Tag: education

Keeping Talking

~

My school division recently launched a locally developed course, Mental Health Studies 20L. This course is designed specifically to meet the needs of learners’ in our division. The course addresses positive mental health, common mental health challenges, understanding stigma in relation to mental illness, and mental health and addictions. Teachers are nudged to take up the task of offering this course, helping students and school communities break down mental health stigma.

Hmm. I was in pre-start up meetings Monday with my two counterparts, the other ‘Grad Coaches’ in our division. Our mandate, or one of our mandates, is to help students at risk of not graduating to graduate on time.

Recently, I read Zac Chase’s thoughts about living educational mandates and the reality of living our work:

“I’m supposed to be talking about standards, though, right? Where’s my rhetoric around problems of practices, data-driven decision making, and instructional design?

What nerve do I have shunning my innovator’s mindset; deciding not to teach like a champion, a pirate, or my hair is on fire and focusing on something as ephemeral and un-quantifiable as joy.”

I want to talk about joy.

I need to talk about joy.

And while I do, we are also going to talk. About everything. And in this sharing space, talking is going to be ok.

~

We grad coaches sat together Monday mucking through the often hardwork of figuring the logistics of offering this new locally developed course with only two weeks to go before the start of classes, the often trickiness of the content, and the often tenderness of our students, and be certain, the pain of each of our own lived experiences.

The conversation was messy. We circled around and back to ideas, to plans, sifting through thoughts. And circled on. There were tears and smiles and harsh looks and gentle knowings.

By phone, we chatted with one of the course developers, clarifying the fundamental need to offer the course as an elective, allowing students the choice to engage with big ideas and potentially painful topics. This isn’t a core subject after all, it’s different.

Would we sit on it, spend the fall planning? Would we push through, bring in outside agencies, where possible and forge ahead, as an elective, having the tough talks, living vulnerable. Or would we pause, plan carefully and launch a well crafted, course next September?

~

See. This isn’t a core subject. It’s different.

~ Friday two of my former students were in a horrific altercation, one dying, illegibly, at the other’s hand. See. I am tired of losing kids.

That’s important. I want you to read that again.

I am tired of losing kids.

Many people have asked me if I knew the boys. And what they want is a storied telling. Stop. In all ways. Please.

One came to me years ago a gangly grade nine. I took him on his first outdoor education trip. He had very little. My dad scrounged together a sleeping bag, camping supplies. We were camped in a deep ravine, total backcountry kind of stuff. He ran free, like his smile was released from his belly and he was set to chase it. He smiled right through to the end of the year.

The other came to me years later. We wrote laters one summer while he was hoping to set his world on longed for path. The letters began after my dad’s stroke. He made a wooden cribbage board, and he gave it to me to share with my dad once dad was recovered. I shared stories of dad’s teachings, and of hope. The letters came written on long pieces of foolscap, remember that? Folded in half and then a third. Printed carefully.

Not a core class.

I am thinking about the ripple effect from the events Friday. The boys with partners, with babies of their own now. I am thinking deeply of the many, many, many lives so forever and unquestionably shifted.

I am thinking of my friends, my colleagues who live the pain of loosing kids

This is important.

Last year I did more than 15 suicide interventions. I am an Student Support teacher. There are six other SSTs at my school. How many kids did we talk with? Add the councillors? Now our caring and attentive staff. We are over 50. In Canada suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15-24 (Health Commissions of Canada, 2017). This statistic has not changed in 20 years. I learned this fact from the MHS20L curriculum. I feel it too.

This is important.

Tuesday my husband, Alan, asked how I am going to welcome my kids back the first day.

“Hug them.”

Wednesday, again. Again. Someone inquired about the boys.

Let me tell you. I love my kids. I can tell you something beautiful about each and every each student I have taught.

Needed.

Talk openly. Talk hard. Talk hope. Start now.

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In the Beginning

Day one.

I am spending a week in Calgary attending ACAD’s summer institute, offering educators 24 different two full day sessions. We participate in six hours of studio sessions each day. I spent today slipping into the comfortable space with line & shadow, the space where I am safe, the space where I enter through sketch(book).

I like storying this way.

I am comfortable here. Here is where I longed to spend the afternoon days of summer.

And this is my professional learning. What joy!

