Sunday, July 19, 2020


Dearest students of the seniors' class,

With a heavy heart I bid you all farewell. I will not return to the classroom this fall. I have thought a long time about how to be closer to my mother and brother during the last years of my mother's life. She will be 90 this winter. My dilemma sometimes became the topic of our morning sharing sessions along with roll call, news and weather.

Because we are a close-knit group that shares personal information with one another, you already know a lot about my family.  You know that my mother has been on her own for years, and you know that my brother has had disabilities since childhood. He is also experiencing a health crisis that began when I was visiting my mom during spring break. That health problem is ongoing still today.

Do you know what an important part you have played in my life? For ten years I spent more time with you than I spent with anyone else in my life: more than with my family or any partner. You became my aunties and uncles, my surrogate parents, sisters and brothers. We have been through so much together, haven't we?

Together we have been through the cancer scares and survival of three students. We have celebrated the citizenship ceremonies of Hana and Wardia, Awatif, Abu and Um Ziad (Tareq and Widad), Marhamat, Nabil and Raja, Malgorzata, and more. We have supported each other at every turn, and I've learned so much from you about interdependence--you who come from communal societies and cultures that value community more than my native culture does.

We cooked, baked and shared our countries' dishes at Chinese New Year and end of semester parties. Thank you for all the dumplings, dolmas, biryani, baklava, and moon cakes!

Bushra's poster about the Nakba still hangs in the computer lab. Your presentations about Dr. Bethune, Nellie McClung, and Hammurabi's Code remain on my YouTube channel. Together we became experts on everything from MRI machines to knitting and pingpong. Every time someone asks me, "Kelly, how do you know about so many subjects?" I will say, "I learned that with my seniors' class."

We go forward in our lives with memories of our trips to museums and parks. Together we learned urban foraging, making sure we knew the difference between spurge and purslane! Any one of us would be able to take visitors to the river and tell them the stories behind the sculptures there. We know whose names are cut in granite at Jackson Park and why, on a winter day, you might see two men spilling a bit of Scotch whiskey on the ground in front of a statue before draining their own small glasses. More than once we made the local news!

Mostly, I take with me great pride in remembering your amazing work to improve and maintain your language and cultural skills. I beam with pride to think back on all the situations you can now navigate using English--everything from reading a requisition from your family doctor for lab work or a diagnostic test to bartering for a better deal at a yard sale.

I hope you will one day--perhaps after a vaccine for COVID-19 is made available--feel safe enough to return to our little learning space in room 109. Some students will be missing, some returned after stints at other schools or trips back home, and some will be new to the seniors class. I know you will be gracious to one another. You'll help the new students find the washrooms. Heck, maybe the new teacher will even be willing to bring back the water boiler from atop the refrigerator off room 105 so everyone can have a hot cup of tea or coffee on cold winter mornings. Who knows what our futures hold?

Keep me in your hearts as firmly as you are in mine.

I love you all.