Sunday, January 14, 2018


The first part of the week I spent at the Justice Centre learning things about conflict resolution and mediation.  My union paid for this enlightenment; it is my reward for bringing these skills to their processes and helping colleagues manage their conflicts internally rather than involving management.  I am perpetually amazed at how much our union attempts to have us align against the people we should be working with collaboratively.  Whatever, I wanted to take the course for my benefit.

All conflict is internal.  Sometimes conflict involves other people too.


Monday, January 01, 2018


Last night a former student contacted me.  Former from quite early in my career, maybe around the year 2000.  I tried to figure out his age based on when I think I taught him and I came up with somewhere between 27 and 32.  At first I assumed it was a pocket call, because he and I don't talk on the phone.  We have a Facebook-only kind of friendship that has consisted of an initial hello and not much since.  I didn't pick up.

He called again a few minutes later, dashing my belief.  This time I assumed he was drunk, because who tries to call their former teacher at 10:00pm on New Year's Eve unless they're drunk and stupid?  I didn't answer it that time either because I don't want to talk to a drunk and stupid former student.

After that he sent an instant message, and that got me curious.  What could inspire this kind of determination to get in touch with me after all this time?  So I answered - in text form.  He wasn't drunk.  (He's a recovering addict.)  He was sad.  Which I guess is worse, but I'm a sucker for that.  His mother had just died.  I believed myself to be in for a long draining conversation about life and death... but he didn't seem to want that after all.  He just wanted to chat, to reminisce about being fourteen, I guess, and how much he loved Drama class back in those days.

It was all kind of baffling.  He kept telling me that I had brought him back from his cocaine addiction.  And that I was responsible for his current success.  And several of his friends' too.  It makes no sense, really, because I was kind of a shit teacher back in those days, making up my lesson plans in the car on the way to work, scrambling to fill the time with something, anything, to keep the kids busy and not causing mayhem.  I didn't remember a lot of the life-altering experiences he credited me with orchestrating.

He asked if I would be back on the Winter Prairies any time soon, to which the answer is a million times NO.  He said he would be here in April.  He wants to connect.  I feel ambivalent.

The idea that I could have been inspiring is lovely.  But I have trouble believing it, honestly, because I know I was a sloppy disorganized mess.  This is a strange career where you have no real idea who you impact or how until they come back to tell you nearly twenty years later, and even then you don't know if you can believe them.

But still, it was interesting to be put back in touch with my youngest career self, my energy and my ridiculous optimism.  I think I like that version of myself, even though she's always in a bit of a scramble.  I like the way I had time to waste time making kids feel known.  I hope I still do that well, now that I do it with purpose.  I hope the lack of spontaneity these days doesn't make it seem less genuine or honest.

Also, I suppose that when people go out of their way to tell us that we've done something good for them, we are not meant to be suspicious of it, but rather to savour it, and to be grateful for having received it.  It is a rather rare and special gift.  I will wrap it back up and allow myself to reopen it again when I need it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


My mother used to damn my eyes all the time when I was a teenager.  I mean she used to curse me that way, Damn your eyes!, when she was angry.  Most often she shouted it, but I remember more clearly the time that she repeated it several times quietly, because that time she meant it more than the other times.  That time she really was damning my eyes in the hopes I would go blind, or perhaps wishing that my eyes would pop out of their sockets and explode in front of her, a juicy burst of blood and aqueous humor.  So far the curse hasn't taken.  My eyes are alright; I am hopeful they will remain insusceptible to the curse that has been placed upon them.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

pieces of

Many students where I counsel are Sikh - and believe in reincarnation.  I find this belief so comforting, the way it honours not only humankind, but all living things, as being redeemable and capable of growth.  This morning I was working with a girl who is processing grief over her grandfather's death.  He died several years ago, but she has never been able to talk about him with her family because they do not want to cry, and they do not want to be around her when she cries.  So we cried together a bit, and I learned about why he was so important to her... because he made her feel important to him.  It always feels like an honour when people discuss their dead loved ones with me - because I know this is a sacred space in which we face these losses.  I know it is sacred because I go there so rarely and cautiously myself, with so much respect and trepidation.

