Where’s the dancing?

 

I am going to begin by saying that I am still pissed about “Chopsticks and Courage” (if you have no idea what that is, message me). Why that is even the title of anything I’ll never know why. However, since then, and a little bit before, my mind races to something very big in my heart: why is there no culture in schools. Yes, insert target right to my forehead. I get it, I could be a little bitter but I think I’m also just paying more attention. Hear me out:

Celebrating culture is not celebrating it once a month or a day out of the year. That’s obligation. Celebrating culture is not putting up posters highlighting various ethnic practices or famous people. That is show.

Celebrating culture is what is infused into a classroom and is what the teacher expects to infuse into it everyday. It’s literally changing the way you teach to reflect each individual person and it is, ultimately, sacrificing what makes you comfortable in the name of creating a community. Many might say that this is a terrible opinion to have because the only experiences I have had are with coaching, being an EPA and running a summer camp. Let me tell you about these and how I didn’t just plan random shit and hope for the best and I didn’t just consult a manual on how to deal with poor kids or non-white folk.

My culture is Thai culture. Yes, I was raised by white parents but I was ALWAYS amongst Thai people and if not, I was always amongst a diverse group of people. In fact, the only time I felt like I was being drowned out by caucasians was at family reunions. Thai culture is rooted in community, loud chit-chat and very high expectations. Respect for your elders was the most important and you treated each other like family but kept your family business to yourself. There was discipline but no more than there was lively music, the smell of spices and the sound of papaya being beat in a bowl on the floor. Every girl learned to Thai dance, some longer than others. It’s ironic because until a few years ago, I really didn’t like the chit-chat! School was FULL of culture. It was so full of culture, we never actually really talked about it or celebrated a month of any them because, culture was everywhere, everyday. You just knew who you were, where you came from and you knew who your friends were too. There was no cultural insensitivity or racism for that matter because you literally all had SOMETHING wrong with you AND something cool about you. Little moments throughout the day you learned about different people and why they had dots on their forehead or why they only ate certain food at lunch. I knew some of my friends spent a month fasting, and a few others couldn’t focus without music playing in their ear, others danced their way along the hallway. I haven’t seen any of that here. “Sit down, stop walking like that, look at me, my goodness you’re full of energy, you’re not listening”… It’s come to my realization that the very things we say (I say “we” because I’ve caught myself saying these too) that the very things they might be doing might very much have to do with WHO they are. Their culture. I’m not saying let the kid run down the hallway or ignore the world with headphones in their ears but I’m saying, observe.

I owe success to running summer camp to the fact that I actually do not have the best attention span and am scatter brain (or as my mother likes to say, “cart-before-the-horse). All my life all I’ve ever known is movement and energy, lively lessons and high expectations. I owe that to my culture and to my teachers of so many different cultures. The out-of-the-box-thinkers. The ones who realized that in order for all of these groups of people to get along and to thrive together, one cannot stoop to the level of “easy”, one must rise to the occasion and amaze the shit out of showing up to school each day. IF we ever had to sit down at our desks for longer than 5 minutes it was because we were writing a test OR because we were writing down our plans to take over the world-that can take a long time. We were putting on costumed plays, not just once a year, but regularly if you wanted. You were learning about Canada’s history by becoming part of it-setting up stalls to sell your First Nations goods that you learned how to make from the class before. Your stall had price lists + GST, a little write-up about your product and of course, the write up about you, the First Nation seller. Maybe for science you were inventing an alien, talking about its adaptations, life cycle, percentage of them on the planet, how much area their habitat took up, creating sound clips of what your alien would sound like. <— Grade 4. Every Friday there were “rotaries” where you participated in a club for an afternoon, based on what you had selected a few weeks back. There was theatre, scrapbooking, camp cooking, inventions, math club, photography, outdoor rotary literally something for everyone and they changed each month. <— Elementary school. You know why these were good days? Because our teachers picked something THEY loved because, teachers have passions too. They loved being there at their rotary and you just knew it.

Okay, I’ve strayed from the point…back to summer camp. It was exhausting and hard, I’m still recovering. However I attribute that to the way I handled things-not the way I used to handle things. Sometimes you play around with your personality and I discovered, the sit down, turn around, don’t make another sound personality was not me. I like being fun (who doesn’t) but I’ll amp it up above what might be considered normal. Each day we played music whenever there was a chance. I’m not talking the Top 40 Children’s Bop playlist, remakes by Barnie’s child followers, or the approved Wiggles CD, I’m talking REAL music. The rap songs and the deep Andra Day. Anything less IS insulting. There was a lot of dancing. There was a lot of cheering and moving around. This is how I remember being as a kid in school. But Ornmadee, it’s day camp, of course it has to be fun. Again, very insulting. Our whole summer was surrounded around STEM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We did things that required thinking but I was in no way about to hand out the work booklet. No, I don’t get off that easy, I actually have to prepare stuff but it’s easy to do when you know what you expect of yourself. I took responsibility that it was my job to make something meaningful.

I never played the music or danced or did the cheers because I thought it would look “good” or be “twitter worthy”. I did it because I am from a culture where you’re allowed to be alive. It’s who I am. No child under my wing will feel like they can’t express themselves if it’s not within the prescribed methods that the books tell you are okay. So what I am wondering is, in a system that is trying to be culturally relevant, bringing in people of different cultures is an okay step, but it’s not forcing the topic on anyone. It’s saying, “you get your people, I get my people”. If you want a rich and vibrant community of diversity, then that’s literally what you have to emulate and become. You might be doing it alone, people might think you’re trying too hard, people might equate you to a missionary, or they might just be pissed off that you’re in their business. Do it anyway. If you want groups of people to flourish, then you need to become aware of who they are-the parts that cannot be changed by any sort of program. Want them to participate in music completely? Stop singing songs that have no value, get into songs that are full of vibrancy, life, energy and where there is no way it would be successful without movement of all body parts-not just the ones you want to control. Our music teacher had us doing Stomp! There was none of that “fuzzy, fuzzy, wuzzy” BS. Want them to be active? Play games that have a purpose and a goal-not just running around pylons. How about reading? Why does reading have to be silent? In a world where communication is a large part of how you will survive, why are we telling kids they cannot talk? For most, enjoyment is reading and calm chit-chat. Is a kid actually reading when you can hear the sounds of people breathing because it’s so quiet? No, they’re just hearing people breathing and skimming pages. What about writing? A lot of kids have things to say but either don’t know how to express them or don’t want to write about what they’re being made to write about. I get it, you can’t have violence in schools, but please don’t tell the boy who’s super into weapons of mass destruction that he can’t write about it.  That’s history, that stuff’s neat. Obviously it can’t be written about another living being but, why not discuss how the world used to be? You can learn a lot about someone based on what they choose to write about.

