What it takes.

To help others to make a better world is healing.” Harley Wylie (Huu-ay-aht First Nation and American in ancestry. His mother went to a residential school in Port Alberni where she was regularly beaten for speaking her Native language. from Straight.com After the Settlement Comes Healing, Closure by Carlo Pablito)

Male fireflies flashing in unison, from The Millenium Bridge Simulator Project of the University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering (2000)

Male fireflies flashing in unison, from The Millenium Bridge Simulator Project of the University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering (2000)

I just commented on Jose’s rich post What Will It Take? and my comment or, rather, the feelings that were stirred in writing it, are rising in me.

Cynicism poisons my motivation for change. I know this about myself so I purposefully disallow it. I shake it off when I feel it coming. I have to. Some have called me a blind optimist and I’ve become comfortable in that. I refuse to allow any part of me to believe that something I see as necessary won’t happen. I think that is why I became a teacher… “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism. ” (Colleen Wilcox)

George Carlin also said “And then there are the times when the wolves are silent and the moon is howling.” The challenge is to maintain hope and positive energy until it is our time to howl again.

As I prepare myself for a new school year – one that is certain to be rife with challenge – I am paying attention to what I read, what I listen to, what I feel, what I add my voice to.

I’m filled with struggle and hope. I am deeply cut by how we can treat each other.

In June I wrote about the pride I felt for the Canadian government’s apology to residential school survivors and families of survivors. I felt it was a step toward a positive future. I still feel that way, though differently. I am confused about this apology. I hear accounts of healing, I also hear accounts that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a sham, a tool wielded by the Government and the United Church to ensure that the truth never really does come out. That the Aboriginal leaders involved in the commission and the acceptance of the apology are working in tandem with the Government and the Church for these secretive and shameful ends. That the apology comes from a misguided place. That until genocide is acknowledged it means nothing. That there are mass graves of children across Canada. That those (i.e. Kevin Annett) who try to point out these facts are lying or crazed.

When I look to the centre of my confusion around this history – and the agonizing, wretched, ripping and at the same time damming effects that continue to resonate in our rivers and hearts – and dredge out my feelings I find myself focusing on the people and the acts that represent hope. On the healing journeys. I believe that by focusing on hope for the future we have it. And we will see more of it. This is how I am preparing myself for the new year.

Recently I asked readers, ‘What are you looking for?’ and Michael Doyle (go read the post I linked to with his name. do it. he’s awesome) created a strong image in response

I am not sure I can answer this question directly, but I will tell you that I am closer to it when I am sitting at a pond’s edge at dusk watching lightning bugs attracted to their own reflected light than when I am in my cortex, trying to approach this rationally.

I am attracted to your light. That’s what it takes.


  • Tracy says:

    Harley, thanks for your comment.

    So many of the words that inspire me come from people who I have no connection to. I’m glad you found your way here and a connection is starting. I’m also glad your comment pointed me back to this post, which I wrote almost 2 years ago! I too am in a time of transition and moving towards my time to howl again.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your comments.


  • Harley Wylie says:

    I was surprised to get quoted in a newspaper. During my breakfast talk with the Georgia Straight reporter, Carlito Pablo, (fall of 07′) I was naive in thinking that it was just an informal discussion. The next day after a panel presentation and Q & A session I was surprised to hear people tell me they liked my comments in the interview….
    Also am surprised to see my quote in a blog. There are some really good & important topics and commentary on this list and I’m glad that some of my words are part of it. The commentary by George Carlin, about the Wolves and the Moon, is very apt in my life at the moment. It seems I’m “waiting for my time to howl again..”, both personally and professionally. I’ll reflect on the other topics and comments and post another comment in the near future. Thanks for some good reading.
    Harley Wylie

  • mike says:

    A map of healthy Human Development-

    From the work of Bill Plotkin- Nature and the Human Soul

    Stage 1- The Innocent in The Nest- Early Childhood
    Task: Ego formation and the care of innocence
    Gift: Luminous Presence
    Center of Gravity- Spirit

    Stage 2- The Explorer in the Garden- Middle Childhood
    Task- Discovering the natural world and learning cultural ways
    Gift- Wonder
    Center- Family and nature

    Stage 3- The Thespian at the Oasis- Early Adolescence
    Task- Creating a secure and authentic social self
    Gift- Fire
    Center- Peer group, sexuality and society

    Stage4- The Wonderer in the Cocoon- Adolescence
    Task- Leaving home and exploring the mysteries
    Gift- Mystery and Darkness
    Center- The underworld

