Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I always bring a book when I visit my doctor.  Unless it’s an emergency, an appointment with my doctor requires a lengthy wait – our partnership is worth it.  Last week, well into the second hour of waiting, climbing over the chairs from the row behind me, was a pre-kindergartener; her goal was the entertainment magazine on the table in front of me, or, perhaps, a moment away from her three even-younger siblings.  She flipped through the magazine with purpose, and began a conversation with her mother, seated behind me.  She wanted to know about John. 

I wondered, John who?  Thankfully the mother understood, and that, I suppose is the point.  The mother explained softly to the child, “No, John and Kate are not together anymore.  Kate and the kids are going to have their own show.”  The child’s questions continued and the mother confirmed for the child, “Yes, Honey, no show for John.  The lawyer said so.”  The child seemed to understand this language of reality television, and processed its context too much greater depth than the regurgitated verbal reruns offered by my daughter after evenings spent with my neighbours’ children. 

Yet, there I sat in the poorly padded chair wondering, would this child grow to someday wonder the same of the ‘great authors,’ who?  who?  Was she diminished by her different way of knowing?  A little chill came over me and I held my hard cover book a wee bit tighter.  I used to believe there was one answer to this question.  Now, however, I know there are so many questions, so many answers, so many perspectives… There are immeasurable ways with which to communicate – the knack is knowing that four-year-old language and 37 year-old language, reality show language and Giller prize winner language, must both be honoured as genuine communication. 

Recently a former student blogged, sharing her favorite literary quotes and that got me thinking about the words that have left their mark with me.  Even more recently, a former instructor challenged me to think about how his course, my first foray into the world of digital literacy, has influenced or supported my current teaching and learning.  The instructor even provided jumping off points in case the answer wasn’t blazingly obvious. 

But it is obvious.  It’s a matter of perspective.  There’s my how:  I’ve broken a teacher rule, perhaps, but there it is.  I read, see, listen, understand the world around me completely differently now that I’ve come to understand that there is another lens with which to teach and learn, another lens with which to communicate.  I don’t know if I add a layer or peel a layer, or if it’s simply different, but there are simply many more lenses… maybe this will help:

A former student of mine, a brilliant student who struggled with social relationships found so much happiness if she could be near a computer – that’s it, simply near a computer.  What meaning is there in that?  And she shared this with me in her journal, her paper and pen journal, what meaning is there now?

The first day back from winter break my daughter, an eager grade seven learner, received a letter in the mail.  Her Student Support Services teacher mailed her a Thank You letter.  My daughter had never received a thank-you card from a teacher, had never received mail from a teacher.  When my daughter is not playing soccer, or reading, she is writing.  She often shows me, with great deliberateness, how her teacher goes through the editing process with her, taking time to double space her work, to use coloured fonts and backgrounds.  My daughter held the note in her hands and rubbed each hand-written word with her fingers, saying her teacher’s name over and over. 

Two years ago, a friend, sent me a book in which he’d underlined passages.  One line had a similar effect on me, “the light lunacy of love in your eyes.”  The power of the written word… or is it the power of the connections we have with those with whom we connect with these messages?  Do the messages you receive mean the same to you?  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get excited over my water bill.  But let me ask you this, all you instant messengers out there, when the little ding sounds on your computer and you’re longing to hear it, is that not an emotional response?  Have you ever touched the words on the screen?

As I sat in that waiting room last week, I thought of the passage I had just read.  A passage, like many of that author’s passages, words that make me bargain with truth.  That passage had made me pause enough that I stopped and listened to the child’s conversation.  The child climbed over the chairs and I reread the passage: 

The first time Doree had gone to Mrs. Sands’s office, one of the other women there had given her a pamphlet.  On the front of it was a gold cross and words made up of gold and purple letters.  “When Your Loss Seems Unbearable…” Inside there was a softly coloured picture of Jesus and some finer print Doree did not read.

            In her chair in front of the desk, still clutching the pamphlet, Doree began to shake.  Mrs. Sands had to pry it out of her hand.

            “Did somebody give you this?” Mrs. Sands said.

            Doree said, “Her,” and jerked her head at the closed door.

            “You don’t want it?”

            “When you’re down is when they’ll try to get at you,” Doree said, and then realized this was something her mother had said when some ladies with a similar message came to visit her in the hospital.  “They think you’ll fall on your knees and then it will be all right.”

            Mrs. Sands sighed.

            “Well,” she said, “it’s certainly not that simple.”

            “Not even possible,” Doree said.

            “Maybe not.”

Is there irony that I was reading this work while a child of no more than four was discussing a reality show in great depth?  Or is the irony that the truth I find in the work I love best is also found in the work that you love best, that my former grade eight student loves best, even if it’s hugely different.  We should all find truth in the language we speak, right?

My former student who blogged about her favorite quotes adores one author.  She wrote fan-fiction about this author’s work, she brought books to school for others to read, and wrote lengthy stories about how her life and the lives of the characters were similar –  this author’s work pushed my former student to read, and pushed her to blog, and pushed her to think critically.  This is her language, her truth.  Who’s to say which of us is correct… 

 I was ninety-nine point nine percent sure I was dreaming.

            The reasons I was so certain were that, first, I was standing in a bright shaft of sunlight-the kind of blinding clear sun that never shone on my drizzly new home-town in Forks, Washington – and second, I was looking at my Grandma Marie.  Gran had been dead for six years now, so that was solid evidence toward the dream theory.

What makes an author good?  Is it literary honors or monetary success?  What makes the words powerful?  Is it the writing?  Is it the message?  Is it how popular the message becomes through the power of media?  Is it the relationships I attach to the words that give them meaning?  Is an author best when her work leaves you with an emotional reaction? 

When I pause long enough to understand different ways of teaching and learning, and understand the different lenses with which my grade eights or, perhaps, a four-year old in a doctor’s office may make meaning, the world opens up.  It’s like going from watching, to mucking about with my hands – I’m (un)learning, and it’s all about perspective.

 . . . .

Hasebe-Ludt, Erika and Wanda Hurren.  “Backyard Questions Written in Stone and Water: Alchemic Possibilities in the Space of the Heart.”  Carl Leggo.  Curriculum Intertext.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2003.  136. (1)

Meyer, Stephenie Meyer.  New Moon.  New York: Little Brown and Company, 2006.  3. (3)

Munro, Alice. “Dimensions.”  Too Much Happiness.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2009.  8.  (2)

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Good Enough

On December 17, after many noon-hour and after-school practices, the Prince Arthur Drama Club performed at the school Holiday Concert.  Their performance was magical.  But Wow, preparing for and helping with and putting on a holiday concert was exhausting!  That day, Thursday, I arrived at school at 7:30 a.m. and, except for an hour to run home and change, left school at 9:00 p.m., (and it was not report card time).  Somewhere, earlier that week, driving up to the school in the dark morning hours, in spite of starting the day tired, I knew that I loved being this busy.  I really love this journey.

 The next day, Friday, December 18, was my last day of internship, and my last day as a ‘student.’  At 3:15 p.m.  I officially had my B. Ed.  I was ‘teacher’…

 ~ 

I remember being very worn out my first day of internship, partly because the day before I had written a six- hour final, spewing out answers that went against everything I believe.  I had spent my summer planning, planning and dreaming!  I dreamt up fun science and ELA units for my Grade Eights.  I was ready.  I was excited.  And… I was nervous.  Maybe nervousness was caused a bit because my co-op was only there that first day, and away on family obligations the rest of the first week. – Ahh!

But my “Ahh,” was not needed – my co-op, Angus, turned out to be a gift from the internship co-op gods, and the sub who covered for my co-op, a good friend, said, “Cori, this is gonna be good.  Trust yourself.  And do what you do best.”

Later that first week, an email arrived from Angus:

“You can get as far as you want. They can work at their own pace. If you want to read, by all means, read to them. (and boy did I)
How did the day go? Who is the sub?
Having a great time so far! The class is going to HATE ME when they see the fitness test I learned today! (And loved the fitness test they did, begged for it, both PE classes!)
Angus”

Prince Arthur Community School is the same school where I had done my EPS 100 placement 5 years earlier.  At that time, I had remarked that the experience, the kids, and my then coop had given me a “phenomenal beginning to my teaching journey.”  On my first day, all those years ago, a boy remarked, “You look happy to be here.”  Fast forward five years to  internship and that same student returned to PA to say Hi.  And, what do you know, I was still happy.  And turns out, after my four months of internship, I even developed a Middle Years attitude.  🙂

Farewell Song from the Middle Years teachers, Dec 18, 2009:

There’s Donna and Dan and Warren and Sandra,

Trina, Angus, Linda and Amada,

But we will always recall…

The most enthusiastic teacher of all…

 ~

Cori, the awesome intern,

Had a very special way,

And if you ever worked with her,

You’d see she brightens up every day,

 ~

All of the 3rd floor teachers,

We will really miss her so,

Especially poor Angus,

He will hate to see her go!

 ~

Till one day, we hope real soon,

The boss will come to say,

Cori with your teaching so great,

Here’s a job in Grade 8.

 ~

Now all of the kids they love you,

You made learning so much fun,

We would like to thank you,

For all the things that you have done!!!

~

Prince Arthur felt like home.  I loved teaching full time.  However, during the subsequent days when I was required to return big chunks of classes to my co-op, I felt uneasy.  I loathed not being busy.  After three half-days of not being completely busy, I found other classrooms and other groups of kids to keep me busy – and there was the CONCERT!

