Take your Child To Work Day

November 1st is designated as TAKE YOUR CHILD TO WORK day and I had my Grade 9, 14 year old son Kieran “come” to work with me.  Since I work from home this consisted of the long commute from bed to the home office!

He was able to have the full experience as an Online Literacy Educator, in that he created “curriculum”, experienced all 3 course platforms and even had the opportunity to “teach” by presenting his “curriculum” to our staff members.  Also, just like mom on some days, he was able to do all this without getting out of his pyjamas!

This experience was an eye opener for me in that Kieran asked me some questions about certain things that I take for granted everyone knows.  One of these questions was “What do you mean by “fly-in”?  I explained how Good Learning Anywhere tries to service remote, Northern, Indigenous communities who have numerous obstacles in front of them before even entering a SABA live course. Things like lack of access to internet and transportation during bad weather, among others.

A discussion ensued to get my son thinking about how different a community such as Sandy Lake, might be from our hometown of Port Dover.  We started the discussion by looking at Google satellite map images of the two places as shown below:

Sandy Lake Satellite photo

I asked him to try and pick out some differences and he stated that our community was more densely populated and that there were numerous roads leading in and out of it, whereas we could only see one road (?) leading out of Sandy Lake.  When we further zoomed out, I wanted to try to make it clear to Kieran how isolated some of our client communities are and the lack of employment opportunities and/or infrastructure that is available.

Port Dover Satellite photo

He was blown away by the fact that someone like himself would have to move hundreds of kilometers away if they wanted to attend high school and that they might have to billet with people they weren’t familiar with. I also wanted to impress upon him how a fly in community member would likely undergo culture shock in moving from a small community to a larger center where new experiences might be daunting (simple tasks that many in Ontario may take for granted such as deciphering a bus schedule to get where you need to go!)

Another aspect of today that I came to realize was how much information and skills I have gained throughout my time with Good Learning Anywhere.  From OALCF competencies, tasks and milestones, to the number of steps taken just for a learner to enrol and access our courses, I tried to offer my son a well-rounded experience and the knowledge needed to conduct my day to day job.  I particularly enjoyed having him “answer” milestone task questions that would be assessing each level.  For this activity, I gave him my recent registration page information for an upcoming professional development symposium I will be attending.  Using the OALCF Curriculum Framework chart, I had him verbally answer the question “Where is the symposium taking place?”

Kieran was asked to answer the question using the parameters for each level indicator for Competency B2.  Here are what his verbal answers looked like:

B2.1 – Write brief texts to convey simple ideas and factual information

Ohsweken, Ontario

B2.2 – Write texts to explain and describe information and ideas

It’s taking place at 2160 Fourth Line, Ohsweken, Ontario N0A 1MO

B2.3 – Write longer texts to present information, ideas and opinions.

The symposium is taking place at 2160 Fourth Line, Ohsweken, Ontario and is being hosted by Six Nations Polytechnic.

Though his answers may not have actually followed the parameters, I think this activity gave Kieran a good understanding of how each Milestone task assessment increases in difficulty.  It was also a good exercise to review how the level indicators should work.

I asked Kieran to reflect on his day by having him answer some questions.  The questions and answers are below.

What 3 things did you enjoy today?

I liked the experience of sitting in on Linda’s class and learning about Google docs.

I liked presenting in the live class.

What 3 things surprised you about Mom’s work?

The number of steps that are taken from a learner registering to getting them enrolled in a PLATO course.

Was there anything else?

I found it odd that the classes are free and you get funding, to get paid to teach others who can’t do a lot on a computer.

All in all, the day was a success and I think that Kieran has a better understanding of what I do and perhaps understands a bit more about the experiences of a new learner taking on new tasks as well as presenting in a live class setting as the “leader”.  He was very nervous, but with some coaching from mom he did a great job!

Mkwa N’dodem – Bear is My Clan

“Reflections – Mother Earth”   
by Mark Anthony Jacobson

It has been far too long since I wrote last.  My last writing explained a bit about clan membership.  Today I will share a more intimate explanation on how our family can now claim the Bear Clan as our own.

As I wrote previously, my mother passed away in the fall of 2015.  Family members and friends from near and far came to bid her farewell even though it was the Thanksgiving weekend.

My mother attended residential school in Spanish, Ontario, so although she did not practice many cultural traditions, we still incorporated some into her funeral ceremonies.  For instance, at the funeral home we smudged using sage, we had the four medicines on hand, drummed and sang and had a large bowl of tobacco for people to pray with as well as to place within mom’s casket to help her on her journey.  Her casket was smudged, while my friend sang and drummed upon entering the church.  And the drumming continued after the service as we left the church and sang and drummed at her graveside.

Mom’s nephew Jack did the smudging for us and he stayed with me and my family.  After the evening visitation at the funeral home, a few immediate family members came to visit.  This is when Jack shared the teaching of the 4 day journey that all spirits travel upon leaving our earthly body.  At the end of his teaching there was a bit of a quiet pause as we all contemplated the teaching.  Jack ended the pause by stating aloud “Papa was Bear Clan so that is what your mother was too.”  (Papa being our grandfather.)

It was these words which made me start to weep.  You see, all of a sudden everything fell into place; things that were said by my mom the night before she passed; a song that was sung by my sister that same night and even mom’s vocation as a nurse.  It all now made sense.

How you may ask?  Well, within Anishnaabe culture, Bear Clan are the protectors and medicine people.  Thus, my mother’s career as a nurse which embodies protection, caring and medicine truly fits as a Bear Clan position within a community.

