Archive | Great Minds RSS feed for this section

The Talk…

12 Mar

I just turned 30.  The build up was awful – I had all of these negative thoughts about not living up to my own goals and desires but had a sudden change in thinking when I realized – hey, I’m 30. I am a woman. Stop with the 20 something doubtfulness and be a woman.  Very liberating.

In all of this, I really started thinking about all aspects of my life and one of the many topics that came up was my own identity as a sexual being.  I have been speaking with other females and realized how afraid I was to even have this discussion, not only with them but with myself.  As an educator, this got me thinking about myself a teenager and how little focus I give to sexual health in my own classroom.  When I really allowed myself to consider who I am as a sexual being, I realized that I had some very negative ideas of what sex was and how it related to me as a woman.  My personal beliefs concerning my self-image, how deserving I am as a person and what my personal needs were entangled into my own sexuality.  It was then I realized that something needs to change about the way we address and educate young girls on sexuality.  While it’s all good and well that we are teaching about safe sex practices – what we should first be teaching, no enforcing, is that females deserve to feel good about themselves and they deserve to have their needs and wants respected and listened to.  This conversation, or training, or indoctrination, should then be followed up with very frank and open conversations about sexual health and practices.  What good is teaching girls the purpose of using condoms if they don’t first value themselves enough to enforce using the protection in a vulnerable moment?  The preventative information is important.  We should be teaching all young people about how to stay safe and healthy.  There is so much more though that we don’t talk about that is just as important when it comes to sex and an openness and honesty that we should be fostering concerning our own sexual needs and health.  Just as an example – Masterbation.  It seems a common conversation for teenaged boys to have, even if just in jest, but never did I ever discuss masterbation with friends as a teenager or in my twenties.  Why? For me, it felt inappropriate, it was just not something that you should not talk about ever with anyone.  It’s this kind of closed mindedness that leads to females devaluing their own needs and wants.  As educators, youth workers, social workers, parents and mentors we need to encouraging open and honest conversations (without shame) about everything – including sex.  I am guilty of not including the topic enough over the years in my classroom.  I am not a gym teacher, so naturally I didn’t have a sex health unit in my history or drama classes, but there were ways that I could have introduced the topic and let my students know that as an adult I am someone who they can talk to about anything (including sex) without judgement if they needed to.

On that note – I know that this is old news and that many people are already doing great work in this area. So, I am interested to learn about sexual health programs for girls that are addressing these issues openly and without shame.  I’d love to hear from you about what programs you’ve seen that are most effective and focus on personal self-worth as part of the learning.

In the meantime – Meet Laci Green, she inspired this posting.  If you have a young female in your life that looks up to you why not watch these videos together and let them know – guess what you’re awesome and so am I and this sex stuff is part of life so lets talk about it… like we would talk about any other part of life!

Check out her facebook…

and Tumblr…

Here are some other great resources to share that I found on (an awesome website if you’ve never been).

Message to our Daughters


Quotes for the Classroom

26 Feb

There is nothing that I love more than a good quote.  I often use quotes as a way to introduce a lesson or spark a morning check-in.  Enjoy.

Here are a few of my favourites on the topics under the umbrella of literacy!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
Oscar Wilde

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”
Margaret Fuller

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Frederick Douglass

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”

– Edmund Burke

“My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.”
Abigail Adams

“No two persons ever read the same book.”

– Edmund Wilson

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”
Jules Renard

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.”
Joss Whedon

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
George Orwell, 1984

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

“It’s only words… unless they’re true.”
David Mamet

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

Professional Development Opportunities – Find New Perspectives

22 Feb

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

-Albert Einstein

Meet new people, gain new experiences and open your mind to new perspectives by checking out some of these professional development opportunities…

3rd Annual Solutions For Learning Conference: NEURODIVERSITY ROCKS!

When: March 21st, 2014

Where:  International Union of Operating Engineers Banquet Hall and Conference Centre
2245 Speers Road Oakville, Ontario L6L 2X9

What:  A conference for educators working with students who have learning disabilities. (So, this conference is useful for every educator).

