Bell Let’s Talk Day – My Personal Story

This day has come and gone a few times now since I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression.  Yet, I did not share my story or voice my opinions when the event arrived.  I think I’ve posted on Facebook, sent a tweet or two, but I have not gone into my journey.  The simple man’s journey through depression, and it’s link to my ADHD.  I may not be Clara Hughes, or Michael Landsburg, but I do share in the fact I have gone down the troubled road of depression.

In an article I wrote last year I had stated that my ADHD had created moments of depression and anxiety that I did not want to delve.  However, it is time to bring to light some of the hardships of my journey through depression.  Why now? To be honest, I have people who I know listen now.  But also, this is part of the journey.  I’ve come to a place in my healing that I can share what depression was for me.

Growing up I was extremely active and very hyper, and yet not diagnosed with ADHD I’ll note.  However, in my teen years I started to experience massive mood swings and a gnawing feeling that something was wrong.  I didn’t want to hang with friends, I didn’t care about school, I started to fall into what I can only describe as a pit of sadness.  I didn’t know what was wrong, but I also never explored it as I knew that I had to “suck it up” it’s not ok for a man to be sad, “get a grip”.  Looking back I was bullied a lot in school.  My self-esteem was low, even though I had so much going for me.  I did not even connect or think about depression, even with thoughts of suicide entering my head over and over.

Heading into my adult years I found some solace in University.  I found friends that I could connect better with, I enjoyed school a lot more as I was challenged, and I found that people were more accepting of the person I knew I was.  But, I was still always frustrated, tired, and sad.  I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Worse yet, I couldn’t talk about it.  To this day I have people who were close to me that I drove away with my fears, anxieties, and sadness; my depression.  There were so many days, where I would lie crying silently in my bed in University because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my room for class.  I lost marks, lost confidence in cooperative education employers, because I couldn’t face my depression or choose to acknowledge it.  I was a man, I wasn’t supposed to feel like this.  I had so many things going for me, I shouldn’t feel this way.

As life continued into my early career in finance I started to finally see the issue, but I never fully dug into my problems.  I looked into medication, I looked into how to fix depression, but I never talked about it.  I never explored my soul to find my true self, to figure out how to love myself.  At this time it was sort of ok to take depression meds, men never talk about there feelings, but pills are ok.  In the age of the little blue pill, of course it’s ok for men to just take meds to solve  a problem.  But, that was a band-aid fix.  And over time band-aids wear away.

I spun out of control before my ADHD diagnoses.  I made terrible life choices, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function in society.  I was a mess.  It was at that point I even started to research the best way to take my own life.  Even at that point, the lowest of the abyss, my girlfriend, now wife, made the decision to stick by my side.  Without her, I don’t think I’d be here today to tell my story.  It was because of her commitment to me I decided to seek answers.  I decided I don’t care if I’m a man or not, I need to talk.  I need to share my pain so I can figure out how to deal with it.  In that time I was diagnosed with ADHD, which determined some of the causes to my depression, but also I finally took the first step on the path towards understanding, accepting, and working with my depression.

Moving forward I lost many jobs, because of ADHD and depression, most I quit because I felt worthless and was not contributing, some I was let go because my employers did not understand depression.  I was asked point blank one day, after I had come back from a few days off where I stated it was for depression, “What is depression? Like I don’t get it, how can you feel that way? How can you not be happy with a job like this?”.  I shared with them part of how I felt.  I felt lost, trapped, unable to move and breath.  I felt that no matter what I did I felt useless and alone.  None of this was true of course, but it was how I felt.  The response “That doesn’t make sense, I still don’t get it…”.  Here is my take, if you haven’t been down that road you won’t get it.  It’s like the beauty of Paris, you can’t describe it unless you’ve been there.  What needs to happen is instead of saying “I don’t get it” we need to start saying, “That seems hard and I’m here to help if you need it”.  We need to start showing our support for those that fall down, because without support it’s so hard, sometimes impossible, to get back up.  We lose so many good people each year to depression. This is our time to start talking and telling people that it’s ok to talk.  It’s ok to come to us with their problems, fears, and sadness.  We want to listen.  We want you to tell us your story.  I want you to tell your story.  I want you to get to this point where you feel like your story matters and needs to be heard.  No you may not be famous, have 10k+ twitter followers and show up on national news, but you do matter.