Get up. Dance. Sing. Stand on your desk. Handshake. Bow. It’s not about making sure that there is an equal amount of posters depicting when Chinese New Year’s is versus when Christmas is, it’s about making culture something that runs IN the walls, the floors and the rooms. It should be what is expected. It’s observing the people that walk into the rooms and rather than forcing them to turn into the common, accepted, standard and writing them up, make them the standard. It will be chaos, but culture has never been about everybody being the same. There are schools dedicated to Francophonie students, schools dedicated to certain religions, there can be schools dedicated to rich culture-it’s called breaking out of the norm. If you can’t see colour, or choose not to see colour, you won’t see culture. Part of the problem is that we’re only focusing on culture when it’s convenient. It should not be something that gets in the way, it should be the way.

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What is “Mom”?

Over the past few weeks I have resumed my role as creativity demonstrator, tantrum manager, compromise officer, aka. your daycamp supervisor. It’s within this role that I create, plan, and execute a summer that will knock children’s socks off. To add to the mayhem, I also have a team of staff that make the plan come to life but they do it so brilliantly. Last year I shared all the cool and neat things we were up to and it was my commitment to sharing the camp with everyone that kept me motivated to continue to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. This year is different. I am trying to do it. I am trying to share but I went into this season way more tired than last. The ‘new car’ smell of the job is a little more expired than usual. I have seen more. I have higher expectations of myself and those I work with. During the year I worked with students who had a variety of learning challenges and needs. I considered my role to be just as much about providing a safe haven as it was helping them get their school work done. Never did I think I would have my heart stuffed so full. The light and happiness that these kids add to my life makes life so much better and worth living. There is a cost, though. You have to learn their stories and you have to see what’s not always obvious and this is what can kill your heart. Even more, you have to try and band-aid several different wounds that are almost likely never going to heal and you have to try and love that even though they sting. Some kids you will get and others you will not. If that wasn’t hard enough you have to deal with adults who perhaps are the worst of it all. Yes, I am an adult but at heart I also strongly feel that my ability to work with kids is because I’ve never lost the character that a child brings to the world. The adults are sometimes non-believers or one-way see-ers. They’ve heard a few stories and that’s what that kid is to them. They judge each other and then teach kids to do the same thing. My heart hurts every time I hear a little girl get rejected by her peers because she’s been labelled as someone that nobody wants their kid around. Adults have let these kids down and then others try to build them up. It couldn’t be a more confusing, complicated relationship with the adult species.

I remember during the school year I had a mini-hallway cry because a girl wrote a poem that ended with “Mom” when asked to describe me. Obviously I was touched and loved this girl deeply and the thought of being considered any type of mom-material at the age of 22 was kind of shocking considering it wasn’t until recently that I started to even enjoy kids. Every now and then you get the awkward and accidental name-calling of “Mom” that nobody is ever really prepared for and there is just silence and awkward stares hoping that nobody noticed. Then you actually get called Mom, actually Mommy. It happened as we were playing a water gun game. Then she told me I should be her mom and her siblings mom too as we were walking along the water. Yes, this happened. It was sweet but I went home and mulled it over a glass of wine. I was adopted and I call my mom, mom. She is the mom who raised me even though she didn’t have to endure the biologically sickening adventure of passing a desk through the birth canal- but she is mom. She made me go to school when I was faking-sick. She packed all food groups into my lunch bag each day even though I threw out the organic yogurts. She forced me to finish things I didn’t want to (ahem-Cello Academy) and I had to do my homework and school projects well. She got emotional with me and had her own flaws we all had to work through. For 16 years her roof was my roof (I mean technically it still is but you know, the adult-child had to move out sometime). To me, the definition of mom is very obvious because I had one.

Now, going back to the girl who called me Mommy. I’m not mom because I force her to go to school or pack her lunch or make her do her homework. I care, cuddle, hug and enjoy her company-that’s it. That’s not enough mom to me. I came to the sad realization that to her, a child who has had quite a few “moms”, her definition of mom is literally just another name. It’s not like the moms we think of, it’s the name for someone who just pays attention and cares. Maybe she’ll move and have another “mom”. Again, we have let her down. Adults have let her down. In a world where a life is supposed to be given its best shot, we award life by giving them moms and dads. The title is special and sacred. It’s all encompassing and means foundation, protection, love and care-until it doesn’t. Shit happens. “Mom” and “Dad” get in trouble, it’s a little less care, a little less attention. Then shit happens again and it’s enough this time that this precious little life has to be taken away and go somewhere else for trial number 2-we call them foster parents. The idea of “mom” or “dad” hasn’t been lost yet. No, that doesn’t happen until about trial number 7. By trial 7, not only has their foundation been lost but now that precious little life is just another number with just other foster parents. However, life is brilliant and resilient. It’s amazing how long kids can stay strong but there is a cost and the cost is that they will call complete strangers mom or dad so long as they can meet even just one of the original criteria of the title. Their expectations have forcibly been lowered. I am not saying that they will never find true moms or dads again but the idea that their life was supposed to start and end with one mom is sad. I have parents but I know that my life could have been different, too. My greatest wish for these beautiful lives is that one day they get to call someone mom that is all the things again: the foundation, the protection, love and care. For now, all I can do is fulfill what I can and when I’m called mom, say “I care about you so much and I will forever and ever.” It’s easier that way until maybe one day being all of those things is more of a possibility.

To good Moms, good foster moms, good step-moms, good school moms: Love your title and live it well because there’s little lives out there who are learning that being born was just the first of the many, many hard, things that they will have to ever do. They’re waiting for a mom, again.

