New Year’s Resolutions
“Inclusivity will be the milestone at which we shift from celebration and the implementation of strategies to the fundamental restructuring of our organization – our schools, classrooms, departments and Board. Inclusivity isn’t just inclusion. It isn’t just about belonging. It is about the constant evolution of the environments in which we belong. “ Ken Thurston, Director: York Region District School Board
The bells at our neighbourhood school just rang across the park. Our family has enjoyed an active, eventful and rich summer break and now it is time for us to return to school; my wife to her Kindergarten class, our 15 year old twins to grade 10, our eldest off to a 4 credit grade 12 Co-Op placement and me, well, I’ve really been back at work for a few weeks now.
As a family parented by two educators, we’ve always considered Labour Day to be more like New’s Years Eve. Along with the reality that, like most teachers, we always seem to still be awake at midnight the night before Day One, there is also the obvious reality that September brings us, as my colleague Dean Shareski writes, a clean slate. For these reasons, I’ve always looked forward to the start of the school year and its blank page and this year, even more so.
We all know our last school year was both unusual and eventful; all I have to offer about the past year is my sense of pride on how as families, staff and students we navigated the conflicts and tensions with respect, consideration and integrity, ’nuff said.
I’ve had a few resolutions I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks related to our school’s continued focus on Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation. So it was with some measure of delight that I listened to our Director, Ken Thurston’s keynote talk at our district’s Leadership Conference last Wednesday. Ken talked about the importance of engaging and trusting our students, staff and families, shifting towards a collaborative, lateral system and away from a hierarchical, expert-based system and embracing the realities with which our digital, networked world is confronting us. All messages I could embrace (and have been).
The quote that launches this post was the one that grabbed me. Inclusivity as more than just creating ‘belonging’ but as re-shaping our structures in response to the needs of our community-students, families and staff. I’m excited about this shift because, not only does it grant us permission to inquire and innovate, it challenges us to look at our existing practices, evaluate their impact and change them if they are not working.
As a school, we have made the decision to change our practices in response to the genuine needs of all of students, in particular our struggling and disengaged students. We have embraced the use of technology to support teacher and student learning and creativity, adopted a BYOD policy to support teacher and student autonomy and choice and we have developed our web and social media presence to reach out to, and connect with, parents, families and educators from beyond our school.
As I look towards tomorrow, and the start of a new school year; these are my humble resolutions:
- I will focus my efforts and energy on supporting our community (staff & parents) to grow the understanding we have of our students and their social, emotional and academic needs
- I will use these understandings to structure and evolve our programs; at the classroom and school level, in response to our student’s needs
- I will communicate regularly and clearly our challenges and successes, through this blog, our @ParkAvePS twitter feed and newly revised, weekly edition of our school newsletter, the Park Avenue Post
So Happy New Year to all; staff, parents and most of all, students. I’m looking forward to welcoming you all back and helping you learn to make your dreams come true!