Shawn L. Bird

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

poem-puppies December 4, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:49 pm
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Teen-agers are

loudly gregarious.

Their laughter magnified by tousles.

People who are afraid of them,

would not be, if they saw them

collapsed upon my drama room floor

giggling like so many puppies,

or arguing about their favourite authors

around the tables in the library.

Though even wolves

are adorable

when they’re little.




poem- imagination trumps reality April 26, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:19 pm
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“How can you write

about being drunk

if you’ve never been drunk?”

the boys ask, grinning.

I shrug, and hand them some papers.

“You tell me.  Did I do it?”

They read,  groan, gasp and sigh.

“I didn’t see that coming,” one mutters.

Finally they look up at me with muted faces.

“Well?” I ask

“Oh, yeah,” one grunts.  “You did.”

The others nod and grunt in agreement.

“But how?” asks another shaking his head.

“I could imagine what it’s like to be drunk,

and so I never needed to drink.

I could have fun without needing to dull my senses

or find artificial courage.

I don’t drink.  I’ve never done drugs.

I don’t need to, because

I have imagination.”

“Huh,” they say,

and class begins.




I know that my experience is not at all common.  My parents were social drinkers, but I never saw either of them intoxicated.  I didn’t like the taste of alcohol, and felt no need to drink to be cool.  If I went to a party, I was disgusted how the drinkers all turned into idiots.

My high school friends didn’t drink. We went out together, had a great time, and the next morning we remembered what happened and we didn’t have a headache!  We had a remarkable amount of common sense! 😉

I have addicted relatives.  They are also a good lesson of how lives can be destroyed.

I am routinely astonished by students who have never met *anyone* who doesn’t drink.  They think all adults drink.  Many of the adults in their lives only socialize in an inebriated stupor and they don’t know there is another way to interact with people. I have never tried marijuana or other recreational drugs either.  I don’t need to medicate my emotions or do weird things.  I need all the energy I have, so I can’t afford to send my motivations up in smoke!   I can’t imagine just taking some pill off someone at a party.  That’s not fun, that’s just stupid (and dangerous).

I don’t presume to tell anyone else what to do, and I actually support legalization, to remove the criminal component. I consider it a health issue.

One thing about my clean life style- it frees up room in the budget for my Fluevogs! 🙂

PS. I’ve linked to the snippet that they read.


poem- Adrian October 20, 2013

Adrian, muscles rippling

and  glistening from summer sun,

as the girls grip

their nails in their fists, wishing.

Adrian, head emerging from car engine

wringing greasy hands,

and grinning a greeting,

reaching for his shirt,

as the girls glide in, sniffing;

whiffing at pheromones

that hint of moaning, groaning


Good girls watching as

Adrian gets ready

for Bible study.


on being a teen when your birthday says you’re not November 11, 2012

Filed under: Commentary,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:04 pm
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I was just reading a blog post by a writer who was pondering the complications of writing from the narrative perspective of a 16 year old girl.  Here are  my thoughts about writing as a teen, when one is actually years or even decades past the teen years.

It’s been a few decades since my own high school graduation, but I am lucky.  I write for teens, I am with teens all day long, and I never grew up (this means  that I actually gave birth to children who are older than I am).  I have a unique perspective on the life of the average teen, and access to them.  I watch, listen, and absorb what I can in the hallways of the high schools where I teach .  I hear about the latest vocabulary, music, games, movies, and books.  At the same time, I am no longer a teen, despite not having grown up, so I’m not really in the club.  Then again, I wasn’t in the club when I was actually a teen, either.  That’s not such an uncommon scenario.

Many things haven’t changed much.

There are the kids who party.  There are the jocks.   There are the kids who escape their troubles (real or imagined) with substance abuse, with music, art, writing, mechanics or with academic excellence.  There are the kids who are motivated and going far.  There are the kids who don’t have a lot going for them, and don’t have big dreams.  There are enthusiastic kids.  There are depressed kids.

Teens are a snap shot of society, though in a time of striving for identity, they are inclined to extremes now, just like they were then.

If you’re writing as a teen in the present, the biggest change in modern teen life compared to life as a teen  in the 60s, 70s or 80s is that the ubiquitous cell phone must be part of the action.  Cell phones are umbili for social survival for teens today.  They require constant connection like The Borg. It’s quite a fascinating thing to observe, especially when the paradox of feeling ‘different’ creates the fundamental paradox: connected and outside simultaneously.  That’s the nature of being a teen today.

The most important things remain the same.  They still want to change the world.  Many still believe, rightly, that they can.  That optimism is also an essential component of youth, and the one I like the best.


Here I am at Hallowe’en with some of  the people who make me happy to get up and drive to work each day, my Acting class.   Can you find me?  🙂

NaNoWriMo Day 11: 1100 words   (Total 15,000)


interviews & changing times September 27, 2012

Filed under: Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:41 am
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Today a group of my students were interviewed for an upcoming documentary about living in a small town.  It was interesting to hear their feedback after the experience.  They wondered if the interviewer was trying too hard to ‘connect with the youth of today’ by “dropping f-bombs in every sentence” and telling them that she and her friends had taken acid in the 90s.  They weren’t impressed.

In the staff room the other day, we were commenting about the kids in the smoke pit.  At our school, it is an area about eight feet square, marked by cement barricades a couple of feet high off to the side of our entry, just outside of the parking lot (and therefore, presumably not technically ‘on school grounds’).  There are maybe a dozen kids who hang out there off and on over the course of the day, though I’ve never seen more than six at any one time.  There are around five hundred students at our school.  The teachers were discussing how ‘once upon a time’ the smoke pit was packed, and it was full of cool kids.  Now, the kids in the smoke pit are the losers, generally looked at with disdain by the other kids.

I can remember teaching in Prince George, where probably a hundred kids stood in minus twenty, being cool, and smoking.  Once, they watched a moose wander past, and then get shot by conservation officers.  The smoking area was always lively and crowded, murdered moose, not withstanding.

Not these days.  It seems that kids are getting the message about healthy living.  They smoke less than their parents and grand-parents.   Since according to experts in the workshops attended by my ex-social worker spouse, the real ‘gateway drug’ is tobacco, does this decrease of activity at the smoke pit mean kids are less likely to graduate to harder drugs, and therefore less likely to find themselves popping acid by the train tracks like the interviewer, who’d attended this school a decade ago?

I don’t know, but I hope so.  I’m really happy they weren’t impressed by her stories and foul language.  Whoever says youth are getting worse isn’t keeping their eyes open.  Personally, I like what I see.


An Almost Perfect Review July 14, 2012

I realise that I am posting more book reviews this week than I’ve posted all year, but that has something to do with it being summer.  🙂  I can get through two books a day during the summer time  (or a read of someone else, and some work on my own writing projects).  Here’s a great one for you!

Almost Perfect


Almost Perfect
by Brian Katcher  

ISBN 978-0-385-73665-7

New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.  361 p.

This is a brilliant book. Katcher created fully drawn, believable characters dealing in confusion and sincerity with complex issues. Logan, a kid in a red necked town in Missouri falls for the new cute girl at his school. Much to his shock, she turns out to be transgendered. Issues are explored. Love. Sexuality. Violence. Acceptance. Families. Friendship. Katcher has it all, and it is absolutely wonderful.

A great read for anyone willing to walk a mile in other shoes, straight, or LBGTQ. The courage it takes for Sage to be who she is, makes a profound statement about what a hero is.

Cheers to Brian Katcher. I couldn’t put this book down. Great read.

All 5 stars.


ironies April 26, 2012

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:50 pm
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I was just noticing one of the ironies of personal communication.

Someone can crush your heart by their behaviour, and if you choose to tell them, in hopes that they will change the behaviour, or at least recognize that there is another perspective,  with alarming frequency, instead of acknowledging your hurt, they will deny it.  Beyond just denying your feelings, they frequently turn around and get angry at you for being hurt.

This is a very good argument for never allowing anyone to have the power to touch your heart, isn’t it? Affection is a messy business, and when the people we trust to be safe havens for our trust prove unworthy, it can be particularly nasty.

If the attacks prove consistent, and it’s a friend who is the source of hurt, then you can cut them out of your life.  It is simple enough to fade away.   Sometimes though, you’re actually related to the person who is routinely disrespectful to you, and then things get more complicated!

Parents are particularly prone to this experience about the time their kids hit puberty.  All those precious moments of mutual adoration suddenly come to a screeching halt and the poor parents are left wondering who put that unreasonable banchee into their kid’s bedroom. What once was a relationship of caring becomes one of distrust. All motives are presumed to be cruel and vindictive. All common courtesies are seen as violations of liberty.  How do you deal with the lack of respect and consideration when the source lives in the same house?  That’s a recipe for some serious stress.

I hang around with a lot of teen-agers, of course, and I see a lot of shell-shocked parents.

I already shared in a past blog about The Cat Years. It’s a lovely metaphor about how our happy, friendly little dogs (pre-teens) hit puberty and turn into taciturn cats. The premise is that if we keep trying to treat them like dogs, we’ll be unhappy. Instead, parents need to acknowledge they now have cats in the house, and change their behavior. Cats have different needs than dogs.

A little TLC for the parents is required during the process, though. Long walks, spa visits, spousal affection, concerts… Eventually it gets better. Eventually the kids learn that their parents are worthy of respect and kindness. Some just take longer than others to become happy puppies again.  Occasionally they revert to being cats again.

In the meantime, one can appreciate the irony, without appreciating it.



(PS. Yes, grammar nazis, I used the singular pronoun ‘someone’ with the plural pronoun ‘they’ but you know as well as I do that that is common use as a neutral singular pronoun, and there’s no way we’re going to win the fight to stop it).


pink May 18, 2011

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:19 am
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I was just reading this lovely piece on the blog called, “Pink is for Boys” :

It made me think.

I have been battling this for years one way or another. I knew a young boy who loved Barbies. We watched him playing with dolls and clothes and figured that was probably an indication of his sexual orientation, but since we didn’t care about his sexual orientation, that was no big deal.

It was interesting that when he finally ‘came out’ in high school, everyone just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Yeah. We knew.” He was bullied before he came out, but not after. When he could acknowledge the truth of himself, others were more willing to accept it as well.  Perhaps the bullies realised that before it was assault, but after it’d be a hate crime?

So it is with many things. If we accept other ways of thinking or being, we acknowledge the truth in ourselves as well as the truth in others. Acceptance lets pink into our palette and adds beauty to our sunrises.

My Middle School students get angry when they are challenged for saying “That’s so gay!”   One is forever saying, “It means happy!” She doesn’t like the response that then she should say, “This is so happy!”  Not accepting the consequences of their words is part of their age, and teaching them to show empathy can be challenging.  Their brains are only beginning to learn abstraction, and some of them are still so concrete it will likely be years before they’re able to grasp what they’re really saying. They’re ostracizing 10% of the population with that kind of remark, and they have trouble seeing why that’s a problem. I’ll keep working on it. Hopefully we’ll get more boys willing to wear pink for anti-bullying days, and more kids  of both sexes willing to discuss why they are so angry if other people are different from them.  Acceptance is a powerful thing, but for some, their own acceptance is so precarious that they aren’t willing to risk accepting others.

What do you think?


Why I love my job May 20, 2010

I am aware that I am among the most blessed people on the planet because I absolutely love my job. Every day when I walk into the high school where I teach, I enter a dynamic world that is constantly new and constantly entertaining. The challenges are many, but the rewards are greater. There are only six more weeks of classes this school year, and as I prepare to bid farewell to this year’s kids and enter my annual two months of unemployment, I am pondering on how I got here, and what makes my job great.

