A Flying Lesson in Empathy and Patience

After two days of meetings in Toronto in late May I was sitting in the lower departure area of Pearson International Airport. The departure lounge was full of people waiting for their plane, anxious to get to their destination. Within the crowd was a mother and toddler. The toddler was having a full-on meltdown and nothing the mother tried, (nor anyone attempting to come to the mother’s aid) would calm the child down. This went on for almost an hour. It was impossible to escape the screams, even with expensive noise-cancelling headphones. Most people looked over their shoulders at the mother and her child. Some rolled their eyes. Others gave empathetic looks. Everyone hoped the pair wasn’t on their flight.

Image result for screaming child airplane

My flight was called and it became clear that the pair was also headed to Thunder Bay. They boarded early and the looks of the other passengers continued. I soon boarded the plane and took my seat, which was immediately behind the toddler. At first, the child was incredibly calm and he engaged in some play with the flight attendants. The mother chatted with the flight attendants and explained that the child was adopted. His birth mother was a drug user. The child, Jack, was on the autism spectrum but was in early stages of identification. I was introduced to the mom and Jack and we chatted for a few minutes as we reached cruising altitude. Jack seemed to be in good spirits. Then, with almost no warning, another meltdown began. At first, it was because the he couldn’t run freely around the airplane. The meltdown escalated into arm flailing and screams – those same unescapable screams from inside the airport. Mom held on to him in her seat, trying to both sooth Jack and keep him safe. And then, the best part: people in the vicinity began to help.

First, the flight attendants stepped in by giving him jobs to do, like reorganize pop cans in the beverage cart. Second, other passengers worked to entertain Jack. Still a few others engaged in conversation with a very exhausted mother. Jack even was able to use the in-flight intercom to say hello to the pilot. The flight continued with the collaboration and cooperation of several people. Jack calmed down. Our flight eventually landed in Thunder Bay and Jack enthusiastically said goodbye to everyone in the back of the plane. The flight attendants maintained their awesome professionalism and multiple passengers offered to help mom deplane. It was a really great end to what many people might characterize as an awful flight.

This whole incident resonated with me because it was such a wonderful exercise in patience, empathy, understanding, helpfulness, and the need to be flexible. As I enter a new environment where I will be surrounded with early learners and the unpredictability of an elementary school I am reminded that the same traits I witnessed on board Air Canada 8539 are the very same traits that I must bring with me. Also, I’m reminded of the importance of offering help when I see someone who might be in need. Jack, (and his mom) was a good teacher for me. It wasn’t that long ago where I may have been one of the passengers rolling his eyes. Hooray for personal growth, right?

Transitioning to a New Position

Hi! It has been several months since I’ve updated WilsonTeacher.ca. It’s been a very busy semester, but also a very rewarding one. I’ve had the opportunity to work with two awesome Grade 12 University-preparation English classes , (one in my home school, and the other as an eLearning class with students from across northern Ontario) and help build excitement about computer science with a grade 10 class. At home, my wife and I have watched our daughter grow (too quickly)  into a toddler. Yes, it’s been busy.

In May, I was offered an opportunity to take on a temporary one-year Vice-Principal position at B.A. Parker Public School in Geraldton. After some thinking and talking, I accepted the job. I’m excited about the year ahead, including all of the work and all of the challenges that it will undoubtedly include, and the chance to work with a great staff and great students. Busy will get busier, but I’m up for it!

Since this opportunity is new, I thought I would try to collect my thinking here. Do people still blog? Is that still a thing? Regardless, that’s my goal, and I hope that people offer their perspectives and responses to my posts.

Though I know my daily schedule will be full, I hope to post regularly here because I also shelled out $80 for this website so I should put it to good use! Thanks for joining me on what will be an incredibly awesome journey.


Hi, WilsonTeacher.ca reader!

It’s been a very long time since I updated the site. Normally, WilsonTeacher.ca gets updated at least once  a week. Normally there would be a plethora of resources linked to each course.

Right now, the site is on a bit of hiatus. Why? The courses I’m currently teaching are not conducive to website postings. Also, I’ve moved some content to our board’s internal website.

In the coming days/weeks/months I hope to revitalize this site, update the content, and prepare it for Semester Two. Stay tuned, and thanks for your patience!