Classes ended, a week of summer slid by, and we started lesson planning. Our summer course writing task was audacious and difficult, but with lots of conversation establishing some guiding principles, the work flowed into two weeks of twelve hour days which ended with a plan for lessons on getting to know our students using UDL (Universal Design for Learning), and CRRP (Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy) in destreamed grade 9 English classes.
Although we built some flexible lessons, I feel the most significant component of the work is the design – this is a community and a process. This will not be completed, it will not be a “one and done” or even a unit of study. This project aims to be prolonged over time – a responsive, ongoing, building of community.
I crashed hard after the many hours of focused screen time and four days later, I’m still not fully rested, if I’m being completely honest, though I cannot tell if this is just the lingering effects of virtual teaching. After the last day of collaboration, I intentionally stayed out of the house choosing to immerse myself in gardening, to run along the Ottawa river listening to podcasts. Yet, even this physical separation from a container of my life didn’t dull the vibrations of teaching. It’s always with me, so I rested in this realization that it is not the planning and thinking time about school that matters as much as the physical space and place and pace. When I moved with different objects of my attention, slowed without a deadline, without a screen, without a container, I began to listen lightly, to feel gently the resonances of life and work, of past and present.
Listening to Ocean Vuong and then Gary Kemp on the podcast, Good Life Project, had my mind buzzing with ideas. Kemp reflects on the changing purpose of music as once social connection grounded in the physical object of the vinyl album. He points to young people as “archivists” who want a sense of lineage, a way to “somehow feel the resonance of the past”. He argues for the very human desire to have “things with us” and to live outside of the digital world with our objects, which ground us in the now, showing us a line to the past. This vibrational continuum is found in his guitar which was made before he was born.
“It’s not made of zeros and ones. It’s made of wood…and as it ages these two bits of wood resonate together.”
This is not nostalgia, but rather an attempt to understand the current purpose of music and it’s changing form. He suggests that, “singing a song was the Instagram of the day – making the interactions with others with music, shared experiences that were passed on”. And he speaks of sampling as “pulling some of the past into the present”, a juxtaposition of “I know this, but I don’t know this”. Writing feels much the same as I read the most beautiful novelists, essayists, and poets. Their work resonates and the vibrations carry on well past the initial enjoyment of the form. In fact, an intentional examination of them sometimes endures.
While Kemp reminds me to consider the physical object as a link to the past, Ocean Vuong compels me to consider the body’s connection to the past saying that “PTSD is a displacement” in time as the experience of the past in the present. “To remember is a very costly thing…you forsake the present to go back.” News media have a way of capturing a moment, of encapsulating the refugee as Edvard Munch’s “Scream”, but the experience is one that is prolonged; it doesn’t end at the image or the immigration. He reminds us how important it is to understand the history of a nation founded on enslavement and genocide – the thread of past into the present.
To resonate is to vibrate, to reverberate, to carry across, to understand. The sounds of music and voice, the stories of experience are in us and the physical manifestation of these ideas into words becomes the concrete enactment; a captured moment in time which resonates into the future. This writing is made of letters and punctuation. Echoing Kemp, this writing is made of words which as it ages in practice, these bits of communication resonate together. It is the resonance of any lesson or any plan that matters. What will it carry out into the year?