Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Essay- When is a Basket Not a Basket? November 13, 2019

WHEN IS A BASKET NOT A BASKET?

© Shawn Bird November 13, 2019

Often, when we work side by side with someone, our learning comes not from the task occupying our hands, but with the stories that come along side.

On Indigenous Learning Professional Development Day, the creation of a lovely small pine needle basket was the least of what I took away.

The elder teaching our class told of gathering the pine needles.  How she wept to discover a clear cut where her favourite trees had been.  She told of saying a prayer during the gathering in respect to earth, and how when we were finished with our baskets, the needles left behind should not go to the garbage, as that impacts our own healing, but that they should be given back to earth, with thanks.

Quietly, at our table, she told our group that what one saw as a mistake, was not.  The elder who’d taught her when she was seventeen had explained they were  meant to be there.  I found a connection in that statement, “Oh!” I said, “Like I tell my English students: it’s about the process. There are going to be mistakes, and that’s good, because it’s part of the learning.”

Her eyes down on her basket flashed.  “English!” she exclaimed.  “I tried and I tried and I tried. But everything was always wrong, wrong, wrong.  Finally, I told them what they could do with their English!”

Then she glanced up, alarmed, concerned to have caused offense.  “Oh. But not like that!”

“I understand,” I said.  “Your stories are in your baskets. Not in English.”

She stitched her basket, silently.

And I saw.

I saw a school system that scarred her papers and her soul.  I saw a sense of never measuring up.  I saw frustration growing until giving up was the best decision to preserve self.

I saw how profound it was that she was in our building teaching us her talent and skill, sharing her art, her values, and her stories with us.

I saw that there are many others in my classroom who share her experience.

I am humbled and very grateful for her teaching.

A small pine needle basket on my shelf is full of new, poignant understandings.

 

Here is the Word Document version for easy printing.

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(Ignore any ads WordPress has added.  I do not endorse them).

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pondering- suck it up October 11, 2019

I have a smart dog.

He’s a miniature poodle, and we’ve been doing trick training since he was a pup. He earned his first trick dog title at 8 months old.  Now we’re working on his Trick Dog Championship and there are a couple of foundation things I realize I had not taught him. Since they’re needed for his championship video, I had to teach them.

Last night, I decided we would learn “hold an object in your mouth.”  There are a couple of options to show this. He could walk with me with an object for 10 seconds or stationary hold something for 6 seconds.  First, I tried just having him walk with his ball.  He is capable of holding a ball indefinitely, but, he wants to give it to me to throw, so keeping it and walking up and down the hall at my side did not work.

I switched to the dowel.  Holding a dowel is a foundation for carrying a dumb-bell which is a basic competitive obedience skill. I had been shown how to teach this and had a dowel, but I had never tried it with Kiltti.  I filled a bowl of Cheerios (our training treat) and called him over.  I attempted to put the dowel in his mouth.  He was having NONE of it.  He ran off and refused to come to me.  Evil lady with nefarious plotting in mind!

I went and got a leash.  He welcomed the leash, and then regretted it when I led him back to the couch.  I looped the leash around my leg, and we tried again.  I opened his mouth and set the dowel behind his canines. I gently held his bottom jaw and told him how talented and amazing he was.

His eyes told me he was not stupid enough to believe any nice things I was saying. I let go the jaw, he spit out the dowel he was given lots of treats.  We spent about 2 minutes on this, with his occasional attempts at escape foiled by the leash, and then he was released to go play ball.

An hour later, I picked him up and we did it again.  This time I didn’t have to hold the bottom of the jaw.  I told him how brilliant he was as I lengthened the time.  2 minutes and many Cheerios later, off he went.

Third time, no problem. I filmed him holding the dowel on his own for 12 seconds, twice the time required.  He still thinks this is a stupid trick, but he does it.

This is such a metaphor for some of my more recalcitrant students!  They spit out the dowel of whatever lesson we’re working on.  They don’t care that it’s a building block that is necessary for something they will need to do later on.

Those students who will give a couple of minutes get the task over with, are free to move onto things they enjoy more.  The next time they try the task, it’s easier.  Still not thrilling, but again, it just takes a small effort of cooperation to get it done.  Those kids get a decent report card.  No missing assignments!  In my class, that invariably means at least a B.  Their reward is success!

But those kids who are still feverishly spitting out the dowel?

The obstacle only gets larger when you fight it.  Growth comes with trying new things and trusting there’s a reason to know something, that knowledge is power.

