I made a new friend on Facebook today… it was a serendipitous mistake. W.B.* had made a humorous comment on a post by a friend. Another W.B. is a friend of mine who does not “do” Facebook. Since the privacy settings were at the highest level, I couldn’t tell if this W.B. and the W.B. I know were one and the same. So I sent a friend request. W.B. was online and accepted right away. Excited, thinking my W.B. had at last come over to the “time-waster-that-is-Facebook” (her words, not mine), I clicked on the name to welcome my pal to the 21st century. Oops – not the same W.B. – but hey, we have one friend in common so maybe we have more in common than just knowing the same person. A snappy email correspondence ensued and we decided to stay friends.
I perused her photos and asked to use the one displayed above on this blog. So this little interaction reminded me once more about the value and power of social media and networks. My new friend is obviously creative, loves dogs and has a fine sense of humour. Our shared “friend”, E.M., is someone I have only met virtually through mutual interests and causes. He has those same three attributes I cited for W.B., along with a fourth common virtue: the willingness to share their talents. E.M.* has certain skills in the graphic arts and used them to help me with a wee project. What gifts the interweb can bring!
*Ironically, in this piece where I exalt the value of interconnecting, I am using initials so that W.B. and E.M. are not stalked by unwanted internet trolls!
So much is written about the dangers of the internet. Parents and schools sometimes rush to protect the kids without realizing the richness that may be denied to them. Our job is to show how this amazing resource set can be used in a smart and safe way. I would never have met this new-to-me W.B. in “real” life: she lives 3,000 miles away and looks to be at least 30 years younger than I. Yet what she chose to reveal of herself to me, by the art piece above, by her willingness to share it with you, gentle readers, tells me virtual relationships – and the learning they bring – are as meaningful as those found in the “real”world.
I want to make a second point with this picture. Two nights ago, at the Elizabeth Rummel Elementary School, Superintendent Brian Callaghan and I attended the school council meeting to talk about the budget. As it stands now, 2011-2012 will be a difficult time. Our board has decided to meet face-to-face with all those affected by our budget decisions to deliver the unwelcome news.
Before we presented though, four of our teachers spoke about their work with the students. Up first was Deb McKibbin, asking for feedback from parents on the assessment for learning initiatives. Parents spoke of positives: student-led parent/teacher interviews, weekly email updates on class doings from teachers, the use of portfolios to gauge a child’s progress. Parents also had reservations: the lack of traditional report cards caused some unease. In the journey to determine the best methods to improve learning, I commend these parents who are trying to understand this evolution and to support teachers in their efforts. When I saw the picture above, it occurred to me: if this was a class assignment “Tell Me Who You Are”, what grade would be assigned? Wouldn’t a conversation, rich in questions and back-and-forth dialogue result in deeper learning?
Teacher Sara Alarie was pleased and proud to announce the participation of local hero and school neighbour, Ben Gadd, in “Bird Bonanza”. Turns out, all Sara had to do was ask, and Ben was thrilled to accept. She also spoke about APECS and that program’s slow but steady progress. Music teacher Kathleen Matheson followed and reported on Arts Infused Learning. Lastly, Kathleen and teacher librarian, Sandra Becker, talked about the continuing hard work on Learning Commons development. This pair is dreaming big and getting tremendous support from the parents and school. The learning dividends for the students will be substantial.
Then Brian and I were on. Brian outlined the technical information, trying to make complex, unwieldy and disagreeable subject matter digestible. Questions came. When my turn came, I drew on the passion and optimism of those teachers who spoke before us. So many encouraging elements: community outreach, personal commitment, innovative ideas, inclusion, and more. I said “Our teachers are doing wonderful things for our kids’ learning. These dedicated professionals are in it for the long haul and will see these projects through to fruition. This gives me hope.” Well, it was me – I said a lot more – but that was the gist of it.
We must not lose hope as we deal with the challenges this budget brings. We will continue to advocate with the government for predictable, sustained funding to Education so that this worthy, supremely important work can continue uninterrupted. Meanwhile we will not abandon what we know is our duty: to properly take care of ALL the children entrusted to our care. We’re in it together and for the long haul.