What the John Oliver Community Means to Me

It’s been a busy three weeks!  A few of the highlights:

  • JO Annual Canned Food Drive kicked off on Nov. 16th;
  • All students “ran” to the office to submit their Daily Physical Activity Logs;
  • Grade 8 Literacy Initiative – “Decoding Texts” took place in all Math, Science and Social Studies classes;
  • Over 2000 parents at our Mini School Information Night;
  • JO Cafeteria students entered the Hyatt Regency Gingerbread House Competition;
  • Peer Counsellors and Peer Tutors attended a one day workshop on Nov. 23rd;
  • The 8th Annual Jokers’ Classic Basketball Tournament is underway;
  • JO’s first wrestling meet of the year on December 1st;
  • Grade 11 students, Annie Gurvis and Tasha Johal travelling to Ottawa to participate in “Encounters with Canada”;
  • Grade 9 student, Hazel Mamaril, has had a story published in the December edition of Youthink Magazine.

Our upcoming school newspaper is devoted exclusively to the theme of community:  our definition of it and what it looks like in and around John Oliver.  I would like to share with you what “community” means to me.

I believe that everything is and everything exists through our connection to it. 

I believe that our community grows through the thousand unmarked interactions of the everyday and the commonplace. 

I believe that who we’re with and where we are with them is very much who we are. 

I believe that one of the fundamental purposes of community is to unite through our differences, and in doing so become one. 

Ours is a community whose growth is documented and expanded upon through the power of narrative.  In asking to define what the John Oliver community means to me, I’ll draw upon the story of our recent “Sock Wars” initiative in which we donated over 4000 pairs of socks to the homeless. 

A few nights back, on the Sunday night prior to our hosting of the Vancouver Coastal Health “9th Annual Sox in the City” campaign (which had its media kick off here at John Oliver), I was in the auditorium with my son, Daniel.  He looked at all of the socks piled up on the stage and in what reminded me of the scene from the “Grinch who Stole Christmas”, Daniel turned to me and in his best high pitched ‘Cindy Loo Who’ voice asked: “Why dad? Why are there so many socks here?”

I stopped for a second.  I knew the answer was quite simple: to clothe the homeless.  

However the bigger answer was wrapped around the two themes particular to our community, themes we share with each other on a daily basis: family and love.  The family we speak of is not confined within these four walls.  It extends to our neighbours and all of those around us.  The love we refer to is grounded in goodness and compassion and we measure this love by how we respond to those in need. 

What John Oliver students showcased through this altruistic initiative was not that they could donate a large amount of socks but rather that within this community, within each of us there is inherent goodness and compassion:  a goodness and compassion that is not an act but rather a habit, a way of life; a goodness and compassion that states, quite simply, there is no ‘they’, only us.

And this is the point, this is our community mantra:  you are they, they are us . . .we are family.   

The article I am passing on to you this week, Fran Norris Scoble’s, “Is School Good for the Soul,” speaks to this ideal of school as community and family: “It matters far less that we know what time class starts than that we know why we gather and how we are changed because we do.”  She argues that “in the simplicity of relationships and the demanding nature of familiarity in intimate space, there is the grounding for a deeper understanding of ourselves and of what we care about.” 

Is School Good for the Soul – Fran Norris Scoble

Norris Scoble’s essay puts into language the sentiment shared by all of us – that the relationship between each of us and our school community is reciprocal:  we simultaneously shape our school and are, in turn, shaped by it. 

Have a nice weekend.