Our studio work was slow. We rejoiced in our failures. Our instructor called our process ‘learning to see.’

There were nine educators registered for our small studio session. Seven educators showed up. Each of us admitted that we knew and had taught a set of rigid rules to this same process. We shared that we had been taught the rules and that we had grown up trusting in these rules.

However, by noon today the seven of us were questioning the rules. By the end of the day we knew we never again wanted creative ‘rules’ to govern our classrooms.

Tomorrow, we shift our stations. Tomorrow, we continue to create.

Tomorrow, we continue our process of leaning to see.

How Do I Get That Job?

Last week I attended the seventeenth annual National Congress on Rural Education. My role at the conference was as teacher advisor to a team of nine high school ejournalism students from Prairie South Schools. The students were successful; this means I was responsible for frequently refilling my coffee cup.

I sat in on the keynote speakers and the entertainment following the banquet. As well, I made certain to attend all session where one of @yourgeeksquad was sharing their work.

My role was not only to listen to kids, but to offer my students a platform from which to share their experiences.

The conference began on Sunday evening, March 25, and ran until Tuesday noon, March 27. Driving home on Tuesday, my kids and I reflected about what went well and what they would do differently if given the chance to report at another RCEd, or during their next ejournalist gig. The students’ big take-away was: let kids lead more.

Sunday night my students gathered on the second floor common area of the Delta Bessborough. There, we collected and reviewed our interviews and summarized our notes from the first day. The adrenaline was running. We had just met and interviewed and been photographed with Craig Kielburger; also, we had just come from the local coffee house. 

A night of collaboration was in full swing. Then the elevator doors opened.

See the Geek Squad were not the only kids who had met Craig. My kids, the-at-first-glance-what-appear-to-be-white kids-from Prairie South Schools were not the only kids who had attended the conference.

Around 11:55 pm, from out of the elevator stepped Jake, “So what are you all doing?”

A few of my students looked up from their pieces and began to explain their role as a team of ejournalists at the event. But deadlines won out, the kids returned to their work and at midnight the hotel security ushered my kids into a private room 30 feet away.

My coffee and I stayed with Jake.

“Have you seen the App for our virtual wall?” I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and I handed my phone up to him. As he began investigating the wall, he sat down beside me. Instantly, Jake and I were connected.

Jake is a vlogger. He had watched the Geek Squad all night. I had seen him hanging around. My legs tired, I soon curled up into the comfy green sofa. Jake, in his spiffy jeans and sport coat sat with legs a bit too long yet for the rest of him, sprawled out in the common area, in the arm chair at my side. Here, we shared stories.

Like the Geek Squad, Jake too was attending the event. Jake however was also presenting at the congress. With me he shared the story he’d be sharing the next day, the story of the lasting legacy of residential schools in the North. Jake paused, asked me if I understood about residential schools. It was important to Jake that I understood. He shared that what many people fail to understand, that when residential schools were closed, and in the north that wasn’t too long ago, there were few if any financial or educational supports in place for First Nations people. He shared about the results the lack of supports have had on his community. He shared about the challenges, specifically access to educational services and systemic racism, which continue to affect First Nations people, his home community, his family and him.

Jake spoke gently yet passionately relating his narrative. We laughed, and we cried. I shared my story too, being a single mom to a teenaged daughter and the understandings many assume they share of me.

Jake and I also shared that we had never before stayed in such a beautiful hotel.

Jake talked about his sister. Jake shared that he is the first in his family, at the age of fifteen, to have never smoke or drank or fought or have yet had sex, all things to which Jake assigns much worth.  Jake shared that he struggles every day in a world that models, albeit falsely, that hero means doing and being something Jake is not, a world where hero means self-harm.

Jake shared that as he walked into the coffee house on his way to the hotel, a stranger grabbed him by the shirt collar and asked, “Hey, hey do you have a smoke? Hey?”

Jake thought about this a while. Then, he looked towards the white painted wooden doors where the Geek Squad worked, “Did anyone stop you?”

“Ya. Someone asked for change.”

“No one asked me for change.” He looked back towards me. “You know why they asked you that?”

Jake and I looked at each other a long time. He looked over my shoulder towards the door again. The door was locked for now; neither of us could enter without a key.

“How do I get that job?”