How Stories Shape Our Lives

ECS210 ‘Curriculum as Narratives’ Visual Representations: Messages from “The New Teacher Book”. View slideshow: How Stories Shape Our Lives

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Back to Blogging…

Time to get back to blogging! Heading north soon and plan to reflect & share my journey of teaching in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

My ‘teaching’ roots are deep and continue to grow in many unpredictable ways and in surprising places. In some ways I think I’ve always been a teacher and always will be. No matter what path I take in my career I always come back to the classroom as being the ‘place’ where I belong.

My career path began as an elementary teacher and then opportunities came to work as a technology integration support teacher, instructional adaptations & approaches consultant & differentiated learning consultant for Regina Public Schools. Six years ago I joined the University of Regina in the role of ECS (Educational Core Studies) instructor and for the past 2 years am also working in the role of faculty liaison for one of UofR teacher education partners, NTEP (Nunavut Teacher Education Program). Learning curve never ends & that’s what being an educator is all about!

Teaching and professional development have emerged as the two key pieces of each position that I’ve held. As Dr. Seuss writes, “Oh The Places You’ll Go” – how true in my career. I’m still fascinated with working with students, teachers, instructors, colleagues and believe in the power of building a professional learning network.

My next step in this amazing journey is to head north to teach ESST (Social Studies for Elementary Teachers) for NTEP. What an amazing ‘place’ to be and I’m honoured to be able to walk alongside preservice teachers in a northern context. Context IS the window of understanding. “Oh The Places I DO GO”!

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Our Final Week Together

One last photo representation, our final week together packed full of fabulous presentations, cracker barrel sessions and fun farewells!

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The Student in Steve’s Pocket

In an earlier posting called, “Who’s in my pocket?” students were asked to write a blog posting or journal entry about a student they will always carry ‘in their pocket’. I want to share a touching story written by Steve. Thanks for giving me permission to post, Steve, but remember your promise…to write your many stories on your OWN blog. You are an amazing storyteller and your voice needs to be heard.
Steve writes,
“The person in my pocket has been there for the past 25 years, and represents the choices in which Indigenous peoples make between choosing to continue to practice our traditional lifestyles or to accept our new buffalo (education). The choices are subject to retaining or losing our language and culture.

I was a grade six teacher when I taught a 14 year old teenager who was born and raised in northern Saskatchewan. He was well-mannered, respectful, and cooperative and spoke Cree fluently. The boy was lost whenever assignments were given to the class and would not complete them. I made arrangements to have him tested and I was astounded to find out he was functioning at the Kindergarten – four months level. I was curious about his low scores and asked him where he went to school. He began to share about his upbringing. It was evident he loved the land and nature. His grandparents raised him, taught him the language, culture, and how to be a trapper and fisherman. He attended school for a brief period when he was six years old.

I shared with him about my traditional background, and his eyes began to lit up. I could tell he was impressed and he asked me, “How come you are a good reader and writer, and a teacher at that?”

I shared with him my parents’ philosophy in education. I told him my parents had the foresight that our traditional way of life was coming to an end. They knew I had to be educated in a foreign world in order to acquire the tools of the First Nations new buffalo (education). The boy stared at me and responded that his grandparents had also given him the same advice.

As a mature student, his academic progress was amazing. Before he went home for the first summer he was tested and scored at the Grade 2.5 level. By the end of the second year, he scored at the Grade five. I was so happy for him because the boy was learning and enjoying it.

The next year the boy did not return to school to further his education, however, he was kind enough to send me a message. It was delivered in Cree by one of his peers and simply stated that he was going back to the land and nature he loved. He simply could not adapt to a foreign environment. This simple message had a profound impact on me because I could relate to his love of the land and nature.

Like the boy in my pocket, I had a difficult time leaving a traditional lifestyle, the land and nature. When I left home, I promised myself to foster a proactive culture that embraces and celebrates learning as a life long journey. Although I have acquired the tools and benefits of my new buffalo (education), I have never lost my identity, beliefs and worldview. I continue to practice my language and culture, and now live comfortably in two worlds.”

By Steve McKay

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The Road Home

Had our last class together, more stories, laughter and many tears! What an emotional day…I am really going to miss this group. I will be writing more about this amazing experience for weeks to come.

Thanks Meadow Lake!

