Cleaning the Canvas

Today Iris and a group of TALONS grade tens removed one of the signature pieces of the classroom “cave paintings.” As part of her This I Believe essay representation (last year), she had initially come up with the idea of filling the large triangle above the back of the class with a synthesis of her classmates’ essays, a colourful mantra that has hung above the room for more than a year: We Believe in Being Happy.

But today we started the task of cleaning the room of past projects, artwork, and the residue of culture that a two-year, interdisciplinary highschool program can accumulate. The collages from our fall retreat came down from their clothes-pegs; blackout poetry was removed from windowpanes and shades; and the banner would have to come down.

Which is not to say that this was met very easily by the TALONS who have spent two years filling this space with their breath and essence, have laughed and cried and made art across its walls, floors and desks. There is a certain amount of the pain that is saying goodbye to a place like the TALONS classroom that leaving a physical legacy can help alleviate. But how this happens is an important piece of the program’s emotional topography.

I had a conversation with a few of the TALONS who were around near the end of period three today about this: how at this stage in the program’s life, there is an ‘inner’ perception of what TALONS is – created and inhabited by those who have been here, and those who are here – as well as an ‘outer’ perception – held by those who know the class through blog posts and SharePoint sites, district newsletters and a growing, global, word of mouth. Now that this incarnation of the gifted cohort is in its sixth year, and there is a much more defined ‘outer’ perception of what this place is, and what it is striving to achieve, it is important to consider that those left with the task of creating the ‘inner’ world of TALONS – current learners in the program – do so under the weight of considerable history and the legacy of the remarkable people who have called this classroom home for two years.

For the new myths to be written, in other words, the old myths need to make room for them. And while there is a great empty space where the banner used to hang, there are already plans for its quotes and paint-stained hand and footprints to be deposited and scattered about the cupboards and closets of the room so that the ghosts and wisdom of TALONS past will still be speaking to us.

Beginning again in September, the room will have new cave painters: a new cohort of 56 young learners, each eager to continue writing the story of this place. Their task is a unique one, and individual to the group they will create; but it is a narrative given over to them, most humbly, by the departing grade tens, and each of the past TALONS alumni.

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