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Everybody’s Fine

The other day I saw something as I scrolled through my instagram about not counting down the days to something being done because eventually you’ll be counting down the days of your life. It was the most motivational and dark post I had seen in a while and I had to take a step back and think about it. I’ve always had jobs where there is a countdown: a countdown to a regatta, a countdown to a test, a countdown to the school year being over…everything is/was a continuous countdown. My latest post up until this one was about how much I like what I do and how much I love the kids I work with. It’s all true. However I feel I must counterbalance the sunshine and rainbows that other post seemed to fart out. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the last few weeks I have come home and just sat exhausted. I can’t speak for other people who try to do this but the gist of the task is to help kids who have learning challenges. We’re not teaching them which perhaps makes it more tricky because sometimes you are walking blindfolded trying to figure out what others want you to do and other times things are planned minute-by-minute and you wonder how to fit it all in. But we do it. This is probably one of the few positions where you really get to build a strong, solid, relationship with a kid because you are their person. Everybody has “their” person. This “person” picks them up for lunch or drops them off. This “person” sees you in the morning or afternoon. This “person” follows the plan. This “person” is lost in the plan. This “person” goes where they’re needed. Their kids ask this “person” the questions even if they do not even know what’s going on. They confide in their “person”. We try to be the “person”. We have to be the “person” for many kids. We are so busy being other people’s “persons” that sometimes it’s like you forget you’re a person too. You don’t have the time. Going with the flow is one thing but being swept by a current is a complete other. This is the challenge every day. The truth is that there are children who need help academically and then there are those who need help socially, emotionally, or just being at school without being some sort of hazard. These children pop up EVERYWHERE. For someone like me who has a really big challenge with change (seriously, I will self admit I am a bit like Sheldon Cooper) watching these kids come and go is like a life-size whack-a-mole game…and you’ve only got one hand to do it with. Here’s the thing about the way that works, we, the “persons” can suck it up and deal with it but it’s kids who suffer from what happens when their “person” is gone. I’ll tell you something, never in my life did I think I would have to grit my teeth and smile when I was asked by a young person “Why don’t I get anybody to help me?” “How come nobody comes in and helps me?” I’ve lived a life where honesty is my number one policy but in this case, honesty would have been heartbreaking. Saying, “there aren’t enough of us to go around” or “I really don’t know”…it’s not motivating and it doesn’t solve anything. The next closest thing I could think of was, “I know it’s frustrating and I am sorry.” What frightens me the most about a kid who realizes the disparity is that for every kid who actually says something, there are at least twice as many who are thinking it. They might not know how to add, but they know when things aren’t adding. Kids seldom advocate for their right to learn. The young ones who do are told “that’s just the way it is”. If they’re older they’re usually in High School and their life path has already been set for them. That scares me: A group of kids who didn’t fit the severity mold to get help but aren’t strong enough to do without and they will go through life believing that they aren’t important. We tell kids they can be anything they want to be if they put their mind to it but WE, the “people”, shape who they are too. If we’re not there shaping, they’re there struggling, struggling, struggling and eventually, settling. That’s a whole group of kids who could have made it. A whole group of kids who could have proven the world wrong about their abilities and they just settled. They aren’t brilliant, they aren’t crappy, they’re just fine. Everybody is just fine.

We are living in a world where it’s okay to just be fine. We go through each day fine. We tell kids they’re fine. We tell ourselves we’re fine. I’ll tell you something, we’ve created a society that’s okay with fine and we’re seeing it unfold now with kids who are said to be fine when they’re not. I’m not okay with fine, I’m not okay with being molded into fine and I’m not okay with molding kids to be just fine. However, if we keep this trend up where education is still the bottom of the barrel as are the people in it and bringing in Tall Ships each summer is the top, this is not going to be a fine situation. I will not be fine with it either. I am not counting down the days until it’s done. I’ve just started counting up.

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Making it Count

Can you believe that when I was a teenager in High School I wanted to be a family lawyer? I never wanted kids and if you asked me to describe my perfect life it would have absolutely nothing to do with what I’m doing now. If you asked me to describe my life at 22 I would say I would be living in a dorm room, finishing my Psychology degree, eating Mr. Noodles, and beginning the process of being the most feared family lawyer of all time. That was my “dream”. I wanted to be a family lawyer because I wanted to shut bad families down. I wanted to remove kids from homes and I wanted to punish people for having too many of them they couldn’t take care of. I wanted to be brutal, but smart. I was working on a Psychology degree and found it thoroughly boring. Now I am sitting here in Starbucks putting the final touches on a final paper that will finish off my History degree. The Arts degree, that when I was 11, was told would be useless and get me nowhere. Being a teacher would mean I would hit a “ceiling” and that I should shoot as high as possible. The voice that spoke that to me would be my inner voice for years. Being a teacher would be the lowest downgrade of my life. I failed things. When I failed at those things it hit me so hard. When I was a kid it was a dream to be veterinarian, then a Sport Physiotherapist because those things made money. Then it was a lawyer. Yet, it was still so unfulfilling. Now I’m sitting here finishing off a useless Arts degree.

In the past year a lot of things have changed. I no longer coach. That passion was whisked from under my feet and I haven’t been able to recover yet. I used to run girls leadership groups, coach competitive groups, attend sport conferences and every single day of my life was dedicated to coaching. Now it’s not. I was a writer for the Female Coaching Network and haven’t written a single thing in a whole year. Coaching was my identity and now it’s weird to say that I work in a school. Sometimes I don’t even say I’m an EPA because some days I still wish I was a coach. The allure of that doesn’t seem as strong. Except it is. I realized that I spent so much time working on people at the height of their life that I forgot there was a whole other world out there of people who haven’t even found it yet. My sole intention of being a family lawyer was to redeem my childhood but then I realized that by the time a kid reached me in the court system they’ve already lost so much. I wanted to focus on building strong kids instead and that starts in the classroom. Except it wouldn’t be that easy because I couldn’t just go to school to be a teacher. I needed a degree first. I think I was swayed away from a Psychology degree mainly because I didn’t ever want to look at a kid and diagnose their brain. I didn’t want to know which part made this part do this etc. I have a learning disability and hated being told I was “special”.  It was a hard fight, fighting against being “special” and not letting it be an obstacle. I just wanted someone to teach me something meaningful in a meaningful way. I remember when I had knee surgery, in the early stages my doctor was mentoring a student and he said, “look at the x-ray but never base everything from it. Diagnose the patient first and what you see first.” I’ve never had a stronger knee. History has always been important to me mainly because I know very little about mine. As you get older you realize how important it is to know about it. So, from there I worked on understanding history with the hope that one day I could share that with others. I’ll be a teacher, one day.

In the last few months I have spent my evenings studying and then frantically planning. Don’t tell me not to do it because I’ve been planning since the day I was born. Everyday I am greeted at the Learning Centre door by a girl who has stolen my heart (but I will be completely honest, most kids steal my heart). I walk into the staffroom to get my coffee and load up one of my many mugs from my mug collection, while listening to the banter of teachers about to start their day. I walk out to the portable classroom where again, I am greeted by some Brownie girls and somehow manage to survive some small-talk (if you know me, you’ll know I am very socially awkward). In the classroom I get to see two other students who I work with, one of them is always smiley, the other smiles with his eyes. We do the daily dish: “What did you do last night? What did you eat? Who were you with?” What’s important here is that we all do it. The four of us. Not just them talking to me but I like it when they know that life sucks as a young adult sometimes too. It’s been equated to a family dinner where everyone is supposed to talk about their day only this way we’re talking about our evenings. We discuss things that are important and social problems. We read. Then we work. We work hard and I usually lose my shit once during that time. “Why is this place a mess? I just cleaned this table up yesterday? Why didn’t you put this away where it belongs, now we have to search every folder to find it!!!!” There’s laughing because Miss Ornmadee losing her shit is like watching a chihuahua bark because they need to go out to pee. There’s recess, then it’s my favourite time of all time. I get all 8 of my kids with me. We do something artsy or scientific or random that usually pisses someone off. Then we just enjoy each other’s company. Or somedays we’re bothered by each other’s company. However I would never remove a single day. The other day we made unicorn frappucinos. Sometimes we do guided painting (Ornmadee loses her shit twice during this time). We dance and we take pictures. I post pictures up because as one of my kids said, “This place is our home” Home has pictures. Home is messy. Home laughs real loudly and there’s crying too. Lunch rolls around and I get to observe a human zoo during feeding time. I question many parenting styles as the results are sitting in front of me snorting yogurt tubes. I get my lunch, usually studying while eating. The afternoon I get to work with my ninth kid who I think enjoys my company but I’m not really sure. Sometimes I can make her laugh, sometimes I really piss her off. She says goodbye before getting on the bus to go home though so it must be ok. Then I make my way back to the Learning Centre for my final 15 minutes of the day. These are the most important minutes of my day. I get to see my fellow EPAs who love each of those kids so dearly, too. We get to try and make their day one last time. I go outside with my older kids to get fresh air. We talk about what we’re doing in the evening and how the rest of the school day went. I get to breathe and not plan anything or run after someone. This day wasn’t a fairytale, it never is. It’s hard and long. We say goodbye. We hug like we’re never seeing each other again. We say goodnight. 8 kids=8 times. Somedays some people need longer hugs than others. During those moments I forget that I was never really a huggy person because then it’s not about me. I go home to study some more or to my second job (where I am basically doing a condensed version of this day in 3 hours). Every once in a while I get to sit here and type stuff like this. I laugh because in the moments of those days I think, “Can this day get any worse” but then I go home and think “I would like to try and do it again”. On the weekends I get to go out, horseback ride, shop, hang out with friends, go to breakfasts…and every weekend I wish how much my nine kids could be part of those days.

10 years ago I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me this is what a typical day would look like for me. Instead, I’m sitting here, honest to Buddha, wondering how I got so lucky. I think about it every single day when I get hugged or smiled at, without fail. How does it just keep getting better and better right when I think it’s already the best day I’ve ever had?

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The writing prompt was, “What is the most important thing (insert anybody’s name here) has taught you?” I think back to wee Ornmadee who hid under the preschool and kindergarten tables because she hated kids.

Thoughts from a Non-Mom

I have never been much older than the kids I’ve worked with as a coach, leader, EPA, whatever…this comes as both a blessing and curse. I love the relationship you can build and the mentorship you can provide because let’s face it, when you were younger there was probably a younger adult who you confided in more than your fifty year-old neighbour. Not dissing the neighbour, I’m sure they’re lovely. It is also curse. You’re almost never prepared for a lot that comes your way and you learn as you go. Nobody takes you seriously because you’re young but you’re old enough to know that it’s not right. Well buckle in, because a few things are not right.

  1. LOOK AT YOUR KID’S PHONES.

Your kids don’t deserve “privacy” or the “right to explore electronics independently”. Until they can understand the Charter of Rights and Freedoms-just no. More specifically, check your kids “friends” account. These are the separate accounts that you have to request to follow and it usually has some dumb name like “sallysfriendsnohaterz”. No, they are not posting nudes. However, a lot of them are making their lives sound incredibly miserable. Or they’re just really self-centred. Or they’re trying to solve their social problems by posting passive aggressive comments on their selfies or photos of their feet. It’s embarrassing.

2. Kids are self-centred and need to be mentored on how to look beyond their own world.

This mostly has to do with the above. I don’t know how more and more kids have more time to filter and critique 50 selfies of the same pose and yet, “Oh, Rachel has a very busy life. She’s in 5 sports this season.” Something’s not adding up. Quality vs. quantity. A kid who spends their evenings looking at themselves in selfies is not a confident kid. They’re incredibly conceited or incredibly insecure. Figure out which one it is and act accordingly.

3. Register kids in less things that serve them, and register them in more things that serve OTHERS.

I have yet to meet a kid who volunteers for something and yet I remember every single one of my friends actively and consistently volunteering for something, whether they were volunteering in dance classes, SPCA, the Mustard Seed, or venturing on their own for something they were passionate about. Guess what? Developing this skill will greatly reduce the problems in bulletin #1 and #2. “But they’re so busy, we have no time.” If it’s important, then you’ll find time.

4.  Teach your kids about where babies come from. Be current and don’t be creepy about it. If you can’t do it, find someone who can and who your kid trusts. Don’t get your neighbour down the street because she happens to be a woman.

No, babies do not come out of belly buttons. Kids are learning earlier and earlier about SOME things, but not all things. And if they do not hear it from you, they will hear it in sporadic, most likely inaccurate ways from someone else. As a coach and as a current wanderer of halls, I’ve heard MANY things. It’s weird what kids say when they think you’re not listening.

5. Your kids aren’t special.

To you they are special. To the rest of the world they are kids. This means A) they don’t get an extra piece of pizza just because they want one B) they’re not going to be babied when they’re rude (because they will be and you know it)  C) they don’t get things they don’t deserve.

6. If you do not have a suggestion or plan on helping alleviate a problem, don’t complain about it.

In other words, make it happen. Do it yourself. Don’t like something? Do something about it.

7. Just because your kids CAN have something, doesn’t mean they should.

They don’t need the light up shoes or the hover boards that light up on fire. Could they work for them? Yes.

8. Stop making every holiday a reason to blow money on kids.

They need your time more than your money (although I know that being a former teenager I would’ve hated this suggestion).

9. Don’t live in the past. At least TRY to appreciate what they value in the present.

Did you know kids are obsessed with these things called musica.ly’s ? Or exercising creativity on vsco ? Or snapchat filters? With moderation, they are not a one way ticket to them becoming prostitutes or having low self-esteems or body image problems. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty shy kids turn out some incredible work where they’re allowed to be creative in a way that matters to them.

10. Kids are still creative but we need to adapt too.

One of the hardest things about growing up was watching friends lose their imaginations. Everything became real and there was no time to imagine things. Kids imagine things all the time but they’re not necessarily going to paint it out, or write it out anymore. It’s in the things they say to you when you’ve nurtured that bond with them to be able to do so.  It’s in the things they post. It’s in the photos they take. It’s less about saying they lack creativity and more about us searching a little deeper to find it.

Goodnight.

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The Power of Food

Feed your kid. Feed them good food. Feed them like Kings and Queens not because you’re spoiling them but because they have a full six hour marathon of a day they are about to run and you know what happens to cars with no fuel? They don’t run (I know, mind blowing right?)

