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I have loved my daughter Julia from the moment she was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories during the Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup win in 1993.

I remember that early on, my sister Sandy made the very astute observation, “That girl really knows her own mind and has her own style!”

That statement couldn’t have been more prophetic.

This past weekend, I participated as a father in that annual spring rite of passage, the high school graduation.

I expected to be a proud parent to be sure, yet I had no idea how far these feelings would grow.

I not only watched my daughter receive her diploma like so many of her friends and classmates, I also watched her grow up right before my very eyes.

Her growth into a beautiful, confident, intelligent, passionate and compassionate young woman was in fact, always happening. It just took this weekend’s events to give me time to focus, reflect and appreciate the changes she was going through.

This past year has been one of tremendous growth and maturity for our daughter.

Last summer during a YMCA leadership program in the Rocky Mountains, Julia had some time for reflection about her values, her future and what she truly wanted in life.

As a result, when the school year started, she decided to step away from the High School volleyball team in her senior year, a year during which her team was almost assured of yet another championship. She did this in order to strengthen her marks with the goal of attending university next year. This mature, difficult decision paid off handsomely when she was accepted in her first program of choice at Acadia University with an early letter of acceptance.

During this year, she also put her name forward and was chosen as the Chairperson for the 2011 Graduation Committee. This meant that she took up the challenge of leadership with respect to a very personal event that almost everyone seemed to have strong opinions about. She had to learn how to collaborate, compromise, delegate, encourage, castigate and ultimately make decisions on issues that she knew would be challenged and second-guessed no matter what choice was made. She learned that leadership can be a very lonely burden at times, one that weighs especially heavily upon the shoulders of a teenage girl.

During the past 48 hours, I saw her overcome frustration and anxiety as her beautiful, new prom dress was stepped on and torn, just minutes prior to taking the stage. I watched her crack jokes and give thoughtful speeches before a huge auditorium filled with parents, teachers and peers. I have seen her partner as Master of Ceremonies with confidence, charm, grace, wit, and style. I saw her reaching out to make the event as inclusive to all factions of her school community as possible, something that can be very difficult to do given how rigid and exclusive high school cliques can become.

Julia was emerging from the chrysalis of her teenage years. I saw my “baby” daughter, carry herself as a poised, graceful and strong young woman.

As a parent, you try your best to be a good role model, to not only say the right things at the right time, but to embody the attitudes and values you hope your children may perhaps adopt as their own. If you’re fortunate, you don’t go on this journey of parenthood alone. I am so thankful that my wonderful wife Hélène and I walk this walk together. There are many times, especially when your child reaches their teenager years, you feel that you can do nothing right. And then…

And then there are those times, those incredibly special times, like this past weekend, when things all seem to come together and you realize that maybe, you may have done a few things right after all. Or perhaps your kids just made more good decisions than bad ones on their own, for their own reasons, despite your sage advice.

Whatever the case may be, I want my daughter to know that I am so completely and utterly proud of the young woman that she is becoming, despite all of my many mistakes as your dad. (Thank goodness for your amazing mom!) I do know that I have always tried to be here for you when you needed me. I feel so lucky enough to have had a front row seat for the best show that life has to offer, no, not at the Stampeder’s games, but as your father.

If the past forty-eight hours is any indication of what the future holds, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

All my love,

dad

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

The Inuit Writer and cultural activist was a man capable of great wisdom and generosity to friends - whatever their heritage.
By Bill Belsey

Eric Anoee portraitHis face was deeply tanned, wrinkled and familiar, like a fine old leather jacket. The eyes, hidden by ever-present sunglasses, were tired, yet not without a sense of possibility. There was a gentle, measured cadence and tone to his voice that implied wisdom without ego, thoughtfulness based on hard-earned experience, knowledge without prejudice. This was Eric Anoee, a man I knew for all too short a time. Anoee was born in the Kazan River region in about 1924. His mind was always full of wonder, and he understood the power of knowledge early in life. He learned the old ways by watching his father and relatives in the land, and he studied the ways and language of the Qabloonat through the missionaries and their books. This love of learning stayed with him throughout his life. Others came to regard him highly because of his increasingly rare understanding of traditional Inuit practices, and the richness of Inuktitut.

Eri Anoee with painting
Anoee became a catechist for the Anglican Church in 1962, and was asked to be an official interpreter for two bishops. In 1965 he started to publish an Anglican magazine. He became a Justice of the Peace and lived in Pangnirtung for several years, where his stature was recognized by his election to the local council. Soon after the formation of the Inuit Cultural Institute in Arviat in 1974, Anoee became a researcher for the Inuit Tradition Project, and in 1975 was appointed its director. He oversaw the the recording, transcription and editing of the cultural heritage and traditions of his people.

