Journal Reflections:

Outline::

Journal Reflection -Studying Curriculum Classes 1 - 4

This set of journal reflections is in the form of "read and response" between myself another northern teacher (and Dr. Dawne Clark for the first entry). In each case, I sent my entry to my friend and they responded with their comments directly within the original entry text. We decided that we could respond more directly on the ideas by doing it this way as opposed to writing an extensive response at the end of the original entry.

My friend and I have known one another for the last seven years. Although my friend is currently on sabbatical, this person has had much experience working in the Kitikmeot Board of Education where I am now employed. Until the new territory was formed, there were six schools in the region. My friend has worked in many places in the north; I have worked in Taloyoak. Together, we have quite a lot of experience working in Inuit communities. My friend and I have worked together on a curriculum writing team which explored the issues of the Language Arts curriculum for K - 12.

It is a nice coincidence that we were able to work together in this course.

For the purpose of this portfolio, I have deleted my friend's writing and have only

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Journal Reflection Entry for January 25,2000 - Class 1 - chapter 1 discussion

after January 22:

Hi Dr. Clark,

I'm thinking that Gardner's theories can relate to many Inuit students because traditionally Inuit learned by observation (spatial) and hands - on (bodily kinestic). It wasn't until just recently that anything was written down because the language was only orally transmitted. In fact it was the missionaries who came up with a scribing code for the phonetics and syllabics. I know that all children differ with respect to learning style and that learning style is not determined by race. I'm just thinking about how isolated Inuit were from the rest of the world until about 50 years ago and how ingrained many of their ways of learning must still be because of the critical skills they had to maintain and pass onto their children just to survive. Learn or die.

One theory I read discussed that one reason there are so many dropouts in the north is because they no longer have to work so hard to survive. All of their basic necessities are taken care of (even it is just very minimal and social assistance) so the drive to survive is not linked to school. To survive years ago, one must learn to hunt and feed your family; nowadays, you still need money to survive but it's not quite the same ever-present force that it once was. To get money, you must have a good job and to have a good job, you must be educated.

Would it be safe to say that the curriculum focus for Inuit in the past was the 'experienced' curriculum with the content coming from society? I'm trying to come around to this link with Freire and Inuit because in a way the impetus is the same. Unfortunately for Freire, I don't think that Inuit have the quite the same need for liberation and empowerment that the peasants did in militant Brazil or Chile. I found a web site that discussed how Freire is seen in the U.S. and how his value may be found once the political argument is dropped from his pedagogy.

Deborah

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Dr. Clark: Now this is a start to a wonderful journal entry! I hadn't heard the theory of learn or die as an explanation for the dropout rate among Inuit although it is certainly one that is posed for aboriginal people down here. It makes sense. When the motivation for survival is removed, what keeps someone working hard and striving? I've read that the same type of thing occurred for the working class and farmers when industrialization became a major force. When all there was for the workers was labour at monotonous jobs which paid them enough to actually provide excess money, the people needed something to fill the rest of their days with purpose. I think our society still struggles with what to do with leisure time and so we seem to end up putting more hours in at work as that is where our satisfaction tends to come from. Scary thought! Could be some marvelous connections here to help us understand Freire in a different way. I'm looking

forward to this.

I also like the connection of Inuit experiential learning to Gardner's theory. Application of theory in these ways allows it to be that much more meaningful for the rest of us.

Thanks! Dr. Clark

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Journal Reflection - January 25, 2000 -- Class 1

On defining the word ‘curriculum’: What at first seems a simple task just goes berserk in a matter of minutes! I found it quiet interesting to read all of the definitions in the text but I found it extremely interesting (and a bit frustrating at times) to hear everyone trying to develop their own opinions on this matter. There is definitely not enough airtime for all of us so it is nice to have this journal writing activity in which to vocalise my feelings.

I agree that all definitions make sense. I also agree with the idea that the definition of curriculum is determinate on context. However, this thinking can get very confusing. In the text, they discuss various definitions: curriculum is permanent subjects; curriculum is subjects that are useful for society; curriculum is all planned learning; curriculum is all experiences under the school; or, curriculum is all experiences in the course of living. These meanings represent a spectrum of viewpoints and I think that it is very hard to pin down an exact definition for this term.

