Talons Leadership and the Re-Act Team – Conrad

As part of Talons, all students are asked to organize a Leadership service project, something that benefits the community. Students choose to lead bottle drives, tree plantings, garbage cleanups, sock collections, etc. Conrad, along with a Grade 10 student, ran a Re-Act team, organizing various random acts of kindness throughout the year. This is what he had to say in his project reflection:

1.       Summarize your leadership project in detail from beginning to end.

The Re-Act team is a school club led by Raiya and myself. Its purpose serves to volunteer in the local community by doing hands on projects and directly impacting peoples’ lives in a positive way. We try to focus on donating our time instead of giving away money. Our first activity was placing sticky notes with positive messages in locker areas and washrooms to help boost self-confidence of students in our school. With the help of TELUS, we decorated and stuffed stockings for less fortunate children in the Lower Mainland for Christmas. We also did many Random Acts of Kindness/Real Acts of Caring including decorating Christmas trees, making sandwiches for the homeless, picking up garbage, organizing the Flower Initiative (giving flowers to staff as a token of appreciation) and a day of opening doors at our school.

2.       Who assisted you with your project?

My co-chair Raiya and the rest of the Re-Act team helped assist me throughout our various projects. We also had many donations from commercial businesses such as TELUS, as well as support from administrators and teacher.

3.       Described what worked well.

Members of the Re-Act team were always able to brainstorm brilliant ideas, thus leading to a high participation level from the team. Our Re-Act team was fortunate to have consistent attendance and punctuality for both meetings and events. We always had enough people to help out with the different activities we facilitated. The projects were also completed within the allotted time. We had a diverse group on the Re-Act team with representatives from all grades and gender, all bringing forth unique skills. The team chemistry was quite good and there was no trouble in cooperating and utilizing teamwork to complete tasks. Others also acknowledged the fact that we are helping both in the school and in our local community.

4.       Describe some of the challenges you experienced.

We experienced some minor challenges, none of which made a huge impact in the results of our efforts. At times, we had to cancel our Re-Act Thursday lunch meetings due to scheduling conflicts with other events. I was astonished by the number of people who initially signed up for the team. Over the next few weeks, the number of members declined and we did not have as much participation. This was not exactly a challenge, but something I kept in mind when planning for future events. During one of our projects, we ran out of materials for decorating the Christmas trees, but quickly found other resources that we could make use of. These challenges were a good learning experience and will help me with my next leadership project.

 5.       How would you do to overcome these challenges next time?

To accommodate all of our members, we could possibly change the times of the meetings so that we could maximize participation. As Co-Chairs, we should inform members of the expected commitments before the signup to prevent anyone leaving Re-Act. When planning, we can make sure we have enough of the appropriate materials for various projects. We should always have a back-up plan in mind so that we can still find a solution if an event is unsuccessful. Finally, with frequent reminders on school announcements, we can improve our communication with team members and inform them of meetings at lunch. Another option would be communicating through emails, which could be easier and more convenient. That way, we could limit school announcements and still be able to contact team members. These are all great solutions we can use in the long-run to overcome challenges listed above.

6.       How many people participated in your project?

Approximately 30-40 members are on the Re-Act team.

7.       How would you rate the overall success of your project? Provide a personal summary to substantiate your rating.

Overall, this project went through many stages of success as we conducted various activities and did good deeds. We were very happy with the outcome of all of our projects.  The turnout was far better than we (Raiya and I) expected. I believe the effect of what we did had a good impact on our school and the teachers and people we helped.

8.       What surprised you the most?

From day one, I noticed that we did not have a lot of male members on the Re-Act team. Over 75% of the people in Re-Act were female. As a volunteer, you can enjoy the fulfillment of giving to your community and helping a worthy cause, but you can also gain valuable experience. I was surprised by the fact that there weren’t that many boys involved in volunteer work.

