Nurturing Our Spirits – Episode 12

Nurturing Our Spirits – Episode 12


Each one of us has a gift. Some are so lucky they know it early on. Others it takes some time to find it. But once we find it and nurture it, the results can be life changing. For ourselves and others, we need to create that space for each and every child – to find their gifts and to share them.

On hand to discuss this topic was our guest expert, Debbie Donsky. Debbie is a Superintendent of Education in the TDSB. She is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a writer, an artist, a sketch noter and an avid reader. You can learn more about her on her website and you can follow her on Twitter @DebbieDonsky or Instagram @DebDonsky to see her art and sketchnotes. You absolutely must see her TEDx Talk on ‘Reclaiming Space’. Talk about someone who knows her gifts, Debbie shares them with the the world, and with all of us tonight. 

Debbie began by stating that that when we quiet our stories, or feel afraid to share our truth, we experience anxiety and we can’t become our true selves. As educators, we need to encourage our students to be their own selves, without fear of judgement. 

Debbie went on to share a story of herself as a 4-year-old, who wanted to be a teacher, get married, and have babies. She knew who she was even at that young age. Although, It took her three tries to get into Teachers College, three tries to become a VP, and numerous tries to get into her current leadership role, Debbie did not let rejection or set backs deter her from reaching her goals and becoming her true self. Whatever our spirit tells us, regardless of obstacles, they should not deter us, only challenge us. The way Debbie sees it; we should use these struggles to teach us lessons and it will ultimately make education better for all.

Debbie then spoke about a book by an indigenous woman named Marie Battiste, that has inspired her. The Book is called, ‘Decolonizing Education, Nurturing the Learning Spirit’. Debbie shared a quote, “the foundation of this teaching resides in first acknowledging that each person has a unique and personal journey that will yield to their learning, so that they find a way to express fully their own purpose, vision and journey.” In other words, each child has a gift, and it is our responsibility as educators to nurture this gift. Debbie called for more personalization in education, something that connects students to find their own power in the ability to create change, just like with Project Give Back.

Another quote that Debbie shared came from the book, ‘Teaching to Trangress, Education as the Practice of Freedom’, by Bell Hooks. “To educate as a practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us that teach, who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred… share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students, to teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential.”

If we don’t feel safe, we are not learning. We need to feel loved in the classroom and we must honour the passions of each child’s gift.

Debbie is also well known for her work in anti-racism, and she referenced the book, ‘We Want To Do More Than Survive’, by Bettina Love. Debbie spoke about the concept of Spirit Murdering; the damage caused when we don’t listen to children and what their gifts are. She went on to say how racism robs people of their humanity; it is a loss of acceptance and all things that children need to enter school and learn. Debbie encouraged us to have enough courage and strength to stand up for what we believe in. 

As a final note, Debbie referred to Ellen’s son, Jacob, and how his gift was to inspire everything that is nurtured through this program. In the end, our duty as educators and parents is to honour all those gifts.

Rachel Savlov was a former PGB student, who has always known her gift and she shared it with us tonight. Now at 17 and in Grade 12, Rachel is a musical theatre major at Etobicoke School of the Arts. Rachel performed an original song called, ‘Just Let Go’. She spoke how she nurtures her own spirit through songwriting and this song was there to lift our own spirits.

Our Shining Star tonight was Eli Rewega. Eli represented his hockey team, The Avenue Road Mighty Ducks. Last year, his team participated in the ‘Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup’ and partnered with a team from Manitoulin Island, where both teams experienced each other’s customs and cultures. Eli spoke about this unique experience; the unique foods they ate, the karaoke that they sang together and learning about each other’s lives. These “city boys”, as Eli called himself, got to see traps, play hockey and learn from one of their wise Elders. When the team came to Toronto, the Manitoulin team experienced their first Shabbat dinner, visited an arcade and enjoyed many aspects of city life. It was an eye-opening experience for both teams; getting to experience a culture so different than their own and learning to appreciate differences and embrace all of their similarities. 

A final check in was made with Kindness Corner and Lindsay @one2giveto. Lindsay asked us to reflect upon the past year. Think about exactly one year ago; when the NBA suddenly closed down and Tom Hanks announced he had COVID! “What have you learned and how do you see the world differently now? What can you do with your energy to give back?” One thing Lindsay learned is that, if you make it easy for people, people will be willing to help. Making things easier for others to help, has become Lindsay’s mission. She has found a way to nurture her own spirit and those of so many others.

Here’s to keeping your spirits up and nurturing those gifts within us all!