    Stage 5- The Apprentice at the Wellspring- Early Adult
    Task- Learning delivery systems for embodying soul in the culture
    Gift- Visionary Action and Inspiration
    Center- Cultural Depths

    Stage 6- The Artisian in the Wild Orchard- Adulthood
    Task- Manifesting innovative delivery systems for soul work
    Gift- Seeds of cultural renaissance
    Center- Giveaway as art form

    Stage 7- The Master in the Grove of Elders- Early Elderhood
    Task- Caring for the soul of the more then human community
    Gift- Wholeness
    Center- Web of Life

    Stage 8- The Sage in the Mountain Cave- Late Elderhood
    Non- Task- Tending to the Universe
    Gift- Grace
    Center- Cosmos- Spirit

    In my mind…. our educational systems need to pay attention to our developmental unfoldings. At each stage…. the education of our youth( and us ) needs to be very different….. we have vastly different needs at different developmental levels.

    In Bill Ploktkins model…. The Wheel of Life is a model of human development that is both ecocentric and soulcentric — that is, a nature-based model that fully honors the deeply imaginative
    potentials of the human psyche . . .

    This eight-stage model shows us how we can take
    root in a childhood of innocence and wonder; sprout into an adolescence of creative fire and mystery-probing adventures; blossom into an authentic adulthood of cultural artistry
    and visionary leadership; and finally ripen into a seed-scattering elderhood of wisdom,
    grace, and the holistic tending of what cultural ecologist David Abram calls the more than-
    human world.

    Check it out:

    Wondering… if we as educators expanded our view of what is possible through education……. could we change the world?

    be well..mike

  • mike says:

    Trace… hope this finds you well.

    Very much enjoying your site… its really very good!!!

    Been playing with some thoughts that have come up from the discussion stimulated by David Whyte poems.

    Playing around with the flip side of despair….. :)

    “ Education is always a vocation rooted in hopefulness.”
    ( bell hooks )

    On other side of despair is hope.

    Realistic hope is not wishful thinking….it is based
    on understanding the concrete conditions of reality, to see ones own role in it realistically and to engage in thoughtful actions to bring about the hoped-for change.

    Hope viewed in this manner has an activating effect.

    It is hugely important because it mobilizes the energies needed for the activity of transformation.

    “ Perhaps the most neglected leadership virtue is hope.”

    Leaders, both formal and informal, have an important place here. If their own hopefulness is based on a set of beliefs and if those beliefs can be shared by others in the school community…. then what has been created is a powerful force of ideas.

    These ideas provide a basis for an entire school to become a community of hope!!

    Why…. Because HOPE has an activating effect.

    Segiovanni… goes on to say that developing a community of hope elevates the work of leadership to the level of moral action.

    Hope provides the fuel that energizes groups and allows for the search for new possibilities…. It stretches the limits of what is possible.

    “It is imperative that we maintain hope even when the harshness of reality may suggest the opposite.” ( Paulo Freire )

    Hope is the doorway from one reality to another.

    To pull this off leaders, both formal and informal, must concretize what they want to see in reality.

    I strongly believe this is what Warren Bennis is talking about when he says:

    “ Effective leaders put words to the formless longings and deeply felt needs of others.”

    I have spent 2 decades now attempting to clarify words to my formless longings and felt needs. It is through this work, much of it done in solitude, that one can begin to share with others.

    From there…. I have found one can begin to build and concretize as a school community a powerful vision. This vision can be used as a filter for all the schools actions.

    This I have come to believe…. is the beginnings of second order change. It is not to be entered into lightly. Leadership becomes critical in attempting second order change.

    Lastly, I have come to believe that this type of deep change requires leadership to consciously “DEBUREAUCRATIZE” the system they currently are embedded in.

    This, in my head works best when the formal leader is a major player in the change initiative because what is involved is reformulating hierarchies.

    The shift is toward hierarchies of actualizations, flatter organizations that use different forms of POWER and avoid the use of coercion.

    “ Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.
    Communities of mind are collectives of individuals who are bonded together by natural will and to a set of shared ideals and ideas.” ( Sergiovanni )

    So……. Shared ideals and ideas……….

    Or as I like to think of it…the dirt or soil in
    your organization……

    The vision must be articulated and then principles must be developed to concritize the vision……..

    “A task without a vision is just a job.
    A vision without a task is just a dream.
    A vision with a task can change the world.” ( Chief Seattle )

    I think some of the work of people who have always worked with troubled kids could help guide regular educators create classrooms where kids want to be and want to learn. Combining the Cirle of Courage…. we can begin to develop places of hope for both adults and kids.

