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Category Archives: Humour

Do Pigs Have Udders?

Part of educating for hope is “reading the world” in hopeful while living “in dynamic interrelationships” with others (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 102). This means opening the world to eloquent questions without presupposed answers and without the threat of violence of any form. I used the quote in a recent book chapter I co-authored with a colleague from North Carolina. The book is to be published in late 2020 or early 2021. What does it mean to live in a world full of hope; a hope(ful) world.

My first day back from the retreat I posted about in Welcoming Differences and Gentle Rain I noticed the students were subdued. In the afternoon, I was alone, which was unusual. Without an adult and teaching three grades, it could be demanding. Other times, it provided interesting moments, and this turned into one of those moments.

I had contacted a substitute teacher I had used several years before and who was available again after completing a long term assignment for an ill teacher. As we talked about what was bothering me, the students told me they had not enjoyed the teacher. I was surprised, as he had seemed a good fit before. I asked for an example and they told me he had told them their conversation was inappropriate. This was unusual, as the students in this group were well-behaved and respectful. I asked them what the conversation was about and they told me, while completing some Science, one student asked “Do pigs have udders?” Apparently, this became a hotly debated topic and it was brought up again today.

I laughed. For me, it was funny and pointed to an irrevocable human truth: curiosity about the world we live in and eloquent questions leading to exploring the world and learning about it. We had serious fun as we talked about what udders were and their role in feeding offspring. I even phone Kathy, who was raised on a farm, and asked he. She was not sure, but thought it was a structural thing and pigs probably did not have it. We left it as an open question.

Simple question,

Emerging eloquently,

Not presupposing answers;

Fueling curiousity–

Energizing learning.

What does this mean?

Is it true?

Querying and questing;

Seeking to fill gaps;

Not with certitude;

New questions emerging.

With passing years,

Recalling that moment,

Smiling, chuckling;

Appreciating simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

As best as we can learn, they do and it was fun trying to figure it out. Adolescent children ask the darnedest things. Laughter is an antidote for difficult moments. Something I learned as a student teacher was a safe classroom allows children, youth, and probably adults to ask provocative questions with no preconceived answers. In the polarized world we live in, we have lost that assurance of safety and are reluctant to ask questions needing answers.

I will save you looking up the answer on the Internet. Pigs do not have udders. Udders are a reference to mammary glands on certain mammals and it has to do with their structure. I read a version of this poem for a group at a retreat in Wisconsin. As I finished, adults wanted to know the answer. I said I didn’t know and someone looked it up on the spot.

I don’t have a picture of a pig. Here is one of a bear I took in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bear and pigs are related, so it was as close as I could get.

Stairway to Heaven

Kathy took these pictures at Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park. The Sunwapta River flows from Athabasca Glacier and the falls plunge over a hanging valley left by receding glaciers about 8000 years ago. The path down to the overview above the falls is unique with the tree roots playing an integral role in the stairway. The “staircase” is a product of human and nature wearing the surface. With the help of the stairway, I got closer to the edge than I usually do.

I wrote the following poem to accompany the pictures of the and borrowed the title from a more famous group, Led Zeppelin. I took time to read about the meaning behind the lyrics. It appears to be a statement about money not buying one’s way into heaven, whatever one might think that is.

Gnarled and gnarly,

Wending its way upwards,

Nature’s stairway

Revealing beauty.

Gaining confidence,

Moving safely,

Finding my way,

Fuller, richer.

Nature awaiting,

Golden rays find space–

Guiding steps,

Shining on each step,

On a ‘highway to heaven.’

For those who want to compare my poetry to that of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, here is a version of the video.

John Prine

This was not going to be my next post. Fate steps in and calls on me to share one of the wonderful performers we had a chance to see live. John Prine is as as close as I am to someone contracting Covid-19 and, sadly he passed away last night due to complications. He had underlying health issues as he was a cancer survivor and was 73. The beauty is he leaves a rich book of songs and videos. I share three with you.