If you’re a man that has sat in silence because “it’s not manly to cry”, it’s your time to talk.  It’s time to shun that stereotype.  If you’re a woman who’s been told “you’re too emotional” it’s your time to talk.  If you’re a person who’s been told “why are you sad, you have everything” it’s your time to talk.  It’s time to talk world! Anyone with depression, or who knows someone with depression, speak now and don’t ever hold your peace.  Speak as if your life, or the life of your loved ones, counts upon it, because it probably does.  Let us raise our voices and break the stigma of mental illness.  Those who have fought this battle or are fighting this battle, you are stronger for it.  You are not sub-human, but super-human, because you have made the choice to live and made the choice that your story matters.  So please, today let’s talk.

The Importance of Heroes in our Lives

You would think that for all the posts and work I do for my university education that I would be sick of this.  That typing would have lost meaning and words would be hard to come by. However, lately I’ve been seeing the opposite.  I can’t wait to write and I sacrifice other things, income being one of them, to ensure I have the time to write. Not only time to write, but time to think as well.  So far everything has been such a whirlwind that we rarely get a moment to look back and see how we got to where we are.  More importantly, in my opinion, is to look back and see why we went in the direction we headed.

Heroes are those that can help shape and define our journey. Heroes can give you a sense of where you are headed and why you are heading there. I call them heroes because I admire, look up to, and attempt to learn as much as possible from them.  They are people that will always be a part of my story, the legend of me.  Knowing your heroes is the first step in understanding your journey.  If you know your heroes it can provide a template for what you believe in.  Heroes provide you with a sense of future self “I want to be just like that hero one day”.  When you know your heroes you have created images of what you see in your future self, how you want to act, and why you choose to act and be as you are and will become.  We see the impact of heroes in both positive and negative senses.

Positive heroes, or the more used term role model, create a sense of optimism.  They create a sense that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.  Negative heroes are those that can pull you down and set you on a path of self destruction. It is your choice who you align with.  Are you looking for positive influences? Or are you looking for negative influences? Do you know which is which?  Is only one alignment of heroes available to you?  How do you find the hero you know you want in your life if they are not there current?  These are great questions to ask ourselves, or from an educational standpoint our students.  Becoming a hero is something that I hope every educator is seeking to achieve.  However, finding your own heroes is a necessary part of becoming a hero and understanding what it takes to be a hero.

I know I am on a path to becoming a hero, or at least I feel and think I am on that path.  I do know who my heroes are, lately it could not be clearer, but I also have started to learn what it takes to be a hero.  I’m not sure if my heroes would be comfortable in a shout out so I will refrain, but I find that because of them I do have a foundation created to become a hero.  I understand now that it takes preparation, reflection, patience, and acting on something without the expectation of reward to be a hero.  Heroes must prepare for upcoming scenarios, they must examine things from all angles to ensure everyone is safe.  They must reflect upon their actions to fill any gaps, but also acknowledge the positives that have come out of certain situations.  Patience is needed to remain calm while navigating through an ocean of stress.  Finally, a hero should not expect a reward, they should be motivated by beliefs and values, pursuing happiness.

Who are your heroes? Why did you pick them? What do you think a hero is? What steps are you taking to become a hero, if you choose to be?

Thank you heroes for everything you’ve done for me so far! I am honoured to be learning from you or have learned from you. I know I have a long way to go, but you have inspired me to pursue my dreams and you have given me tools in order to get there.

Thank you http://dreamatico.com/castle/5/ for the image!

ESST 317: Blurring Lines – Citizen, Person, Digital Persona

“Political Education and Citizenship: Teaching for Civic Engagement” by Ken Osborne is an article that discusses how young people are not actively engaging in political and civic issues.  The article presents an understanding that our education system is not doing its part in helping youth explore politics and civics.  In reading the article I believe that as educators we can and must do more in order to bring more young people into the decision making process that affects our countries, cities, communities as a whole.  Students are neither aware of the impacts of not participating nor do they have the knowledge to participate even if they wanted to.  Osborne makes a very distinct notion that our education system seeks to teach students to become good people, but the system comes up short when teaching students to become good citizens.  The notion that he describes, I believe, is correct.  There is nothing wrong with wanting students to be good people.  To be a good person one should obey the law and treat others as they would treat themselves. But, our nations and communities are missing out on the energetic and passionate opinions of our youth. Energy and passion that would assist in guiding our world to harmony.

