Ribbit

Over lunch, when I mention that I have opted Mr. 13 out of the new online learning requirement for high school, my mother in law asks casually if I think online learning is the way of the future. I do not.

Listen, I know that e-learning works for some people. And I know that it can be done very well. And I know that there are times and places when it is the right option. I’m not anti e-learning. (Well, ok, I’m a little bit anti e-learning, but I can live with it. I’ve done all of my credentialing/ post-graduate school classes online, and there are definitely advantages.) I am, however, against an e-learning requirement in high school – especially when I believe it is a nakedly political attempt to increase class sizes and destabilize public education rather than increase student learning or wellbeing. And I absolutely do not believe that e-learning can or should replace in person learning.

In the kitchen, I start to explain the reasons that mandatory e-learning doesn’t make sense to me. I reach for evidence; my brain goes into fact mode. Even now, as I write, I have paused to find articles to link to, statistics to back up my beliefs. I have searched the internet for other voices to back up my own (there are plenty). But I decide not to include them. For the past two weeks in Grade 12, we’ve been working with analysis and reviews, reading mentor texts and noticing how writers choose and use evidence, so I realize that I am defaulting to logos even though I firmly believe that the most convincing arguments must first appeal to pathos.

Let me tell you a story.

Last week, on the way to school, I was listening to poet Ada Limón’s podcast “The Slowdown“. Each day, she shares a little bit of her thinking and reads one poem. The show is usually about five minutes long, and I love it. In fact, I love it so much that I was listening to back episodes as I drove in, and I stumbled across an April episode where Limón read Alex Lemon’s poem “Credo”. Its energy blew me away, and I knew immediately that I would use it in class.

So there I was, less than an hour later, reading this poem to some sleepy 12th graders. We noticed its exuberance (ok, that was my word), then grabbed our notebooks (ok, because I made them), and wrote “I can be…” at the top of the page (the repeated line in the poem). I set a timer for three minutes and we let ourselves go, completing the line in any way we wanted to. I wrote on the board so they could see me working. An observer in our class also wrote – if you’re in the room, you’re in the class. When the chime sounded, we paused to take a breath. I could feel the changed energy in the room.

“Let’s each share a line,” I said. We’ve done this before – we do this regularly – so even though reading our writing out loud can be tough, most of the students were up for it. Sometimes people only share a word; sometimes they share far more. That day, most people had picked up on the freedom in Lemon’s poem – some were still writing! – and the sharing began quickly. We heard from most of the class, including our visitor, but of course, there are always those who are reluctant; in those moments I try to encourage, maybe even push a little, but not to over-pressure. This day, the extra push allowed M to share a line that they prefaced with, “this is a little weird.” Their line began, “I can be a frog…” Afterwards, they added, “I mean, poems aren’t really about frogs” and they blushed a little.

My response was immediate, “Of course poems can be about frogs! I can think of one right now,” and I launched into Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” I had only gotten out the first two words when another student chimed in and recited the rest with me. This student is neurodiverse and participates in class in their own rhythm; in saying the poem with me, they astonished their classmates.

Then class moved on. And that would have been it. Except that the next day I opened class with 32 translations of Basho’s Frog haiku. By the time we got to, oh, the 15th or so, people were smiling. We spoke very briefly about how translations can help us see a poem in a new way – and how well they do or don’t communicate the original. Then class moved on. But our original classroom frog poet was absent that day, so the next day I arrived with Hilaire Belloc’s “The Frog.” We giggled about calling a frog “Slimy skin” even as we learned the word “epithet”. Unfortunately, the student poet who kicked this off was at a track meet. “Don’t worry,” I assured the students, “I have plenty of frog poems. I’ll just keep going until they’re back in class.” Their best friend laughed and students around the room shook their heads at what is, essentially, the teacher version of a dad joke. Then class moved on.

(Fear not, there are a LOT of frog poems. I can keep this up for a while.)

I have finished telling my mother in law this whole story – from the podcast to the writing to the ongoing frog poems. She is not a fan of e-learning (in fact, she’s a firm believer in energy and creativity and more), so she has been an easy sell. And even though I have decided not to link to any of the statistics or evidence out there – and there’s a lot – I know that the online classroom can’t replicate this, the gentle push to share a bit of yourself, the wonderful astonishment of a quiet student suddenly reciting a poem they know by heart, the moment of mild discomfort that leads to a world we didn’t know existed, the serendipity that allows one moment to become a string of moments that creates a community of learners, a community of people who experience the beauty and humour and affirmation that leads to learning that lasts a lifetime.

So, no, I don’t think that online learning is the way of the future. Unless we can find a way to include a lot of frog poems.

If a student asks for poetry…

If a student asks for a poetry book that’s not in the library, you buy it.

I didn’t know this rule existed, but as soon as she asked, I realized it was clearly a rule. After all, how often does a student ask to read a book of poetry? How often is the poetry by a poet I don’t know, a poet the student discovered on her own? How often is that poet a refugee, born in a camp as her parents fled the Khmer Rouge regime? How often is the student who is asking a newcomer herself?

After class, we looked up Lang Leav so at least I would know a little about what we were getting into – but, to be clear, I was always going to buy the book. Leav’s style reminds me of Rupi Kaur, whose books are so popular that they regularly disappear from my classroom, leaving me to buy them again. (It’s ok; another unspoken rule seems to be “If a student needs a book of poetry to become theirs, they should probably have it.”)

In April – National Poetry Month – I usually read a poem out loud every day. We don’t study it or anything fancy like that: we just read it. For a few minutes, the poem simply exists with us; the students simply meet it. I choose all sorts of poems, often with the students in mind but sometimes just because I love them. Usually a few students will start to share poems they love after a week or two. Often someone brings up something that a poem reminds them of. Sometimes, like this year, we find ourselves talking about one poem, which leads to another and – oops! – we’ve read four and are accidentally talking about Robert Browning’s Meeting at Night and Parting at Morning and somehow we’re talking about sexual imagery and I’m blushing and then… well, then class continues. And the next day we read another poem.

On this day, the student wasn’t sure which of Leav’s books was “best”, so we looked at the covers and the previews, and then I bought two. Thanks to the miracle of modern shipping, I will put them in her hands tomorrow. I cannot wait.

Two books of poetry: the lefthand one is red and is entitled "Love"; the right hand one is cream and we can see the word "September" in the title.

Because you know what? If a student is reading poetry and falls in love with a poet – well, I buy it.

(Also, I just realized that Rupi Kaur is missing again. I know I spend too much on books for my classroom, but how can I say no?)

Lit Test Prep

Over thirty students signed up for today’s literacy test prep session, but only a desultory handful are actually here. They dot seats around the library, mostly far from one another, some with their heads already on the table. My job is to make sure they feel prepared for tomorrow’s lit test. I suspect we are all more or less equally excited about this.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is a graduation requirement which, like many standardized tests, is touted by some and reviled by others. You can guess where the teachers lie on this scale. For both of the last two years the test was waived because of covid, but now it’s back, and anyone who is not graduating this year must pass it before they receive their diploma. And this time, the test is fully online.

As a result, this test prep session involves almost no literacy: it’s all about how to navigate the electronic test. First, I show the students how to put their Chromebooks into “kiosk mode” so that they will not have access to the internet during the test. Then, we return to “regular” mode and find the practice test. I explain why there is a “Minds On” page on the test and that no, there is nothing to do on this page. I go over the general directions so they will not have to read them tomorrow. I explain how to use the various electronic tools – the line by line reader, the highlighter, the “side by side” view that allows students to see the reading while they answer the questions. I show them how to flag a question they might want to come back to. We practice doing these things. We play with the online highlighter and the underline tool. I show them where to find the word counter for the writing section and where to see how many words they have left. I tell them to try to get close to the maximum number of words. We spend easily 40 minutes simply practicing with the tools.

