Tag Archives: silence

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.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Maybe The Trees

Since I started teaching throughout each term and at the end of the year I’ve been asking students to think about and to share their ‘take aways.’ A take away is a complex notion. It is more than the one thing a student has learned; it is more than the one thing that will resonate with a student tomorrow, in a few months, or in five years. A take away is all of that and more. It is a knowing students and I search for and want to come to understand. Perhaps a take away is that care-forward piece or the restorying of our experiences piece that a student might come to be able to understand. A take away is our way of naming the experience of our story. It’s tricky. It’s different for each one of us. It’s messy. And it’s beautiful too.

For several years I’ve made certain to share my take aways with students.

This year, I asked my online learning network to share their takeaways. I had four responses.

I admit, naming the resonance of experience is akin to #lifemaking

Here’s mine.

#compassion

Okay, here’s what I tweeted:

 

2014-06-30, 10:41 AMMy Take Away from this year: #compassion I learned to listen, to attend with my heart, to listen to the story I am retelling, gently.

 

When it comes to compassion don’t all of us educators feel, in some way, that when it comes to our bucket of character traits, this one overflows?

And that’s a beautiful thing, right? We are in a caring profession.

Three years ago while working with a group of grade 9 & 10 students I had my first real glimmer of true compassion. Then, with that group, I learned to respond with kindness. We had been faced with a sticky sort of change to our classroom family. The change was made to our family. The decision was made, hidden behind closed door educational discussions and off-campus narratives. The change led to silence and the silence brought confusion and pain. Silence was not the way we were used to doing things. We were used to sharing our stories of experience. As a unit we felt like we were the very bits inside a snow globe, swirling away, and that everyone outside our classroom space were the forces shaking us.

We were tired. We were silenced and we were sad.

I spoke to this group about those months, and the experience of this story at their grad this June. I shared how one of them, one day during a silent, silent reading, just tossed her journal on my desk and said, “Enough. We will respond with kindness.” And as a family we did. We pulled together, found our voice and healed.

And kindness is a starting point. It became the switch that each of us needed to bring our snow globes to rest. But kindness isn’t compassion.

In many of those moments years ago, though we forged ahead, we had simply silenced too the stories swirling around us.

And lately I’ve been thinking about trees.

Tall trees. There are tall pine trees that line my home in the Avenues. The pines are 110 ten years old. 14 years ago, during one of the most swirling snowy moments of my life, after looking at 28 houses, I stood in the back yard of this place. The wind played with the pines. The pines sang to me. There are five giant pine that reach towards the moon. They are taller than any house on the street; they nestle me into this tiny yard and wrap me safely here. The trees sang and I was home.

Sometimes I feel love can changed the world.

Recently I heard Gabor Mate say we need to ask ourselves how it is we feel about the person we are working with when we think of what we believe possible for that person.

This spring the kids and I were sitting in our sharing circle. We were sharing in that back-n-forth beautiful way. The kids were sharing about the connectedness they have with people in their lives. I shared the connectedness I felt with my Dad. Two of the boys in the circle asked about my connection. The others listened. I remember the conversation clearly. I remember feeling tired and being abrupt with the boys. I remember asking them if their others would be there if they got sick. I mean not just visit, I mean care for them. One boy answered no. One boy met my eyes, smiled at me, stood up and tossed his journal rather too forcefully into the bucket.

I can not say if the words were like me or not. I do not care for comparisons. I am blunt, though. And I sure do care about kids; I really care about the kids that sat around the table that day. I was “Imagaining what it is like where … they become gradually conscious of what it means to make connections in experience” (M. Greene, 1995, p. 55).

At the moment I am writing a letter to the boy who met my eyes. He is in custody. We’ve been writing letters for a while.

March 26 my Dad had a stroke. And I’ve been thinking a lot about trees.

I missed some school those first few days after Dad’s stroke.

When I returned, every day, every single day, the student who met my eyes would ask about Dad. Then, he would ask me how I was doing. Most days we’d have heart to hearts about ‘family,’ commitment, friendship, loyalty, and love.

The biggies.

Those were long weeks. You know that line ‘when you’re in the room, be in the room?” Those two months after my Dad’s stroke, I wasn’t in the room. Well, not when I was at school. I was tired and sad and I think I cried a few times, sitting on the piano bench while he worked the heavy bag, or did arm curls. I liked our chats though. And I think he did too.

He asked many questions and shared many stories. I did too. I was tired. So was he. We’d both had had a long spring.

He asked about Dad every day, first thing. Did I mention this? Every day as I said goodbye, I told him how much it meant that he had asked. So many people are afraid of crisis, pain, grief, sadness… Oh, how he honoured me by hearing my story.

