At the provincial grad symposium today, my Director of Education stated, what I believe, the most authentic bit he’s shared since taking the job. He reflected that perhaps (and I’m … Continue reading Making the Causes Visible
Our school year began on a Tuesday. We had four days together that first week, students and me. Four days.
I am a Grad Coach this year. I have my own program and many new faces alongside me everyday. The structure and design of our classes and days is different than my previous years in my school and in an Student Support role.
We began with four days. Students are with me to achieve a credit and to get the necessary supports to graduate on time.
By that first Friday things were messy. Our structure was too loose, our focus a bit too sloppy, our sense of belonging dangled on the edge.
I returned Monday and tried again. Nope.
I was not lacking the effort.
I was lacking sharing hope.
We were lacking our belonging space.
Period two Monday, I pulled the tables together. I gathered the container of rocks.
The students arrived. I asked them to join me at circle. I let them know they could return to their treasured place in the room once we had finished.
Then we defined Gratitude.
We talked of thankfulness. We talked of being grateful for coffee, food, our home, grandparents, friends, school.
I held the jar and took a rock. We each took one rock. The rock wasn’t important. The rocks determine our turn. Once we set our rocks in front of us on the table, our turn is completed. We speak in the order determined by the rocks, not clockwise, not by order or by age, but by rock feel.
From here we shared our gratitude.
In our class, we don’t do much if it doesn’t have a purpose, a curricular link. And I show students the wheres and the hows upfront. And so I did the same with gratitude.
“This week, all we are going to do is share our gratitude. I may ask why and I may not. Next week I will share a rubric and share how you will be assessed on your sharing.”
And then the rocks began to be placed. Grateful for buffalo ranching, for friends, for second chances, for home.
Just like that.
By Tuesday they had it.
By Thursday students had their favourite rocks. They began to ask after the whys, and I followed with the hows.
By Friday we pulled to circle with coffees and peanut butter sandwiches, like we had been here always. And waited. Gratitude too is hard. A student sat in tears, clutching his rock. We waited. We stayed in circle.
See. It is the circle that is sacred, that supports. That is hope.
Years ago I was teaching at an alternate school. My principal had lost her son. She returned to work two weeks later and, sitting around our sharing circle, held a rock, the word gratitude etched on one side.
“Find gratitude each day,” she had said.
That was the year dad had had the stroke. And I had ached for my chance to hold the rock. To feel safe and to cry.
So Friday we sat. Together. Together. And soon someone offered hope. Tears are welcome. “I am grateful our circle is safe.”
And a smile.
I am grateful for our circle.
“Cori you teach my brother.” Zack sat back in the Adirondack chair, his feet swinging, too small to touch ground. I paused. I actually felt the pause of sifting through … Continue reading A Student Support Teacher’s Pause
I’ve been attending ACAD’s summer institute. I think I am beginning to understand something about the ways I learn and the ways that I want to learn. I am beginning to learn about what drives my curiosity to learn.
My art mentor, Alison, retired this past June. Alison is a phenomenal woman, artist and educator. I met Alison my first year teaching. I had asked to sit on our division’s Arts Council, which Alison then chaired.
During the next few years Alison and I (and others) collaborated on a multitude of projects; Alison became as much of a resource, connection, and support for me as the projects and high school arts community seemed to offer for the students in our division.
This early June this year Alison called. She shared that she had heard of ACAD’s summer institute and that she felt I would delight in being part of the learning community. I had felt a similar support from Alison when she nominated me to chair the Arts Council this past year.
I sent my registration forms to ACAD that day. The choice of what sessions I would attend was left to my students. The what didn’t really matter.
Alison understood. She wanted me to attend because she wanted me to continue to be curious.
And I was.
My fellow ACAD institute artists/educators and I have been in the studio everyday.
We are perhaps learning or perhaps relearning or perhaps re-fine-tuning skills.
I enjoy these hours and I enjoy the feedback. However, I often feel missing Alison’s reason to attend; scaffolding of skill never feels quite as beautiful as the ‘something more.’
At our noon break Canadian artists/educators share their reflections, wonderments, and art all linked by collaborative themes.
At noon my heart sings. I set aside my box lunch, leave my sketch book untouched, and lean in. Tuesday, I cried. Wayne Baerwaldt, the director & curator at ACAD shared for an hour. He spoke of work that focused on bringing community together to become intimate with art and artist, and to give voice to space and the experience of the artists.
As he shared I thought: our kids can do this!
In June, before Alison had called, I had approached several administrators, had found a location and started steps in forming a division wide high school arts collective.
I know, the potential of this space is the joyful stuff that makes me want to stroll through the city streets in the rain.
I am curious about ideas. I am curious about relearning, remaking, and rethinking. And I delight in reflection.
There is comfort in curiosity.
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.
Today was the first time I have felt this undervalued as a teacher.
And the truth, that’s not the case.
It is just the case today.
I was trained in the middle years program. This is a program with a focus on kids and curricula grades 6 to 9.
Though the province lumps us in with the elementary bunch, we’re a different breed. And I don’t necessarily mean the educators, I mean the learners.
There’s a different set of needs here, a different set of behaviours. Okay, now maybe I am talking about M.Y. teachers.
