Mike LaFontaine was one of my commanding officers in the naval reserve. I served for many C.O.’s during my twenty years, but Mike stood out. While the Canadian Armed Forces has curricula and a rigid set of standards for the training of its people, sometimes the most significant training comes through informal chats on the quarterdeck or during one-on-one conversations within an office. I learned much from Commander LaFontaine and appreciated his interest in my progression as a young office. Thank you, sir.
Welcome to my World
Prior to my arrival at Macdonald Consolidated School I was told that there was a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who was anxious about the arrival of a new principal. He was in grade 2 and I was going to be his 3rd principal (my son was in grade 4 and I was to be his 4th). People with Asperger’s like a fixed routine and often have difficulty adjusting to change (think of Sheldon on the television show, Big Bang Theory). To compound the problem, I was to commence my principalship mid-year . I was going to be jumping on a treadmill already in motion. There was so much to get use to and a lot of adjustment on my part; however, I made it a high priority to become a part of this fellow’s world.
Although I had already introduced myself and spoken to him a number of times, it was obvious that he was still leery of me. I noticed that during recess, he would always be playing with his toy trucks on a corner of the playground. It suddenly occurred to me how to pull down the barriers between us.
The following day during morning recess I went out to my car, opened the trunk and pulled out a pair of overalls. The previous night I had gone through my childhood toys and found 2 of my Dinky Toy trucks, both of which would have been about 35 years old. With my coveralls on and my trucks in hand I proceeded to the playground, sat down and started to play in the dirt. I located myself about eight metres away from my young friend. My presence drew a lot of attention from the children on the playground; think about it, this was probably the first time they saw a principal playing trucks. I was soon surrounded by children. As I continued to play I told them about my trucks and I gave them a chance to examine the toys more closely. I noticed I had someone’s attention. By the end of the break, my friend had closed the gap between us by 4 metres. I returned to the building.
The following day I repeated this routine. About half way through recess my friend came over to me and asked if he could see my toys. We finished off by playing trucks together, complete with the appropriate sound effects. I was now part of his world. We spent a lot of time together during the years ahead.
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