Our “Forward Moving” School Culture

Two weeks have passed us by and September is now a blur.  A few highlights from the past two weeks:

  • Our Senior Mini School students attended the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon;
  • The West Program students “cleaning up their community” was  featured on City TV’s “Breakfast Television;
  • A well attended PAC Meeting (the first of the year);
  • Senior PE students going to Deep Cove for a day of kayaking and hiking;
  • Over 30 students attending the “Me to We Day” conference at GM Place;
  • Over $2,500 fundraised (with less than 24 hours notice) for the Terry Fox Run;
  • The kick off of “Sock Wars” – our school wide initiative to help the homeless.

 In her article, “What Leaders Need to know about School Culture,” Joye Hall Norris defines the staff within a “forward moving school” as possessing a “set of beliefs that causes them to value the following ideas: self-examination, non defensiveness, working together, power to effect change, unwillingness to believe that certain students can’t learn, effective program design and implementation, continued evaluation, willingness to work through problems and staff leadership.”  In reading this I reflected upon the forward moving school that we are creating and have begun to realize that we are comfortable in being “risk takers” because we feel safe.  This sense of safety goes beyond physical security to include a sense of purpose and belonging – of being able to be ourselves and claim ownership of the place where we learn.

 As it is for us, so it is for our students.  We want them to have ownership of classroom and school rules; we want them to be open to the ideas of others, willing to admit to mistakes, trust those around them, have a sense of humour, energize others, and believe in continuous improvement.  One way we do this is to inspire them through the power of “Service Learning.”  The article I am passing on to you this week, “Service Learning: The Power to Inspire,” offers students the opportunity to master the core curriculum while simultaneously becoming engaged in local, national, and global challenges. This approach helps students learn to think independently and become more aware of the connection between their academic development and their ability to influence social change. The authors describe two different service learning projects: an elementary unit developed by a student teacher in which 4th graders raised funds to support a foundation that assists sick adolescents; and a high school unit on child welfare issues that differentiated for 10th graders in an honors class and an intervention class.

 Revisiting Social Responsibility – Service Learning -The Power to Inspire

 At the moment, our students are yearning to make a difference.  Under the umbrella of Social Responsibility, they are becoming energized around a vision of helping the homeless through “Sock Wars.”  It is a “true” vision because it has not been imposed.  Instead, it has evolved through students having a similar altruistic picture of what they want and knowing that they can achieve this goal most effectively by their collective, not individual, actions.  Forward thinking students surrounded by forward thinking adults in one very special community: this is what people need to know about our school culture. 

Have a nice weekend.