What a loaded word. There is so much attached to it: race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, heritage, the era you grew up in, pop culture, the music you listen to, language and more. Which is exactly why it was the perfect topic for our second reluctant writers PD.
Our Fearless Leader, Anette Gilbert, continues to amaze. Every session is jammed pack with amazing ideas. Last session we started with the story of our name. We delved into a rich variety of authors texts that had examples of name stories. We discussed the power of names and the significance a name can have depending of the culture.
This session we expanded into Identity. We dug into what makes up our identities. We brainstormed, we watched videos, we looked at yet more amazing books (Chapters is going to LOVE me) and we looked at a poem that can be used as a jumping off point to inspiring students (and teachers) to tell the story of where they are from.
I was stunned at the incredible poems that some of my fellow teacher produced in the span of 10 minutes. They were clearly inspired..and very talented. In the same time I had scribbled down a jumble of mixed up thoughts they had written full rhyming poems about their childhood and heritage. It was so inspiring!
As I struggled with my “Where I’m From” poem I reflected on my not so typical childhood. My parents were “back-to-the-landers” well educated city kids that had decided to move to the country for its beauty and simplicity. But out in the country we were oddballs, hippies amongst country folk. We shared the space but not life philosophies.
To further add to my feeling of “outsider” my mother was an anglophone and my father a francophone. No biggie of course but it did mean that I was “l’Anglaise” cousin to my dad’s family and the slightly strange French Frog cousin to my mom’s family. Oh, and for fun, we spent a year on a Cree Reservation near James Bay where I was the only white kid in the village. Other. Outsider.
Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my childhood. I loved playing in the woods with my friend and our dogs. I loved both my families and the rich cultures they shared with me. I love that I was able to experience the rich Cree Culture for a year. I loved the French schools I attended. I’ve had a beautiful and diverse upbringing. But as my amazing classmates shared their beautiful and very relatable poems I wondered…”Will anyone understand mine?” But you know what? It doesn’t matter.
This class was about sharing our experiences and learning from each other. Not being the same. Anette had populated the class with immigrant stories, native stories. The room was filled with people whose identities were tied to “other”.
This is Canada, after all. Most of us have been stitched together from so many different cultures, experiences, places, foods, sights and sounds that none of us can completely relate and yet all of us can. We are diverse. We are other. And we are unified by our patchwork history. That’s the beauty of this place, isn’t it?
So I still haven’t finished my “Where I’m From” poem but I’m less worried about being relatable and more excited to share my diversity. What’s your patchwork?