Nurturing People of Worth and Distinction

Halloween has come and gone and two months have flown by.  Highlights from the past few weeks:

  • Sock Wars have ended with over 3400 socks being donated by our staff and students.  Grade 11’s turned in 1000 and our grade 8’s answered the challenge donating 610 socks;
  • A President’s Club has been established (the Presidents of every school club meet twice a month to share news and plan collectively).  They now have a link on our website;
  • Our Environmental Club is helping to plant a community garden in the Fraser and Broadway area;
  • Mr. Price has his Bike Club up and pedaling in the neighbourhood;
  • Grade 11 student, Dinesh Sunthareswaran has just returned from his week long “Encounter with Canada” experience in Ottawa;
  • Volleyball, soccer and field hockey teams are all involved in City Playoffs.

 In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Joe Paterno, 84 year old football coach at Penn State, commented on the responsibility he undertakes as a “moulder’ of young men: 

…once you have kids, life changes.  You’ll find that your happiness is defined by your least happy child.  You’ll understand.  Every player we have, someone – maybe a parent, a grandparent, someone – poured their life and soul into that young man.  They are handing that young man off to us.  They are giving us their treasure, and it’s our job to make sure we give them back that young man intact and ready to face the world.  

Paterno’s comments remind me of the words spoken by author and educator Herb Kohl over 10 years ago in an interview with Marge Scherer. 

 The Discipline of Hope – A Conversation with Herb Kohl 

Kohl talks of how as educators we all “grapple with the challenges of creating environments where kids feel they belong and where they learn to love learning.”  At the core of this “environment” is the central premise behind what we do, the reason as to why ours is the noblest of professions:  

A teacher’s task is not only to engage students’ imagination but also to convince them that they are people of worth who can do something in a very difficult world. 

This past week, I received a gift in the form of an email from a staff member.  With the teacher’s permission, I’d like to share it with you because it speaks to the commitment and connection espoused by Paterno and Kohl: 

X failed grade 10 Science last year (tough kid with a tough life, like so many) and hasn’t been around much this year.  

If the Ministry pulled her report card and disregarded her attendance, they would see by summative assessment alone that she’s intelligent and knows her stuff. Formatively, she gets it; sits alone in the front row and asks great clarifying questions while doodling away (like I did when I was in school). 

Her mark is an A so far this year, with an 88% average though her attendance is abysmal. Does she know her stuff, most likely; is she capable, of course (and a fantastic Fine Arts student, some of her better sketches are posted on my back wall for all to see); will she fall through the cracks, if by cracks we can say she accidentally lands on the laps of admissions at Emily Carr with glowing reports on her capabilities, then I sure hope so. 

Someone talk to this girl please and find out what the heck is going on… she’s amazing and I want to see her succeed. And while I can’t do this for all of my students, I couldn’t help commenting on this one as I’m reviewing their reports at home. 

This teacher speaks about hope and optimism from a place of caring and responsibility.  The email, for me, reaffirmed, yet again, my belief that John Oliver is a special place filled with amazing people.  Our school community, at its core, is led with hope and optimism and as a result has a built-in momentum that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere.  Optimism breeds passion.  Passion creates energy.  Our community is engaged and filled with positive energy because, as this email makes clear, everyone here is recognized as an individual of distinction. 

Thank you for the gift!