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09/23/2018 - Week #3 

I have been thinking about family a lot this week. My Mom and Dad are coming up to their 91st and 90th birthdays, respectively, my sister and her husband are visiting from Tasmania, my brother and his wife have called to check in on my progress in my new role, and my sons are quite happily settled into their 5th and 3rd years at university.

At school, I was asked this week why we couldn’t move “that student” into another classroom. According to the child who asked, the other student was annoying and disruptive, and that student’s outbursts sometimes scared the other children. I didn’t mind being asked this question - it came from an honest perspective, from a very bright young student. It made sense to this little person that if something bothered you, you got rid of it.

I asked that child to consider how she might feel if put into the other person’s shoes. Think about it - I was asking her to think about empathy, which is a difficult concept, even for adults. She said she’d understand completely - if she was being annoying, then she would understand if she were moved out. Perhaps that is true. In the thick of it, though, if she were the person being isolated, I wonder, would she feel the same?

I then said that moving people out was not what we did. I didn’t talk about our Board’s Mission Statement, which specifically refers to inclusion. Inclusion is a very grand idea, with major repercussions to the school community. It sounds good, but to make it work, there have to be some very challenging concepts in place - patience, for instance, and empathy, resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, forgiveness and love.

As a teacher, I usually had children with special needs - both visible and invisible - in my classes. Those children were my greatest triumph as a teacher - I learned more from them in terms of developing classroom management strategies and differentiating instruction than with any others. There was also, for me, an unexpected flip side. There were often children in my classes who did not represent ideal behaviour - they were often quite cruel and aggressive towards their peers. Here’s the thing, though - many of those students were completely different around the children with special needs. They demonstrated, for whatever reason, a kinder, more giving side that I had not previously seen. It made me step back and think, “There is something wonderful there. I can be more patient. I can be more resourceful.”

I didn’t say any of that to the student who had asked me about removing a classmate. I said, instead, that moving people out was not what we did. I said that we were a family, and families don’t give up on one another.

I think of my family. If I removed all of the members of my family who sometimes make mistakes or errors in judgement, who are sometimes cruel or judgemental, who disagree and state unwanted opinions, or who occasionally go a little crazy, there’d be no one left but the dog, and sometimes he rolls in dead things.

We are a family at St. Mary’s - warts and all. It is easy to like (and be kind to) the people who are just like us. It is far more challenging to actively seek out the best qualities of those who are not like us.

This past week was truly about family. The Grades 7s and 8s walked over to Vanier, for a Faith Retreat led by Pat Bullock, the retired chaplain from St. Theresa’s High School, in Midland. He’s known within the Board for being the real deal - he walks the talk and brings joy to his faith. He engaged the students in a wide variety of activities, all designed to have them think about their faith, trusting one another and being trustworthy. Here are what some students said that they learned (and these were not the answers I would have expected from the students I interviewed): “Think twice.”  “If you think something isn’t that bad in your mind, think again, because it could be disrespectful.” “Trust in people.” “Have faith in someone.” “I never knew how much people should trust one another.” “Try new things.” “Don’t take things for granted.” “Put your trust in God.” “Believe in God.” Lofty lessons, indeed.

Nine Intermediate students headed down to Toronto with Mrs. Montgomery for the annual WE Day experience, bringing back a wealth of ideas centered around Social Justice.

Mrs. Feetham’s class put together recipes for kindness, and allowed us to share in the experience, when Mrs. Parent and I were invited to read their recipes. We also, along with Ms. Fry and Mrs. Murray, were invited into Mrs. Moneypenny’s class to go head-to-head with the multiplication ninjas. Mrs. Parent and I got to work with the Kindergarten students during the New Family Meet and Greet, and that is always a joy. Mrs. Hrycay set up a lovely Cosy Corner in her classroom, something that many of the teachers have found our children need - just a place to calm themselves. Mrs. Kemsley’s class went above and beyond, with help from Mrs. Bienick’s class and under the supervision of Mrs. Carruthers, in making our Courtyard beautiful again. The 3s and 7s rounded off the week with a trip to the GNE, which I was told by one student, was all about learning stuff (he was quite disappointed about this at the time). Mr. Forte set up new materials on the yard, and met with his team to prepare intramurals. Our Grade 8s met to discuss their leadership within the school this year, and their questions and suggestions were both inspirational and welcome.

This is our St. Mary’s family - our parents and our staff members and our students - and we are all different, brought together for a short span of time. We are all teaching each other those lovely qualities -  patience, empathy, resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, forgiveness and love. How lucky we are to have this opportunity.

Please let me share the prayer that Luca has been reading each morning this week:

Let us pray together,

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

Almighty God,

We give you St. Mary’s.

We give you all of the adults who come here out of joy and love, including staff, volunteers, noon hour supervisors and our families.

We give you all of the children who study, play, and dream here.

We are in your loving hands.

We pray that our school will always be a place of great discovery, adventure and creativity.

May it be a place where we love to learn and where we learn to love - a place where everyone is respected and all are deeply valued.

May we remember that this day is special, and will never come again.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, as we join in the words that Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in Heaven,

Hallowed be thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth,

As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.


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