Squid has just started high school in what is probably the most progressive high school in the country. He’s been giving his pronouns as he/him/they/them – and most are assuming he’s non-binary, despite him explicitly telling them he’s cis, but wants to be an ally. The fact that the teachers are supportive is great, but we have a lot more work to do.
And yesterday, he said he’s noticed that people speak to him differently depending on the gender they presume him to be. If they think he’s female, they tell him his name is “pretty”, and if male, he gets told it’s “interesting”.
The powhiri was amazing and I cried. The school is the first in the world to enmesh the best of Māori cultural practice into the best of pakeha education. Where the school not only pays lip service, but genuinely reflects the respect all of us should have for the culture.
Most of the speeches were in Te Reo, with apologies to those of us that don’t posses the gift that is the language. The words were about kindness, respect, connection, and resilience. Nothing about academic excellence or achievement.
Lucas, Jacob, Mohammed, and many other friends were there. After the welcoming ceremony he walked away and didn’t turn back.
And this afternoon? “After today, I’m actually excited for tomorrow”.
He’s had three years away from conventional mainstream education, and I could not be prouder of the young human he’s become.
In NZ, what would be the last year of primary, and the first year of high school are completed at intermediate school. His peers in Australia all started high school at the beginning of 2020, but here kids get an extra year of maturity and nurturing before entering the big bad world of high school. Even then, the practice seems to be to keep the first year about settling in, finding your way, and making connections without too much focus on academic achievement.
With amazing support from Diana, Bron, and Andrea (and many others!), he’s decided he’s now ready to take a step back into mainstream and start high school with his age cohort. Our local school has a brilliant reputation, and some close friends will also be attending. We’ve made connections in the learning support unit, and he also has friends who are current students.
So, while he has had an incredible three years at Age, and our family has gained so much from the time we’ve been there, now seemed like the right time to dip a toe back into the waters of mainstream education. This choice is a reflection of the success of Age and the nurturing he has had there. That this is even a possibility speaks volumes about the educational philosophy, connected community, and responsive and uplifting teaching he has had from Age, and from Diana at MindPlus.
We knew from the start that the early years of school were going to be the hardest for our tender kiddo, and opening the door to unlimited possibilities that come from a deeper pool, with more opportunities to explore, and more new and interesting people to get to know is a delightful thing to ponder.