Martina Anoee Family Quilt

The Eric Anoee Readers, written and illustrated by Anoee himself, are used by teachers and classroom assistants to teach Inuktitut throughout the Eastern Arctic. His writing has appeared in Up Here (October / November 1989) among other magazines, and in Northern Voices, an anthology edited by Penny Petrone and published by the University of Toronto Press.

Eric Anoee with pipe When I first met Eric Anoee in 1982, I was embarking on my first full-time teaching job, joining a staff that would be trying to teach over 200 students in a building without interior walls. Eric Anoee would teach Inuktitut to my grade four class. As we shook hands, I was immediately warmed by his tranquil, pipe-filled smile. During that first year of teaching, Anoee was away for a number of days I feared he was sick, but didn’t ask anyone. After he returned he politely mentioned something about “meetings in Ottawa”. It wasn’t until over a month later that I learned he had actually been south to receive the Order of Canada from the Governor General for his contributions to education and Inuit culture.

Eric Anoee Order of Canada

In subsequent years, Anoee would lead Prime Minister Trudeau and the other first ministers into the National Conference Centre in Ottawa to give the opening prayer in Inuktitut for the first conference on Aboriginal issues. During the 1986 Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Kotzebue, Alaska, Eric Anoee was one of the most respected elders who were invited to address the meetings. On October 16th, 1991, then Northwest Territories’ Education Minister Steven Kakfwi posthumously recognized Anoee with an award for his contributions to literacy in the Northwest Territories.While honours and accolades often cane his way, Anoee took his greatest pleasures from his family, his time on the land, his art and his omnipresent pipe. Due to a progressive illness, it became more difficult for Anoee to spend time on the land in his later years. However, it has been said that in his prime, Anoee could build a finished iglu in 45 minutes and completely butcher a bull caribou in less time. Needless to say, Anoee had the respect of his fellow hunters.In subsequent years, Anoee would lead Prime Minister Trudeau and the other First Ministers into the National Conference Centre in Ottawa to give the opening prayer in Inuktitut for the first conference on Aboriginal issues.
Anoee Family

Whenever I visited Anoee, I felt overwhelmed by his family’s hospitality. On my first visit, I knocked at the door (a formal habit that I later unlearned), brushed the snow off my sealskin kamiks and edged inside. The porch contained an unfinished wooden shelf unit that looked like a shop project from school, loaded down with the kinds of odds and ends that are essential to Northern settlement life: a litre of 10W 30 oil, two recycled NGK9BR spark plugs, a drive belt for a Yamaha 340 snowmobile, snow knife, a well-used Coleman stove, a can of Naptha, a greasy toolbox, and a handful of .22 calibre bullets.

The living room was spartan, yet welcoming, with a large grey chesterfield that showed signs of child-erosion. Across form the couch was a crucifix and beside it, a painting of the Virgin Mary. A broad, lime green wooden table was surrounded by three chairs that could have come from a 1950s diner. In the corner of the living room was the ubiquitous 30″ television, tuned to Hockey Night in Canada. Anoee’s wife Martina, brought us a huge pot of tea made from Wolf Creek ice, guaranteed to yield a better-tasting brew than you could make with trucked-in, chlorinated water. A steaming plate of bannock fresh from the frying pan followed, and a pot of caribou stew (uujuq).

Anoee Family black and white

During other visits, I would be ushered to his bedroom, where I often found Anoee reclining upon a single, well-worn mattress, no box-spring thank you, upon the floor. His CB radio would be squawking out messages from settlements and camps across the North. The aroma that wafted from his old corncob pipe permeated his room. Anoee carefully blended a mix of store-bought pipe tobacco and a crop of low bush cranberry leaves in his closet which had been harvested at a precise time each fall, so that even in darkest January, the effect upon the senses was like walking on the autumn tundra.

Martha Anoee Kissing Anoee BelseyIt was in this setting that I passed many a warm, memorable evening. Anoee might show me a painting or carving he was working on, or ask me probing questions about how to best use his new camera. Another evening he might tell me a story or teach me a string game. Before knowing him, I had always felt awkward with silence during a conversation; Anoee reminded me that silence gives you time to listen and time to think. He often sang, and laughed readily. This is how I remember Eric Anoee before he died on September 24, 1989 in Arviat. On March 19th, 1991, five days after the birthday of Eric Anoee, my wife Helene and I were blessed with a son. We asked our friend, Elisapee Karetak if she would take a message to Martina Anoee, who did not have a phone. We wanted to ask her if we could name our son after her late husband.