9.       What new skills did you acquire?

  • Leadership skills – the ability to motivate a group of people to complete a common goal
  • Social skills – learning to work with others and interacting in different ways to communicate
  • Management skills – planning and organizing a meeting including materials needed and certain tasks to be assigned

10.   Describe your interactions with those whom you worked with.

Often, throughout this project, I had to communicate and interact with Raiya, who was working with me on the project. We would meet together to go through our “game-plan” for group meetings. Generally, we had to decide what we were organizing and how we were going to coordinate it.  In a casual manner, we would take a couple of minutes to brainstorm our next activity. When I spoke with others, they were always enthusiastic about doing good deeds and seemed really engaged in the activities.

11.   The personal benefits of this experience were:

I learned a lot while doing this project. It taught me to open up my heart and think of how I could make a difference in the lives of others. I learned that even though we are doing small acts, they are still important. When we give our time instead of money, we can impact the lives of many in our society. This is something I believe everyone is capable of doing. Additionally, this experience has helped me lead other students to accomplish good deeds in and outside the school community.

12.   The group benefits of this experience were:

As a team, we learned to work together and spread awareness around the school. It encouraged everyone around the school to take notice of activities going on around them and to pitch in and help out. Instead of volunteering for the project for the sake of getting it done, the team was enthusiastic and was passionate about doing something special. Teamwork was a key factor to our success as we brainstormed and discussed future activities. We all had to compromise and share our skills.

13.   Describe a memorable experience during this project.

Throughout the Re-Act meetings, I encouraged and influenced some of my friends to join in on some of the projects. Because of this, I feel a personal satisfaction of doing good deeds and changing my attitude as a responsible citizen. Also, it taught me that through “power of the people” we can get more people to make a difference which I believe is really worth it.

The Trip of a Lifetime – Rebecca

Adventure Trip. 11 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes. (I’m pretty sure that’s lucky!)

It’s on everyone’s mind. For months we’ve been planning and anticipating, and now it’s almost here. I don’t think any of us have really absorbed the fact that it’s happening. We’ve all been talking about it, pretty much since the second the retreat was over, but that doesn’t even begin to compare to the trip itself. There’s no way to describe what really happens on the Adventure Trip. Every year, we make new memories, new jokes, new friends. We face new challenges, and learn how to get past them, working together as a group, but we also learn how to do it on our own, overcoming our own personal conflicts and issues. The Adventure Trip is about endings and beginnings. The Grade 9s have almost completed their first year, and (by the end of the trip) are ready to step up and become leaders for the upcoming year. For the Grade 10s, this is the last big Talons experience, other than In Depth night, and it marks the end of our time in Talons. The trip gives us a chance to tie up loose ends, and prepare to leave. Whether you love camping, or have never slept in a tent before, it’s an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Each year, there are concerns about the trip. Grade 9s that are nervous about doing things they have never tried before, and aren’t sure if they should be in Talons, and Grade 10s that wonder whether or not they really still belong in Talons. Many of us have doubts, but none of us need to. We are all in Talons together. We all belong in Talons together. And as Talons, we will all go on the Adventure Trip and finish off an amazing year with an even more amazing, inspiring trip.

There is something about being away from home, forcing you out of your comfort zone, that brings you closer together with those around you. In the past two years of high school, I have been on five different school trips: three with Talons, and two with Band. With the Jazz Band last year, we went to an international festival in Idaho, and this year the Band went on a trip to Cuba. In Talons, I have been on two retreats, one as a Grade 9 and one as a Grade 10, and then my Grade 9 Adventure Trip. All of them have meant a few days away from school, family, and regular routine. I got to spend time all day, every day, with a group of students that had similar interests. And each time I came back home, I had gained something new. The experience of not having somewhere or someone to run to the minute I weren’t so comfortable pushed me to form new friendships and spend more time with others. As someone that isn’t super social, that was an amazing thing. And even when we got back, it may not have been quite the same “family” feel, but I still get hugs and hellos from people in the hallways that I spent a week with in Cuba, and I’m closer with some of the Talons students than I ever have been before.