When I was in elementary school we did not have a breakfast program. Then, it emerged and I had a hard time understanding what kind of person would send their kid to school on an empty stomach. I thought, “this breakfast thing is just letting bad parents be lazy and not be parents at all”. This is partially true, there are really bad parents out there and often it’s the ones who don’t think they’re bad at all that are the worst. However there are also really good parents who have, just like everybody else, been given a really crappy hand of cards. They’re shit outta luck. They’re playing a triage scenario to figure out which of their 3 children who they have been left to raise on their own, will be going without breakfast today. We call them bad parents as we scarf down a meal prepared with ingredients from Pete’s Froutique. I don’t want to dwell on the definition of a bad parent though. This isn’t even about the kid who occasionally is just really disorganized and misses breakfast. This isn’t the defiant teenager either. This is about the kid who goes fuel-less daily and only thrives mainly on filthy diesel when the opportunity arises.

Kids who don’t eat aren’t productive. They could be the best behaved kid in the room but they will eventually succumb to their brains being in their stomachs. Lack of concentration and inability to pay attention to their own work will set them behind. As if we need more kids set behind. They are not going to be able to remember information. Since we live in an age where majority of education is ruled by memorization we can see how this becomes a problem. No information retention=poor academic results. We have all heard of the term “hangry” and while we joke about it, I have actually seen this in action in saddest ways possible. “Hangry” is the slang term for being so hungry that you’re angry. It’s used in a jokingly way but the more I’m around the children the more I realize it’s not even a joke at all. In reality, being hungry actually does create aggression issues, and behavioural problems in children. What happens then? You’re the kid who can’t control their temper and nobody wants to be around you. You’re friendless or you’re the kid who’s annoying and disruptive. Being consistently hungry has now opened a pathway for issues even beyond academic struggles. Guess what? Other kids won’t understand that. All they see is a nuisance.

Does this mean you’re responsible for everybody else’s children? No (although “it takes a village” has worked in other cultures beautifully). However, Suzie is telling you that Sally only eats chips for lunch and snack for a reason. She knows she has things that Sally doesn’t have. She’s noticing not every parent is the same.  So rather than talk about the fact that it’s not your problem or concern just remember that not every parent is terrible but whether or not they are, there is only one person who truly suffers at the end of it all. It’s the kid pacing manically in their class because they can’t focus. It’s the kid falling asleep in their chair. These aren’t kids who necessarily need to be locked away. They’re kids who need to be consistently fed and then maybe their day can begin because their tank is full. Schools shouldn’t be responsible for feeding other people’s kids but they do because the effects of not doing it affect the school environment. It affects everybody’s day who has to co-exist with hungry children. Fuel your kids up. Know which kids don’t get fuel and don’t try to ignore it. It’s reality and you cannot be blind to this. Your kids aren’t. Give your kids variety. Give them your best. Somebody in their class isn’t being given their best and they need the support. You’re not their friend who feeds them what they want. You’re the parent who has to give them what they need. If you can make it happen, make it happen. Feed your kids, and then feed some more.

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What is an EA?

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For those of you who are not in the know of the world of Nova Scotia, right now the province is experiencing some academic turmoil and unrest. You see, after a period of bargaining with the provincial government for better working conditions, more support in schools and more power to teachers to teach, a work-to-rule strike was to be enacted for tomorrow (Monday). This means that teachers would only have to work within the means of their job; none of the extras that this profession is so famously known for doing for their students. Work-to-rule means that the safety of students is still on the forefront, though the excessive hours or duties would not happen. After a series of protests and even a walk-out from High School students in support of their teachers the government announced yesterday that they would be shutting down all public schools for the safety of children. This means that, if teachers did only what they were supposed to do in the first place, students would be unsafe. Equally, other supports could not be trusted to keep students safe.

I am that other support. I am an EPA, a 22-year old EPA and while I think I can safely say that going around as a sub from school-to-school I am definitely one of the youngest by at least a decade. You know what? Nobody cares, if I can do the job I’m welcomed with open arms. You see my long-term goal is to be a teacher and ever since making that decision I decided that any job I took I wanted it to better develop me as someone who will be influencing youth. I want to experience the classroom from all angles before I lead one. In my short time I can honestly tell you that I have discovered more angles than the ones I thought existed and everything that is happening now is upsetting me more than I thought it could.

You see, tomorrow morning I will be going into work. I will be going to school along with my coworkers, EPA’s, teachers, secretaries, etc. There will not be any kids. As much as I joke that weekends are awesome and Fridays are a long time coming I can honestly say I want to do my job…I want to be working with my kids. I had Christmas art all ready to go for the Learning Centre kids and they love doing it every day. I see about 15 kids in and out of the Learning Centre, the youngest from Grade Primary all the way to Grade 5. Their academic level isn’t just reserved for the grade they’re in either. In 1 hour I get to make it interesting. We were going to do, “If Santa was stuck on my chimney I would…”. The next day we were planning on doing more Christmas cards for the nursing home-an idea the kids brought  up all by themselves. On the outside, standing in the cafeteria looking after my charges makes my brain rattle but secretly I love being able to interact with the kids in a more laid back setting. Every Tuesday some older girls who are no longer at the school come back and visit at the end of the day. I love that they come to visit. Also on Tuesdays we have Brownies, I am also a volunteer leader and many of the kids who go there go to the school too.  I’m racking my brain because our Random Acts of Kindness Secret Santa challenge was dependent on them being in school to deliver gifts to each other. I have 2 in my car that I need to sneak into classrooms. So I am also trying to figure that one out. On Thursdays I get to go to a different class to help out because the classes I’m normally with has specials that morning. This is the only time I can think of where I can help that class even though the needs are just as important as others. I know other EPA’s do the same; when they can, they help out wherever they can. Fridays are a special day because we go outside at the end of the day with the Learning Centre kids. I play tag with them or we sit on the swings and talk big life goals. At the end of every day I ask them, “What did you learn today?” and I always reiterate “I don’t want to know what you did, I want to know what you learned.” It’s a way to end the day and that gives it closure. We walk them down to the bus at the end of every day and we stand there with them until a duty teacher comes even though we are done work at 3PM. So it could be 3:05 or 3:15 but don’t think we just up and leave when our clock is done.

Now, let’s talk about the kids. I’m lucky to have started working with kids young in really stressful, high-strung environments to more laid back ones. Every time I think I have hit the jackpot with awesome kids another batch continues to surprise me. I love these kids and I know my coworkers do too. Speaking from personal experience, I have been punched, sworn at, kicked, spat on and should really use a FitBit for the number of times a kid is a runner. Some kids don’t care that I’m 5’1 and not the strongest…if they feel like they need to they can hurt you. That’s the physical side of the job but let’s talk emotional. Part of the reasoning behind volunteering for Girl Guides or working at their summer camp is that I want to know who they are as people before they are students.  You know what? Some of that stuff is scary. It’s scary enough that I have thought very deeply about taking kids home or searching, “How old do I have to be to be a foster parent?” on Google. My fellow coworkers have brought costumes in for kids because they know it won’t happen if they don’t. I’ve also seen them bring in treats or do their hair for Crazy Hair Day. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so stressed about this Random Acts of Kindness thing…I know that it might be the most exciting thing a kid experiences this year. You simply cannot tell a teacher or an EPA or anybody who works in school to “block it out”, I think in order for you to be effective you really can’t. It’s the price you pay for excellence.

