Grade 9: The Beginning


School has always been the final frontier for me. I remember in Grade 8 being handed a form to pick my courses for next year. In Grade 9 you don’t really have many choices. You have to take Gym, English, Geography, Math, Science etc. All you get to choose is academic or applied and then you get to pick from Art, Band, or Drama. Also, you have to tell them if you’re a boy or a girl so they know which gym class to stick you in. The choice of academic or applied is a big deal because without academic courses you will never go to University, and you will have no future. Thus spoke my guidance counsellor and, more importantly, my mother. So of course, I choose academic because I had always planned to go to university, even though my friends were artists who intended to take applied as they would be discovered long before higher education become an issue. That day everything seemed so simple. You check the right box and decide your future. Unfairly punitive, but simple.

What I have discovered since is that live is never that simple. It is in the words of someone famous “what happens when you’re doing other things.”  There was already a hint of something ominous on the horizon as my Grade 8 teacher took me aside and said she had had to tell the high school that I had a high rate of absenteeism. I hadn’t realized until then how much I had already missed because my friends always caught me up. At thirteen, I was happily making plans to go to high school, hang out with friends, maybe meet a boy and go off to the University of Waterloo in four years for a degree in chemistry. Life had other plans.

Half way through Grade 9 I am sitting in the principal’s office. Mr. Morgon (not his real name) wants to know why I have missed half the school year. I perform well when I’m here, but mostly I’m not in school.

“Are you being bullied?” He asks. “That has been a problem this year with several students I’ve talked to.”

I admit I’m surprised. When I manage to get to school I have always enjoyed it. I tell him “I love school, I haven’t had any problems. It’s just that my head hurts all the time. The doctor has no idea what’s wrong. I have an appointment next week to find out if I have a brain tumor.” Then I burst into tears.

He hands me a box of Kleenex and assures me. “Whatever is going on, I don’t think you have a brain tumor. Those kinds of things are really rare in someone your age. I’m sure you’re not dying. You go and find out what’s wrong and then we’ll sort out school.”

Mr. Morgon was and still is a great man. Well, I’m sure he didn’t think it would take me another three years to find out what was wrong he was always supportive and truly did his best to keep me in school. I truly believe that I would never have gotten a high school diploma if people like him didn’t exist.


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