Now, trying to imagine that multiplied a hundred times, doesn’t even begin to add up to what this year’s Adventure Trip is going to be. With more students than in the past, there will be more people to spend time with, more friends to help you out, and definitely more challenges and bumps along the way. This is Grade 10. There’s only two more months in the school year. And before the stress and craze of exams and last-minute assignments hits, we have one more trip, five days, to relish the time that we spend together in the Talons program.

Of course, with all of the excitement and anticipation, also comes a lot of work. On the trip itself, there will be plenty of work, mentally, physically, and emotionally. With 70 km of biking each day, cooking and cleaning responsibilities, tent set up and tear down, endless problems always in need of solutions, and a never ending fountain of blood, sweat and tears, the trip can be exhausting. Every morning we wake up at six am, and every night, we go to sleep around 11 pm (or at least we try, it probably won’t happen). Average six hours of biking, one or two hours of cooking, cleaning, and loading and unloading bikes and gear, plus leadership activities, temperature readings every night, and lots and lots of emotionally draining challenges, and you have a recipe for disaster. But it’s never a disaster, and I don’t think any of us would have it any other way. Because at the end of it all, you’ll feel more accomplished than you ever have before. There will be smiles and laughter and singing and hugs and the good kind of tears, and you’ll wish it wasn’t over. Then school starts again, and we have to go back to regular classes and routines, but everyone keeps giving each other these knowing looks because we all have these secrets and inside jokes from the trip. And it is quite possibly the most magical thing in the world.

I can’t wait for this year’s trip!

 

~Rebecca

The Start of an Adventure Trip – Jenna

Whenever I talk about what I believe the Adventure Trip is all about, I feel somewhat hypocritical. You see, I am one of the few unlucky people that didn’t get a chance to participate in her grade 9 Adventure Trip due to an injury. Let me just say that for those of you that don’t know, this trip is the TALONS trip of all TALONS trips. And even ‘til this day, I still feel out of place because I never went. So as this year’s trip is rapidly approaching, I feel like I am a grade 9 – I don’t fully know what to expect. I’ve tried to piece together the words and experiences of my classmates but I still don’t think I would ever understand unless I’ve experienced it. So I am unbelievably anxious and excited for this year’s trip! And I think to enjoy it to the fullest, you need to be prepared – and it started today with our practice bike trip to Belcarra.

I would consider myself to be a person that is reasonably in-shape and physically capable – but there is something about biking up a hill while your thighs feel like they’re on fire, you’re out of breath and you’re looking ahead and seeing that you’ve only made it up a quarter of the hill you thought you were almost past – it definitely plays with your mind. I think a huge reason for our practice bike trip today was not only to learn how to push yourself physically, but also mentally. There were so many times where I felt defeated, exhausted and considered just getting off the bike and taking a rest, but I knew I could push myself just that fraction further -and I believe that’s what the Adventure Trip is all about. It’s about discovering your abilities and pushing them to the limits, despite the blood, sweat and tears. And trust me, there is going to be a lot of those. 😉

I think the whole experience, starting with preparation, teaches you a lot about life and that despite how difficult things might seem, there is always a way to get past it if you set your mind to it! We’re all going to be pushed to our absolute limits, but just remember to enjoy the ride – don’t worry, you’ll survive.

Focus Time on Tuesday – Mr. J

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV2R_BFKcS8]

As TALONS facilitators, Ms. Mulder and I try not to make teacher-centered lectures and lessons too often the focus of our daily use of class time, preferring instead to use our common time and space for shared communication and collaborative problem solving based around many aspects of the class’ current learning. Especially in the spring semester, we often provide brief mini-lectures on topics or concepts for the day (or week), and then allow the class ample periods of “Focus Time” to be used for work and study of ongoing projects or problems.

There is a variety of different “focus” activities in the video above (Math, Socials, Adventure Trip planning, Leadership projects, etc) that attest to a diverse and productive use of class time the TALONS strive to produce on a daily basis.