Learning how to ‘suck it up and get it done’ is a valuable life skill.

Here is a scintillating video of Kiltti holding his dowel. 🙂  Excuse my voice. Still dealing with a cold. 🙂

 

writing-conference power February 19, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:49 pm
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I’m a huge advocate of the writing conference as a crucial key to a writer’s development.  For many years, I thought they were silly and over-priced.  I figured I could learn anything I needed to know by reading books about the writing craft and business.

What I didn’t understand was the importance of connection.  Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Their creativity happens when they’re alone.  Often our friends and family members don’t understand the stress of having to kill off a character we love, or the trauma of maintaining our words per day quota, or the soul-destroying nature of the twelfth (or hundred and twelfth) rejection letter for a project we adore.

Other writers do.

When you sit in a room with other writers, hear their stories, and realize they have the same kind of feelings and experiences you do, you realize you aren’t the only one. You’re not weird! (Well, maybe you are, but it’s probably a good weird, and you realize there are a lot of weirder people and you thoroughly enjoy being in their weird company!).  You feel like you belong.  You listen, you learn, you laugh, and you long for it to last.

Next March I am going to a new conference for me: Creative Ink in Burnaby, BC.  I see that some of my friends from other conferences (Surrey International, When Words Collide in Calgary, Word on the Lake in Salmon Arm) will be there. How great!

If you’re in BC and you’ve never been to a conference, this one is a good price ($80 for the weekend) and has some phenomenal people presenting and attending, so I already know it’s going to be great.  Learn about the craft and business of the writing life.  Share some weird.  Enjoy some fun.  Buy some books.

If you decide to go, tell them I sent you!

Creative Ink is at the Delta Marriott Burnaby, BC  March 29-31, 2019.

 

poem-narrow March 27, 2018

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:51 pm
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Read and understand,

my children.

The world is not as narrow

as your mind.

If you live a life,

mired in the same mud,

you will never know the

glories of a mountain peak,

power of ocean depths.

Read and understand,

my children.

What you have seen

is not all there is.

What you have felt

is not all there is to feel.

See and understand,

my children.

There is more.

So much more.

Than what you know.

Open your eyes,

to the world

my children.

See and understand.

 

 

poem-interpretation February 6, 2018

The Lord of All Knowledge,

Gatekeeper of Truth,

says the poem means this.

Generations of readers bow

before this wisdom,

even though they don’t see it,

can’t believe it,

they just accept it.

When the poet reads

the critic’s piece,

she laughs and laughs

at the irony of such arrogant

assumptions!

Oh, student!

Good reader!

There are no errors

of interpretation in poetry!

Your experiences show you a meaning,

and if you can find lines to support,

your responses are just as valid as any critic’s.

(So the famous poet said to me,

and he should know).

 

Poem-Egger Pantoum December 9, 2017

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:10 pm
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In our school, the chef’s training kids make ‘eggers’ in the morning.  These are buns with fried egg, cheese, and a sausage patty.  They are a popular fast-food breakfast fare, but I hate them.  Fried eggs are nauseating to me, runny yolks make me want to vomit, the smell makes me nauseous.  So, to avoid calamity, I do not allow them in my class room. Kids have to eat them outside the room. There are huge windows between room and hall, so the class can watch the egger eater outside, like a sad puppy at the glass, waiting to come in.  

Today we learned about pantoum poems, and before they wrote their own, I guided a class written one.  This was what A block English 11 came up with, as one student was barred and then didn’t realise the door was unlocked, so he could just walk back in when he was done eating his egger.  There was lots of laughter, as we wrote it!  🙂  I love Poetry Fridays!

Egger Pantoum (A block’s)

I wanted into English class.

I wasn’t allowed in.

They laughed at me, en masse.

Eating eggers is a sin

 

I wasn’t allowed in;

I walked away.

Eating eggers is a sin.

What a great start to the day.

 

I walked away.

I wandered through the halls.

What a great start to the day,

Trapped within these walls.

 

I wandered through the halls.

I’m chewing very slowly

Trapped within these walls

Eating eggers, I’m unholy

 

I’m chewing very slowly;

Tears are streaming down my cheeks.

Eating eggers, I’m unholy,

The door won’t open for a week.

 

Tears are streaming down my cheeks.

They laughed at me, en masse!

The door won’t open for a week.

I wanted into English class!

 

poem-trying September 10, 2017

That light in your eye

gives me hope.  The glint of

possibility twinkles there.

I am excited by the symphony

you’re embracing as you

attempt novelty.

 

 
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