“Chantal, if you are comfortable sharing this story again, I think that many of the children would really appreciate that”, my principal gently urged me after an intense day of professional development. I was working as an Educational Assistant at the time and I had just shared with my staff Team a story of when I was a teenager. My team members appeared astonished and overall intrigued that I was once such a struggling teenager who acted out in direct behavioural opposition to the system.
The truth is, that despite my steady straight A grades, I struggled a lot in middle school. My parents would be called in to the school for meetings monthly, and I was suspended a lot. During those middle school years, I had just moved to the city from a childhood of country living. I was struggling to connect with my true identity and those years were overwhelming for me.
Somehow, me and a friend of mine concocted an idea to graffiti the girls’ bathroom. We did eventually follow through and act this out. We bought some spray paint and during school hours, we went into the bathroom and graffitied the walls. Eventually, of course we got busted. I felt that our vice principal at the time truly had a soft spot for me and he did present us with what I felt was a veryfair punishment. He did not suspend me again, or even expel me. Under the supervision of the janitor, we had to sand and repaint the entire girls’ bathroom. I knew that the consequence was fair and I respected him. We went to work with zero opposition.
To be honest, I felt bad for the extra expense we had caused the school and the extra work we had caused for the janitor. The janitor was a man of very few words and as he helped us get the job done, I felt that he never once passed judgement on us. He gained a lot of respect from me during that ordeal.
And I had the utmost respect for the vice principal, Mr. Dagenais. I remember his gentle and understanding eyes. He was a truly impactful Gentleman.
I know that I gave some teachers a really hard time throughout those years. I am sure it irritated some of them to no end that I was so oppositional, yet I continued to effortlessly achieve straight A’s. It isn’t much of a wonder though how I ended up in a profession of teaching children and counselling families. Throughout my profession as an Educatinal Assistant, then a teacher, a special needs worker and a Child Protection worker for Children’s Aid, I always held a soft spot for those kids that seemed to be struggling most and crying out behaviourally. I held a soft spot for them, just as someone once did for me.