More Information…

The Psychology Foundation of Canada’s 40th Anniversary Conference

When: April 2nd, 2014

Where: Hilton Toronto, 145 Richmond St West, Toronto, ON, M5H 2L2

What: Explore issues related to mental health and well-being for children and families.  Every teacher needs to have a strong understanding of mental health issues as it relates directly or indirectly to our students.  An important aspect of the conference will include a morning discussion concerning resiliency and the importance of social and emotional intelligence – the perfect topic for teachers working with at-risk students!

More Information…

2014 Summit on Children & Youth Mental Health

When: April 3rd and 4th 2014

Where: Allstream Centre, 105 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto

What: A conference for educators, health professionals, and children service professionals addressing a whole community approach to serving youth and child struggling with mental health.  Again, an educator cannot have enough information and resources on this topic!

More Information…

Ontario Healthy Schools Coalition
National Healthy Schools Conference

When: April 9th and 10th 2014

Where: Hilton Hotel and Conference Center, London, Ontario

What:  This conference addresses the resources and practices needed for a whole child approach to our students needs.  The speakers and workshops cover a broad range of topics such as mental health, literacy, violence, healthy eating, leadership skills, and physical fitness.

More Information…

Conference Information PDF

Too Soon…

12 Feb

On Monday February 6th, 2012 Katelyn Traverso was killed on the Gardiner going east into Toronto.  She was only 19 years old.  I had the pleasure of meeting her back in November; she was the actress in a music video my husband shot for country singer Marshall Dane.  Her mother attended the shoot, which took place in my house in Caledon.  Not three weeks ago, she again worked as the actress in a second Marshall Dane music video.  After the shoot, the crew went out to dinner together.  I had a chance to chat with Katelyn over sushi, a first for her.  She told me how much she loved kids and hoped to have her own children one day.  The second video was released to the public through and other social media sites on Monday February 6th, 2012.  Shortly after it was released, my husband received the tragic news that Katelyn had passed away.  On Friday we attended her viewing, along with many other friends and family members of the Traverso family.  My thoughts continue to be with Katelyn’s family and the friends who knew her best.  Her death was so sudden and tragic.







On September 10th, 2011 Gavin and Zachery Marengeur, two brothers from Alliston, both passed away after being caught in an undertow while swimming in Georgian Bay.  Gavin was only 18 years old and his brother was only 20 years old.  In May 2011 I was hired for a long-term occasional position to teach drama at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston.  Gavin was one of my students; he had a unique role in my class as a student support. He was completing a drama credit as a classroom room support in one of the grade eleven drama courses I was teaching.  Gavin was one of the nicest and most enthusiastic students I have worked with.  He was a great help to me as a new teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed his spirit and positive energy.  When I learned of Gavin’s tragic passing, I sent the following letter to the drama students who knew him through my drama classes.

Dear Students,
Even though we knew each other for such a short time, I felt I should write to you all with my regards concerning the recent tragic loss of the Marengeur brothers.    You are all such wonderful kids, and it’s not fair that you have experienced such tragic loss at such a young age.  Sometimes life isn’t fair.
Gavin was one of the friendliest students I’ve met.  I enjoyed working with him immensely as I know many of you did as well.   His big smile and sense of humour will be missed, there is no doubt.   My thoughts are with you and his family at this time.
If there is any lesson to be had (none of which can ease the pain, only time will do that), we can reflect on how each and every person, including you, affects the lives of everyone they come into contact with.   You have today, with no other guarantee, and today needs to be lived to its fullest.  Today is the day to make a change for the better, today is the day to chose to be happy and to chose to make the day of those around you a little better.   Life is too short for negativity, doubt, worry, anger or sadness.
Please find comfort in each other and do something small to make each other’s day a little bit better.
It wasn’t easy coming in so late in the year, but we managed and came out stronger in the end.  Please feel to write to me through email, I’d be honoured to be an adult you can turn to now and in the future.  I’m so proud of you all and know that whatever it is you want to achieve, you will.
Kendra Marr





Life does not make much sense.  These young people died too soon.  For a brief moment, I did ask myself what is the point?  Katelyn and Gavin have proven to be a reminder to myself of the importance of gratitude.  There really are no guarantees which means I need to grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life because they make me who I am.  I need to be grateful for the life I live and I should live a life that makes others grateful for what they have as well.  The point is we are all in this together, our lives are tangled and our experiences are shared through the connections we have to one another.  The point is to stop waiting and start living life.

