Tag Archives: hope

Language of Hope


A few days ago while scrolling through a social media site, I noticed that a student I teach had posted a photo with, what I consider to be, an offensive word. It is not uncommon for me to connect with students on some social networking sites. I am as selective about who I connect with as I hope and try to instil students to be. What made me pause when viewing the post was the word ‘retarded.’

My finger hovered over the unfollow button. I fumed.

I have known the student, Mack, for many years. We have navigated many, many difficult conversations. We have navigated many moments of crisis. We trust each other.

Maybe that’s why Mack’s comment, public or not, stung. I could not understand his cruelty. Or what I assumed to be his cruelty. 
It’s not that I simply don’t allow the word in our classroom, I explain its meanings and interpretations, and I have explained, why there is almost never a place, situation, event, or time suitable to use the word. And I share many stories of experience about how this language is harmful. 

That day, in my pause, I sat on the edge of the bathtub, paintbrush in hand, having taken a break, having checked the site, my finger continuing to hover over the unfollow tab.

But I genuinely care about this young person. And what, other than fuelling my own privileged sense of justice, does stepping away silently, and yes, fuming too, serve?

I continued painting, cutting-in around the ceiling, taking time, climbing up and down the step stool.

Hmm.

After a while I sent the student a private message and asked for clarification of the wording of his post. He replied simply, after offering a definition of the word, sharing that it means, “a bad person.”

I replied “No it does not.”

~

I set my phone down again and sat on the edge of the tub again.

And so far, all of this journey was too simple. I understood I was telling, not attending to his stories of experience. Too, I was not attending to my own stories of experience.

I sighed.

~

Last week I lunched with a colleague. We shared many stories of experience. Our sharing often returned to the mad-dash made by those within educational landscapes towards a singular social justice way of knowing. During lunch, my friend & I spoke of the importance of attending to all stories of experience. 

Yet, there I was. Sitting and fuming, tapping directives into my device. I had no desire to carry forward a singular way of knowing that would silence others, nor did I wish to lead in this space, when I had not entered through the opener of story, through trust.

I sighed again and reached again for my phone.

Years ago I was married. Those who stood up for me where an eclectic group of women I referred to as my sister people, each family in some lovely way. One sister person, a cognitively challenged woman, only a few years younger than I, was often mistaken for quite youthful. I have known her almost my entire life. Her mom is near to a second mom to me. Only once did her mom speak of the cruelty of living in a world where people are deliberately harmful with their words and more so lackadaisical with them too.

My beautiful sister people.

Truth: I was six months into my first teaching position before I truly allowed the depth and breath of being a language educator to resonate.

I began to ask myself the question I was posing to students. Does language always matter? I began to wonder, was the language fight my fight to fight, like it is and was, and in the same way, and remains to be for my sister person’s mom? Honestly, in the beginning I was foggy on the ownership of this life/issue.

I have lived alongside hundreds of young people. I have shared family stories with those I teach. Students have shared their experiences with me too. My Dad and daughter have often met the students I’ve known. We have journeyed together: cheering at ball tounaments, smiling at open mics, helping to paint classrooms, and hauling boxes into schools. 

I am no different with Dad & my daughter, than I am teaching a mini-lesson, or alone hiking a prairie hillside. In all landscapes of my life, I am fierce and I am kind. I am always me/mom/teacher. And I am reflective.

To all who have walked alongside me, they know that for me, others telling stories of me is a painful space.

I am thinking deeply about how others have told stories of me. I am thinking about my elementry and high school experiences, others telling stories of me through perceptions of my behaviours and my learning disabilities. 

I have spent a life reliving and retelling the stories others tell. 

~ Not stupid. Not busy. Not wrong. Not obstanant. Not rude. Not mean. Not loud. Not silent. Not. Not. Not. Not.

I returned to think deeply with the stories of Mack’s experience. I recalled when we had journeyed the Native Studies 10 course a few years ago, his worldview shifting as we inquired together. He would often send texts and screenshots of moments when he would address oppressive language/statememts made by his peers, even his family, as his own understandings grew.