On Thursday, we wrapped class up by noon, my vehicle was packed and I headed for home. It was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to having a ‘reflective’ journey home. I was excited to be going home but I was sad to leave Meadow Lake and all the friends I had made. I had to stop and take a photo of the WELCOME TO MEADOW LAKE sign because I truly did feel SO welcomed by the students and the community. I still have tears thinking of all that I had experienced but also all that I’ll miss…

I’ll miss the quiet of a small community,
the ‘shopping’ conversations (especially my new friend, Kim),
my kitchen table desk with corner windows,
the restaurant meals with Coronation Street playing in the background,
the A&W Karoake singer in the bright orange tent (who sang his heart out even if no one was listening),
breakfast meetings with Stephen,
the brainstorming sessions with students,
shopping at the neat little shops,
Ukrainian night with so many laughs,
the breakfast chats with hotel staff (where the coffee was always on),
the hotel group huddled in the darkness watching the storm,
the amazing presentations by the students,
the deer heads hanging above our heads at steak night,
the ‘steel-toed boot’ stories shared by complete strangers,
the 1-2-3 SURPRISE moments (we’ll never forget Ang),
the stunning sunsets out my second floor corner windows,
the bbq evening, the final celebration party, the pina coladas,
the fishbowl, cracker barrel session, rock talk,
hearing the stories shared by students,
counting the stop signs in town,
having maid service,
the steady buzz of excitement in the classroom as we tweeted, blogged, told digital stories, felt such pride…so connected,
enjoying patio chats at the beautiful golf course having wine or lunch with students,
and most of all…
I’ll miss being surrounded by such caring, positive, passionate people every day in my classroom.
All these experiences fed my soul and I feel so blessed.

As I got back in the car, I called Rick to let him know I was on the road and I had tears again. I couldn’t talk. I looked down at the beautiful gift the students gave me and the tears kept coming. I will hang these two inspirational messages in my office…

I told Rick this morning, “I’m glad to be home but it feels very strange to not be heading to class.” He said, “I was thinking about that. You’ll be in withdrawal for awhile, won’t you?” How true. My first day off and I’m sitting on my deck, having a coffee and blogging! I never would have guessed this would happen.

Canola Fields in Meadow Lake

As I headed down the highway, I didn’t even want to have the radio on. I just needed time to quiet my mind. In class I told the students that I had downloaded a voice recorder so I could talk to myself on the trip home. They burst out laughing and Blain, you were shaking your head…you’ll be glad to know I didn’t talk at all (and I know you find that hard to believe)! In fact, I hit Chamberlain before I turned on the music. I had 5 hours of complete silence and I loved it. In fact, I really needed it.

Winding Roads, Magnificent Views

I found myself just enjoying the beautiful scenery…the prairie sky, the bright canola fields, the deer in the ditch, the gorgeous lakes, the winding roads. (Uncle Dale, I was thinking of you as I was snapping these photos, knowing you would appreciate the beauty as your artistic gift has captured many beautiful Saskatchewan scenes. Maybe these will inspire future paintings). I just smiled in appreciation of the path I had just been on and looking down the winding roads, wondering what exciting roads were ahead of me. I do feel so lucky for all the experiences that have come my way.
Thank-you David & Michael for giving me this opportunity. YOU knew I’d love it!
Thanks Stephen for being so supportive, so much fun to work with and for always making sure the coffee was on!
Meadow Lake…I miss you.
Students & friends…you have touched my life in so many ways.
May our paths cross again soon.
Thank-you Meadow Lake!

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Stormy Weather But No Flying Combines!

Last night…A wild storm hit Meadow Lake!

It has been such unsettled weather the whole time I’ve been here. Every day I have looked out my corner windows at the rows and rows of farm equipment and thought of how I would never want to see what a combine or swather look like in flight. Last night I started to wonder…

Today…So many trees laying all over the place but the huge pines pulled out by their roots shocked me. Many students had damage at their homes, mainly trees, fences and one demolished trampoline. Seems most had spent the night in their basements with their families. Our campers were shaken a bit but were okay.

Pine Uprooted in Meadow Lake July 18 2011

Earlier in the evening I was at the student residence enjoying a delicious homemade Ukrainian dinner (thanks to Tammy’s mother-in-law). I headed back to my room shortly after 10:00 p.m. just as thunder started rumbling. We had no idea there was a storm warning out – we were too busy talking! As I was driving the few minute ride back to my room, the lightning show was unbelievable. I really didn’t think it would be any worse than the storms over the last couple of weeks.

Within 5 minutes of being in my room, the wind turned nasty! I had the window open by my table/desk/office and papers were flying. Instantly the power went off for the whole town (but that had happened a couple of times since I’ve been here so it really didn’t alarm me). Standing in complete darkness…wishing I had a flashlight…wondering what the heck to do. I was talking to Rick on Heytell and that was my only connection. The rain was pelting against the window and the lightning never took a break.

I started getting nervous when the wind kept getting stronger and stronger so I went downstairs to the lobby. Being on the second and top story I really didn’t want to have a sudden view of the sky directly above! Within minutes, all the guests at the hotel were together watching the storm. I kept Rick on Heytell so he could keep the group informed as to what the weather report was. Some travelers had just arrived from Edmonton and said they’d been trying to outrun it for hours.