However, I am fairly comfortable with the definition that the authors of the text come up with on page 11. I am not troubled by the phrase "under the guidance of the school" because I like the idea that students have a large supportive web of people who are concerned with their education.

 

I like the term ‘interrelated’ because I am big believer in making connections with students to other subjects and the wider world when learning. I am a bit confused with the phrase "set of plans" because much of the real learning that takes place may not actually be ‘planned’; the author goes on to discuss this unplanned part of experiences but I was disappointed that no one else mentioned this in the class discussion. The text also talks about the "hidden curriculum" and we did not discuss this fully either.

My husband went on an environmental course this summer in the Yukon and in his class the ‘hidden curriculum’ (Eisner) led to great discussion. It was something that I had never really verbalised before he brought it up. The text never talked about the ‘null’ curriculum (what you’re not teaching can send a stronger message than what you are teaching). What we’ve been talking about is just the explicit curriculum. It is enlightening to think about what is really underlying our teaching: explicit, hidden or null. A thought by Eisner.

 

Maybe a curriculum should be made up of things we shouldn’t teach to children instead of what we should. But then again, what shouldn’t we teach? If there is nothing we shouldn’t teach then why do we need a curriculum to tell us what to teach?

 

Perhaps a curriculum is more useful for sequencing learning activities so that by the end of the time in school students are ready to learn without a teacher. We didn’t mention this in our group but one of the characteristics that I would like to bestow on all individuals is the desire to learn or to be lifelong learners.

 

: My definition of curriculum is that it is the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a student is to experience. How a teacher gets to these objectives is determinate upon the student learning styles and the teacher skills and resources. A curriculum guide is a guide and if those suggestions to teaching the curriculum are right for the student, then great . . . if not, then it is time to modify.

Accountability is a really sticky issue. We have such turnover of staff and staff from all over the country coming to teach here that there is often conflict in the expectations of the job. I like to think that all teachers want to do their best and that no one wants to be bad at their job. However, this not always the case. Where exactly does the responsibility of educating the student lie? Because of the difficulty with accountability, I am glad that the text definition of curriculum includes the phrase ‘under the guidance of the school’. It makes everyone responsible for student learning so that not just one teacher holds the bag.

 

: On subject matter versus process I teach English from grades 5 - 12 , I have been classroom teacher in grades 4- 6, and I was originally trained as a primary teacher. Process is important for many subject areas and process is somewhat easier to justify in topics like English and Social studies or in the lower grade. However, my husband is teaching Applied Math 10 and from what I see of his project-based course, process is again very important (ex. create an air bag for a mini van second seat.). What I am troubled with is why there is such a dichotomy between process and subject matter. Is there a way to adjust smoothly to this transfer from one to the other?

 

On ownership of curriculum: I’ve read ahead through chapter 3 in the text. From that perspective I would like to say that I believe that the focus for our current educational curriculum is based on the nature of society rather than the nature of the individual or the nature of the subject matter - p.48. Currently, curriculum developers seem very interested in reflecting the needs of our society. Big businesses are getting involved in curriculum design and telling teachers what needs to be taught to result in students who are qualified to work at their companies. Environmental groups are offering to get involved in writing educational packages in order to reduce harmful effects of the population on the earth. Health personnel create more packages for serious modern health threats to society like AIDS, drugs, alcohol, suicide prevention and the like. All of these things are not necessarily bad. It is just the swing of curriculum development in this era to focus on society so that what children learn has ‘usefulness’ (p. 49). At this point, school seems to be a real reflection of today’s society.

 

 

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Journal Reflection - February 1, 2000 Class 2

Approaches to Curriculum

It is really interesting to see the various approaches that individuals have had on curriculum development. I was particularly interested in the discussion about Tyler’s linear approach and the fact that most teachers were originally taught lesson planning and curriculum development in this way.

I, too, remember being taught lesson planning in the same linear fashion: objectives first, activities, evaluation of objectives. It is very clear cut and straight forward. However it really limits the amount of creativity that can occur in the classroom. I was the one who mentioned that perhaps universities and teachers’ colleges teach this type of planning because it becomes very easy for them to evaluate the pre-service teachers. They can easily see whether objectives and appropriate activities are being planned. Just like multiple choice examinations for high school students, lesson planning in the Tyler format is very simple to assess. It is very clear for the onlooker to evaluate knowledge.

