Tag Archives: summer

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.


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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Summer in 10 (actually 16 :)

july one


new york


summer cartoon










cleaning trees















night at home



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Story of Summer 2013 in 10 Photos


soccer walking


jess and danial open mic jul 2013


les mis


move collage


grasslands cori


dad hiking


summer concert


crazy dancing wedding




jc team


A beautiful summer of stories…


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Summer photo-story 2012










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Summer in Ten

The girl on the right has been a Rider season ticket holder a year longer than she’s been alive. There’s nothing like the first night game. The chill night settling onto the stadium, the hope the team will pull out the infamous 400 points in the final 3 minutes. It’s Rider football baby! We don’t leave to beat traffic. We stay late, we cheer hard, and we sort our laundry into three groups green, white, and green and white. We, the collective Rider nation have opinions on everything football; this is after all, our house!  

I never wake to the sound of an alarm. I set it, and then my body wakes me before the buzzer. My internal clock is set early.  For three weeks I was officially a student again, taking a University course. I was up early to read, to study, to write, to edit, to re-revise and to write more. There was no time to mow the lawn, to visit friends, to enjoy campfires. The work was challenging. I loved every moment.

Attending the Festival of Words is always my birthday gift to me. I love listening to writers share their stories, in their own way without any pressure to take notes, to plan, or to organize. It’s a truly selfish gift. This year, two young authors that offered much delight were my daughter, and one of my students, both whom were attending the Sage Hill summer writing experience. Yet the most delicious moment came Friday noon, experiencing Don Kerr as he shared his poetry. I was sitting in a church basement having eaten boiled wheat salad, when this wind-swept grandpa, looking over his glasses at us, walked up onto the low stage. Here was Saskatchewan’s newest Poet Laureate. He flipped through his current book of poetry, “That. Not that. Those are no good. Ah.” He chose one about his mom and launched in. I know I was sitting with my sister and 250 others, but the room fell away and by the end my Nana was standing there in front of me, having driven the Olds 150 km for the first time without a driver’s licence, mad at my Grandpa. There I was hands clasped: Her girl, Wiens woman strong. Later he shared a session with the author of Lakeland, a former student of his. The two fell into a dance from days long past, chatting about process, and Kerr, still critiquing. If it wasn’t for this photo I’d be certain I’d fabricated the moment. Hmm, maybe I did.

Jess and I were watching a movie this summer, sitting on our worn and quite ugly forest green couch. She looked at me and grabbed my hand, “Thanks for never missing a game, Mom.” Soccer mom, as it means to Jess, is my greatest success.

Essential equipment for summer reading: great literature and one giant hammock.

I’m the kind who notices details, sometimes the big ones and most often the important ones. This day I needed to note the odometer turning to 100,000. I needed to click along with the mechanism; I needed to stay the course. It was the kind of day when the big things and the feeling things kept spilling over. I had just hugged so long to my one of kids.

Years ago my father took a group of family and friends to visit one of his childhood haunts, an abandoned church and its grounds. He shared stories of underground tunnels leading to the stables and to the main residence. He told stories of access hatches and glass green houses. That cool fall day we found some of them, and ventured down the tunnels as far as we could without flashlights. I returned this August with a friend who’s never cached, we entered through the trap door, and signed our name in one of the log books I had since placed just near the tunnel. Though I wanted to, we did not linger; there was no moon.      

Towards the end of summer, Jess and I started out on a Grand Adventure looking for her great-great aunt who died from scarlet fever at 12 years of age. My Nana would tell of her not being able to say goodbye to her sister as they took the body away. We wondered if the sister had been buried on the farm, but not likely, since she was taken “away.” Though we have yet find her grave site, we have leads for another adventure this September. Instead, we cached and snooped, “Just go on, the cache is in there. You have to put your head and shoulders into the furnace to reach it.”

The archivist in my daughter had us snoop through the obituaries in my grandparents’ hometown, some 300 km from where we began our adventure. There, in the upstairs room of the museum, done up to look like a classroom, nun and all, were pictures of my parents, married just five years. Mom can’t remember if I’m in this picture, but I was born the following summer. We have no idea what the heck is going on with her hair. I would bribe her with this photo but she’s my mom, if anyone has the goods, it’s her. I think they sure are handsome!

I snapped this image on my way to White Bear Lake mid-August. I wondered where the rainbow was coming from, and why the moon was just hanging round. The field full of bails made me feel at home, you know, this year of rain and heat and driving these adventures; I know where I am when I see a land dotted with bails. When I arrived at the lake, my friend, tired and stressed from helping her father move from the family home, reflected on the lifetime of photos she and her siblings had had to sort. She said she tossed all the ones without people. She feels no one will ever want a photo of hers if there isn’t a reference point of a person. I like land, and I story for me.    

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