Posts Tagged ‘Alberta Education’


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Azeem and child discussing diversity.  Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

It was my summer of Writerific, I was 12 years old and with other young writers discovering our voices, strengthening our ability to tell stories…and yes part of that was moving into areas that some would deem controversial. It was also the summer I first picked up A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It was the summer as well, with Robin Hood, and this great exchange between Azeem, a Moor from the Holy Land who stood with Robin Hood, and a child, who simply asks about that which she had never seen. It is a simple scene, some may never remember it, yet it is one that teaches so much about dignity and respect in a world of belonging. It teaches, curiosity is never wrong. Conversation is never wrong. Oh, and when one has a question, ask as politely as you can to the one you have the question of.

This is our mission this year (and every year) to raise the level of discourse and dignity within the community of super heroes my son is apart of. The most offensive thing (well maybe not the most, but on the royally ticking off scale) is being out and about, and a parent shuffling their child by saying don’t stare. Let your kid come up and chat with my son, he will be his loving self… Oh and adults…you have questions…don’t bypass my son and speak to us, start talking to him first.

Other pro-tips for the professional and non-professional out there to bring better dignity to our world:

  1. It is “What’s wrong with him?” rather it is, what does he use a wheel chair? What does that gesture mean? or like the child, why did God sculpt him this way?
  2. Anyone with a pulse knows (or should by now) that the R-word is as atrocious as any racial slur…regardless of how you try to use it and needs to cease. The challenge is many do not understand the root of “handicap”. Much legislation and language needs to be updated to speak of accessibility or universal design/barrier free instead of this word. Historically it was the term for those with disabilities, as they were on the lower socio-economic spectrum (poverty class) and would come cap in hand for alms. So much like in the Franciscan tradition when the term Mendicant was tossed at those monastics as a slur, so handicaps root is such…it means beggar, less than, outcast. Words matter in reclaiming dignity and belonging.
  3. Ableism is what happens without dignity (at its worst is Eugenics). The plastic straw ban is ableist, and how the religious and spiritual jumped on board to support shows their lack of understanding around the issue (please see other posts on this topic)… not only the life giving of the plastic straw for some with disabilities, but when the United Church Observer online finally after months of debating their editors changes from “plastic straws evil” to “plastic straws should be available for anyone via a fee” finally a strong stance, but one that does not understand the socio-economic history of persons with disabilities, and goes back to a misreading of the gospel from a spectrum of theology that sees less than, not full belonging (we shall see if they print my challenge to them this coming September).
  4. Diapers!!! ARGH!!! The most indignity we present to persons who are differently abled. Unless you are a newborn or a toddler, it s not a diaper or a nappy. They are undergarments that happen to have incontinence protection. Underwear. (YES CBE AND MEDICAL COMMUNITY AND ALBERTA GOVERNMENT LOOKING AT YOU!!!), the simple things make life livable, do you go around telling people oh I am going to wipe my butt now? Or hey I just left skid marks in my boxers? NO. Why assume we can treat someone else that way.
  5. Grief. Yes it is a scary world for those our society deems “typical”. We like to code to prove cognition and whether or not someone comprehends “death and grieving” for if they qualify for “counselling”. Let’s keep it real (again Alberta Education and Alberta Health looking at you, but also the Church)… at any level any child or person knows when someone was in their life and gone. They cycle through missing them, whether or not they have the ability to vocalize or communicate it in such a way that we understand. It is not on them to enter our world to heal, it is on us as their neighbour to enter their world  This is where the church women’s group from the movie Lars and the Real Girl got it right, it is about just simply being, and yes sometimes it is in the silence.
  6. Do not live in the grief/shame or inflict it upon us. That is to the world in general, and to the family unit. We are given a narrative of what a child’s life is to be. Then when something changes that narrative we are put in this place where if we choose to move out of grief/shame or the “you’re a hero for doing this” or the “it takes a special kind of person” narrative then we are ungrateful. NO! We choose to stand in the beauty of the life before us. Yes, we truly believe this is part of the rainbow of life, the beautiful image of the Holy Mystery. Everyone is who they are meant to be, and they will achieve vocational life and wholeness because we come around as community in love and belonging. The grief/shame is perpetuated when our world stops at only accessibility or inclusion.
  7. yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

