Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan.23-29, 2012)

January 30, 2012

Here are my favorite resources of the week, curated from my Twitter account.

Social Media News

Businesses grapple with evolving social media rules – by Rebecca Goldfine

Teachers warned over befriending pupils on Facebook – by Jeevan Vasagar and Martin Williams, The Guardian

Schools use social media to communicate with students, parents – by Kim Archer and Andrea Eger, Tulsa News

Teachers take to Twitter to improve craft and commiserate – by Emma Brown, The Washington Post

McDonald’s Twitter Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong #McDStories – Business Insider

Educational Technology

Four Creative Commons Photo Sites You Should Know About – from EdTech Ideas

14 Steps to Meaningful Student Blogging – Mrs. Ripp

Find and Translate 10,000+ newspapers – Newspapermap.com

Technology Resources and News

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction – by Dylan Love, Business Insider

10 Tips for Building a Strong Online Community Around Your Startup – by Megan Berry, Mashable

Literacy Resources

Digital Literacy for Women and Girls – Alliance for Women in Media

At What Age Should Your Child Be Able To Read? – The Reading Corner

Literacy and Language News

Internet Promotes Literacy, Study Says – PC World

Learning a Second Language Protects Against Alzheimer’s – Fox News

Dissecting the bilingual brain- Insights of thinking in two languages… – EAL Teachers

International Languages Resources and News

Resources for Teaching Spanish – Language Links Wiki

Education Resources

10 great books to help you think, create, & communicate better in 2012 – Presentation Zen

Personalization vs. differentiation vs. individualization – by Barbara Bray

Education News From Around the Globe

Is Sweden’s Classroom-Free School the Future of Learning? – Good Education

Canadian Education News

Canada’s outstanding public school principals honoured by education charity – by Steve Mertl, Yahoo News

Related posts:

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 16-22, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 9-15, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 2-8, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 25, 2011 to January 1, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 18-24, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 11-17, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 4-10, 2011)


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Update – November, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.7 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


The wisdom of your story: Storytelling resources for teachers

January 27, 2012

Storytelling is a practice that dates back centuries. Sometime in the last 20th century however, its use in the classroom began to diminish, but researcher, Melanie C. Green, reminds us that “stories are a powerful structure for organizing and transmitting information, and for creating meaning in our lives and environments”.

How-to articles and resources

Storyteller.nethttp://www.storyteller.net/– This site has a sub-page called “Articles” with dozens of links and resources

Storytelling: How to tell a tale – by LibrarySpot.com – http://www.libraryspot.com/features/storytellingfeature.htm – This article goes over the essentials, and learning the art of storytelling. It also has links to a variety of other resources.

Storytelling Lessons, lesson plans and activities

Storytelling – Oral Traditions (lesson plan for grades 4-6) – by Teachers’ Domain – http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/echo07.lan.stories.lporaltrad/

Storytelling – ProTeacher.com – This site is a collection of links to other resources, including lesson plans and activities – http://www.proteacher.com/070163.shtml

Professional organizations

National Storytelling Network (U.S.A. ) http://www.storynet.org/

Research articles

Storytelling in Teaching – by Melanie C. Green, published in APS Observer – http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=1562


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Would you care for an earthworm with your coffee?: Turning language blunders into powerful teaching stories

January 25, 2012

Let’s face it: Language lessons sometimes involve material that is dry or boring. The reality is, it can be hard to remember facts or information. The rules of grammar? Bo-ring! At least, that is what the average person might think. Adult education guru, Stephen Lieb, tells us that adult learners need content that is relevant and useful in their every day live. What can seem less relevant to every day life of working to paying the bills, raising the kids and trying to have some kind of life. Most people just do not see a connection.

Scenario #1: Teaching with examples

Examples provide a method to make the learning concrete and relevant.

Seasoned teachers will have an arsenal of examples of their own students’ grammar and language mistakes. Examples can also be found on Internet sites such as ESL Prof.

“When I was six, I went to primate school.”

Clearly the speaker intended to say “primary” instead of “primate”. This is a classic example of mixing up words with similar sounds that have completely different meanings.

If you were using this example with EAL adult learners, you might make the connection between  language errors and the real world by linking it to employment. You might say that the implication for an adult EAL learner might be that if he or she were to say this in a job interview, it might cost them the job. Though it is not ethical (or logical) some recruitment officers may make decisions about a prospective employee’s intelligence or competence based on their language skills.

