We had an amazing experience with our students today as the school put on an “Identity Fair” (I will write more on this day later).  This was an amazing opportunity where each student was able to share something unique about themselves.  Each grade from grade one to six created their own display.   At the end of the day, the grade six students shared their displays and I was overwhelmed when I saw the following display:

Marley is a student that has Tourette Syndrome and I asked her if I could take this picture (along with asking her mom if I could write this post) and share it with the world.  Marley is one of the kindest students and is an important part of our school community.  Out of 184 days of school this year, I can guarantee that I have received an equal amout of hugs from her this year.  She has the kindest heart and the kindest family.  Unfortunately for us, she is in grade six and will no longer be with us next year.

When Marley was asked about her display she simply said, “This is part of who I am so I wanted to share it.”  She explained Tourette Syndrome to those that came by and most adults left her display in tears (including myself) and kids learned a lot about her.  What many would consider an “affliction” Marley just considers  as just a part of her.  I am so proud of her and what she did today.  She is an amazing person and she taught me so much today about WHY every kid can be a leader no matter what obstacles they may face.

I am looking forward to the day that Marley speaks on Tourette Syndrome to the entire world and shares her knowledge on the subject.  I would like to think that today was the day that she started to become a leader in this area but I have the feeling today was only the day that we found out about her leadership.  She has been a leader way before this.  I am so glad that we really got to see it before she left.

If I ever wonder again WHY I became an administrator I will have to look no further than this moment.

Thanks Marley for teaching me more about you and inspiring me to ensure that others get the same chance to share themselves like you did today.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  1. Wow! I am not usually the type to cry based on what I read, but your post tonight had me in tears. I feel overwhelmed with not just the courage that Marley had to share such a personal story about herself, but also by the amazing school environment that you and the rest of the staff have created to give Marley this sense of comfort, knowing that she could share something as personal as she did. Congratulations to all of you! What an incredible post and a terrific true story of "courage."

  2. Isabel Pessoa

    Wow! I am really amazed with the courage that Marley has displayed. Having taught a student with Tourette Syndrome in the past, I realize how difficulty it can be for the child as well as the family. It is amazing that Marley has been able to share this part of her life and educate people about it. Based on what you say, she does appear to be an amazing leader. Congratulations to Marley! I look forward to hearing more wonderful things about your life in the future.

  3. What an incredibly courageous and amazing young lady! She is an inspiration to ALL!! I can't wait to say "I saw her when she was in grade 6" when she is leading change in the world!

  4. Amazing what kids will do when you give them the opportunity. Marley is courageous and her ability to lead will help all students. I love the picture because you can see that she is a sweetheart. Thank you Marley for being so brave to share your story, and thanks to your principal and staff for giving us the opportunity to learn about such an amazing young lady!

  5. Heather

    I am sitting at our school's grad with my eyes full. What a touching story. A lot of adults could learn from Marley. About embracing and loving themselves for who they are and having the courage to share it with the world! Thanks for sharing and respecting your students stories that make them special.

  6. What a beautiful story to share… how very brave of Marley. Leader indeed! I have been moved to tears in school twice this year- once grieving the loss of a faculty member, and the other witnessing a truly remarkable act of kindness from one student to another. They will never cease to amaze me! Best job ever!

  7. Often, leaders are those who lead quietly. Marley is one of those leaders.

    I too, am saying goodbye to a student I've taught for the past two years. He deals with Tourette Syndrome, along with 7 other afflictions. Like your relationship with Marley, my student has taught me much more than I have passed onto him. How lucky are we to have these students in our lives.


  8. "She is an amazing person and she taught me so much today about WHY every kid can be a leader no matter what obstacles they may face."

    Someone recently quoted someone else (memory fails me now) to me that "you can lead from any seat". This leadership happens too few and far between times in our schools. Every kid has thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and abilities that will simply amaze us. Our students are people who can lead and deserve to be treated as such.

    Marley is a prime example. George, your reflective leadership is refreshing. Thank you both.

  9. mimi muircastle

    Go Marley! You are already making the world a better place for everyone you touch.

    Thank you for just being yourself.

    Good luck in middle school – you will love it – middle school students are my favorite people in the entire world! Mostly, because they do things just like you did today!

    P.S. I am a retired middle school principal, counselor and teacher 🙂

  10. What a tremendous young lady. To know that her tourette's is just another part of her that makes Marley, Marley, shows that she is happy with who she is.

    Marley, thanks for being you and sharing that with the world.

    And cudos to George for facilitating an environment where children feel safe to be themselves.

  11. Wow! Thank you Marley for having the courage and integrity to share not only with your school, but with us all over the world through your principal. I thank you for being so open and helping others understand Tourette's. I wish you all the best in middle school and beyond! You have inspired lots of teachers and others who work with kids to do things to bring out the unique gifts of our students. Thank you 🙂

  12. Lori Sabo

    Marley, you have a new fan near Seattle! Thanks for letting your principal share your identity!

  13. Marley,

    I'm sure when you were thinking about what you would share and as you worked on your display, you had no idea the impact it would have. Today you reached beyond your school, beyond Canada and into the thoughts of many educators around the world.

