Chalk With S: For Whose Amusement?

Today, my sister got home after her day at college, and was quite upset about a video her class watched. I would like to share her experience with you here.

The video points out that many schools in rural India have teachers that are unqualified and are teaching their students incorrect information. It focuses largely on the incorrect spelling being taught in English, starting with the days of the week. The teachers are interviewed and asked questions, which they are unable to answer correctly.

While the video points to issues that need to be addressed, my sister found it quite sad to watch. There are sound effects to encourage the viewer to laugh at the teachers. The way the questions are phrased are meant to belittle the teachers and mock their lack of knowledge of the English language, and ability to teach the same. My sister observed the reactions around her as they watched the video, and was disappointed to see that there was laughter, that some people found this entertaining.

In my opinion, whether or not you understand Hindi, this three minute video’s intention to make fun of the teachers is quite clear. Look at the writing on this chalkboard:

I agree with my sister on her view that drawing attention to a problem such as this need not include mocking the English language skills of those involved, when what needs to be looked at is the system. It brings up questions about media ethics, and how to write a story, and for whose benefit or amusement the story was written.

What do you feel about the effectiveness of stories told this way?

Chalk With S: Before You Turn The Corner

What goes through your mind as you are about to step into a new space? 

Before you walk towards something new

Before you walk towards some place new

I am sure we all have different questions, fears, levels of excitement and concerns about going to new places. What are yours? How do you feel when you are going somewhere new, or even venturing into a different space with new people?

There are few things I love more than travelling. But, I have to say I do have certain anxieties about how people will respond to me, worries about offending them by saying the wrong thing, or making an inappropriate joke, or just not being informed enough about what is going on there. To summarise, I think my concerns revolve around a fear of being seen as an ignorant and insensitive outsider. This is usually what I am thinking of… along with excitement at the prospect of discovery, of course 🙂

Which of these chalk faces represent how you feel when you come across something new?

We’ll be back on Dec 29th to talk more about Wandering and Wondering!

Chalk With S: Distraction/Direction

What words rhyme with “unattainable”?

Inspiration posing as diversion is something I am learning to pay attention to. When Heidi and I chalk, we find ourselves in new places, spaces, chalking constantly evolving messages on different surfaces. Sometimes, something we stumble upon fast becomes integral to our chalk work of the moment. Ideas and opportunities often whizz, whirl and cartwheel past us. We may notice them, but may not offer them fair consideration. New ways to attain goals can be missed, or dismissed as distraction.

Distractions or Direction?

Distraction or Direction?

Pausing to look at something fascinating can be more than just a moment of wonder that takes you away from what you are working on. Even if the eye-catching thing is unattainable, it could offer you ideas on a new direction to move in, a different way of operating, or just something to aim for.

Walking around outside, and coming across new chalking spaces is one of my favourite ways to go about chalktivism. It helps reach more people and places,   and challenges us to see what we can do with the ideas that present themselves to us.

How do you deal with things that you come across while working on something of interest?


Chalk With S: A Few Feet Away

Are there things you prefer to think about from a distance?

Watching from a Distance

Watching from a Distance

There are some issues and ideas that find their way into many of our conversations frequently and repeatedly. There are others that we are less comfortable with, or are just not ready to talk about. For me, this happens when I feel like I do not know enough on the subject, or have strong enough opinions on it, or simply when I do not feel like it is my place to speak.

The way I see it, this could stop even those who are interested in certain social justice issues from joining conversations on them. How can that safe distance be overcome? It happens for me when people encourage my questions and thoughts, and express an interest in the same, regardless of my familiarity with the issue.

What puts that distance between you and an idea or discussion?
In what other ways can we encourage everyone to offer ideas and listen to thoughts expressed about the subject in question?

I would love to hear about it, and chalk about it!


Chalk With S: It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Words

Do you find words? Do words find you?

Sometimes learning feels like a scavenger hunt to me. It can be competitive, with the promise of reward, with many discoveries and challenges along the way. Whether that is a specific skill or a subject you are hoping to learn more about, many clues and findings serve as guides, marking stages of the learning process.

