Joanne Panas is a coeditor of English Practice. She teaches English part-time at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond, and is pursuing writing, her other passion, on her so-called days off.” 

The cover art for this issue is a piece by one of my English 11 students, Rachel Yang. It was part of a unit we did this year around the essential question “How can we make sense of the darkness in humanity?” The specific task for which Rachel did this piece was called “3-Word Thinking.” In this task, students chose three words from the following list to define, explain, and explore in terms of its uses, associations, and connotations: violence, conflict, pain, darkness or destruction. For one of the words, they did a mind map; for another word, they wrote a descriptive piece; and for the third word, they created a visual with a written explanation. Earlier in the unit, students had been introduced to an online scrapbooking site ( and many of them, including Rachel, took advantage of this new skill for the visual part of this assignment.

Explanation of the Visual

Here, Rachel explains the meaning of the images in her visual:

This collage is my understanding of darkness. Darkness means obscurity,  solitude and suffering; but it can also provoke people to seek the “light” they need and bring out the best in others.

Amidst all the dark parts of the background, there is a thin white line in the centre to represent the concept of “although it is hard to find, there is always hope and light around darkness.” The man sitting hunched over and the woman with the wine glass and pills are meant to represent darkness manifesting itself in depression and addictions. The figures and silhouette of people holding hands is to show that some people with darkness inside seek therapy from family, friends and other people. It can also represent the reverse-that family, friends and others seek to help the ones who are in darkness. Aside from therapy and seeking others’ help, most embodiments of darkness need time to heal, which is represented by the clock. The angel wing on the woman symbolizes that by going through darkness (in this case, addiction) it can bring out the best in others who wish to help those in need.

Humanity’s belief in darkness is that it’s the opposite of light, that darkness is evil and light is good. The contrast of dark and light throughout the whole collage- notably the title and the yin yang symbol-is to constantly point out the belief of good and evil, and that darkness is necessary to distinguish between good and evil. The bat underneath the ‘Darkness’ words is simply to represent society’s vision of darkness in bats and vampires; it also added a nice subtle touch to the collage.

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