I had another thought which links to the situation in many northern schools. Our school has consistently had a high turnover of teachers. Year after year, we have to hire new employees to fill teaching positions. For some reason, most of the applicants are first year teachers just out of university. In any case, most or perhaps all of the southern hires undergo a culture shock when left to live in such an isolated environment with a community of people from a different culture. Our discussions reveal that the Tyler linear format lesson is one that is turned to when teachers are unfamiliar with the material, inexperienced or under stress. For this reason, I hypothesise that most of the lessons delivered in northern schools fall into this curriculum approach. I wonder how this overload of Tyler affects the educational experience of the student? If constantly, year after year, students are taught using this linear framework, does their ability to perform creatively and flexibility decrease.

I have been teaching here for over seven years and although this does not sound like an extensive amount of time, I am considered an old-timer when it comes to teaching seniority. Until I read Eisner, I always felt quite guilty for my treatment of objectives in my lesson plan. I find it much easier to work back from the activities or curriculum goals to objectives of the lesson. I like working in large units or projects over a longer period of time where student objectives can be achieved through a variety of activities. I suppose this is more like Eisner suggests as it is more creative and less linear in fashion

I believe that Eisner would advocate Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences because it allows for a variety of ways and activities to achieve and evaluate student learning. Even though, I enjoy using Multiple Intelligences and have ‘bought’ into the theory, I still face barriers when students do not seem to rise to the challenges in creativity that Gardner encourages. Perhaps, after years of Tyler from first year teachers or new teachers facing ‘stresses’, students have not found that they can be creative in their learning. I wonder if anyone has ever studied the affects of the various curriculum approaches on the students. Theory is great, but it’s reality and the student that really counts.

 

My final project is going to deal with the problem of Inuit youth dropout. Despite the creation of community high schools in the north (until recently, students were sent away to boarding schools in larger centres to take their Gr 10 - 12 courses), we still have many students choosing to dropout of school. Unfortunately, dropouts aren’t the only problem; we have a very high truancy rate and a shocking number of students who do not show up for school in the primary and junior classes. Non-attenders and poor attenders create many problems when delivering curriculum.

 

The question arises: Is there a link between the number of new or first time teachers who typically use Tyler curriculum approaches, and the number of students who graduate from high school . I do not want to suggest that the dropout problem is all due to a bad school system or bad teachers. What I am trying to say is that if there are ways that the school can do a more effective job, perhaps discussing curriculum approaches is an area of consideration. I can see that Tyler is a good base so that later one can get out and take more risks but I’m concerned with the fact that many teachers leave the north just at the time when their skills and experiences are beginning to take shape.

Our small group discussion was really questioning standardisation testing. We realize that standardisation testing is necessary to ensure quality but we really hate the fact that standardisation tests have become the curriculum. I suggested to the group that perhaps the problem is that we have allowed the schools to compartmentalise student learning (grade by grade) when learning is something that does not happen in neat little increments but rather on a continuum basis. Physically , students grow at different rates and they do the same in their cognitive learning. We don’t group students according to their heights, so why should we class them according to their age. I suggest that instead of having so many "gateways" or standardisations, we have only one at the very end of the educational system (Gr. 12). That way students could work on a continuum basis until they, their teachers, the parents and the principal felt the student was ready to try the exiting exam.

 

Members of the group thought of some valid reasons this continuum idea would not work in large school; scheduling, for one, was raised as a concern. It is too bad that schools are so bound with scheduling difficulties. Fragmentation of curriculum is a concern in all grades and there are some schools in the U.S. that have somehow managed to integrate all their curriculums around student projects based on Multiple Intelligences. I think this is great and is something that could be done if more people were willing to take some creative risks with the approach they take in curriculum planning.

 

Accountability is another issue entirely. I don’t know exactly how my continuum or suggestions for curriculum delivery relates to accountability. One would like to think that all teachers want to do a good job and will go the extra mile to make their work excellent. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many teachers who do a mediocre job thinking that a northern school is not a real school.

