Sunday, September 8, 2013

Iron Fences


This weekend we have been asked to create a 33-word story for the Trifextra challenge that includes the words, loft, crown, tether.  Not all that easy a task.

One of the reasons I found this challenge a bit tough is that, for me, it is the first week of school.  The easy days of sunshine and the endless hourglass have rudely given way to imposed schedules and myriad obligations for every member of my family.

I am teaching grades 1 and 2 this year.  I have thirteen students in my class.  As regular readers of my blog are probably aware, the students at my school come from a social housing complex and have borne witness to far too many things in their young lives.  Yet, the thirteen kids who now call me their teacher have been ridiculously good so far.  Here is a photo taken of most of us during the first morning of school on Tuesday.



All in all, despite watching the freedom of summer vacation receding in the rearview mirror of my life, I have to admit that the first week of school wasn't too bad.  When Friday ended and the kids had gone home, I felt satisfied with what we had accomplished during the week and excited for what lay ahead for the rest of our year together.  But then, I went home and received, what felt like, a heavyweight punch to the gut.  My wife asked what the reaction had been at school to the news story in that day's newspaper.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  No one had seen the paper at school, I suppose.  The article simply stated that the public was being informed that my school was closing at the end of the school year.  You can read the short news story here if you wish.

What can I say?  

Cheyenne, who you have come to know through her submissions last school year, is one of the students who will be affected by this announcement.  Putting a human face on an administrative decision is important, I feel.  I will be offered a job at another school for next year. Cheyenne and her friends and neighbours will be bused out of the area to a larger school across town. My school will be "re-purposed",  probably turned into upscale condos. That's what seems to happen to old schools these days around here.  The world will continue to spin, just as it always does, just spinning a little faster for the thirteen students who will come to school on Monday with a whole new set of questions for me.  I hope my answers suffice.

Here is my Trifextra entry for this weekend.

Iron Fences


My little school is closing.

The tether conjoining my students
To their poverty-rich circumstances
Remains firmly drawn.

The crown jewel: a penthouse loft,
Ringed by iron fences
to keep the children out.


All that I know right now is that my inner resolve to ensure that these thirteen kids get an awesome, amazing fucking final year in this building is at an all-time high!  If we have to go down then, we will go down with guns a-blazing!  And, when it is all said and done, perhaps, we will all look upon our summer vacation a little differently next year.






40 comments:

  1. Oh Tom. I'm so sorry to hear about your school. So many feelings for you, I'm sure, not only about your own circumstance but also seeing the children have to deal with another circumstance over which they have no control.

    Your piece here is (for those reasons and because it is so well written) the most powerful one I've read.

    Keep us up to date on how things are going, okay? Sending hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Jo-Anne. I appreciate your sentiments. I will be fine but, the kids and their families are in for a big change. We will do our best to prepare them for the new reality but, just the same, it will be a time of great anxiety, for sure.

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  2. While, Tom. I feel a punch to the gut. You know how I feel about teachers, schools and our kids. Pissed!

    Your poetic response is poignant and fitting. Your kids are lucky to have you. You will help them. They will find their way because you will give them a piece of you to hold on to.

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    1. Don't you go and start making me cry, LaTonya! Thank you for your beautiful words. I will do my best not to let those kids down.

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  3. I have no doubt that the seeds you plant in their little beings will have opportunity to grow - and I pray they'll continued to be watered until harvest. Many blessings to you, Tom. This year brings many transitions in your life, as well. -jody

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    1. Thank you for your positive thoughts, Jody. I appreciate them very much. :)

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  4. As a teacher, I think this is revolting! As a reader I'm extremely moved!
    Courage!

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    1. I can't remember a time during any time in my career when public education has been under such attack in so many places. A school should be an investment n our communities. My school is defnitely an anchor location within the welfare community in which my students reside. Unfortunately, too many decisions are made these days with money at their root rather than the humanity of the communitires being affected. Sad days for the Education System. Courage, indeed! :)

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  5. Great writing on this Tom. Sounds like a typical government response to a good thing. Change it! Hang in there. They need you.

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    1. Love to change it, Lumdog! However, the sad reality is that this decision is already a fait d'accompli. Unlike many school closures, there will be no white knights charging in. Nobody cares about this community.......except us and the kids and their families, themselves. The perception is that, because these folks are on welfare that they are dirty and are losers. We have battled hard to change the public opinion of our school as being a welfare school and, as such, not the sort of school you would send a decent child to. Unfortunately, we have a really great bunch of kids that no one believes exists. The greatest tragedy to this whole affair will be the absolute silence with which the news will be greeted. Thanks for your kind words, Lumdog. :)

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  6. Your story moved me. Sorry about your situation. A lot can happen in a year, quality over quantity right? May this year be the best your students and yourself and family ever have Tom!

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    1. Some of the best moments I've had as a teacher have occured when helping children cope with tragedy. Those are the moments when the curriculum gets put aside and you and the kids simply talk it all out. There will definitely be a we-are-all-in-this-together feel to this journey. Together, we will make it better. Thank you for your kind words. :)

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  7. I'm saddened to hear about your school. I like your 33 words on their own, but with the back story, it was even more moving.

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    1. Thanks, Janna, for liking the words. That counts for something today, too. :)

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  8. Oh Tom, I'm so sorry. I hate that your school is closing. I hate the way our province keeps shutting down neighbourhood schools. We deliberately chose the small school around the corner so our son can walk to school, but so many other parents choose the overcrowded school their kids have to be bussed to, solely because it offers French immersion.

