One of my best friends has Autism. When we met in 1988, he was in a segregated classroom with small chunks of time spent in mainstream classes. Over the past 30 years, as our friendship has grown, I have witnessed a variety of reactions from the community choosing to include or exclude Steven.
Let me start by sharing how we met. In 1988, I was in grade 8 at Dr. Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam. Like many high schools, my friends and I had claimed ‘our table’ in the cafeteria, and day in and day out we sat in the same space. The first table passed the lunch line was reserved for kids with special needs. As I made my way from the cafeteria line to ‘my table’, Steven shouted out “Hey – what’s your name? Come sit with me!” In that moment, I made one of the best decisions I have ever made and Continue reading
Life can be defined by moments. Sometimes we plan for moments that matter. Maybe it’s the year long planning for a perfect wedding, or the nine month wait to celebrate a new life. There are certain moments we anticipate and weigh with significance: first steps, the first day of school, first job, first kiss, graduation, marriage, family or career events. These are the moments that we expect to shape our lives. And of course, they do. But not all of life’s biggest moments are scripted. Sometimes, the emotion of an unexpected moment takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Sometimes, life happens beyond our control, and our lives Continue reading
“Mrs. Blakeway… my dad says it’s weird that you are a woman and that you are the principal”. My heart sunk for this little grade one girl – not because her father’s comment had impact on me, but because he thought it was ok to say this to his daughter.
Growing up, I never felt disadvantaged for being female. I can’t say that I thought the boys had it any easier, and I didn’t notice any stereotypical expectations. My mother was a strong independent single mom so we didn’t really grow up observing ‘pink jobs’ or ‘blue jobs’. My mom did it all. Besides the occasional frustration that it wasn’t safe to run through trails alone, I never noticed a gender imbalance amongst my peers. After university, I worked in Human Resources, and then as a teacher and a school counsellor. Again, these positions were often filled by women and I was oblivious to any gender discrepancies.
I have to admit, I loved high school the first time round, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I had a fantastic time yesterday when I returned to grade 12! A few months ago, one of our VP’s, Karl Lindgren-Streicher suggested we participate in the Shadow A Student Challenge. A few tweets later, he had convinced a number of secondary admin around our district to register with http://shadowastudent.org/ and commit to one day each of evaluating school through the lens of a student. The idea was simple: we would each follow a student for a day, get some insight about our schools from a student perspective and then meet as a team to reflect and learn. Although I was eager to participate, I had no idea just how fun my day would be! Continue reading
I’m not one for a tattoo. But… if I could have a tattoo to wear at school, it may just say this:
Connection over Compliance
As a teacher, I began each class finding out about my students. We formed a community and developed a class contract based on our values and shared upon agreement. I remember one class that really didn’t want homework on weekends. They suggested I have marking free weekends and they have homework free weekends. It spoke to us as a group so it became part of our class contract. We worked on connections, and finding out what we could agree to – rather than beginning with rules that I expected them to comply to.
I have a pretty awesome mom. I spent the first 20 years of life pretending to be wildly independent, forming my own identity. I spent the next 20 years slowly realizing we have a bit in common. I’ve spent the last three years openly admitting I am what I like to call “a toned down version of my mother.” For those that know my mom, you will likely agree: there isn’t a person out there with wilder ideas, a more creative spirit or a bigger heart.
Growing up I had no idea what I wanted to be. I just knew what I did not want to be. My mom was an elementary school principal, and since I was on my own quest of independence, I knew I would be anything but that. At first I was convinced I would be an accountant. I loved math so much that Continue reading
It’s Friday evening, and I’m settling into Thanksgiving weekend enjoying a few quiet moments while my children and husband are out running an errand. As I savour this rare burst of silence, I find myself aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I smile as I notice that teachers from our school are sharing an uplifting video clip with one another…
A clip from Ellen that reminds us that there is more good in this world than bad. A timely clip after a week of natural and man-made disasters. Continue reading