I agree with Dr. Dawne Clark’s comment that we have failed as a profession to provide alternate ways to prove accountability to parents, students and society as a whole. It is an area of need; we have to have an element of trust involved in the argument.

Overall, I’m learning quite a lot and enjoyed my study of Freire. I’m glad everyone seemed to find it enlightening; one student even emailed me for my speaking notes?!? Wow. I think that Freire would advocate the kind of discussion that came out of the presentation. From what I read, he endorsed debate and problem solving. Lots to say this week and lack of space.

 

 

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Journal Reflection - February 13, 2000 - Class 3

Quite a busy presentation day! It is nice chance to hear more about the big names we find in all the education books. Our conversation about Bobbitt interesting when we compared approaches to curriculum delivery in the past and currently. I think that is quite unfortunate that the assembly method is still so prevalent in today’s schools. This factory approach may have been appropriate for the time period of the industrial revolution where education reflected industry but I think that times have changed and it is time to reconsider the structure of our school system.

I feel that it is wrong to think that all kids should be made to fit into the same hole. With such a system, dropout is inevitable because those who don’t fit, lose out. The factory system doesn’t allow for variations of growth in difference skill areas between studies; all students are treated the same, taught the same and tested with the same evaluation tools. Very little flexibility is found in the system.

Again, I think this comes back to the continuum idea from last week. Of course, I my needs much work with logistics and Jacqueline suggests benchmarks, but I think the general idea of abandoning pigeon holes is valid.

Kilpatrick’s project method reminded me of the project-based curriculum that has just recently been put in place for Applied Math 10. I really like using long term projects in my English classes and JH especially. I like the project being incorporated into a unit (a developmental activity) because students are able to see how their learning takes shape over time. I also think the second model of the project method is good too if students are encouraged to creatively use their skills and knowledge in an end project. The element of creativity opens the door to many different kinds of learning experiences. In my experience project methods work well up here when attendance is a problem because students can simple begin where they left off. The good students who attend regularly are able to work along and not be held back by those who are not. The notion of "practical projects" is also good.

 

D: Unfortunately, the last presentation on Madeline Grumet left me wondering exactly what was the premise of her theory. I’m not sure I understand how she fits into curriculum approaches. I looked up some stuff on the Internet to help me clarify her position. I found that Grumet was actually trying to explore the questions: When and why did teaching become a feminised "semi-profession;" and what has been the impact on the roles of teachers as a result of this feminisation? Apparently, in Bitter Milk, Grumet looks at pervasive impact of patriarchy on the social construction of teaching. I didn’t quite get this from the discussions that followed.

I may be the only one, but I felt a little uncomfortable with the open-air discussion which followed the presentation. I may have been imagining, but to me, the question seemed to take the slant: Are women with children more effective teachers than those without (women or men)? I have real problems with this type of discussion. I am childless by choice and I don’t think I am any better or worse a teacher than someone with children. Maybe this wasn’t the conversation (it was pretty late. . .) After reading the web sites on Bitter Milk, I’m still confused but I don’t really think that the question I heard discussed was the question that Grumet intended to take on in her book.

In the discussion, Jacqueline mentioned how differently she was treated by her Inuit community after she gave birth and became a mother. Yes, I agree that women are seen differently once they have children. I think it is a natural thing. For Inuit childbirth is very common and it is odd to see a woman my age without four or five children to their name. Insofar as how being a mother affects a woman’s teaching career, I would expect that it would. Does it make you better? This I doubt. It may refine your maternal skills and make you more of a humanist but so does having a nurturing relationship with anyone, from children, husbands and pets.

I have three dogs and I have noticed just how much more patient and observant I have become with people since dealing in puppyhood. I have read that people who have dogs are far better at judging nonverbal behaviour and body language than those who are pet-free. You have to observe carefully to know how your dog is feeling and these observation skills are transferable to people. Maybe my maternal skills are refining and I didn’t have change my entire lifestyle, get pregnant, and loose sleep to do it.

Again, I’m not putting down those who decided to have children - that is their choice and power to them. I’m just asking that we be more accepting of those who decide not to have children. Instead of dealing with the effectiveness of teachers and their relation to motherhood, I would have enjoyed a discussion that dealt more with Grumet’s question on feminisation.

