It’s taken me a few weeks to get this post written. I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a while.
People who know me know that I love photography. I have my own photography business (that doesn’t make a lot of money), but I love capturing moments in time. In the fall, I did a family photo session for my former vice principal, Kerri.
I photographed the family in their beautiful backyard with different family configurations, and fortunately, the photos turned out quite well.
About a month ago, one of Kerri’s stepdaughters passed away. I had to attend the funeral to support Kerri and her family during this difficult time. When I arrived at the location of the funeral, Kerri greeted me and immediately took me to a large photo of her three stepdaughters. It was a photo I had taken in the fall, and I was immediately struck by the impact that photo was having on the ceremony and the power it had in communicating the beauty of the family and specifically Nicole. It was an emotional experience for me.
I have spoken before about our obligation as educators to help others find their passion. Each student has to have opportunity to discover that one thing that they love to do, and be allowed to pursue it. That fact was really hit home to me during this time, and I was so humbled to know that something I did made even a small difference in the lives of others.
Schools need to be responsive to the needs of their students and community. That involves getting to know each student and giving every one of them opportunities to grow and play and discover. Schools need to be rich environments of learning and questioning and finding answers that lead to more questions. Only in places like that can we be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure that students will be best placed to make those discoveries for themselves.
And as a side point, let’s not forget the importance of being cognizant of the importance of mental health in our day-to-day lives; both in school and in our daily endeavours. We need to do our best to make real connections and do our best to support those who are dealing with mental health issues. Mental health is being discussed now. Let’s keep the conversation going and do everything we can to keep the awareness front and centre.
One of the things we have been challenged by David Irvine at our beginning school was to work at improving the culture at our schools. It was an opportunity to spend some time thinking about what culture means and how we can go about making sure our schools are places that have a positive, welcoming culture.
My first reaction to this was, “We have a great culture at our school. Why would it need improvement?” However, upon reflection, two points come to mind.
- Culture, like so many other things, needs to be worked on. If you’re not putting time and energy into it, it won’t go anywhere.
- Culture isn’t just the way people talk to each other.
People who walk into our school often comment on how they are welcomed and can detect a good vibe in the school. Our teachers generally get along with each other and are open to parent communication. The school is always clean and colourful. People who come into the office are greeted with a smile and are listened to.
Prior to the presentation on culture I didn’t think about the need to work on improving culture. In my mind, it just happened because of the people that were part of it. We have a great culture because we have now, and have traditionally had great people. But, after contemplating it for a while I know there were things that were going on well before I came to this school that contributed to it awesomeness.
Discussions around how we make our building open and accessible to the community have been going on for years. Our school (Bon Accord Community School) is named from the historical move to making some schools in Alberta, community schools. The idea was that the school would become a community hub; and grants were provided to support events and opportunities that tied the two together. It is my belief that the community focus of our school has contributed greatly to the open and welcoming atmosphere we continue to value. Throughout the years, staff have consciously talked about ways to maintain that. I am just starting my sixth year at the school and those discussions have occurred every year.
Our Meet the Staff Night is attended by a large portion of our community as we serve pasta and sauce every year. The gym is crowded for this event and we try to give each family a taste of what we try to do at our school. Our annual Christmas Concert is a highlight of the year for many people in our community. We have had to go to a system of reserving seats for the concert as we have in excess of 500 community members wanting to attend. Our gym capacity is less than this, so we have to also limit the number of tickets any family can access.
As a Seven Habits School we rethought our Mission and Vision. One component of our vision is “strengthening our community’. We take that aspect of our vision very seriously. We are training leaders that. right now , and in the future will link our school to the community. Being a Seven Habits School has helped us to consciously focus on what our students think of themselves and others. It has made staff consider the language we use and stressed the importance of goal setting to improve who we are as adults and children.
Our school division recently updated its Mission, Vision and Values. Four of the six values easily tie into the importance of community.
- Shared Responsibility
- Mutual Respect
Each of them can speak to what we feel is important in the school as well as the greater community.
I look forward to digging deeper into what these values mean to myself and to my school as we move forward in fostering a culture that makes us a warm, welcoming environment for staff, students, parents and the entire community.