The second course of our program offered us our first encounter with Lynn Fels. She made an immediate impression on me. Her dynamic personality, her humour and her ability to empathize deeply with others make her an incredible professor. We spent very little time sitting in chairs. Instead, we were on our feet doing drama games, making skits and mini-plays and infusing life into our learning. We laughed, all the time, in every class. It was a truly joyous environment and I always left feeling exhausted but invigorated at the same time.
In Lynn’s course, we developed our improvisational skills and practiced saying “yes” to the ideas of others, including those of our students. I love the idea of letting a student’s creativity and curiosity change my plans. One never knows what can happen when one is open and willing to be flexible. I loved the stories that Lynn told us about her experiences teaching many different subjects through the medium of drama. I was inspired to do the same and my Humanities class was led through an experience of writing in role, play-building and performing for the class. My attempt was a bit haphazard, but it had some incredible results. Many of the students dug deep into the story for their historical figures’ lives and wrote moving pieces using their voices. I especially loved that one of my students with exceptionalities was able to shine during her group’s performance. I think some of the other students’ opinions of her changed when they were able to see her through a different lens, which highlighted her capabilities and strengths.
As a drama specialist teacher, I have always believed in the power of theatre, but had felt the need to come up with a perfect way of integrating it into the curriculum. Lynn inspired me to jump in with two feet and see what happened, and I am very glad that I did. As I see what is working and what is not, I can refine my practice as I move forward, accepting that perfection is not the goal — engagement is.
Partway through the course, COVID 19 was declared a pandemic and the world stopped turning — or at least it felt that way. I started working from home through a new platform called Microsoft Teams and a new, very scary and unfamiliar reality started to set in. Everything about this time was difficult for me. My wedding and honeymoon were planned for the summer and I started to get the uneasy feeling that they were not going to happen. As that truth became more and more apparent, I became more and more grief-stricken and angry. I had been planning these things for years and looking forward to these events my entire life. At once, I felt completely consumed by disappointment and anger and at the same time, I felt guilty for being selfish, as I knew a lot of people were experiencing far worse realities. Lynn was by my side for each step of this journey. She checked in on me, she encouraged me and she listened to me. I am so grateful for that.
Our course looked very different after COVID began too. We went from running around a classroom and laughing all night, to watching each other in little boxes on Zoom. Each person struggling with the stark changes that were impacting them and all of us feeling caught off guard by life. The class became a place where we could discuss what we were going through and use writing and reflecting to process the trauma. It was a relief to see each other every Tuesday, even though it was through a screen. Adjusting to COVID life would be hard, but at least we were in it together.
Our postcard assignments each week took on a new meaning and became a way for us to work through our feelings about everything we were facing. Here is one of my postcards from that time (March 22, 2020):
LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
Wow, I had so many worries about my wedding. So many “what if” situations made me “stressed out”. I imagined family squabbles in public. I imagined a rainy day forcing us to have the ceremony inside. I imagined someone in the family getting sick. I imagined so many terrible futures. But isn’t it always the case, that the things you fear don’t happen…it’s something completely “out of left field”, something that didn’t even seem possible, that ultimately hurts you. Well, not once did I envision a worldwide pandemic.
At first, I was upset because my honeymoon to Italy, my dream trip that I spent my whole life looking forward to, seemed to be unfeasible. Both Stefan’s mother and my own were born in Italy, but neither of us had ever been. It wasn’t just going to be a honeymoon, it was going to be a homecoming of sorts. I had planned it in October 2019 and it was paid for and booked by November 2019. Then, all of a sudden, my hard work and hopes about that trip started to crumble before my eyes. It didn’t stop there.
Next, all events with 250 people were forcibly cancelled. Then events with 100 people and then 50. We talked to our wedding venue and they informed us that all events until the beginning of June were being cancelled and they would keep us updated as things progressed. Our wedding was planned for July. There is still a glimmer of hope that it will happen but I’m trying to keep things in perspective in case it didn’t. At first, I was devastated. My honeymoon and now even the wedding itself were in doubt. Next, my shower was cancelled and our bridal party spa day, and all of the other events from now until the end of May.
However, these things are now paling in comparison to the fear of my loved ones contracting and reacting badly to the illness. As I see the army vehicles loaded with dead bodies leaving the Italian cities, I start to truly fear for my family in Italy and for my family in Canada. I have an immuno-compromised aunt and three elderly grandparents that I am worried about. I’m worried about Stefan, who continues to have to go to work during this time of isolation. I’m worried about one of our family members not making it to our wedding day…even a postponed one.
It is very interesting for me to track the progress of my cares and worries, of my priorities, during the world’s rapid descent into a pandemic. I can see my big cares of two weeks ago become small and new worries, much more important cares, becoming front and centre. I feel bad. I feel bad for everyone. For the Chinese and Italians that have lost so many lives, for those here that have lost people or are fighting the illness. I feel bad for all of the brides who are having to cancel or postpone their wedding days. I feel bad for those people who are trapped in foreign countries and cannot get home. I feel bad.
But even in the midst of this I still have hope. I practice my Italian language skills on my app every day. It is a small act of faith. I Facetime with my family and friends. I sit in the sun. I do my postcard for this course. I exercise and do yoga. I bake. I watch lectures about Art History and Historical Fashion. I procrastinate on getting my taxes in order.
In fact, last night we had a power outage. It was a frustrating time. However, I got some of my fun-coloured, battery-powered lights from my room, put on some Sia, and my family danced around and sang. It was therapeutic and silly and exactly what I needed. A small reminder that dark times can bring beautiful moments.
In all things, it is better to hope than to despair. –Von Goethe
–END OF POSTCARD —
During the Covid Spring and Summer of 2020, I began to bake as a way to pass the time and ease my anxiety. I started to follow baking bloggers and baking-focused Instagram accounts and found a whole new world of exciting artistic practice. Both baking and photography interested me greatly. I started to take some online baking workshops and began the arduous task of perfecting the “macaron” — a very finicky french meringue-based cookie. From that time onwards, I have been hooked on baking and food photography. I would never have jumped into these new artistic practices without my experiences in Vicky and Lynn’s classes, in which I was encouraged to try new things and believe that these practices would open new ways of knowing and seeing.