Communities


Can I just say this?

I'm just going to say this, okay? And then I'm going to bed.

Saturday morning I had breakfast at the Patterson church. Patterson isn't really a place anymore. Like Baily and Wirral Station and Upper Tracy, it's been subsumed into the larger Tracy - Fredericton Junction - Central Blissville - Hoyt - Wirral - Clarendon continuum that's really best known as Highway 101. But I was there because they have a community breakfast, and I was up to visit my folks (who live in another forgotten community once called Donecker, after the German, but now called South Oromocto Lake - though Goggle maps offers the even less apt Back Clarendon). It was, I think, the church I was christened in, and likely the one that will bury me, though in the meantime I live in Saint John because that's where I found work, and so I mostly just visit and eat there six or eight times a year.

And then, later, I spent a bunch of time up on a ladder, which is one of my least favorite places, putting up Christmas lights. I was up there based on the dubious reasoning that it's better for a middle-aged man to fall off the roof than his father. But also because my parents will insist on putting up Christmas lights even though they are one of only two families who live on their back-woods road and, anyway, nobody comes to visit them at night.

And what I'm thinking is, Why?

And I'm thinking the answer is, Because if you're not dead yet, you should carry on acting like you're part of a community, and doing things to make your community a little brighter, a little more joyful, a little more at rest with itself.



I won't bore you with all the other morbid and quasi-theological thoughts that passed through my head every time the ladder did that little two inch flip-flop they do when one foot isn't set quite right.

But I wanted to toss out, just for now, the question: Are our classrooms communities?

I'm thinking not. I mean, I get paid to show up, and sometimes my learners do too. I take attendance and threaten to expel people who are away too often or show signs of rebelling against my authority. I'm not bragging about that. I'm just saying it's not much of a community when you can get voted off the island and, worse, the facilitator is the only one with a vote.

But maybe our classrooms can be part way to being a community? Maybe there are celebratory things we can do to enjoy one another's company, to offer one another support?

Well, yes. Of course. But is that real community, or just make-believe? I don't know.

There's another round of "let's all get together and support learning" happening in our province. I'm holding my tongue about it because I don't want to be uselessly negative. The GG was down and gave some kind of talk about the good old days when communities supported one another with barn raising and didn't rely on government help quite so much. That's a sweet and cheerful message right up to the point where you recall that those were the days when rich communities helped themselves with rich schools and rich hospitals, and poor communities sent their kids out at 14 to work seasonal jobs for the rest of their lives until they died at home.

Anyway, I see I'm straying from my topic.

I was putting up Christmas lights in one of a string of near-empty communities - places that are losing even their names - because the people there whose average age is 'old' are still trying to make the best of it, and wishing the kids would come home more often. It made me think of community, and the harmless things we can do to celebrate community, the structures of power and economics that are emptying our communities out.

And how all that translated into the stuff I do and say in my class.

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