Building Futures Teacher – “It’s not about the house!” It is what I say to visitors all the time about the Building Futures program, where 34 grade 10 students spend the whole school year in a double garage working side-by-side with McKee Homes amazing sub-contractors to build beautiful homes, all while learning their core classes. If it is not about introducing students to the construction industry, then what is it about?
My partner teacher, Erica Rozema, and I are in the pursuit of creating learning experiences that matter, ones that try to help build a student’s future. Connecting students to their community has been a major component of this pursuit over the years. Students have been involved in putting on their own fundraising events, they built and set-up little free libraries in Airdrie, donated a book barn to the Airdrie Recycling Center and helped set up the Airdrie Festival of Lights – all in the name of giving back to their community.
This continuous pursuit to connect our students to their community is a driving factor in what we think makes learning experiences matter. Connecting with other humans from all different backgrounds, connecting to the place you live, connecting to ideas that impact our world, connecting to experiences that bring students a sense that they belong. I do admit one of the better “connections” we offer students is the experience of learning to belong in building a most basic need, a home. The construction journey is just one of the learning experiences we have created. We have other learning experiences that have connected students to starting a business, a challenge to create the staging and sales write-up of the homes, re-designing urban spaces, creating a marketing plan for an innovative program and building a solar-powered tiny house. These experiences are because of local experts whom we connected with in the Airdrie community who shared their expertise and feedback with our students.
Building our student’s futures means that we keep pushing ourselves as teachers to connect learning beyond our “classroom”. It means that we push ourselves to connect learning to people who want to share their knowledge with our students. It means we want to push ourselves to connect learning to a student’s sense of place and allowing them to see themselves as contributors to their community. It means that we push ourselves to connect learning to having students fall in love with the world around them. It means we push ourselves to connect learning so that our students, at the end of the school year, can say “it is not about the house, it is about connecting!”
Teacher, École Airdrie Middle School – When I was approached by a colleague in 2009 to join her in the pursuit of becoming a UNESCO member school, I was all in! I didn’t know what to expect in terms of what it meant to be a UNESCO school, but I knew anything related to this moniker was generally good.
Getting school staff on board can be difficult, but once goals are set in place teachers quickly realize that what they are already doing in their classrooms conforms to a lot of the ASPnet and UNESCO criteria. School activities can vary between aligning projects with social justice, sustainability, safe and caring, or tolerance initiatives. It can be as simple as choosing a novel study that focuses on inequalities, or partnering with a school across the world or province via Skype to create a global classroom.
A Lengthy Process
If you choose to embark on becoming an ASPnet/UNESCO member school don’t expect your accreditation overnight. It took our school six years before earning our status. We were, however, committed to reaching our goal. This meant filing annual reports that logged our initiatives, all of which aligned with UNESCO’s pillars of learning. I would recommend having a team of two people to take this on, as it requires attending two annual meetings at Barnett House in Edmonton and compiling information throughout the year.
Flying The Flag
Upon becoming a member school, you are given a plaque to hang on your school wall along with, the privilege of posting the UNESCO emblem on your school’s letterhead and website. The proudest moment of all has to be the raising of the UNESCO flag, letting your community know that your school has achieved something great!
To find out more please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/networks/global-networks/aspnet/
Editors Note: Congratulations go out to École Airdrie Middle School on receiving official status as a UNESCO Associated School! Founded in 1953, the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) is a global network of 10,000 educational institutions in 181 countries. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions – work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice. If you get the chance, extend your congratulations to the school!
Superintendent of Schools – On October 21, I was honoured to be part of the Board’s celebration of long service and retirement held at the Education Centre. The evening was an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of approximately 89 team members who either had 20, 25, 30 or 35 years of service and those who have retired this past year. The combined service for this group of around 90 people was over 2,100 years or about 400,000 school days!!!
As I said in my speech – the evening was a small token of appreciation and a chance to celebrate all of the group’s substantial contributions. These contributions cannot be quantified, measured or categorized but they are significant.
All of our contributions make a difference. Whether the contribution is done quietly behind the scenes; up on the roof of the school fixing an HVAC unit; working 1:1 with students with significant challenges; standing in front of a group a kids teaching; working in an office; driving a bus; volunteering to lead a drama performance; keeping our schools clean and beautiful or governing the system … it all makes a difference. We all contribute to the overall collective and make a positive difference in our schools and communities.
Thank you for all that you do! Together we make Rocky View Schools and together we make a positive difference.
Principal, R.J. Hawkey – Last week I received an email from a mother inquiring into a program at our school. She asked a series of questions, most of which were very typical. One question stood apart from the rest and caused me to think deeply. She asked “Will my son be celebrated as a male, or is everyone gender neutral?”. Wow!
I have been an educator for a very long time and can’t remember a single instance of celebrating a child for their “boyness”, or “girlness” for that matter. Most formal celebrations celebrate achievement; academic, athletic, artistic, or social. Special days also come to mind when I think of celebrating. Informal celebrations are a regular occurrence in an elementary school; high 5’s, hugs, fist pumps, and thumbs up. Yet, I don’t recall doing anything special specifically focused on gender.
I truly believe that each learner in our school is unique and special. At R.J. Hawkey we strive for “Safe, Caring, Connected Learning; Success for All”. I take this seriously, working hard each day to create a school where each learner feels valued and safe to be themself. Each learner should know he/she is cared for, connected to others within our school, community, city and world. We meet our learners where they are in their learning journey, help them to learn more about themself as a learner and achieve success. Does it matter if they are a boy or a girl, man or woman? I’m not sure.
Over the span of my career I can’t recall a student or colleague who identified as gender neutral. I do know, that if and when I do, I will want the same things for the student as I do for everyone else. Like everyone else, I am sure that the student will have lots of achievements to celebrate.