 

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Journal Reflection - February 20, 2000 - Class 4

This journal entry is more of a review of the theorists we have studied so far. Through this journal entry I will try to reflect back on how the various theories have influenced my teaching practice. Also, I have recently returned from a fantastic conference which focused on the Future of Learning. I would like to integrate how the various theories and strategies to teaching and learning have influenced my work.

Firstly, Walker’s deliberative approach is really just an observation of human behaviour when people work together in creating something new. His approach describes the three phases which developers go through when developing curriculum. Although I find his observations to be true and realistic, I can’t see how his work really changes my thoughts on curriculum development. I think that I have seen these phases in action when working in any team. Walker’s ideas can be made more evident in the class if we encourage students to work through the process in cooperative groups; students can experience this phases and they can be encouraged self -reflection on their emotions, thoughts and actions. When teachers open the table to all stakeholders and allow them to get involved in the deliberative approach, all have a voice in what is happening in out program. The deliberative approach seems almost too obvious a process but I suppose by communicating the steps, all members involved in the decision-making can visual the process.

Next, I presented Paulo Freire. Since I first decided to research him, we’ve become quite close - -- or at least I feel I know him so much more. I respect his passion for people and his ability to use literacy as a tool to gain humanization. Although his work was very politically charged, I think that much of his theory and many of his ideas can be transferred into less political situations.

For one, I agree strongly that language learning involves the use of generative themes which come from real life and relevant experiences; it is important for me to use as much material that is northern based or relevant to the Inuit experience so that students can find an entry point into learning. In a way, generative themes and codification are similar to whole language teaching; the words, stories and songs etc, that are studied come from a theme which is not fragmented. Also, Freire emphasises the use of praxis or the practice of reflection; I try to encourage students to make personal connections to the material studied and reflect on their feelings and thoughts. His ability to use teachable moments is also mentionable and a good lesson for flexibility in planning. Although Freire wants his students to take political action, I hope that my students will take more of an action to learn about the topic.

Thirdly, I like Freire’s dialogical method. I think that teachers should be learning about the topic with the same interest and vigour as what is expected by their students. I like the emphasis on using dialogue and student voice in learning. I worry a bit about the strict dichotomy between oppressors and the oppressed, but I am willing to try many of the ideas in Freire’s Liberatory Education.

Kilpatrick’s child centred approach recommends that ‘hearty purposeful acts’ replace the emphasis on subject areas. His approach seems to be most evident in today’s science fair program where students choose their own topics of interest and are motivated to learn. I also do this type of project in the first weeks of school using the seven Multiple Intelligences areas from Howard Gardner. Each student chooses a topic of interest and prepares a poster and presentation in order to teach the class. An understanding of Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles requires teachers to pay careful attention to the developmental group of each individual.

At the conference, Howard Gardner spoke about the need for teachers to have a deep understanding of how students learn so that they have a deep understanding of the scholarly disciplines. Because each brain has a different blend of multiple intelligences, we cannot teach uniform education and think it is fair. Gardner advocated individualized education to craft education to the needs of the child. Multiple Intelligences can be used to help develop youth into what kind of adults we want. Multiple intelligences can be an ally to yielding disciplinary actions. Gardner stresses the importance of spending quality time on the BIG ISSUES and BIG IDEAS. By using the Multiple Intelligences theory, teachers can reach more children by giving multiple entry points; it can show students what it is like to be an expert. In this way, Kilpatrick is similar to Gardner because when students are able to explore topics of choice in a broad and deep way, they are motivated to spend time on the big issues and ideas that arise.

Bobbitt really took a beating at the conference. The whole focus of the conference was to explore what a new model of education should look like for the future. The activity analysis or factory model is no longer appropriate for the information age. His theory used society, the industrial era, as the focal point and now we need to change our thinking to reflect the new changes in society, the information age.

