COLUMN: We must put both hearts and schools in order
“There is no particular substantive reform I would recommend — because no single reform will account for much difference. It has to be an array of reforms orchestrated at the community level and involving a joining of schools and universities, as well as a much closer relationship between community and school than we’ve been having in the last few decades.”
— John Goodlad
As a community, we continue to deal with the tragedy of losing a student to suicide. In speaking to Carol Todd recently, she informed me that she was busy meeting with individuals and groups in the community to ensure that the passing of her daughter Amanda would not be forgotten and that her legacy would be improved conditions for young adults.
The discussion was comforting and personal as both of us lamented the passing of a daughter but also because we were both looking for lessons learned and how to develop individual and collective responses to the tragic loss of Amanda.
We feel the loss of Amanda as a wound that continues to hurt and affect us all. We recognize the harsh reality of this wound but our expressed hope is to encourage people to think about their experiences with a feeling of compassion and responsibility. It is only through this type of concerted action that the wound will eventually heal.
It is commendable to see the many leaders in our community trying to find solutions to the issues that many of the young learners in our community deal with. From bullying, social isolation and loneliness to mental health and poverty, I see many individuals investing time and energy to find solutions to these difficult situations.
Municipal leaders such as Mayor Greg Moore in Port Coquitlam are gathering momentum in their community to deal with the issue of bullying. They organized a walk to raise awareness and are developing a legal strategy to deal with acts of bullying.
Mothers such as Carol Todd are raising awareness of the various aspects of this issue in ways that honour young adults but provide us with the possibility of action that will make our communities safer for all.
What is the response of a school district and its many leaders?
Our continued efforts are designed to create an environment where all, including students, staff and parents, feel respected and safe. We cannot create such an environment by individual acts of courage alone. We need a holistic, active and engaged set of strategies that include all of us looking at the many elements of our environment. We must pay attention to the physical environment and to the social routines of our classrooms and schools.
As Cindi Seddon, a principal in our district, indicated during an interview with the media, developing a safe haven for students includes building a positive and safe school climate. Such a climate requires that educators find ways to build student and educator attachment to one another, their schools, their district and their communities. This can be achieved through personal and professional relationships, and by assuming responsibilities in the civic and extracurricular lives of our schools.
Currently, we have a district representative committee meeting on a regular basis to develop an overarching and inclusive strategy on school safety. It will include an orientation to expectations, routines and strategies to develop safe and inclusive learning environments for all. It will look at the task from an appreciative perspective and I look forward to working with our organization in a combined effort to effect positive change in our schools and communities.
“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
Tom Grant is superintendent of School District 43.