    Your submission is so poignant. Beautifully written.

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    1. Good for you for supporting little schools. Thanks for your kind words, Suzanne. Always appreciate your having Cheyenne's back. :)

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  9. This is so sad... of course mostly for the students... it seems like you did a great job with them... all know how it is in bigger schools... I hope that things will change...

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    1. Before coming to this school, I taught in a school with 800 students. It was a fine school and I have a lot of good memories from my time there. However, since coming to this little school and dealing with all of the baggage that the kids bring with them each day, I really feel like this is what teaching is meant to be. I feel like I am making important differences in lives that need important differences to be made. Sigh.

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  10. Lovely, sad and a little angry, which is appropriate.

    It seems that we will never stop sacrificing our children's future, especially the disadvantaged and I fear that education or them is going to look more and more like what I do, which is teaching GED classes in a homeless shelter to a population that was largely incarcerated.

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    1. I want to move all of these kids to Finland where, at least, schools have value, beyond the book-keeping kind of value that so motivates the decisions being made in so many North American locales. Thank you for your understanding and support.

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  11. The picture was so full of future. All the best Tom! Miracles do happen and these children in your hands are about to see how not to lose joy when the ride gets bumpy. You will work it out, I am sure. This will be a year you all will look back and refer to.

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    1. I imagine that you are correct; this will definitely be an unforgettable year for the kids and their families and, by extension, me, too. Thank you very much for your kind words. I appreciate them very much.

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  12. Am so sorry and deeply saddened to read this Tom!Oh why do people stop caring for the "human" element?Guess their argument would be that money is needed for other things and by selling those condos or putting up malls,will bring in the moolah-let the weaker section suffer and education can go take a hike!Everywhere we look,it is the same story-so depressing!

    However,on a brighter note,your spirited resolve is very heartening to see and I will pray and hope that you and your class of 13 come out of this looking and feeling like royalty!All the best to all of you :-)

    Loved your little poem-very apt and to the point!

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    1. Thank you, Atreyee, for your kind words. I love my "little poem", too. :)

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  13. The students that you have nurtured and encouraged over the years will now go into a new school, and will share what they have learned with others in so many ways. That's a small ray of light in this dark moment.

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    1. My greatest accomplishment as an educator will be to convince a group of children, conditioned to think of themselves as being worth less than other kids, that they belong in this newer, fancier school and that they have something tangible to offer. They are not the pieces of garbage that they have be told they are but, instead, are treasure, in need of some polish but, treasure, nonetheless. This is Lesson #1. .......for everyone concerned. Thanks, Tina, for your input and encouragement. :)

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  14. Oh, jeez... I'm so sorry, Tom. Your poem is a perfect bitter tribute to a terrible decision. I have to say that, from the little snippets you've shared, your kids are lucky to have a teacher like you. Best of luck for the school year, and fingers crossed that the powers-that-be find a different solution.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I will do my best to do what I can for these kids. Anything else in unimaginable.

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  15. Wow... wasn't expecting this when I clicked into 'Cobbie's World' today. I was even going to tell you to say hello to Cheyenne, who I and everyone else fell in love with last year. I've been gone to blogging for 3 months, and I hope I didn't miss any of her stories on Trifecta. You are right, the world will keep spinning and everyone will adjust. I know the kids in Cobbie's Class will have a great year.

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    1. p.s. I liked your piece... didn't have a bit of trouble understanding it either.

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    2. Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedddddddddddddd! Where have you been, Brother?! Good to hear your voice again. Sorry to have been the bearer of bad news. Hopefully, we can make the next ten months as posiitive an experience as we can for these kids. I will tell Cheyenne that you said hello. :)

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  16. Tom!!! I have tears in my eyes. And my heart aches. I am so sorry for those children. I wish all fourteen of you, you + them, the most blessed year possible. I will be thinking about you all. I really will be...

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    1. I have not shared this news on my own Facebook page. But, I knew that you guys would understand the potential loss that could, potentially, be about to happen. Trifecta has a connection to my school and some of the kids that many in my own town do not. You know that there is talent and value within these walls. Many in my town do not. There is still so much work to be done for these kids. Ten months left. Suddenly a full school year doesn't seem like time enough. Sorry to have made you cry.

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  17. Ah cobbie you just had to make me cry. I have no doubt you will make this year awesome for these kids, and they'll go their new school with more confidence than they would have without you!

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    1. Sorry for making you cry, Kiddo! I will try to help my Principal spend every last dime in the budget and take these kids everywhere and do everything with them! Let's see what good we can squeeze out of our time left together. Thanks for your kind words, Draug!

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  18. You've got a year to stock them with a full toolbox of tips and tricks and self-worth that will help those kids navigate the bigger world. You've got this, Tom!

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  19. Oh, Tom. I'm sorry about this news. What a detriment to the kids. I can feel the sadness, anger, and frustration in your piece. Great poem for the response, though not a subject to celebrate. I wish you a productive and awesome year with these kids!

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  20. Your concern for the children reflects your sincerity to you job.

    Applauds for the "My school .... "

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  21. You have your poem, and all it stands for, to give your kids this year, just as you've given them in the past, and will continue to give them wherever you go.
    I am sorry for the community's loss.

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