From My Office Wall

September 27, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire

These are only some of the pictures that I used to decorate my principal's office walls with. I had this set of pictures, all 8 x 10s mounted in one way or another and I kept them up in each office for a variety of reasons. The main reason was I liked these people and I wanted to keep them with me, the second reason I would often have folks in my office with problems and these people on the wall would give me a hand to help the troubled individuals out. The image of a person tells so much and when you tell someone that their problems are difficult but not insurmountable and this person handled it, so can they, there was some a definite level of assistance.

The girl in the picture above was one of those classic cases where we in education had blundered. She was my student in grade eight and several years earlier some teacher had referred her to a speech therapist and the minor anomaly in her pronunciation of some sounds was assessed as a treatable problem. The resource room teacher teacher went at the problem with zeal scheduling regular sessions with her and coming up with drills for her and by the time she got to my grade eight class she refused to answer or speak out in class at all. Up until the assessment she had been progressing through school normally with a minor difficulty in reading. After the assessment she had made no progress on standardised tests and was unable to do any school work at her appropriate age and grade level. Without feedback and being about verify one's thoughts learning is simply not possible.

I kept Donald Redstone's picture on my wall in nearly every office in which I worked. Though Donald was a fine guy the reason I kept that picture with me was to make sure I did not do that again.

It was one of those fall days, the high school students were a bit rowdy in the hallway during recess and only moments remained before the bell. In a moment of inspiration I shouted out that everyone was to make one lap around the school. The challenge was taken up and my mistake soon was apparent. I had failed to say which way. Donald and another grade eleven student Francine Fouchet met head at a corner and the shiner and swelling were the result. I dodged the bullet, because the swelling subsided and Donald returned to his normal appearance but both of them could have been much more seriously hurt and a lesson was learned by me.
  I took this picture just before this young woman's graduation ceremony I was asked by the grads to take a portrait of everyone that year and when it came to this young woman I engaged her in some simple conversation as I set up the shot and attempted to get the most favourable view of her. I asked her what she was going to do now that she was graduating because most other students had given some indication of what they were doing in the fall but this person had not given any of us a hint.

She spoke in the most articulate and definitive manner I could ever recall hearing from her as she told me that she was leaving town and would never come back, she was so glad to reached this point in her life and she was starting over. A new place new reputation and she would not look back on this place. Unusual for a graduate to speak this way but she meant it and contrasted so much with the great picture.
The charm and self assurance of this grade eight Assiniboine girl impressed me when I took the picture and as one of my wall people she would go on to encourage many others who would see the future in this girl's eyes.   A grade six girl, daughter of a chief and gifted as an outstanding Saulteaux dancer. She had worn this outfit to school at the request of her teacher who thought so much of the girl and would often touch her arm to show her approval. After the girl ran away from school one day a family and teacher meeting revealed that the girl was perceiving this friendly gesture as a blow. The parents and I were surprised but the teacher was dumbfounded by the girl's reaction.
This young woman was in grade twelve and wanted to enter a contest which needed some pictures of her. I agreed to do the pictures with her mother and boyfriend present.

For all her life she was a super star, an exceptional athlete and one of the most popular girls in her school. She was well liked by everyone because she generously like everybody. As the team captain of the provincial class volleyball team she was the courage her team mates needed and when everyone was beat she was the one to cheer everyone up.

But here is the clincher, if I had not told you all that about her just looking at her picture would you not have guessed that that is the kind of person she was?
  I have to tell you this was a remarkable girl. She was the sister of a young woman who was so outgoing and so popular that this girl always thought of herself as really plain and ordinary. But then she realised it was up to her to make her way in the world and so she was able to handle her situation.

I realise that this may seem trivial but so many teenage girls are overwhelmed by the images and expectations of this world and don't know how to cope. The suffer, and make life miserable for themselves, they diet, they lack confidence and all seem to have serious problems of self esteem.

This girl was my star she was able to see herself as ordinary and that was good enough for her.
This little girl was in grade three or four at the time this picture was taken and her enthusiasm for the activity and the genuine nature seen in this picture made her a winner.

School wasn't easy for her but she worked hard and had some outstanding teachers who saw what you see in this picture and gave her all the help she needed. Is there any doubt about her making the best of things in life?
  A Saulteux mother and an English father put this girl in limbo at times. The all European mining community in which she lived treated her badly and her parents sent her to live with an aunt on a Manitoba reserve. There she was treated with disdain as she was definitely not fitting in there. So it was that she came to live in Watson Lake, a multicultural and truly integrated society. There, she was happy, and accepted.
There were more pictures in this collection but they are on my office wall still, I just can't part with them. With the others there are the pictures of my three sons and a team picture with one of my best friends.

"Benny the Bear" is seen here on the banks of the Laird River. At the time he was a Sergeant with the RCMP and had served in Ottawa as a politician and celebrity body guard, commanded highway patrol and was a SWAT team leader. To me and my boys he was a fellow hockey coach, the guy who took us fishing and when things went bad, the guy who was there to fix things.

Having left the RCMP in due course he went into business and continues to ram through life with both passion, control and far more energy then is needed to get the job done.