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.

Friday, September 28, 2007


The wind gives me
Enough fallen leaves
To make a fire

by Ryōkan

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Here is a whole bushel of apples for this teacher.

On Tuesday, September 25, 2007, teachers from across the province will rally at the Sooke Board of Education [British Columbia] office in support of a colleague who may be disciplined for refusing to administer a standardized test to her Grade 3 students.

Motivated by concern for her students, Kathryn Sihota, a Grade 3 teacher in the Sooke school district and 27-year veteran in primary teaching, took a stand last spring and refused to give the DART (District Assessment of Reading Team) to her young charges. "I've administered the test for years and I'm not going to do it anymore," Sihota says. "The last time I gave the test, a child dissolved in tears from anxiety. I'd put her in a situation I didn't want her to be in.

Teachers oppose testing when its purpose is simply to satisfy the government and school district agenda of data collection for political purposes, rather than to assist them in finding ways to enrich students' learning experiences. An increasing number of tests are now being imposed on students and are detracting from a quality learning experience.

"Teachers work with students in classrooms every day and understand that students need support and encouragement to be successful," says Irene Lanzinger, president of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation. "We use a variety of assessment methods, including tests, to help students learn. The over-emphasis on standardized exams and data collection is putting students and their success at risk while doing nothing to enhance learning. Teachers throughout the province are speaking out on behalf of their students and the support they need in order to be successful."
September 24, 2007
The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

by John Updike

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

falling for fall

Fall, leaves, fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Emily Jane Brontë

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Recently someone quoted Carl Jung in a conversation about change:

"We give up the good for the better."

Autumn Movement

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper
sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes,
new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind,
and the old things go, not one lasts.

Carl Sandburg

Monday, September 24, 2007


We are starting to see signs of autumn/fall here in Toronto but the temperature remains quite balmy - we are expecting high 20s again this week.

Issue #7 Working in Adult Literacy is at the printers and should be on its way to our subscribers and distribution partners by Thanksgiving week.

The forum will start on October 22 so mark the date.

And here is something else autumnal:


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

by Emily Dickinson

Friday, September 21, 2007


It is Peace Day everyone. A minute of silence at noon.

And then this story about how, if we want to enjoy the world, if we want everyone to enjoy the world, we probably have to change the world.
Enjoy the world this weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday.

Here are the Clancy Brothers doing The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, "Son,
It's time you stop ramblin', there's work to be done."
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.

And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water;
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin', he primed himself well;
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell --
And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.

And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.

For I'll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
All around the green bush far and free --
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.

But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.

And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question.

But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that billabong,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

by Eric Bogle

Thursday, September 20, 2007

row on row

I thought that my Peace Week posts would be more about the joys of peace and not so much about the horrors of war but I seem stuck in this theme so here is one more. Plus some Can Con.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae May 1915

Inspiration for the Poem

On 2 May, 1915, in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a German artillery shell. He was a friend of the Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae. It is believed that John began the draft for his famous poem that evening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

one dialect

These Brits can read the heck out of a poem can't they?
Canadian content anyone? I've scoured YouTube but no luck so far.

The Long War

Less passionate the long war throws
its burning thorn about all men,
caught in one grief, we share one wound,
and cry one dialect of pain.

We have forgot who fired the house
Whose easy mischief spilled first blood
Under one raging roof we lie
The fault no longer understood
But as our twisted arms embrace the desert where our cities stood
Death’s family likeness in each face must show at last our brotherhood

by Laurie Lee

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

more peace

Have you thought of something to do for peace day yet?
You can 'make a commitment' here.


At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

Siegfried Sassoon

Monday, September 17, 2007

giving peace a chance

September 21 (Friday) is The International Day of Peace.
All over the world, people will be taking initiatives towards creating peace in their homes, in their communities and in their countries. What do you have planned?

Snow is a strange white word.
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter's cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know.
No man knows why.

In all men's hearts it is.
Some spirit old Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face.
God's blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O! ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume.
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

by Isaac Rosenberg

Friday, September 14, 2007

celebrating change

I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
- E. B. White

Have a great weekend everybody. Enjoy the world. See you Monday.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

celebrating literacy workers

A master can tell you

what he expects of you.

A teacher, though,

awakens your own expectations.

--Patricia Neal with Richard DeNeut (As I Am: An Autobiography)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

what can we count?

Here is a poem by a tutor from St. Christopher House Adult Literacy Program.

