This summer my husband and I decided to stay mostly local. We wanted to spend time connecting with each other, our sons, friends, family and our community. I often find parallels between what I read for my Master’s Degree and my personal & professional life. Margaret Latta’s article about “creating room to dwell” and ““embracing the process” (Latta, 2010) in the context of teachers finding time during and after lessons to be present and mindful of the learning that is occurring really resonated with me and became the basis of my thesis a few years ago. I have found connections to this concept of “creating room to dwell” in the inquiries I have undertook with my students over the years, in the Self Regulation work I have focused on in my classroom, in my personal goals of being present for my students and my family, and in many of the adventures I had with my family over the summer. This article has continued to inspire me to create room to dwell in the days and moments I am fortunate to share with my sons.
The beach is my happy place and in turn has become one of my eldest son’s favourite places. We spent many leisurely days at the beautiful Vancouver and Sunshine Coast beaches over the summer break. On one of our visits to the beach we spent hours throwing rocks in the water which lead to teaching him how to skip rocks. I was amazed how quickly he picked up this skill and learned which rocks would skip the best. After rock skipping we started searching for good sticks. Along our search we came across a beautiful old fallen tree with its roots exposed, covered in barnacles. My son had continuous questions (as five year olds do) and I took the time to dwell on this moment. To do my best to explain some of the wonders of the ocean. We then moved on to drawing in the sand with our sticks. I started drawing letters and we practiced writing our names and spelling ocean words. My son intently sounded out the words he knew and then began drawing pictures to illustrate our words. He was focused, engaged and learning.
My parents live close to Kits Pool so it has taken on the name “Mormor Papa Pool” (Mormor = grandma in Danish) in our house and is a regular summer hangout for us. Luckily the baby took to napping in the stroller to the sound of the waves and water which allowed my 5 year old and I time to swim together while Mormor stayed on deck. There were days where we stayed in the water for literally 3 hours at a time. One day when the baby took a particularly long nap, our play evolved from splashing around and practicing headstands to a full on imaginative play experience. My son created characters for both of us (we were each a combination of three animals with unique special skills) and explained the rules of the game (basically he was the boss). I listened closely as he explained in great detail how the game would work. I have watched my son play independently and with friends but I had never experienced such a close look into the workings of his imagination. No screens, no distractions, just him and I, immersed in a world of water and creativity.
Baking cookies and banana bread with my older son is something we love to do on rainy days. Usually I have everything ready to go and he is my sous chef and mixer extraordinaire, while the baby observes from his bouncy chair. In my effort to “create room to dwell“, and be present, I thought this would be a great activity to take our time, get messy and have fun. We shopped for our ingredients at the grocery store together, carefully selecting the best chocolate chips. Walked home hand in hand discussing what our baking plan was and who we would share the cookies with when we were done baking. When we got home we put on some baking music and got to work. My son delicately measured out all of the ingredients and we counted the right number to cups of flour, teaspoons of baking soda and eggs to crack. When the dough was ready I showed him how to scoop the batter and space the balls of dough evenly on the tray. Then we watched through the oven window as the batter melted and then turned into golden chocolate chip cookies.
These are a few of the experiences that reminded me how precious moments can be and how powerful it can be to create room to dwell. Summer Break for me was a gift of time. Time to spend with my loved ones, time to spend on my passions, time to dwell on teaching and learning with my sons. When I return to teaching in the classroom one of my continuing goals is to apply this notion more frequently in my classroom, making space in our busy school day to stop, breathe and dwell.
Latta, Margaret, “Narrative Inquiry invites professional development: Educators claim creative space of praxis’. Journal of Educational Research, 103. US: Taylor & Francis, 2010.