Opal Goes To High School!

Opal rarely complains about going to boring places.  Sure, some of the meetings I force her to sit through are a bit of a snooze, but overall, I  think she enjoys the variety of places we go to. Today, we went somewhere totally new… Citadel High School. I had not been in ANY high school since I graduated from MCMHS in 1972.  Honestly?  I was feeling a little apprehensive about entering into the fray of 1700 students in this spanking new building on Trollope street in Halifax. It’s exam week, so I don’t think they were all present. However, there was a lot of activity and confusion in the administration office where I was to meet the English teacher with whom I had a meeting.  The secretary was fielding frantic pleas from students…  “Mr. T. told me I had to get a ____ form before I can write the exam!”…”somebody took my stuff out of my locker!” ….  The admin person tried to calm the students by encouraging them to breathe and “look through that cart for lost locker items”).  We had arrived early, so we sat and eavesdropped on the conversations of the kids poking through a gigantic cart of confiscated stuff.  Apparently, they didn’t all hear about the deadline to empty their lockers.  If they did, they did not for a second, believe that the locks would be chopped off and the lockers cleaned out, as they had been warned.  There seemed to be a good vibe  with students, staff and teachers. Maybe they were heady with dreams of summer vacation, graduation and ‘moving on’ which resulted in them being nicer to one another. The meeting with the English teacher?  After being introduced to the vice principal, we went to the cafeteria. It was pretty quiet for a high school cafeteria. (My high school caf days sometimes come back to me in nightmares).  I hear they serve better food now.  The meeting’s purpose was to iron out some details for the 2008 Writing Contest which the Halifax chapter of the AEBC (Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians) has launched.  In the fall, the new crop of grade ten students will (little do they know as they now sit their grade 9 exams)  write a 400 word essay based on the question, ” What if I woke up one day, and could not see?”   They will submit these essays to their English teachers. Then, edited versions will be sent to AEBC chapter members in other Canadian cities to be judged according to AEBC criteria.  They will be sent electronically so that the judges (who are blind) can ‘read’ them independently with adaptive computer software. These volunteer judges will decide which essays are most introspective and meet the yet-to-be-determined criteria. The finalists will receive prizes (yet to be solicited, but it will likely be cash and electronics) AND the winning essay writer will (hopefully) receive wide media attention through publication and reading of his/her essay on radio etc. This is a great opportunity for kids to start thinking about blindness and disability. In grade 10 (average age is 15 years), kids tend to be a little…umm… ‘stunned’ (not all of them, of course).  That is not typically an age when it is cool to be ‘nice’ .  Thoughtfulness and awareness of ones surroundings are not commonly part of their make-up. Maybe it’s genetic. I was probably just as ‘stunned’ as many of them are, when I was 15 years old. To be fair, many have had zero personal experience with someone with a disability. They just need a chance to think about it for a while. Hopefully, the writing contest will help them do that.  Bye the way, Opal loved the buzz in the school. She was hopeful about being given the stuffed animal that one of the students was waving around (it was in the cart of confiscated locker items), but alas, it was returned to the cart. She also anticipated a chance to scarf up the bits of food on the cafeteria floor, but no such luck! Mum is quick on the draw.  I am sure that she will enjoy returning to Citadel to meet with the kids in October when I  get to tell them about the writing contest. It will be exciting to navigate a Citadel High school during peak class hours!


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