That example would provide a real-world context for why it is important to learn vocabulary very well. You have developed a cogent and logical argument to support your point using an example.

Scenario #2: Teaching through stories

Imagine dipping into your own past, experience and heritage to create a story that illustrates the same point. When teaching native Spanish speakers English, I would tell them about my own struggles with language learning.

Setting the stage and the context

“I was so proud to have a native Spanish speaker visit my home,” I would tell them. “We had agreed to do a language exchange and help each other with our conversation skills.”

Providing key detail

“I prepared coffee and baked home-made oatmeal cookies, my mother’s recipe.”

Deliver the punch line

“I asked my new friend, “¿Desea guisano con su café?

The quick thinkers erupt in laughter. Others will puzzle over the meaning until it clicks that what I meant, instead of “guisano”, was “galleta”.

As a learner of Spanish as a second language, I spent years confusing those two words. The result was that instead of offering my guest a cookie (galleta), I had offered them an earthworm (guisano).

To a native speaker, the result is either a turned stomach or comedic effect, or a bit of both.

The moral of the story

I would follow the story by saying this to the students: “My point to you is that it is easy to confuse words in a new language. In fact, it is normal. But be aware that these kinds of mistakes can result in people laughing at you or, possibly even taking you as an imbecile. In my case, I was lucky. My friend, who was both quick witted and gracious simply said, ‘Por favor, una galleta. No me gustan los guisanos‘.” (Translation: “A cookie, please. I don’t really care for earthworms.”)

From a linguistic point of view, the two scenarios are similar. The language learner mistakenly uses one word for another. The two words sound similar to the ear of a non-native speaker. But to a native speaker, the difference in meaning between the two words is worlds apart. It would never even occur to them to mix those words up.

Examples provide logical reasons, whereas stories create memorable moments that connect with human experience and emotion.

I admit that this type of story worked only because I was working with Spanish speakers learning  English. It would not work with a linguistically diverse group.

The point here is to ask yourself, what stories or experiences do you have that can help you make a point and make a connection with your learners at the same time? We all have stories. What are  some of yours?

Related posts:

Share your story, share your wisdom: How to make learning memorable

Storytelling resources for teachers


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Nelson Mandela’s first language being cut from South African schools

January 24, 2012

Nelson Mandela is a man with a deep commitment to defending human rights. He also speaks English as a Second Language. His first language is Xhosa.

A recent article from the Times Alive in South Africa reports that language classes for both Xhosa and Zulu are being cut in South African state schools. The main language of instruction in South African schools is English. Prega Govender reports that until this school year, students were required to take classes in two additional languages, but this year, that requirement has been changed. Now students are only required to take one additional language.

Most schools in the area are opting for Afrikaans as the additional language of choice for students in that region. The article reports that in one case, the Xhosa language teacher has been re-deployed to teach Afrikaans this year. The decision seems to be driven by numbers:

“Last year, 68455 matrics countrywide wrote Afrikaans as their first additional language, whereas only 10943 wrote Zulu and a mere 1547 wrote Xhosa.”

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am strongly opposed to the removal of language programs from a curriculum.  There are a number of reasons for this:

Benefits of learning additional languages for cognitive ability

Research shows that the benefits of learning additional languages extend beyond language and cultural skills. Learning additional languages also has a positive effect on a person’s general cognitive ability (Kimbrough Oller, D and Eilers R.E., 2002). Specific research has also found that students who study other languages also score better on math tests (Bournot-Trites, M. and K. Reeder, 2001; de Courcy, M. and M. Burston, 2000; Turnbull, M., S. Lapkin and D. Hart, 2001 and Turnbull, M., D. Hart and S. Lapkin, 2003). The benefits of learning additional languages are clear and have been documented time and time again through research. We know that the more languages a young person is exposed to, the more capacity he or she will have to develop lifelong multilingual skills.

When languages are removed from a curriculum, it sends a message that the language is unimportant

It could be argued that students in South Africa will still enjoy these cognitive and linguistic benefits, since they will be studying Afrikaans as an additional language. That may be true, but making the decision to remove Xhosa and Zulu from the curriculum sends a strong message that these languages do not matter in formal education in that region.