I sighed. Tap. Tap. Tap….

“Mack, let’s talk about how, for you and others, that word might be understood and used.”

~

Honestly. I wanted to block Mack. I wanted to avoid a tough talk where I had no script. I had hoped Mack would simply learn that language is the most powerful force for change on the globe simply    by    reading       my    mind.

Language changes the world through our continuing reflection and discussion of its complex meanings and uses.

From those moments I came to teach English Language Arts courses all those years ago, I understood I must come as a Language educator.

During our dissucussion Mack remembered that the ‘r’ word is a word that I don’t allow in our learning space. I am thinking deeply too with the unfolding of that July day. I was painting my bathroom and dripping sweat. I am as fiercely blunt out of school as I am with students every day of our ten month year. My Mom says kids always know when teachers are fake. I think there’s a teaching there. This work is living work. Deeply meaningful, unscripted, and in the moment. Julys’s work too.

Maybe this is why I messaged. Because I trust my student. Because I know he trusts me. Because I already knew he was in a tractor somewhere and he already knew I was eyeball deep in blue paint, tackling a bathroom renovation. Because, we two, we trust the space between us.

Maybe that pause, is the trust that is the rootedness of our language of hope.

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2015 in Reflection

For years I have taken a photograph almost every day. This capturing delves deeper than photographing an object simply because I feel obligated to take a picture. Almost two years ago my dad had a stroke. During those first hours and long months after my daughter, my sister, my mom and I followed the stretcher into the emergency room, I began thinking differently about capturing moments.

Capturing moments has become a significant part of my journey. Curating and sharing has become a significant part of my journey as well. Over the December 2015 winter break, as I began to compile images and videos of the past year, I realized how much the process of capturing moments and of returning to savour them has been a healing space for me.

My previous year in review videos have been different. At times they have been out of duty to document a year. Last year I was so filled with gratitude my video paid homage to those who helped, who stepped in, who listened, and who understood the effects of such change on my family.

My video this year though is for me. It is my year-end visual reflection, my visual year-end take-away.

And oh, I learned so much.   Hope. Love. Family. Change. Strength.

 

 

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2014 in Review: todays

2014

~ My photo/video story of 2014 (thank you to Jessy Lee for the many hours choosing and adding music).

This year the image capturing/collecting was often difficult and the compiling into this yearend video brought tears.

On December 25th, as my family sat together for the first time since my mom’s surgery my dad, looking at each of us, my sister, Christie, my daughter, Jessy Lee, my mom, Lynne and I, raised his glass to offer a toast.

“We made it!”

Then, Dad began to cry. And cry and cry. Mom pulled up close to him and took his hand. She finished his toast. She began with the story of how she had finished his toast on their wedding day, almost 50 years ago when tears of joy had come then too.

Recently Jess wrote, the “thing I’ve noticed about grief is that it is something that comes even when death does not.”

My video this year is for my family, mostly. It is for the way my mom looks at my dad. It is for the way she has always looked at my dad. It is for the way he still reaches for her, and how he cries with joy every time one of us is happy.

And this sharing is for you, too, for all those wonderful folks who helped my family by pitching in, by listening, by checking in and mostly, by loving us steadfastly and beautifully.

Thank you.

Poet Greg Simison writes of that phone call, “perhaps this longest night of our lives, we’re all simply small children who’ve only been outside playing grownups until our mothers call us home, one last time.”

Mostly, he is right.

These past 10 months I’ve become more grounded in the stories I’ve heard my parents tell, my dad shared hiking along tails, my mom lived while teaching, life making stories, stories I’ve grown with.

Mostly, my dad was kind and told me to leave nothing unsaid. As we waited for the ambulance last March and, mom and I talked though the nights this past November, well, I’ve become more…

I am so thankful for growing up surrounded with love and with family.

I am so grateful for today.

