“Quotes From the Refrigerator Door”

“Love is short. Forgetting is long and understanding takes longer still.  It is hard to know what someone has given us, or even what we have given them, until a long time after the fact.  Sometimes its just best to have loved and learned.”

I memorized that quote in my grade 12 AP English class.  Our teacher, Ms. Virginia Clover, had us choose from a number of quotes that, she said, were from her refrigerator door. We were asked to choose the one that we connected with most and write a short explanation of why (at least I think that’s what it was…1992 was a long time ago, you know).

Anyway, I predictably chose this quote because I had just had my heart-broken by my first love and was finding  solace in song lyrics and love quotes. Definitely not cool.  The “cool” comes in the many times that I have looked back at this quote since then.  That broken heart has long ago been healed and replaced by other heart breaks and consequent healings. Still, I remember, word for word, this quote from my high school English class.

A few months after this assignment was given, I went off to college in North Dakota.  I was far away from my family and all of my friends AND I was even in a new country. I wrote the quote down and kept it in my drawer at Jamestown College. I looked at it many times when I missed my parents, my sister, my friends and my home town. I thought about how I didn’t want to forget them, and about the things that I had learned from each of them. I even reflected on what I may have given to them and if that was something I was proud of, or not so much.

The next time I used this quote to help me through was a few years later when I was working at my first teaching assignment. My boyfriend (now husband) and I spent three years teaching in northern Alberta on a First Nations Reserve called John D’or Prairie. To say that we were connected to the people there would be a gross understatement. We lived right in the community and formed strong bonds with a number of our students and their families. There were some frustrations with our teaching assignments, though, and we eventually made the decision to move on. It was a relatively short time spent there, and it was more than 10 years ago, but we are still in touch with some students, families and colleagues from our time there.  We learned so much about community, resiliency, family, culture and loyalty from our 3 years at John D’or Prairie.  We loved and learned there and will never forget that.

Then, 10 years ago exactly, I became a teacher at Stony Plain Central School.  I had been seriously considering a move to a different career path.  Thankfully, I  stumbled upon my dream job.  In an attempt to turn around a school that had been seen in the community as less than appealing, the admin team at SPC had come up with two new academic programs.  I was lucky enough to become a member of the teaching team for the SPLA (Sports Language Arts) program. Russ Foster (@ruskat1952) and I taught a group of about 30 grade 8 and 9 students Language Arts and combined it with their – and our – love for sport.  Everything they studied in LA centered around sport.  We covered the regular LA curriculum, we just used our own locally developed resources to do so.  The program (and its sister program, LAMA – combined drama and LA) thrived for about five years.  I have never loved a job like I loved that job.  Alas, for many reasons, not the least of which was Russ’s departure from SPC to be the Principal of Woodhaven Middle School, the program as we knew it had to come to an end.  I literally grieved.  I felt like a trusted, beloved friend had died. It has taken me a long time to get over that loss.

The great thing though, is that now that there is about five years distance I can look back and reflect on what I was given and maybe even what I gave during that time.  I learned about what it meant to be a part of a professional team. I learned about what it took to be a leader in my school by following great school leaders. I learned that relationships trump curriculum every time. I learned the importance of confidence – in myself, in my students and in my colleagues. I am a much better teacher than I was then and much of that is due to the lessons I learned in SPLA. I think also that I was a great “role player”.  I was an important part of that teaching team and that school team.  I knew my role and I fulfilled it.

At this point, I am about half-way through my teaching career.  I know that there is much more loving and learning and happiness and heartbreak ahead of me on this journey. The fridge will be covered with new quotes.  Thanks Ms. Clover.

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