While I do not profess to understand the complexity of minority languages or the politics of South Africa, I have studied the concepts of formal and informal education extensively.

Young students who speak Xhosa and Zulu as first languages at home have now lost the opportunity to learn their native language in an organized, formal environment, as a shared experience with peers. Though they may continue to learn the language in the informal context of the home, we know that informal learning is considered the least legitimate and is less respected than formal learning.

By removing these languages from the curriculum, those who have the responsibility and authority to set policies and make decisions send a strong message that these languages lack sufficient legitimacy to be included in the standard curriculum of formal education in the region.

Language abilities are linked to leadership skills

In previous research I have discussed how some significant world leaders, such as Ghandi, leveraged multiple languages to extend their leadership reach. Nelson Mandela’s first language is Xhosa. While not a perfect human being, he has arguably been one of the world’s most influential leaders over the past several decades. What message does it send to teachers, parents, students and indeed, everyone living in the region, that this leader’s first language, which was formerly offered as part of the standard state school curriculum, has now been cut for students in the younger grades?

While the article reports that students may still take the language in later grades, cutting it from the curriculum for children in grades one to three sends a strong message that it is not as important as math, science or even Afrikaans. Those subjects are considered part of the critical foundation of the young learner’s formal education experience. But Zulu and Xhosa… these are superfluous options that can be added later.

I worry when languages are cut from curricula. I worry when students and parents get the message that language learning is not important. I worry even more when they get the message that their first language is not important, as is the case for Xhosa and Zulu for many young people in South Africa. Formally recognizing the importance and significance of learning first languages in a plurilingual society such as South Africa is critical.

As educators worldwide we must do everything in our power to prepare the young people of today to lead the world tomorrow. Learning additional languages will help them do that.


Bournot-Trites, M. and K. Reeder. (2001). “Interdependence Revisited: Mathematics Achievement in an Intensified French Immersion Program.”

de Courcy, M. and M. Burston. (2000). “Learning Mathematics Through French in Australia.”

Eaton, S. E. (2010). Leading though Language Learning and Teaching: The Case of Gandhi. Retrieved from ERIC: http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED508664.pdf

Eaton, S. E. (2010). Formal, non-formal and informal education: The case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada. Calgary.

Kimbrough Oller, D and Eilers R.E. (2002). “Balancing Interpretations Regarding Effects of Bilingualism: Empirical Outcomes and Theoretical Possibilities.”

Turnbull, M., S. Lapkin and D. Hart. (2001). “Grade Three Immersion Students’ Performance in Literacy and Mathematics: Province-wide Results from Ontario (1998–99).”

Turnbull, M., D. Hart and S. Lapkin. (2003). “Grade 6 French Immersion Students’ Performance on Large-scale Reading, Writing, and Mathematics Tests: Building Explanations.”

Related posts

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: What Are the Differences?

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan.16 – 22, 2012)

January 23, 2012

Here are my favorite resources of the week, curated from my Twitter account.

Social Media Resources, Policy tools and How To’s

Managing social media complaints before they explode into Tweets, YouTube videos and Facebook shares – by Janet Cho

Social Media Policy Must Have: when are they on the clock? – by Shawn Tuma

Muscogee County Schools new social media policy discourages ‘friending,’ texting between teachers, students: Teachers urged to not communicate with students, parents on websites, texts – by Sara Pauff and Sonya Sorich

Business Insider: Our new Twitter-Facebook policy: What Do You Think? – by Henry Blodget

Hampton school board debates new social media policy – by Samieh Shalash

Social media rules for public servants ‘laughable’ – by Amy Simmons

Social Media News

25 Eye-Popping Internet Marketing Statistics for 2012 – by Pamela Vaughan

Educational Technology

Top 10 Free Online Tutoring Tools for 2012 – Edudemic

Grades 9-12 Examples: Voicethread – Voicethread4education

Top 10 Sites for Educational Apps – TechLearning.com

LibriVox – free audiobooks

Technology Resources and News

Shy students should be able to tweet their teacher in class, study finds – by Jeremy Pierce