#love

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There’s a Way

bookLast week at our school we read P.H. Reynolds’ book, I’m Here. Inspired by this book, the next day students and staff made, tossed paper air planes and then we shared stories and smiled.

We are an alternate school and part of what we believe is finding ways to listen to and live alongside each other. Around here, we hope everyone finds a sense of belonging so that everyone is able to say, in some way, I’m here.

The morning after we read Reynolds’ book, before I arrived at school, I messaged friends and colleagues. I asked folks to make a paper airplane, to toss an air plane and then to share that moment.

Many people ignored my request. Many people responded with a LOL. A few people grumped out a response.

I few folks wondered about the purpose of my request. At the end of the day I shared that we had been reading Reynolds’ books as part of the author share with the Global Read Aloud.

I didn’t share our connection with #GRA14 until the end of the day. This was deliberate.

I wanted to see who would find a way to connect without an academic link. I reached out through trust and joy in play and hoped others might speak this same language.

“Where ever you are today, toss a paper airplane. Send photo.”SC plane

I like when the world smiles. Does there need to be a better reason to toss a plane?

But that was my cover story.

The night before my sister, my mom and I had an hour long conference call organizing our schedules around Mom’s surgery. We organized her time in recovery, our days off, coordinated our time with Dad, and the if-than conversations that followed. It was a tough call. My heart hurt up inside under my arms in an aching sort of spin. I scheduled and organized and listened. Nothing seemed grounded.

In the morning I wondered how to make my smoothie, plan for the substitute and craft coherent field texts. I wanted to share. Yet, I really didn’t want to either.

I wanted to find a way.

I wanted to find a way, a way to between you and me. A way to smile. A way to take that big big deep breath. A way to hope.

So.

There’s a way you know.

The air planes keep coming in…

Finding a way between the living & telling and the reliving & retelling.

What if I had made explicit the purpose of hope, would others have shared? What if I had added the #GRA2014 hashtag, would others have been keen to share? Would you?

I wonder…

For all those educators (and you are the best of the best, the ones who speak the language of the heart) who pulled their kids into gymnasiums and made and tossed and shared, thank you; I’m here.

For all my friends who made and tossed and giggled and wrote poetry and shared; I’m here.

And for our kids. Our kids. Who read and wondered and shared stories and picked their colours and ran fingers along creases and decided to move outside and tossed and tossed and laughed and laughed, their first ever planes …We’re here.

I am so honoured.

 

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Holding Tickets

About a month ago I posted on Facebook asking if anyone might be interested in splitting next year’s Football season’s tickets. I had a few responses, but soon interest waned.

Then, I’d figured the season was still half new. There was time yet.

And time is important. Last March Dad had had a stroke. The stroke left him paralysed and our lives changed forever. Now Dad lives 20 minutes from Mom in a fulltime care home. Now Mom travels every day to visit him.

My daughter and I, and Dad, of course, have not been to a game this season. Sometime during the one-day-at-a-time moments of this summer I realised it would be too difficult to go to the stadium without Dad; grief is a messy business. Dad can only sit in his wheelchair for about 40 minutes at a time. We are 2 hours away from the stadium.

Still, we’ve not missed many games. Mom renovated their home. She brings Dad home on the weekends, my sister, my daughter and I traveling to the cabin to help her. At home, we watch a lot of football. And our hikes have changed too. We circle around the crescents, telling stories and trusting that hope will come.

When the leaves fell this autumn we talked about finding a way to get Dad’s chair down to the beach, finding new trails. We spoke hope.

It’s important to keep our tickets. As a young child, I first learned to swear in those seats. When I was first married, my husband and I attended football games when our daughter was in the womb, later with her cheering and bouncing on us dressed in green. Then it was Jess and I, and Dad joined us again, teaching Jess never to boo, teaching her secret handshakes, and listening to both of our stories.

It’s been a long long summer.