Okay, now enough of the daily duties…I want to address what I’ve read so many times in articles about this whole issue. I am not an EA…I am an EPA. The “P” in that name is very important. It stands for “Program”. This means that I should be working with one or two kids who are on an IPP or some sort of behavioural program. More often than not, we are working with more than that because the needs of the classroom far exceed the resources available. I am not an Educational Assistant, which would imply I can work with everybody, even though I do. Often times it is by choice that we do because we recognize that between teachers and few EPAs, the class can be crazy. Technically we’re there to ensure that nothing goes awry but in the short span that I’ve been doing this we learn how to teach too. We take groups of kids into the halls to help them catch up on work or help them better understand material. When there is a spare moment we will run down and cut some stuff out or go to other classes. I am the worst at finding an outfit for the day because if I am dressing for the job, I should be wearing full-out exercise gear every day. In a situation where the government seems to understand what we do I was shocked to find out that not only was our moral standards questioned (supposedly we couldn’t be trusted to keep kids safe while WTR was in effect), the very professional name we’ve been given isn’t even correct. At 22, I am so lucky that my coworkers and those school staff who oversee my job see my abilities and all of our abiltities. We might not be teachers but we have enough intuition to know when a child (whether in our attention or not) is about to lose it, or we know how something is going to affect them. Most importantly, we keep all students safe and protected, physically and emotionally, as best we can. We are doing our best with the small amount of pay we receive and treatment we get from students. I have seen EPA’s take on teaching roles (and yes, I am aware that is far from their responsibilities) when substitutes are overwhelmed by the class that day. Above and beyond is our nature.

I realize I could be a waitress earning twice as much in tips, or even working at the mall. The work an EPA does doesn’t even reflect what we get paid. However, we do it. Like any job there are people who are just bad at it or not good. When you’re working with kids, especially high-needs children, there isn’t a lot of room for that. Sucking at your job could get you in a lot of trouble. So, many EPA’s don’t suck at their job. If they do, they don’t last long. A lot of them are just doing the best they can. When the government says that we could not keep our children safe it’s like saying the flight attendants wouldn’t try to keep passengers safe even when the whole plane is going down. They’re our kids too. It’s part of our job to do that, you can count on that.

Stand behind the teachers, no matter how long this takes. Somebody taught the Minister and somebody taught the Premier. Somebody had to teach you. There is a chance now for you to put your education into good use. Teach your children what you can about what is right and what is easy. Don’t hide the truth about things that will affect them. Their teachers love them and we love them too.

Now, excuse me while I go and try and figure out how to solve all of the weeks problems and make kids still feel the Christmas love even though some pretty Grinchy people have come pretty close to stealing it.

What My Mother Taught Me

bad-moms-trailer_article_story_largeNo, don’t get too excited moms. This isn’t a “share this if you love your mom” type of post. I’m angry. I’m angry about what my mother taught me. Quite frankly the things she taught were quite ridiculous and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to teach their children these things. She is not a good example. I can say that now, at the age of 22 I know everything there is to know about being a parent. Legit. Like, I’m really an expert. She was so wrong. So here is the list.

My mother never bought me things I wanted to have just because

This is a horrible thing to do to your child. They should be allowed to have whatever the new trend is be it the Bass Pro hats, $70.00 eyeliner from Sephora, those segway things you stand on and that catch on fire. I remember in elementary school tamagoutches were this really big deal. And you know what??? They were. EVERY kid in Westmount Charter owned one. Everyone…except for me. They were these toys that had characters on them and you had to feed them and look after them. They made blurting noises and could die if you weren’t glued to them 24/7. You could connect them with others and “visit” each others houses. They were totally the newest social fad especially considering iPhones hadn’t been invented yet. It was horrible. She should have bought me one. Because…for a total of 24 hours I was so disgusted by her choice. For 24 hours I was so unhappy-and that, my friends is simply not okay.

I had to write cards by hand

Whenever I got anything, whether it be a gift, a nice card, a tissue (okay…slight exaggeration), I had to write a “Thank You” card. Not an email, not a text message. Sometimes there was even an accompanying phone call. I groaned and complained about it as I should. Receiving something shouldn’t be so complicated. Children should just receive things and show the bare minimum amount of gratitude with a quick, rehearsed or forced “What do you say?” “Thank you” prior to hastily taking hold of said item and forgetting the amount of effort it might’ve taken to get it. Because, after all, children should stay young forever and have the willy-nilly that childhood brings. For this, I will never forgive her. Writing thank you cards took away my childhood.

My mother invested in experiences I could experience by myself

How awful it is to send an 11-year old on a plane to BC by herself, to be greeted by her cousins at the airport. Terrible! She should’ve accompanied me onto the airplane first and then met me in BC for the hand-off to the cousins. Or even better, she should’ve flown with me. A scared 11-year old in an airport is a horrible experience and it scarred me for life. In fact, it scarred me so much that I learned how much I liked being independent and felt confident in myself because I had just accomplished a very rare, big thing. Any parent knows…independence is only allowed if controlled and manipulated so this is a big no-no. I knew my mother was in the wrong.

What else did she do horribly wrong? I went on my first regatta away from home, with my team and coaches…at the age of 12. A 9 hour road trip away! She should have jumbled her work schedule, planned and organized a family vacation during the regatta at the same location and driven up with me. She shouldn’t have given me my own money to buy groceries, no way. I was too irresponsible and should have had it handed to one of the older athletes to do the shopping for me. Knowing how to buy my own food for a competition was too huge of a risk. What if I had bought something unhealthy? I surely would have thrown up all over the race course and my chances of being the next 12-year old Olympian would have so gone down the drain!

I was scared of my mother

Okay mom, don’t freak out at this one because I couldn’t really think of a catchier headline. The thing is, if I was going to get in trouble I was absolutely terrified. My mother and I had so many differences that we argued a lot. We still do. This shouldn’t be allowed. Daughters and sons should feel like their mother is their best friend who they can go take selfies with and buy bathing suits with. God forbid they want to save their bra shopping for their friends, or share their experiences with people outside the mom zone. Trusting other adults in their lives shouldn’t be allowed because Mom is God. Mom should never get mad at children or be angry with them. They are there to be icons of love and endless laundry folding.

