Author & Teacher

Words on Page

As a child, I craved change. Newness. One way this desire manifested was to move the furniture in my room three or four times a year. Unfortunately, the first time I felt the pull to reconfigure my living space (I think I was nine years old), coincided with a time my parents started making more money and invested in a solid wood bedroom suite for me. It came, as much of our furniture did back then, from the Sears Bargain Centre. It was pale birch, finished in a gold-tinted shellac. Real brass handles. The set was available every second year until Sears went under.

That furniture was so heavy. To move the dresser around my room meant sitting on the floor with my back against it, and pushing my feet on the wall for leverage, shoving back a bit at a time. I had to. I couldn’t stand things being the same for long. Later, as a teen, I would take things a step further and trade entire rooms with my brother in order to satisfy my need for change.

Sometimes I wonder if I chose teaching to address that same need. From the start, teaching seemed like a good way to avoid stagnancy. A new position every few years—how could that get old? Figuring out where to find supplies and the photocopier, scoping out who I wanted to share extra-curricular activities with, and always, always, searching for new ideas and resources? Perfect. Even when nothing new came up in staffing rounds and I stayed at a school for a while, there was always the opportunity of a new grade assignment or new co-workers.

As a half-timer I never got too embroiled in the daily dramas between teachers, students, teachers and students. When I packed up at the end of the day, I knew the next day would be mine. Decompression. Writing time.

When I went full time a few years ago, it caused a seismic shift in the foundation of my life. I took on seven English Language Arts classes – over 200 students. I had no time at all to write. I had no time to do anything, other than grade, grade, grade. I’ve written about how exhausted I was. How I had to pull back from a lot of commitments. We bought a new home, made new routines. Every thing in my life changed. I was so anxious, that on top of everything else, I barely slept at night.

My second year at the new school, a new position opened up. Along with teaching English, I braved a steep learning curve to become our school’s Diverse Learning teacher. New procedures and a new database had been brought in, and suddenly I went from knowing quite a bit to needing to know everything. Over the next two years, I threw everything I had into learning the job, despite anxiety, despite not having time to work on my novel or essays.

Then this year I decided to go back to part time. I wanted to write. I wanted to move to high school. I wanted to work with English Language Learners new to Canada.

Change things up.

So, I gave up my office and my admin raise, and a pretty incredible group of teachers to make yet another career move. Surely this change would allow me more time for writing!

That idea seems hilarious now – learning curve? More like learning-hairpin-turn-on-a-dark-icy-road. I feel like a first-year teacher. I know nothing. Now I lie awake in the dead of night, not because I worry, but because I’m constantly thinking about how I can teach, inspire, and better know my students.

I’m happy with my job. I love my students. And, two months into this school year, I am writing. A bit. I’m not sharing or submitting, but I’ve reconfigured my writing practice and writing world to make it work for me.

It’s sort of like pushing heavy, wooden furniture around a carpeted room. Brace yourself, put your back into it, lean in, and push. It takes time, and more than a little effort and determination, but eventually, the rearrangement of a room—of a life—will come, if not easy, just a little bit easier.


Song on repeat – Waves – Miguel featuring Kacey Musgraves

Walking route – South side of Bow, just past the train crossing

Book – Notes by Emilie Pine but you should also read this essay: After the Tsunami by Matthew Komatsu


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