    Thomas Hobbs is one of those guys………

    Here are his Re-Education Principles:

    l. Life is to be lived now, not in the past, and lived in the future only as a present challenge.

    2. Trust between child and adult is essential…
    Trust is the glue that holds teaching and learning together …. The first step in the reeducation process is to help the young person make a new and very important distinction that adults can be counted on as predictable sources of support, understanding and affection.

    3. Competence makes a difference, and children and adolescents should be helped to be good at something, and especially at schoolwork. School is near the center of a child’s life and that is the natural fulcrum for efforts to help children in trouble …. We regard it as sound strategy to attack directly the problem of adequacy in school, for its intrinsic value as well as for its indirect effect on the young person’s perception of his worth, and his acceptance by people who are important in his world.

    4. Time is an ally, working on the side of growth in a period of development when life has a tremendous forward thrust. A broken bone knits more rapidly at six and sixteen than at sixty; we assume a comparable vitality in the psychological domain. Reeducation may simply speed up a process that would occur in an unknown percentage of children anyway.

    5. Self-control can be taught and children and adolescents helped to manage their behavior without the development of psychodynamic insight.

    Children and adolescents get rejected in large part because of identifiable behaviors that are regarded as unacceptable by family, friends, school or community …. A first step in this process is to help them unlearn particular habits that keep high the probability that they will be rejected by people whose support they must have if they are to grow.

    6. Intelligence can be taught. Intelligence is a dynamic, evolving, and malleable capacity for making good choices in living.

    Children and adolescents coming into a Re-ED program frequently have deficits in both concepts and in problem-solving ability …. The program provides many formal experiences in problem solving– especially in interpersonal relationships with other people, about their futures.

    7. Feelings should be nurtured, shared spontaneously, controlled when necessary, expressed when too long repressed, and explored with trusted others ….

    Positive feelings are important, too. The simple joy of companionship is encouraged. We are impressed by the meaningfulness of friendships and how long they endure ….

    8. The group is very important to young people, and it can become a major source of instruction in growing up.

    When a group is functioning well, it is difficult for an individual student to behave in a disturbing way. Even when the group is functioning poorly, the frictions and the failures can be used constructively …. discussion of difficulties or planning of activities can be a most maturing experience. Positve conflict…..

    9. Ceremony and ritual give order, stability, and confidence to troubled children and adolescents, whose lives are often in considerable disarray.

    10. The body is the armature of the self, the physical self around which the psychological self is constructed.

    11. Communities are important for children and youth, but the uses and benefits of community must be experienced to be learned.

    Many children and adolescents who are referred to our schools come from families that are alienated or detached from community life …. we can provide programs for adolescents and find ways for students to participate in community projects …

    12. A child should know some joy in each day and look forward to some joyous event for the morrow.

    There is an extensive literature on anxiety, guilt and dread, but little that is well developed on joy. We must go beyond most contemporary psychology to touch one of the most vital areas of human experience.

    We try to become skillful at developing joy ….

    be well…. mike

  • Carrie says:

    Breaking News:

    Murder at United Church Indian Residential School Described, Killer Named, at Vancouver Press Conference

    Vancouver, Canada:
    May 27, 2009

    Charlotte Eliza Stewart, centre, describes the murder of her sister, Victoria Stewart, age nine, at the Edmonton Indian Residential School. She is flanked by her brother Moses, and Kevin Annett of The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (left)

    The family of a child murdered at the United Church’s Edmonton Indian residential school went public today at a downtown press conference in Vancouver, and named her killer.

    Eliza Charlotte Stewart described the murder, and played a recording from her sister Inez Beryl Spencer, who personally witnessed the attack on their sister Victoria that caused her death.

    Victoria, age nine, was struck on the head with a wooden two by four by a residential school staff member named Ann Knizky. Victoria died the next day.

    “First I was hit on the back, and then Miss Knizky hit Vicky because she wasn’t coming into school fast enough. She fell down some stairs” said Inez in her statement.

    “That night Vicky started complaining about head aches and she died the next day in the Camsell hospital. Miss Knizky never was tried for killing her.”

    Eliza Stewart commented,

    “Vicky was shipped back to us in a burlap sack and her brain was missing, so we think they did an autopsy and removed her brain to hide the injury done to it. They never told us anything. And the church then claimed she died of TB, but she never had it.”

    Eliza Stewart and her brother Moses called upon the United Church to identify the whereabouts of Ann Knizky so that she can be charged with murder, along with the church itself.

    “They’re not off the hook, just ’cause it happened years ago” said Moses Stewart.

    “Even if Miss Knizky is dead, we want the United Church to stand trial too for how they covered this all up and protected a murderer.”