    1. -James 4:14 (English Standard Version)
    2. As the words of the brother of Jesus- James, Bishop of Jerusalem, the man who was because of the love of his Mother, Mary of Nazareth, says it directly. In our world we too often let the labels, the coding, the diagnosis become the prognosis or script for life. It is time to shatter the glass ceiling for everyone in our world, and to simply know that each and everyone of us belongs. That, and the life that appears and is lived is shaped within the community from those who are blood and chosen family to broader neighbours. Are we willing to live life with out barriers?
  8. Oh, and if we are not a service being paid for out of pocket by the government or ourselves, it is not something “FOR”… if you are an elective community group (community association, church, sports leagues, etc), you are doing things “with” the person. For they are a part of the community, and as such are a full member, who like any member just needs different things to belong. Hell, even if there is a pay… the activities better be WITH, as everyone’s communication (voice however it is found) and life has value and worth…as such, deserves dignity. (Special shout out to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for using “with” language in your justice documents for persons with disabilities, and acknowledging the poverty and socio-economic disparity that exists in the community)

These are but a few ways to show love to your neighbour, and yourself. These are but a few ways to understand the answer to the child’s question to Azeem.

Better yet, look at yourself in the mirror. And simply let the inner-child ask you the question:

Did God paint you?

How does your inner Azeem answer?

Now be with your world, as the child, and as the answer.


On June 7, 2018 I wrote to Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, as noted in this almost 2 month old post here.

I finally received a response from the Minister today. It was a lovely and long outlined letter. I must state unlike letters from previous PC Education Ministers it stayed on target for the issue brought to his attention.

The just is this, in Alberta Education’s opinion resources and monies have been provided and it is something to be dealt with via principal, superintendent and trustee (which has already been brought up multiple times) for they are the ones to determine if any grief support response is necessary for students and staff in schools when a child passes.

Yes, the letter affirmed what I already knew to be true. The unfortunate piece is that the Alberta Government had an opportunity to address a systematic discrimination issue and–

CHOSE NOT TO.

Much like my son’s school principal CHOOSES not to use the resources at his disposal to care for his staff and students.

I encourage all parents of children who are (Complex Learning, Special Needs, Super Heroes, Differently Abled, Kids with Disabilities-how they choose to identify) Super Hero– to take up the fight. Do not let them medically-cognitively segregate us anymore. That is how the voice is lost. Do not let the system deem who is of better worth or worse off…

THESE ARE OUR KIDS AND ONE VOICE MUST RING OUT IN THEIR SUPPORT!

 


What follows below is the latest letter I have written to Hon. David Eggen, the Minister of Education in Alberta. It is in regards to the casting aside of compassion towards the disabilities community within the education system. It is about families that mourn, staff that mourn, and the inability of the system to step outside of their own prejudices to respond as they would to any school community in mourning. It is solution focused. I encourage all to write the Hon. Eggen (education.minister@gov.ab.ca ) to call out and begin to work to eliminate the last acceptable passive/active hate within our educational community. My words follow, mine only, but I am sure others have their own stories, solutions (or best practices that may exist that are working for true belonging) to share with a rather responsive education minister, unlike previous years and administrations where I have heard nothing. I will keep you dear reader, up to date as possible on this struggle for belonging that should not need to be, because it is 2018.

Today’s e-mail:

Dear Hon. Eggen,

I write you today as a weary parent. Weary of the battle for my child, and his education community of supports to receive equity in care and compassion by the educational system.  I was encouraged to write you once more due to the systematic Ableism (used to be called Eugenics, that is persons with disabilities and those in their lives had less value in inherent personhood, and we should just accept their demise). This came about, as there is a practice when a child with disabilities passes away within the education system that appropriate grief and mental health supports are not brought in for the staff and the other children. The response given is that “they do not comprehend” for the child, and to the staff “it is part of the job, they die” (probably nicer words used for staff, but having served in various non-profits I can see it being that blunt). The attitude is that death is to be expected, and not taken in as deeply as when a “typical child” passes away.

What is missed is that children no matter what professionals say are empathetic, and feel deeper than we ever will. They are more accepting of belonging, and know long before we do when their friend’s spot in the class will be empty. I cannot count the number of friends my son has lost in his short 6 years (grade 1 to 6) within the public-school system in Calgary, but I know the depth of his sorrow, he has soaked through many shirts of mine with his tears, and beaten on my chest in his anger.

The standard practice we have long fought against is the form letter. We worked with the local school to at least personalize the letter to share whom the child was in community, and supposed to receive a phone call if they are in the classroom from the principal (though it can appear favouritism by family on whom is contacted is played). But it leaves the families receiving notification, and then with very little extra-funding helping their child wrestle through loss and complexity, knowing  the staff are wrestling through their own grief with little administrative support, plus wrestling through our own fear and loss within the community of medically complex children.

I write with a four-fold practice for Alberta Education to remedy ableism that has been accepted down the line:

1)      Training and equipping of administration, trustees and school staff outside of those providing services (and those who provide) to ensure the erasure of passive ableism, and generationally held eugenic beliefs towards the community. We have practice for this with TRC and GSA’s. Time to break the last hate group down and expose it.

2)      The families of the student who passes needs to be provided (and have readily available within schools, like medical clinics) resources for the loss. I do not care what anyone says, it is not normal for a child to pre-decease their parent.

3)      When a child passes, staff need to be cared for. This is Principals, Maintenance, Administration, Teaching, Aides and volunteers within the school. It is not acceptable to say death distance is professionalism, when you build a community of belonging- the loss is felt and help needs to be brought in within best practice principles of debrief within the first 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and follow up protocols for staff that continue to struggle.

4)      Information for grief support to the families of friends needs to be distributed with notification, and I would say the school needs to host a form of celebration for the community member, so the children know that their friend belonged in the world and is not some coded statistic. Also along with this celebration, the same debrief needs to be used to provide grief support for the children, no matter how complex their communication or medical conditions are. They are aware of loss.

Why is this important? We are a scrapper family when it comes to rights, I am on multiple records for many battles to ensure full dignity and human rights for all citizens. To have to fight within a system to prove my son is cognitive enough so he can “earn” a spot to be on a wait-list for grief support if his behaviours around grieving become unmanageable is inhumane. It says to the family, the community, and most importantly to my son: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN ENOUGH for us to care about.

That is quite frankly wrong, and disregards so much of our human, charter and constitutional rights. Many good changes are happening to put students and frontline staff first within our education system of Alberta finally. I implore you to remember all children and staff/volunteers deserve the same care when a classmate/student passes, regardless of what society and professionals deem. All staff in the system also deserve the same level of care. Public Education is community, and as community we learn, grow and celebrate together, we also mourn together. Let us remember that.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ty Ragan

To close, my Facebook post from late June 6, 2018 when I was informed by an Ableist I had no right to anger at another white envelope:

Parents imagine at least once a month being informed that your child has had a friend pass away in their class. Then imagine there being no grief supports sent in for the kids or staff for coping, and the only communications is a letter home… when you ask why I am angry about people not seeing my boy as fully person–this is his reality. He cries on me. Screams why God takes his friends. Talks about how his buddy’s mummas, daddy,s and sibs can keep going…the emptiness. Our children belong, the world says they don’t because the world doesn’t want to have to explain how to heal from a once full chair, now being empty. The world, doesn’t know what to do with a child who asks where’s my buddy? Why do all my friends die on me. Instead they tell me that I have to prove my son comprehends life and death, and then they will think of aid. Is this the world we want? Where compassion and healing is an earned right? So yes I am angry. And yes we need to discuss Ableism (what used to be called Eugenics) openly, and call it out. To my religious friends, if you are not then you have failed. To my other friends, I am tired of a world that says earn your spot. I am tired of a world that says a child’s tears are okay because they don’t understand. I am tired of a world that tells those that walk with them, to accept it as part of the job. NO! We grieve, as we live, in community. I am weary, but I will be damned if I will accept this world as it is. Our children deserve better

 


Susan’s finger tapped the front page of the paper. A clear helmet cam shot of the potato sack covered head and the headline clear as day “Bionic is Back!” I admit I dropped the secondary name to go for the more Stan Lee style flare, but a by-line with a freelance cheque goes nicely for a start to the sabbatical. A fuzzier picture pulled from someone’s twitter feed of me blasting back off into the air.

