Educational Consulting and Teaching

Ross Laird is a consultant to educational institutions on themes of education renewal, innovation, and mental health. He is also an instructor in counselling, psychology, expressive arts, and creative writing. He works with learners, teachers, and administrators in diverse situations, from primary to post-secondary environments, in public and private schools, in Canada and the US.

Ross’ approach to teaching is experiential. He supports learner initiatives and experimentation, and he is particularly interested in ways of integrating personal and professional development. He supports learner-designed projects, individualized curriculum, and group experiences. He believes in the power of education as a transformative force.

Ross likes to ask foundational questions and pursue meaningful answers. Through learner-designed projects, individualized curriculum, purposeful play, and many other innovative approaches, he helps create collaborative learning environments in which learners discover their own paths and purposes. He promotes communities of real inquiry, creative engagement, and personal development within and beyond the classroom. In his university classroom he emphasizes experiences that are reflective, individualized, and joyful. He recognize beneath academic cultures and traditions lies the authentic search for knowledge, wisdom, and personal connection. He support that search and encourage learners to follow it — wherever it may lead.

All of Ross’ teaching projects (in whatever discipline) focus on the integration of personal and professional development. Using creative methods, experiential learning, outdoor trips, self-awareness practices, cultural immersion, learner-built content, and many other approaches, he tries to assist learners in developing a broad vision that moves across all domains of knowledge.

His teaching integrates three core values: self-awareness, empathy, and character. Self-awareness is what we know — about ourselves, our interests, our capacities. Empathy is what we feel — toward others, toward the state of our world, toward nature. Character is what we do with our self-awareness and our empathy. Awareness, emotion, behavior. Or, to put it another way: being, feeling, doing. These represent the core of Ross’ approach: the whole enterprise of teaching and learning rendered down to the alchemy between three foundational parts of ourselves. In his courses and workshops, all disciplines are one discipline: the search for self-awareness, empathy, and character.

Ross is particularly interested in the uses of creativity. In his work with learners, he helps co-create integrative and engaging learning environments in which participants explore many forms of creativity, learn to facilitate and lead interpersonal and creative process, and examine personal strengths and vulnerabilities. These learning environments are collaborative and build upon the individual strengths of each participant to discover the quality and integrity of the learning community. With self-awareness, empathy, and character development as the foundations of the curriculum and learning environment — with both learners and instructors grounded in these values — Ross helps to construct communities of real inquiry, creative engagement, and personal development.

Sample Teaching Testimonials

The course asked me to challenge myself, open up and to share my work with others. I have been at university for five years and that time I have undergone numerous peer reviews, presentations and submitted essays that I have toiled on and poured hours into. That said, this class seemed to be asking more of me: to submit works that originate from me, ultimately in a personal way… Working on these projects opened up many avenues of myself to my own consciousness, from simply blowing off steam to expressing my opinions to what I most enjoy: morphing my own memories and experiences into works with anchors to the waking world. [My final project] was the champion of all my work. At the risk of being overly-dramatic, what I experienced was something near an epiphany. Realization dawned on me with every activity I use to explore my own creative nature, I slowly better myself. I learn that I enjoy not only the process of creating something that is my own but the finished product as well. These feelings are the beginnings of pride, which I don’t feel I have truly had with my work for many years… As the semester ends I feel that I can truly say I have delved deeper into myself, learning about what and who I really am. It is that I find truly valuable. This is something I will ruminate on while on long drives and use to build myself as I age… Every semester it is as if I am working on a novel about myself. I become ever more self-aware and in turn discover things I feel strongly about and other traits that I am not happy to have a part of me. To draw on a cliché, the journey itself is much more valuable than the beginning or end — something many often seem to forget, including myself. This class was another step in that journey, reminding me that the moment I am in, is the only moment I have.

Every week when I came to class I felt very encouraged and inspired by all of the different creative ideas… I am walking away this semester after putting in a great effort, with new skills and experiences that I will be able to reflect on forever.

I have never taken a course this before. I think there should be more courses that follow this criteria. You allowed me to take my creativity to a whole new level. I think that creativity should be a bigger part of education because it is so crucial to every individual. Creativity shapes people as individuals and gives them personality. It also allows them to experience things they never have experienced before.

This course forced me to let go of the constraints I place on myself for constant organization and planning, for which I am grateful. I have been able to explore my creative side in a way I had always wanted to but never thought I had time for. I have found time for the kinds of things I enjoy and feel I have accomplished some real personal growth.

My progress within the semester in this class was been great for me not only academically but personally. I have gained so much. A simple little project turned into something wonderful. I built new relationships that I didn’t know existed.

I realized this class is very different from other classes that I have taken previously. Therefore, I was going to drop this class because I was afraid to be in this unfamiliar learning environment, especially with my poor English skill. Furthermore, I am an introvert person who feels stressful every time need to present our own thoughts in front of the class. However, class activities create a positive atmosphere which allows me to learn how to express my individuality in a group setting. After a period of time, the supporting and encouraging atmosphere have totally changed my mind, and I gradually enjoy to be in this class… I this class because I get to know and understand people, and it helps me to develop a better interpersonal skills… All in all, I do learn tremendous knowledge and have fun while participating in this class.

Interdisciplinary studies are far more beneficial than just focusing on one subject because they allow us to look at things in very different ways. This class gave me the confidence to think outside the box and apply my artistic and critical forms of thought into my other classes even though I was nervous beyond belief. I read more scholarly sources for one paper this term than I have in the entire four years I have been at university and I believe it has everything to do this class and these assignments.

I wish I had known about these courses when they were first introduced. My academic journey has been a very long one, between working and changing my programs. However, the three courses that I have managed to take at the end have been the courses that will stand out the most. The amount of personal growth I have experienced in these classes has been an extremely positive experience and I cannot express my gratitude enough. If it was not for these classes and the projects and assignments that we had to do I would not have been able to reconnect with the creative part of myself that I have somehow managed to lose track of over the last many years. Not only was I encouraged to reconnect and embrace with the creative, silly, and childlike part of me that was lost somewhere in my earlier years, but I was able to do this in a safe environment that encouraged this kind of personal development. So I believe down the road, when I am teaching my own students, I will still remember these projects and how they made me feel and try to encourage my students to do the same. I will not hinder their creativity, but rather, encourage it and try to utilize it as a way to demonstrate the importance of self-expression and how it contributes to their personal growth.

The thing this class brought to my life was permission to create and be creative. Though my reasoning was often related to a final grade, I think that creating is something that needs to be a bigger part of my life — even when grades aren’t a part of it. I thought differently about various things throughout the semester and the 3 hours in our class were often the time of the week where I actually reflected about myself, and my family and the path that we’re on. I listened.

I loved participating in the class. The atmosphere was very welcoming to speak out. All the students were very nice to each other and supportive. I think generally a student wanting to participate is much better than a teacher picking on or forcing a student to participate. You have created a classroom setting where I felt the need to participate because of the thought provoking topics and discussions.

I honestly feel that learning happens when there is a lighter atmosphere with a sense of freedom. This semester has been a wonderful experience and I am glad I had the chance to do this in my last year. I realized a lot about myself and changed my way of thinking about education. I will take many aspects of this course with me in my future endeavours.

Our class demonstrates the benefits of a non-traditional classroom format. Everyone has to pay attention in circle; there is no hiding. Everyone is an equal, including the teacher.

Interdisciplinary Expressive Arts is without a doubt the most enlightening class that I have ever taken. Never before have I seen a class that facilitates you diving into yourself to discover and understand your own creative process in a way that relates to you. It’s truly been an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.

This class has opened my eyes to a new kind of learning. I can confidently say that I have never enjoyed a university course as much as this one. That being said I must explain how I view things. I think it’s very unfortunate that to succeed in life I’m having to go to university and take courses that I don’t even enjoy in order to get a piece of paper after four or five years that says I have taken blank number of courses and have passed with adequate grades. That piece of paper is then somehow supposed to give me an advantage in obtaining a good-paying job so that I can then buy a bunch of stuff that I may or may not need. It makes me very depressed to think that I have spent so much of my time being miserable, just so that I can work for the rest of life. This is why I liked our class so much.

The weekly sessions were probably the only academic session this semester which kept me thinking after the class and even for while after that! The course moved me to my core. I was made to go deep into analysis and simply think about my life in general, and get away from the simple small things. This does not happen a lot, especially in an academic context, and I appreciate the structure and the content of this course.

I cannot remember a semester in which was as much fun as this one. I also cannot remember a class that inspired me to write a poem about it. Then again, not every class grants its students the opportunity to truly find themselves in activities which are important to them. I am happy that the feeling of exploration allowed our group projects to think bigger with our ideas because there is a certain pressure to have a cool presentation to ensure the activity is memorable. As the semester progressed there was stiff competition for what activity was the best. I still remember the first exercise our teacher had us do: we went outside and were given a piece of paper with a list of questions on it and we could not look at the next question until we felt satisfied with the previous one. The class has a nice synergy of activities which pushed us out of our comfort zones and activities which reminded us that sometimes we need to look inward. I am sad this class is done. I wonder why more classes are not like this.

Thank you so much once again for an amazing semester. Overall, I believe I have taken every course that’s been available from you. I have learned so much from these courses that I can apply in my future endeavours. Honestly, I have never experienced taking such courses which are so informative and have such a great learning curve. These courses have taught me to express my creativity, learn team building skills, develop my self awareness, improve my leadership and public speaking, and express my imagination. These are all skills that I can apply professionally.

This course influenced me in a productive way. I was constantly reflecting on the ideas thrown in the class (by the instructor and the other students). The instructor was truly motivating, and mind-opening for me. Overall, I was continuously engaged with the message of the course through self-reflection, tasks done as a result of a generated motivation, developing a creative approach to a desired healthy lifestyle as a projects, and finally doing a project and learning from it.

Thank you for a wonderful semester. I have fundamentally renewed how I operate. I’ve sought to add and welcome creativity to my life… The culmination of applying these tools and projects is that I am happier and more efficient, and have maintained my motivation to keep moving through it all. Also, being in the circle re-conceptualized my ideas of instruction and the classroom. I plan on becoming a teacher, and reflecting on this semester, my consciousness is now awakened to the way that traditional education and its content is formatted, constrained and determined through the physical arrangement of a classroom. Further, my eyes are now incredibly open to how children interact with their traumas. I will carry these lessons forward.

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