‘Discovery’ is an exciting word. It sounds earned, worked for and rewarding. While this a fun way to think of learning, I think it is also important to credit the people and situations we learn from. Here are a few of those that teach me the most:

How I know the stuff I know

How I know the stuff I know

How we know what we know is specific to our individual experience of the world, in my view. Some may share more of this with us, some less.  With this in mind, it is easier to see that the knowledge we possess is not the same as what other people have, and vice versa. It can make us more understanding, and less willing to exclude people from conversations based on what they know. It can encourage us to ask questions without feeling like we are somehow inadequate on the basis of what we do not know. It is just a question of what you encountered, the skills you learnt that help you deal with different situations, and ideas that inspired you to seek certain information, experiences and  gain more wonderful knowledge!

This is not to say that being proactive is not important. Since we each have different knowledge, it is important to get on with this business of sharing it, if we are to offer each other new things to learn. Learn more, share more, chalk more! Try to map out where you get your information from. I am certain you are on a few such maps, too 🙂 I would love to hear about sources that are not on mine!

I think I find some words… but I know most find me.


Chalk With S: Dancing in the Dark

I enjoy sitting in the dark, watching light and sound do very fascinating things as they tell a story, let me project onto it my story, and make me wonder about the other stories floating around in the audience. Stories meet stories, and create new stories. Stories, stories, stories. Words, ideas, words. All dancing in the dark.

S at the VIFF

S at the VIFF

I am getting a little too used to the Vancouver International Film Festival being on. Only four more days left! I just know I am going to feel its absence after Oct 11th.

The whole experience has been a festival of ideas for me. I can say that each film I have watched so far has given me a lot to think about. It has been like being back in my Film Studies classes, which I would happily return to anytime.

A crucial part of the experience for me is discussing the film in question, and exchanging ideas with other people. I found that necessary today in particular, when I watched Michael Trabitzsch’s Max Beckmann: Departure (Austria, Germany, 2013). From the first few shots, I knew I would have a thought or two to voice. Very early into it, I was lost in the life of the artist, Max Beckmann. The film is packed with intense moments that left me struggling to find the words to express what it is about it that I find so striking. The friend I went with had her own reasons for finding it captivating, and through our conversation, I was able to express and organise my thoughts. I hope this did the same for her.

This is why sharing thoughts can be a great thing! I really think that each of us has a few words that someone else could be looking for, and could need to express a thought or get across an important idea. Share your words, so we can open up vocabulary, make more words reachable, and get a variety of ideas across.
Take the  CWM Questionnaire to share the stories on stories, making other stories that trade stories  to find stories dancing with other stories till they are all part of the story.

S 🙂

Chalk With S: What’s an Equality?

It is an interesting moment for me to talk about equality. I have spent the last few days holding my breath and grieving for Nairobi, for everyone suffering at the hands of those who do not believe in respecting differences. While this was especially close to my heart, every day, all around the world, such tragic incidents occur, demonstrating the need for an understanding of diversity, and an appreciation of the same. When I discuss these issues with others, I often use the word ‘equality’.

At the chalk art festival in Victoria, one of the children I spoke to was asking me about the CWM piece. I explained the concept of the ideas being mobilised by words, concluding with “and they can now move towards ‘equality’, and talking about it’, as I pointed to the blocks that formed the word. The child paused and stared at the Idea character on a Word boat for a bit, appearing to consider the story in front of her. She then asked, “what’s an equality?”


I stopped chalking immediately and joined her in staring at the characters I had been drawing. This question I had not anticipated. It was my turn to consider. How could I explain this word without using a zillion other complicated words, and convey its meaning to this child, who was looking expectantly at me? Without being able to Google, “how can I explain the word equality without using a zillion other complicated words and convey its meaning to this child who is looking expectantly at me”?!

I offered, after what I hope was not too long a silence, “equality means being nice to everyone even if they are different in some ways”. She responded “oh”, and nodded, processing my explanation and staring a bit longer. I talked a bit more about how different ideas are needed for the conversation on social equality.

Perhaps the essence of a word can get lost in complicated language at times. Jargon, and words frequently associated with the key word are used, but the underlying message the word seeks to convey can be obscured by a haze of complex terminology. While exploring various meanings and aspects of a word is important to avoid generalisation and oversimplification, sometimes a back-to-basics approach can work to make the message accessible to more people. The question I was asked also forced me to evaluate my own actual understanding of the word, how much more I have to learn about it, and how the world needs to get better acquainted with it.