When discussing the concept of good person versus a good citizen with our class I was surprised when most young people came from small communities, but did not have any knowledge of our political system.  I grew up in a small town as well and I was encouraged to watch elections, explore political news, and keep tabs on how the government, both provincially and federally, were spending the dollars and cents of our country and province.  I had a basic understanding of what left and right meant in the political arena.  I apparently knew more than your average small town student.  The problem that occurred later, when I was able to utilize my knowledge provided by my teachers, was I did not know how to use the knowledge.  I did not understand that not voting did have an impact, but it sends the wrong message to those that are involved in the system.  I did not know that by voting for my party of choice that it might help them win future elections and spark change in our world.  I did not know that ticking that box on the voting card is only a small part of what I can do in order to challenge the decisions being made in our communities.  I did not know that I could make a difference.  This is what Osborne is talking about when he brings up the argument that we are teaching to have students be good people rather than being good citizens.  Coming out of high school, I knew that I should follow the rules, speak when spoken to, work hard, and stay focused.  However, I was never taught that I could make a difference.  I think that is the cornerstone to being a good citizen.  Understanding how you can affect change, knowing that it is possible for you to help guide the decisions being made.  Being a good person is knowing that you could make a change, being a good citizen is rising up and making change happen.

Good citizenship stretches beyond the realm of politics and into our own social lives.  Clubs, committees, boards, governing bodies of sports organizations, all relate to citizenship. A good citizen will actively take part and help make change rather than one who just participates and uses the services provided by the organization.  As educators we have the tools and the stage capable of reaching out to our students and helping them find out what it means to be a good citizen.  So what does it mean to be a good citizen?  I believe being a good citizen has a different meaning for each individual.  Different meaning creates complications because each student will have different opinions, but that is exactly what we want them to have.  We want students to have differing ideals of what it means to be a citizen, not just a good citizen, but a citizen in general.  That, in my opinion, is the first step towards helping students understand that they think differently than others and have different ideas on how to solve problems.  Thinking differently is where you can start becoming active in your club, communities, province, or country.  Students need to understand that being different and thinking differently is a good thing.  If everyone followed the same path, and thought the same thoughts, how would we make any progress?  Osborne states that “The more fundamental problem is that by high school, students come to see schooling for what society has made it: a custodial credentialling machine in which education becomes little more than the accumulation of credits.” The first step in solving this problem is encouraging students to think.  Not only to think, but to think differently.  To challenge everything and anything until they understand the problem, teaching, whatever it is, the way they are comfortable with.  Citizens need to challenge things and not just accept the status quo, unless they know why they are accepting and agreeing with it.  Good people accept good things, good citizens challenge each notion and accept things only when they agree with it or understand why the notion exists.  After students become comfortable with thinking upon citizen decisions they need to learn how to communicate their thoughts in an appropriate manner so people can listen.

Another facet of the realm of citizenship that I did not know about until my 4th year of business school was about lobbying.  I did not know there were so many organizations vying for the attention of our politicians. I did not know there were so many people who were passionate about the same issues I was passionate about and who were doing something about it.  A good citizen challenges the decisions being made, but in a healthy and constructive manner.  Understanding how to communicate your thoughts is something we do teach in schools, but I feel like we never really allow students to be passionate about their writing.  As educators, we mark their grammar and ensure they stayed on the topic being discussed, but we do not encourage passion.  We do not say to a student that they should explore an interesting paper on the political parties in Canada.  We do not encourage students to talk to a lobbying group to gain a better understanding of how they can save the trees, the whales, stop the oil sands, or whatever they believe in.  We do not provide enough outlets for our students to channel their beliefs.  I honestly, however, do not know why.  Why are we not encouraging active citizenship?  We encourage sitting in desks quietly, we encourage good study habits and good grades, but more often than not, from my experience, I’ve seen educators stifle the opinions of their students.  Another circumstance of teaching students to be good people and not teaching them to be good citizens.  What happens when the realm of citizenship extends beyond the borders of our countries, even our world, into a digital space?

