I am a life learning Mama and this page is where I like to share things that resonate with me in some way along this wonderful life journey we are on ♥

Sunday, 22 February 2015

We need to be who we are...

Every time I read this story I feel emotional. It resonates with me so much. I was that child and I too wish someone had intervened. I am so glad that I have been able to intervene for my children and let them fly with the things they want to fly with. Let them follow their passions and be in their "element". That for me is what school crushed. I am sorry if some people think that I go on about this too much but I feel so passionate about it! We all have our gifts, likes, passions, interests or whatever else you wish to call them. Maybe if schools focussed on allowing children to follow them we would have a lot less disaffected kids with low self esteems coming out of the education system. I do not make this stuff up. It is real for many, many children and I know lots of these kids and their families and hear their frustrations and hurt. I only have to read the huge number of stories in support groups to do with children diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, Gifted, Dyslexia (the list goes on!) to know that school for many is just not working. Diagnosis or not many of these children are struggling in the system and feeling like failures when maybe all they need is to be allowed to shine in whatever it is that lights their fire. Many of them would not need these lables either. They just are who they are and if allowed to be just that there often are no problems. My son was one of these kids. In so much trouble at school. Meeting after meeting, specialist after specialist to "fix him" when he was never broken. Just misunderstood and caged. Unschooling for him was a lifeline. He got to follow his passion which was computers and programming. At the age of 19 he is in his final year of a software engineering degree and happy. School did not get him there. He got himself there.....  

Gillian was only eight years old, but her future was already at risk.  Her schoolwork was a disaster, at least as far as her teachers were concerned.  She turned in assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly.  Not only that, she was a disruption to the entire class, one minute fidgeting noisily, the next staring out of the window, forcing the teacher to stop the class to pull Gillian’s attention back, and the next doing something to disturb the other children around her.  Gillian wasn’t particularly concerned about any of this – she was used to being corrected by authority figures and didn’t really see herself as a difficult child – but the school was very concerned.  This came to a head when the school wrote to her parents.
The school thought Gillian had a learning disorder of some sort and that it might be more appropriate for her to be in a school for children with special needs.  All of this took place in the 1930’s.  I think now they’d say she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they’d put her on Ritalin or something similar.  But the ADHD epidemic hand’t been invented at the time.  It wasn’t an available condition.  People didn’t know they could have that and had to get by without it.
Gillian’s parents received the letter from the school with great concern and sprang to action.  Gillian’s mother put her daughter in her best dress and shoes, tied her hair in ponytails, and took her to a psychologist for assessment, fearing the worst.
Gillian told me that she remembers being invited into a large oak-panelled room with leather-bound books on the shelves.  Standing in the room next to a large desk was an imposing man in a tweed jacket.  He took Gillian to the far end of the room and sat her down on a huge leather sofa.  Gillian’s feet didn’t quite touch the floor, and the setting made her wary.  Nervous about the impression she would make, she sat on her hands so that she wouldn’t fidget.
The psychologist went back to this desk, and for the next twenty minutes, he asked Gillian’s mother about the difficulties Gillian was having at school and the problems the school said she was causing.  While he didn’t direct any of his questions at Gillian, he watched her carefully the entire time.  This made Gillian extremely uneasy and confused.  Even at this tender age, she knew that this man would have a significant role in her life.  She knew what it meant to attend a “special school”, and she didn’t want anything to do with that.  She genuinely didn’t feel that she had any real problems, but everyone else seemed to believe that she did.  Given the way her mother answered the questions, it was possible that even she felt this way.
Maybe, Gillian thought, they were right.
Eventually, Gillian’s mother and the psychologist stopped talking.  The man rose from his desk, walked to the sofa, and sat next to the little girl.
“Gillian, you’ve been very patient, and I thank you for that”, he said.  “But I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient for a little longer.  I need to speak to your mother privately now.  We’re going to go out of the room for a few minutes.  Don’t worry; we won’t be very long”.
Gillian nodded apprehensively, and the two adults left her sitting there on her own.  But as he was leaving the room, the psychologist leaned across his desk and turned on the radio.
As soon as they were in the corridor outside the room, the doctor said to Gillian’s mother, “Just stand here for a moment, and watch what she does”.  There was a window into the room, and they stood to one side of it, where Gillian couldn’t see them.  Nearly immediately, Gillian was on her feet, moving around the room to the music.  The two adults stood watching quietly for a few minutes, transfixed by the girl’s grace.  Anyone would have noticed there was something natural – even primal – about Gillian’s movements.  Just as they would have surely caught the expression of utter pleasure on her face.
At last, the psychologist turned to Gillian’s mother and said, “You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick.  She’s a dancer.  Take her to a dance school”.
I asked Gillian what happened then.  She said her mother did exactly what the psychologist suggested.  “I can’t tell you how wonderful it was”, she told me.  “I walked into this room, and it was full of people like me.  People who couldn’t sit still.  People who had to move to think“.
She started going to the dance school every week, and she practiced at home every day.  Eventually, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School in London, and they accepted her.  She went on to join the Royal Ballet Company itself, becoming a soloist and performing all over the world.  When that part of her career ended, she formed her own musical theatre company and produced a series of highly successful shows in London and New York.  Eventually, she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and created with him some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
Little Gillian, the girl with the high-risk future, became known to the world as Gillian Lynne, one of the most accomplished choreographers of our time, someone who has brought pleasure to millions and earned millions of dollars.  This happened because someone looked deep into her eyes – someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs.
Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.  But Gillian wasn’t a problem child.  She didn’t need to go away to a special school.
She just needed to be who she really was.

From the book “The Element – How finding your passion changes everything” by Ken Robinson

1 comment: