Isn’t it always that we think these new steps we take, new eras that we enter, will last forever? Or even, if we are attempting to be realistic, that their ends are so far off that, when newly undertaken, we don’t consider that we might not always enjoy them?
So it has been for me with so many stages: my life in Arkansas, during university, to be sure. The time I spent living by the water in Port Moody. Among the TALONS Program. And now with Simon Fraser University, and PDP.
For months, the prospect of applying for a new job was a dream in a folder on my laptop: an essay and a handful of responses to the reflective prompts that would be used to shortlist us for interviews and beyond. No one in my life knew about The Plan but M, and my references; and even once I had been offered the job I walked the halls of my school with the warm secret of growing sense of nostalgia for that which was unfolding before me. By the summer, I would be reporting for duty, immersed in the deeply reflective, experimental, relational work of developing a teacher education program with new colleagues, students, and sponsoring School Associates.
Immediately I set my mind to figuring out how to stay at the university indefinitely. When the new semester of Education 400 shuffled our intake numbers and threatened the retention of my cohort of first year Faculty Associates, I panicked: What if this was it?
Fortunately, I was invited to continue on in a second year, and given the “complicated gift” of facilitating the Indigenous Perspectives in Teacher Education Module in the fall, which I enjoyed (and was challenged by, about which I hope to write much more soon) immensely. With the second year came confidence to inform and advocate on my student teachers’ behalf, and where before I had conceived of the work I was doing as teaching, merely of older students, I came to realize the aspects of my job that demanded of me more diplomatic, political, or administrative skills.
I felt my eyes drifting over your shoulder, there were wolves at the edge of the field.
Around this same time, I began to contemplate the work that might await me back in Coquitlam (or elsewhere). Even though I would likely be able to continue on at SFU, I wondered what a third year might offer in the way of further development, as well as what more I might give in three years that I wouldn’t be able to leave, say, or share in two.
I began talking to people back home in my school district, and set about the preparations to synthesize my prior learnings into a new and continued path forward: into growth, learning, and new ways to create and contribute to the development of my communities, both personal and professional. Along with M, I decided that I would come back to Coquitlam, and the classroom, and shared my plans with my supervisors at the university, and eventually my colleagues and students as the semester wound down.
Gratefully, the last few weeks of April afforded me more than a few opportunities to experience, discuss, celebrate, and reflect upon the culmination of my time and work with SFU. There were days spent in the woods; circles of discussion of the last semester, about what we learned, what we are left wondering; acknowledgements of the community and the people who have made it what it has been; and even some idle time to ponder the life behind, the life ahead, and life as it is even in this moment.
As a final contribution and offering to the group on our last day, I invited our assesmbled cohort to join me in a song of gratitude and co-creation. Music, as it is with the work among the Faculty Associate community, is both emergent, and ephemeral, and for a few minutes on the last day we snapped, shook tambourines, shaker eggs, strummed guitars, sang, or spoke the words of ee cummings in the cool spring sunlight of April 29th. Slowly, the instruments and voices fell away, and we each alone were left with the magic of the moment which had passed.
I have been intensely grateful and proud of the opportunity to have worked in PDP, not only for the acts of teaching and learning that I have had a hand in, witnessed, or debriefed with students or colleagues these last two years. But for the friendships and professional relationships that sustain this work. The folks involved in professional programs, from the FA community and co-ordinators, to the program staff, faculty, and others who travel in the Ed Building hallways have had a profound impact on my sense of self as a teacher, colleague, friend, and teammate.
There is a phenomenon in the best communities where people are nourished by the sense that they are being truly seen for the best of what they are, and the world of professional programs thrives on this foundational operating principle.
I owe much to many along the way who made this journey what it was: each of the program staff and coordinators I met throughout my interview process and intake: Karen, BJ, Paul, Sheila, and Claude. Sarine, and Trish, whom I met first at the new FA day (and Trish, even earlier, as she popped into my Gleneagle classroom to introduce herself and to add that “this work feeds my heart,” which I didn’t understand at the time, but which guided me throughout my time in the program). Jen, and Donna, my first partners in the work of facilitating the Playworks cohort, and professor Charles Bingham.
Of course, the three modules – of Playworks, then the two groups of IPTEM student-teachers – have my eternal gratitude and admiration for their patience, generosity, and wisdom, as well as for opening themselves and their most earnest ideals for this work and world, and themselves. It has been an indescribable gift to walk alongside each of them as witness to the metamorphosis between student and teacher.
And there have been my own witnesses: Kau’i Keliipo, Jen Barsky, Janice St. Helene, and Lindsay Heller. The entirety of the FA community has lifted, challenged, and shared with me their own struggle, resilience, and rewards, all of which would be too numerous to name and recount here. But I would like to say that there is a responsibility that comes with being seen, and to be seen for what is good in us, and I am glad to carry these relationships with me into the next stages which too will ebb and flow and lead to others all too quickly in turn.