I've done a few new-ish things with my life, so I should update my info here on the weblog.
Firstly, in September 2021 I moved from New Westminster, where I'd lived from March 2020, to Ladner, BC, in a different corner of town. My partner and I moved from a loud, large apartment, to a quiet, cozy farmhouse. It's a quaint place that the locals often seem to recognize as a landmark of sorts. It's taken time to get used to living in a home with so few electrical outlets, but on the whole it's been very nice. It's not an easy home to keep heated, but it will be great in the summer. We also have a large lawn that should be helpful for hosting and for photographs. I'm looking forward to creating more there as time progresses.
Secondly, after 14 years or so working in School District #78 (Fraser-Cascade), I've started working in School District #36 (Surrey). Currently I work as an "Integration Support Teacher," a teacher who helps to support students with exceptional needs as we aim to integrate them into the classroom. For the first time I'm working in an elementary school full-time. It's completely different from my previous positions--I've mainly been a secondary school English and Social Studies teacher--and a change is just what I needed. Admittedly, I'm struggling to make sense of the job quite a bit, but I'm grateful for the change nonetheless.
Those are the main changes in my life right now. There are other personal things too personal to write here, but overall I'm in a good place.
I haven't found a gig to work at or anything like that. I miss playing live at the restaurant, like I did a few years ago in Harrison Hot Springs. However, I don't really know where to look these days, and being a teacher in a new position is often extremely tiring. Perhaps I'll be able to find a gig as the days start getting longer again.
I don't have anything to add to the heartbreaking story of the discovery of gravesite of 215 Indigenous children in Kamloops. The students had attended the residential school in Kamloops in the 20th Century; they died under the care of that school. The gravesite was an open secret, but now there's some hard-and-fast evidence to back it up, and I can't stop thinking about it.
This is a shameful part of Canada's heritage. Here's to making things better.
I haven't felt like writing much for the last year. This busy year hasn't really prompted much to write publicly about. But perhaps I should try to provide some sort of update, since I haven't written anything here for a year or so.
With the continuing pandemic, I haven't done anything of musical consequence for the last 12 months. Live performances are off the table. I've tried to record things now and then, but I simply haven't had the time or space to make it happen. Recording songs takes space, time, and energy, and I simply haven't had much of any of those. So I can't write much about making music.
I've done a lot of photography instead. Briefly in March, I had space and time to shoot some photos with some friends and models. My partner's father retired from his law practice, and he let me use his downtown New Westminster office in a heritage building. In that space, I thought I could practice taking photos of silhouettes. So I did.
Above, I met Alaska through a Facebook group. We had a pleasant couple of hours shooting photos and trying to make things interesting. I'm happy with some of the results, and less happy with others. Altogether it was a learning experience.
A few days later, I shot some photos with Noelle, a friend from University. We had a good time, although again it was a learning experience. Most of the photos therein depended on continuous light, and I learned a little more about how to work with the light available to me.
And I also took some photos with Marty, a friend from my high school days. Crazily enough, I don't think I'd seen him in all that time, but we'd always kept-up with one another online. I'm very glad these photos seemed to work out, and glad to reconnect in person.
Beyond the photo stuff, I spent most of July working on creating some Indigenous curriculum units for my school district. I wasn't happy with what I made by the end of the month, so I worked through each unit in the classroom and re-made them in a more user-friendly format. It took me a long time to get the units finished, and I had to teach myself how to use Microsoft Publisher, but I'm pleased with the results. I take some pride in how I made units I could utilize in my own classes, and perhaps other teachers can use them too.
Beyond those little blips, I don't have anything else to update in a public forum like this. I've essentially disappeared from my social media feeds, and it feels good. I still use Instagram, but don't bother to post a picture a day; I use Facebook exclusively for Messenger and Marketplace; I've deleted thousands of tweets and posts on multiple platforms.
âBut I wish I had more to say here.
I made another covers video for my YouTube channel. This time, John Hartford's "Gentle on my Mind."
"Gentle on my Mind" is simply one of the finest songs ever written. It's sentimental and chock-full of imagery. I think I've always loved it, always known it, that it was part of the ether growing up.
It surprises me sometimes how much songs like this fade from mind from pop culture, how something that seemed ubiquitous can become somewhat ephemeral. But the song's still out there, getting covered now and then by the likes of R.E.M. and Alison Krauss.
My uncle, Monte, wrote a comment on the bottom of the YouTube video:
There’s a personal connection to this particular song. My late aunt Lil, was John Hartford’s book keeper, when she & Uncle Evert lived in Sherman Oaks. John continued to send her Xmas cards yearly, after they retired to Redding [California].
So there's a weird little family connection to the song too, which I wouldnt've known if not for posting this video. Neat.
I know that things are rough on the other side of the border, and that we've been dealing with a pandemic, but I don't really have anything to add to the conversation there. Although I listen to the news constantly and it fills me with both trepidation and anger, I have nothing to say about it. I hope for some meaningful peace on American streets soon.
I've been working from home for the last month. I've found it difficult; sometimes I feel like I'm floundering. The things that make teaching worthwhile—joking with students, a-ha moments, problem solving—just don't come off the same through a computer screen. Some of my students have produced some really excellent work in this quarantine; still, it's tough to internalize it when mediated through a screen.
This may be the way of the future in education, but it seems inefficient. Education is already an inherently inefficient system—packing a bunch of kids into rooms isn't exactly practical—but keeping everyone behind a screen, well, it just doesn't seem to work as well. It feels less like I'm teaching the content, more like I'm teaching the platform. I find this uncomfortable because it muddies the waters between content and training. I know we all need to be confident when we move from platform to platform, but it also seems a little hard on the brain, which seems to tire as it bounces between platforms, sorta' like flipping channels too quickly on a television set.
I'd like to believe that, if we'd started the year with the assumption that online education would be the norm, we'd do better. Our school is already accustomed to Google Classroom for the students, which is acceptable, but limited. As soon as the pandemic hit, we had to lean far too heavily on Google Classroom. Albeit robust, it's also a limited mode. Perhaps more importantly, it makes me an agent of Google's advertising: I, the teacher, use Google Classroom, and thereby suggest that Google/Alphabet, the corporation, is good. When activities cannot be easily created and submitted through Google Classroom, students get discouraged, and this discouragement reinforces that Google is good; they feel that assignments that can be completed on Google Classroom are easier, and therefore better. I don't like being a vector of corporate propaganda in this way. I hope we can adopt a better, less corporate, system soon.
Many people, at the beginning of quarantine, said "What will we do with all this time?" They had big goals to learn new things, to use the time in productive ways. I aimed to restart my self-directed piano and French lessons. However, admittedly, this hasn't worked as well as I'd hoped it would. I've played piano, but not very much; I've done some French, but I certainly haven't made it a daily habit. When I likely have time during my work-from-home workday, it's also hard to focus on personal goals when I know I'm supposed to be working at my job. And then I apply some more guilt on myself for not using my time more productively, even for myself. I feel very tired a lot; motivation has been hard to muster.
A few years ago, I finished my Masters In Educational Leadership, with the intention to find my way into school administration. However, I haven't found my way into that field yet. I realized at the beginning of this quarantine that this could be a good opportunity to find some ways to capitalize on this unique opportunity. But instead I got kinda' bogged down in the process, and now I wonder if I'm administrative material at all. As the school year starts to close, I still wonder if I've mis-aimed my goals. It wouldn't be the first time.
But overall things are ok. Not having to drive to school has saved hundreds of dollars in gas costs. I'm getting by and hope to enjoy teaching again soon.
And really, I can't complain about anything.
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