Twin Talons alumni Blog Abroad

Talons at Montague Harbour, Galiano Island 2010

Grade tens in the Talons program when we began our blogging experiment, Saskia and Ariana would be seniors at our school this year. Would be, of course, had they not each accepted scholarships and student-exchange opportunities in Belgium, and on Vancouver Island.

Luckily for those of us living and working back in the local Talons’ neighbourhood, they have continued to share their learning on a blog they began before either of them set sail this summer. And with the recent passing of Canadian Thanksgiving, each published reflections on their new lives and learning away from home.

Ariana, making a home on Vancouver Island, was able to make it back to the mainland for the holiday, and wrote about returning to her place in her home, as well as with her younger sister (current Talon, Bronwyn), and mother:

Today, while my three guests from Pearson explored Vancouver, I had a tea party with friends, picked beans with my mother, and chatted with my little sister. I discovered that, despite the shifted arrangement of my room, the deeper structures of my home – the connections between me and my friends and family – have stayed the same. I can still argue and laugh with my mother, be goofy with my friends, and laze on the couch with my little sister (after she scored two goals during her soccer game).   Before, I worried that as I began to belong at Pearson, Port Moody would feel less like home. I was wrong. It is comforting for me to know that, no matter, what, there is one place in the world that is mine. There is a room in a bright green house in the suburbs of Vancouver that I can count on to welcome me home.  

While Saskia, across the Atlantic:

…spent my first Thanksgiving away from home last week. While my family rolled out pumpkin pie dough and brought cranberry sauce to a simmer, I floated down the sluggish Meuse on a Rotary boat trip. Compared to rivers in British Columbia, the opaque brown water didn’t provide much scenic value. The three hours offered me plenty of time to chat with other exchanges students, however. My mind on Thanksgiving and home, we discussed clashing attitudes and ways of life.  

Because this is what the idea of exchange is about, is it not? To immerse oneself in a new culture, and find what it might have to teach us about ourselves.

But there is an added opportunity in an exchange that separates twins, I think (not being one, I can’t confirm), in that individuals who have shared nearly everything in their young lives set out on their own to discover not only a new place, but a new relationship with themselves, and a voice and perspective that isn’t as much shared as it is theirs alone:

The most challenging aspect of being an exchange student for me is not necessarily adjusting to the different attitudes and traditions themselves. What’s harder is the fact that people here can’t understand or appreciate where I come from. I have to be the one to justify my mismatched actions or ideas by underlining the disparities when I discover them. Otherwise, I quietly realize, accept and move on. When I wrote my Rotary application, I explained that I wanted a new view on home, to take another look at some of the realities I took for granted. It’s happening.

TALONS Launch class blog, continue Defying Normality

Defying Normality

Defying Normality

The TALONS have spent the last year with students – and teachers – adopting the use of individual student blogs, publishing writing and other media for projects and self-initiated posts to the public web in growing leaps and bounds. What at first was not without its tough-sell moments – encouraging young learners over the barrier of putting their school work “out there” for all to see – quickly built momentum with few looking back.

This blog though….It’s going to be a journal in a very different way. It’s public, and not necessarily about me, but perhaps more about how I view things. I am curious to see how my blog turns out. I believe it will be a place to discover, but also create. So here goes…. Katie’s Walking on Sunshine

First week Icebreakers

The class used their blogs to:

At the conclusion of their grade ten year in the program, a group of English enthusiasts even set up their own extra-curricular blog within WordPress and have published some twenty posts since school let out in June. Initially established for eight friends to stay in touch and preserve their summer memories, Frozen Tic Tacs has lived on into the new academic year.

This blog ended up even being discussed when the 8 friends were talking about their upcoming summer adventures sometime in March. That lead to a dream to do something like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Unfortunately, there were no jeans that could fit us all, and T-shirts were out of the question of the no washing rule. Plus, the mailing would be a difficult part too, so we came up with the idea of a blog. From that, it just stretched on until it became what it is today. Why the Frozen Tic Tacs

Howe Sound by Voyager Canoe

Howe Sound by Voyager Canoe

Last year, my blog functioned as the hub for information about class activities, assignments, outings and highlighting exemplary student posts, a process that placed my writing and input much closer to the centre of the class’ learning than I often try to be in my general teaching. Though I relished the opportunity to highlight the class’ work, and present class assignments as model blog posts in terms of using hyperlinks, images and embedded media, I knew that a collective class blog would do a much better job at creating a learner-centred publishing process.

Not only would students be able to vet, edit and publish their opinions of the best of the class’ work on a variety of subjects, but my own blog would be left to take more the role of a mentor or model’s than that of a traditional teacher dispensing gold stars and patted heads.

The trial first year in the Great Blogging Experiment left me with an appreciation for two key elements in the blogging process:

  • the cultivation of an authentic, global audience
  • the drive to create ultimately student-owned learning.

And so a few weeks ago I approached this year’s grade ten TALONS to see if they would be interested in starting, from the ground up, a central class blog. The response was brisk and enthusiastic, and in the past two weeks, the grade tens have taken polls to name and design the blog, chosen WordPress as platform and even learned a few bits and pieces of CSS coding, sought out other blogging classes to establish a blogroll and community of like-minds, invited local blogging mavens into our midst, and published an introductory post and About Page.

This blog is a way for us to let you all know what we are up to, and it is a great way to connect with other student bloggers. We each individually have our own blogs, but this is more a way for us to collectively share our ideas with the world. You will see posts about anything under the sun, be it a bus ride or a novel reflection. Just like no two T.A.L.O.N.S. students are the same, no two styles of writing, or posts will be the same, so check back frequently to see what is new in the T.A.L.O.N.S. world.

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