However, I also understand that the discomfort of leaving is an integral part of internship. During my first pre-internship at Balcarres Community School in 2008, a student remarked, “You don’t lie, do you Miss?”  I looked at him, and replied, “No.”  He looked at me, this grade ten student; he looked at me on that, my last day, and read right through the fallacy of the situation, “Well, you’re doing it right now.”  And he was right.  I loved him.  And in the loving there must be a promise to stay loving him, and at least, to allow the leaving to be his, not mine.  The conflict lay in my behavior and in the certainty of my leaving.  The truth was I could not really support him, really.  I was leaving.  Was my love a lie too?  I’ve never forgotten the way he called bullshit on the ridiculousness of internship…

~ 

The unease of internship is, perhaps, a necessity.  I need to know, if life has not taught me already, how to step away with a sense of grace, but, ahh, it’s not fair.  And, you know, I agree with that wise young man from Balcarres, it’s not fair to the individuals who allow me to share their space.   Trust should not feel this way.

I’ll not only miss my kids, I’ll miss my staff, miss my home.  We all knew I was leaving, but what answers are there for questions such as: “Ms. Saas, next term, can we do a musical?” and, “I’ll see you in Girls Group…”

From my kids, posted with their permission:

“Teachers who believe in you, and make you feel better about yourself and always know what to say, and when to say it and someone who can relate to kids the way you can, are the teachers I’ll remember forever.  Because NO ONE has EVER inspired me like you have.  You have helped so much, and you probably don’t even know it.  You didn’t feel like a teacher to me.  You felt like a friend.”

“I wanted you to know that I’m grateful for your hard work in helping me to grow.  For your constant understanding and for always being there, to tell me I can do it and to show me that you care!

Thank you for your encouragement and understanding this year.  YOU HAVE BEEN THE BEST.

You do more than just teach… “

~

I learned a lot too.  Think about this: eight short months ago, I sat in the computer lab in the U of R and claimed the only thing I knew about computers was how to word-process and send emails (without attachments).  Now, I speak some of the same tech language as my students, I find this really funny! (Got a fancy new phone the first day after internship so I can follow my co-op’s tweets about the Epic Eights, being connected is great!).  Heck, I was in Chapters a week ago, a professor from Brandon stopped me and said she has been enjoying following our classroom blog, has been sharing it with her student-teachers! Wild!  Think about this: 5 ½ years ago I fell to my knees in tears at learning I’d been re-admitted to the Education Program at the U of R after years of health issues.

The Epic Eights, as my grade eights coined themselves, were amazing!  They made every moment of my internship great.  I remember so many specific things.  I remember one student saying to me, “Hey Ms. Saas, you’ve never sent me to the office!”  “Hey Ms. Saas, yours is the only class I didn’t fail.”  I hugged my kids a lot.  I laughed with my kids a lot.  I laughed at myself, in front of my kids, a lot.  I shared with my kids, a lot.  I was honest with my kids, all the time.  I loved my kids, and they knew it.   They felt it.  They will remember it.

The second last week of classes, I was gone for the day, and Angus and the kids got busy and made farewell videos for me.  That final day, after gifts and cards, and after lunch and much puddling (Ms. Saas crying), I perched up on the counter to watch the videos.  I laughed really hard, I cried really hard, and I’ve never been more proud. Wow, have these kids had an effect on me!  My goodness I love my Epic Eights.

Sabrina S made me read this aloud.  She said I could post it to my blog.  She said she wanted to see my reaction.  Other students kept handing me tissues…

Ms. Saas’s Poem by Sabrina S.

There once was a teacher

By the name of Ms. Saas

She is the greatest teacher, ever

Who has a great class

She is protective and strong,

With a mind of her own

We all admire her,

She belongs on a throne.

But now she is leaving,

And we shall miss her.

She made a huge difference,

Because she is a great teacher

There one was teacher

By the name of Ms. Saas.

She will be forever missed,

By her wonderful Epic Eight class.

~

So at 3:20 Angus handed me a card, “Congratulations on your Outstanding Internship!”  “Cori, I’ve nominated you for the top internship award.”  I cried and cried.  Now the Great Distinction felt right; there were kids involved.

~

And so you may be asking, when the dust settled, what mark did I give myself, what mark did the kids give me?

~

Driving some of the team home after our final Drama practice on the 14th, I asked, “OK, Ladies, I’m done in four days, what more could I do to be a better teacher?”

“Miss Saas, you’re good enough, good enough!”

I laughed, “OK, OK, but Meg, you play on teams, you know we’re always practicing wanting to improve, what more could I do to be a better teacher?”

From the back seat, “I’ve got this Meg!  You paint, right Miss Saas?”

“Yah?”

Meg, jumping back in, “Oh, you read my thoughts; like when you’re painting and you know when it’s good enough, and you have to step away.  There!”

Again from the back seat, “Yes, any more and all that love would slip away.  Now, it’s good enough.”

 

More than my final internship IPP, my final B.Ed. report card ~ G ~  good enough.

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