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Standing ground…

January 14, 2010

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British Columbia Ministry of Health

I’ve been called stubborn…

I don’t really know what that means,

as I’ve never used that word,

to describe another person,

but I knew at the time,

I was under the influence,

of projection…

What someone else believed,

to be my truth,

didn’t ring true,

for me…

And it seemed to be,

the pot,

calling the kettle,


When I worked for,

the Canadian Mental Health Association,

taking participants on camping trips,

in Supernatural British Columbia,

at the age of twenty,

I was described as,

having a seemingly unflappable nature…

I don’t know if that is true either,

because there are a list of things,

that can get my knickers,

in a pretty tight twist,

and that list is specific,

to adult perceptions,

of children…

When I was twenty-one,

I worked as a Canada Customs Officer,

at the Peace Arch border crossing…

They wanted me to make,

a career out of it,

because of how I could see profiles…

Profiles like,

undeclared Smith and Wesson revolvers,

trying to make their way,

up to Alaska…

For two years,

I worked with a student,

diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome…

Prader-Willi is associated with low IQ scores,

and delayed,

intellectual development…

This six year old girl refused,

to label colours and shapes,


They simply,

didn’t interest her…

What held,

her attention,

were relationships…

She could identify,

the family constellation—

parents and siblings,

of every single one,

of her twenty-two classmates…

She knew which teachers were,

in the school,

by the cars she could see,

in the parking lot…

And she could name,

the adults,

she was connected to,

by the sound,

of their footsteps,


down the hall…

The district speech and language pathologist wanted to document,

according to the tests,

she wheeled around,

in her suitcase,

full of standards,

that this student was operating,

at the intellectual level,

of a two year old…

Based on my own experiences,

with two year olds,

I’m not convinced,

we have any idea,

what the intellectual level,

of a two year old,

actually is,

as every two year old,

that I have ever met,

has been one of a kind,

by universal design…

At a School Based Team meeting,

I outlined the observations,

of the educational assistant,

who worked with this girl,

in plain language…

The response I heard was,

We can’t report that…

WE haven’t seen,

or heard her,

do THOSE things…

From my point of view,

I don’t see colours,

around people,

but I don’t need to see them,

for myself,

to know,

that other people do…

By now,

even Science knows,

that the observer,

has a significant effect,

on the observed…

I know that beliefs don’t account,

for much,

in the dominant discourse,

but as a teacher,

I believe,

I have an ethical obligation,

to report student strengths,

even if the official descriptors,

for reporting,

don’t offer up,

the language,

or recognition,

of what a student knows,

and can do…

So in this case,

as in so many others,

I made up,

my own language,

and insisted,

on reporting it,

for this student’s records…

And I refused,

to sign off,

on language,

that limited her capacity,

based on tests,

in box sets…

The speech and language pathologist said,

You need,

to meet me,

half way…

I said,

WHEN you can tell me,

where half way is,

I will try,

to meet you there…

Right now,

I’m not even sure,

that you and I are operating,

in the same sphere,

of understanding…

By the end of grade two,

which would be considered significantly,

behind schedule,

this little girl knew her colours,

inside and out,

with precision…

When I asked the educational assistant,

who worked her magic,

all over our classroom,

how she had gotten,

the necessary message,


she said,


I asked,


She said,


The government prescribes learning outcomes,

for mandated curriculum,

but no one can control,

how teachers get to,

every student will

This is where the beauty,

of professional creativity,

and imaginative education,

steps in,

and takes over…

And when children are participating,

and co-creating worlds,

at a level of complexity,

and connectedness,

that is unrecognized by authority,

sensitive and caring educators,

will do everything,

in their right mind,

to support student success,

within the system…

Even if that means,

showing a little lace…

Girl I know you very well, see you growing every day…


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