The same goes for many, many other words. With CWM, I look forward to learning more about the words I think I know, and exchanging ideas with you 🙂

Chalk With S: Street Talk

My two days of doing artwork out on the street at the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival was an experience I expected to be interesting but slightly uncomfortable. The idea of being watched as I drew was intimidating. I thought I would much prefer completing the painting in secret, preferably by at night by torchlight, before everyone got there, so I could then disassociate myself from it if it did not appeal to them. What I had not expected was how much I would enjoy talking to visitors and being confident enough to continue working as I talked.

What I had expected:
1. Telling people about CWM: I had hoped that people would notice our t-shirts, cards, flyers (in addition to the painting itself), and ask us about the project. I am happy to report that this happened, and we were able to share our idea.
2. Hearing about artists’ experiences: Heidi and I talked to several artists about how long they had been chalking. To some, it was a new medium, but many around us do this for a living and have been chalking for many years.

What I had not expected:
1. Getting so much feedback from children:

A little one's input :)

A little one’s input 🙂

This was the biggest learning moment for me. While I chalked many younger people came up to me to ask what was going on in the picture. I had seriously underestimated the interest that our artwork would garner from a younger audience. They were very receptive to the idea, and seemed to grasp the narrative a lot quicker than many adults. Some even said ours was their favourite! What I enjoyed was how genuinely and seriously they considered the story, trying to make a connection between language use and the sharing of ideas. One little girl even contributed to the art. I asked for her input on colour choice, and she even assisted with a little bit of chalking! It was fun giving someone a space to colour in, and that has given me several new ideas about how to get more younger ones involved!

2. Chalking Skills: This is a little obvious now that I think of it, but I had not really thought I would learn much from other artists; I expected them to be busy and professional, but many shared some great tips about chalking, and on street art in general.

3. Bruised knees: again, now, very obvious. The rough, unyielding surface that was challenging to chalk on, but also tough on the knees and elbows, and well, everything. All worth it, though!

The whole experience made it even clearer to me that Heidi and I make a fantastic team. We were completely on the same page, regarding dedication to our artwork and project. The rain did not stop us from running back and start-stop chalking all day on Sunday; someone else may have thought it not worth it. What was even more significant to me was the fact that Heidi liked the parts of chalking that I liked least, and vice versa. Sharing and dividing the work between us was effortless. She was great to chalk with, and is a wonderful someone who makes an anxious someone like me comfortable enough to work without unnecessary worry, even in public. We are both very excited to plan our next chalk adventure! 🙂

Chalk With S: Colourful Cobblestones

The bright, colourful cobbled street I am enjoying putting together:


Colourful Cobblestones

Every new word and concept I learn feels like another colourful, interesting, fascinating cobblestone added to my path, supporting me as I venture somewhere unfamiliar. It feels like movement and travel, allowing me to access new  places and spaces.

How do you visualise learning? I hope it involves a lot of colour, movement, and other fun things!

CWM Questionnaire 🙂

Chalk With S: Meet My Word Best Friend

Recalibrate: my word equivalent to a best friend.

With its mathematical, scientific, technical leanings, and my love of the abstract, we may seem an unlikely pair to those for whom these things do not intersect. Still, we are in touch every day, and I turn to it with all my confusions.

Correctable Compass

Recalibration:  a second, subsequent or corrected calibration.
Calibrate: to determine, check, or rectify the graduation of any instrument giving quantitative measurements.

I picture a compass when I employ a visual for the word. I think of recalibrating as the ongoing process of tweaking your means of navigating the world. It comes to my aid when I need to change plans, adapt to unexpected situations, and adjust to new knowledge.

When things do not work out as planned, I recalibrate.
When new obstacles cause me immense anxiety, I recalibrate.
When I learn something that points to my incorrect assumptions and destructive ideas, I recalibrate.

It is the single most hopeful and useful image I can come up with for myself for moving through my life. It points to the changing nature of knowledge, and the need to constantly take new factors into consideration. It is forgiving, and allows for meandering. It demands the acceptance of mistakes and forces the confrontation of false notions, in exchange for a better idea of direction. I love the word and am very attached to how I visualise it. If I ever write a book on absolutely anything, I might title it ‘Recalibrate’. If I ever paint a picture of my life, I might title it ‘Recalibrate’ as well.

My relationship with Chalk With Me, is one of happy recalibration; chalk smudges, corrections, learning, unlearning, relearning, always moving.