Thursday, May 05, 2016

The people in my neighbourhood

Recently, BC Educator Sarah Garr posted a good question on her blog:
"Who are the people in your neighbourhood, your school heroes who contribute to the success and well being of your students, and staff?"
Here's her full post:

This is actually a tough question. As a teacher, I work in an organization that requires a multitude of roles in order to function, and the system keeps functioning (at some level) even when those roles are not being fulfilled. Classes can survive without their teachers for a while (at least until another is found), likewise we've seen a school can function for a time without a principal and a district without a superintendent. I'm sure we could even carry on without an Education Minister... how long would it take to notice one was gone? We could survive without staff meetings -- in most school these have become information sessions to highlight email content from the previous month and anticipate the next month's emails. For that matter we could survive without 90% of the emails we receive. I digress. How long could we go without custodians, secretaries, support workers, maintenance staff, counsellors, and so on? Everyone plays a part -- some do it well and some do not, but almost all of them are necessary at some level. I must admit I’ve spent many of my years as a teacher shielding myself, my classroom, and my students from the parts of the system that are dysfunctional, unfair, or chaotic. I have thought of my teaching practice as it's own ecosystem and have never assumed that anyone else would build my curriculum and lessons for me, handle my discipline issues or technology needs, and so on. Of course this is not always possible or beneficial, but we teach who we are as they say.  For me, anyways, these were necessary steps in order to figure out what a safe and engaging place of learning could look like, could be like, and I’m quite certain I’m still figuring that out. So, the heroes for me are the ones that make the school and my practice more functional, fair, and calm. Who are the denizens of this forest? Colleagues, mentors, school advocates, sometimes parents and often students. Is it necessary to name names? I appreciate fellow Social Studies teachers in my personal learning network -- the Pacific Slope Consortium (Rob, Ian, JP, and many others) -- for indulging the curricular experiments and providing a context for collaborative practice. I appreciate colleagues at my school that have had the long term “health and wholth” of the students at heart like John Vogt (retired teacher), Joe Pereira (DP Todd), and Sandra Jandric (DP Todd). I appreciate mentors that worked alongside me, challenged me, and provided much-needed counterpoints such as Norm Booth (retired teacher CHSS). I appreciate tireless advocates for public education that helped create positive classroom, school, and district conditions such as Mike Duffey (retired teacher CHSS), Matt Pearce (recently deceased teacher CHSS), many colleagues from the PGDTA and BCTF, and my own partner Kate Cooke who served as a local school trustee for three years and fought for progressive changes, some of which succeeded and some of which bore fruit only after she was done. I appreciate my father Walt and all the other teachers in the family over multiple generations for ennobling the profession and leading by example. I appreciate the students who have shared their inquiry with me and their classes over the years -- the process and product of their efforts at storytelling are the clearest forms of motivation I have as a teacher.