The Letter

The LetterLetters2

I knew that losing a parent would be painful. Really, I had no idea. I’d not yet lived in that eternal minute when worry becomes reality and the truth of helplessness sets in. My thoughts were an endless news stream, broadcast across my brain…

‘I can’t change this. I can’t turn the clock back 5 minutes and make you still alive.’

I never knew tears like these; that there could be so many and that they would come so unceasingly, wave after wave after wave. A constant leaking. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but incessant.

I kept the bright red necklace I wore, and broke that night. Its partner, a beautiful bracelet, lies in my desk drawer. Occasionally the flash or red grabs my attention as I reach for the stapler or a pen and I just stare at it. Maybe I am punishing it by leaving it unworn. Punishing it for bearing witness to my pain and for daring to be red. I saw it today and it reminded me again. The first in a string of little things that brought me again to this valley of grief which is far deeper and longer than I imagined.

I don’t know what it was about the television that made me cry… but it did. And then I began to read ‘Gilead’… ‘In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames’ life, he begins a letter to his young son…’

A letter

Suddenly I am back at the table organising the funeral. My brothers have slipped into sentimentality and for reasons I fail to fathom, they want to talk about her cooking… mince and spaghetti… in the eulogy… I am speechless. I am floating above the scene, detached and wondering how the world continues to turn. I write the only words I have on sad scraps of paper. My older sister grabs her box of memories and pulls out a letter

A letter

She reads and I find I am insanely jealous. Not of her but of what she is reading. My mother’s words, free and so well expressed, not trapped like her body on a slab in the funeral director’s fridge. I want her back but I want a letter more. God knows this.

I put the book down having suddenly felt the urge to write again after so many years. I thought to write letters to my own children but certain I wasn’t nearing death myself, I thought this a bit morose.

I remembered the poem I wrote while my brothers were reminiscing over the meatballs;

…I blew a Father Christmas

And watched the spindles

Float away on an upward breeze…

Having forgotten where I put it, I thought to write it again. Maybe it would be better this time.

I foraged through the dresser beside my bed looking for a book to write in. There were several to choose from – prayer journals, half begun poetry anthologies – but I chose this one. It surprised me because I usually wrote final works in here. Was I audacious enough to write as I hadn’t before, just letting it come, allowing a draft in an otherwise ‘perfect’ collection? Overconfident? Imprudent? Perhaps.

I looked through the journal and read words I’d penned more than 20 years ago. Immature, imperfect rhymes, confessions of love… and hate… and one really good one about daring to fall in love with the man I would later marry.

And then in the middle of these musings I found it.

A postcard.

No dates but clearly in her hand… ‘Darling Melanie…’

Wrapped around it was a birthday card she had given me when I was seven, lamenting the fact that I was sick and hoping I would enjoy my presents. Also, a Christmas card. Again, ‘Darling Melanie…”

Her words were free again, still so well expressed and still carried by a lilting laugh and heavy with her love.

I held the words and turned them over – rubbed them knowing all along no genie would spring forth. It was just nice to touch something she had touched and to see her handwriting again. I hope when I die my own children keep these cards. I just hope they do.

Delighted To Meet You: My First TeachMeet Experience

TeachMeetDelighted to Meet You!

Friday was a shocker. One of those days when I got nothing, of everything I had planned to do that day, done! I was tired. I was grumpy… and I had committed to going to my first ever TeachMeet. Moreover, in one of those moments when my brain and mouth operate independently of each other, I had said I would present. (I know! What was I thinking?) After dropping my iPad in the carpark, smacking the lippy on in the rear view mirror and doing my best creative driving to get to the University of Canberra by 5pm, I arrived at the aptly, although in this moment ironically named Inspire Centre not really knowing what to expect.

Name badge slapped on, convenor discovered and seat found, I quietly prayed for divine intervention with the dropped iPad on which my presentation, made with Explain Everything, flicked in and out of reality. And my mind raced… “You are about to be discovered… exposed! You’re here to present and you’ve got nothin’ babe!” I thought of a tap routine to create a distraction, perhaps a fainting spell or an urgent phone call which required my immediate presence on the other side of Canberra. (These are the panicked inner thoughts of the introvert who has trained herself to be social). To my enormous relief, I learned I was presenting last.

What unfolded next surprised and delighted me. A young chaplain from one of the local colleges spoke first, in rap, about the importance of voice and relationship in teaching. We then heard from a teacher using Schoology to develop meaningful learning connections with his students. We heard about the ways Minecraft, Google Docs, Twitter and learning spaces are being used in innovative ways in ACT schools to engage students and to create powerful learning experiences. I found myself in a room of like-minded teachers who clearly love their jobs, love teaching and love kids. They were so affirming of each other and so appreciative of the sharing that when I finally got up to present I was no longer worried. I just shared my experiences of getting out of the way of my students’ learning (without the pictures on my little slide show but if you click on the link, you’ll see them). They even (sometimes) laughed at my jokes. We chatted afterwards and I got to meet some of my Twitter colleagues face to face, which was a particular joy.

This is what I learned.

  1. There are great teachers in schools
  2. Great teachers love learning and love teaching
  3. Great teachers are doing great things in schools
  4. Great teachers affirm and encourage each other
  5. Great teachers make the effort to meet each other

Can I encourage you that if you are yet to take part in a TeachMeet in your city, state or territory, you should. Even more, can I encourage you to find your voice and to present? The thing you think might be really naff might actually be what someone needs to hear. It is a fabulous era in which to be teaching and the more we seek each other out, the more we learn from each other and the more we share, the more exciting the learning in our schools will be.