Kids today are tech savvy, for the most part, but some are savvier than others, especially if by savvy you mean “has regular and effective access to technology both at home and in school.” Or “doesn’t have to overcome a language barrier simply to access the test.” Our school has one of the best school-provided Chromebook-to-student ratios in the school board – and one of the worst for BYOD (bring your own device) because so few students have Ds to B. Offering the literacy test requires gathering Chromebooks from all over the school and using them exclusively for the test for three days. Not only will no other classes have Chromebooks, but we’ve also been asked to plan lessons that involve no wifi – because who knows if our broadband will hold up. We pretend that these preparation challenges are not due to structural inequities. We pretend that the literacy test will not reveal who has computers and internet at home or who only recently arrived in Canada.

Luckily for our prep session, the students perk up once we start playing with the various tools. Everyone likes the side-by-side view. The word counter is daunting but effective. They like being able to flag questions that they’re not sure about and that the test reminds them to double-check those before they move on. This is good.

I offer a few tips because some of the students have never taken a standardized test before: restate the question in your answer; if you’re not sure, make a guess and move on; write simple, clear sentences; think about something positive before you start to stay calm; it’s only a test; you can always try it again.

After this, a few students stick around actually practice the test and ask me questions. There’s only one practice test available in this new format, so I hope it’s good preparation. As I move from table to table, from student to student, I think about the fact that it’s still Eid, that many students just finished fasting, that most of the dates for this test fell during Ramadan. I try to ignore the fact that one of the articles is about the marshmallow test – and that these same students who cannot eat most marshmallows. The students laugh off my observation; they’re used to it.

Tomorrow, they’ll take the test. Some will know how to navigate the interface, how to “do” standardized tests. Some will be ready. Some won’t. Nevertheless, as they leave the library and head back to class, each student says, “Thank you, Miss” and I cross my fingers that we’ve done some good.

The Dilemma

My test is positive. Again. Unquestionably, undeniably positive. Despite my best efforts to prevent it, I have covid. Today is day 8 since my symptoms began and, while I feel much better – only a cough and runny nose linger – my RAT test insists that I am still highly contagious.

I’ve already missed five days of work, so my self isolation period is officially over. According to both Public Health and my employer (the entity, not individual people), it’s time for me to get back to the classroom. Public Health’s official policy is that people can go back five days from the date their symptoms started if their symptoms have been improving for 24 hours and they don’t have a fever. This is me: fever is gone, symptoms are improving. My employer offers five days of “quarantine” leave, but after that I am using my sick leave. I am an employee, and I am supposed to work. Did I mention that I am still testing positive for a disease that may be more transmissible than measles and which, while it can be mild, can cause unknown amounts of long term damage to vital organs?

Nevertheless, the expectation is that I go to school – masked – even though both the tests and the science say that I am contagious and that the mask will not prevent me from infecting others. And I want to go. I’m so eager to return that this morning I even contacted a physician, just to double-check. Her response was unequivocal, “The RAT means you are still contagious. You shouldn’t go to work. Even in an N95 mask. Your students aren’t in the best masks. Just staying 2m away doesn’t prevent others from getting sick. Covid is airborne. I’m sorry.”

Each day that I stay home, the pressure to go in grows. Each day I’m out, the students lose out on effective instruction. Our school board, like so many others, is struggling to find supply teachers (substitutes). My colleagues are stretched thin, covering classes that are not their own; if we’re lucky and the school finds a supply teacher, that person is unlikely to be able to deliver a lesson; increasingly, we cannot find coverage at all and the students have (another) study hall.

But if I go in, I put real people at risk. Real people. People like you or your loved ones. Even as I type, researchers are trying to figure out the complications of covid, and we know they’re more likely if people aren’t vaccinated. Maybe you think that everyone should just get covid and get it over with. Or maybe you think that covid isn’t really that serious. Ok, sure. But what if I go in, coughing, masked and infect your child or your sibling? I don’t know if the students are vaccinated. I do know that one of my students is just out of the hospital. I do know that some of my students have younger siblings who cannot be vaccinated and others have family members who are at risk of complications if they get covid. I know that my friend’s child attends my school. I know, too, that my colleagues have people in their lives who are at risk. Who am I to decide that they should be exposed to covid?

Then, as my father (who is an infectious disease doctor) points out, I am lucky enough that I don’t *have* to go to work. Perhaps instead of being upset that I am still sick, I should be grateful that I am able to protect others. In that case, I can choose to be particularly cautious to protect others who don’t have the same luxury.

While I try to balance all of this, I must continue to plan my classes, even though I am not there to teach. Tomorrow will be day 7 of students following instruction from a screen. They are trying; they know that I, too, am trying. They really are the best. Still, some of them have thrown in the towel. Attendance is dwindling and fewer and fewer assignments come in. I don’t know what they have actually learned or what they need next to support their learning. I really want to be in the classroom.

And yet: I am so much more than simply an employee, merely human capital. I am a friend, a mother, a teacher, a colleague and so much more; much of my identity is wrapped up in caring for others. If I go to work, even though I am “only” coughing, even if I am wearing a N95 mask, even though Public Health says it’s ok and my employer (again, as an entity, not as individual people – my administration is lovely) would prefer that I return, I am denying the human-ness of all the people around me. I am deciding that my choice, my freedom is more important than they are. I can’t do that.

I love my work and my students. I miss them. I want to be there. Precisely for those reasons, I look at my RAT, look hard at those two red lines, and know that I am about to call in sick for tomorrow. After that, I’ll get to work on another lesson plan.

Please, join us weekly at twowritingteachers.com If you are a teacher, this community can be life changing. Trust me. I know.

Relax?

The summer I was 13, aunt Sara got married. The wedding was a big affair gathering far-flung members of two large families for a riotous celebration. My American aunt was marrying a Scottish man and they lived in the Cayman Islands, so guests hailed from around the Commonwealth and beyond. I spent the week before the wedding thrown together with the other awkward teens – Rachel, from England, and Mark, a very cute boy who I think was half American half British and who attended a boarding school… somewhere.

Rachel was a year older than me and approximately a million times cooler. She was clearly only talking to me because she had no choice. I’m pretty sure she smoked – something I would never even have considered – and she slouched around my grandmother’s backyard in an oversized t-shirt with giant letters that said “RELAX”. When my grandmother noticed the shirt, she smiled approvingly, “Why, isn’t that a nice thing for a shirt to say?” As soon as she had turned her back, Rachel rolled her eyes at me and said, “Yah – good thing she doesn’t know what it really is.”

I, of course, also did not know what it “really” was, and it took some well-placed questions and the occasional faked bits of knowledge (of course I liked “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” I nodded, though I had never heard of them) to learn that “relax” had something to do with sex and music and was most decidedly not a general, all-purpose sort of sentiment. I didn’t fully understand the reference for years.

This story pretty much sums up my relationship with “relax” – it sounds nice in theory, though it may mean something I don’t quite understand, and while I hope I can fake my way through, it often takes me a while to figure out. “Relax” is my one little word for this year, although I have to admit that I actually forgot what it was until a couple of weeks ago. Sigh.

In fact, I keep forgetting that I decided to focus on relaxing this year. Take, for example, last night, after the whole family tested positive for covid. As I fell asleep, I found myself planning everything I could get done in the five days of quarantine. In my head, the list went on and on: re-plan my classes to account for a four-day absence, finish a letter of recommendation, finish marking essays and start marking a project, complete report cards, finish my current book, read to Mr. 13, watch a movie, knit, do the laundry…

Today I mostly played word games and read a little. If I’m lucky, tomorrow I will do a little something else. We are lucky – none of us are seriously ill (keep your fingers crossed!) – and I am determined not to take that for granted. “Relax,” I tell myself, “the work can wait.”

I wonder what Rachel did with that t-shirt? Last I heard she had two children was running a pub; I’m sure the t-shirt is long gone. Still, I’m betting that right about now, both of us could use an oversize t-shirt that reminds us to relax. And we wouldn’t even roll our eyes when someone commented on what a nice idea it is.

Parting at Morning; Meeting at Night

I learned about Robert Browning’s paired poems Meeting at Night and Parting at Morning in 11th grade with Mrs Braswell. This morning, all these years later, their titles echoed in my head because – for the first time ever – both Andre and I had to leave the house before our children left for school. In fact, we would both be gone before the older child woke up. They had to get up, get ready and get to school entirely on their own.

At any rate, when the titles of these poems ran through my mind this morning, I wasn’t thinking about 11th grade or Mrs Braswell: I was thinking about my kids. Today, for the first time ever, both Andre and I had to leave for work before the children left for school – which meant we also had to leave earlier than we normally do – which meant we all had to be on our A game.

Last night, we packed lunches, checked breakfast provisions, laid out clothes. This morning, Andre was gone before I even woke up. Half an hour later, I was up, getting ready. I gathered my things, then kissed Mr. 11 awake, told him to brush his teeth & hair, remember his lunch and make sure Mr. 13 woke up in time for school. Then I left.

We’ve left them alone in the evenings plenty of times with (almost) no qualms, but somehow this was different. Would Mr. 11 actually comb his hair? Would his brother wake up? Would either of them eat breakfast? Would they remember their lunches? Leave on time? Lock the door? These questions would remain unanswered until I got back from work. Would they let themselves in after school? What if Mr. 11 lost his key? Would they feed the cats? Would they feed themselves?

I vowed to go home right after my classes ended, just in case, but a teacher in my department was having a very bad day, and I stayed to help them calm down. The kids had another 45 minutes alone.

As I finally gathered my things, I realized that I hadn’t worried about my children at all during the conversation: I’d been focused on the problem at hand. And when I walked in the door, I knew immediately that everything was fine. Mr. 11 had remembered his tutoring session; Mr. 13 was doing his homework. All the keys were where they were supposed to be. The kitchen counter provided evidence that they had eaten (if not tidied up).

And just like that, we’ve passed another milestone. Over dinner, it was clear that they were tickled at this new bit of independence – Mr. 11 says I should tell you that I was too worried and they were awesome. He’s not wrong.

To be fair to their nervous mother, they did forget to feed the cats.

Who can fail?

I am the parent of a stubborn child., so I wasn’t shocked when he decided not to do his art work for several months during elementary school. I wasn’t pleased, mind you, but I wasn’t shocked: he does not like to be directed in his artistic expression. As you can imagine, in our home we’re pretty alert to school things (I am a teacher, after all), so when I noticed a string of missing assignments, I asked what was going on. He assured me he had it under control. A few days later, the assignments were still missing, so I offered to help. He politely declined.

Since he was in elementary school, I could have insisted he do the work. He would have resisted; we would have fought; there might have been a tantrum. In the end, I suspect that I could have coerced him into doing it. If nothing else, I’m still bigger than he is. But I didn’t. I offered help occasionally but mostly left it up to the child and the teacher.

When report card time came, he reminded me that his Art mark wasn’t going to be very good because he hadn’t done his work. I assured him that I remembered. Then, as I opened his report card, he said it again. We looked. It was bad. His lip quivered, his eyes filled, and suddenly he was crying in my arms. It feels awful to get a terrible mark, even when you’re little. It hurts, even when you are expecting it – even when you deserve it.

I held onto him for a few minutes, stroking his hair and whispering, “I know, I know.” Eventually he calmed down, and the discussion that ensued was hard. I pointed out that the mark didn’t tell us who he was, but that he *chose* this: he had decided not to do the work and this was the result of that decision. We talked about how it felt worse than he expected, how it had been easy to decide not to do the work but much harder to experience the impact of that decision. We talked about how next time maybe he would remember this terrible feeling and choose to do his work.

He hasn’t missed an assignment since then.

