As I look down at my dog, he is only half in his bed: his head spills onto the floor.
Now, his bed is big enough. In fact, we have two beds in two different rooms. And every so often I see him lie as he is now. And I wonder, why? It sure doesn’t look comfortable.
Is he so deep in sleep that he loses track of his own body? Is he just off balance and can’t find the centre of the bed? Is this the canine equivalent to thinking outside the box?
He reminds me though, that what seems normal or expected with our students, sometimes isn’t the case. Our students may choose to do things that seem illogical or senseless to us, but we don’t necessarily know their reasons.
Thankfully, unlike with my dog, we can ask the kids. And we may be surprised at their reasoning!
Words delight me. I like the sound of them when I read them. I like manipulating them to roll off your tongue. I like playing with parallel language, alliteration and syllable count.
Yesterday, my mom heard an interview on CBC radio and texted me to tune in. It wasn’t long before I had found another lover of words, Daniel Tammet. But as I listened, I became more and more intrigued. This man spoke of words in a way I had never heard before: words as numbers, images, shapes, colours and emotions.
Daniel is a high-functioning autistic savant.
After listening to the interview, I went out and bought his book: Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing. I just finished watching a documentary about him entitled The Boy With the Incredible Brain. The more I have watched and read about him, and by him, the more fascinated I am. He experiences the world – nature, numbers, words – unlike the vast majority of us.
He says this, “Words have been knots of beauty and mystery as long as I can remember.”
Although I cannot experience words as he does, I share his love for them. And, I will never again look at a word in quite the same way.
Over the last few weeks, the world has been especially ravaged by earthquakes, landslides, floods, fires, hurricanes, war and political unrest. It can be difficult to watch the devastation faced by millions without knowing quite how to help. I can pray, provide monetary support, and help students with their fundraising efforts, but really, in many ways, I feel helpless.
Yet it is important to find ways to remain hopeful in today’s world climate and to help our students do the same. I take comfort in art.
Artists can take difficult situations and create beauty, provoke thought, construct meaning, make us laugh, and challenge our norms.
Don McLean wrote American Pie about the 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. New Yorkers created a Tribute in Light: twin beams of light reaching up to 4 miles in the sky as a commemorative art installation to 9/11. Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr collaborated to create a stunning picture book, Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, about a Syrian family. And, I’ve especially appreciated (and found comfort in) SNL over the last seven or eight months.
Each of these examples has the power to uplift and provide hope. Providing our students with opportunity to both experience and create art is life-giving. George Bernard Shaw was right: “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”
I sit at my computer, coffee within reach, candles lit, dog curled up in his bed beside me, and I write. Yet today is the first day of school. I have taken a year off to do exactly what I am currently doing, but I have to admit, today feels strange.
I love the first day of school. The back-to-school hugs. The summer stories. The “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown over the summer” comments. Reassuring the kindergarten parents that their children are fine. My walk from class to class hearing, seeing and feeling the excitement this day brings.
But today I am home. And I am happy to be home. Just know a little piece of me is in school with you…