*This is a student writing about their learning activity in LA 9 with the novel “Touching Spirit Bear”.*
Cole Matthews is a very troubled boy. The word troubled doesn’t even begin to cover his issues. After sending classmate Peter Driscal to the hospital by smashing his head into the sidewalk, Cole is put in a detention center, where he meets Garvey, and is introduced to Circle Justice. Circle justice is a method of healing that involves gathering with other citizens and discussing the problem at hand. Much conversing brings the Circle members to a decision, which is sending Cole to a remote island in Alaska.
Throughout his time on the island, Cole begins to change.
Part of his healing involves him carving a totem pole. Everyday, Cole etches and picks at the wood with his knife, and everyday he bases his next sculpture on an animal that he has seen and finds positive traits in. But these characteristics aren’t based just on the animals, but on himself, too. As he creates the structure, he delves inside his own being to pull out the good things that he knows he has in himself. This self-reflection helps Cole bring himself to serenity and peace, and allows him to quiet down his anger.
Through building totem poles of our own, we can follow Cole’s path, and experience what he had. Choosing animals that we see ourselves in, we have created pieces of art that show our own self-reflection. The class is etching, carving and writing down personal perspectives of ourselves. Following our totems, we are writing narrative essays that explain why we have chosen the animals in our art, using particular experiences of our lives to justify our choices.
As a student participating in this activity, I believe that I understand how Cole Matthews felt as he made his totem pole. Self-reflection does show you how you act not just towards others, but towards yourself as well.