The last time Kathy and I saw John Prine he sang this song . It is normally a duet he sang with Iris Dement. Last night, we watched Kevin Bacon and Krya Sedgwick do it on Facebook. The audience howled with laughter as Prine sang the female parts. As you listen, you will understand the humour of the moment. It is called In Spite of Ourselves and is about a couple whose love is unquestionable and they are each other’s big door prize.

These links will take you to many others John Prine did, if you are inclined. He wrote and performed for 40 years and tackled social issues and love in various forms with humour and fearlessness. He is likely entertaining someone in the great beyond.

I played Paradise for students and it has a strong environmental message that echoes mine and I think Wendell Berry about what is lost as faceless corporations tear up Earth, haul it away in big trucks, and label it the progress of man. In Alberta, regulatory processes include land reclamation leaving it as good as it originally was . It reminds me ecology and economy are from the Greek oikos, meaning household.

I leave you with the Missing Years of Jesus, which was the first song I heard of John Prine. It is a tongue-in-cheek look at what we think we know about Jesus, a person we actually know little about in a historical sense.

Dr. Seuss

via Dr. Seuss

Heather offers three Dr. Seuss quotes. I am particularly taken by the third one, which calls on me to step with care and tact.

Regardless of where I am, I am with people, in the world, and in relationships. It is easy to take these for granted. Often, children and youth embrace differences more readily than adults.

Through the use of satire, made up words, and unusual characters, Theodor Geisel took a stand against bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues. I think his characters depict pluralism we live in. Yes, there is no Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, or Cat in the Hat, but we can appreciate and defer to the beauty of their differences. Even within  differences, I find more similarities and common ground with others.

We need this in the world we co-inhabit with other beings, sentient and non-sentient. Too often, people who masquerade as leaders tell us to see difference as problematic, to see Nature as something to exploit, and to separate ourselves from our better angels. Perhaps our better angels are Thing 1 and Thing 2.

298x322 Unique Dr Seuss Images Ideas Dr Seuss Art, Dr

I retrieved this image from Clip Art Mag.

One Bourbon

via One Bourbon

Matthew posted this poem in response to my pressing of an earlier post. I included a video by John Lee Hooker of a song called One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.

Matthew wrote a poem that embraces how a blues singer might go about writing a song. I find blues songs are never complete. I listen to one version of a song, even by the same performer, to find it is slightly different. Sometimes it is quite different.

Although he is not a blues singer per se, I enjoy Jimmy Buffett, as well. He does a Lord Buckley song called God’s Own Drunk. It is funny, charming, and Buffet does his version as a kind of talking blues.

I tried several times to upload the video, but failed. I held my mouth just right and it did not work. Here, is the link to God’s Own Drunk.

 

Anatomy Class

Today, I looked for a poem and, after some searching, settled on this one by Betsy Franco. I had not heard of her before, but the poem is interesting. I wondered what my students would have thought of it.

The poem is playful and inviting. People want to play and explore the world they inhabit with others and we are often left surprised by what we discover.

Franco points out the paradox of the words we use and inanimate objects like chairs, clocks, and kites come alive. Perhaps, in the minds of children, they do live. Maybe words and language are less of an impediment to children. They are present to a world that is fantastic and subject to a myriad of interpretations.

The chair has

arms.

The clock,

a face.

The kites have

long and twirly tails.

The tacks have

heads.

The books have

spines.

The toolbox has

a set of nails.

Our shoes have

tongues,

the marbles,

eyes.

The wooden desk has

legs and seat.

The cups have

lips.

My watch has

hands.

The classroom rulers all have

feet.

Heads, arms hands, nails,

spines, legs, feet, tails,

face, lips, tongues, eyes.

What a surprise!

 

Is our classroom alive?

goldenquotesrb 

Source: goldenquotesrb 

I began following this blog recently and it has many great quotes.

