I show this video featuring the late Rita Pierson because it captures a good bit of my week since we got back from Christmas break. It has been a busy time but a very rewarding one in so many ways. We got a shipment of iPads yesterday and gadgets always make me happy. I had a great meeting with the head of a school furniture distributor that was interesting and very educational. I usually try to get out of any room with a person trying to sell me something as fast as possible, but this one lasted 2.5 hours and could have gone another couple in a blink of an eye. This is coupled with our Third Teacher work and how I think that will be amping up as the first semester comes to a close. Lots of great stuff but also some challenges.
One member of our DD/ME program had a tough week and it is hard to stay detached enough to make the pertinent and proper decisions. It is tough to have to call authorities to have someone taken away for their own, and everyone else’s safety. It is tough to have to call a parent and say that their child will have to stay home until we have a better plan in place for behaviour that he cannot control. It is tough to do these things because it is so counter intuitive. We are supposed to accept and help these kids. It was tough having to ask some students to leave the school for poor and possibly dangerous choices that they were making. Tough because those are the kids we are supposed to work with. We in public education, have no problem taking the slightly higher and much more guaranteed pay cheque from the government, yet can forget that this comes with the acceptance that you HAVE TO accept anyone that comes to your door.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem making a tough decision, especially when it come to the safety of students, but the decision is still tough. But I had a couple of things happen this week to make it easier and the couple of things involve kids at opposite ends of the spectrum really.
One of our students, Jordan Hamilton, was signed by Toronto FC, to a professional contract to play soccer. This is not a developmental deal but a full contract. He is now a professional athlete who has to make adult decisions about his career. The only thing is he is also a 17 year old kid trying to get through school. The cool thing is that he had a bunch of teachers congratulating him and helping him get through stuff. He signed a contract and then left for a week to train with the Men’s National Team, but he still had courses to think about. People have been so amazing, with one teacher practically adopting him within the school to make sure that he has, in Pierson’s words, a “champion”. This is great because while Jordan is truly 1 percent of 1 percent of people (as far as sheer athletic ability goes), he still has needs and requires assistance to get him through. I will have conversations with teachers about accommodations for Jordan to help more in the coming weeks but those will be met with compassion and caring. Great stuff.
On the other end of the spectrum, I mentioned one of our most special kids having a really tough week. This young man suffers from multiple challenges and requires constant care and supervision, and sometimes, like this week, it still is not enough. We have a number of these kids in our school, and while they will never be able to accomplish the things that Jordan will, there are just as many people looking to help him. Our Educational Assistants are amazing because they show up everyday to serve these kids and their thanks is not a big hug from a future sports superstar, or a mention in a future valedictory address. In fact, they will likely never get a thank you from the people they serve. Instead, they get bitten, and kicked and asked to witness and clean up after some of the most heart wrenching incidents you can imagine. To add to it, there are new collective bargaining agreements that mean that some of these people may have to leave the kids they have served so as to adhere to seniority rights. I have a pretty open mind about unions and try to stay impartial but I have a tough time with this one. I have a tough time when adults in this profession spend all their time worrying about other adults at the expense of children. I am going to continue to fight back as I can because I know that if these dedicated and amazing professionals are pulled from “their kids” then it will put them in crisis.
What is the point of all this? I guess it is to answer Tina Turner’s question: What’s Love Got to Do With It?
These two students of mine, while probably existing at completely opposite ends of any spectrum you can imagine, need love in their education. They need adults who care enough to accept them for their circumstances and then help them to rise above them. They need this love to sometimes do amazing things and sometimes just to survive.
Too bad that it takes too pretty dramatic examples to remind me about the need for this love. Too bad that it may not even matter if those more interested in seniority reports and collective bargaining details than children in desperate need win out. Too bad that I really can’t string together a blog worthy of what I saw this week.
Or maybe it isn’t bad at all. Perhaps the reason that it takes extraordinary events to get us to notice and reflect on this love, is that is just happens all the time. Love is like the furniture in most schools; you just stop noticing it because it has always been there.
Perhaps it is a bit of both, but I am sure of one thing: Love is what gives up HOPE and that is good enough for now.