My mother forced me to talk about my problems 

This meant she literally left me alone in the doctor’s office and I had to explain what was wrong with me or why I wasn’t feeling good. In the hospital I had to be the one who talked about my symptoms. It was terrible. I actually had to know what I was talking about. Children shouldn’t have to carry this weight on their shoulders, this pain they feel is already too much and definitely the parent can totally relay what their kid is feeling. I don’t know why my mother put me through that because all that really ended up coming about that was I learned not to fake injuries or illness and I knew about what was normal for my body and what wasn’t.

She went to my concerts and activities but I still had to be the one doing all the talking

I had to introduce her to my coaches and teachers. I had to email or phone my coaches or teachers if I was having trouble. This is so embarrassing. A parent’s responsibility is to pave the way for their children, not turn them into the machines. I didn’t correct a division test once because I got a really bad mark on it and you know what she made me do? Go to the teacher the next morning and explain myself. ALL BY MYSELF. It was the teacher’s fault I didn’t learn it properly, therefore my mother should have barked at the teacher herself. The nerve of her! What she should have done is gone in and wasted 15 minutes of my teacher’s time talking about how I don’t like to underachieve and this mark doesn’t reflect what she thinks I should get. This is so much better because a child who is actually failing or struggling should definitely have their interview time pushed back because I am not happy with how my teacher grades. But noooo…she just had to tell me that I need to work harder. I was working harder!!! You know what this does to a kid? It teaches them that no matter how hard you work you can still fail in the eyes of others but work hard anyways. I think the term is perseverance…and that is definitely a big no-no in this modern parenting age.

I was never allowed to be late for things but could stay later

We had a rule, if you’re not 20 minutes early you’re late. It drove me crazy because especially at parties I was always the first one there. I hated it. I hated having to entertain myself for those 20 minutes. I don’t know why mother would make me be early considering nearly all my friends showed up on time or late. This was a terrible routine because even now in adulthood, I always show up to stuff early. It makes me look too keen and too much like I care about what I’m doing. I don’t like it. Now, she always let me stay later…whether to help out or just because she valued the fact that not everything needs to run on schedule. Good lord, imagine that? Not everything has to run on schedule!

My mother encouraged me to go above and beyond

Okay, so I wasn’t allowed tamagoutches but I was allowed to bake cakes for people’s birthdays and spent hours doing fondant designs for them. If I wanted to run a booth for elephant rescue she always bought me the stuff I needed for that. This is a great example of spoiling a child. Children who express interest in passions that go beyond their own world should simply not be allowed to do something about it. It will make the family look eccentric and progressive. Not to mention bring shame to the family’s name. However, if a child wants to go shopping for her 6th wardrobe she should definitely be allowed because what she wears is a reflection on the family.

Even as a toddler I had to do chores

This one I think everyone can agree with. Children should not do chores, especially toddlers. My mother forced me to carry my bag pack that had my diapers in it. THEN she forced me to put dishes in the dishwasher. THEN as I got older I had to my own laundry. THEN I had to pay for my cellphone bill at 14 years old. THEN I had to make decisions about school.  This is cruelty. Because of this I moved away after graduating and got a job. This is not a good thing. Children should be living with their parents until they feel ready to take on the world.

My mother and I don’t see eye-to-eye most of the time. There are rare moments that we have where we actually do get along really well but most of the time we like what we like. As someone who works with kids in professional and recreational settings, I can tell you that my mother set me up for failure because I now have expectations of kids that hardly any of them are equipped to meet. This is terrible. Rather than dumbing down the material or meeting them at their lowest, I, by instinct, expect a lot from them and push them really hard. This isn’t just academics but character too. If I give something to a kid and they don’t say “thank you” back, I take it away from them. If they don’t answer me in a full sentence I repeat my question. It’s amazing what happens…the kids struggle and struggle and then eventually rise because the bar does not lower. Clearly I’m doing something wrong because I see more and more parents who get upset by this mentality. Ironically, some things never change because it’s usually the parents who are upset beyond 24 hours and as well all know, kids shouldn’t be allowed to be upset.

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Giphted Isn’t Better, It’s Different.

Giphted Dethpig.

“Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times.”

I read this earlier somewhere and I couldn’t disagree more. However I religiously structure my thoughts by a 24-hour “think-about-it” period where I can let my thoughts materialize before it comes out incredibly ugly. Yet, even with 24+ hours I still managed to find this statement incredibly ridiculous. Tonight though, I have decided that it’s okay to dissect and “unwrap” the inaccuracies of this inspirational quote.

This evening I had the pleasure of working with a very special student. Each week he comes in reluctantly, sets his water bottle down and proceeds to negotiate every ounce of work he has to do while glaring at the clock hoping somehow the hour-long session passes. Who hasn’t worked with a kid like this? Tonight however was different. You see normally his quirky jokes keeps the table laughing (yes, I know, I am an enabler and should nip this poor work ethic in the bud) but tonight had a very different, somber feeling. In the span of about 5 minutes I cracked open more about this kid than I ever learned about him in the last 6 months of working with him: He was being bullied and enough was enough; he is moving schools. What started out as a light-hearted comment about being chased around turned quite dark as the table (2 other students) realized this has been happening ever since he started school and the routine of being chased every lunch was just the beginning of the taunting. Afterward one student looked at me, quite frazzled about the conversation we had just been involved in and said, “What did he do to make them do all of that to him?”. This kid has quirks no doubt but he is genuinely a really good kid and I am glad that the other students picked up on this. He was being bullied because he has an intelligence that no other kid could comprehend. It’s an intelligence you can see when you look at assessments but not necessarily work.

When I was in kindergarten I had a wonderful teacher, Mme. Marilyn, who was the kindest, most gentle person and I will remember her forever. Back in the day when kindergarten was only half-a-day and only half of that day was spent learning while the other half was spent learning life skills (like dreaming, sharing, building) she turned a classroom into a wonder-world where you wanted to listen to her and be there. Every single kid wanted to be there. I am talking about public school here. Each morning we made the alphabet train where we walked around the class as a train and made the letter noises. We had circle time where we talked about how to share and why we share. We quickly traced a letter and made a pattern. Then we played. Her centres were out of this world; I have yet to meet a kindergarten teacher who levels up to her centres. She had the big blocks centre where you built big fortresses and you know what? They were allowed to fall down and make noise. She had a painting station (yes, every day) where you painted whatever you wanted. The best station was her make-believe station where she dedicated each week to a type of scenario: some weeks it was a full on hospital complete with face masks and a bed. Other weeks it was a shop or kitchen or spaceship. Some weeks it turned into just a plain old bedroom. So, boys and girls alike, learned they could be doctors, business owners, stay-at-home parents or astronauts. I loved this teacher because what she taught me was that my ability to make a pattern did not hold priority over my ability to believe I could be a female astronaut beside my kindergarten beau, Robbie.

