Sunday, 15 January 2012

Off Topic for Today

I recognize that writing a blog on only one topic will get boring for everybody but me, so.....

I think most of my staff understands that I can be an emotional guy.  I appreciate things I see at school in ways that many of the students and staff may not.  For example, I had to leave a soccer game a couple years ago because, as I was watching the students play, I understood that our team was made up of students from countries that were currently fighting each other, but it made absolutely no difference to them at that moment.  Not only that, but the experience of playing together would almost certainly cement friendships that made those far away conflicts even more remote.  The reality of those ideas struck me so hard that I choked up, my eyes filled with tears, and I actually found it difficult to breathe.

I don't think most people in my school board really appreciate what a miracle our school is, and what happens every single day at Forster.  We have students from over sixty different countries in our building, and we have no problems of a diversity related nature.

Daily, I see this as a miracle.

It's not that we don't have the same problems as every other High School.  We do.
It's just that I often read about issues related to racism, even in my own community, and sometimes at other schools in the city, but I can honestly say that those issues do not make themselves apparent at our school.

In fact, almost all our students and certainly all our staff understand that diversity is both our greatest strength and the true nature of our school.

Just this past week, one of my teachers, and I hope she won't mind me mentioning her name, Jan Nickleson, sent me an e-mail notifying me that a ceasefire was being negotiated in Myanmar (Burma).  A little research enlightened me that fighting had been going on there for sixty-two years!  The students we have from this area have lived in refugee camps their entire lives.  They've never actually seen the country they call home.
Jan asked permission, and then contacted our local radio and TV station.

A reporter arrived, and interviewed our newcomer students, many only in Canada for the last five months - not as refugees, or newcomers, or people having difficulty fitting in to a new country, or people learning a new and difficult language - but as experts, who were personally impacted by the news of the day.

I hope you can appreciate how huge this was for those students, and why Jan Nickleson, though wonderfully eloquent on camera, got choked up as she was interviewed.

....And why I have tears in my eyes as I write this.


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

I took a week off from writing this because of Christmas and New Year's, but I'm back now.  I hope everyone's had a wonderful holiday thus far.

In the week leading up to the holidays, Forster was visited by both the Board's Director, and our school's Superintendent.  I spoke to both of them about this blog and they each offered me their support along with ideas for future posts.

In the case of the Director, he told me that he'd been a transient student when he was a child, and it was always sports and extra-curricular activities that allowed him to fit in at new schools.

Our Superintendent pointed out that, at elementary school, at least in Ontario, students moving from school to school would not suffer too much as long as teachers concentrated on teaching "the big ideas," or the overall expectations.

He also told me, and I didn't know this, that sometimes parents moved their children from school to school to school simply because they get angry at a school's administration and think that things will be better at the school "down the road."  If they rent their accomodations, picking up and moving is not seen as the issue - the issue is that the Principal or the teacher has said or done something to annoy the parent.  Sometimes, it's a simple statement such as the child might benefit from some extra support.

While it's emotionally satisfying for the parent to pull their child from a given school, they don't realize that they're really disrupting their child's life - and usually because of issues that have nothing to do with the child or his/her education.

Sadly, the reasons behind the move of schools are repeated within a few weeks or months, and the child suffers again.

After this pattern has been repeated for a few years, the parent finally turns to the school for help because the child is now more than a full year behind their peers or is acting out at home.