Endings #SOL2023

I have a complicated relationship with endings. And this is really difficult when you teach. Every year, I’m faced with many ends that don’t bring resolution.

Last week, the current cohort of students in the Diverse Student Union had their cultural event, and it had been a long and difficult road of revisioning and planning, consulting and sitting alongside the discomfort of change. But as the evening drew to a close, I realised that the learning continues and it’s rarely linear. We keep making mistakes and learning with each cycle, with each group. They learn, we learn, they leave, we stay as pivot points in the beautiful growing fractal.

Then, the next day at a professional learning network, I witnessed the vertigo of endings. We had developed close relationships, cried in front of one another, and laughed while listening to stories, the honest stories of our struggle to do better one mistake at a time while holding to a revision of student centered learning in the classroom. We had documented our experiences on a website, shared videos of our students, and when it was time to leave the room, our movement slowed with stuttering steps, wide-eyed wordless stares of disbelief, all of us unsure of how to respond in this moment of closure. We were not ready for it to end.

And so, the school year moves with nature and the heat reminds us of long restful days, the joys of fresh cut grass, farmer’s markets, and time — oh, the time that begins and ends so abruptly each summer. I wonder now at this vague uneasiness that keeps revisting me at commencement each year — I am thankful for the promise of summer, for the students who’ve passed through my classroom, yet I never feel this as an ending.

September 19 #SOL2022

On September 19, the whole school, the whole school Board, and all school boards across Ontario were directed by the government to take a moment of silence recognizing the death of Queen Elizabeth. And, the strange and jarring juxtaposition that this is Powley Day (a nationally recognized day which affirms the rights of the Metis Nation) is stark.

I read many posts on Twitter from anti-oppressive educators who said they would be resisting this directive and as colleagues, we talked extensively in texts, and emails, and in-person wrestling with another one of those moments, those complex teachable moments that ask you to enact your personal pedagogy. How can I pause for the person who led the institution which represents such longstanding and devastating oppression for so many? I can’t.

Michelle and I text back and forth. She’s teaching grade 11 English; a course focused on Indigneous Voices. I think about the land acknowledgements, the attempts to “decolonize’ the classroom, the Indigenous and Equity Road map and they all feel empty in the face of this directive. The memory of Jason Reynold’s Lesley College Commencement address comes to mind. In the address he tells the graduates to use their positions wisely, for justice, otherwise their degrees will be “nothing more than paper-thin pedestals. Talismans of ego, connected to more of the same blanket rhetoric about change that we will conveniently use to readjust the comfort level of our ill-fitting skin during moments of apathy.”

A slide with text and links saying Have you heard about Powley Day before? Let’s learn more about it.
Different people have very different feelings about the Monarchy and the Queen. Let’s listen to a discussion about some of these perspectives (first 14 min).
Colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
The Province has directed all schools to observe a moment of silence in recognition of the life of the Queen at or around 1:00 p.m. today. Let’s take a look at OCDSB communications regarding this. 
How do you feel about taking a moment of silence for this purpose?

In my own ill-fitting white skin, I tell myself that I cannot stand but I need share more than my voice. Trevor Noah helps.

His thesis is clear; we cannot all mourn the same losses. He says, “How can we be expected to respect something that didn’t respect us back.” Amanda Jonz shared her carefully researched writing prompt and collectively, we gather and plan to turn this into a moment to reflect and decide for themselves.

Three students sit in blue reclining chairs around a wooden table, two writing on paper, one writing on a device.

Handling #SOL2022

I’m in class right now, writing with the students, trying to find something inspiring to say about hands, (our prompt from Sarah Kay’s beautiful spoken word poem) but I’ve been feeling too anxious, too stressed with the chaos of the start-up, or the chaos of what’s inside me, to consider saying anything interesting.

