This week I’m teaching from my physical classroom at the school, but online. I’m standing alone in this open space of empty desks. It’s just me in here. And, my brain knows that everyone else is out there, virtually, but there is physical space separating us making me feel…well, lonely.
Then something serendipitous happened today. But, I’ll need to back up a bit.
I started my post-secondary education in the field of science. My first love of reading was a book classified as science fiction and I was always mesmerized by the natural world. The earth was the source of my creative play during the summer as I hid in trees, wove placemats and baskets from willow boughs, and built frog cities near the Humber River.
And then I discovered language and story pulled me back from the seemingly detached and clinical world of academic science. I fell in love with poetry and words that connected the emotional and sensory experience of the world.
Now, I teach English, but science calls me back, over and over. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer may be the most important book of my lifetime because it showed me the damage and fragmentation which colonized academia created and then spread to the world.
What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is that I can love and be both – English and science. I don’t have to love or be one or the other. Esther Perel speaks of this paradox noting that “Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other.”
In my planning for the analysis unit in grade 12 English on Sunday night, I happened across this beautiful persuasive animated poem. I decided to share the brilliance and beauty with my students.
I hoped the poem would resonate, posted it on Twitter, and then got this message from a colleague, a science teacher who just happens to be a former student now grown and working at the same high school where I teach:
Sabrina and I had been talking about writing an interdisciplinary science and English class just a few days before this post. Our conversations and thinking merged offline and then united online, this braiding and winding of thinking and communicating as if moving together as one. I can’t explain why this lifted my spirits so much other than this – the feeling of minds flowing along similar waves makes the world feel more united, singular, and a little less lonely.