This afternoon N apologized to me for disappearing to play basketball with one of his students, and was startled when I told him I thought this was the best kind of counselling he could do, bonding with a kid doing something they both enjoyed together.  Relationship-building.  N is of the mentality that things that are fun cannot be considered work.  I hope our conversation opened this door for him because it is exactly what I want him to do more of.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Things for D have gotten better.  I am grateful for that.  He has been moved into a foster home where he says he is happy and likes the people with whom he lives.  This makes it easier for me to breathe, knowing that he is in a place where he feels safe, cared for, and can relax a bit.  The other day he asked me how he could access the lunch program after weeks and weeks of telling me he couldn't eat.  And today I gave him the Christmas gifts and gift cards the staff collected for him.  He was stunned.  And brought to tears (which of course brought me to tears).  I have fallen for this kid, hard.  I drove him home today because he had too many gifts to carry them on the bus, and on the way home he told me a story about how his mother sold his youngest sister when they were living in Nicaragua.  If there wasn't evidence to support the fact that everything he has said so far has been true, I would think this kid had to be lying.  But he's not lying.  His mother has done so many terrible things to all her children.


Saturday, December 16, 2017


On Friday I stopped at the liquor store for wine - because I needed wine even more than usual.  The cashier asked me for ID, which was lovely of her (because the legal drinking age here is nineteen), but when she looked at my birthdate she said, Oh my god.  I thought you were younger.  You've got this Cindy Crawford kind of thing going on.  I think she meant this as a compliment but it's funny because Cindy Crawford is about ten years older than I am.  Since they haven't got a tip jar at the till I am choosing to accept she intended something pleasant, even though it came out all muddled and mixed.  I then went home and aged myself by drinking lots of wine.


On Friday K asked me to join some kind of innovative educators mentorship buzzword committee.  I asked him who else was on the committee and he said Just me so far.  I have become that person that administrators invite to be on committees either because they think I have trouble saying no (true), or because they think it might lure others (not sure).  Others were lured.  We now have a team of five who can talk about drilling down and unpacking things to our hearts' content.  I have no clear idea of what this committee is about, but I know Ken wrote a proposal to the District asking for $6000, and I think receiving the money is the main purpose.  I followed up by asking him to pay for me to go to a conference in February, and to my surprise he agreed.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I am processing something that is hard for me understand.  Today I asked my team of counsellors not to take their lunch breaks all at the same time so that we wouldn't leave the office unstaffed.  I expected this to be a fifteen second thing (silly me) and it wasn't at all.  It turned into a large conversation about values (apparently we don't all value accessibility the same way) and process (can't we all check in with each other before we go for lunch to coordinate our plans?  can't we have stickers on our doors to indicate we are taking lunch breaks?  can't we please make this as complicated as possible?).  And it devolved into me pointing out (somewhat sharply) that it is difficult for me to want to talk about things with someone who keeps interrupting me.  It turned into a half hour of nonsense.

Later in the day I went back to the Interrupter and asked to speak to her.  I was planning to stick to my guns about the interrupting, but wanted to make some sort of peace because I recognized I said it to her in front of everyone, which may have been offside.

She burst into tears immediately, but not because of the interrupting thing.  She owned that completely and said she was going to work on it.  She was in tears because she said I am intimidating.  I'm intimidating because I don't invite her to eat lunch with me.  I'm intimidating because I'm always on time (???), I'm intimidating because I don't stop by her office to invite her to walk to meetings with me rather than walking down the hallway all by myself.  And so forth.

It's hard for me to process this because, a) I think of myself as a somewhat mousy person and can't fathom anyone being afraid of me in any way, and b) I think this woman is bizarrely oversensitive, and c) I don't like her and I don't want her to want my friendship.  I just want her to do her job.  I'm struggling to process the possibility that I am intimidating.

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