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Turning tables…

April 28, 2010

“Pippi,” said the teacher impatiently, “why aren’t you drawing on the piece of paper???”

“I filled it up long ago…

I couldn’t get my horse on that tiny scrap of paper,” said Pippi…

“Right now I’m drawing his front legs, but when I get to the tail I’ll probably have to go out into the hallway…”

The teacher thought hard for a moment…

“Why don’t we sing a little song instead,” she suggested…

All the children stood up next to their desks—

all except Pippi, who was still lying on the floor…

“Go ahead and sing,” she said…

“I’ll just rest for a while…

All this learning can be too much for even the strongest person…”

— in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, Illustrated by Lauren Child

When I tell people that I have suffered from A.D.D. they roll their eyes,

which is rather rude…

I’ve heard people say,

You’re the calmest person I’ve ever met,

and you get so much done…

Well you certainly cannot judge a book by its cover,

especially in this day and age…

Those people have not seen me write report cards,

or clean my house,

or knit five sweaters at once while I’m sewing quilts and flamenco skirts and writing stories and making buffalo jerky and watching hockey games and throwing pots and making lunches and folding laundry and stuffing birds…

I have the attention span of a flea,

but I get the job done…

More than one job by the end of the process,

and the finished products are worth waiting for,

if I may say so myself…

And I may because this is MY story…

It’s official…

I’ve resigned myself from the PhD plan…

The paper work has been signed off…

It has been approved…

I had to ask myself a series of questions before I made my final decision…

I said,

Self,

Do you want to read philosophy books???

Do you want to quote from philosophers???

Are you interested in conventional philosophical conversations???

Do you want to read academic journals???

Do you want to attend academic conferences or any conference at all for that matter???

Do you want to write in APA format???

Do you want a committee to supervise you???

Do you want to be unambivalent and unambiguous???

Do you want to submit your work???

Basically I came up with a steady stream of NO’s…

I felt like I was having a conversation with a two year old,

and it was fabulous,

because the old me,

the one I was before I’d completely altered my DNA,

would have felt NO,

but said YES…

And before you can really say YES,

you have to be able to say NO

Thank god I’m forty-two,

and not six,

or the teacher may have labeled me,

with Oppositional Defiance Disorder…

Instead she offered her unconditional support,

and said,

I do wish you all the best with your evolving life-research and living inquiry…

That’s the kind of endorsement you need and want from your teacher,

regardless of whether you’re in Kindergarten,

or working at the doctoral level…

You can’t hold a bird back when it wants to fly to the light…

I remember receiving a student into my grade one class after the Christmas holidays…

A little girl…

The report card that I read as my introduction to her was full of self-hatred,

projected onto a child…

It was written by her teacher who had also passed the test to be appointed by the board,

as an administrator…

I have never read such a spiteful document in all of my life as a teacher…

It should not have seen the light of day,

or been signed off by a principal…

As I write this it feels like the elephant in the room is sitting on my chest,

and the only way to move it along is to cry,

hard,

and keep writing…

Based on her classroom behaviour,

and performance,

this girl had been referred to the community mental health team and was on a new prescription of medication to treat her A.D.D.,

and suppress her symptoms,

before Christmas…

The prescribing doctor came to observe her in my classroom after she’d had a few weeks to settle in…

After his visit he told me over the phone,

This is a completely different child than the one who had been referred to me…

And she is a completely different person in your classroom…

This is the first case I’ve seen where I would say that the prescribed medication has been a success…

I didn’t know then what I know now,

but the mother hit the nail on the head during our first Three-Way conference,

where she and her child came to discuss growth,

areas for further development,

and a child determined learning goal…

She said,

The way you are with my child is completely different from anything that I have ever seen…

You speak with her as if she is an equal…

Like she has a right to be part of this conversation,

and her own learning process…

When she asks to go to the bathroom and takes the time she needs,

you don’t interrogate her,

and assume the worst…

You ask her why she needed that time,

and you believe what she says…

My friend told me to bring my child to this school…

I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do…

I have to drive a long way to get here,

and it is really out of my way…

I don’t think she needs the medication any more,

and I don’t want her to be on it…

It changes who she is…

That year I had some old lace curtains in my Imagination Centre…

AKA the House Centre…

Old lace rescued from someone who was intent on throwing it all away…

Every single day for the rest of that school year,

January, February, March, April, May, and June,

this little girl found new ways to turn those squares of old lace into the most beautiful dresses,

for herself,

and her new friends…

This was before the age of digital cameras,

and laptops…

It was when I wrote report cards by hand,

with a Pilot fineliner…

But it was less than ten years ago,

and before I had the focus to start documenting classroom magic…

When I applied for the doctoral program a professor told me that there was concern about my ability,

to meet deadlines…

I found that interesting because I got my application in early,

and after I’d completed the required coursework,

and graduated from the program,

I was browsing through the bookstore

and found sections of my first and only late paper,

in the concerned professor’s latest book…

I wasn’t surprised to notice that despite all of his education,

and credentials,

he’d missed the whole point of the exercise,

the inquiry,

and my core message…

I’m nearly finished the first series golf cardigan I started during game one with The Canucks versus the L.A. Kings…

During game six Little Gem said,

Mama, I hope that you’re not worried because the Canucks are going to win this game,

which is good,

because I’m tired of them playing against the Kings…

On Saturday,

when the Canucks meet the Blackhawks in Chicago,

I’m going to be starting a corseted tank top,

as part of a sweater set…

Knitted in Purelife Organic Cotton…

dyed with Logwood

And I won't let you choke on the noose around your neck...

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