Posted by: darcymullin | May 25, 2011

A Story of Hope

One of my biggest frustrations as an educator is our system of labelling students.  Defining students with a letter or a number minimizes them as people, but that is a discussion for another day.  This is a story of hope.  This is a post about one of the “labelled” students – lets call him D, since that is his “category”.  To those not familiar with that category, our student has FASD and this is a story of growth and hope.

Our school has worked with D for the last two years.  It has been challenging, but the growth we have seen this year has been so rewarding.  At the beginning of this year D (for reasons and circumstances beyond his control) was dealing with a lot of emotional trauma and not surprisingly, this trauma manifested itself in very disruptive and at times dangerous behaviour.  He had a very hard time controlling his emotions and was often aggressive, in fact his mood swings were not in any way predictable.  Rather than being punitive with this student and suspending him, removing him from class, isolating him we decided to go another way.  We surrounded him with support. 

Every teacher and staff member in our school played a role.  We understood his needs and realized more than anything, this boy and his family (which have been wonderful supporters of D and the school) needed compassion.  A couple of months ago, I would worry all the time.  What if I was out of the building, if there was a Teacher on Call in, an argument on the soccer field, Field Trips?  How would D respond? 

All of our energy and support for this student was focused on behaviour and very little on academics.  We wanted him in class and being successful, but we realized that success for him was different and not like the success of other students.  Needless to say, we have all invested in D.  Did we get frustrated – YES!  Was there times it would have been easier to send him home – YES!  Would it have been easier to pass the buck to another agency – YES!  Did we do that?  No.  We knew that collectively he was worth the time, the energy and the aggravation.  (PS – every student that walks through the door is worth it).

What I am so excited about today, is the growth Bruce (yes he is more than a label) has shown this year.  He has shown that he is not a number or a category.  He is a student and a learner.  In order to help him be successful he regularly gets a movement break and he  often comes down and visit and talk, maybe shoot a few hoops, but recently he has been refusing them because he doesn’t want to miss anything in class.  If I drop in to see him, he kinda blows me off – too busy working.  I have to be honest…I have never been so happy to be ignored by a student.

I am really proud of Bruce’s growth.  We as a community of educators and learners, know that our work with him is just beginning and that every day can and will bring new challenges to the table, but the rewards of watching kids learn and grow is well worth the effort.

If I have learned one thing it is this.  When a community of dedicated educators work together with moral purpose anything is possible.  That is worth celebrating.

Note: for privacy reasons, I have not used the student’s real name.



  1. Thanks for sharing this post. It brings back some memories. Kudos to the entire staff at the school for keeping faith. Perseverance is needed by educators as well as students. I wish Bruce well.

  2. It is wonderful to see you celebrating this success with ‘Bruce’. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thank you for this marvelous post; a critical reminder of why we are in education. Sometimes we have to take a big eraser and rub out the label in order to free ourselves to work with kids of all abilities. This kind of perseverance takes commitment and courage, but the rewards for the learner, the learner’s family, and for the educators who have nurtured this young man are priceless. We’re also currently working with a young man with special needs, and are helping him develop an eportfolio of his learning. Kudos to his Educational Assistant for her compassion. This young boy has told her he has never worked so hard in his life, and in the photos archiving evidence of his learning, he is all smiles.

  4. Richard, Claire, Tamara – thank you for your kind words. There are days that it is a struggle, no doubt, but when things are not going well, we try and think of how far he has come. Tamara, it must be isnpiring to see your student empowered by his learning.

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