Anoee Belsey baptized by Rev. Armand Tagoona

Elisapee phoned to tell us that Martina’s answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” Our son was baptized by the Reverend Armand Tagoona in Rankin Inlet. The relationship between Tagoona and Anoee had been a long and close one. As he poured the holy water gently over the baby’s head, Armand smiled and whispered, “Welcome back my friend.”

To this day, I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to look at my son and say, “I love you Anoee!”

As we began this new school year I reflected on the significance of beginnings and what the concept of “New Year” means.

When we lived in the Arctic, my family and I had the good fortune to meet and learn from an Inuit elder and religious leader, Armand TagoonaArmand Tagoona.

Tagoona once said that the idea of a “New Year” often made him think about what it looks like in the Arctic just after a blizzard. He described the pristine whiteness of the new snow, aput, that not only lay on the ground, but had been spread over everything in sight like frosting on a frozen cake.

He said, “A new year gives you the chance to leave your mark on the fresh new snow that no one has yet walked on. You can choose the direction you wish to travel. Your footprints will leave a trail that will be unique to you, although others may choose to follow you. What will you do when you go outside and face that new snow? What route will you take? Will you be able to help others who face that same challenge and may choose to follow your path?

Teachers and students are quite lucky in that we have a number of formal beginnings, one being the start of the new school year and the other being the “New Year” in January. For me, these points in the year represent opportunities to challenge myself to do begin anew, to try and do better for my students and to recommit to Springbank Middle School’s mission, that “We care our self, others, teaching, learning and the Earth!“.

As we begin this new school year, it is my hope to challenge my students to join me on this learning journey so that together we can make good decisions about the directions that we will take. With some thought, passion and hard work we can both blaze our own path and also leave trails that may help others find their way as well as we step onto this fresh “new snow”.

Taima (Inuktitut for, “That’s all for now”),

Bill Belsey

Footprints in the snow

I had the chance to meet and talk with Dr. Reem Bahgat, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Computers and Information at the University of Cairo. She has been very involved with using ICTs to digitally record and catalogue much of ancient Egypt’s rich historical heritage. If you enjoy Egyptian culture and history, please visit http://www.eternalegypt.org/ and http://www.cultnat.org/ which explores the art of documenting heritage. Fascinating work to be sure!

She also made a presentation about another international project she s involved with, called the Living Values Education Program (LVEP). It is a comprehensive values education program. This innovative global character education program offers a wide variety of experiential values activities and practical methodologies to educators, facilitators, parents and caregivers that enable children and young adults to explore and develop twelve universal values. In addition to programs for classrooms and parent groups, LVEP offers special materials for street children, children affected by war, and children affected by earthquakes.

Implemented in 74 countries at over 7,000 sites, educators implementing LVEP report positive changes in teacher-student relationships and in student-student relationships both inside and outside the classroom. Educators note an increase in respect, caring, cooperation, motivation, and the ability to solve peer conflicts on the part of the students. Aggressive behaviors decline as positive social skills and respect increase. LVEP helps educators create safe, caring values-based atmospheres for quality learning. (an excerpt from the http://www.livingvalues.net/ Web site).

Many of you may know that I have had a long commitment to the issue of bullying and related intiaives, so this kind of internatonal project holds great interest for me, and I hope perhaps may be of interest to you as well.

Taima, Bill

I had the chance to meet two lovely ladies from Japan who were demonstrating two difference kinds of solar cookers, created by professors and students at the Japan Solar Energy Education Association.

japanese_solar_cookers.jpg If you would like to inquire about these excellent solar cookers, please contact Iseko Shirai at solar_energy(a)hyper.cx. Also iEARN teachers have created a wonderful, award-winning project about solar cooking and solar cookers. Tell Rowena Gerber and Yvonne Moyer that “Bill sent you” if you join their project! ;-)

Taima, Bill

I am home now, thinking about my time at the 2007 iEARN Conference and Youth Summit. I wanted to focus this post on some of the people and projects I was fortunate to come in contact with.

I attended a workshop by Brett Pierce, a sixteen year veteran producer with Sesame Street and the Children’s Television Workshop. He has a self-described “Dream job” helping to create and coordinate a “Dream project”called “Panwapa“. Panwapa is a word from the Tshiluba language that means “here on this Earth”. The project will provide the information and resources needed for children to be aware of the wider world. To appreciate similarities over differences among people is what Panwapa is all about. The project will be anchored with a Web site and includes a variety of videos in DVD format and print media for children, planned and created in a way that the children will easily understand, practice and love as they relate to the various muppet characters. Panwapa learning resources will first be available in Arabic, English, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish, with the possibility of other languages being added later, depending on funding.

The DVD tells the story of six Muppet characters who come to build a community on Panwapa Island, a floating island that travels the oceans of the world. Using song, humour and high energy, the Muppet stories are supplemented by films about real kids from Tanzania, France and Guatamala to are beginning to connect to the cultures and languages around them.

The www.panwapa.com Web site is the centrepiece or anchor for the learning. It begins on Panwapa Island which is the gateway to enter into the virtual Panwapa community of kids as hosted by our Muppet characters. Users will be able to develop their own “Me” page, which will include an avatar, home setting and a Panwapa flag that will showcase their chosen favourites from categories such as food, animals and musical instruments. From there, users will be able to travel the wrold from a “satellite perspective,” find other Panwapa Kids, and participate in global treasure hunts and other games that will send them around the world to collect a variety of Panwapa card sets. Pretty great stuff eh?

BTW, the sheep only speak “Baa” and hilarious comic device, but one that I think offers tremendous potential for learning about others languages and cultures.

During the presentation I told Brett that I saw Panwapa as a primer for iEARN. Panwapa’s target audience is ages 4 to 7, just after Sesame Street’s T-A of preschool to age 5. I could see younger kids who have been engaged in the Panwapa world having their minds opened to becoming global thinkers, and then moving on to having the experience of engaging with other youth around the world by doing online collaborative projects with their teachers and fellow students in iEARN. Brett said that he agreed and saw iEARN as a key partner in the Panwapa learning continuum.

www.panwapa.com should be fully functional by October 10th, 2007. Remember, you heard it here first!

Taima, Bill

I must admit, as a fairly coddled Canadian I had a few reservations about coming to the Middle East at this time, so I felt it only fair, and important to share some impressions that I have of my visit to Egypt so far.

First of all, I should preface my remarks by saying the my impressions of Egypt are based primarily on my time in Cairo and environs, which sounds dangerously like judging Canada after only being in Toronto, that being said, here goes…

I spent Thursday night after our first iEARN Assembly meetings walking with three iEARN friends from our hotel along the promenades and bridges that envelope and cross the Nile River. We were told that Thursday night is often a time when people will go out into the streets, children and family elders in tow, to stroll along the Nile, much like the boardwalk in Atlantic City or in the movie “Easter Parade“. How true!

In this massive city of some twenty million souls, cars teem through the streets, more often than not ignoring lane divider lines and using flashing lights and horns in sequences that were much too complicated for mortals less than William Stephenson, the Man Called Intrepid to decipher. BTW, did I mention that Cairo has no traffic lights?!!! If they did, every light of any colour would be interpreted as GO! If fears for my safety should have had some stronger basis in fact, it was surely not from the people, whom I have found to be most kind, generous and welcoming, but rather from the cocophanous ever-surging traffic. I was wondering if a six-foot, two-inch white male would have difficulties in standing out so much in the crowd, but MANY people flashed me smiles and more than a few extended peace signs my way rather than some other digits I thought might be more likely, as we navigated the downtown areas of Cairo. It was only in the tourist areas that I was treated like a dollar sign on legs.

Families walked together, teenagers sat and embraced on benches by the river, vendors roasted nuts and corn over hibachis, women made bread, young boys and old people sold smokes at a “Special Egyptian Price for you!

Many people smoke in Cairo, mostly men it seems. Sucking back on a shisha water pipe and drinking Chai tea are the mainstays of Egyptian social networking sans computer.

We stopped at a cafe on a boat anchored on the Nile and tried an Egyptian beer called “Sakara“. It was VERY tasty indeed! the perfect antidote for a sultry summer evening in Cairo.

So how IS the weather in Cairo in July you might be wondering? Well, hot of course, but it’s a really “DRY HEAT!”;-)

So how does a coddled Canadian cope? (like the alliteration?) Do like the Egyptians of course, because everyone knows that only “Mad Dogs and Englishman GO Out in the Noon-day Sun” Stay out of the Sun during the day, thank goodness for AC, come out, enjoy life and “Walk Like an Egyptian” in the evening, (you just had to know that I was going to use that one didn’t you?!). With the days being so sunny and hot, Egyptians emerge from their homes and really flourish at night.