From the Talons Room: Discussion and Rebellion – Liam

Since we began our new semester two weeks ago, the Talons have been eagerly throwing themselves into the second part of the school year. We begin with Science and Socials, studying both the geography of our world and, supposedly, the Red River Rebellion.

In Science, we are doing things in a typically TALONS way – we are teaching ourselves. The grade 10s are each responsible for teaching a section of the unit they are studying, creating their own lesson plans, assignments, and quizzes, as well as actually teaching the subject itself. They say that a person learns best when teaching others, and that past few weeks have proved that true, as the students have reached a level of understanding about the subject the were teaching that they would likely not have reached otherwise. It is also a part of the TALONS dogma of leadership and autonomy – as students, this self-teaching gives us a chance to take a leading role in our own studies, as well as possibly giving us a feeling for what is like to teach a group of unruly students.

In Socials, the recent events in Egypt has given us a perfect current events backdrop for the study of the Red River Rebellion. We spent last week discussing and blogging and commenting and reflecting on the situation in Egypt and the media’s role in passing the information on to us. I won’t talk longer about what we did – I will let people’s posts speak for themselves.

Megan reflects on how the Age of Information has given people a chance to change the world, and her own role in the quickly changing landscape:

For on the other side of the world I am still sitting here, typing away on my keyboard, trying to keep up in a quickly moving world through the only way I know how. Words spill through my fingers into sentences that might be read, or might not, and form stories that might mean something, one day. It’s satisfying; in a sense. But what do I know? I am merely a child in this age of information, of stories and knowledge available at our every whim, to feed our every need, and every desire. I pour my two cents into it all, but I can see it tumble into cyberspace, and I wonder where it will end up. I wonder if it will ever end up anywhere, at all.

Sepehr’s post on how it is important to note the relative evils between different leaders, and the comment storm that grew out of it:

Mubarak and his regime are not bloodthirsty killers like Khomeini, Hitler, and Stalin! They do not murder, torture, or “effectively and systematically take steps to eliminate an entire population”(critics of Fox News) like the Nazis. As Mr. Jackson said, we can’t compare any group to the Nazis. Mubarak has shut off the Internet of the country in fear of attack from USA or other Middle Eastern countries. Guess that backfired on him. The Egyptian people are treating this situation like the Persian people in the recent Iranian revolution. The Persians tore apart their 3000-year old monarchy for a series of tyrannical Mullahs who killed in the name of God. I truly hope the Egyptians do not share the fate of the Persians.

Richard speaks about how simple economics means that the media will tell us what we want to hear:

So looking at it in a more reasonable way, as what it truly is, the responsibility of such company, is to get larger amounts of hits, viewership, and subscriptions. So, what the company’s responsibility is to tell or say to the public what the majority of the public wants to hear, see, or read about. Also, on the same side the majority of the public is about, not to present news objectively, or to challenge views, because people want to feel that their views are right. People want to be right, and that is true and prevalent in everyone, does anyone want to be wrong?

And finally, Liam writes a lengthy post on the absolute nature of truth, which leads to some heated debate in the comments section:

It is important, then, to look past the complexities of language when discovering the truth. By debating the meaning of the word ’sound’ in the tree question above, as many do when answering this question, you are missing the philosophical point – that of whether there is a reality independent of perception. If there is, it means that all questions have an answer, and that it is theoretically possible to end all arguments. If not, then everything is open to debate, and nothing is as it seems.

Then this week, we moved onto the actual Socials curriculum. As stated, we are studying the Red River Rebellion – the resistance of the Metis people, led by Louis Riel, against the Canadian government, which eventually lead to the creation of the modern-day province of Manitoba. Again, the Talons have been writing their own takes on the subject.

