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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poem-they’re all the same May 6, 2019

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:15 pm
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Pick up any yearbook

any place

any year.

Turn the pages,

you will recognize them.

That one:

always so friendly.

That one:

forever in trouble.

That one:

so cool.

That one:

Oh! The music!

That one:

skipped more than attended

That one:

kept you up nights,

worried about wise choices

safe places.

Any yearbook,

familiar faces,

each so unique,

every one the same.

 

poem-through June 21, 2017

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:21 pm
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I’m through

with being split in two

three

four.

No more trying to be

too many of me.

Finally,

the best is there is to shine,

when troubled is the rare and not the rule,

where expecting excellence

is rewarded,

not met with whines.

Once, I’d have wept to leave this team,

but now it seems we’ve seen the best

and sweeping up the mess

is all that’s left.

It makes it easier to say good bye

When a dream is dangled before your eyes,

and so you reach, because like me,

sometimes you’re surprised by victory.

Now I can be

just one me,

doing what’s my specialty.

 

 

poem- I want to know June 6, 2017

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:22 pm
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What I want to know

is what the magical ingredient is.

What’s that essential something

that makes this kid go “WOW!”?

Not just this kid, but that kid, too.

You know how some will not be moved,

never seem to find their groove?

I want the magical ingredient for them all,

so when they’re pushed from their nests

they don’t fall, they aim for the skies with eyes

open to opportunity, head full of curiosity.

Every time I think I know the secret

I see another one sneaking by,

not willing to try or

afraid

to try?

What’s broken their curiosity?

Taught them to close out possibility?

It hurts me.

I want to know if that kid

is going to move to his groove later.

Will he save his curiosity to ride a wave

at twenty instead?

I want to see it now,

but late is better than never.

I hope when it happens,

I’ll know.

 

 

 

poem-instructions January 25, 2017

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:41 am
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So much difficulty

is avoided

when we read the instructions.

If you don’t know what is asked

why do you try

to answer?

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I’m marking exams at the moment and astonished at how often answers in no way reflect the question asked.

 

poem- deep December 12, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:44 am
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I’ve fallen into a fog

that fills my head with cotton

and adds sandpaper to my throat.

Bed sounds like such a good idea,

but work requires my presence.

Mentally, I’m home, buried under quilts.

Physically, I supervise workers,

who all wish they were home in bed.

We may lack spirit for spirit week;

but today is pajama day.

How apropos.

 

poem- again December 8, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:09 pm
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The never ending circle

of expectation raised

no effort was applied

of failure achieved

makes me want to scream.

What makes the difference

between students who give up

and those who persevere

to find success?

Perhaps it’s in their mantras:

I don’t care

versus

I care.

Those who say they don’t care, do,

but they simply don’t believe

they can.

 

poem- motivation September 20, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:05 pm
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How much of the stuff that they make you teach us

Do you really want to teach? He asked

What are you talking about?  I reply.

I LOVE this stuff!

We’re passionate about our subject,

glory in the possibilities,

long to share wisdom!

Do you know how many years I studied this stuff?

I adore it all!

Oh,

how wonderful when we connect students to our subject

so they are empowered by it, too.

 

 

poem-R June 11, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:47 pm
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Recursive learning

circles of transformation in

Relation

Rigorous

Reaching to better teaching.

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a little Masters reflection today.

 

 

poem-fear June 1, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 am
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That explains everything, doesn’t it?

You’re afraid.

You’re so afraid of someone’s opinions

that you won’t risk anything.

You’re afraid you’re not perfect,

that you’ll make a mistake,

that someone will laugh at you.

All of this failure to complete your work

to present to the class,

to hand in an assignment

is all because you’re so concerned about image

you’ve turned yourself into a failure.

THAT was the image you wanted for yourself?

Really?

Life is a series of risks, of mistakes, of rough drafts,

of trying, and failing, and working and succeeding.

Are you so critical of others that you think everyone

is that critical of you?

In this time of social media,

confidence is your power.

My dog was happy and friendly.  After he was attacked, he became fear aggressive.

He growled when other dogs came near, lunging at them.

He built a wall.  He’d learned he had to defend himself.

It took a trainer with care and many friendly dogs to teach him to feel safe again.

I wonder what it will take,

for all of you?

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Interesting conversation before my class today as we discussed students who refuse to present to the class.   A new teacher was asking what to do about this situation.  My student over-heard the conversation and said that  if there’s someone who doesn’t like you in the class, they’ll be judgmental. She said No one wants to be judged.  So- It doesn’t matter it’s a life skill.  It doesn’t matter that not being liked by the odd person is normal.  I was told, “We’re afraid”  and that was the end of it.  It is unfair of teachers to expect them to try things that are difficult because they learn and grow that way, and they just want to stay as they are.

 

 

 
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