Call for sentences – fitting in what’s important

Welcome to this week’s call for sentences, which will be collected right here in the comments section of this post. For this week only, the comments on my blog will be moderated so the sentences will be kept secret until I  collate and publish them this coming Sunday, December (holy moly it’s December!) 6th.

December 6th is a significant date for me. It is on that date, exactly 20 years ago, that a man went into a classroom at the Ecole Polytechnique, the engineering school affiliated with L’Universite de Montreal and shot 28 people. He killed 14 women, injured 10 more women and 4 men. He systematically separated the women from the men to kill them. He finished the evening by killing himself. We know why he did it. He did it because he was angry at the women for studying engineering. He called it an anti-feminist protest.

This past summer a man went into a fitness centre in Pennsylvania and killed 3 women before killing himself. Again, we know that this was a man who was angry with women.

I wasn’t expecting to write about Dec. 6, there is something about writing out that date that seems almost sacred, maybe it affects me more because I was a university student at a Montreal university myself at the time. I remember feeling very very vulnerable.

Now I teach children who are about to start their post-secondary lives and I see the way that the girls are treated by many of the boys, the way that the music that plays in the hallways talks about girls, the ways that boys use words about women and their body parts to call each other out – to make each other feel weak and impotent.

I teach Art, Ethics, Contemporary World Issues, History of Quebec and Canada, and Leadership. There is so much for me to orchestrate in getting the curriculum to my students in the short time we have together but I know that the curriculum per se is not the most important work I do with them. More importantly I want to make sure I teach them an understanding of the world they live in, how it’s not cool to hate women (or Native people, or Jewish people, or any other kind of person) and how to realize that sometimes (most of the time) its not even something we are aware of doing.

My students also have their own individual needs, individual stories that need attending to . That absolutely need attending to before learning can happen. (as do all students that we all teach, in every classroom) No money, abuse, illness, sadness, fear, separation, self-medication – I hate the fact that I can go on.

On top of all of that, I have things in my own life that I need to fit in to the day-to-day in order to keep my sanity, to be happy. My own schoolwork, my health, a new relationship, my dogs and cat, a new house with all of the responsibilities attached to it, remembering to send gifts to my niece and nephew for their 3rd birthday (which I forgot to do), getting together with friends, painting, knitting, reading, writing, laughing, running.

So many things to fit in! How do you do it? (finally getting to the call for sentences :)) How do you fit in what is important and necessary for your, as my late Great Aunt used to say, virtuosity?

Here is mine:

A good night’s sleep and an early morning gives me time to breathe and think before the day fills up on its own – I need more of that so that this doesn’t happen.


19 years since the Montreal Massacre

Montreal Massacre Memorial. Image found via Renegade98 on flickr. Click image to view source.

Montreal Massacre Memorial. Image found via Renegade98 on flickr. Click image to view source.

My tribute is remembering the conversations our girls began yesterday during ‘Gender Day’, when we divide the students by gender for the day.

We had a heavy morning. We began by watching CBC footage from the Montreal Massacre in 1989 and other videos around the theme of violence in relationships. Some of the girls were frank in how they experience violence in their lives, others were visibly agitated but not wanting to talk about it at all. A similar reaction happened when our guest speaker from Alcoholics Anonymous came to share her story. The girls (and boys, but I get the impression it is more so with the girls) in our school drink. A lot. I was relieved to see that some of them quietly went to take pamphlets during the break that followed the presentation.

I was struck by how some of the girls stated that they understood when boys tried to control some of their actions, that sometimes it is justified when a boyfriend tells them not to talk to someone or not to wear certain clothes. That it feels good when a boyfriend tells them not to wear makeup because you don’t need to impress anyone anymore, you’ve got a boyfriend already.

Male control is still normal.

Evidently our conversation is just beginning.

Like I said, it was a heavy morning though. We needed to shift gears at one point – some of the girls were getting upset, others were shutting down a bit, and so we needed a break. Which we definitely got with the rest of our day! The morning was followed with a delicious lunch, provided by the girls, and an afternoon of music, art, dancing, chocolate fondue, and laughter.

Needless to say I was in bed early last night!

I invite you to visit our class blog to see the videos we watched together yesterday. They spurred some rich conversation.
Gender Day – Dec. 5, 2008
I’ve dedicated our Gender Day to the women who lost their lives 19 years ago today at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.