The group talked about where we would go if the storm got worse. A large linen closet in the centre of the building seemed like the safest place. Everyone knew where it was if we needed to move fast. Again, I was wishing I had a flashlight and then I realized I DID have one – on my iPhone! I had “an app for that” and it worked great but I didn’t want to drain my battery – we needed to stay in touch with our ‘weather reporter’. Wind, rain, no power, but no hail. The worst of the storm only lasted about 30 minutes but it seemed forever. One of the guests tried to keep it light by asking, “So who’s going to do a beer run?”

When it seemed like things were settling down, we were all given a tin can with three tea lights in it for light to get back to our room. Small comfort. I continued to pace in the darkness but, eventually, I was convinced that the roof was not going to be ripped off so I went to sleep. The power didn’t come on until 2:30 a.m. at our hotel but many of my students still didn’t have power this morning.

Many ‘stormy’ stories shared to begin our day. The students said that last summer, on the final day of their first grad class, a nasty storm hit North Battleford and caused huge damage and flooding. Guess this is ‘old hat’ to them!

Just sitting here thinking about the storm that hit home (Regina) at the end of June when I was away at the conference in Philadelphia. Rick sent me a photo of our beautiful 35 ft. Patmore Ash tree that split in half and fell into the house. The year of the storms, for sure. No more shade for our house…with the blistering heat right now I’m sure Rick is missing our tree.

Check out the Saskatoon HomePage to see a photo of the sky and report for storm that hit July 19th, 2011 around 10:30 p.m. “Cleanup is underway following a wild night of weather stretching from Lloydminister to Carrot River. Winds peaking at 130 km/hr were reported at Meadow Lake late Monday night. Trees fell on power lines, grain bins were knocked over and there was damage to a number of buildings.”

I am definitely ready to head home on Thursday….

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On Thursday, July 14th, it was our 32nd Wedding Anniversary and the first one, in all those years, that Rick & I were not together. Stephen announced it in class and the students clapped, said “Congratulations” and it was then that I thought, “What the heck am I going to do by myself in Meadow Lake for my anniversary?” So, I asked around to find a nice restaurant where I could have a nice meal and a glass of wine and I found the neatest spot. Everyone is so friendly here but I did have a chuckle when I realized the ‘live entertainment’ was actually a T.V. in the corner with people trying to decide whether they should watch Coronation Street or Jeopardy. I really am falling in love with this smaller community living. Everything is so simple, no one’s in a hurry, and everyone wants to talk to the new person in town.

I texted Rick during supper, HeyTelled in the evening (yeah, technology was a part of our celebration) so we could at least stay connected but it was very strange. He was heading out to friends for supper so they kept me in the conversation but it was a lonely way to spend an anniversary.

With a 3-day weekend coming up I knew I had lots of time to get caught up with my marking so I took Friday off to enjoy a day in Meadow Lake – massage, shopping, wine, movie. I was going to work hard Saturday & Sunday. But then…a wonderful thing happened.

Rick called and told me that he was on the road heading to North Battleford and had a ‘belated anniversary’ surprise for me. I was to pack, get in the car and meet him there Saturday afternoon. So, I looked at the pile of work sitting in front of me (wishing I had not taken Friday off), smiled and started packing! What the heck! I wasn’t going to miss out on this for anything and I couldn’t wait to see what Rick had planned. I thought that he probably contacted our friends there to arrange to go to their cottage. I was so wrong.

Live Laugh Love

On the drive to North Battleford I thought about how a person needs to have balance in life and sometimes I get so buried in my work that I forget this. Rick always keeps me grounded and reminds me to take time, to relax and to have fun. Thank heavens! Again I found myself smiling because on July 14th I stopped at this quaint little store in town and found a beautiful picture to buy for Rick. The simple words, “Live Laugh Love” resonated with me as such a powerful message of how we try to live our lives. That framed picture was the first thing I packed and I was excited that I, too, had a surprise for him.

Anniversary Roses

When I arrived at the hotel, Rick was waiting and had the room keys in his hands. He was grinning from ear to ear. We went up to our room, walked in and I saw a beautiful bouquet of roses, a bottle of champagne & chocolates all in the most beautiful suite! He had arranged a Romance Package! This was such a shock! Rick? Planned a Romance Package getaway? For me? I LOVE IT! I’m going to have to go away more often! Ha! Ha!

We had such a fun evening and of course, I had SO many stories to tell him! It was an amazing anniversary, a wonderful surprise and a good reminder to keep balance in my life, take care of myself and my family and to HAVE FUN! In class I am always telling the students that we LEARN the most when we are having fun but I think I needed this reminder that we LOVE the most when we are having fun!

Thanks for keeping the FUN in my life, Rick. Love you (and I’m already planning where I can go for our 33rd!) 🙂

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