Teachers, can you hear me?

Teachers, can you hear me?

As the weight of this year’s end becomes heavier on their backs our warriors continue with curriculum- driven field trips, reading testing and math skill building.

Their compassionate guidance through their students’ difficult waters with social maturation shows them wiping tears from a cheek, offering hugs when necessary and speaking soothing words of genuine concern.  Missing lunch is not an uncommon practice when it comes to serving someone else’s needs.

A reassuring phone call to a parent is returned, a cup of tea is set on a desk for a colleague that needs cheering up and another late night is spent trying to find the best phrase for a report card reflection. 

These are the teachers I have come to know and love.  

Teachers, can you hear me?

By the end of next month they will be done, spent and exhausted.  They will be tired from the battle.  Some hills will have been claimed while others will be climbed next season with new armour and better energy.  

The self-reflection of checking the pluses and minuses of their own instruction will burden them. They will return to their homes weary, reuniting themselves with those who have waited for that day to come. 

Teachers, can you hear me?

YOU have been the other part of my work.  

YOU are the sensitive and intuitive echo of my visions.  

YOU are the extra pair of hands when I get inspired.  

YOU are the interpreter and bridge builder to further application.  

YOU are the worker bees, the ones who make my ideas hum in an educational hive of activity.

Teachers, can you hear me?

Let ME serve YOUR needs.  

Let ME offer MY PHRASES to HELP YOU describe the work. 

Let ME help YOU get students PREPARED for the tests that will come.

Teachers, can you hear me?   You are not alone.  Let’s love the world and LEARN together!

Capitol Hill School, a creative cathedral!

I became a humble student to my teachers, the grade 1/2s, today.

The entire school was included in our sacred circle as the stories unraveled one after the other with precision, energized commitment, contrast and mastery!  

Blind wolves closed their eyes using their hoops and shields as guideposts then transformed into avalanches. 

Wild horses mirrored the pain of exclusion pulling away as their elastics echoed the tension then expanded into a full moon.  Spirit Guides appeared using large hoops.

Comedic coyote demonstrated entertaining stylized pratfalls in the hoodoos and found the lyrical moments while building a giant eagle with flapping wings that morphed into a blossoming lotus flower.  

The Circle of Courage shields danced like flames, became family portraits and rebuilt a beautiful forest from the bear’s “tears of humanity”.  

Cloth billowed, lifted and angled as the Northern Lights came alive for a Barred Owl who insisted on her own skill power to get her home.  Spirit Guide poses wafted through the space as we watched in wonder.

I was speechless, almost giddy from what I witnessed.  Did I mention that we did two full summations of learning in one day?   

I handed a young student my drumstick and told the audience that it was symbolic. I explained that by giving him the stick, he had the control and I must follow his rhythm.  What the Capitol Hill students gave me was a rhythm for my heart that I will carry within me forever. It was a rhythm of trust and pure belief in the work we had created together.

In the hallways teachers had painstakingly illustrated our journey with comments and images honouring the process and affirming my collaborative work with each carefully designed collage.  Their understanding of my methods was clear and celebrated. 

Many thanks to Ms. Dalton (Principal) and Ms. Demuth (Assistant Principal) for supporting the vision and making my visit welcoming!

The stalwart Grade ½ team of Claire Charland-Ford, Cathy Defoe, Tasha Adharsingh, Jen Purves and Bonnie Kooner were very present in each discovery offering help, guidance and inspiring me with their commitment to our work.

I was so overwhelmed with joy after leaving that I realized I had forgotten some equipment and had to drive back. Luckily, Ms. Demuth was still there. We both laughed and she said, “You know when you leave something behind it means that you want to return.”

My heart skipped a beat.  I would return in a minute.

Love to all of the students and parents who ventured out this evening to watch Language arts and Social Studies knit together in stories of independence, courage and belonging.  

How blessed the world is to have your kids in it!

You have made me so grateful for this residency and fulfilled both as an artist and a seeker of hope.

Make Someone Happy

What does Jimmy Durante have to do with me going to the Calgary Children’s Hospital this week?


I grew up listening to him on the radio and television.  Who else could sing “Frosty the Snowman”?  As a vaudevillian, he could do anything.  He was my guy and I loved him. Hat cocked to the side he tinkled the old ivories pulling at my heartstrings with every phrase that he sort of talk-sang.  It was definitely somewhere in between.  

Jimmy knew how to reach the commoner.  No wonder he captured my attention.  There was an honesty in what he did and one of my favourite songs he sang was “Make Someone Happy”.

Making someone happy is a big part of what I want/like/need to do in my life.  Now do you get the connection? 

Off I went to visit my friends at Dr. Gordon Townsend School (attached to the hospital serving children needing medical services).

Okay, the physical comedy started right away as I threw props on my back and anchored my sound system, stand, etc. on my dolly at the far end of the parkade.  I wiggled and wobbled (but I didn’t fall down, ha!) over the speed bumps with paraphernalia precariously swaying as I moved.  Bag ladies would not be impressed with my feeble attempt.  I fumbled for my credit card at the pay station pushing buttons randomly until one made sense.  Mistake.  

I wandered down an endless hallway to the elevator where I shoved myself in with a great heave and pressed the lower level button. I exited and waddled down another corridor. I came to the school doors only to notice a parking lot right beside their front entrance.  Joke was on me!  The trusty office administrator, Tammy or Queen Tammy as I now refer to her, painstakingly got my parking pass fixed.  She had to go back to my car (oh yeah, forgot to describe the car) and affix the pass onto my mirror. The woman was a saint!

Does this sound like slapstick comedy?  I thought so.  It was vaudeville for sure!

The intimate performance at the school lifted me.  I wanted the kids to feel the different emotions of the story without getting too maudlin.  We gestured together and the story transcended.  Ah, that made all of us very happy.

Off I scooted to four classrooms discussing story possibilities and playing with props.  Genuine engagement wove through the day with lots of side conversations about my life, their lives and what interested all of us when it came to stories.  We mapped out sequences and laughed often as hoops became giant mouths, draped cloth transformed into tree houses and elastics connected us to relationship.

At the very end of the day I walked into a group of students studying Twisted Fairy Tales.  Okay, I was in!  Before you knew it, we were creating tableaus for “Little Bratty Red from the Hood”. Oh man, what a riot!  I felt myself getting louder, kids too!  We couldn’t help ourselves.  The laughter was contagious and I kept calling over my shoulder to the teachers, “Write this down!  I don’t have time!”  It was hilarious!  

I packed up and was just about to drag my gear back when an angel man (he worked at the hospital) walked me right back to my car, carrying most of my stuff and waited as I drove up to load.  Wow!

When I got home that night I made myself make a list of all of the things that made me happy about that day.  There were so many.  Mostly, it was how lighthearted the creation process had become.  Joy in every moment.

Much love to Shelly Dean for booking me and the great staff who embraced their students with love and grace.  I was in heaven.

I came across a recording of Jimmy Durante singing “Make Someone Happy”.  I had heard it many times. Due to copyright, I can’t share it but the lyrics pack a punch.

“Make Someone Happy” By Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jule Styne (1960)

Make someone happy, make just one someone happy,
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you,
One girl you’re ev’rything to.

Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute.
Where’s the real stuff in life to cling to?
Love is the answer, someone to love is the answer.
Once you’ve found her, build your world around her.
Make someone happy, make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy too.

And so, that is the gist of my week. 

If I can make one person happy, that is all I need.

Gotta go.  

I want to play Jimmy one more time before I go to bed.