NB

Known for his kindness and his participant-led approach to learning for adults with low literacy skills, Wendell helps students write their own learning materials and has made computer literacy and e-learning part of his adult class. He is also a committed community literacy worker, who delivers reading material to the doorstep of low-income adults.
Lana Faessler Waterloo, ON
With Lana as Executive Director, Laubach Literacy Ontario has produced many innovative projects to strengthen literacy, including a website of resources for volunteer trainers. In addition to defending and advocating for adult learners across the province, Lana continues to volunteer for the literacy field in various capacities and is the Director of Project Read.
Patricia Brady Toronto, ON
For the last 11 years, Patricia has supported adult learners in Ontario through her activities as Adult Learner Coordinator at the Ontario Literacy Coalition. She was nominated for the Educator Award by a group of learners who say they have been empowered by her guidance, the gift of her time and her enduring belief in their capabilities.

We are so proud of you. And proud to know you.
Please add your own shout outs to your own friends on the list by making a comment below.

P.S. Let's all work on getting Patricia back into the field ~ if we let this good literacy worker down, we let all of us down.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

more word games

Over at Word Imperfect:

"I choose an obscure dictionary word. You invent a wacky meaning. I put 3 invented meanings on the voting poll below and list the true meaning."
Estovers is the word for today.

My definition is:
people in ontario (central canada) call relatives and friends from the maritimes (eastern canada) who come to stay "estovers".

i better get the sheets and towels washed ~ the estovers are arriving tomorrow!
What is yours?

Post it over at Word Imperfect.

You can also vote for the best definition of scaramouch:
  • Scaramouch is a type of garrotte used in Scotland. During the middle-ages it was the favourite method of execution. It was made out of carded and spun sheeps' wool and fitted nicely into the little pocket at the back of the sporran. (lorenzothellama)
  • A scaramouch is an elaborate ruse, albeit shaky; a house or cards. (ingrid)
  • Scaramouch - a feather duster used by French maids (usually wearing short black skirts, white pinafores and fishnet stockings) who are appearing in stage farces (an odd theatrical format greatly loved by the British). (flamingo)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

new word

Craig over at Flip Flop Flying is looking for a new word:

"I think the English language needs a new word: something that describes a person who is less than an acquaintance,
but more than a stranger. ...
It seems to me, that this is a linguistic blind spot when it comes to relationships: family, partner, friend, colleague, acquaintance, [new word], stranger."
His quest made me think of Kurt Vonnegut's granfalloon.

Granfalloon: A group of two or more people who imagine or are manipulated to believe they share a connection based on some circumstance of little or no real significance.

__________: A group of two or more people who share a connection based on some little circumstance of significance.

Can you can help him out? Leave a comment on his blog. Or here.

P.S. While you are there, check out Whiskers and Whiskers II for more good data we can use.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


As I was inspired to turn on the air conditioner last week, I decided to check out my carbon footprint. There are a number of carbon calculators online.

The Canadian calculator is One Less Ton. It is action oriented. You answer a series of questions about your carbon use and get suggestions of ways to reduce your emissions. This is a good approach but they make some assumptions that make answering the 20 questions pretty irritating. For example, one is asked questions about choices of gasoline but never asked if one drives. I never purchase gasoline but that is not an answer option.

The Safe Climate calculator may give an accurate number for travel (by car and plane only) and household utility emissions. It takes into account where you live when calculating your household emissions and makes the calculation based on the sources of fuel in your region. However, you need to know the number of kilometers for flights and car trips as well things like the average number of kilowatt hours of electricity you use each month. This, of course, takes one to other calculators and can be a bit complicated.

I looked at a number of sites where you can calculate the emissions for specific activities and buy "carbon offsets" ~ you pay for emission-reductions elsewhere instead of reducing your own. Most of them are pretty easy to use and give us an idea about impact. I am not sure how I feel about this capitalist approach to environmentalism. I think that we should be responsible for our own mess but perhaps it is better to make less mess than pay for someone else to clean it up.

The site that I thought would be the most useable with students is the UK Footprint Calculator. It uses flash (I think) so may not be accessible to dial up connections. You can make a number of choices in pop-down menus and watch the graphs and numbers change as you do. You can check things such as how much difference it might make if one became a vegetarian or took the bus more often. You can answer according to your own circumstances or set up scenarios and check different results.

Let us know if you use this kind of material in your programs and what sites you use.

Friday, August 3, 2007

testy testees

In Ontario, Grade 10 students take a literacy test.
Here is video some of them made about the experience.

Thanks for the good video and the excellent expression of Sir Ken's thesis. Way to go John Houghton et al.

Have a great long weekend everybody. See you Tuesday.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Literacy in peacetime

At midnight on Tuesday, the British Army ended the longest continuous campaign in its history. Although 5,000 troops are still in Northern Ireland, the army’s peacekeeping role is officially over.

Hearing the story on the news this morning made me think about what I learned about literacy work when I was in Belfast this summer. Some initiatives, such as the Literacy and Equality in Irish Society project, have been funded by EU money allocated specifically for peace and reconciliation. But many practitioners are working in other ways and have used powerful creativity to help individuals, and society, move forward.

A group called Families of the Displaced, Dispersed and Distressed (FODDD) came together specifically to heal from the trauma of violence in 2000 in the Shankhill Road area. Facilitated by Sharon Bailey, FODDD integrates arts-based and literacy activities to support the healing process.

At Workforce Training Services in West Belfast, tutor Brid Shields found that students she worked with didn’t realize that Shankhill was very close to where they lived. Brid invited the students to learn more about their community. They did so by creating the West Belfast Alphabet. To outsider eyes perhaps the P (Protestant), Q (Quarrel) and Y are the most accessible letters. Brid talked about how some letters didn’t make it to the poster – an S for Suicide, dripping with blood, and H for Hanging, for example – but did lead to helpful discussions about creating a more healthy and inclusive community.

A few presentations at the RaPAL conference were papers that tutors had written for their diploma in Adult Literacy and Essential Skills at Queen’s University Belfast. Una Cox worked with students to explore what slang meant, and how it reflected people’s different social positions. Together they learned about how and why people use slang, how people judge one another based on their language choices, and how slang terms for people from different social groups affects the people who hear it.

In Northern Ireland, literacy work is often seen as a way to deal with inequality, poverty and social exclusion. Programs are targeted to areas with the greatest need, based on a scale of “social deprivations”. Although they are called Essential Skills classes, the arts and personal transformation are integrated and valued in programs.

Canada could learn from this approach!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

data we can use

From Open Letter To Kansas School Board

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.