    The Stewart family will be issuing a formal Letter of Demand to the United Church of Canada and its officers this week, which will require them to surrender Ann Knizky and identify her accomplices, publicly admit its responsibility for the murder, erect a memorial for Victoria, and compensate the family for her loss.

    The Stewarts will also be calling on the police to open a criminal investigation into Victoria’s death.

    The press conference was sparsely attended. Of sixteen media outlets contacted, only two reporters were present. Among the absent media was the so-called “Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network”.

    In a final statement approved by the Stewarts, Kevin Annett of The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared said,

    “Thousands of children died in this manner in the Indian Residential Schools, and not one person in Canada has ever been charged for the death of a child there, or brought to trial. The government is even forbidding names of perpetrators to be named. We will not allow these churches to get away with murder. We call upon others to come forward and name those responsible for the death and torture of innocent children in the residential schools.”

    Further updates will follow once the police and United Church respond to the Stewarts, or fail to.

    (A longer story along with pictures and video recordings of the event will be posted later this week on the website: http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org).

    For information contact: hiddenfromhistory@yahoo.ca or 1-250-753-3345.

  • Carrie says:

    For Immediate Release:
    Eyewitness to Murder at Indian Residential School to go Public and Name Killer at Press Conference this Wednesday

    Breaking News: May 24, 2009
    Vancouver, Canada

    The sister of a nine year old girl who was murdered at an Indian Residential School in Alberta will go public this Wednesday with an eyewitness account of her sister’s death at the hands of a staff member, who will be publicly named.

    Charlotte, an aboriginal woman living in Vancouver, will hold a press conference this Wednesday, May 27 at 10:00 am in classroom no. 2, third floor of the Carnegie Centre at Main and Hastings st. in downtown Vancouver.

    Charlotte will share evidence at this event, including a recorded statement from another sister, who lives in Terrace, B.C. and who witnessed the killing and knows the identity of the perpetrator.

    The sisters and their family will be issuing a letter to the church that employed the perpetrator and that has allegedly concealed the murder since it happened. Their evidence will be submitted to international human rights agencies.

    This event is sponsored by The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, and will be monitored by The International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada and its overseas affiliates.

    For more information –
    email: hiddenfromhistory@yahoo.ca
    pager: 1-888-265-1007

  • Tracy says:

    Hi Elona,
    Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    I knew you could identify with the quote – though George Carlin only said the first part. It was me who reflected on maintaining hope and positive energy until it is our time to howl.

    Many moments ahead…

  • Tracy,
    I think George Carlin must have been in some of my classrooms over the years because ” there are the times when the wolves are silent and the moon is howling.” :)

    He’s absolutely right when he says “The challenge is to maintain hope and positive energy until it is our time to howl again.’

    When you teach in an alternative setting you learn to live in the moment, one moment at a time.

  • More than OK!

    Teaching is hard, some years harder than others. Your kids are lucky to have you.

    Michael Doyles last blog post at http://doyle-scienceteach.blogspot.com..Fertilizer

  • Tracy says:

    I am really not sure how to be in this game withOUT acting on hope.

    Actually, that is not entirely true. I had a rough year last year – a very needy class whose individual needs were so hefty that the group need was scattered, difficult to define yet alone even begin to meet. What I ended up doing was a crazy dance while I tried to herd cats in my classroom.

    In order to maintain some sanity I focused on a few in the class, met them where they were. Some of the others I referred to counselling because their needs were beyond me, and some others I just let float. I also had a difficult time working with my classroom attendant, who I know did not like my teaching style (she told me). I’m not entirely happy with last year and felt I stopped short of what I could have accomplished with that group.

    So I sit with my feelings around it as a reminder, because it’s part of who I am as a teacher, too.

    Believe it or not I have accepted a different kind of challenge, though still a large one for this year. The difference is that I will be working very closely with a small group of very supportive teachers. I think herding cats will be much easier as a group of 4 ;)

    (Oh, and yesterday I found out that part of my task will be teaching Physical Science to a group of Grade 11 students who failed it last year. So I may (will) be knocking on your blog’s door from time to time. Hope that is ok!)

  • You are the luna moth of the edublog world–seeking the light, too large and beautiful to ignore.

    Healing is a powerful word. Some folks cure, others heal. The healers acknowledge mortality. The curers live in a linear universe.

    What’s amazing is that you have been at this game for a bit, and still dance close to the flame.

    And we’ll continue to watch, in the shadows, the heart of a true teacher.

    Keep writing, you.

    Michael Doyles last blog post at http://doyle-scienceteach.blogspot.com..What’s life?

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