She was the one. She was the teacher who realized I had to learn to differently to thrive and for 2 years I underwent tests to determine if I could get into the school for gifted learners. I did and in grade 3, after putting up with too much bullying, I permanently moved to my Hogwarts, Westmount Charter School. It was a charter school, not private, so I consider myself very fortunate and am grateful that it was even an option.

I am no expert when it comes to discussing the actual signs of a child who may be gifted or the physiology behind it. I only know what I see and what I am. However this student who had the courage to talk to his table about his bad luck struck a chord with me from day one: He had to be gifted, there was no way he didn’t have some ounce of giftedness in him. This is where people get confused because they assume, if he were gifted, why would he be doing the program that I work at? In true form, being gifted does not mean you have a gift. In fact, it can mean the quite opposite.

Well here it goes:

Children who are gifted can be D students. They can literally flatline all throughout their education and continue to be that way into adulthood. All of us had IPP’s that got reviewed each year. Not until I started working in schools did I realize that IPP’s were not actually across-the-school strategies but reserved for certain kids only. My god what my brain would have done if I knew my IPP was placed in the same folder as the kid who ran into walls.

Gifted children think differently. I am not talking about multiple intelligences or “are you a visual or kinetic learner?” type stuff (although that is a small aspect). I am talking about what they SEE and FEEL. While a typical child sees a visibly correct answer on a test, a gifted child sees more than what’s offered and what they know is usually right. The fact that none of their answers are options bothers them.

Gifted children can be behavioural issues. Ask my parents how many times I went from the most well-written scholar in a room to an 11-year old having a 3-year old tantrum. It’s emotional intelligence that sets giftedness apart from just being smart. Westmount had so many characters like that; kids who cried because their project didn’t look the way they wanted it to; kids who had meltdowns because their grades dropped the slightest; kids who didn’t care at all about paper grades but could recite movies and books word-for-word off by heart. While most schools would chalk that up to “anxiety” or even depression or stress it was simply a characteristic of being gifted. You didn’t miss tests or skip projects but you were taught how to process what you were feeling and how to channel that energy into your work.

Teachers who can teach gifted children usually have psychology degrees because giftedness is something that needs to be learned about not just through experience. There’s things going on in there that experience cannot teach you. Like I said, I am gifted and even I couldn’t tell you why I think or how I think the way I do but boy am I glad somebody did know.

Gifted children have maturity levels beyond their years. This is a very big problem in public school. The best solution that can be offered is that they skip grades and academically this is amazing but socially it is not. I do not know what it’s like being a younger kid in a much older grade in public school but at Westmount I was allowed to be in a grade 9 french class as a grade 6 but they all were gifted too so it all made sense to them. Not all kids in public school have that social grace.

Gifted can mean being an over-achiever or under-achiever or both. The kids who get all A’s in school are not necessarily gifted, it just means they know the material. The gifted children who get A’s in school usually do so by a process of extreme work ethic and literal hyper focus on one aspect at a time. You have to pry them away from their work and they might experience an episode of emotion because they so badly want to know it all perfectly. I was both. I fixated on small imperfections of my work that I was good at: primarily every subject except Math. Night upon night was filled with perfecting projects and assignments. At this school, you hardly saw posters or dioramas. There were much bigger expectations on how you showed your work. For example in Sport Medicine in grade 7 we chose to present our findings on “the bends” by directing, filming and producing a 20-minute long Grey’s Anatomy episode. We achieved a 98% and 2% was lost because one of the teachers thought there wasn’t enough “sound”. Math I avoided like the Black Plague and I was so embarrassed that I wasn’t the “textbook gifted” child who received A’s in everything. In grade 9 math I had a 68%. While I can attribute some of that to just giving up I also attribute it to the fact that that year was the first year I was taught by someone who did not have training or education in gifted education.

This is why I do not believe in the quote above. Because, if every child was gifted then Donald Trump would not have been elected as President.  If every child was gifted then the whole education system would have to have a re-haul because it would fail all of them. Sometimes I wonder how many kids are left rotting in their classrooms because they don’t have a Mme. Marilyn who can sense thought differently. I wonder how many of those kids could have been the ones to know the answer to solving the poverty crisis or how to cure cancer. How many of those kids believe they are stupid because they do not fit in? How many of those kids are told to just write what they’ve been told and not question it? How many of those kids are aware that if they are gifted, the very success of their life will depend on their teachers to notice their giftedness?

Although I paint Westmount as being the Hogwarts school for gifted children, it didn’t come without its  social problems too but they were different social problems. While in public school you might get beat up because you are classified weird or out-spoken or the kid who likes Pokemon, in gifted school you got demoted socially because you got a 70% on a test instead of the preferred, 100% and all the kids liked Pokemon. Gifted kids had the definition of “gifted” wrong too. It’s complicated, I get it.

Being told you’re gifted is not necessarily something to brag about. It can be a burden because few actually understand how emotionally taxing it is. In fact it can be detrimental if not handled in the right way. It’s a one-way ticket to weirdom where you’re either embraced or told you’re too much. You know people will think you’re super smart when actually being gifted has little to do with a grade on paper and more to do with how you perceive the world.When even the smallest aspect of your life is thrown off kilter, any ounce of that “paper intelligence” can be thrown out the window. You’ll be a D student until your home life improves. You’ll be a D student until you stop being bullied. You’ll be a D student until someone realizes you cannot think one way. The students I’ve worked with and seen that have so many characteristics of giftedness are the weirdos and the ones on IEPs. They’re the ones who can speak 3 languages fluently yet can’t make a pattern out of red and blue blocks. They’re the ones who have tantrums on the floor but look at you straight in the eye and talk about the newest X-men movie. They’re 5 years old.

For the sake of the little boy who sat heartbroken at my table today because his quirky intelligence was seen as a peculiarity that must be tormented rather than embraced, I hope teachers learn at least a little bit about what it truly means to be gifted and work with gifted students. Gifted kids aren’t going to unwrap their gifts. It’s not even going to be wrapped. It will appear in your class from day 1 and you are either going to like the gift or not know what to do with it. Until there are publicly funded schools nation-wide that specialize in special education like this, some of the greatest minds could be sitting bored and rudely in the backs of classrooms.

 

PS. The title of my post Giphted Dethpig stems from a school-wide bracelet contest we had. Apparently in our school of 1 000 we all thought it was hilarious that “Giphted” spelled backwards was “Dethpig”. In fact our Principal found it perhaps the most funny and even made it her license plate. The second-place phrase that almost made it was, “I’m not weird. I’m gifted.”

 

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