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Home, Always.

storytime june 2013Last week I moved out of one school and into another.

Mostly, that’s true.

However, the stories remain. I’ve brought all of them with me.

All of the resources, exemplars and memorabilia are now packed and sitting in boxes in a different building. The packing of all those stories happened in a flurry of four days.

A week earlier, 30 moving boxes had arrived. The division had said they would be able to move my things in early August; upon overhearing that news, my boys had said they would show up the last day of school and that they would bring their half-tons.

So, the pack was on.

It went rather smoothly, except that it was final exam time, report card time and the most difficult part, I really had to leave!

I had readied myself for the oncoming rush of emotion. I had steeled myself.

I was ready!

I cried every moment.

Packing consisted of simply stuffing my dearest and best treasures into boxes. I cried every moment; the kids didn’t fit into boxes, or not voluntarily!team pic june 2013

I discovered a few things during the pack that I didn’t know about or had forgotten: a parachute, 80 bouncy balls and 7 machetes. Somewhere during my focus on packing those last few boxes it seems I had come to have already wrapped-up my magic wand long before it was time to pack it away as well. Oh, our stories that had once belonged only here to our family classroom-space, now belonged too to our shared adventures and our stories, and live long in our collective memory.

Last week, I said goodbye to our graduates. Students in our cozy little K-12 family school kept stopping by for hugs and to share stories.

I cried every moment.

Soon, all 30 boxes began to brim.

That final Wednesday, the boys backed a half-ton up to the school’s front doors and we loaded the graffittied out-of-tune piano, andpiano move hauled it into the city to its new space. Sure, I had heard the well meaning words of some, “Cori, do you really need to take the piano?”

However, I’ve come to listen to different stories too. One of the students at my new space, upon seeing the piano, rested his fingers atop the keys; the piano fitting perfectly in its new smaller home.

After that move, the five members of the moving crew went for slushies before heading back. After all, we needed more time, and I suppose, I still had year-end final Language Learning conversations that afternoon.

Friday arrived and I was panicked. The staff had offered to set aside their own work and venture into my class to help pack. However, at 10:00 am a team of grade 9 & 10 students arrived. “We’re here to help.” And they set to work, without my direction and because they wanted to be there, to help me, to honour our family. A few had been there all week helping, even though there had moring team june 2013been no classes.

Silently, solemnly, as family, we packed boxes.

Around 11:30 am a community member also suddenly arrived. She and the morning team loaded her SUV. She suggested she’d meet us around 3:30 pm, saving me a return trip later that night.

I realized I was surrounded with love. I was surrounded by family.

Then, the boys arrived. I had taken to wearing my sunglasses indoors.

We loaded our vehicles. I cried every moment.afternoon team june 2013

We stuffed my SUV full. We loaded the half-ton to overflowing.

I hugged the staff who had been so profoundly supportive, and then the kids and I pulled away.

I remember several years ago having moved from my previous school to this one. I was having such a heart-missing difficult time loving this space, these kids. I really had loved my previous home. It took me a long time to love my current kids that much. Yet, I did and then, something different happened along the way. Stories. We shared stories. We listened to each other share our stories. And they became ready for me to go. Now, we are both ready.

As I pulled onto the highway and headed east, I knew that all the moments we have listened to each other, shared with each other, we have been learning to honour our own stories. These story spaces will continue! We have come to understand some of the complexities of telling, living, retelling & reliving our own narratives. We have come to understand the beauty of a trusting space that supports our sharings.

So I pulled into the new school-yard-space and we unloaded the boxes.all in one home room june 2013

Okay, I drank the iced cap that the boys had stopped and picked up for me. I slurped, wore my sunglasses as a hair band while the boys filed past me, unloading boxes from three different vehicles. Then, we headed to my house to unload bookshelves. Afterwards, they drove away, leaving my daughter and I sitting on our front steps a little before 5:00 pm on the final day of school.

They drove away, but were not gone. That’s family. That’s what it’s like when family changes homes. Sad, but we take our stories along with us. Some can be boxed, most travel with us, staying perched for hours on our front stoops, tears streaming down faces.

Home, always.

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She is Probably Right

On a Friday about three weeks ago, just after drama/choir practice while I was post-conferencing with a student, I received an email stating that my transfer was confirmed. Next year I will be teaching at John Chisholm Alternate School in Moose Jaw.