Can Technology Help the Blog Replace the Term Paper? – New York Times

The 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet – Technology Review

7 Google Search Techniques You Don’t Know Exist – Teacher Learning Community

Apple vows iBooks 2 will ‘reinvent’ school textbooks – Globe and Mail

Amazon: “Primed” to disrupt Apple’s textbook plans? – by Jason Perlow

Teachers Buzz about Apple’s Education Announcement – Globe and Mail

Literacy Resources

Books for Struggling Readers in Middle or High School – Jenna Scribbles

Literacy and Language News

How one New Brunswick school is celebrating Family Literacy Day – McAdam High

Barnes & Noble Donates Close to 1.2 Million Books To Nonprofit Organizations, Schools, Libraries And Literacy Partners All Across The U.S.A – Press Release

Pioneer of ESL, EAL in PEI, Canada celebrated by local media – The Guardian, Prince Edward Island

Library Link: We can help you give your kids the gift of literacy – by Anne Beaty, Airdire, Alberta

Church’s “Missionary Training Center” promotes international language learning – Deseret News

No Difference Between Kids’ Comprehension of Ebooks, Print Books, Study Says – School Library Journal

EAL / ESL / EFL Resources

Superb collection of ESL / EAL Learning and Teaching Resources – Alberta Education

International Languages Resources and News

Benefits of Learning a Second Language at a Young Age – Sewickley Academy

Hawaiian Language Immersion Program open to all children – by Louise Rockett, Lahaina News

Educational Leadership

7 Top Things Teachers Want from Their Principal – Connected Principals

How to Lead Effectively in Virtual Environments – by Frank Kalman

Education Resources

How can I help my (struggling) child with homework? (Part 1) – by Sylvia Hannah

New Year’s Resolutions for Children with Special Needs – Brain Balance

Education News From Around the Globe

Is Sweden’s Classroom-Free School the Future of Learning? – Good Education

Study on Teacher Value Uses Data From Before Teach-to-Test Era – by Michael Winerip, NY Times

In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise – by Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post

Everyday tasks can be teaching moments – by Kelly Pedro, London Free Press

Canadian Education News

Paul Martin says generation of Aboriginal Canadians lost – Canada.com

Medicine Hat (Alberta) school officials admit to illegal Tory donations – CBC News

Teachers’ union, province in secret talks to explore cap on work hours – by Matt McClure, Calgary Herald

Youngest students need more time in school: minister – Primary to Grade 2 students now spend four hours a day in class – CBC News

Military training, possible future for Canadian universities? – The Varsity

Related posts:

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 9-15, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 2-8, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 25, 2011 to January 1, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 18-24, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 11-17, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 4-10, 2011)


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

A year of inspired insights #3: Servant leadership in the scullery

January 20, 2012

There she was, doing the job she had come to hate most in the world, de-feathering and “drawing” (also known as “gutting”) a chicken. The process involves plunging the chicken, head first, into a pot of scalding hot (but not boiling) water for a few seconds to soften up the feathers and kill any lice or fleas.

Then, holding the chicken by its feet, she would pull out its feathers one by one. The smaller “pinfeathers” that were impossible to pick out by hand were either removed with small pliers or singed with a match. She worked without gloves, which meant that her hands got cut up and sore from the scratch of the quills.

It’s the smell though, that is the most memorable part of the experience. It is a smell you never forget. She would do it in the scullery, the small room just off the kitchen, reserved for such unpleasant tasks.

She was the scullery maid, cook, and housekeeper, all rolled into one. There was a time when the family had six female servants working in the house, but they had downsized to just one: my mother.

The path that led to the scullery

She had completed her “O-levels”, which meant she had the equivalent of a grade 10 education. Her only real job experience had been as teenager, working as a maid in a hotel owned by an aunt and uncle in Blackpool. After coming to Canada, she had a few odd jobs here and there, but mostly focussed on being a wife and a mother.

At the age of 40 she became a single mother, with no job experience, a grade 10 education and no family of her own in Canada. She did the only thing she felt she could do: she went home to the U.K. and looked for a job — any job — that would help her get back on her feet.

She took the job of a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family living just outside Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, the year after our family had broken up. She was a Welsh immigrant with family in Kent and, flew with me in tow, “across the pond” from Canada to the U.K. where she could be close to her family. She would spend a year or so putting her life back together. She spent the year working as a servant.

Life in the servants’ quarters

The house and grounds were impressive, with both flower and vegetable gardens, livestock and barns and other buildings across the property that housed equipment and animals.

There was one other servant on staff, the gardener. He lived with his wife in a separate house on the property.