Barrie Bennett spoke about the need for teachers to be instructionally intelligence, meaning that they need to use the ‘big lenses’ (multiple intelligences, learning styles, gender issues, at-risk issues etc.) to understand the learner. Once the teacher understands the learner well, they must choose their instructional strategies very carefully and really KNOW why they are using a particular approach in the class. Unfortunately, Bobbitt’s "one shoe fits all" factory - model, does not allow for this type of approach and thus is obsolete. Bobbitt also connects to the concept that Freire disliked: ‘banking education’. Bobbitt’s theory treats individual like objects and pours information into them; Freire would be against such a model of education due to the fact that things are done to the students as opposed to done with them.

Bobbitt did develop the nine skills of the ideal citizen (health, citizenship, social skills, language etc) and we need to really consider the type of human we want our society to accept. Grant Wiggins stressed this in the conference as well. He believes that we need to think carefully at the goals of education and plan our instruction for these goals. His presentation was called "Understanding by Design" and he argues that teachers must promote understanding more by design than by good fortune. The first step in this process is to identify the desire results then determine acceptable evidence and finally plan learning experience and instruction. He believes that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Although his theory is very sound and is well supported by others, I do tend to worry that in planning so completely, a teacher may miss out on some of the more teachable moments in class. He does state that understanding by design is not a prescriptive program or an instructional model; instead, he simply advocates that teachers focus on our role as designer of units. In doing so, design will avoid ‘aimless activity’ and ‘superficial coverage’.

Bruner’s beliefs are based primarily on how the mind processes information. Unlike Gardner, I understand that Bruner believed that everyone thinks in the same way. He believed that once the structures were taught, students could build related ideas of facts onto them through discovery. He also advocated the spiral curriculum which we continue to use today in most programs. I like this spiral idea because it allows for students to connect to previous knowledge in the initial phases and then leads them onto future learning. He believed that learning was and active process and that students need to enjoy learning. I like this part of his theory because I enjoy having students relate to what they are learning and discover new ideas.

Given this basic understanding of Bruner, I don’t really know how he could come up with the teacher-proof prepackaged curricula found after Sputnik. I know that there was immense pressure to improve school achievement at that time, but these packages seem so limiting for both the student and the teacher. I hate teaching from a package because it really limits my creativity. I have sometimes wondered if different teacher’s colleges promoted difference strategies.

In the past, we have had some teachers from Newfoundland who continuously ask for textbooks for all courses; they are looking for what I consider to be a prepackaged textbook with exactly what has to be taught and how it is to be delivered. I wonder about the different approaches that universities have in training teachers; there must be quite a few differences with respect to philosophy amongst universities in Canada.

In an earlier journal, I wrote extensively on Grumet, so I will not spend time here discussing her other than to say that we must be very aware of how we deal with the gender differences in our classes. One other comment that came out of the conference was by Barrie Bennett. He cited a study that looked at the how teachers have tried to increase success by females in the areas of math and science over the last few years. Although we have succeed in improving abilities of females in these areas, the level of ability has decreased for males. Now males are not only doing poorly in language but they have decreased their levels in math and science. Failure decreases self-esteem and increases the likelihood of dropout. Barrie Bennett says something to the effect that: "There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of testosterone loose on the street not feeling good about itself." Maybe we need to consider a better balance of genders or not consider gender at all but rather individuals alone.

Hilda Taba has been influential in the organization of a lot of texts and curriculum. She believes that all children are capable of thought if they are taught how to think, how to use data and how to make connections within it. She feels that the curriculum has to be well planned but should not be limiting. A skilled teacher would use a large variety of strategies, have an understanding of learning styles, and understand course objectives extensively. This connects well with what Gardner and Bennett discussed in the conference last week. Also, Wiggins spoke clearly about the necessity to have a curriculum that is designed based on clear objectives.

I like the fact that Taba thought of her work as a process of continuous experimentation with hypotheses of teaching and learning. Teaching is such complex and complicated job and it is always changing; I like that I can try new things and experiment with new learning experiences and teaching strategies. It is never boring and I am always learning. I did not participate in the presentation on Taba but I am interested in learning more.

Max Van Manen and the theory of Hernemeutic Phenomenolgy is very interesting and slightly off topic of theorists as far as I can see. It is certainly alternative! I can see how it is important to value the experiences of others and consider how their experiences can affect their learning. Especially when working in a different culture, I have to open minded to the different ideas and value their experiences. Hopefully we can learn from each other if we accept each other’s ideas.