Summer Shorts, Tanks, and Rolls

As the temperature continues to rise, I find myself bringing out the summer clothes. I own exactly 3 pairs of summer shorts and a handful of tank tops. I own even less running shorts – 2 pairs of the extra long kind!

However, I find as May turns into June that I cannot keep this up. I need more summer clothes, especially for workouts. On one hot day, I wore a pair of my navy blue summer shorts. A Grade 1 student asked me, “Mme Irvine, why are your legs like that?” He caught the attention of all the students around and suddenly I was being examined by about 100 kids outside at that time. I just told him “That’s how my legs are. Everyone is different.”

I think I responded well but I can’t say it didn’t pierce a bit of my pride I have gained in my 93.3 pound weight loss. The question he asked was referring to the way my leg veins protrude out – my previous excessive obesity caused varicose veins and such. Also, I have extra skin that is left from the weight loss. The date this happened was May 12. I have been extremely self conscious to wear shorts since that day.

In my workouts, I wore a pair of shorts and a tank and felt uncomfortable because even though they fit, some of the extra skin around me is more obvious when I were summer clothing. I went back to capris.

I have grown more uncomfortable as the heat gathers. The skin thing is something I can look at medically and I will – but that is my own thing. The problem is how I can learn to be comfortable in the person I am. This extra skin is a badge of honour. I should be proud of it. I am not proud that I let myself get to a point where I almost became diabetic, but I am proud that I had the strength and the courage to stop it from happening.

I decided I had to just get over this stage and be brave. I bought 3 pairs of Under Armour shorts and a handful of tank tops from Old Navy, Salomon, and North Face. The shorts and some of the tops arrived today and I tried them on.

First reaction – proud that I fit size medium shorts and size small tops.

Second reaction – while looking into the mirror, I can see the rolls and the bumps and lumps. And I almost tear off the clothes and move to grab my capris.

Third reaction – I freeze. I stop. I can see my collarbones. I never could before. I can see a figure – I never had one before (well, except the one of a snowman or Pilsbury doughboy). I can see muscles. I never could before. If I look at myself as a whole – I look like an athletic person if I ignore what has been leftover from my struggle, my journey and my success.

So, I am keeping on these shorts and this top. I have a workout tonight that will total 100 kettlebell swings and 100 burpees in an non air-conditioned garage in +27 degree weather. I may flip and flop about but that’s ok.

This summer, I am wearing my shorts and tanks proudly. I will be working a day summer camp for the city all summer – and if the kids have questions, I will not be ashamed but proud. I am someone they can look up to now. I am someone who changed what I thought was impossible to do.

I am me, muscles, rolls, and all. I am healthy with some leftovers of a battle. I do not need to cover up who I am.

Whether you are just getting started, in the middle, or at the end of a weight loss journey – don’t let other people’s image of you make you cover yourself up to a point you are uncomfortable. You can allow yourself to be physically uncomfortable and melt in capris and t-shirts all summer, or remind yourself that you are moving forward. With that, you leave behind all the negativity and lighten the burden of that stress (physically and literally!). Become comfortable in the you that you are becoming. Wear those shorts. Wear those tank tops. Keep moving forward. I bet most people are thinking “Way to go” and who cares about the few who aren’t. They don’t matter. You matter. Get out there and be amazing.

As my new workout tank says – “Positive minds, positive vibes”.

The Kindness of Strangers

I have a goal. To write more! Between running, grad classes, teaching, Spartan training workouts, cooking, meal prep, and life itself… I find I neglect this. And I do love it so. But sometimes you have to wait for that moment that forces you to write again.

This moment came to me Monday. After work, I took my dog for a walk – it was a rest day. As we head into our neighbourhood park, I bump into one of our “park friends”. As someone who runs/walks daily (sometimes twice a day) in our neighbourhood park, I meet a lot of people. Some stop and chat. Some say hello. Some I know their names. Some I forget their names often. Some we don’t even bother to introduce ourselves – content being known as what we all know we call each other – that lady with the black lab; or old guy who bird watches. Some we only smile at and have never talked. The park is an amazing community of strangers of different levels. 

