Tag Archives: education

Stop Moment #3: The Pigeon


As I drive around the corner, a tiny dark shape appears on the road through the fog. It’s already past midnight and I’m longing for bed, but I pull over and get out of the car.

A pigeon is sitting still in the middle of the lane. I crouch down close to it and I see that one leg is retracted protectively.

I approach the bird with a towel and it stumbles in circles.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I scoop it into my hands and hold it as carefully as possible but the pigeon cries out.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
I lay the pigeon down underneath a bush.

In bed that night, I think about why holding the pigeon “stopped” me. Realizing the rarity of being within touching distance of a wild animal makes me feel disconnected from the natural world, but realizing the rarity of being an active witness makes me feel disconnected from my humanity.

How many times have I been silent while witnessing an act of discrimination on public transit? How many times have I kept walking when being addressed by a panhandler? How many times have I neglected to ask if a stranger who may be struggling needed help?

In his book Becoming Human, Jean Vanier retells the biblical story of the beggar Lazarus in order to illustrate the gulf that exists between the privileged and the poor.
“What is the abyss that separates people? Why are we unable to look Lazarus straight in the eye and listen to him?
I suspect that we exclude Lazarus because we are frightened that our hearts will be touched if we enter into a relationship with him. If we listen to his story and hear his cry of pain we will discover that he is a human being.”1

Pulling over to hold the pigeon reminded me of how easy it is to remain isolated and ignore the needs of others. As an educator, I know that I must model being an active witness and allow my heart to work past fear so that it may be touched by compassion.

1 Jean Vanier, Becoming Human (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008), 70.


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Stop Moment #1: Witnessing What’s Best

Presently in my program at Simon Fraser University, we are investigating “stop moments”. As Dr.Lynn Fels explains, “These stops are action-sites of learning which, in turn, inform our pedagogical practices and/or ways of being in the world.”1

Over the coming weeks, I will share my “stop moment” short stories and illustrations here. I have changed the names of students.


Kyle’s red hair bounces on his head as he marches around the room with a homemade stir-stick-and-paper flag that reads, “Outdoors!”

It’s a wet Friday afternoon and cabin fever is spreading quickly in the grade 4 classroom.“Yes,” I agree, “let’s get some fresh air and have some free time outside.”

I open the door and the students bolt in every direction. I am happy to observe their self-initiated games on the playgrounds, fields and courts. But I am a new substitute teacher, and I often feel self-conscious under the gaze of other teachers and administrators.

Some boys playing on the basketball court are too far away for me to properly see them, so I ask a student to retrieve them. All but two come back.

“Why are Justin and Daren still over there? Are they purposely ignoring me?” I ask Mark, one of the boys who returned.

“No, it’s just that Justin needs to cool down, and it’s better if one friend can stay with him. Daren is going to make sure he’s okay.”

I watch Justin kicking the basketball around, and Daren calmly walking behind him. Mark’s comment reminds me to be a more sensitive witness to the relationship dynamics already present among students and to decentralize power by trusting that students often know what course of care is best for themselves and for each other.

1 Fels, Lynn. “Coming into Presence: The Unfolding of a Moment.” Journal of Educational Controversy 5, no. 1. Accessed January 17, 2014. http://www.wce.wwu.edu/resources/cep/ejournal/v005n001/a020.shtml.

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