Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Teachers Institute Round Up
Before getting back to library, literacy, and tech topics, I'd like to summarize the last week in Ottawa at the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy: who I met, what I saw, what I did...
I met 70 educators from across the country who were passionate and enthusiastic about teaching and learning. We were organized into groups by province so I had a teacher in my group from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, our facilitators were from Prince Edward Island and the Yukon - great for discussions about what's happening regionally.
With fellow participants, we toured Center Block and East Block and had meetings in West Block . We toured the Library of Parliament - an amazing building - it has been called "the most beautiful room in Canada - I agree! Rich in architecture and history - it was the only part of the building that survived the fire in 1916 - there were iron doors on the entrance to the library.
We had a tour of Rideau Hall, the residence of our Governor General Michaelle Jean. What a beautiful building, inside and out! We went on a tour of the Supreme Court of Canada, sat in a courtroom, met a supreme court judge, and watched a mock trial.
I sat at an MP's desk in the House of Commons and at a Senator's desk in the Senate while the Speaker of the House, the Honorable Peter Milliken, and the Speaker of the Senate, the Honorable Noel Kinsella, addressed us. We also observed a question period.
I witnessed a mock committee in action - excellent to understanding parliamentary procedure.
I listened to non-partisan panel discussions by MPs about Minority Governments and Senators about Senate Reform. There was also a Media panel of Parliament Hill Journalists, Julie Van Dusen CBC, Bob Fife CTV, and Kady O'Mally Macleans. Kady writes a live blog of happenings on Parliament Hill Inside the Queensway. The last panel was a bear-pit question/answer session with Parliamentary clerks. The panels were the most informative and incredibly interesting way to learn about parliamentary procedure.
Each day we had lunch with a different government related group: lobbyists, bureaucrats, and parliament staff. It was very interesting hearing about their respective jobs on the hill.
We had dinner at the Chateau Laurier with our provincial MP's. I met our MP Andrew Saxton, very hospitable.
I was honoured to give a little thank you speech to Dr. William Young, the Library of Parliament librarian in our two official languages, at a breakfast in the MP's restaurant.
John Ralston Saul was on a panel on the last day. He spoke about his new book and talked about his views on education. He said when he visits a school, his first stop is the school library. He asks whether there is a full-time teacher librarian, whether he or she is bilingual, what the budget is, and how it is spent. Saul says he can trace the literacy skills in an area to the elements of a library program in place in the school. I was cheering inside!!!
It was a jam-packed, inspiring week! This was the most well-organized and enriching professional development opportunity I have had the privilege of being involved and have participated in in 20 years - I encourage you to apply!
By the way, on my last day in Ottawa, they were preparing for President Obama's first visit, hence the picture with all the flags.