This Monday’s encounter was with a stranger who I do know her name. She goes by Kris. Kris and I met for the first time after Ginny’s attack 3 years ago. She was actually there when my dog was attacked by two dogs but was a distance away and could only hear it happen. Not see it. We bumped into each other a few week’s after the attack when she was in conversation with another park stranger I bump into often. When this stranger asked me how Ginny was, Kris realized who I was and told me she was there the day it happened.

Since then, Kris and I bump into each other at least once a month. We chat. Our dogs sniff each other. Sometimes our catch up chats go for 20 minutes. She always begins every unexpected meeting with “damn girl you are getting skinny”. She has seen me go from 230 pounds to 161. 

This Monday meet started like all of the rest. “Damn girl…you’re getting so skinny…I almost didn’t recognize you!” I changed the subject to her and we chat. We talk about how much Ginny has improved with her anxiety and hyperness. Kris tells me (as she has many times) how impressed she is with how I’ve worked with Ginny and her lunging at dogs, bikes… etc. Through this – Ginny proves her comments true as she ignores several dogs and bikes. Kris asks me about my running again and what I’ve done for events recently. When I told her about my recent half marathon I completed, I see a tear in her eye. It’s spring. I think it is allergies. When she asks if I mind telling her how much I’ve lost now… I tell her… 93.3 pounds. And now I can clearly see it isn’t allergies. She is crying. For me. With happiness. A random stranger who I meet here and there without planning. She tells me how proud she is of me and she turns away, embarassed of her tears. I smile and thank her.

We finish our chat, realize it is getting late, and we both mention having suppers to get to. We leave not knowing when we will next bump into each other again.

As I continue on my way through the park, it is the first time I realize how much this neighbourhood park means to me and has become a part of me. 

These paths. These views. They are a part of my “home”. They are where I first began to change myself. It is here where I first took the courage to try and run. It is here where I never gave up – even when I was slow, tired, and overweight. It is here where the possibility of getting my running partner became possible. Once I made my walks and runs routine, my boyfriend and I realized I could now handle what I’ve always wanted – a dog. So it is here where Ginny and I grew together. First as owner and pet. Then as friends. Then best friends. And eventually as running partners. It is here where I clear my head of bad days and bad events. It is here where I have had many of my best days. It is here where I have shared my love for running with students and with family and with friends. 

So thanks to Kris…my random stranger friend….for reminding me that kindness, in any form, is necessary even to a stranger. Thank you for caring enough about me, someone you barely know, to share happy tears in my success in changing my life. Thank you for reminding me to not take these moments in the park – whether with our random stranger “friendships” or the personal, individual moments that we experience on our own.

It is here where I became someone so completely different. It is here where I look forward to seeing myself grow – as a runner (soon to also add Spartan race athlete); as a dog owner; as a teacher; as a friend; as a life changer; and as a random park stranger. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to those strangers that you see every day. They can sometimes be your source of motivation to keep you moving forward. Be your source of remembering to appreciate all the moments of life. Be the tears of your happiness – reminding you to be proud of yourself. A random stranger can be a friend. 

Thank you Kris. If you ever read this.

ED 816 : Reading Log for March 8

Engaging in Narrative Inquiry
Author: D. Jean Clandinin
Chapters 7&8

Brief Overview of Chapter: In Chapter 7 of Clandinin’s text introduces, through a story that happened during her research, two curriculums – the curriculum that is a result of the multiple stories that come into a classroom as well as are created within a classroom. The second curriculum is that which is mandated by our province. Clandinin uses a story from her research to give us examples of how both happen and often conflict with each other. It is in chapter 7 that Clandinin also introduces four methodological dilemmas that can happen in a narrative inquiry. Chapter 8 is connected to the previous chapter and further explains the research implications that are similar to those they encountered in chapter 7’s story. In chapter 8, Clandinin emphasizes the importance of the relationship between researcher and participants. Clandinin also offers tips and advice within field texts as well as the research process itself.