So here’s where I am now:
I went through the M.Y. program. However, I knew I fit grades 9 to 10. I just knew this. I still feel this way. I love being in the midst of all things grades 9 to 10! I obtained a teaching contract immediately upon graduation. I taught senior ELA, grades 9 to 12. And though I’ve changed schools and I’ve taught other grades and other subjects, I have been hired mainly to teach senior ELA.
Fast forward to today.
I am in the middle of my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, focus on stories-to-live-by, thesis route. That’s a mouthful, I know.
My classrooms have always been inquiry based learning spaces.
Last week I completed the ELA accreditation seminar. At the end of the week I realized a few things: first, that of 22 ELA teachers, only two of us use inquiry in our classrooms and second, few of us use quarterly student led conferences (conversations) as part of our assessment.
At the end of the week I also realized that I will likely not qualify to become an accredited teacher in the Province of Saskatchewan, not today.
I need more classes specific to the subject.
I have called the Ministry and the Associate Dean at my university is looking into it.
Today, for a long time, I stared at my transcripts. It really doesn’t matter how high these mark are.
What do those marks mean?
What do the past years mean?
What does all of it mean?
Ironically, I was originally registered for the secondary program but decided I’d go the M.Y. route because there were more methodology classes; I wanted to learn how to teach.
I won’t list awards and accolades. I won’t list notes from kids, parents or administrators. I suppose it doesn’t matter what I learn on my own time in order to grow as a Language Learning educator and student.
However, I’d sure like to know – take me out of the equation, what do you think?
Is good teaching enough to become accredited? Is teaching more about process or more about content? When do we value one over the other? Should we? Doesn’t this situation resemble the assessment debates we have among educators, around our accreditation tables? When do we honour a person’s lived story? How do we assess a person’s narrative? This is, of course, our lived curriculum. I know my worth. How or when can someone claim to know mine?What privilege grants this lens?
I value your thoughts…
The best part of my world is being able to share this space with Jessy Lee, my daughter. She amazes me. She is my best support and my loudest advocate. She is almost 16 years old, an avid reader and a published author. These last few months I’ve watched her craft her first novelette. Okay, not her first long text, but her first fully researched well thought-out and stressed-over text. Watching her live this process I’ve come to remember a few things: she’s passionate, she’s resilient and she’s the best teacher I know.
This past summer while I crammed my-brain-full-of-often-regurgitated-goodness-don’t-think-for-yourself-articles, my daughter was living her craft. She attended Sage Hill Teen Writing experience for young writers where she learned that often the best things to write about are the farcical events from personal experience. At the end of that week Jess, my sister and I attended Saskatchewan Festival of Words. While each of us had full passes and we all snuck off on our own during the day to savour our favourite authors and genres, we met up during larger sessions. While the three of us ate lunch that Friday in July, my sister and I were quite downcast, missing Don Kerr’s noon reading from the previous year that reminded us of our spunky Nana; my sister and I simply braved Douglas Gibson, a publisher. But Jess was riveted. She stayed afterwards and chatted. She nabbed the book I’d purchased – of course I’d purchased Gibson’s book. He’s Munro’s publisher, and all things Munro must come home, to be read dozens of times and alter my perspectives of self, of relationship, of faith and of conformity – and Jess had Gibson sign the book.
“That’s so me. If he can do that, so can I.” Jess stood fierce. Her soccer nickname is Shin-Kicker and the glaze of her eyes as she then gathered Maureen Jennings’ books deposited them in front of me and strode out the door to Jennings’ session had nothing on any game play. She’d simply made up her mind.
By late August the characters had come together. The plot was beginning to form. We’d go for long car rides, her forgoing the chance to soak-up time behind the wheel prior to her driver’s test to hold me captive to discuss characterization – Can you envision them being friends? Would you do this? – and setting – What do you mean this feels like Alberta? Well that’s just wrong. How? Oh, okay, so the river needs to run nearer town; I’ve the town mapped out. This doesn’t make sense if the rail line came through Saskatchewan only a few years before the murder – and then we’d make yet another pass through The Avenues.
I began receiving texts on Fridays last Fall:
Take your time, I want to write.
Why not go out for supper with friends, there’s some research I need to do.
In her clothing class she longed for a research project in the time period of her story. Dinner became filled with lengthy stories dancing between friends, soccer and detailed descriptions of 1910 footwear.
She read all Jennings work. We watched the Murdock Mysteries over and over and over.
And she wrote. I’ve never seen anyone so focused.
This summer at the Festival she had listened to Terry Fallis share how he had published his novel online with much success chapter by chapter before the novel had been picked up by a publisher. This had happened before Fallis had submitted his work for the Leacock and had won.
Though Jess has been published traditionally, she wanted to try publishing her own story online. Last summer she expressed that if Fallis could do it, so could she. Not much daunts Jess.
And she understood she needed this online perspective. After all, she’s going to open her own publishing house. Ask her, she’ll tell you.
So, by last November the novelette was crafted, printed and we were back to driving around. The jaunts became longer. Much coffee was consumed. We visited many small towns hours away.
All of this and she plays competitive soccer five nights a week, writes to perform spoken word and there is school too.
The point? She is living it!
I’ve heard writers, friends, family and educators say that the difference between good writers and great writers is that they write. But I am beginning to wonder if the difference between writers (all of us) and those (kids) who grow up to publish great writers is that they have been taught the skills to create with minimal support, they seek critical feedback without pause, they envision themselves as becoming successful and, most importantly, they find great personal joy in the process.
Now, imagine if all our learning spaces might be like this…