I have not been out of school for more than six months since I was three. That’s when I began my love of learning at Mrs. Hamilton’s Bo Peep Kindergarten. My mother needed me out of the house. I think I was exhausting. I spent three years with Mrs. Hamilton, and several of the students in the kindergarten graduated with me at Okanagan Mission Secondary thirteen years later. I loved elementary school (all four that I attended) and even junior high, because I had great friends and I was curious. I loved learning new things and I had a lot of questions. In grade three, I loved writing stories and sharing them in show and tell. I planned to be a writer. I was about ten when I decided I was going to become a teacher instead. I planned to teach grade four or five. My grade four teacher, Mr Lavoie, and my grade five teacher, Mrs Nemeth, had completely opposite teaching styles but I adored them both. I was completely inspired to follow in their footsteps.

Although I had amazing teachers in a brand new school in a lovely forest setting, until grade ten, life in high school was not pleasant. I spent a lot of time writing poetry and long letters to friends in other places. I read constantly. I invented stories on my walk to and from school. I wasn’t a loner though; I belonged to youth groups, choirs, and volunteered hundreds of hours at the hospital. I belonged to a lot of school clubs: library, newspaper, yearbook, and musical theatre. I had an active, busy life. In the senior grades the students became respectful and tolerant of others again, and high school became much more pleasant. At this point I returned to the debate. Should I return to the dream of being a writer or stick with the  plan to be a teacher? I had some inspiring teachers in high school, like Mr. Keith, Mr. Swanzey, Mr. Wendell, and Mr. Moore. You may notice that some of those names appear in Grace Awakening. This is a small tribute to their influence, although the characters are flat and not at all the intelligent, innovative and inspiring people these men were in real life! It wasn’t until I entered teacher training and started observing in other schools that I realised what an amazing vision our principal Mr. Monteleone had for us at OKM.

I was still planning to teach elementary and I was in University of Calgary’s education department working toward that goal when a new life got in the way. Time to re-think the plan. We were moving to northern BC where there was no university at the time, so I transferred my credits to Athabasca University, an international leader in distance education, which would allow me to continue my studies anywhere in the world. It took several years, but eventually I earned a BA in English. Next I had to figure out how to earn my teaching credentials. The solution was an innovative program offered by Simon Fraser University to train teachers in the communities where they lived. Because I had a BA already, and was missing some of the general credits needed for elementary (like old nemises math and PE), I had to re-think my planned teaching level. I did my training to be a high school teacher instead. Although I hadn’t expected to focus on that level, I discovered that I really enjoyed working with teens. Being flexible at every stage allowed me to reach my goals, and it stood me in good stead as I taught a wide variety of subjects in countless subbing jobs and temporary teaching contracts.

My students come from all walks of life. They each have unique challenges and goals. They are fascinating and fun to be with every day, despite the frustrations of trying to get them to live up to potential some of them don’t want to reach. I mourn with them when tragedy touches our world. Loss of our kids before or after graduation due to accident or illness always devastates. Too much potential is lost when a young person dies. Most days are celebrations though, and no one knows how to celebrate like teens! No school day or even hour is the same. The students ensure my days are never boring, and their energy provides fuel for imagination. Each one offers me information about the world and growing to understand their needs and talents inspires me. I get to share great works of literature with them and coax their awareness and understanding of universal themes. I get to see skills develop as students learn to manipulate words in prose and poetry. I get to watch them grow through the years and graduate into adult life, where I hope that they carry gleanings of ideas from my classes that will fuel curiosity and engagement with learning throughout their lives. I’m always so happy to hear from students, even though lately I have trouble remembering their names from semester to semester!

So here I am today, in my eighteenth year of teaching high school, looking out my classroom window over the trees to Shuswap Lake shimmering in the sun. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I’m blessed to have one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world. Life couldn’t get much better.


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