Facilitation and Teaching
with Ross Laird
On the trail with a group, exploring the possibilities for outdoor experiences to cultivate mental health. Deas Island Park, Delta, BC.
The courses I teach are focused on the integration of personal, professional, and academic development. My approach emphasizes learner engagement, purposeful creativity, and experiential self-development. I believe in the power of education as a transformative force. My courses are specifically designed to help learners ask foundational questions and pursue meaningful answers. Through learner-designed projects, individualized curriculum, and many other creative approaches, my courses cultivate collaborative learning environments in which learners discover their own paths and purposes within and beyond the classroom. In all of my classes I endeavour to promote experiences that are reflective, individualized, and joyful. And, perhaps most importantly, I recognize that education can and should be an authentic search for knowledge, wisdom, and personal connection. I support learners in that search and encourage them to follow it — wherever it may lead.
I help learners build an integrative and engaging learning environment. Together we learn to facilitate and lead our interpersonal and group process, and we examine our personal strengths and vulnerabilities. Our learning environment is collaborative, with the instructor serving as mentor and guide. We build upon the individual strengths of each participant to discover the quality and integrity of our learning community. Our classroom is built by learners and for learners. With self-awareness, empathy, and character development as the foundations of our curriculum and learning environment — with both learners and the instructor grounded in these values — we construct our communities of inquiry, creative engagement, and personal development.
I am proud of the leadership and achievement demonstrated by the many students with whom I have the privilege to work. Former learners have won awards, earned scholarships, and presented at conferences. They consistently demonstrate leadership in academic life and beyond. Our engaging environments — with their focus on the integration of personal and professional development — provide exemplary opportunities for learners to develop the skills necessary to achieve outstanding results in whatever they pursue.
My educational work arises from my own core values and practices. Here they are, grouped under the headings of my three core values:
Developing a path of self-assessment, self-regulation, and self-reflection.
Following the search for knowledge and meaningful answers.
Finding useful solutions to complex problems.
Developing creativity through play and imagination.
Thinking for oneself.
Opening oneself to empathy and compassion.
Communicating effectively in speaking, listening, writing and performing.
Building trust, emotional safety, and a culture of collaboration.
Being open to giving and receiving feedback and accepting others.
Embracing and resolving conflicts.
Engaging in the reciprocal process of mentorship.
Joining and contributing to communities.
Modeling and teaching ethical practices.
Opening to, and learning from, other cultures.
Being a lifelong learner.
Overall, I try to explore learning from an integrative point of view. I’m interested in how we might create and support learning environments that are engaging, purposeful, and fun. Many learners yearn for educational experiences that engage, provoke, and encourage, and for classroom environments that bring them into authentic relationships with one another. Ultimately, that’s what my approach is all about: authentic relationships. I view my role as one of service to that aim: to help learners find ways to increase the depth and purpose of their relationships with themselves and others.
I facilitate workshops, in schools, on the interconnected themes of technology, addictions, mental health, parenting, mentorship, and personal development. The challenges faced by parents, educators, and students are complex, difficult, and often experienced as a relentless and turbulent wave crashing across our social landscape. It’s tough to know what to do, how to respond, how to find a useful path forward. Because of the depth and diversity of these challenges, the presentations increasingly involve three different workshops: one for parents, one for teachers, and one for students. The basic framework typically involves a full day of activity, with teacher and student sessions in the morning and afternoon followed by an evening workshop for parents and community members. This format works well for stimulating discussion and action for all three groups. Naturally, the themes for each group are similar, but my approach to each session is somewhat different. Here’s how it normally looks:
This presentation explores the emerging cultures of technology and their impact on childhood development, family life, and education. Technology is now an essential feature of the landscape of childhood and adolescence. Gaming, social networking, texting, and other digital tools now provide the central means by which children and adolescents manage the challenges of their development. Issues such as anxiety, depression, isolation, anger, and addiction are increasingly finding niches in the online worlds. Parents, educators, counsellors, and all those who work with children must be able to respond to this groundswell of change with new skills and strategies. This presentation provides a summary of those skills and strategies along with a suite of simple, practical tools that can assist parents in navigating – and helping kids navigate – the complexities of the digital landscape.
The landscape of education has changed more rapidly in the past decade than in the previous hundred years. Cultural, economic, technological and social changes challenge educators with increasingly complex issues, themes, and opportunities. In this new environment – where the only certainty is that things evolve rapidly – how do we preserve and nurture essential and foundational values such as mentorship, community, and leadership? How do we help kids deal with the ever-increasing risks they face from addictions, mental health challenges, bullying, and technology? How do we help guide them through this complex landscape? In this workshop we will explore opportunities for responding to the needs of young learners in new ways. We will build the core skills of understanding and dealing with addictions (to technology and substances), developing useful and practical programs for kids to navigate the challenges of mental health, and helping families (and the school) to work together with purpose and clarity. If we are to deal with the contemporary themes of addictions and mental health, we must join the conversation, engage with the turbulence, and be willing to evolve as circumstances evolve around us. This workshop explores how to do this.
Addiction is the most common and the most misunderstood challenge we face. Most of us find addictions somewhere close by: in our families, in our peers, sometimes in ourselves. Addictions are everywhere. And yet, it’s tough to know what addiction really is: a habit, a means of coping, a way of just having fun? And at what point does having fun become something else: something darker and much more difficult? Despite the mysteries and complexities of addiction, we do know quite a bit about how it starts: in adolescence, typically, with a series of situations and events that tend to lead people toward addictive behaviour. And we also know a great deal about how to stop addictions: through education, healthy relationships, mentorship, and meaningful experiences. In this workshop we discuss the matter of addiction: what it is, how to understand it, how it is connected to mental health, and how to deal with it. We talk about different kinds of addictions: drugs and alcohol, technology addictions, addictions to risk and recklessness. We explore the skills and knowledge required to be safe and self-aware, and we explore new developments in addictions and mental health research. This is an open forum for discussion, debate, and learning.