Last Wednesday morning started with the same typical feverish pace as most of my days have had recently ~ as we race towards the finish line of this school year. I arrived at the Education Center with my head spinning with fragmented thoughts of budgets, reflections, staffing within a number of portfolios, welcoming new staff members, honouring and saying goodbye to staff members who are moving on to other assignments, transferring technology, system messages about report cards, new coaching assignments, delivering books to grade 2 students in a number of our schools and my most recent challenge of supporting new Native Language classes in a new school location this fall (one of those unexpected opportunities to challenge my problem-solving skills). In my haste to get my day started I had almost forgotten about an Opening ceremony which was happening in the central atrium. Staff at the Education Center were being invited to take part in the creation of a mosaic designed by Brenda Collins and to hear an opening address from our Director and from Liz Akiwenzie, a First Nations storyteller and educator. The Thames Valley FNMI team had effectively transformed the atrium into a space honouring First Nations artwork, crafts, print resources and inquiry work completed at various elementary schools.
In an effort to capture the reflections of those who were about to take part in the events of the next two days, postcards and markers were provided, along with clothes pins to attach our “words” to potted branches which were artistically displayed.
Taking in the visual experience of the transformed space was but one of the “stop you in your tracks” moments of the morning.
And just like the mosaic in which we were all about to take part in creating, Liz’s Opening was a collection of colourful thoughts, emotions and lessons when all placed together created a story in which every member of the audience felt some connection. Within minutes, my morning “bureaucratic” challenge of how to provide staffing for additional Native Language instruction quickly dissolved into a moral imperative to ensure that no matter what it would happen for those students, as Liz shared her appreciation for the education system and the opportunities that it provided her own children.
Her story of the power of identity connected seamlessly to the work that our team did this year as we supported educators in knowing themselves and their students as learners and readers, through a common thread of identity.
As Liz spoke about her own children and referred to them as “babies” and her trust in us as an education system to love, to educate and to care for her children whom she entrusted to our care, I glanced over to our team members and smiled as we, too, refer to students as “babies” for that very same reason. We continue to remind ourselves that each child that we are blessed to interact with is someone’s baby ~ they arrived in this world with their parents’ hope and desire for unlimited possibilities and their parents are counting on us to ensure that those possibilities are afforded to their “babies”.
As Liz ended her opening and the first group started to create the mosaic, we dispersed and moved on to the other tasks of the day. I was meeting with members of another one of our teams and the Kleenex immediately came out as emotions and personal connections to Liz’s words were still resonating.
As the day went on and each tiny piece of coloured glass was added, the mosaic started to take shape, life and form. On Thursday, I joined a few of our team members and took the opportunity to add several pieces (the blue of eagle’s tail) and to pen my reflections. The physical act of adding to the creation was enhanced by the emotional moments experienced during the opening the day before.
A mosaic is not only the multi-coloured pieces of glass, it is the glue which holds them in place and the mortar which solidifies the final product. All three parts are needed.
It is those small individual colourful stories which when placed together create a beautiful narrative. As I walk past this mosaic, when it is displayed in the building, I will recall Liz’s words which will continue to remind me about the importance of our work with our First Nations families.