Skip to content

Hop scotch..

December 21, 2009

In June 2008 William Gibson received a Doctor of Letters,

honoris causa,

from Simon Fraser University…

I wasn’t there for the ceremony,

and therefore missed the bagpipes leading the regalia,

into Convocation Mall…

But I went up Burnaby Mountain,

to attend a post-ceremonial gathering,

in the W.A.C. Bennett Library…

I remember asking Gibson if he ever worries,

that after completing a project,

nothing new will come…

That he’ll never get a better idea…

He looked at me like I was nuts,

and said,

something like,

Of course…

As I’m writing a book,

which I never admit to myself that I’m actually doing,

I’m thinking that this is the worst thing I’ve ever written,

and that no one will want to read it…

Every time I finish a book I think,

That’s it…

I have to wait for the weeds to grow up through the floor boards,

until they’re waist high,

all around me before

I get the feeling like,

I can start on something new again…

His wife added,

from the side of the room,

something like,

I hardly see him when he’s in his process…

He works alone in his room,

and when I hear him say something like

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever written!!!”

I know that he’s almost finished,

and I say,

“Just keep going dear,

you’re almost done…”

A woman came up to me,

after the conversation,

and asked,

Are you a writer???

I dismissed myself,


Ohmigod no…

Why would you ever think that???

She said,

Because your questions sound like you’re speaking from experience…

Like you know all about,

your last,

best idea…

I thought but didn’t say,

Yes, just like Rex Smith must have felt after singing You Take my Breath Away,

on the rooftop of Landsdowne Mall in Richmond, B.C.,

when I was in grade seven,

because not everyone is ready for an absence of segues…

This morning I checked my mailbox and came across the link,

to an article on school design…

As a student I spent more than enough time in portables,

and the 70’s noise of the Open Area…

Feeling the life sucked out of me,

by flourescent lighting,

asbestos insulation,

and wall-to-wall utility carpet…

As a teacher I worked in a classroom with small windows,

on only one of four walls…

Windows which looked,

onto a parking lot…

Under those kind of conditions,

I consumed chocolate,

every hour,

on the hour,

to keep my engines running…

Eventually a Secret Santa began to leave brandy-filled chocolate,

on my desk,

with anonymous notes like,

To get you through this Pineapple Express…

Then I remembered the power of homemade bison jerky,

and winter wanderings,

through suburban neighbourhoods,

for getting through the heart of darkness,

into some northern light,

with my class…

A principal,

with reptilian eyes,

once said to me,

when I told her that I needed to move across the pod,

to the sunny side of the school,

for my mental and physical health,

when a classroom opened up,

due to a retirement,

If that’s what you need,

you better post into an another school…

One of those old schools with big windows…

I gave her the finger,


and I know that she got the message…

I would walk across a field of broken glass for the last principal I worked under…

She teased me about being woowoo but she never said,



I just needed some time to think about what you’re asking for…

I’ve  just put in a work order for renovating the whole school,

with full spectrum lighting,

and a fire pit for the school yard…

I always loved  singing ’round the campfire,

when I was a Girl Guide back in Kingston…

It has always been clear to me that the people who design schools have never been in a school,

worked in a school,

or have any idea what kind of atrocities a forced physical structure,

can inflict on children,

and adults,

who spend the best part of their waking hours,

in an institution…

And if they have,

it killed their creativity…

This morning I read these words,

and I COULD NOT believe my ears,

When Daniel Cecil was named lead architect for Kennebunk Elementary School in 2001, he took the school’s motto, “Look through the eyes of a child and see the wonders of the world,” to heart…

“Students must also be able see themselves in the building,” he says. “Images of kids must be visible throughout.”

To this end, whimsical drawings showing children relaxing in nature and animals participating in games — rabbits playing hopscotch, beavers bouncing on seesaws, and bears gliding down slides — are found in most common areas. Like the windows and skylights, earth-tone color schemes and nature-oriented themes bring a sense of outdoor wonder inside the school when the days are short, the sun is scarce, and the snow piles up.”

Read the full text with some critical integrity, for yourself…

Since when do whimsical drawings showing children relaxing in nature and animals participating in games — rabbits playing hopscotch, beavers bouncing on seesaws, and bears gliding down slides,

have anything to do with looking through the eyes of a child,

the wonders of the world,

or an education…

I never saw beavers on seesaws or bears on slides when I was a kid,

except at Disneyland…

This projection of cheap graphics and corporate culture onto children,

and the people who work with them,

crosses the 49th parallel to dominate Canadian schools because we,

as Canadians,

allow it…

This summer a friend who works in a newly renovated wing,

of an old school,

with big windows,

said to me,

with visceral grief,

something like,

My whole pedagogy (the way teaching and learning happens) had to change when I moved into my new classroom…

I used to have all my students involved in ongoing projects and now there isn’t any space…

I had to pack up my arts and crafts table…

There are windows in the room but I can only open one of them a crack…

Last June I had to buy a spray bottle for every child during the heat wave…

It was the only way we could survive the inferno…

YOU should SEE Charles Dickens Elementary…

Rainwater is collected from the roof to flush the toilets,

but the classrooms are so small that teachers can’t do what they used to do,

with their students…

Why don’t people who build schools ever talk to teachers???

Or kids???

When I woke up this morning I had no idea what I was going to do today,

or that I was going to write about this…

But after doing the dishes,

and guzzling a glass of organic carrot juice,

instead of shooting Vodka straight into my jugular,

it just happened…

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: