Just a girl…

“And don’t forget… I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Notting Hill

Stepping down from my “education in Ontario is a mess” ranting soapbox for this post to acknowledge something that changed my life completely 34 years ago today.

November 11, 1981 was the day my sweetie asked me out on our first date.

We’d met that summer but I was on my way back to university. In November, I left university and headed back to Calgary. One of my first stops was the firm where I’d worked that summer, hoping to get work. Well, that and a certain young man had transferred back to the Calgary office of that same firm after working in Banff.

On my way in, I picked up a hand-made coffee mug as a gift for that certain young man, not knowing that he was not a coffee drinker. I was unsuccessful finding work again with that firm and Tim was out at a meeting. I left the mug on his desk with a note and left the office.

I stood outside the office doors and had a dilemma. He was expected shortly so there was a chance we’d meet on his way in, but was he the type to take the stairs or the elevator? I didn’t know him well, but I knew him well enough to know he was the type to take the stairs. Lucky guess. We met on the stairs and he asked me out for the following Friday.

What a funny date it was. Neither of us had a car, so we walked to the movie – it was a very long walk but even then, we were both careful with money. We saw the movie Arthur. We laughed. I think he might have even held my hand. On our walk home, we cut through a school yard and we climbed a tree. As we sat in the tree, Tim told me a few things about himself: he was going to get married at 26 (he was 22 at the time), buy a house two years later, and he had no plans to have children. He had it all figured out.

I had plans for two days ahead – watching old movies with my mom.

We were married in 1983 (he was 23); we bought our first house when he was 26 and well about those kids, two words: Kyle and Laura.

We had no clue really where we were going and we had no clue how to get there.

Yet somehow we’ve done it. We’re here. We’re together.

We might just go climb a tree on Friday. He’ll hold the ladder. I’ll give him a hand up.



Where does all this leave us?

Right now, in Ontario, there are over 16,000 young people with autism awaiting services.

Right now, the government has authorized a pay cut to more than 15,000 education workers in Ontario for taking job action. Job action – they have not stopped doing their jobs; they are still fulfilling their duties as prescribed in their last negotiated contract (which ended August 31, 2014). They are continuing to fulfill their duties even without a new contract, even though they, along with all education workers in Ontario, are being maligned in the media.

There are a number of other groups who represent education workers (who are not teachers) also without contracts. This includes my own independent union with members who are Early Childhood Educators and teaching assistants. We work with many of those 16,000 young people awaiting services. For those students, we are their only service. And their future is being risked by the fact that the government is continuing to drag their feet and not provide enough in-school support or social services outside of the school day.

I cannot help but feel that the government is ignoring the most vulnerable here – children. I know that adult services are also lacking. There are not enough facilities for adults with disabilities to live in, there are not enough specialized health care workers – the list goes on and on.

The headlines today, though, point out how much the government is turning its back on the future of our province – our young people. Children in kindergarten need space and guidance to grow – not one educator in a room with 35 children. Children with disabilities and mental health issues and behavioural concerns deserve an education that is not shoe horned in after all the governmental mistakes are paid off.

I need to know that the government still believes in the right of every child to have an education that meets their needs. That every child with autism deserves the services that will allow them to tap into their strengths and find strategies to deal with their greatest areas of need.

I most definitely do not know that to be true today.

The government has accused education workers of using children as pawns: let’s face it – the government are Masters at the game of public perception chess and we are all being rooked.