When Dad had his stroke Mom who lives more than an hour from the city moved temporality into my house to live with Jess & me. Mom hadn’t been to my house, not more than to sit in their van as Dad ran in, in three years. We had squabbled over my trees – out of kindness one day she had had Dad trim them – though the squabble ran deeper and taller than trees.

Its roots reverberate every time I returned to circle with students; I am a teenager again, unable to find a way to communicate with my Mom. And I so want to share the stories of my experiences with my Mom.

“We inform our encounters by means of activities later obscured by the sediments of rationality… We can only become present to them by reflecting on them” (M. Greene, 1995, p. 73).

I am so similar to both my parents. Navigating a connection with my Mom though has never been easy. As an adult, I hid behind the guise of ‘caring’ for myself, and allowing the space between us to carry forward and the years to tip toe by.

Valleys are real though.

In the evenings as I would return from the hospital my Mom, having spent every day – and every, every day since with Dad – and I would curl up on the end of her bed, sometimes Jess, my daughter, would join us and here, my Mom and I would share stories.

There was hope in the late night shadowy moments on the futon. The compassion I found that was most profoundly needed was for a sense of rootedness, with my Mom, with my family and within me.

In June Dad moved into long term care, closer to Mom, but an hour away, and Mom moved back home.

I took time one afternoon to work in my yard. I discovered that sometime during the previous two months the neighbours had cut down one of my pine trees.

Sigh. I stood on my back deck a long time. I felt betrayed. I felt lost.

Then I asked “How important is it?” & “How do I feel about me?”

I still live here. And Here is Home.

Then, I mowed our front boulevard.

When the student who smiled at me was charged and sentenced, I shared with staff the stories of compassion that I had felt from him: asking after my Dad, attending to my stories, the hugs and tears when he had returned to us months before.

And this is what I am writing to him now. Oh, and that I miss him.

And maybe this too; when I was his age and I had gotten into trouble, my Dad would take me for long walks. He would stop at every plant and share stories. I’d taste rose hips and smell sage. I would sit for long moments on the prairie, listening to the wind. I used to find this mind-numbing. Now I know that I’ve taken every group of kids I’ve ever taught hiking, listing to wind.

My Dad would say there’s a teaching there. If I’m really listening, if I’m really attending, so would my Mom. Or maybe, it’s the trees.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Time To Listen

I am an educator. Though I am careful about the details of the stories I share, I share my truth. I share my story. Why? Because I ask the same of my kids. Because sometimes the kids in my world need me to share first. And sometimes, I need them to lead.

Last week, one of my grade ten students and I shared our stories on the effects of grief and loss, and how we have learned to listen to each other. We shared that we honour these stories. We were sharing with a grade 3 to 5 class.

Sometimes we need to share different stories. Sometimes we might even need to share about abuse, addiction and illness. Recently, recently, I’ve felt safe enough to be able to share excerpts from my own narrative. More often than not, my kids are more courageous than I am able to be.

There is magic when we share our stories. Real. Real. Magic. Tomorrow my students and their teachers will be silent, will learn without speaking, and connect without technology.

Tomorrow we honour those with voice. Tomorrow we honour those without voice. Tomorrow we honour our own stories.

Tomorrow we take time to listen. We hope you will too.

,

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Out of Tune

A bunch of stuff was out of tune Thursday.

During the Remembrance Day service the kindergartens, grade 1 and grade 2 shared. They shared K’Naan’s Wavin Flag. If you haven’t listened to it, do.

The kids rocked it. I mean really, really rocked it. My senior kids have begun to study performance poetry. Some of my grade 11/12 have been invited into elementary classes to share their passion for performance. So Thursday, when those little ones began rocking out, my kids got fired up. I got fired up. And I have to admit, I did absolutely nothing to quiet my kids. In fact, I joined in. I was joyful right alongside my kids. The south side of the gymnasium where the student body was seated was gleeful. The north side of the gymnasium where the community was seated was… not so much. When one of the grade 1, by memory, recited the lines Drake shares in the young artists’ version, almost every pair of Language Learning eyes from grade 9 to 12, turned and looked at me, and in unison mouthed, “Wow!”

It was a gutsy performance by an amazing group of young kids and their amazing teacher. The teacher is a person my kids know and respect. We are a rural school. We are one close, big family. When the song ended, my kids were on their feet, cheering and clapping. Actually, my kids and I were on our feet, cheering and clapping…

Things sort of went down-hill from there.

The event was not an assembly, but a service.

My students love performance poetry. They love giving voice to issues that need voice. So, with mic in hand, they continued to share pieces filled with meaning for the day and filled with meaning for today’s youth.

The room grew yet more distant, and we had not yet come to the Last Post.