“I thought you were on sabbatical?” Not sure if she was implying the super hero shenanigans or from the journalist perspective. Her dirty blonde hair was highlighted by white hairs, some from being a mother, some from being a caregiver to her aging parents in the first steps of dementia, but mostly she credits to me and the vocations that chose me.

The paper was on the kitchen table, kids were already on their buses to school (both our children were differently-abled, which sadly meant in Alberta Education and the Calgary Board of Education we could not choose our schools, they were designated for them. Upside great support in the school, downside because of ablest parents out there bitching had to pay for busing because it wasn’t fair that parents that chose to send their kids to school not their designated had to pay—end soapbox).  Took a sip of my morning coffee. Her green eyes would be flaming if she had magic to go with her medium-ship. Yes my beautiful wife can easily feel and converse with the energies of the other realms. She was the silent third partner in John and I’s duo.

Which with where the weird adventures Gerklyn then Merlin took us through, was a good thing to have someone like her on our side. It was one of the earliest adventures that gave her the permanent blue flame hair streak down the middle. “You said sabbatical to sort things out, I mean since your supposed death there has been no clear `evidence’ if you will that the Knight was active again.” A loud snore from Pen on the counter followed by two short puffs of smoke rings.

Another sip, she is geared up this morning and not much I can say about having saved a life is going to save my hide from a night on the sofa. But truly, a Killer Face resurfacing is a sign of something. Not sure how it fits in with the maybe spirit of John that visited me in the graveyard.  “I am sorting things out.” Wonder if I should tell her about John, it would peak her curiosity, just like in the old days, and especially since his final exorcism and death she is still shocked he has not come to say hi, not even to our twin daughters that share their mother’s gifting.

“By playing underwear outside your clothes again? You said full well after nearly dying to end the darkness, that was it. A few favours for John and that’s…” She pauses, damn it I can’t hide much in my cow eyes from my soul mate, my lightning rod, and after John’s name tumbled from her lips bingo. “that’s what this is about, putting John to rest finally?”

I gulp what’s left of my coffee. She is going to kill me. “Partly. Putting him to rest, and finally discovering what wielding this magic realm here and now is all about.”

“Fuck you Rick Saturn, you are not allowed to have a mid-life crisis.” Mid-life crisis? This isn’t about a run of the mill mid-life crisis? It is about finding out if my friend is finally at peace at the very least, or at best… “Ah me Ricky, don’t go after the big R on this one.”  But she doesn’t get it. If it was her I would. “We know how purgatory works, and that with his death all that was tormenting him here was finally sheared away.”

“Yada yada yada. So, he is the pure energy-cosmic being as part of the Cosmos, I get it babe. Trust me, enough of my mates have gone to the great beyond and not returned. But there is precedence for the return, and what if?” I leave it dangling, what more can I say.  So many have appeared dead to the world yet returned. So if my friend died due to being possessed/controlled by an alien force masquerading as a demi-god dubbed Thor…then why could he not have survived and just need his corporeal self pulled back together?

Susan’s green flame eyes pierce into mine. One of those rare moments in our lives when I know she is staring deeply into the depths of my soul. She finishes her porridge, and her coffee. Picks up the paper, and walks over to me.

Silence is deafening.

She kisses the top of my head and drops the paper in front of me.

“If you truly believe you can bring him back, then quit pissing about with this bull shit.”

She kisses me again on the cheek and leaves for the day, she is going to be an art therapy volunteer at the kids’ school. She leaves me in the kitchen of our bungalow as she heads out for the day.  Time for a refill on both porridge and coffee. The front page does haunt me as I sit back down. Just the coincidence of starting a sabbatical to discover myself a new, and one of the first villains I faced is there trying to be a ne’er do well.

Cell vibrating. Click open. “Hello?”

“Rick, we need to talk about John. Come to the ashram.” Zed Said.

To Be Continued…