Anniversary Literacy Poem

How do we love thee, St. Christopher House Literacy Program,
can we count the ways?
Take thirty years of group and individual classes (in the evenings, along with the days)
times the number of completed grammar exercises
then subtract the mistakes that we made:
Do you arrive at the number that quantifies a literacy protégé?

Literacy and . . .
numeracy, of course, that’s what this is all about
Learn the basic functions, count and conquer!
. . . the job maket, that is. And then shuffle us out?

Or should we take a different approach to our equation
starting with the people in the organization
Fran, Judi and Joanna, divining the perfect combination of learners, tutors, kids, activities and inspiration on any given night.
We can even take it right down to the number, if you like,
of pens, pencils, and computers used to enlight-

-en us to a new and better understanding
an accounting of our programming
without the messiness of sentiment, aesthetics or creativity
showing up in the assessments of our ability.
Dollars and scores keep us going—those are the measures that impress.
Even though such external parameters don’t, for us, convey success.

Tenses, agreements, plurals, to the exponential amount of words we’ve learned
Do we add or divide by the people we’ve met, the pages we’ve turned?
Squared up with the compositions: poems, stories, essays and reports
the letters we’ve written to favourite authors, and interest groups of all sorts

And must we keep with the hard work only? Or can we count the parties too?
One every month or so – New Year’s, birthdays, the summer bbq –
And how about special projects – the Tree Tour, workshops, the Link, to name a few,
does this make us eligible for a little more dough to get us through

next class, next week, next tutor orientation,
next group meeting, next time we gather to critique the state of the nation
and other important topics: the Beckhams, Angelina and Brad,
the TTC cuts, crime, health, family, landlords, and whatever else we’ve had
to discuss – most eloquently, by the way – and write about as well.
We do good work here,
so how about stop treating literacy like something we’ve got to sell?

perhaps it’s time to test your literacy skills by asking: how
much do you recognize here?
This isn’t just any poem, after all,
It’s an adaptation of one by Shakespeare.
You know, the famous bard who,
some four centuries before our program was mounted
taught us that literacy isn’t something that can be counted.

Monday, September 10, 2007

celebrating literacy

The party put on by the St. Christopher House Adult Literacy Program was the BEST! It was a fantastic gathering of literacy practitioners, literacy learners and musicians. Thanks Judi and Fran for a great day of catching up with old friends and making new ones. We have always been wildly impressed with how you consistently enagage a diverse group of learners and tutors in meaningful learning experiences. Despite all the constraints and barriers, you work hard, and with great success, to find the opportunities and openings. And now you treat us all to this most excellent day. Wow.

There were so many highlights but an important part of the event for many of us was the presentation about the history of SCHALP by Nancy Friday and Jean Unda. They referred to two documents that were so important to the founding of SCHALP and are deeply meaningful to many literacy workers. Both documents discuss how education can be used either to reproduce existing structures and promote compliance or uncover systemic inequity and foster critical thinking and action.

Literacy: Charitable Enterprise or Political Right created by Sidney Pratt, Naldi Nomez and Patricio Urzua in October, 1977 draws on the 1975 Declaration of Persepolis and describes how the principles of the declaration can be put into practice in community-based literacy programs in downtown Toronto.

Here is an excerpt about curriculum development:

The human being is seen as a subject, acting upon the objective reality, responding in multiple ways to challenges, creating and transforming reality in relationship with other human beings. Society is seen as historic, cultural and dynamic. Historic, because it is relative to time and space so that it is also human being. Dynamic, since humans are acting upon society as subjects, society is always changing. Education perceived as a historical dialogue where situations are posed as problems and analyzed.

Friday, September 7, 2007

literacy day

Sorry to be away for so long. I missed you all. Click here to see where I was.

I am back now. Getting ready to celebrate Literacy Day tomorrow in great style at St. Christopher House Adult Literacy Program.

My cousin sent me this image. The whole set of photos is here. I am not sure if it is okay to use this photo here but I decided to live dangerously because it makes me think about a lot of stuff and I hope it will do the same for you. Have a great weekend and a beautiful ILD.

"First Writing" Enlightenment Ceremony Held For Children In Nanjing, China:
A teacher paints a vermilion dot on the forehead of a student during the 'First Writing' enlightenment ceremony held for grade one students of a primary school at the Confucius Temple on September 3, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. The ceremony symbolizing the start of literacy, involves painting vermilion, reciting Chinese classicals and tolling bells, in a bid to promote traditional culture.
(Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)