Matthew Chapter 5 – The Apprentice: Learning Challenges (Part 11)

Categories: Léo’s Insights 2018-2019 Academic Year, Learning Challenges


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Matthew had now completed the Apprenticeship Entrance Exam, so he was proudly sponsored by his dad in the Automotive Service Technology Apprenticeship Program.

As is the case in every apprenticeship, hours in practicum had to be collected before Matthew could attend the institutional learning part of his program. I cannot claim to know how others felt about Matthew’s chances of success, but I can only assume there were more than a few who thought, “We’ll see how this goes”!

In any event, Matthew eventually applied and was accepted to take his first year apprenticeship training at NAIT, in Edmonton.

I should mention that his choosing an Edmonton based institution over one closer to home had everything to do with the fact that Matthew had been invited to board with his aunt, who was likely one of the province’s first female journeyman mechanics!

By now, Matthew had long been officially done with his home education program, but I was still involved in his life, by the fact that we continued our friendship with his parents, John and Agnes, who insisted on billeting us when working in their region.

It was simply amazing how one who struggled with math could handle money! It was also very heartwarming to see just how often his older siblings involved him in various activities as part of their lives. To them, Matthew was “normal” even if “different”.

Once Matthew made it to NAIT, and I must confess, I am not entirely sure how this all came about, but someone must have taken one look at Matthew and questioned what he was doing there.

Again, I am not cognizant of what exactly took place, but I assume that someone felt it important to have Matthew tested to ascertain what was “wrong with him” or if we are more gracious, to see whether Matthew had what he needed to succeed.

Under normal circumstances, this would have proven fatal to Matthew’s plight for going to school, but he had proven that he could do “The Test”! So, off to the specialist he went. Knowing Matthew, he likely saw this as yet another distraction in his quest to be a mechanic, one that he was willing to subject himself to, if it meant being able to carry on.

Again, time dulls the memory so I am not clear as to when, how or what took place. I only remember being apprised of the testing having had taken place and of its results.

I am sure you can identify with the expression “hitting the roof.” Actually, I blew the roof right off! I flew right past it in a fit of righteous indignation. It was more than just the fact that the “specialist” had grossly miscalculated Matthew’s aptitude and abilities, he had condescendingly insulted my good friend. Livid hardly expresses my sentiments at that time!

Recall that Matthew had been working in his dad’s shop for years and that throughout his entire home education program he spent half the day in the shop.

He was involved with more than just oil changes and he most certainly had long ago graduated from being the floor sweeper. Yet this “specialist,” this “highly educated know it all” who likely could not do half of what Matthew could, had the nerve, the gall, to tell Matthew and his parents that he would never accomplish much beyond learning to sweep the floor!

What was this “judge’s” bench mark? Upon what premise was his prognosis made? How did he come to such a degrading conclusion? Was it science or ignorance or presumption? Who knows? For sure, it was hardly compassion.

I was rightly ticked off, but surprisingly, Matthew was okay! I am not sure how I would have responded had I been apprised of this request for testing before it happened, but I can assure you I would likely have banged up and flipped over a few “garbage cans” to protect Matthew!

However, Matthew proved to be the better man. He understood the derogatory nature of this man’s conclusion, but had already set his heart and mind on doing what was necessary to be a mechanic and nothing was going to stop him.

Despite having been labelled with a condition that I had never heard of before, nor since for that matter, Matthew did not skip a beat. I think I was angry enough for both of us anyways!

Again, I am not entirely sure how Matthew managed to continue with his studies in spite of the results of the test, but this much I do know. A few weeks after Matthew completed his twelve weeks in college, he phoned me to announce that he had passed his first year apprenticeship exam. Vindication in victory! Take that, Mr. Learning Challenges specialist!

The fellow that most thought would not succeed, indeed not grow beyond pushing a broom, had defied all the naysayers and done what most would have considered as the impossible.

I would be willing to bet good money on people thinking that this was a fluke, but Matthew proved them all wrong. He continued on to his second year… and passed. He then completed his third year and finally finished his fourth and final year having passed all his final exams the first time, including his Red Seal.

The Matthew most would have denigrated to mediocrity was now a full-fledged licensed mechanic able to work anywhere in Canada!

Although it never happened, I really wanted to take that cursed letter that predicted Matthew would never progress beyond pushing a broom along with his Journeyman Certificate and Red Seal to the highly educated and certificated “wannabe” who had violated us all and suggest he change his career. A professional career as a floor sweeper came to mind!

Matthew had defied all the odds and overcame many obstacles, but did he really? If one thinks as the world thinks, I suppose he did. That would make him an anomaly in the special needs industry.

Matthew didn’t think so. He was who he was and he was perfectly okay being who he was. What most would have seen as extraordinary, Matthew saw as what had to be done to get what he wanted to do. From his perspective, what he accomplished was all in a day’s work.

I can still feel the absolute joy, the pride, the feeling of having accomplished something truly outstanding as he posed for a photo that to this day, I believe to be the pinnacle of my career. I had asked Matthew to pose with his Journeyman Certificate so I could record that moment, but he refused unless I stood alongside him, just like I had all along. (To this day, I do not know what happened to that photo!)

He stated that his accomplishment would not have happened without me. Wow! I am in tears again! And all I did was to believe in him and encourage him to be the best he could be.

Matthew worked for his dad for a while and then left to work for another agency. I assume he needed to prove to others, not likely himself, that he could do just fine outside of working for his dad, and he did.

He moved out of the house into his own place, made money and bought toys, just like every other guy his age. Whenever we ended up at his folks’ place, he was sure to come and say hello. We were always honoured to be a part of Matthew’s life.

Then I erred! I am not saying that I really screwed up, but I do have to admit that I had allowed some of that worldly thinking about the “learning challenged” to survive as part of my being.

I’ll tell you how it came to bite me, next time.

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