Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day Fifty-Two: Listen to Your Elder

I'm wearing my robe as I walk by the front door, and I think I can hear the wind. I turn the knob and the door pops open, cold rushing in the trees, crusty snow spots on the dark ground. I wonder what the temperature is? Colder than it has been, I think.

I'm wearing black leggings, ski pants, exercise shirt, long-sleeve sweater. I pull my red ski-jacket over-top, but my arms feel cool already. I run up the stairs and open my closet, my fingers walking through dress jackets to find the soft green vest from Father Porte Memorial Dene School. Warmth, I think, just like a towel out of the dryer. Back in the kitchen, I look at my red jacket and it's thin, sporty body just feels cold. I hang it up, walk to the back closet, and remove the short, blue, feather down-jacket that Char gave me last year. I slip my arm into the sleeve, and the down hugs my arm.

Fifteen steps past the house, the wind sings up the coulee. I have a head band on and the hood up, but the wind fills the hood, and the top of my head is cold. I keep walking. I'll be toasty warm, soon, I think, but I'm still cool half-way to the ski hill. Once I'm out of the trees, and the wind is even stronger, I stop, take off my mittens, dig in my backpack for my toque, slip the hood off, slip the toque on, and bring the hood back up. The wind still plays into the faux-fur lined blue hood. I really need to get a thermometer or figure out how to access a weather report on-line, I think, I'll bet it's not even that cold, and look what a wimp I am this morning.

As I walk past the governance centre my limbs have warmed and I even need to undo the zipper to let cool air hit my neck, but a few minutes, past the hospital now, I zip myself back in. Last week, a colleague, Cory, wondered if I had a balaclava. A what? I'd said. He'd motioned to his face, circling his eyes. Oh, like a face toque, I'd said. I may need one of those, I think this morning as I turn before the cement yard.

I look down at the road. The light is almost enough to take some pictures. The icy spots on the road shine in the street-lights. Tire-tred patterns are frozen onto the pavement. I keep seeing maps in the snow, or shapes, like I saw in the clouds as a child. There's Rudolf. A friend sees a sea-horse in one of my pictures from yesterday.

Lesley Farley is teaching our students about the school's Nikon cameras in preparation for our involvement with the "Heroes in Challenging Times" First Nations and Metis Literacy Leadership Project. She is using picture notes, a CRISS strategy, to review the various photo composition options. She is leading us through the parts of the camera and by the end of period one, the kids and I are snapping pictures of each other. I take a close up of Curtis' eyes, his dark bangs. Raelee isn't happy with the height of standing on a chair. "Stand on the piano," I say. So we spot for her, and she snaps away from on high, while other students shoot her. Period two is just as successful as period one.

Period three I work on some edits for Raelee's story. We are getting it ready for submission to the Leader Post's Minus 20. Raelee has also decided to take a Creative Writing 20 Credit with me because she has now caught up in her ELA A10 class, which was why she had joined my tutorial class. I tell her about morning pages, hand her a new Hilroy notebook, and she writes two pages.

Arwen comes to my classroom at noon. She and I are going to walk downtown to buy clothes, small toy, and some hard candies to add to her Project Christmas Child Box. We step outside and the wind is bitter. Arwen has only worn her bunnyhug, her parka back in her classroom. "We're not walking in this," I say.

I pull six-hexagon tables into a circle, gather chairs, save a spot with my Student Services binder. We're having a team-meeting. I put the kettle on for tea, find some mugs, and bring out my tea selection. We discuss our three-tiered model: green, yellow, and red levels. Green being eighty percent of our students, who receive classroom intervention for all behaviour and academic checks. The yellow and red are the top twenty percent of our students who need extra support and focused planning. I'm enjoying my role as ten percent Student Services because I bring a classroom perspective, specifically working on grade ten referrals, credit rescue, and teacher cooperation. Jade's minor is in student services, and she offers humble, yet articulate, comments. I'm so darn proud of her.

In period five I'm writing on the computer in the staff room. Jade and I had talked this morning, and I told her that I either need to address the students directly because of the class-gone-wrong yesterday during her absence, or I need to be out of the room, because I was technically "the sub" and it's kind of strange when the sub gets frustrated, and then shows up at the back of the room the next day, to give everyone the evil eye while not processing the broken trust. We decide that to deal with it, even for five or ten minutes, would sabotage Lesley's lesson which is also the lead up for Sandy Pinay-Schindler's visit Wednesday. We decide that I will follow up with one student who I had already taught last year, because I do have a relationship with him. At the break I'd seen him.

"I need to talk to you sometime," I say.

"About what?" he says, taking a step back from me in the hallway.

"Yesterday, and you walking away from me when I was telling you to come back."

He raises his eyebrows slightly and then looks down.

"When you did that, I felt like it was breaking our trust," I say.

"It's just school," he says.

"Am I just school?"


We talk some more, but there is no mending. "Are we done?" he says.

"I don't know. Are we?"

"Yes," he says.

"Okay," I say and step to the side so that he can walk away.

I'm still on the computer in the staff room when Corrine, one of our Educational Assistant's, comes in for her break. We chat about the weather. She shows me the government of Canada weather website, then tells me that she wears as much clothing on her jogs this time of year as she will in January.

Corrine is talking with her husband on the phone, and when she hangs up, I say, "That was so nice to hear. Makes me feel better about my relationship with Michael." Corrine laughs and we do a little man-bashing. Corrine was on the field trip with Michael and the grade 8's last year, so she's always a willing pick-on-Michael-because-he-really-deserves-it ally.

"It's so hard to be married to a good man," I say, "Because nobody understands the pain."

"Oh, I do," says Corrine, and we laugh.

It's 3:15 and an elder comes into the staff room, texting her granddaughter. She sits down at the table. We chat a little and I offer her tea from our meeting. She figures she has time and as she drinks her tea, I learn that we met once before at our Songwriting workshop with hip hop artist, Eekwol. I learn her name, Alma, and that she is one of our new Cree Language teachers. She is job-sharing, and I met the other lady yesterday.

We laugh about having trouble remembering people's names. I tell her the story of forgetting a lady's name, but instead of admitting it, I'd said, "How do you spell your name again?" and she'd said, "P A M." Then, years later, I met this lady again, and told her that I tell people this story, and then she said, "But my name is Pat." We laugh some more.

"This place has a good feeling. There are good things happening here," Alma says. She finishers her tea and has to leave to meet her granddaughter.

As I lay in bed, typing my stories on my laptop, I hear the wind blowing. I check the Environment Canada website and see that it's minus 14, but with the windchill it's minus 20.There is 30% chance of snow tonight, and tomorrow's high is listed as minus seven.

I wonder what to call this post: "Minus 20", "Cool Outside, Warm Inside", but I decide "Listen to your Elder" is what I need to hear.

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