Thoughts on teaching in the time of Covid

Yesterday evening I completed the teaching of my children’s creative writing course. It was online and on Zoom, as is most of our lives. We started in September with the majority of the students in various cities in China and one in Hong Kong (it was morning for them), and the rest of them, here with me in Vancouver. The Wi-Fi was spotty for some, terrible for a couple, most kept their screens black, and others had no access to YouTube where I might have downloaded videos to supplement teaching. So bizarrely, despite the technology that made this pan-world course even possible, it was a pretty low-tech affair, relying on a smorgasbord of simple writing exercises, group storytelling, puzzle games to foster curiosity and question-asking, group book discussions to foster opinions and how to articulate them. There were successes and there were frustrations but certainly nothing to compare to the challenges many teachers have had to deal with even more of that, along with the fears and stresses of in-person teaching.

I have nothing profound or pithy to tie this post up in, other than to wish everyone – teacher and student alike – who has tried their best under these strange circumstances, to take time to rest over the holidays, to acknowledge you got through it, and to be kind to yourself if outcomes did not meet your standards.

photo from the Singapore Botanical Gardens website

Happy Publishing Day for Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North!

It’s October 6th which means that the sequel book is officially released. Here’s a quote from a fun review from yesterday that I may just steal in the future:

“It was a grand adventure … and contained so many pearls of wisdom, one could make a necklace from them.”

Thank you Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers!

A Cozy Chat with Me

An online interview with me was recently published on Medium.com. Among many things, I had a chance to discuss the ideas behind The Very, Very Far North and the upcoming sequel, Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North. You can click on the link to read it:

A Cozy Chat with Dan Bar-el

JULIE’S LIBRARY reads Not Your Typical Dragon

Julie’s Library is a podcast co-hosted by iconic actress, Dame Julie Andrews and her daughter, children’s author and educator, Emma Walton Hamilton. I was thrilled to have my picture story read by Ms. Andrews, accompanied by music and sound effects in their latest show. You can hear it by going to:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/not-your-typical-dragon-and-rooster-wore-skinny-jeans/id1507980417?i=1000486475589

Mother Bright and her Apple Tree

Today, I have posted a new storytelling video. It is my telling of a French folktale that I adapted many years ago. Mother Bright and her Apple Tree is a funny and poignant story about an independent, old woman who lives life on her own terms.

In telling this tale, I wish to honour the many elderly people who have succumbed to the Covid-19 virus before their time. If you should be so moved by the story, please consider donating a few dollars to a local organization that assists in caring for seniors. CanadaHelps.org can offer many places across the country. https://www.canadahelps.org/en/donate…

A small warning – this story may not be suitable for younger children as it addresses the topic of death, albeit in a funny, gentle way. I leave it up to your discretion.

The Very, Very Far North is a Best Books selection!

Duane the polar bear and his friends were included in the latest Best Books issue that is published bi-annually by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Do check it out. It makes for a fun family read in a time when families are together quite a lot.

Not Your Typical Dragon told

As children’s authors continue to find ways to connect with our young readers and listeners during social distancing, I’ve ventured into recording a bit of what my presentations are in front of audiences.

Here is how I introduce this picture book to children. I’ve added in some illustration inserts along the way, as well as sharing a few thoughts to parents and assorted adults at the end of the clip.