In our digital world or society humans, our students form a large part of this user base, are able to interact with each other at lightning speeds.  The digital world has sped up everything a citizen is a part of.  These digital citizens make decisions faster because knowledge can be obtained within a few keystrokes, opinions are shared quicker because people can post their feelings on message boards that can be read all over the world, things are happening much faster and on a much grander stage.  In teaching our students to become good citizens I believe we can help our students navigate the digital nation that is forming.  Students need to understand how decisions are made so they can help challenge them.  They need to know how to share their opinions and feelings so that they do not harm not only themselves, but others as well.  There are many parallels between the real world and the digital world and we need to take charge sooner rather than later in educating our students in being good citizens so they can convert that knowledge into being a good digital citizen. Providing students with metacognitive functions, being able to monitor and reflect on something, being able to understand why something is happening is part of being a good citizen.  That is something we need in our digital world and that is something I believe as educators we will start to bring forward.  The future is in that digital realm and using digital tools to interact is fast becoming commonplace in our schools and workplaces. As educators we now have the opportunity to show our students that you can be a good person and a good citizen.  We can encourage our students to share their beliefs and values.  We can help them understand their beliefs and values.  It all starts with us, as educators, as we have the tools and the forum to usher in a new era of citizenship.  However, it is on us to do the same as our students and I know that is a difficult journey.  But it will be one that will be well worth it when we see our students making changes for the betterment of the world of tomorrow.

ESST 317: Taking a Picture – Reflecting on the Witness Blanket

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In looking at the significant history that is woven into the Witness Blanket it was hard choosing an artifact that resonated with me.  I wanted to find something that spoke to me as a pre-service teacher, but I also wanted to find something that spoke to me as a person.  As a person of white privilege, but also as one that is learning about the stories woven into the blanket.

I chose the hockey skates pictured above as the artifact that spoke to me.  As a member of white society I have had the opportunity of playing hockey since I was 5 years old.  I spent more time on the ice than anywhere else. When I look at the picture I see young people that form a group of individuals of diverse backgrounds coming together to work towards a common goal.  I see at the base of the photo that they were a team of youth that had their challenges, but the ultimate goal of fun was always achieved. It is in this picture that I see that through all the hardships of residential schools there were good times.  There were times where even though the individual identity was lost there were groups that came together.  It shows that there are common bonds that connect all of us.  If we look through the window panes of the past we can see that we share something in common with all people.  We all share the thoughts that we all love to have fun, that we all love games, and that we can all work towards a common goal of harmony and happiness.

There are many painful stories of the residential school era, but I greatly enjoyed that through all of it, that children were able to experience some joy in a sport that I still have a great connection to this day.  In looking at this picture I felt a tug, a pull of connection to these people in the timeless display. It gives me hope that we can eventually come to the state of harmony if we set aside aside our differences and embrace the team aspect shown in the photo.  If we become the group of individuals with diverse backgrounds that work together towards a common goal I know we can achieve fun, happiness, and harmony.

ESST 317: Digging Deeper – Reflections on Chapter 3-5

As I continue to journey deeper into “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” by Jack Toth, I keep getting pulled back into my pre-internship experience.  I keep getting sucked back into the classroom where the students have some similarities to the ones depicted in the text.  On the surface these students may seem like challenging teenagers, but if we choose to dig deeper it can be scary what we find.  But we have to dig deeper.  We have to truly know our students if we are to be successful in the classroom.  This is the biggest take-away I had in reading chapters 3 through 5.

In these chapters we find that we need to build significant relationships with our students in order to challenge them to become the critical thinkers and lifelong learners that we want them to be.  It is not enough to have that surface relationship where everything could be all sunshine and rainbows.  We need to dig deeper and discover the inner being that forms the true student.  This true student is the person we are teaching.  It is the one that may not have slept the night before because their parents were up all night fighting.  It is the student that could be having suicidal thoughts because they think they do not and cannot make a difference. It is in these dark places that we must go as educators because sometimes we may be the only ones at the time that are willing to go there.

In trying to dig deeper and discover the inner student we also need to dig deeper within ourselves to understand who we are and what we want to be as an educator.  I greatly appreciate the text when it states “If you don’t respect yourself, how can you respect me?”.  It is difficult to teach respect when you cannot respect yourself.  If you do not believe the message why should your students?  The same could be said even for content curriculum.  If you, as the educator, do not connect with the content how can you expect your students to? How can you take your students on a journey of self discovery when you cannot discover or reflect upon yourself?  These metacognitive processes are important to us and our students and without digging deeper within ourselves it is difficult to dig deeper and become that critical thinker and lifelong learner.