When the trumpets played a child in the section reserved for community began to softly sing and to cry following along with the trumpet tune. I thought the sound, the addition, beautiful.  An adult tried to hush the child.

As we transitioned into a moment of silence, the child continued to sing softly. I think this was my favourite part of the service, certainly, the part that resonated.

I do remember. And so do my kids. And so too will the wee ones who, for the most part, spend each day at the other end of the school.

As my kids cleaned up the gymnasium, a few shared that some of their parents and a few members of the community were not entirely happy with our exuberance.

With the community making its way out the doors, my kids and I returned to our room. Then, a few kids zipped off down the hall to the store room to fetch an old piano. During transport, the piano left a rather large scuff in the wax the length of the hallway, joining until the winter-break-waxing, the elementary end with the high school end. An elementary student, flanked by community members, paused at the scuff and then looked at me.

“What are you going to do about it?”

Well, the piano is for our room, out of tune or not, but wanted. Yes, it is a rather old, dark grey-ish fading piano, but the kids chose it. The moment it was in our room, the kids pulled off a few boards so the piano’s insides became visible. Monday, we begin to graffiti piano’s shell. We do this because we’re a family. We do this to stay a family.  We do it with the Principal’s approval.

I just want to celebrate successes, you know. I get so caught up in the good. I never mean disrespect. This isn’t an apology, since I know in a heartbeat, I’d cheer again. I am just trying to envision remembrance in a space where silence and scuff and kids and cori are allowed room to sing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When I Pause

A week ago I attended a silent retreat. The weekend marked 10 years of winter-silent-retreating. The first few years I brought my camera, my book, my sketchbook, my journal and, sometimes, my lap-top.  Today, these 48 hours of silence have become some of the best connected moments of my year, the connections becoming sacred spaces. Today, I listen.

“We can’t experience sacred in isolation. It is always an experience of connecting. It doesn’t have to be another person. It can be a connection with an idea, a feeling, an object, a tradition. The connection moves us outside ourselves into something greater. … We learn that we are larger than we thought.” Margaret Wheatley.

I’m always amazed at what I hear when I pause. 

The other day I forgot my phone at school. I live 37 km away from where I teach. As usual, I was in a rush so I didn’t return for my phone. The next day the kids teased me asking how I’d survived without my trusty appendage. “Fine,” and I meant it. I seek silence. Silence is a comfortable and welcomed- uncomfortableness, a beautiful connectedness. 

I remember an Education professor remarking about the need for a 20 second pause after asking for student feedback. I also remember another professor offering the beauty of silent reflection. In those silent spaces came the ideas to question the need to recap, allowing learning to simmer, allowing time for student reflection and offering plenty of opportunity for students to lead.

At the retreat a week ago I walked some. I hiked up into the Qu’Appelle Valley. I lay on my back and watched the sky roll by… I savoured the scent of sage, rolling it between my hands and on my cheek, and I wondered trails, wind pants squeaking. At night, I watched the lights across the valley twinkle and fade. And I thought about my mom. I’ve been wondering for a long time. I have my Nana’s hands, Wiens Women hands, hands that say I’m strong and bright and beautiful (my mom’s maiden name). I thought about my mom.

My senior Creative Writing students are busy sharing story slams. Our topic this week – Parent Traps. (Big in-take of breath) I thought about my mom and I thought about my daughter whose eyes are deep brown like my mom’s. Every women on my grandmother’s side has suffered from a form of dementia.

I’m irrationally crazy about kids with social/emotional and behavioural needs; I’ve always been excited by Alternative Education. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about advanced ELA. I am so excited about planning and teaching these enriched courses that my toenails tingle.  

My mom was a gifted consultant for the province long before she became a Director of Education.  She’s retired now. Though we chat everyday about my daughter and my students, I’ve never asked her about her work with gifted kids. After years of working to find our mom-daughter teaching-and-learning love language, mostly between us there remains silence. The hessitation is mine. Every woman. I have my Nana’s hands. So does mom. Every woman.  

In early October last year my Dad was rushed to emergency. My students had asked if I had been scared. “No, there’s nothing left unsaid.”

“There are many ways to sit and listen for the differences. Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me.” Margaret Wheatley.

some words

are so difficult

and i am more

 home

here

among

aspen, willow and wind

“I experience sacred as a feeling. It’s how I feel when I am open to life. Or am opened by life... I know I belong here. I don’t think about it, I simply feel it. Without any work on my part, my heart opens and my sense of ‘me’ expands. I’m no longer locked inside a small self. I don’t feel alone or isolated. I feel here. I feel welcomed.”
Margaret Wheatley.

(Big in-take of breath)

My turn…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized