Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hana's Suitcase: A True StoryHana’s Suitcase: A True Story by Karen Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent, high-interest, low-reading-level book about the Holocaust. It’s aimed at about a Grade 5 or 6 reading level, but I have used it in an adult literacy class and the students got a lot out of it. Because the subject matter is so serious, it does not have the same pitfalls that using a children’s book in an adult literacy class can often have. Although the reading level is low, it is not childish in any way.

This book is the true story of a young girl, Hana Brady, and her life in Czechoslovakia before and during World War II. Hana and her family are Jewish and thus targeted by the Nazis when they invade Czechoslovakia.

The book has a parallel storyline that takes place closer to the present day (in the early 2000s). Fumiko Ishioka, head of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Museum, leads a group of Japanese children (The Small Wings) in a quest to discover more about the owner of an artifact lent to their museum by the Auschwitz museum. The story moves back and forth between Hana’s story and Fumiko and the Small Wings’ search for more information about Hana.

There are many archival photos of the people, artifacts, and documents involved in the story, which add to the interest and help situate the reader; there is also a related documentary that I highly recommend called Inside Hana’s Suitcase–it’s an excellent additional resource in the classroom. This page from Scholastic also has good ideas for activities in the classroom and links to other resources: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/b…

You can read all my GoodReads reviews here.

Demanding kinder classrooms doesn’t make you a snowflake


Demanding Kinder Classrooms Doesn’t Make You a Snowflake,” by Daniel Heath Justice at The Walrus.

Bringing kindness into your teaching doesn’t mean being perfect or being a pushover. Some students will flourish in our classrooms; some will struggle; some will fail their coursework, and others will step away. Being a kind teacher doesn’t mean creating a classroom where all behaviours are appropriate, or not having high and even demanding expectations. You can be kind and tough—some of my best teaching role models across the ideological spectrum were precisely that combination, and because they demanded a lot and had faith in their students’ capacity for success, I strove harder to meet those expectations. Students have a keen bullshit detector and know when they’re being condescended to; they also know when someone believes in them. In my experience the vast majority of students want to be challenged. But they want to be treated like human beings, too, and they want to know that they’re being treated fairly. If our courses are predicated on the idea that students have to leave part of their humanity at the door, then as teachers we’re failing at a fundamental level.



Policy Note by Suzanne Smythe: Lifting tuition fees for adult basic education is just the beginning

Terrific article by Suzanne Smythe about where BC needs to go with adult basic education.

Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right

Suzanne Smythe is one of the BC educators who started the Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right! blog in response to the BC Liberals 2014 policy changes that ushered in a bleak period for adult basic education (ABE) learners in the province. Now it is August 2017, and the new BC NDP government has fulfilled a key election promise – the reinstatement of tuition-free ABE. Tuition-free ABE is one part of a larger discussion, and Symthe gives a welcome and full explanation here in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC PolicyNote (August 29, 2017).

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tool for matching student interests to careers

My adult fundamental literacy students are often not sure what kind of work they’d be interested in, but they want to find out so they know what courses to take later on. I found a tool that can help them match their interests with potential careers, and can give them an indication of what kind of training or education they would need to pursue that career: the O*NET Interest Profiler at Mynextmove.org. It’s an American government site, but that shouldn’t matter too much.

I tried it out myself and it said I would prefer a job that’s investigative, artistic, and social. Unsurprisingly, my current job as a college instructor fits that profile. (I suppose that’s a good sign!)

new BC government makes ABE tuition free again

Fantastic news for ABE students in British Columbia! ABE will be tuition free again starting September 1st:

The new NDP government in B.C. is eliminating tuition fees on adult basic education or English language learning programs, reversing a 2015 decision by the B.C. Liberals, Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday.

Horgan said the announcement means the NDP has delivered on a promise made during the election campaign.

“We’ve seen literally thousands of people not participate or not move forward with English language learning and adult basic education as a result of the barriers that costs impose on people,” Horgan said at a media event.

“We wanted to get this out as quickly as possible so that the September school year can see an increase in enrolment.”

In 2015, institutions were allowed to set fees for adult basic education and English language learning programs up to $1,600 per semester per student — and enrolment dropped substantially, according to the NDP.

University of British Columbia professor of education Shauna Butterwick applauded the change in policy and believes it will improve access to education for prospective low-income students.

Some of those students did not graduate from high school; others may have been forced out of old industries by the changing economy, and some of them could be those who did graduate from high school over five years ago but have to retake courses as the curriculum changes.

“The vast majority of them continue to go onto other post-secondary education programs,” she told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

“It’s just helping students get to programs that are career-focused and can get them jobs with a living wage.”

(A note for those people who have been complaining about the potential cost to taxpayers: According to the numbers that colleges were given last year by Ministry officials, the implementation of tuition in 2015 cost the province twice as much to administer as the original tuition free model. This move will actually be saving the province money. Also, as Butterwick notes later in the linked article, people who get an education and go on to better paying jobs are less likely to need the social safety net and likely to contribute more in taxes. But the bottom line is…education is a RIGHT, not a privilege.)