The Herdmans – Part 1

Fran Hughes was my high school football coach. The Bear was a keen and dedicated coach and well respected by his players. I never had him as a teacher but, by all accounts, he was a favourite for many.

Thanks coach for your many hours of dedication. You made a difference for me and for many.

The Herdmans – Part 1

If I ever do write my book, this family will have its own chapter; in fact, the youngest boy could easily fill a chapter himself. They were in our school for a relatively short time but did they ever make an impression. Sixteen years later the stories are still being told.

We were well into the school year when they arrived. The school secretary came into my office one morning after school had commenced. She advised me that a new family had arrive and they were waiting to meet me. She had this ability to make one of her eyebrows rise which was a telltale sign that there was something unusual awaiting me. Her eyebrow was well elevated.

When I entered the main office the first thing that hit me was the strong, pungent smell of cigarette smoke. The mother was standing before me with three boys, each with their backpacks on. They reminded me of the Devil’s Brigade, at the ready to jump out of an air-plane behind enemy lines. I introduced myself and the mother did the same. She then named each of the boys and then pointing to each one in turn she said, “And he’s ADD, he’s LD and he’s ADHD.” I fought the temptation to look at the secretary to see what her eyebrows were doing.

I welcomed them to the school and explained that the secretary will need to collect some information. I told the mother that I would be calling her later that day to confirm that the boys could start the following day. The mother said, “But they’re ready to start now.” I glanced at the boys and they LOOKED ready. With their backpacks (parachutes) full, they were all set to jump. I suspected that this was not the first time they had changed schools during the school year.

I explained to Mrs. Herdman that, in all fairness to the teachers, we made it a policy to not place students in classes without first meeting with their respective teachers. Personally, I never thought it was right to simply knock on a teacher’s door and say, “Hello. Here is another student for you” without first meeting with the teacher. Classes were in session and lessons were being presented. To bring a new student to the door without giving the teacher an opportunity to prepare didn’t seem right. In this particular case, two of the boys were in grade 3, and we had two possible classes for them to attend. I felt it was my job to gather as much information as possible, present this information to the teachers in a timely manner and let them decide in which classes the boys should be placed. I told her that I would be calling later that day. She completed the necessary paperwork with the secretary and they left.

I asked the secretary for the name of their last school. I was familiar with the school, having driven by it a number of times, but I did not know the principal. The school was located in another district and about two hours away by car. I called and asked to speak to the principal. She was available to take my call. The conversation went like this.

“Good morning. I’m Gary Caines at Macdonald Consolidated School in District 6. A new family has arrived and, I believe, you are the sending school.”

“OK (hesitation). What is the name?”

I told her the mother’s name and mentioned the three boys. Now the next sound I heard I can’t really describe. It was a combination of a sigh of relief, a gasp and a giggle. I have only heard that sound one other time and it came from me several months later (we’ll get there). I said, “I don’t like the sound of that.”

Her next words were, “Trust me on this, but whoever works with the youngest boy, that person needs to be taught techniques in restraint.” It wasn’t long before I realized the truth of her words. We were in for a ride.

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