Veronica talks about how it got started and why the Metis felt the need to resist:

There were primarily three sides that contributed to the Red River Rebellion – the French speaking group, the Metis, the Canadian government, and the Hudson’s Bay Company.It all started when the Canadian government bought “Rupert’s Land” from the once-powerful Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869. The Bay’s sales were declining, and they probably needed the money from the Canadian government.Right after that, the Canadian government appointed an English-speaking governor for the newly-bought Rupert’s Land. The guy was named William McDougall. Alright, so before the land was officially Canada’s, McDougall decided that it would be a good idea to send out surveyors to plot the land. Yup, that’s when the Metis got mad.Wouldn’t you be irked too, if some guys just waltzed in the territory that you’ve been living in for hundreds of years? Well, the Metis probably were. They basically prevented the surveyors from coming into their land, which is totally fair in my opinion.

And Kraemer explains how the Red River Rebellion is representative of our Canadian psyche:

The people of Red River had every reason to lash out, violently against the Canadian government that was threatening them, but they didn’t. Instead, they formed their own provisional government, peacefully, so that they could negotiate properly with the government of Canada. Now, I don’t really need to point out that people have gone charging at the enemy for far fewer reasons than their freedoms being taken over. The Americans launched into bloody revolution even though they were being treated much better by the British compared to how the Canadians would have treated the “half-breeds”, natives and french-speaking people living in Red River.

This is but a small part of the wealth of the discussion the Talons have been having. They are by no means over – instead, they are just beginning. In groups, our current project is to tell the story of the Red River Rebellion in four stages of the crisis. Such vague instructions are common to us in TALONS – they’re simply what we do. We use our creativity to understand and to explain our world, in whatever way we can, whether that means through writing, music, or art.

And so ends another week of TALONS!

Following through. -Donya

Something that irks me to no end is when good plans are left to the wayside. There’s so much potential yet the ideas and motivations necessary to keep up with the original plan were not well thought out and eventually forgotten.

I think this is exactly what might have happened to our first attempt at blogging, as a class. We understood what we wanted to do, and setting up the blog was fairly easy, but we lost momentum once we realized there had to be a deeper thought process dedicated to maintaining a class blog.

The more we put it off, the more the wall of “I can’t do it” build up, and that is why there is a 4 month gap in between this post and the last one. The wall of “I can’t do it” is mostly made up of self doubt and anxiety as to where to start. If one makes the mistake of ignoring the wall of “I can’t do it” then, one brick  at a time, the wall will rise and squelch any ray of hope you might have had with its overwhelming negativity.

This would seem like a sad story, were it not for the good news I’m going to share with you! Brace yourselves.

Currently, we are all chipping away at the wall of “I cant do it” and, with our sleeves pushed up  our arms and determined looks on our faces, we are now tackling this project in a totally different way.

This shift in thought began through a better understanding of the purpose of this blog.

This blog will be a cultivation of knowledge, via links, pictures and personal opinions.  It will promote awareness and open mindedness towards the happenings in the world, as well as the important events in the past.  We want to build confidence within everyone as far as their writing skills goes, by showing them that their opinion counts and that we are listening.

This is not going to be something that students feel the need to update because they signed up and are expected to follow through.

Even if, in the beginning, students are starting out feeling somewhat obligated to post, eventually, one hopes that there will be an understanding that sharing information this way, is something everyone should practice. Daily. Which is what we plan on doing.

To aid us on this communication escapade, we have a schedule, reliable editors (English 11 students), and the support of our Socials & English teacher, Mr. J.

I present to you:

The one and only, TALONS class blog

-revamped-

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Our posting schedule will be every Monday, Wednesday,and Friday.  All students from TALONS will post something at some point, whether it be a pressing news story, personal introspection or prompts that are provided.

Prompts include but are not limited to:

Multimedia Mondays! (Videos, pictures that are found or even captured personally can be shared accompanied with the authors thoughts on why they were posted)

Whatever is on your mind Wednesdays! (Students with a personal opinion to share, a first class organization to review, or progress to report)

From the TALONS room Friday! (What is happening currently in the TALONS room, subjects we are studying, noteworthy discussions etc.)

Without further ado, here’s to new beginnings!

-Donya