“The mainstream is a myth that those in power create to relegate, to adjudicate, and to ensure that the social power structures of society prevail.  In complying with this system we miss so much possibility, we squash far too many dreams, and we lose too much of what could be.”

An Excellent Exoskeleton of a Circle

This morning, as I gathered our students for morning circle, one of my 8 year-olds, (who just tested in the 99th percentile for vocabulary, reading, and mathematics after a year at Headwaters – but that’s a different story for another week!), said to me: “well this is an excellent exoskeleton of a circle”.  At the time it was just another quirky thing that we love constantly hearing from this student  – and no one laughed at him, everyone smiled, and we moved on.

It wasn’t until this evening that I thought more about this moment.  I realized, that had that same pronouncement been made at my childhood school, particularly if it was among older students (as it always is at Headwaters), there would have at least been snickering if not a severe recess beating coming for such intellect and obvious ‘outside of the norm’ thinking. He would have been, in short order, silenced through a protocol of humiliation and bullying. 

We, back then, were constantly on guard for anyone and anything that existed beyond the boundaries that we somehow all knew existed and were dictated to us by the ‘coolest’ among us.  In this way we ensured that, by high school, artists were relegated to one table, athletes to another, “farm kids” to yet another, and ‘geeks’ to yet another. This is how ‘the norm’ was maintained and the social hierarchy remained.

My first inkling of how wrong this way of growing up was came when I first started teaching. I opened my career at Sterling Hall, a renowned school in mid-Toronto. The children that I had never been or hung out with, i.e. those who would have been beat up at my Flesherton elementary or high school, were the ones who seemed to be constantly at my office or getting me to break my stride as I passed through the halls so that I could listen to their stories.  In getting to know those students I realized some of what I had missed as a child by always staying (at least somewhat) in the ‘mainstream’ and majority.

If we fast-forward 15 years I find myself as the founder of a school that is decidedly full of those outliers.  So much so that I realize that we are all, when given the opportunity that my school provides, outliers.  The mainstream is a myth that those in power create to relegate, to adjudicate, and to ensure that the social power structures of society prevail.  In complying with this system we miss so much possibility, we squash far too many dreams, and we lose too much of what could be.