Thursday, June 9, 2016

What Makes a School Great? Whole School Approach to Learning

I want to start by saying, Bassano School is a great school. It’s a great school for a number of reasons. 

First of all, Bassano School has a great history of educating children. Some of you may have been so fortunate to have attended Bassano School fifteen, twenty, or even fifty years ago. I love walking the hallways in the high school and looking at the photographs of past graduates. Whether you attended in the past or not, I think we can agree that Bassano School has established quite a legacy of giving students opportunities to advance themselves beyond Grade 12 if they so chose. But our school isn’t made great simply because of what it did in the past, we must continue to stir the minds of students for learning. If all we strive for is to educate students as our primary goal, we have missed our purpose. We want to teach students how to learn as a lifelong pursuit. If all we do is equip students with the tools to learn how to think for themselves, learn new things as they grow, and know how to work, we have reached a great goal. So we are not in the business to educate as in a task to be completed, but rather we are a school that teaches students how to be learners.

Second, Bassano School is a great school because we challenge students and teachers alike to love learning. We want each person in our School to become independent, critical thinkers. We’re even okay with students arguing their point of view, albeit respectfully. Our task as teachers is not to teach students to submit to strict compliance. Our oldest daughter was the compliant child. She did exactly what she was supposed to do most of the time. She may not have agreed with what was asked of her, but she dutifully complied. That’s not what I wanted for her because so often I found that she was living her life to please us as parents and not living out her passions, her own dreams. Not unlike our students, we want them to add their own flavour and style to their learning. Learning needs to be relevant to their own lives in order for it be meaningful. The learning isn’t limited to students. As teachers, we need to be reflective in our teaching  and learning. It requires us to stretch ourselves and ask the  important questions of why we teach the way we do or do our assessment more fairly. If we want students to love learning, we need to love learning too and model it for our students.

Third, Bassano School is a great school because we believe that students and teachers alike are important. We believe that we cannot teach a child unless we foster an environment for relationship building with students. We need to be transparent mentors that can admit to failures and mistakes. Students need to know they can fail and still make things right and move forward. That’s why we allow students to do rewrites, redos, and retakes for tests and assignments. We encourage students and teachers to work together and find ways to demonstrate learning. We believe that every learner can learn, it’s only a matter of when they will learn. 

Fourth, Bassano School is a great school because we celebrate the diversity of race, religion, and orientation. We promote respect for all types of learners. We make no distinction between those with money and resources and those with little or no accumulated wealth. Everyone is treated with equality and fairness. We will not condone a sense of entitlement to dictate the future of our school. We live in a transient society with people coming and going in and out of our community. Everyone’s opinion matters, whether they have a short-term relationship with the school or have been here for a lifetime. We may not agree with one another, but we will respect the opinions of others with open-mindedness and tolerance. 

Finally and most importantly, Bassano School is a great school because we have a caring and kind group of students in our school. We may have our conflicts from time to time, but that’s life. We will listen to students first before jumping to conclusions. We will hear every side out and try to talk things out before making decisions. We don’t expect perfection from our students, but we expect effort. Try, fail, try again, fail again, try harder and succeed. Not every student is destined for college or university, but we will make sure everyone is assisted in finding out what they want to do after school. We will listen to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks. Everyone is important and has value to us as a school. 

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