Katelyn and the Marengeur Brothers are missed and their memory will live on through our shared experiences with them.

Happy New Year

1 Jan

Ken Robinson always has something to say that inspires and motivates!

Here’s to a non-conformist year driven by passion and a desire to feed your spirit!

Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

The “Soul” of Education – Humanities Matter

15 Dec

Let me first begin by stating, that I am clearly biased in favour of the humanities as a drama and history teacher.  Now with that out of the way…

I have just begun reading a book by Martha C. Nussbaum titled, “Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities”.  Only six pages into the first chapter and already I am intrigued by the content and theories that have been introduced thus far.  She argues that democracy, and therefore the economy and our humanity cannot survive without a serious reformation of our current mainstream education systems.   Our schools and the those who have the power to enforce policy and curriculum overwhelmingly support and system of education which caters to the here and now of the current economic climate.  Math, Sciences and Technology are all the rage while the humanities and arts are left on the back burner.  Nussbaum makes reference to educators Rabindranath Tagore and Amos Bronson Alcott when she discusses the word ‘soul’ in an educational context;

“…the faculties of thought and imagination that make us human and make our relationships rich human relationships, rather than relationships of mere use and manipulation.  When we meet in society, if we have not learned to see both self and other in a way, imagining in one another inner faculties of thought and emotion, democracy is bound to fail, because democracy is built upon respect and concern, and these in turn are built upon the ability to see people as human beings, not simply as objects.”

~ Martha C Nussbaum, Not For Profit:Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, P. 6.

Over and over again, the media and popular psychology suggest that today’s youth are self-entitled and have labeled them as Generation Me.   When I speak with other educators I continually hear the greatest challenge they face with students is a lack of critical thinking skills that they feel often comes across as laziness.   Whether these claims are completely true or not, it is interesting to consider a possible correlation between an apathetic generation of youth and systems of education that do not value the humanities.  I doubt many high school classes could teach empathy or encourage collaborative creation better than drama.   Students who learn to understand our past and present through the social sciences have an opportunity to critically assess the world they live in, how it came to be and how it might or could be changed in the future.   Our educational institutions consistently encourage, enforce and promote mathematics, science and technological studies through funding and deny the importance of the arts and humanities through the same means.  Although numeracy, science and technical skills are important and relevant parts of a students education, it is just that, a part and not the only areas to be focused on.  Nussbaum argues that without the arts and humanities students are not developing the critical thinking skills needed to become informed and productive members of a democracy and that our current focus on simply creating employable workers in the current work force we are facing a “silent crisis”.

What do you think?  Is our societal disinterest in the humanities going to negatively effect our democratic systems?

Ken Robinson has got it right…

3 Dec

I am an avid Stumbler and was fortunate enough to stumble upon Ken Robinson’s talk at a TED conference in 2006 titled, “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity“.   His particular talk is one of the most popular talks on with 7,775,295 views.  He is fantastically witty and his ideas on our current school systems are ones that I share (along with 7 million other viewers).

I enjoyed his talk so much I looked Ken Robinson up online and discovered he is the author of The Element: How Finding Our Passion Changes Everything and Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.  This summer I had the pleasure of reading The Element.

The book is full of anecdotal examples of wildly successful people who were, at one point in their lives, on a path that would have led them astray from their ‘element’.  Like his Ted talk, he links problematic structures within our school systems to the hindrances faced by the men and women discussed throughout the book.

The most powerful idea for me was in the final chapter when Ken Robinson discusses how our changed economy and relationship with technology both have radical implications for our education systems.  Are the past structures of the industrial era really preparing the next generations to be successful in their personal and working lives? Did it ever really best serve the youth who graduated the system?  Ken Robinson would argue no, which is something which resonates me.

I look forward to reading Out of Our Minds in the near future.  Have you read his books or heard his talk on  What are your thoughts?

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson