Tuesday, 2 July 2013

My Summer Wishes

It has been another very busy and rewarding year serving as principal for a larger suburban public high school and I feel privileged to work alongside the remarkable students and staff at our school.     Our students have grown and benefited from an incredible array of engaging and challenging learning experiences, several of which they have initiated or led.  Our graduates will be moving on to new and exciting challenges while many of our younger students will continue to learn in July and August, by attending academic summer school classes or by volunteering or working part time. 

My wish is that all students also have the opportunity to be a kid and get outside to play and have fun. The rising costs of post-secondary learning and the urgency many B.C. secondary students feel to compile service hours, add credentials and build their GPA during the summer are troubling. While I fully support community service, part-time work, flexible learning schedules and new ways of designing school calendars, I also believe in the idea of kids enjoying unstructured time in the summer.  Some of the happiest memories (and best learning experiences) I have are from building forts, catching frogs, running through the sprinkler, camping, going to the beach or, on my bike, with my friends, setting out in the morning and exploring all day. Learning is not limited to school and course work and there is no better time to be a child or a teenager than in the summer.

As I reflect on the past year, I am very impressed by the dedication of our teachers and support staff.  Many staff have been reflecting on their professional work, particularly their assessment practices.  Courses are increasingly organized around learning outcomes and students are provided with feedback and multiple opportunities to self-assess, revise and improve their performance.   Coming off of a full year of political unrest in public education, the professionalism of teachers and support staff remains remarkable.  For every educator that puts in their time and is content to just get by, there are twenty who are actively trying to improve their craft in a genuine effort to engage students more deeply and authentically in their learning.  Those that pour their hearts into teaching and supporting kids and go the extra mile by offering personalized learning support, coaching teams, sponsoring clubs and student activities are extraordinary.  You are making a tremendous difference in the professional culture of our schools and are inspiring and enriching the lives of our students.

My wish is that all teachers and support staff are able to enjoy time with their families in July and August. I know that many will read a few good books and spend some time revising their courses or completing a university program to improve their professional practice.  If they choose to work, I hope it is not out of necessity, just to help make ends meet living in the Lower Mainland.  Yours is complex, challenging and important work, and I hope you are able to rest, rejuvenate and recharge this summer.

As both the B.C. Teachers’ and CUPE support staff contracts have expired, we need thoughtful and skilled leadership from the decision makers in our province.  It is imperative they model the intellectual, personal and social skills we expect of our students.  As outlined in the new Ministry of Education cross-curricular competencies document, it is time to look at things from different perspectives and bring a holistic and unifying approach to collective agreements.  

My wish is that the very capable people working for the Provincial Government and the provincial teachers’ and support staff unions are able to honestly and respectfully work out fair agreements. Agreements that emanate out of mutual respect and recognition of both the economic realities of our province and the critical importance of investing in sustaining the very best public education possible for our young people.

My wish is that the summer provides a well-deserved break and we all return energized and ready to engage in a positive working and learning environment and are provided the mandate to do what we love – teach, learn, motivate, inspire, care for, challenge and engage with the young people of British Columbia and help them learn, grow and prepare for their futures. 

Have a great summer.

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