Today, I worked with an inspiring dedicated group of educators from my school board. On paper, we’re working preparing for “destreaming” beginning next year (all grade 9 students will be in one level for all courses – no advanced or remedial or high or low or anything: just school). What we’re really doing is reimagining school. Research shows that streaming students is racist and upholds the status quo, but just throwing them all into one class and hoping things work out isn’t going to fix this. We need to undo generations of racist policy and systems. We need to rethink. We need to do better.

This work is hard, even for those of us dedicated to equity. We are trying to envision learning that is radically student centred in a system that is not designed for students. More than that, the system expects a product as the result of our precious PD days: we need to create something that will help teachers throughout our system do this work day in and day out. Hint: lessons and unit plans aren’t going to be enough.

When I’m with my colleagues, imagining school, we dream big, but this also leads to a lot of questions for everyone involved. Today, I left our meetings thinking about some of the students I’ve taught over the years, and thinking about my son. Sometimes, it feels like the only way a student would ever fail in a system like this is if we, the teachers, fail. After all, in this new vision, the teacher’s role involves really knowing their students, really finding out what drives them. But I wonder. Is there space in this reimagined school for a student to say no? I’ve taught students who didn’t yet have a “why” and who didn’t want to do the work. Students like my son sometimes need to test the boundaries to ask if we will hold firm in our belief that they can do good work. And some students have been failed by a system that places them in a situation where they simply do not yet have the skills to succeed. Can they fail?

Look, I know that failure can feel devastating, and I’m all too aware that most children won’t experience the type of support I was able to give my child. But… I have taught students who see no purpose in school, students who hand in no work at all, students who don’t attend most days. I have had students do this even when I have wanted to know them, tried to know them, reached out to them. I have had students who do not trust me because, well, I’m me and I’m not who they need. I have even had students fail and return the next year, knowing that the failure proved my belief that they were capable of more.

I guess I’m just wondering, in a radically student-centred system, how do we make space for students who want to say no? Who gets to fail? Who do we fail if the answer is “no one”?

Muddling through March #SOL22 31/31

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye — Goodbye!
I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie”
– from “Song Long, Farewell” by Rodgers and Hammerstein

Here we are: the last day of March. For the fifth year in a row, I’ve written – and published! which is harder for me – for 31 days in a row. Other years, I’ve ended the month writing about a sense of power or community or learning. This year, I’m ending with a sigh. This has been the hardest year yet for me, mostly, I think, because I’m worn out. Writer’s block only dogged me a few times, but I sometimes struggled to get my words out the way I wanted.

So… why keep going? I mean, I could have quit. Well, in addition to several half-written posts, I’ve been jotting down lots of notes about ideas that popped up but didn’t quite fit in this space. Maybe this will help me try my hand at writing something beyond my blog. And once again, I found myself paying attention to details throughout the day, realizing that I could frame them this way or that, understanding, again, that the way we choose to tell a story makes a big difference in how we define ourselves. I kept going because I expect students to turn things in and I need to remember how hard it is to turn in things even when you want to do them, because I love reading other people’s blogs (and Deirdra only blogs in March, so I can’t miss that (heehee), and because I love the way being in a community of writers buoys me up even when I think I can’t write another day.

As grateful as I am for all the ways this challenge helps me grow, year after year, tonight, I know that “I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie” because, like Brigitta in The Sound of Music, I am tired – especially because I keep trying to write *after* we get the kids to bed. Now that is something I will change for next year.

Thank you to the whole team at Two Writing Teachers for organizing this challenge and for growing this community. Imagine all the writing teachers out there that are better for this work – and then imagine all the children who have better writing instruction because of that. Amazing.

Now, on to the next.

It’s not about me #SOL22 30/31

If you read my blog regularly, you might remember that I had a – ahem – challenging class last semester. You might remember because I wrote about that class here and here and here – and that was just the first few weeks. Oh my.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I *liked* the students. They are fun and funny and smart and honest and many other wonderful things, but teaching them all in one classroom for two and half hours (thank you, Covid) was not straightforward. In the end, I did an ok job – not great, but ok.

I thought what I was most worried about was reading and writing skills that had atrophied a little during online learning, but when I reread my blogs, I remember that we were also working on social skills and work habits. It was a lot.

Since then, I’ve talked about this class in two separate PD sessions where teachers and coaches from across schools were planning for “de-streaming.” (Next year, our school board is ending streaming for grade 9 and 10 students in all subjects. This will require a shift in our mindset and our teaching practices.) The first time, a Black educator I didn’t know but who is deeply dedicated to equity, pushed me to redefine what qualifies as success for my students. I bristled; he suggested that for some kids success is “just crossing the school’s threshold.” I’ve done enough work with students damaged by our system to know that he is right, but inside my head I wanted to scream, “That may be enough for you in your position, but once they cross the threshold and they come to class, then success changes – and then *I* have to give them a grade.” I didn’t say that, our breakout room ended, and I let it sit in the back of my mind, where I could come back to worry over it from time to time.

Today, I brought up this class again. I talked about students who refused to read or who did very little work. I was lucky enough to be in a group that allowed me to speak openly. I spoke about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and my fear of what happens when we allow students to move through the system without the skills they need for success. One colleague – an Indigenous teacher and deep thinker – challenged me to think about grapho-centrism and what that means for our students and our culture. This resonated with me because I was recently on a podcast panel where we discussed multimodal essays and the myriad ways that people can express complex critical thinking.

I sat with my colleague’s ideas for a few minutes, but soon I was worrying aloud – again – about how I can help students become literate, be able to write well. At this moment, another colleague – younger than me and also fiercely dedicated to equity – said, “I notice how much you’re using the word I.”

Whoa. She was right. I was centering myself. Oh, sure, my focus was firmly on my students, but it was also on what *I* could do to help them. When I stepped back, I realized that I have now heard from two colleagues – gently, kindly – that I am, perhaps, too much in the centre of my practice, that I might be playing the role, even unintentionally, of “white saviour” – at least in this instance. (Though they never said those words.”

That’s a tough one for me. As a teacher, I want to help – I mean, it’s kind of my job to help. On the other hand, as a white woman who is constantly working towards anti-racism and equity, I know I need to “hold myself in healthy distrust” (Kike Ojo-Thompson). My colleagues’ questioning and observing has me thinking about the ways in which I can re-centre student voice and goals. I don’t know the answers yet, but I know that if I’m talking about a class, and the most common pronoun I use is “I”, then I need to rebalance my thinking because it’s not about me.

It’s good to have such thoughtful observant colleagues. This is how we get better – together.

Rambling Autobiography #SOL22 29/31

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing today, and then I remembered this. I don’t even know who to link to for this idea. I know Elisabeth wrote one – and Peter – and Carol – and… I don’t know who else. The prompt is from Linda Rief – that much I know. Here it is:

I was born in Cincinnati, but I don’t remember a single thing about it and as far as I know I’ve never been back. I don’t really remember Panama, either, but sometimes I can feel the memories at the edge of my mind, like the way I was fascinated by the iguana at the zoo in Texas – how I didn’t want to leave and pressed my face into the glass and no one else understood and I had to leave anyway because I was just a kid. Or like the day in France when I tasted mango again for the first time, and I was suddenly back in the jungle for just a second and I almost knew it, but then I was back in Strasbourg, and for the first time it felt like a disappointment. Which didn’t happen often because I loved almost everything about being in France. I remember that intriguing boy with the long hair talked about Paris and said, “even if your heart is broken, you’re broken-hearted in Paris and that makes it better” and I had never been broken hearted but I thought that made sense or at least sounded very romantic. And I remember the way that Justin’s cigarette smoke swirled back towards me and into my hair as he was driving us all home in the van when I was in college, and even though I didn’t smoke, and even though I knew I didn’t like smokers, the smoke seemed somehow sensual and I realized I thought he was sexy and I had no idea what to do with that.