The one on the left is Kyle. We had the following conversation:
Kyle: Am I going to be in this photo?
Kyle: Then I'm not doing it.
Me: Oh. Ok. You can be in the photo if you want.
Kyle: Will I be tagged?
Kyle: Then I'm not doing it.
I love my friends. Jon, by the way, didn't really care if he was featured or not. (Thanks for your help, gents!)
I've discussed part of the symbolism of the quilt in past posts, all tagged with Teacher Identity Project, but I'll go into detail here. The quilt represents who I am as an antiracist, anti-oppressive educator. Why did I pick a quilt? Well, for starters, like teaching, quilting is something I love doing. There's also a rich history of quilting bringing people together. It represents community, sharing of knowledge and skill, collectiveness. Quilts are practical, keeping people warm, and beautiful, showing craft and art. I hope that my work as a teacher keeps my students warm and empowers them to keep themselves and others warm with what we learn together. Quilts are also used for activism. I remember the profound experience of viewing the AIDS quilt when I was in high school. I am inspired by the Quilt of Belonging which represents all the different peoples of Canada. So much hope and togetherness. And above all, love.
The Love block is in the corner, as a cornerstone of my practice. I hid love in the stitching three or four times because love isn't always obvious or overt, but my actions as a teacher come out of love and a belief that it's one of the most powerful forces on earth.
|Can you see the love?|
The quilt is made almost entirely of cotton, long associated with racism, from the deep south and slavery, to the modern textile industry and ecological racism. I point it out because we always have to be aware of the human cost of what we have and what we do. I chose a beautiful batik from my stash for the binding, something I wouldn't normally do, as a sign of venturing beyond my comfort zone.
Teachers work with very limited resources. I bought only batting. Everything else came from what I had on hand, and from what was so kindly sent to me by the women who answered my call for help. Their work, time, resources and generosity represent community, and values I want my students to understand. Life is a group project. We work together, we ask for help when we need it and we recognize that everyone has something to contribute. The people around us are the most important resources we can have. There are many scraps leftover from things I've done, and a set of sheets, no longer usable as such. Things can be transformed into other things entirely.
Several of the blocks are improvised. I have done improv comedy for years and much of what is taught in drama classes has a basis in improvisation. We make incredible things from little or nothing. We make what is given to us fit our purpose. We innovate and rise to challenges.
|This block pattern can be purchased from BubbleStitch|
Other blocks were made to specifically reference parts of my own life. The deer is respect for nature.
The medicine wheel represents my understanding of First Nations and Indigenous ways of knowing. It is small now but there is room to grow and explore.
The darts that I turned into feathers also related to the same. Indigenous knowledge doesn't have to appear in terms of content all the time but in how learning is approached. Perspective can change the way we view things and grow from them.
The rainbow is to show that I am a "safe" person for those students who need an adult to turn to. It's subtle but there.
I have finally sewn curves; they represent pushing myself past my comfort zone. They still scare me but I'm getting comfortable with fear and testing limits.
The hexagons are an homage to the Quilt of Belonging, as we all fit together and make each other stronger.
|The maple leaf block pattern found here|
The maple leaf is both an obvious and subtle symbol. I'm a Canadian and tremendously proud to be one, but the fabrics that make up my identity are unique from everyone else's. Canada is not free of racism, though I'd love it to be, and our history is not pristine and utopian. The legacy of residential schools and colonization is fraught with ugliness and social injustice. There's a lot of work to do. The leaf also represents my love of hockey, which I will fully admit makes me a little racist when I start ranting about the Swedish style of play... I'm working hard on that one. Really, really hard. :-)
The tiniest pieces are about attention to detail and the unseen amount of time and effort that goes into being a fully invested teacher. The job isn't 8-4, five days a week, ten months a year. I am always a teacher, and a student, for that matter. They also speak to the idea that no contribution is too small to be considered or valued.
The vintage hand-pieced blocks represent tradition and old ways of doing things. Not all knowledge needs to be replaced or improved upon. Learning is passed on through generations and while we no longer embrace everything from the past, there are a great many things that have value.
The cathedral windows are a reminder that my Catholic upbringing has a huge influence on how I have viewed the world and how it still colours my perspectives and interpretations of things. Some of it is to be embraced fully, some of it needs to be constantly challenged. There is much to be said about being proud of who you are and a need to be proud in a way that doesn't oppress other people. I hope that I am always proud in a way that empowers others to be proud of who they are, too.
What would Batman do? I have to recognize the impact of popular culture on my life and the lives of my students. Teenagers are just as likely these days to look to Batman or Britney for moral guidance as they are Jesus, Gandhi, or a teacher. We have a duty as teachers to unpack the messages in the media, in books and movies, music and more. The Apple is partly for the teacher but also the influence of technology and Steve Jobs on my life and how I do things, and that a traditional thing like quilting aren't as prominent a skill as speed-texting without looking. There's also the human cost, again, of what we own and use, and that technology moves those that can afford it farther ahead while the socioeconomic divide widens. While I want to use technology and help my students learn to use it, I also want to make sure that I'm never putting some of my students at a disadvantage by how I use it to teach.
The back is more of a statement on one way that we learn. We have stacks of books and a framework. We are tentative with new skills, doing everything according to the model and still inside the box. Next, we experiment a bit, tweaking and playing with the rules, still in the box, until we're ready to break free and make those ideas our own. The purple and orange blocks were perfect for this fabric metaphor and I was grateful to receive them. The red strip is red tape - we have to be watchful that it doesn't extend beyond where it's useful. It needs to be contained as much as it seeks to contain.
I tried so many things that I'd always wanted to learn and thought this was the perfect project for. I free-motioned quilted. I paper-pieced. I appliquéd. There are so many different styles and techniques that were used and I am a better quilter because of it. I am also a better teacher. There is more here to explain but this post is already beyond long.
I need to thank again those people that contributed directly to the project. The wonderful women from Hello, my name is Quilt, materials&method, Evidently, Dresden Quilter, and Cafe Jabbaccino were so generous that I am overwhelmed. I could not have done this without you. Expect a token of my thanks soon! To everyone else who was so supportive of this project, I thank you, too. The positivity you sent was the encouragement that carried me through the blood, sweat and tears, and mitigated the curse words that preceded seam ripping and followed burned finger tips and pin sticks. And to all those people that share their ideas, knowledge, advice, experience and themselves through books, blogs, and emails, I thank you, too. You've made the world a little better and it's grand.
I showed the quilt after class on Wednesday to my prof and a handful of my fellow new teachers. Everyone had positive things to say about it, which was really nice to hear, and I have converted a few people into quilting fans. I was asked to bring it back on Monday to show the rest of the class. I plan to keep it in my own classroom someday. As a reminder of who I am in this moment.
If you're reading this, I'm impressed you stuck through to the end. WOW. :-)