Checking-In My Kids

Years ago I learned and taught alongside a close-knit group of students that became like family to me. In all, the moments before, and years since, I’ve never quite had the same almost magical connection with young people.

As a teacher-researcher, I am aware there are many things I will never be-able to recreate with other young people that lived so beautifully with these kids. I was much younger. I was with these young people only briefly, we all new this, filling a replacement contract, for only four life changing months.

I think about the brevity of our time together, like we each, the students and I, somehow deliberately sucked the marrow of learning from one another as if we understood we might never be about to find this sacred space again. And honestly. I don’t think we ever did. Any of us.

They are my ‘that group’ group. My kids. My kids by heart.

The late night calls and mid-day check ins. Coffee house conversations.

They have never paused. All these years hence.

Years and years later and they still push my thinking. Weave their way into the stories I share, weave their way into how I share, challenge my pedagogy, help me to think better, more, and differently with what being an educator ought to be, for me. Every. Every. Day.

All these years later, and they continue to check in. Each of them.

Recently, R emailed and checked in, like she randomly does. I checked-in replied, then asked if I might share most of her note to me and my reply to her here.

That group.

My kids by heart

(Shared with permission)

Date: March 25, 2018 at 2:48:55 AM MST

To: Cori Saas

Subject: Check in

Hi

Here’s a university struggle piece:

Be creative he said

I laughed at the thought

I laughed because

I couldn’t remember the last time I was

allowed to express my creativity

I love science, the methodology that lets me to perceive

Lets me understand and view the world differently

When I see a tree, I don’t just see a tree

I see the molecules, the chemical reactions

Down to the particles and

I see it’s place in the system

The impact on the whole

How what may just seem like a

tree is a whole lot more to the community

This understanding excited me

Pieces fit together like a puzzle

But where is the creativity?

Albert Einstein once said

“Imagination is more important

than knowledge. For knowledge is

limited, whereas imagination

embraces the entire world,

stimulating progress, giving birth

to evolution.”

But that’s not the science I know

The papers

The lab reports

The deadlines

-0.5 because the text isn’t

justified

-2 because you messed up one significant figure out of 50

And better not even think about misplacing a table heading

Stifled by formatting

Wasting hours for nothing

Is this science?

Is it preparation for what awaits us?

Or is it just a strange system of torture?

It’s rough cause I don’t have time to edit my work anymore but I also

haven’t checked in in awhile.

I miss you

R

~

I’d like to say that I got your message in the morning. But you know that’s not so. You know I am awake. My own twitchiness at trying to settle things unjustifiable deep within my bones.

I kinda like that the need to justify doesn’t settle. For either of us.

Oh R, the degree journey: it really will mean something! The fidelity, the blandness, the rigger of this work. My climber of walls, the view from this rim comes with a deep sense of gratitude for those ropes, you know. And I am not expanding further. I know that you know. I know that you have known through all those backpacking adventures that were also filled with moments of dreaming about sciences. I know you know.

This gruellingly dull climb….It means something now though too.

Do you remember that last week we had together, all those years ago? When you came in to chat, just us. We sat on the tops of desks and you shared deeply of your experiences. Letting them come to sit there with us. I remember your strength in speaking them, in making them visible.

I think about how you have written and written and hiked and dashed and returned, how you have been broken and then found such healing. You. You did this. You. Your power, your words. Your body. Your wisdom. Your kindness. Your truths. Your way. Your time.

Your time.

R, your very life is light creative

I hiked in the mountains this morning, among rock and pine and always that light we know.

That light you know.

Hike my girl. Hike.

Love you always.

Saas

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Keep Loving

Last week during one of my Structured Support classes, I was helping a grade twelve student analyze a poem. Together, we read the poem assigned by his English Language Arts teacher.

“Wow that’s a powerful poem.”

“I don’t understand poetry.” My grade twelve student said, pushing away from from the table.

Stoic. “It’s about finding abusive love beautiful.”

“That’s just messed.”

“Or maybe it’s really brave.” The room paused. Those moments when the florescent lights stop humming. And everyone pauses….

“It is. I have a student in my writing group who just submitted a poem for publication. The poem is about missing being in an abusive relationship. I thought her piece is one of the most honest sharings about love. Sure, perhaps a distorted sense of love, but a kind of love.”

“F**^* that’s messed up.” The grade 12 said, fidgeting.

Across from me, a grade nine boy leaned back to balance on the back two legs of his chair, adding, “Like, how would you even love a girl like that?”

“I imagine, trust would be hard for her.”