The staircase leading up to the dormitory looked much like this.

We lived at the main house, in the servants’ quarters. There was a separate entrance that led into a large working kitchen. There was a set of narrow, spiraling stairs leading to a dormitory-style bedroom upstairs, lined with six single beds, one for each of the staff.

The space was set up for single girls who would have followed a strict hierarchy, starting with the scullery maid, leading up to the main housekeeper. There was no space or place for small children in the dormitory.

But given that my mother was the only female staff at the time, the family allowed me to have one of the other beds. I had strict rules that I was never, ever to go into the main section of the house.

With the exception of one time, when the lady of the house invited me to see the main rooms and the her husband showed me his study (under the watchful eye of his wife, of course), I never saw the rest of the house.

Our life was confined to the female servants’ quarters. There was an area of the house reserved for a butler, as well. But by that point, there was no butler and no need for that section of the house to be open. That, too, was closed off to us.

I thought the servants’ quarters were O.K. though, especially since there was a small sitting room off the kitchen that had a T.V. There was no cable for us, of course, but that didn’t matter. Every night after supper had been served, the dishes were washed and the kitchen was spotless, my Mum and I would snuggle up on the little settee and watch a program on BBC before bed. My favorite was “Dr. Who”, but we also liked shows like “Are You Being Served?” and other British comedies of the era.

Every night, we watched one show and then headed up stairs to the dormitory. Mum’s day began at 5:00 a.m. each day with preparations for the day, cleaning and getting ready for breakfast to be served at 6:30 a.m. Looking back, I can not imagine how tired she must have been on a daily basis. But I don’t remember that about her.

I remembered that she worked. And worked. And worked.

Attending a private British school

At the time, I had no knowledge of where my other three siblings were. I knew they were in Canada, but didn’t exactly know where. My life, as a six year-old Canadian girl living in England, was a mix of excitement and culture shock.

While my mother worked in the house, I was sent off to school. I went to a local school that most Canadians and Americans would call a “private school”, though in England, it would have been known as an “independent school”. It was not a particularly high-ranking school, as I remember, but it was the best Mum could afford. She was adamant that I not attend a state school. She was emphatic that the level of education in the private schools was better.

The uniform consisted of a white button shirt, that had to be perfectly starched and pressed, a grey tunic dress and a tie. I had no idea what to do with a tie, so my mother would carefully tie it for me every morning for the first few weeks. I remember those moments as being intermingled with commentary such as, “I know you don’t like this uniform, but it’s a privilege, young lady. A good part of my hard-earned money goes to paying for this school. You’d best quit your grumbling!”

If anything was drilled into my head in that year, it was that education was tantamount. It required sacrifice on her part. My part of the deal was to approach school as if it were a sacred privilege, and honour the experience through a rigorous rituals of daily disciplined homework and respect for education.

Pluck and guts

The phrase “to have pluck” or “to have guts” means to be courageous or to be brave. I suspect my Mum didn’t feel particularly courageous as she was holding the chicken by its feet, plucking its feathers, as the first step in its preparation.

After the plucking comes the drawing of the fowl, which means to eviscerate or disembowel it, removing its guts and if appropriate, de-bone it. That sounds disgusting, but it was nothing compared to the process of de-feathering it.

She came to hate those days when she’d be brought a freshly killed chicken from the barn and had to prepare it for supper that evening. She hated it even more when guests were invited and there may have been up to four chickens to pluck and gut, before starting to cook the actual meal.

I remember one such Saturday clearly. She was muttering under her breath about in the scullery when I came downstairs first thing in the morning. I went to the scullery and asked, “Are you OK?”

She looked up at me, with tears in her eyes and said, “Whatever you do, child, don’t be like me. Don’t be a servant. Get an education and have a better life. Whatever you do, don’t pluck chickens to earn a few cents.”

She turned back to her fowl and kept working. Both literally and figuratively, she had pluck.

Servant leadership: Easy to talk about

In educational leadership the term “servant leadership” is used often in certain circles. Scholars such as Robert Greenleaf talk extensively about it.

This leadership model resonates deeply with me, but I also wrestle with it. It makes sense to me on a soul-level that we are here to serve… to serve our students, our communities and each other.