To try and stay cool, I also thought it would be a fun experience to visit an Egyptian barber for a haircut. I was treated like an (Arab?) prince! Ahmed, my very professional, extremely diligent barber and his family took turns washing my hair twice before he began trimming with GREAT care and precision. The haircut took about an hour, no smalltalk possible, and then finished with a kind of neck massage and a final hair wash, combined with a steady stream of nice cold drinks, all for about $5.00 CDN! I thanked Ahmed and his family with deep appreciation and a handsome tip. My barber back in Cochrane is going to cringe when I tell him about this!;-)

Okay, back to the conference…

We had a meeting of the Canadian teachers attending this year’s iEARN conference. We used the time to get to know one another a little better. We had nearly twenty attend, which is our largest contingent ever! During past conferences, I can often remember being the only Canadian there. This conference represents a wonderful step forward for us. Perhaps next year we can also have Canadian students attend the Youth Summit?

We enjoyed a brief visit from Losira Okelo. Losira formally is connected to iEARN-USA as Director of Online Professional Development, but Losira is currently living in Montreal, so she an officially adopted iEARN-Canada member! Losira explained that she would be pleased to work with iEARN-Canada to offer help and support to iEARN-Canada teachers if and when called upon.

We also had a personal presentation from Lev, am member of iEARN-Uzbekistan, the host country for 2008 iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit. They shared a wonderful video giving us a special introduction as to what we can expect when we come to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, next July.

After our meeting, we attended various conference sessions. One session was about the brand new, and ever SOOOO cool iEARN Collaboration centre. This new resource, or should I say array of collaboration resources, will have an immediate, and very positive impact on the collaborative projects you and your students do in iEARN. The iEARN Collaboration Centre enables young people to learn with rather than simply about the world. Find project partners quickly. Read 200+ project descriptions and browse student-produced media. If you haven’t logged in recently, please do so as soon as you get a chance and look around.

Donna and Marc Savoie Riding Camels at the Pyramids

I think it appropriate to let you know that the iEARN-Canadian members from New Brunswick have been out doing some serious cultural research. I will close for today with this image (NO Photoshop-editing) of Donna and Marc Savoie expanding their horizons as lifelong global educators!

Yours in friendship, learning and iEARN,

Bill

Cairo Skyline -Old and New Now that the iEARN Assembly meetings are over, the “business” of the19th annual iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit has officially begun. iEARN conferences are really more like family reunions than anything else, with friends and colleagues who have worked closely and collaboratively on various projects with one another online for many weeks or months may finally be meeting in person for the first time. Other scenarios see those who may have first met in person at a previous iEARN conference then follow up by having their respective students create, or participate in existing iEARN projects.

iEARN-Canada Team iEARN’s tradition is to begin the conference with a roll-call of nations. Many conference participants wear clothing that represents their country. I thought about a hockey uniform, but opted for an Inuit anorak that I received during my time teaching and living in the Arctic, most of us either wore or waved the maple leaf. With nearly twenty participants, this is iEARN-Canada’s largest contingent at an iEARN conference.

United Nations Billion Tree Planting Initiatve

Some of us had a chance to plant a tree as a part of the United Nations Billion Tree Initiative. All of the sixty-plus iEARN countries represented at the conference had an opportunity to participate and almost all did.

I had an opportunity to meet a fantastic group of young people who are part of a project called “Dance4Life“. This project is a wonderful example of where the creative energy of youth meets social justice through service learning.

Well, that’s all for now folks, I’ll try and post again when I get another chance.

Taima,

Bill

Cairo_Kites_at_Sunset

The 2007 iEARN International Assembly meetings are well underway here in Cairo. I arrived here on Thursday morning at 1:00 AM via London. I am here representing iEARN-Canada as a member of the iEARN International Assembly, the governing body of iEARN, the International Education and Resource Network. With over one million teacher and student members in over 120 countries since 1988, iEARN is the world’s largest and longest running k-12 professional learning community.

I wanted to share a project with you from Ruty Hotzen, Coordinator for iEARN-Israel, it is called “Talking Kites“. It involves research about the amazing children’s author, pediatrician and thinker Janusz Korczak and the integration of this research and celebration of learning through the creation and flying of kites! if you are interested in participating in this project, please first make sure that you are a registered iEARN member in your country, then you can contact Ruty directly via e-mail.

Beginning tomorrow, July 21st to the 26th, the 2007 iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit will begin here in Cario, hosted by iEARN-Egypt.

Please add me to your blogroll or check back at www.billbelsey.com with further information, photos and updates.

Taima,

Bill