At times I was pretty low. I don’t know what happened, but around the middle of August something in me changed. Jessy Lee took my hand, snuggled next to me and said, “I am so glad you’re back. I never thought you’d come back.”

And to tell the truth, for three months, neither did I.

But somehow I knew, it was like holding on tightly to those tickets; in time the idea mattered. Hope mattered.

Maybe Dad might mend. Maybe he’ll go home again? Maybe he’ll walk again? Maybe…

So Saturday night I messaged all my acquaintances, you know those not in my inner circle. Those I haven’t chatted with every day, those who haven’t brought donuts, and hugs, checked in, stayed late, sat long & listened. I texted everyone asking if they might want to share our season tickets next year.

And the most amazing thing happened.

I heard tell ways of love and listening that I’ve pushed away, and ways that I’ve been needing these past seven months.

Folks suggested I post to Facebook. Others offered to ask their friends. Others simply ignored my story…

Others wondered why I needed to split the tickets. Some folks wanted to know why I was selling. A few asked if we were okay, asking after Dad’s health. Some friends shared their concerns, knowing the depth of the pain that has kept Jess and I away from attending any games without Dad.

Only one person asked about Mom, and this twist to the tale of our family narrative: a new journey so filled with unwritten lists that it wakes my daughter and I in the middle of the night, demanding to be written, crossed off, and completed, yet they remaining impossibly un-penned. Much like that space of next year football country.

When I was a child my parents bought these tickets. They’d take my sister & I, and I’d sit beside Dad and talk sports and football strategies and we’d laugh. Sometimes I’d catch a little yellow football the fan club would toss into the air and for the next week after school my friends and I would play touch football at the bottom of Bussy’s Hill.

For the past ten years Dad has been sharing the tickets and sharing the cost. There’s no way I can carry them on my own. I need time. So much will change in the next few years. I’ll be done this degree; Jess will be on her own.

We just need time.

I had many 140 character replies to my text. I had many silenced replies too. Grief is a messy business.

Yet the response that lingers wasn’t a yes or a no. The reply was a story that spoke to the wholeness of my family stories, the grief story, and the hope story that has everything and absolutely nothing to do with football.

“My first paycheck when I turned 16 went to a set of season tickets for my dad and I!”

Mom sees a surgeon Wednesday. Cancer, round five.

When I was a younger girl Dad would take me walking when he felt I needed to listen. We would hike along trails, tasting rose hips, shuffling through leaves, listening to wind, attending to each other’s stories.

So I hold on, to the seats, to the tickets and tightly to our stories.

“‘There are no truths, Coyote,’ I says. ‘Only stories.'” (Thomas King)

 

 

 

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Choosing Joy

rock joy

Last week I received two letters in the mail. I wasn’t surprised until I realized that the letters had been addressed by me.

I’d written them the previous summer during a difficult period. At the time, the letters were a reflective activity for a summer institute I was completing. The words on each envelope were in my handwriting yet the notes inside where different; one letter had been written to me from my learning partner during the institute and the other was written to me from me.

Both letters were about hope for the upcoming year.

~

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy. A few weeks ago a friend shared that he wishes to live an extraordinary life. Me too. I want joy for me, for my daughter and for the students I teach.

I like being happy. I like that I live my life seeking my sacred spaces, seeking my safe people, and seeking serenity. I also write as a means to seek joy.

I write because I am filled with narratives that weave our common tales into extraordinary stories-to-live-by. I believe, in time, I weave my stories into joy. I find hope in stories. I find joy in sharing stories.

Here’s what I mean:

I follow George Couros’s work. I understand that he’s a well-respected educator-leader. And there’s much to celebrate in that. However, that is not why I follow his work.

The truth is that it’s always someone’s story that most inspires me

 I follow George because of the way he honours those he loves. I adore the beautiful way that he shares his love for his brother’s children, for his dogs and mostly for his parents. See, I love my parents too.

I don’t know George personally, but I feel connected to him because of our lived-stories. Each of us has someone we call ‘family’, and for George and me, the ‘who’ of our family is rather clear.

