Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rivers and Bridges


Rivers and Bridges

I was born in Rivers, Manitoba. I love the sound of it—borne in rivers. I grew up near Oak River, Manitoba; I have ties, emotional and ancestral, to the Kettle River, and now I live along the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. I graduated from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and History; Certificate in Education; Master of Arts in English (Canadian Literature). I have a Permanent Professional Teaching Certificate.

I have travelled much of Canada, from Whitehorse, Yukon and Vancouver, BC to Montreal and Quebec City; Newfoundland and the ancestral home in New Brunswick are still on my life TO DO list. I’ve been to western, northern, and central states, and to the southern tip of Florida (to see Hemingway’s Key West, of course). I’ve visited Ireland (Dublin, Tullamore, Mullingar, Clonmacnoise, Galway, & Clara, County Offaly; don’t you just love the sounds of them?), Cornwall (Land’s End, Tintagel), and Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Peterhead, the Isle of Skye). I have worked in rural, northern, and urban Canada, in education, social services, and corrections, before devoting myself to writing. It took me a while to realize that what I was really doing was collecting stories.

My passions include narrative, the literary and visual arts, photography, human rights, nature, spirit, and Canadian identity. I love words and word play, and Scrabble. If I weren’t a boring ex-teacher and writer, I imagine myself as a stand-up comedienne. (People laugh when I tell them that, as I am the most un-funny person they have ever met.) Who makes me laugh the hardest? Norm Macdonald. I also admire: Jim Carrey, Bill Maher, Chris Rock, Shawn Majunder, the Indo-Newfie, and in his own perverted way, Sean Cullen. And Billy Connelly. Oh yes, and Steve Burgess, because he was born in Rivers too. I don’t know him, but I follow his columns in The Tyee.ca.

For music, give me Lyle, Loreena, and Leonard (Lovett, McKennitt, and Cohen), Neil Young, Jim Byrnes, and Jann Arden. My next purchase will be Tom Waits. I watch way too much television—-news, traffic reports, CNN,
Coronation Street, Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, Heartbeat, and House. And of course, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. If I’m not watching television, the radio is always on—CBC only. Radio One. The last movies I went to see: the Leonard Cohen documentary I’m Your Man, made in Australia, the Prairie Home Companion, and Capote (shot in Winnipeg). My favourite actor is the guy who played Hamish Macbeth, and Hitler, and Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, and The Full Monty, and Trainspotting, and Angela’s Ashes. It’s coming . . . RC, Carlyle, Robert Carlyle! And Juliette Binoche, especially in The English Patient. And Judi Dench, especially in Mrs. Brown. I re-watched recently The Lion King and The Last Emperor, for research. The next movies I want to see will be: The Queen and Casino Royale.

I read about one book a week, some of them for reviews. I just read The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacob; I think our book club will be discussing it next. We went to the launch. Before that, I reviewed a book of lit crit, Margaret Laurence’s Epic Imagination. Margaret Laurence is my favourite writer, partly because the places and the people she wrote about are “my people”. The Diviners is my favourite novel. I also enjoyed Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You, which covers similar themes of adult female emancipation and self-actualization. I also just finished Nicole Kraus’ The History of Love and have just started Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Both are wonderful. I have several manuscripts circulating and I’m working on a short story about the Green Man.


I tutor every day and I spend too much time at my computer, sometimes just playing Solitaire. It helps me to switch channels in my muddy stream of consciousness. The river’s current is swift. “I have been a bridge for the crossing over of three score rivers.” I can’t remember where I found this quote but I love the sound of it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bully For You

Bully for You


Can you believe it? I just heard it on the news--that still at least a third of the school districts (meaning countless numbers of individual schools) in our province have not yet drafted and implemented a no-tolerance-for-bullying policy, after all this time and all this talk?

Why could this be?

Denial? We have no bullying here?

Ignorance? That’s not bullying! We haven't yet clarified the difference between freedom to speak, freedom to express personal opinion, legitimate evaluation and bullying.

Apathy? Is this our job? Will it be on the exam?


Fear? If we acknowledge that it exists, then what do we do?

Fear? Where does the buck stop? Bullying of student on student? Bullying of teacher on student? Bullying of student(s) on teachers? Bullying of adult on adult? Parent on teacher? Coworker on coworker? Supervisor on worker? Administration on supervisor?


Bullying occurs on all these levels. Bullying is abuse--abuse of the fundamental human right to dignity and respect. Bullying reflects an attitude that fear rules, that might is right, that power equals dominance. Anti-bullying builds upon countering fear, knowing where to go for help and support, clarifying existing rules and positive expectations, drafting codes of conduct, reinforcing respect for rules, laws, and individual conscience. Discussing universal ethical principles. Empowering individuals.

If I were a principal, I would:

  • Call for volunteers and form a committee to draft an anti-bullying policy.
  • Insist that this committee include representatives from students, teachers, parents, administrators.
  • Insist that they collect or I would provide them with the relevant background information—CCC, School Act, Charter, District and School Mission statements, examples already in effect, etc.
  • Set them a reporting deadline.
  • Explain that their recommendations will be brought to an all-school assembly and workshopped with everyone who has an interest before any policy is finalized.
  • Add that the policy should include recommendations for how to implement it to ensure success.
  • Add that you expect them to use a problem-solving model and to demonstrate all the characteristics of critical thinking in their explorations, beginning with a clear definition of bullying behaviours, an exploration of who bullies and why, and ending with clear guidelines on confronting and countering bullying behaviours at all levels--individual, family, groups, classrooms, staff rooms, principal’s office, and the criminal justice system.
  • Suggest that you expect the range of bullying includes everything from Columbine and teachers convicted of crimes against students to shoving, name-calling, and subtle exclusions.
  • Suggest that their policy recommendations will be based upon a clearly articulated positive description of what behaviour is expected and what social atmosphere is the ideal for their school.