Ever since hearing the words “Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac” on the radio in 1995, I have been a fan of the band Rancid. Over the years, their songs of social justice, righteous anger, and calls for change have spoken to me and have encouraged and challenged me. I have bought every single album they have released and I have yet to be disappointed.
Rancid just put out a new album: …Honor is All We Know. As soon as I popped the CD into my car stereo the very first song on the album made me smile and laugh to myself. The first song on the album is “Back Where I Belong.” That is exactly how I have been feeling lately and I couldn’t help but laugh that my favourite band was able to express what I was struggling to put into words! It was like meeting up with a friend who was able to hear what I was saying while seeing through all of the details and was able to repeat back my own thoughts with clarity and precision. I’m back where I belong.
“I’ve been gone way too long and I’m back where I belong.”
2015 is a better year. 2013 I thought was one of the worst, and then 2014 happened. So, 2015!
Why do I feel that I’m back where I belong?
Reason One: I have found joy at work.
I love teaching. I love literature. I love teenagers. Last year I was not encouraged, I was only teaching part time while subbing the other 0.5, and I did not experience joy at work. Since January, my co-workers have made an effort to make our department a place of joy and encouragement. Just last week, I received two anonymous notes of encouragement from my colleagues. Likewise, I was able to pass along some nice encouragement notes to some of my colleagues. That sense of joy and excitement to share my lessons, to work together with like-minded people, and to celebrate our successes we have had with our students have changed everything. I feel like I am back to how I want to be as a teacher and that is because of the support of those around me. I not longer feel like I am working in isolation and it feels great to be part of a team again!
Reason Two: Aboriginal way of knowing.
Since January, at work we have been looking closely at the Circle of Courage and how that leads to being a better educator. I learned this weekend at the Royal Alberta Museum that of the 70 Medicine Wheels in North America, 50 are within Alberta. So it feels like it makes sense to adopt and practice the Aboriginal way of knowing/ Circle of Courage in my teaching practice. The Circle of Courage looks at four areas: Belonging, Independence, Mastery, and Generosity. In order to fully complete and balanced, all four areas need to work together. A deficient or a surplus on one area means that the balance is off. In order to help each other become well-rounded, it is important to us to encourage, challenge and support each other in each area. As a teacher, this has helped me in establishing my classroom and in showing students that mastery is not the only goal of education.
Growing up, I spend years in Winnipeg. That city is rich with Aboriginal and Metis culture. For a long time I even thought that it was part of my own personal heritage. I truly enjoyed the learning about his aspect of Canadian identity and it was hard for me to move to Ontario where there was no mention of our First Nations and where Louis Riel was seen as a traitor and a rebel deserving of death. So, any chance I get to explore and experience Metis or FNMI culture, I try to embrace that way of knowing. For me, the adoption of the Circle of Courage in my place of work has felt right and good and I am continuing to explore how this reawakening will influence my practice and my way of being with others.
Reason Three:Sweet surprises.
Before the words “Pay it Forward” I had “Sweet Surprises.” Growing up, one of my favourite kid’s books was called “Sweet Surprise.” I have no idea who wrote the story and I can’t seem to find an image online, yet this book was revolutionary for me. Doing nice things for people without looking for a reward or acknowledgement. Spreading joy and surprises to others just to bring them joy.
I decided to go back to the premise this year. I wrote up a bunch of “Sweet Surprises” and put them into a decorated canister. Every once in a while, I’ll draw out a paper and see what sweet surprise is waiting for me to share with others. So far I have pulled out these surprises:
-send puns to friends
-buy Mom flowers
-take a moment–right now!–and DANCE
-send a gift to your sister
I have had so much fun putting together these surprises and then seeing the joy of the recipients has double my joy. I feel like I’m returning to my childhood roots of finding joy by spreading and giving joy. So, the Sweet Surprises will continue to happen.
After a few months (and even years) of feeling lost, I finally back where I belong. It’s been a long time, but I’m back.
“It’s a long, it’s a long, long way home / Man, I’ve been gone way too long and I’m back where I belong.” (Rancid)
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)