    As I read about you I thought about your kindness, knowledge and comfort of who you are, as well as the potential you have to be a leader. Thank you for allowing your story to be shared.

  14. This is an exceptional story and congratulations to Marley and the school who gave her the opportunity to express herself.

    Bravo Marley, you are one very courageous girl and one we can all take a great example from. I admire you very much and I wish you all the best in your life!

    George, thank you and Marley for this post. One of the best I have ever read. Kids are so great, they never cease to amaze us every single day.

    Kindest regards,


  15. Thank you to Marley for her willingness to allow for her story to be shared. I think that when we are invited to share aspects of ourselves with others, it allows us to forge a greater connection with and deeper understanding of our humanity.

  16. Kailey

    Marley, truly IS an amazing individual! We at Forest Green have been very blessed to get to know this special person!

  17. Well done Marley!

    Never too early to start talking about things that are part of our world. It is a form of educating others. Thanks for sharing your courage. And who knows…maybe soon you will be sharing it in a blog just as your School Principal. You have here a role model to follow!

    Good luck with the new school too 😉

  18. hilld

    Wow. What a great post. Imagine the courage. I think you nailed George when you say this is the reason you became an administrator. At this time of year your desk is likely stacked with paperwork like mine. Thanks for taking the time to share this story and thanks to Marley and her family for letting us read it.

  19. Amazing and well deserved response to this blog.

    As you say, "I am looking forward to the day that Marley speaks on Tourette Syndrome to the entire world and shares her knowledge on the subject."

    I'm looking forward to seeing Marley give a TED talk.

    I'll be spreading the word over here about your Identity Day.

  20. Kira

    Identity Day…still marveling over that empowering concept. And, also, that this young person has the strength and confidence to share the details of TS with others.
    A huge hat tip to Marley…and to you for sharing her story here.

  21. George, what a wonderful idea to help children become aware of themselves. You've obviously helped Marley to become an advocate for herself and for others with Tourette's. I am the program director of a school in Guatemala City for children with neurological differences. Every year, during the DANA foundation's brain awareness week, we learn about each of our brains and the differences among us. One of our 4 goals is that of self-awareness (with the idea that self-awareness leads to self-regulation across all areas of development). I am so ecstatic to see self-awareness being emphasized in other schools, and not just Monarch (we have a school in Houston, the founding one) as well!

    Thanks for this great story!

    Tran Templeton

    Colegio Monarch Guatemala

  22. Marley Burdick

    Thank you sooo much for all the support and yes I am proud of who I am

    And I'm not afraid to show the world.I'm am looking forward to sharing all my knowledge with the world when I am older!!again thank you soo soo much and I hope you have learned that you shouldn't hide who you are and and you should be proud of who you are.

    • George

      Wow Marley! I am so glad that you commented on this post 🙂 People are so proud of you (especially me) all over the world and you are an inspiration. It is going to be sad to watch you on your last day tomorrow but I know you are going to do great things!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Mr. Couros

    • Dear Marley,

      Hi! I am so happy to have found a place to write you! I was going to ask Mr. Couros where I could send a little note after I read your inspiring story from Identity Day!

      Marley, you are amazing! I am so proud of how you have embraced who you are! You are giving back your special gift to the world and I truly believe that YOU will make a huge difference in so many ways. I agree with Mr. Couros when he says you are a leader! And what a leader you are! You will lead your friends to accept others no matter what. You will lead your teachers and administrators to look at all of the qualities you and your classmates have that will add to the greatness of your school, community and world. And most of all…you will continue to use your leadership POWERS in the future to spread the greatness in everyone!

      I am a teacher librarian and technology specialist in Van Meter, Iowa. It would take me 2 days to get there to where you live. But if I was right there I would give you the biggest hug and tell you….

      "YOU ROCK GIRL….I am so PROUD of you for sharing YOU with the world! Keep on being awesome and just remember..YOU can change the world!"

      Love, Shannon McClintock Miller

      • George

        Thanks for your response Shannon! I am going to make sure Marley see this when I am in touch with her again at school!

  23. Top work Marley. You are leading the way in showing others that you should embrace who you are and not hide it – a lesson many o us need to learn. Good luck with all that you do in the future and I hope that whichever school you are going to next will encourage your leadership and support you the way this school has.

    Thank you for sharing George.

  24. Cheryl Williams

    I am so proud of you Marley. I always knew there was a strong young lady in there. I wish I was there to give you the biggest hug monkey. Love you tons…..Mrs.Williams <3

  25. Deven_K_Black

    I’ve just come across this post thank to Shelly Terrell’s post What an amazing child Marley is.

    There is one line in your post that, to me, was the crux of the matter. “What many would consider an “affliction” Marley just considers as just a part of her.”

    One of the most important things I’ve learned is that to each of us is normal to ourselves, no matter how abnormal we may seem to anyone else. To the deaf person, deafness is normal. My limp is normal to me, even though I know I walk differently than almost everyone else.

    I learned this lesson from a woman who has several cerebral palsy, a tremendous intelligence and a great sense of humor. I tell the story

    Thanks for introducing us to Marley. I hope she’s continued to educate people about Tourette Syndrome.

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