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Welcome…Really

“We unite in our purpose to inspire and prepare learners for life in our changing world community.”

The words quoted above come directly from the mission statement of my district, the York Region District School Board. They pop up all over the place; on our board web site, on our brochures and in school and Board communications. Through our daily efforts, in our schools we work to make it a reality for each of students and their families, using what we know and what we believe to guide our decisions.

When I consider our mission statement, a few key words and phrases stand out; unite, inspire, prepare and, especially, changing world community. I think we can all agree on the  importance for schools and families to work together, and, likewise, on the role that the engagement of our students plays in their achievement. These are timeless features of public schools.

More immediate is the challenge we all face in creating a school that is truly inclusive and equity-focused. The growing diversity of our community, along with the access offered through networked technologies, present new realities for us as a school. The world now comes to us, and we go to the world, every day at school.

Recent events at my school have us asking ourselves some tough, but necessary, questions about our understanding of cultural diversity, the responsiveness of our programs and whether we are hearing from all of our students and families, and, if this is not the case, how we may do so? The material and texts we select, the ways in which we design our lessons, the language we use, all of these need to be reflected upon.

This is good stuff. It is necessary but very difficult. We are part of a caring and compassionate profession but we can only see what we can see. Creating a school that is culturally proficient and responsive requires leadership and the willingness to truly listen to students and families and, frankly, this is new learning for schools.

Framing this as an inquiry helps me approach this task from a learner’s stance, creating an inclusive, thoughtful school is not something I, or we, can do in isolation, it requires many voices and an openness to hearing these voices.

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