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Suffer the Little Children

Hi Adria, 

Sorry I’ve been out of touch this week.  I’m happy to hear that you are back in the swing of things and that your meeting was upbeat and fruitful and motivating!

This has been a week of meetings for me also: Whole Staff Meeting, Individual Campus Meeting, Department Heads Meeting, and Board Meeting - with similar Agendas for each.  So by the time I attended The Department Heads Meeting, and received a package of handouts about two inches high, most of which I already had, I was ready to scream.  I guess with four administrators (leading a group of fifteen Department Heads) each has to have his/her own agenda – figuratively and literally.  Most of the business at these meetings covers Ministry and School Board initiatives.  Ironically, the real work of teaching the curriculum seems secondary.  I don’t think that in all my years of teaching, any administrator has ever asked me – so what novel are you doing this year? How’s it going? Have you ever read…? Those in leadership positions have so little to offer. 

Why is this?

It seems that, on the surface anyway, the families you deal with have not been touched by the recession.  The houses all sound right out of Homes and Gardens.  Such very privileged lives (or so it seems) your little girls lead. 

Speaking of houses, one of my students, a smart girl (chronic absenteeism) came in this week looking very upset.  Now at my school that simply puts us on guard, because many of our students play the game well when they know they are in trouble. She proceeds to tell me that her Grandmother is in the hospital and she has to be there and continues to say that her father has left the family. Without his money, she says, they cannot pay the mortgage and the bank has reclaimed the house.  So technically, she and her mother have no place to live.  

I am in the middle of the day’s lesson when all this is going on. My first instinct is not to believe her.  Most of these students have been in many schools throughout the system. Therefore, they have had counselling from numerous Guidance Counsellors, have had tons of advice and help from most principals and vice-principals they have come in contact with, as well, they have access to Child and Youth Care Workers and Social Workers.  

I was about to tell her (as one of my colleagues says) my job is to teach. Go and speak with someone else (meaning any one of the above) about your problems.  But the girl in front of me is sweating, although I have to say she is dressed more for clubbing than for school: heavy gold jewellery, midriff showing with stone in her navel, long false nails, hair quite beautifully dyed and face very well made up.  I’m thinking how does one who is so distressed find time to get all dolled up like this?  But then, who am I to judge?  Maybe she needs this exterior façade.  I have to believe.  And so I sign all the permission forms for her to go and speak with those who can help.  She returns near the end of class. She has been advised to take co-op and earn two fast credits and the Social Worker will help with her housing crisis.  She doesn’t want to drop my class  ...  and thank you, Miss. Thanks. 

And so another week ends at Franklin School and I can’t help believing that life is truly stranger than fiction.  Oh yeah!  I take my time walking home on Friday, stopping in at the ROM to buy a birthday gift for a friend.  Then I walk down Philosopher’s Walk to Hoskins, and find a little bit of peace and sanity in a mad, mad, world. 

Take care,

Hopeful Sarah

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