Dear Learning Centre colleagues:
As always, I stare at this blank page and wonder how the heck I can communicate the thoughts and feelings that are tucked down inside me? I am inspired and full of ideas.. but these days the blank page seems to be more blank as the chemo has affected my word power. Forgive this post if it seems to be more “ADD”ish than normal. I know you, my colleagues, are familiar with how to interpret jibberish into meaning and take comfort in that.
I would so much rather be with you in those very uncomfortable blue plastic chairs, to be honest, than here on the other side of the blog. I thought I may be able to “do it” today – but wisdom (of others – mainly Kevin) has prevailed. “Stacey, you really shouldn’t go. You are fighting for your life right now. You need to be resting.” Right.
I am sick of resting and sick of being isolated – but I would rather that than the alternative. Anyone would – I would hope.
Truthfully, I really don’t have the capacity to process new information (or even old) at this time. It seems I am a uni-tasker. To even leave the house I have to carefully plan my steps. I forget words. I forget items. I forget what I am doing. I get confused. My 81-year old mother-in-law and I RELATE well to each other, so we laugh at this folly. Well, I laugh on the outside, yet worry on the inside. I hope like hell that this is not permanent. I count on the fact that it is not permanent and that my circumstances will improve.
This hope is fueled by my family and my friends. I need daily reminders that I will be okay. I need hourly reminders that I will be okay. Sometimes the reminders come through phone calls and sometimes through visits. Sometimes they come through texts and sometimes through facebook. I cannot believe that facebook has been such an important support mechanism for me. And, of course, I write. I get support from the nearly anonymous fellow writers on wordpress.
My friends include my colleagues – you. I cannot begin to tell you how much your support and encouragement has meant to me. Since I have no hair (at ALL, well, other than those bushy and stubborn eyebrows) I am always cold. Of course, this means I have my quilt wrapped around me all the time. I read your messages… over and over again. They remind me that I am not forgotten. They remind me I have meaning.
They remind me that I have purpose. They remind me that I have a future – and I have hope. My weekly visits reassure me that I am missed – that I am not forgotten – that I have meaning.
I have meaning.
This is the tough stretch in teaching – as I recall (and some things like that are not forgettable!). When I speak about my own fears, I know that I am speaking the same language as the students who attend our classes. It is so ironic that I find their voice in mine. I feel their concerns intimately. I feel their stress, their worry about lack of purpose and meaning. But more importantly – I can finally understand what we, you… mean to them.
Because of you – THEY are given comfort.
Because of you – THEY are given hope.
Because of you – THEY are given purpose.
Because of you – THEY are given meaning.
We make a difference. We plant seeeds we have no idea we have planted. We carry on in the classroom, sometimes shaking with frustration at not being able to understand or connect to a student, not knowing if we are the blind leading the blind. We often work in the dark.
Over the past three months, I have received so many messages from former students who I thought I have never reached – to discover that they consider my teaching to have been the light that inspired their learning. My classes helped them to ignite a passion for life. My classes helped them to find meaning in their lives. And all I did was to “be there” in the moment with them. I paid attention. I listened. I reached out.
I know you – almost all of you – well. We have worked together for, some of you, almost 20 years. (I think) I know that you are me and I am you in terms of our approach to teaching. I know that you too would receive the thank-yous and accolades from former students should you (God forbid) ever face this life-threatening health issue. It seems that I have been eulogized (in a good way) while I am still alive. It is only when you think you are losing something that you come to evaluate and appreciate it. I have been fortunate to have the best of both worlds: to be acknowledge for my contributions at the same time I have the hope of life.
I am not offering you a eulogy. Phew. I am offering you a public declaration of appreciation and admiration. You, my colleagues are wonderful people – before you are outstanding teachers. You are beacons of hope to our students and I. You give us encouragement, hope, and meaning.
I have rich experiences in teaching ranging from writing curriculum for the Toronto Star to organizing and hosting student conference at the United Nations in New York. Yet, the most meaningful experiences I have ever had have been with you – my colleagues – at the Learning Centre.
Enjoy your time. Enjoy our students. You give us meaning. Thank-you.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas (happy holidays) and am hopeful to be with you in person – in those very uncomfortable, blue plastic chairs – in the near future!