Key Words/Phrases: narrative inquiry; living stories; curriculum; teacher; student; stories; dilemma; justifications; field texts; tension; inquiry space; storylines

Chapter 7 and 8 Clandinin Key Words

Recommended related reading(s):
**I took out related quotes as they are discussed in my synthesis of chapters. However, these are the articles I looked up in relation to these 2 assigned chapters to read and apply to my learning this week. 
1. Narrative inquiry: Embracing the possibilities by Sharon Thomas
2. Navigating sites for narrative inquiry by D. Jean Clandinin, Debbie Pushor, Anne Murray Orr
3. Narrative inquiry: Experience matters by Gail M. Lindsay and Jasna K. Schwind

Questions:
1. How can curriculums allow for lived experiences to become meaningful learning in the classroom?
2. What do you think a balance between standardized testing, assessment, and lived experiences in the school landscapes would look like?
3. What if you cannot find answers or possible solutions with your research? What does your research become?
4. If you struggle making connections with participants in your research, what are some solutions to help a researcher to be able to connect?

Inspiring (all discussed below):
1. Teacher and student lives as central to curriculum making (p. 145).
2. The lived classroom curriculum is “where inquiry and lives intermingled” (p. 163).
3. One dilemma in narrative research is that we, as researchers, tend to want to “cover our vulnerabilities” (p. 166).
4. “This attentiveness to who they were, and were becoming, related to who they were as they lived alongside their participants and as they heard and told stories with participants, as well as in how they represented themselves and participants in the research texts (p. 175).

My synthesis of article (with educational perspectives): 

In another article that Clandinin, co-written with Pushor and Orr, the power of narrative inquiry within the education milieu is shown through this quote: “Stories, ripe with possibility for inquiry, surround and envelope us as teachers and teacher educators. They are the woven fabric of school landscapes. Moving from telling stories of our teaching practices situates teachers and teacher educators in the known and the familiar while it asks us to make the known and the familiar strange and open to new possibility. Teachers and teacher educators have an opportunity to come to understand more fully our school landscapes and ourselves as shaping and shaped by these landscapes, and thus, to shift our practices in relation to teaching and learning, teachers and students, parents and families, and curriculum making. Perhaps we can even change school landscapes” (p. 33).

Chapter 7 and 8 of Clandinin’s text “Engaging in Narrative Inquiry” embodies this above quote. Throughout the text, Clandinin has given many examples of stories in education that have been used in her research. However, in chapter 7, the story told recounts the experience of her going on a field trip with students outside of school. On this field trip, the employee assigned to guide the class is constrained by only making sure that he helps the classroom meet the mandated curriculum content. When students ask questions that are not what he seems relevant to the field trip, he ignores them. This is a strong example of how curriculum and student lived experiences are often not realized as merged together – dependant upon each other. As teachers, school is the landscape that we bring our personal stories to but it also the landscape where new stories emerge.

Our personal stories and school stories become a part of the stories of those we interact with in our school landscapes – students, colleagues, parents. As the quote says above that we are shaped by these school landscapes and if we focus on the relationships within our school landscape, we can change it through those connections with students, colleagues, parents, and curriculum. In our text, Clandinin says that teacher and student lives are vital in curriculum making (p. 145) and I agree. It is these relationships that can develop curriculums that embody lived experience because the “core aim of [narrative] inquiry is not to ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ anything, but rather question the notion of truth, and in doing so, expand notions of ‘possibility'” (Thomas, p. 208). Thomas also says that “…shared meaning of experiences – through narrative – relates to more than just the individual; it relates to the broader social frame of which individuals are a part” (p. 214). Our stories that teachers and students share and live together every day can be used to help address some of the problems schools face today in research. Through telling these stories in narrative research is where solutions can be proposed and the possibility for change has been brought to light of other educators and researchers.

Clandinin said that “[a]ttending to children’s and teacher’s lives is particularly difficult when the stories of school currently shaping the professional knowledge landscape are so strongly shaped by plot lines of standardized assessment and accountability” (p. 147). Fortunately, I am a Core French teacher and as long as my students are enjoying French and learning, I have been left to be accountable to myself and my students. I have no standardized testing or people checking up on me to see if I am meeting outcomes. This freedom has allowed me some liberties and I am able to easily “…attend to people, places, and events…” (Clandinin, Pushor, Orr, p. 27) in my curriculum. I am able to engage with my students and listen to their stories in the classroom. I find what they find interesting and apply it to my units. When I was at a community school for 3 years, I struggled engaging the students in Core French with my units on food, clothing, etc. But when I began to teach about the Carnaval de Quebec and the First Nations and Metis history embedded in it – their attitudes changed. Hence, my annual “Carnavals” at any school I teach at began. I have typically done full day, extravagant events with guests and storytellers. Unfortunately, budget and time has created problems but I attempt to find ways to make mini events or assemblies to embody the love my students have created for this. It began with one school and I carried it on to my current school. It has spiked the interest of my students in this school as well. Every September I am asked “How much longer until our Carnaval unit and day?” Not only do they love the day full of events, but they also love the learning that we do for 2 months before the event. Perhaps because it is full of stories within the history that they want to learn about. Perhaps because they are creating their own stories in relation to these stories. However, it is the main thing that has connected my story and my students’ stories in wanting to learn French, all throughout the year, as they connect it to this shared experience we have lived together and it makes French important to them.

It is through these stories that I will pull out the threads, as Clandinin describes on p. 152, of my students’ experiences to apply to my upcoming task of research. I believe there is something happening in my French classroom that I never thought would happen – my students have begun to love French but also question (because of our history lessons connected to the fur trade, French, First Nations, and Metis, etc) why other languages are not also taught. This is not a challenge or defiance to what I am teaching them. I have no doubt of their love for French as they are excited every time I enter a classroom. This is students completely engaged in a program that they helped define as it meant something to their story. And now, they have questions that will impact their future lived experience, as well as my own. It is my intention to address these issues in my thesis. In addressing this, I believe that narrative inquiry will be my best method as “…narrative is one of our most fundamental ways of making meaning from experience” (Thomas, p. 209).

Excitement and enthusiasm to learn French did not happen by chance or just because. It happened when I took the time to allow the stories of students to become a part of my program. I always had a feeling I would want to return to complete my Masters but up until my students gave me a reason to return, I had not felt the need to apply. Once my students began questioning a very controversial and relevant question about language education in Canada, it initiated a fire in me to want to find an answer. Without a doubt, the stories that unfolded in my classroom is what led to me where I am today in my own story of education. Clandinin says in her text: “This attentiveness to who they were, and were becoming, related to who they were as they lived alongside their participants and as they heard and told stories with participants, as well as in how they represented themselves and participants in the research texts (p. 175).

I know that my story that develops within my narrative inquiry work will lead me to rethink my own classrooms  and I will think about this question as I complete my work: “[H]ow will it be insightful to changing or thinking differently about the researcher’s own and others’ practices?” (Clandinin, Pushor, Orr, p. 25). The experiences of my students have already changed how I teach. I think in so many new ways and what I thought I would be as a French teacher is completely different now than when I convocated in 2008. Lindsay and Schwind say: “As stories are lived in told in a given place and in relationship, we co-construct the emerging knowledge, which is at once particular and localized, and yet transferable to other persons and contexts by means of reflective self-inquiry of the audience” (Lindsay and Schwind, p. 15). I will forever be grateful to the power stories have in the classroom and for this class that has pushed me into realizing it. I believe between the push my students gave through their stories in my classroom, the knowledge and practices that am learning in this course, and the realization of allowing my own story to have a voice – will all embody an influential narrative inquiry, even if it just begins in my own classroom for my students and myself.

 

References:

Clandinin, D. J. (2016). Engaging in narrative inquiry. New York, New York: Routledge.

Clandinin, D., Pushor D., & Orr, A. (2007) Navigating sites for narrative inquiry. (Article available here: http://journals.sagepub.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/doi/abs/10.1177/0022487106296218)

Lindsay, G. & Schwind, K. (2016) Narrative inquiry: Experience matters. (Article available here: http://journals.sagepub.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/doi/full/10.1177/0844562116652230)

Thomas, S. (2012) Narrative inquiry: Embracing the possibilities. (Article available here: http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/docview/1625565492?pq-origsite=summon)

 

ED 816 Response to Guest: Shauneen Pete

After class Wednesday, I reflected back at our guest speaker, Shauneen Pete. She is a powerful storyteller and she left me mesmerized. For myself, after hearing her stories about her family, I tried to think about how much do I know about my own family. Shauneen was able to go back and describe the lives of her great grandparents, her grandparents, and parents with such ease. I know a fair amount about my grandparents, especially my paternal grandparents whom I was close to. However, I cannot easily tell their story from their beginning. I wish I could and I think this is a common theme lacking in Western society – we are so worried about our future that we do not think to remember our past, and our grandparents’ stories seem irrelevant and unimportant to getting where we want to go in our lives. In Shauneen’s story, the power of knowing who she is comes from knowing who her family is. I have lost this power and may never be able to change that. 

Shauneen brought up the myth of meritocracy which she described as “work hard, get what you want (but only if you looked white)”. I learned about this term in Dr. Douglas Brown’s ED 805 class last semester as well. I have learned that this term defines many people’s lives – the work hard and succeed mentality is assumed in our society but if you are sick, poor, First Nations, immigrant, or different in what society has created as normal, it does means a lot more obstacles. Shauneen’s dad is an example of this when he became a RCMP officer. Even after he worked hard to become one of the first First Nations RCMP officers, and yet he was still ostracized by other members.

When Shauneen mentioned that her story begins at the campus, I was yet again reminded how “place” in our stories seem to become connected in our stories.

My thesis theme is a topic that I hope to focus on languages and reconciliation. For myself, as a white, middle class (came from low income family) – I am hesitant about allowing myself to approach it as I would not want to hurt anyone with my research or “do it wrong”. Shauneen said to us “Indigenous kids can’t wait for us (white people) to feel comfortable” and I was reminded that I need to take this step in order to make a difference for the future – or as Justice Murray Sinclair says – to make change 7 generations ahead. 

Shauneen’s story about her grandma teaching her about the plant reminded me about the play “Salt Baby” when Salt Baby goes to an Elder and expresses she is worried about doing any of the traditional ceremonies wrong. The Elder replied exactly how Shauneen’s grandma did when Shauneen expresses that she did not know the Cree words like her Grandmother. Both the Elder and the Grandma responded that you do it in your own way and that there is no wrong way. Hearing this has made me rethink about who I am in my place of my story. I have become more aware each day that we are on Treaty 4 land. I also have begun to realize that even though I may not be First Nations, that the traditions and the stories are important to me too as someone who lives on treaty land. I have been invited to smudge on two occasions and both times, I initially felt terror. What if I do it wrong? Just like in Shauneen’s story and Salt Baby’s story, we need to let go of this fear in order to allow ourselves to learn. This is no wrong way to learn as every story that is a part of us is, as Shauneen said, “creating” ourselves.

ED 816 Response to Guest: Ken Wilson

When Ken Wilson came to speak, I found myself mesmerized when he would read from his work – which meant less notes taken. It was easy to get lost in his works and words! When reading from his works, he no longer was Ken Wilson but the character he was taking the role of.

Ken said he is “drawn to things that create havoc”. I think we are all drawn to stories that are like this – stories that create problems and questions for the audience/reader. Not always does the story solve the problem or answer the questions, but then the audience/reader can make it their own. Applying this to my own future work, I realize that I am similar to Ken – I am constantly in the midst of chaos and yet, my chaotic life has led me to a balance I have found for myself. Yet, as I try to distance myself from my past disorderly life, I immerse myself into new controversial problems such as the topic of my future thesis. Why? 

Perhaps by focusing on other problems, I can forget my own. Perhaps I am drawn to havoc, as Ken says. Or even now, I recognize perhaps my disconnect with my family has created a loss of identity that I want to recreate. In doing so, I have found empathy for those who have had their identity taken away. In doing so, I move “back and forth in the stories from yours to theirs” as Ken said. I didn’t even realize I was doing that. Without even acknowledging it, my past stories have created a fidelity (a common theme that has been mentioned by almost all guest speakers) for my future research – to the theme, with the research participants, and with my readers. I am going to be like Ken’s work with Otto Dix – giving voice to someone’s story.

After viewing Ken’s Windblown/Rafales, a lady in the audience said “How did he get to know this place so well?” This is exactly what I want to accomplish for my thesis. I want to show my research participants/readers that I did connect with their stories, even if through my own. I want them to feel their voices come through my written words. It is through this future work, that I will continue to reestablish my identity I feel I have lost. It is through giving voice, significance, and representation to someone else’s story that I will feel that I have accomplished something in my own story.