So, instead, I’ll breathe and wait. But, I will write anyway. And, this often works for me when I think of the white space as a place to sort out my own messiness or bring my emotions into some form of comprehension. And understanding reading comprehension has been a private pedagogical quest. Which, frankly, feels fraught, and futile and other “f” words that I won’t use here. I’ve been reading about the science, the art, the strategies, and trying to get a handle on it, to make sense of all this information when the paradox of it all strikes me. I’m not leaving space to linger, space to breathe with the difficulties.

I’d been listening to an episode of The Ezra Klein Show called, “The Subtle Art of Appreciating Difficult Beauty”. Chloe Cooper Jones explains that “all humans are engaged with a struggle between their internal and external self…there is always a disconnect.” She talks about a way of coping with pain, or the anticipation of pain, called “the neutral room”. It is a space in the mind intentionally created to carve out neutrality and it sounds a lot like a place to breathe.

My ten minute timer ends and I move to my desk to look back at my reading while students are working in groups. adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy sits open at a page. I’m reading the chapter “Fractals” and thinking of my elderly neighbour, an intensely positive Black man who makes fractal art, and wears tie-dyed fractal shirts. (Even his tricyle helmet is vibrant with colour and possibility.) He lost his lifelong partner to brain cancer last year and, still, he smiles and rides and connects with members of the community.

How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. The patterns of the universe repeat at scale. (brown 52)

I think to myself, “There is so much that I’m not handling right now.” Maybe there is no handling. Maybe there is only finding the difficult beauty in these struggles and being comfortable with small movements of transformation.

Everything is Delicate #SOL2022

Movment in morning routines

alarms, even myself,

noticing each touch,


something so simple 


create catastrophe.

Time feels too delicate,

too spacious 

– unhurried and open –

for me to rest

without fear

of some new 


The petals and rain falling,

a cat tiptoeing across asphalt;

what did I miss,

in the delicate mechanisms

bringing such consequences, 

such elevated 

heart beats?

Everything is delicate,


Being spaces #SOL2021

I was there. Again.

Showering quickly, I knew the day ahead was closed. It would not be open to the possibilities characteristic of summers for teachers. Instead, today I would be bound to a headset, confined to a computer, in a virtual space with colleagues where I would be visible. Unscheduled days gave me space to disappear into grasses and the river, into the peeping of small birds and chirping of crickets.

Stepping into my shorts I noticed the sunlight reflecting from the hardwood floor and thought, only the shirt matters – that’s all they will see.

The workshop had not even begun. But I went there, to that same space, as I have many times before sliding easily into what I call the “shrinking space”. I think other women might understand this; sometimes we go alone and sometimes in pairs or groups.

Afterwards, she texted, “Do you have a minute to talk because I want to listen.” My house is old with a foundation built in 1900. Much of it has been rebuilt, renovated with an addition. Yet, this ancient place is still standing with a grand total of 1500 square feet. Our bedroom bathroom is really small and when I’m moving quickly, it’s infuriating, but when I’m moving slowly, it’s comforting, so that is where I went. Pausing, I remembered a line from Rumi: “Do you make regular visits to yourself?” I texted her back thanking her, but not just now. I needed a small space.

I woke very early the next day with a memory of a threaded metaphor from a book. Mary Lawson used the motif of surface tension on water in her novel, Crow Lake. I remembered the experience of reading that book, the connection I had to the lake, the landscape, the love of science, curiosity, and water spiders. I believed the protagonist and her version of the story wholeheartedly as I read eagerly nodding with the knowing. Until I got to the later end of the novel. The voice of her brother broke the trance and revealed another perspective on that tension, that surface tension which exists in families, relationships. I’ll always remember that moment of transformation, the narrative on the page rippling in me. Inner space transmuted by a book.

I walked through their dawn filaments again this morning. They always weave their webs in the same places where we will walk, breaking them, completely ignorant of the incredible energy and optimism spun with each thread. Once these gossamer filaments were broken, I stopped to notice and thought about the spiders who persist ever hopeful that a space will sustain them.