Secondly, the night before my mother passed away my sister and I were in her room.  We had been speaking about getting mom more pain relief.  Mom (who hadn’t been very communicative in the last few days and when she had it had been difficult to make sense of what she had been saying) very clearly stated a number of times the word bear (or bare or Bayer).  Not understanding why she was saying this, my sister asked “Do you want some Bayer Aspirin? Are you in pain?”  The use of Bayer aspirin was one we had grown up with in our household before Tylenol or Advil had been common place.

“No, no! The Bear, I have to climb over it” was my mother’s reply.  My sister and I just looked at one another over mom’s bed and I stated “I wish I knew a bear song.”  It was at that point that my sister’s eyes grew wide and she began to chant over and over “Mkwa ndodem” to a tune that I was unfamiliar with.  For those that may know Anishnaabemowin, mkwa ndodem translates to Bear Clan.  Mom’s clan family was there giving her spirit the help she needed on the 4 day journey to the Western Door.

BEar Paw beading

So, in her passing, my mother gave all of her children and grandchildren one of the ultimate gifts . . . that of being able to claim the Bear Clan as our own.  For ones who did not have the privilege of growing up with our Anishnaabe traditions and cultural practices, it is one piece that offers understanding of our place in society and the world.

Gchi-Miigwech nimamaa. Gdi-zaagin.



Loss of Life Doesn’t Always Mean Loss in Life

I have lost many things in my life and the loss of a loved one weighs the most on a person’s soul.

My mother, Tillie ba, entered the Western Door this past Thanksgiving. Her passing was too quick and we barely had time to prepare for the hole that her spirit left in our family.  I was able to say my goodbyes to her, ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness for the times in our relationship that weren’t always smooth.  It has been hard not being able to visit or call to check up on her.

Death is not always welcome but there are times when things fall into place and just start to make sense.  My mother’s passing was one of those times.  Her passing has brought our family the knowledge and the ability to reclaim part of our Anishnaabe culture.  That of our clan.  Now traditionally, Anishnaabe people were patrilineal, meaning that descent was shown through the father.  Thus, an Anishnaabe child would follow and become a part of the father’s clan.

With the advent of colonial contact and couplings of Anishnaabe people with settler people there were teachings handed down that allowed children (that did not have Anishnaabe fathers) the ability to claim membership in a clan.  I don’t recall the full teaching, but I know that the Marten and Eagle clans were those that would “adopt” or accept the offspring of Anishnaabe mothers and non-Anishnaabe fathers.  There are two other options that I am aware of for those who do not know their clan.

  1. Offer tobacco and ask an Elder to seek out your clan.
  2. Claim membership in the mother’s clan.

Option number 2 is how our family can now claim the Bear Clan as our own.


Painting by Carl Ray


Oh my back!

Gardening . . . oh what joy to dig in the warm soil and feel the sandy loam between your fingertips!  WHATEVER!!  I have never been fond of gardening in the planted beds, constant weeding, watering, fertilizing aspect of gardening.   Do I love flowers?  HELL YEAH!  Do I enjoy seeing the blooms and growing plants outside my window?  Of course, it’s great to see the progression of growth through spring, summer and into the fall, but the up keep of large beds have never been my forte, nor have I ever wanted it to be!

morning glory

Give me a container planter any day!  Pour in the dirt, throw in some plants, water regularly (if I remember), maybe fertilize once or twice in the season and Bob’s your uncle!  You generally end up with gorgeous, eye candy that adds colour to your deck or patio!

plant pots

Well I have lived in the same location for the past 4 years and have finally felt I had the gumption and the drive to sort out this perennial garden at the back.  This was taken last year:

garden 2014

Very overgrown with grass, weeds and thistles as well as some very beautiful perennials hidden in there!  The jungle spans about 60 feet across and about 1o feet wide!  That’s 600 square feet of planting that I have to sort out.  No wonder it has taken me almost 4 years to find the drive to do it!

I have gotten a start and have a plan in my head as to what I am doing.  Basically, I am downsizing!  I have selected the middle are of the garden and sorted out a semi circle which I feel I will be able to manage.  The rest will be rototilled and seeded with grass -more work for my husband!

Step 1 – selection and turning of soil of area to be kept

garden 1

Step 2 – selection and replanting of plants to keep

garden 3







Step 3 – laying of newspaper & fabric landscape cover for keeping weeds and grass regrowth at bay

garden 5         garden 4

Now on to Step 4 . . . stay tuned!

Sweet words that help keep me going . . .

I am fortunate to work in the field of Adult Literacy.  I have been involved and working in the education field in various positions over the past 12 – 15 years and I must say that the most rewarding time so far has been during my position as an online educator with Good Learning Anywhere.

I began my position with them after returning from England in 2010.  It’s hard to believe I will approach my 5 year anniversary at the end of the year.

For those who have worked in Adult Literacy you may know what I mean when I say I am fortunate.  As much as we as educators have to follow the whims and whimsy of the various government Ministries and Departments, we still manage to find a way to make Adult learning as easy as possible for our learners as well as making it fun.

The fortunate aspect comes in as well when you get feedback from your learners.  That is the most rewarding.  Positive feedback always gives me a warm glow and offers me the chance to reflect on the topics I have been teaching and validates that what I am doing is making a difference!

Here is some recent feedback after teaching the Exploring Ontario First Nations course:

I really enjoyed the class, and you made it easy for me to participate. I get nervous when I speak on the mic and get all stuttery when I try to speak of things that are important to me and sometimes I may not be able to articulate the right words. but you helped me to explain what I was trying to get out and that helped me to be able to speak up more.

Miigwetch minwaa

Thank you to _______!!  You know who you are!  😉

And if that wasn’t enough to give you the warm fuzzies. . . there is this from a learner:

The Life Long Learning Curve