But there is a niggly. My mind goes back to that day in the scullery… To my mother’s tearful plea that I get an education and “not be a servant”. To her, being a servant was the worst and lowest possible job that anyone could have that was still considered an honest living. It was the only job she could get at the time, given her education, lack of experience, lack of a personal network and skills.

My mind wanders to the thousands of immigrants in Canada, the U.S. and other countries today who work as taxi drivers, janitors and factory workers, because it is the best job they can get to feed their families.

A life of servitude

It isn’t unlikely that immigrant parents in “serving” jobs are saying the same things to their children today that my mother said to me almost forty years ago. They want a better life for their children… one that offers them freedom from servitude, oppression, living in poverty and loneliness.

The difference, I think between being the kind of servant leader that Greenfield and others talk about in their work and the kind of servant that my mother actually was, is choice… and freedom. The “desire to serve” is easy to talk about when the reality does not require plucking and gutting freshly killed animals. A life of servitude means that you do not the option of declining or refusing to do tasks you find distasteful or reprehensible. You don’t do the tasks because it is the “right”, or “just”, or moral thing to do. You do them because if you didn’t, your employer would impose harsh consequences that could cost you your livelihood.

That time in our lives was about  survival. It was not until years later (decades, actually) that I realized that there is a certain shame that comes with survival. There is a desperation that simmers underneath… a gagging need to hope for something better, and an unspoken fear that the dark days will never end.

This is an era of my life that I have disclosed to few people, until the past few years. The truth is, I was ashamed of it. My mother was ashamed to be a live-in maid. She was ashamed to have us live in servants’ quarters and not have a proper home of our own. We eventually came back to Canada and life got better. But the scars of shame remained for many years.

The time we spent living in Kent was deeply formative for me in terms of my values and life direction. Every single day I was reminded of the value of education and how important it was and that it was worth almost any sacrifice.

I am cautious today, when I talk about servant leadership, cognizant that models are sometimes just that — models we work from to build something of our own. In North America particularly, I think we are almost obsessed by the idea that the power of positive thinking can help us overcome anything. I don’t entirely disagree.

The reality is that having the choice to live one way or another, work and act in a certain way, is driven partly by our own psyche and partly by our circumstances. When the circumstances get better, so the psyche can thrive, too. But before we can thrive, we must survive.

The irony, for me, is that despite — or perhaps because of — her fierce reluctance, my mother ended up being a living example of a servant leader, but not because of a job title. She never really had “a desire to serve”, at least not professionally. Deep down, she was a most reluctant servant, keeping up the formalities and appearance of being a good servant, which is, of course part of the job.

What about you? Whom do you serve? Who serves you? If you work in literacy or teach English to new immigrants, is their life more about survival on a day-to-day basis? Do they work in serving professions, harbouring a deep hope that it will lead to a better life for their children? How do circumstances shape us — and our students?

I continue to think deeply about what it means to be a servant leader. For me, my life as a scholar started in the scullery.

Resources on servant leadership in education

Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership

Servant leadership – Training ABC

Servant Leadership: The Leadership Theory of Robert K. Greenleaf  by Carol Smith

Exercising Servant Leadership by Olivier Serrat

Related posts:

A year of inspired insights #2: Conversations change everything

A year of inspired insights #1: There’s a silver lining in every ambulance

My 2012 resolution project: A year of inspired insights


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Get ConnectED Canada

January 19, 2012

This year’s ConnectED Canada conference is being held at the Calgary Science School, May 25-27, 2012.

I’m thrilled to have the chance to work as part of the team for this year’s conference.

This event is a total “re-think” of educational conferences. The organizers describe it like this:

ConnectED Canada will be a yearly educational event that brings together teachers, administrators, students, parents and other stakeholders with the purpose of sharing innovative practices and building a national collaborative network.

Rather than traditional conferences which are usual held at hotels of off-site conference centres, ConnectED Canada will be held in different schools across the country each year . The purpose of hosting the event in a school is to allow participants to experience living examples of innovative practices and classrooms. Hosting it in a school also allows for a student voice to be included – a key element of ConnectED Canada.

Additionally, as opposed to more presentation-driven professional conferences, ConnectED Canada will be built around conversations and discussions. The event will provide time and space for educators, students and parents to discuss various topics, share current practices and ideas and built relationships that will extend beyond the three days.

Join us in Calgary, May 25-27!


Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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