I’m in the midst of living my thesis story. In this space I am beginning to understand that the most profound influence of my journey has been my parents, and their teaching stories. This past year has been filled with retellings, restoryings; I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my Dad or my Mom. This past year George and his family lost their Dad.

Last week I held the two letters for a long time. I realised my learning partner in that moment would be holding the letter I had written for her.  What had I shared with her? I know I had taken the blank card home and had taken care with the words I had shared. I remember that. What had I shared with her? I wondered how she is doing. I wondered why we didn’t stay connected. I wondered if her world is filled with joy.

Oh, I remember her stories!

b's note

At the beginning of summer George wrote about making this upcoming year our best year.

Extraordinary words from a person who just lost his father…

Our lives are story. There is so much beauty in living. “What makes me hopeful is not so much the certainly of the find, but that my movement is search. It is not possible to search without hope,” (Freire; 1997).

As I pulled the card I had written for myself from its envelope, I wondered what message I’d find inside. I wondered what really had mattered to me in that space of fear so many months ago. I wondered what, in all of my words of hope, would matter now.

What would matter now?

A really long time-ago during my undergrad studies, my Physical Education professor once pushed back against all the structure and formalistic necessity of schooling, asking us to pause and to consider other’s stories and what was possible for kids and families. She asked us to not get caught up in getting caught up, asking instead, “How important is it?”

I took a deep breath. I like being happy. 

Slowing, I opened my letter.

note me

This is our best year yet, filled with joy. I’d like to hear your stories.

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The Hidden Pitch

Last night I asked my daughter, Jessy, for a topic to blog about.

“Write about that Montreal player. And all the other players who took a knee when he was injured.”

“I’m not writing about that!”

~

Tonight I was sitting in my car enjoying the cool evening breeze coming in from the moon roof. I was sorta watching soccer practice, sorta catching up on my twitter feed, and sorta reading Functional Assessment and Program Development for Problem Behavior. But mostly, I was enjoying the breeze. The sky was overcast yet not threatening rain, just filled with sleepy-hollow shadow. I allowed my imagination wander.

Then, the ambulance arrived.

On one of the fields out of site from where I was sitting, from where my daughter’s U-14 competitive team was practicing, was the adult men’s team. They were tucked in behind the open skating oval. As the EMTs ran around the green partitions and disappeared onto the hidden pitch, we all stopped breathing. For a while no one knew exactly what to do.

Go see. Keep reading. Worry. Breathe. Play on.

The wind kept blowing.

The technical director left the girls with their coach and walked over. Others too began to walk towards the hidden pitch. I got out of my car and stood underneath one of the pine trees edging the field.

Jess’s coach when she was 4, 5 and 6 years old was playing on that hidden field. One of those gems-of-the-education-world was over there too. I zipped up my hoodie.

I think, I’ve been zippy my hoodie for a long time. The memories wrapping around me like a down duvet.

I think, all of us zip hoodies more than we know; we all share these good, rooted stories. And tonight, like an anchor pulled tight, memories came rushing back.

And you know, I’m not even certain why.

How would Jess manage loosing another person in her life? How would I manage to watch? Could we manage?

Oh, I love my girl. And that’s my anchor. My unbreakable, beautiful anchor; my girl.

Sometimes I wonder if Jess zips her worry for me so tightly because I’ve been zipping all these years… And that makes even the wind sting.

That’s why it’s impossible to step onto the pitch with indifference, that’s why the world stops breathing.

But the pause is a good thing too because feeling is such a positive. See Jess is right. When that Montreal player went down on Saturday, many of the players on their knees were Saskatchewan players and, too, there were all of us in the stands very much aware, and deeply connected. I am part of those players on their knees, the unconscious player, the family somewhere, worried.  We are so much more than a player, a game, a life; we are every one of the connections we find on our hidden pitch.

And together we are a wonderful, beautiful, anchored space.

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