I want to touch briefly on something that struck a chord with me.  This time it is something I deeply disagree with.  Many psychologists continue to state “If we keep diagnosing students with learning disabilities we label them and pigeon-hole these students”.  As a student and educator with ADHD it’s time we speak out on this.  I can speak only on ADHD, but it is not a label.  It is not my be all and end all defining characteristic.  It is part of me.  It does define how I approach different situations, but it does not make the decisions for me.  I’m still a person, I just now understand what type of person I am and how I react to certain things.  So bring on the label then because I know who I am because of it.  I am able to dig deeper and understand myself better because of it.  I know who I am because I chose to seek that label and I understand my gift.  These people who call them labels that are trying to get rid of these terms are the ones that are keeping the labels in play.  If you do not want the labels to exist, then do not call them labels.  I will concede that the text makes a very good point that they are behaviours and not disorders.  This is true, but if we continually strike fear into educators and other professionals that learning disabilities are a bad thing and a label that defines an individual then we are not digging deeper and finding the true person. These “labels” are a mission for someone to start to dig deeper about themselves so they can understand how they learn and can help educators and professional understand them.  It is a way of saying we are all different and require different ways of teaching and understanding.  So instead of saying “get rid of the labels” why are we not saying “embrace the terms, discover who you are!”.

As I continue to dig deeper into this text, I keep digging deeper into myself.  I keep finding new things about my teaching and new ways of educating my future students.  I greatly appreciate this text as it is like looking into a slate glass pool of water and seeing my future classroom.  This text reflects upon my philosophy of education and I’m excited to continue to read this text and dig deeper into the world of educating students they way I truly intend to.  By listening to them and hearing their voice.  By understanding them as best I can and helping them find their path.

Image credit to: http://dreamatico.com/darkness/5/  Thank you for posting such an amazing picture on your site!

ESST 317: Building Relationships – Reflection on Intro, Ch.1 & 2

In reading Jack Toth’s “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” I am instantly pulled back into my first semester pre-internship field experience.  Fortunately I did not have to go through such a traumatic experience as the narrator does, there were no funerals, but I did come away with a sense that what every student really wants is to be understood and heard.

The first two chapters of this book seem to be setting up this philosophy of education and it is one I truly stand by.  Relationships with students is the foundation for success in educating our youth.  It is not about “speaking their language” or trying to imitate their fashion choices, but it is about having your ears open and mouth closed for once.  It is about having the mindfulness to learn and listen to their experiences.  It is about having the compassion to allow yourself to live their lives through them.  Hurt when they hurt and smile when they smile.

In chapter one we are introduced to some of the students that this educator is dealing with.  We also are introduced to the educator and how he is feeling about the upcoming school year.  A personal hero of mine once said “If you’re not nervous about an upcoming lesson, you’re probably going into the wrong profession”.  We need discomfort in order to rise to the challenge and reach our potential.  It is in discomfort we learn.  And that is what I take away from chapter one of this story.  In his discomfort the teacher is beginning to learn that we need to connect with our students before we can educate them.  We need to achieve comfort in discomfort with our students.

In chapter two the teacher continues in his quest to build relationships with his students and we are introduced to some more troubled youth.  It is becoming apparent that trouble can be easy to spot on the surface of some people, but there could be major issues below the surface that may not be apparent.  This is true with our future classroom of students.  This diversity of trouble will exist, even more so what may seem like trouble to them, may not seem like trouble to us, as educators, but we need to be compassionate and live through these experiences with our students. I greatly appreciated this chapter as the educator starts to do something that it seems that some educators are terrified of doing.  He pushes his students.  He challenges them to rise up and face their fears.  He does what every teacher should do, he shows his class that he is human and has gone through some troubles himself.  He shows that he has found comfort in discomfort.  He also learns that some are receptive to his advice and there are others that may take some time to reach.

I am excited to read further as I feel the direction things are headed in is, I believe, for educating youth is persistence. We need to be persistent in our pursuit to challenge youth and helping them find comfort in discomfort.  In the context of Social Studies and our current society we need to all find comfort in discomfort. We need to use that in order to learn more about our fellow man. Things like treaty education are perfect vehicles to learn about the cultural viewpoint of our First Nations people and apply our learnings to other cultural issues.  We can learn from our own discomfort close to home in order to better ourselves and help out in other troubling situations.  This story resonates with me and when I reflect upon the content I agree whole heartedly with the message I am starting to see on the surface.  The teacher every student wants and needs is one that cares.