The grade nine leaned back further. Lifted his arms up behind his head and then as moments often do if you let then, our world stopped. “You’d have to keep loving her. And just not stop.”

“Yeah?”

Twelve boys, grades nine through twelve had stopped breathing. There was deep wisdom then. Teachings. They understood this. A glimmer of something perhaps beyond them, until just then.

“Well, it would be hard. And you couldn’t give up. You’d have to love her until she learned a different love. The other kind. Because that’s love. To love a woman like that. Yeah. Shit. It would be hard. But that’s love.”

To love different. ~That is love.

A grade nine teaching

One Rock

Rocks

I love rocks. They are my favourite gifts. They whisper the finest truths. They are the best story keepers. When friends travel I ask them to return with rocks. As those I love have come to understand my rock language, I have been gifted with rocks from around the globe.

Rocks nestle in every room in my home: the kitchen. The bathrooms. The furnace room. The deck. The stairs. They sit on window-ledges and end table. They keep fine company alongside books. They are arranged in piles that, likely, only I understand. Deeply meaningful rocks pile by my bedside. Rocks that I have shared stories with rest on my dresser. They are in every room in my house. Some that loves have brought have cleared customs and are home here. Some are so large that I can curl up. Others, the ones I carry every day in my pocket, curling fingers around them to find strength and calm, to remember, and to know, are my dear ones.

My rocks.

Rocks have not always collected me, though.

17 years ago I left my marriage. And though that decision was absolutely the best for me and for my daughter, then I struggled to find my footing in the fog of recalibrating a new dream.

I felt lost.

It was the spring of that first year. My four year old daughter and I had just bought our first home. We were in the midst of painting, traveling back and forth every day from my parents to our home. As we drove the 110km one way, as my daughter slept, I cried silently.

Sometimes I would get out of the car and stand in the cold spring wind, and cry. I did not know how to reset.

I don’t even remember the lady’s name. I think I met her through grief counselling, but, honestly, I don’t remember. She was my mom’s age. I remember she lived in the city. She had stopped by our house. I hardly knew her. I thought it so odd.

She said she had a housewarming gift. She and I had met out front because I was not yet moved in. My car parked in front of hers on the street. She said she didn’t really want to see the house. She said the gift was for me more than for the house anyway. I remember I followed her around to the back of her car. She talked non-stop. Those days, I hardly spoke. The back of the car opened like a lid and she stepped back, then reached in. She had flats and flats of quart sealers and spoke about the craft projects she was going to start. There were dozens of plastic blags from having been shopping for supplies. She talked about all the places she had been, all the supplies she had found. She moved the bags, pushing the bulging plastic handles down as she searched.

I used to love to make things. I used to delight over quart sealers and candles too. Nothing. I remember the lurch in my stomach as I tried to care. My cheeks felt cold and I took a step back. I did not know how to simply stand there.

Then she handed me a sealer full of rocks.

“Here,” she said, “these are for you. I went out this morning and gathered them. There are 36. 36 exactly.”

She looked at me. She understood.

“Once a month take a rook from the jar and toss it. And while you do, give something away. Your anger, your fears. Tell a story to the rock and it will never share it with anyone. Your story will be safe.”

She turned and closed the hatch.

She turned back to me. “Cori do this. Once a month. You can do a couple for a while. Since it’s been six months. The gift isn’t the rocks. The gift is that by the time the rocks are all gone, you will no longer need them.”

I know I looked at her. I know.

Anything for a solution. No longer need them

Once rock at a time…

Before she got into her car, she patted the jar deeper into my hands.

One rock at a time. 36 rocks.

Three years.

~

That fourth toss changed everything. I was standing in the rain at the lookout near my parents’ cabin. I threw the rock hard, I screamed harder, so loudly that my body hurt. That was the first time I had made a sound from pain since I had left.

Slowlying I began to toss rocks.

Slowly.

After a while I found a deliberateness in each toss. After a while, I began to save my tosses for when I needed them. Long before the three years the tossing had turned into giving. After a while, I saw giving rocks everywhere I went.

Soon, kind-filled rocks began to find their way to me.

Years and years tipped-toed past and soon, only a few jar rocks remained. A long while ago, the quart sealer had been replaced with a much smaller one, tossing replaced with transitions, my degree, Jessy Lee’s graduation, Dad’s stroke, my thesis, so many rocks, yet one rock remained.

Rock Jar

My one rock. One.

I almost set that rock a few times. Once, I even took it out of the jar and put it in my pocket. I put it back though. I never found cause to set it down.

~

I think, I have always known what I need to do with that rock.