I was really happy for about 4 minutes – I looked towards the grade 12 student sitting across from me. He graduates at the end of this year, yet he wore the look like a four year, that look of certainty that I’d always be here, perched on the corner of the desk, on the counter, staying late after choir or basketball, here listening to or sharing stories. I watched his face. His features moved into a sort of contorted calm. The storying space he’s found these past few years lives now inside him. This space is no longer tied to the classroom, to the basketball court, to the short-stories, to the hours spent chatting after school or, really, sigh, even to me. It is his stories that matter. “It’s a good move for you. I’ll help the others on Monday.” He looked down then, and then, back up, and he was again the youthful-teary-eyed kid from moments before. And then he left. He said he’d stop in and say hi, even have coffee when he was in town on Saturdays to work on projects with my daughter. And then he left. As I watched him go, I wondered if it was my face I saw mirrored in his puffy cheeks. I am ready; I am just not always as brave as I seem.

~

That next Monday I had to tell my kids that I would be changing schools next year… At the urging of a dear friend and teacher on staff, I told the kids in first period. I know I’ve had more difficult teaching days. There are suicide-stories that are part of my teaching story. There are days when kids have walked out. There have been times when I’ve held kids as they’ve wept in pain because of situations beyond any of our control. There have been days when kids have been missing and we’ve driven around into the night looking for them. Those days have been tough. That Monday ranks among them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve moved schools before. I’ve said goodbye to students before; three years ago when I left my previous school I thought the pain and ache of leaving there would never subside…

Kids are not names on an attendance list nor are they only faces in a room. These kids have been part of my family for three years. We listen to each other. We look out for each other. That first period we sat. That day we kept busy.

Though we cried, I don’t think we really wept until a few days later. I arrived for class then already in tears and was met by senior students who had questions, who wanted to spend time in our space to share stories, to push back. They wanted me to share the movie I’d made of our “storying” for my final course for my graduate thesis work. After all, this is the work that is ultimately pulling me away from our space.

I shared the video with the senior kids and by the afternoon, the 9s & 10s had caught wind of this sharing and insisted I share the video with them as well. But sharing is difficult. Leaving is difficult. One of my grade 10 students – a kind, gentle 18 year old – who watched the video earlier and who had come to our story space just this past September, who has had many school-stories filled with negativity (stories to leave by) and learned in our space to tell his own stories to live by, is struggling with my leaving. He went home.

After we watched the video, the rest of us walked and walked.

Over the next few days, many of the kids, in their own gentle way, stopped in. It was like they knew, like they had times slotted in, though, of course they didn’t. What they shared with me was that they believed this transition was a good one. They shared they were proud. They shared that they felt I would fit well at JC. The kids spoke of my needs – not theirs. The kids responded with kindness. They spoke of this transition in a way that said it was needed to continue the work of honouring stories.

They shared that stories matter.

~

You know, it has taken me weeks to write these few paragraphs. I just can’t seem to capture how much the past three years with these kids has meant to me. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to live in the midst of their stories. They are amazing human beings. They have taught me so much.

When I arrived here three years ago, I missed my old home. Now I know I have another home too; home is a storying space inside. My students have taught me how to listen, how to share, and when & why we share our stories. How will I ever honour that gift?

~

When you do not want me but need me, I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, I must go. ~Nanny McPhee.

Late last week, one of the kids in grade 11, Sydnee, looked at me, smiled beautifully, slowly, came over and hugged me.

I said, “I’m not spending the next two months crying, Sydnee Marie!”

She smiled, “Yes, Yes you are.”

She’s probably right.

I love our kids. I will continue to know them.

They are my family

We have snooped abandoned houses, shared tea at four in the morning, played basketball all night, rubbed regurgitated fur on our cheeks. We have held each other while we shared our stories of death, illness, loss, suicide, abuse, addiction, fear, oppression, and indifference. And we have laughed. Oh, we have laughed. We have sat around our class tables pulled together, around campfires we made, atop snow piles we shoveled, in thickets filled with wood tics and we have laughed until our sides ached, until our cheeks hurt, our eyes blurred until our stories mattered; we have laughed.

We have shut our door and talked it through. We have hiked it out. And then, we have done it all again.

We have opened our journals; we have sent text messages, picked up the phone and just checked in because, “I know you’ll worry.” We have let each other find our own way – turned to story and just let be – because that is trust too.

We remember. We remember because we have storied.

We remember because we are family. Mostly, we remember because we love each other.

So, I’m changing schools next fall.

Leaving home is difficult. Sydnee was right, I’ll likely cry for the next two months. I’ll likely always be smiling-crying; I am so proud of my kids.

I like that all of us know that none of us have any intention of saying goodbye.

I love my family, yes, I’m crying…

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