Einstein is one of my favourite sources for quotes. When I taught, I had a poster in the classroom with this quote: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

One day, a student asked who the person in the poster was. I replied that it was my dad. Another student said that could not be true. I answered that we both had wild hair and were eccentric. A third student pointed out Einstein’s name on the poster, but from that time on, students always asked which dad I talked about when I said something about my dad. It was a great way to teach about literal and figurative ideas.

Being present includes responding reflexively in appropriate ways. Listening to others mindfully, I can respond properly. When I began to teach, I found it hard to do that, often tripping up, saying the wrong thing, and sometimes nothing at all. With experience, I grew and became more effective, listening carefully to what others had to say.

Riding Lesson

I learned two things
from an early riding teacher.
He held a nervous filly
in one hand and gestured
with the other, saying “Listen.
Keep one leg on one side,
the other leg on the other side,
and your mind in the middle.”

He turned and mounted.
She took two steps, then left
the ground, I thought for good.
But she came down hard, humped
her back, swallowed her neck,
and threw her rider as you’d
throw a rock. He rose, brushed
his pants and caught his breath,
and said, “See that’s the way
to do it. When you see
they’re gonna throw you, get off.”

I came across a new poem today and the message reminded me of being in the classroom. Yesterday, I read an article about things students remember teachers for and they are relational i.e. humour, kindness, compassion, a good listener, etc.

Kathy comments I was a good junior high teacher, because I am an overgrown adolescent. In that way, I retained a sense of humour about the learning I did with kids. When I messed up, similar to the last lines of this Henry Taylor poem, I would often say, “I planned it that way.” Over time, the students would respond in kind.

We learn because we get up, dust ourselves off, and get back to living our lives. In French, the word for experiment is expérience and life is that. Life is unpredictable with its twists, turns, and we will be bucked off metaphorically and it is richer when experienced fully. Humour and forgiving ourselves when we fall off are important. Kindness begins at home with us and extends outwards.

Elegy in the Classroom

Anne Sexton wrote this wonderfully provocative poem. I am unsure of her context for the poem, but an elegy is a lament or a mourning for something past. As with anything, when we grow past the love and passion for what we do and the compassion for the people we do it with it is time to take our leave. I want to be remembered as ‘gracefully insane’ or eccentric. I love learning with my students and their families the second greatest reward I can receive. The first is learning with my family. I think, in both cases, I could be called somewhat ‘disarranged’.

Teaching is a place of great creative for me and fills a whole in the hole of my soul.

Oh my, Anne Sexton discovered and chose great words for teachers.

In the thin classroom, where your face
was noble and your words were all things,
I find this boily creature in your place;

find you disarranged, squatting on the window sill,
irrefutably placed up there,
like a hunk of some big frog
watching us through the V
of your woolen legs.

Even so, I must admire your skill.
You are so gracefully insane.
We fidget in our plain chairs
and pretend to catalogue
our facts for your burly sorcery

or ignore your fat blind eyes
or the prince you ate yesterday
who was wise, wise, wise.

Dirty Face

I was professionally developed today. I am tired and struggled to find a poem that I wanted to write or post. I perused my library and found this Shel Silverstein poem. I wonder if I had shown up with a dirty face if I could have answered with such wonderful words? And, when I got to the last line, would someone scold me? Oh, do I need to find out? Is it just that teachers just want to have fun?

Where did you get such a dirty face,
My darling dirty-faced child?
I got it from crawling along in the dirt
And biting two buttons off Jeremy’s shirt.
I got it from chewing the roots of a rose
And digging for clams in the yard with my nose.
I got it from peeking into a dark cave
And painting myself like a Navajo brave.
I got it from playing with coal in the bin
And signing my name in cement with my chin.
I got if from rolling around on the rug
And giving the horrible dog a big hug.
I got it from finding a lost silver mine
And eating sweet blackberries right off the vine.
I got it from ice cream and wrestling and tears
And from having more fun than you’ve had in years.
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