The office staff greeted me warmly as I entered the school. It was lunchtime. Kids were everywhere on this hot September day. After introducing myself, the admin assistant told me that I would likely find the principal on the upper field supervising students and I headed that way. As I wandered to the top field, a child in tears was coming down the hill. He was very young, kindergarten I guessed as he stopped in front of me to seek assistance. Something had happened, he wasn’t injured but he was upset. I felt rather helpless standing there with this weeping young child at my feet. Keenly aware that I was an “outsider” I looked around for a helping adult. Coming my way, only a few short steps from me was a young staff member who saw the situation and arriving at my side she knelt at his feet. She asked him what was wrong, comforted him and they began to move inside. She said thank you to me for helping and she was off. I knew the boy would be well cared for. This was the start of a reminder for me of how great and caring our schools are. In this post, I devote a few stories to the beginning of school this year and what these stories tells us about the quality of our schools and those who work within.
I walked up the hill glancing back to see if the boy had stopped crying. He already looked better and I felt more at ease knowing that he was in good hands. As I got to the top of the hill, a gravel soccer field was before me. It hadn’t rained for quite a while and grey dust filled the air as groups of children moved to and fro on the field in search of the ball. What was immediately obvious was that this was not eleven a side soccer. This was a game for all comers regardless of age or ability and a great time was being had by all. Children of all sizes and shapes were laughing, running, and chasing the ball in the mid-day heat. Teams on each side were so large it was impossible to count. Through the dust, on the far end of the field, I saw a man in an orange safety vest. Whistle in his mouth, blowing from time to time, he called out the names of children, guided them in their play and watched with interest. It was the principal, I realized and I went to say hi and to chat, carefully dodging running children on the way. After a short talk, I left him to his most important task which was supervision of this large group and to let the play continue.
I headed down the hill toward my car. I began reflecting on all the schools I had visited in September. While not having visited all 125 of our schools, I was now well over 30. The stories I heard and the sites I saw showed me a system that is welcoming, focused, open, and inclusive. It left me with so much hope and simply reaffirmed all that I know about schools in BC. Some of what I saw:
- The Special Education Assistant who stopped me to introduce herself and to tell me about her startup and the joys of watching children progress. From tiny steps to giant leaps, the joy with which she told the story showed me how much care our adults have for those with whom they work.
- The group of 42 teachers, administrators and district staff who spent the afternoon talking about how we can work together to ensure that our district commitments are focused on the needs of teachers and schools. Their level of engagement in the task and their resolve for improvement was palpable.
- The principal who with his fellow administrators spent the better part of the morning doing a barbeque for students to welcome them to the year and to support them in their journey ahead. It was more than the gesture, it was the open commitment to the well-being of students and working to ensure that they connected to their school.
- The four boys, who leaving their school at the end of the day stopped, opened the door for me and welcomed me to their school as they headed out. Smiles, a warm greeting and truly pride in welcoming me to their site.
- The office staffs who in the opening weeks managed to deal with the pace and frenzy of competing demands from parents, students, staff and the public, yet in each and every case welcomed me to the school, clarified who I was, what I wanted and pointed me in the right direction.
- The PAC at one school who ran their local fun fair that night. Reaching out to the community, engaging parents, students and staff all in the interest of building community and yes, raising funds for a specific school need.
These are only a few of the many stories I could share. The essence of this post was that I was so struck by the quality, care and integrity of our programs and sites that I felt compelled to write.
So if you want to know about the quality of education in BC, it’s easy. Visit your neighbourhood school. There you will likely find the same caring teachers, support staff, administrators, students and parents that I see every day.
Education in B.C., it’s something of which we can all be proud.