On The Eve Of Another School Year

Back to School!

I love my job! I really do! It’s exciting to be at the helm of a school that is charged with the responsibility of making learning meaningful and reflective of the culture of the community but yet cognizant of the need for students to be able maneuver within both a traditional Heiltsuk lifestyle and an urban lifestyle. Our mission statement speaks volumes about this mandate.

“Our mission is to develop in a just, caring, and respectful environment,
students who are independent and life-long learners, incorporating our
community traditions and culture with the acquisition of skills needed to
succeed in both the traditional and modern worlds”

In an unfettered way, what does it mean to be an independent, life-long learner? Does it mean being very self-directed in that one knows exactly what ones wants in life and has identified a pathway? Or does it mean that one has very good problem-solving strategies? Does one identify one’s self as a lifelong learner or is that just a reality of our modern world, a world that requires us to be lifelong learners so that we can figure out ever-changing technology? This at a time when I am still learning some of the ancient technology that has been part of Heiltsuk way of life forever. Indeed the mission statement brings with it, a need to be collaborative and inquisitive as we forge ways to do justice to the mission statement and create plans to engage students in suitable learning activities. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

When I couldn’t have been busier getting ready for school for my first stint as Principal, I tripped and stumbled off the sidewalk beside my house. I broke my ankle in two places and eventually had to be ransported by air-ambulance to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver for surgery. It was an ordeal and one that will keep me off my right foot for six weeks. Teachers in Bella Bella live in teacherages all around me and so several, in fact, most of them were gathered all around me within a few minutes. I lay there for an hour and a quarter under the care of a wonderful off-duty ambulance attendant, the husband of one of my teachers. I waited for the only ambulance in town as it was already busily transporting two patients to and from the hospital.  The overwhelming feeling of  frustration and powerlessness remained with me until the pain took over.

I spent two evenings in the local hospital before I could be air-ambulanced out and became very familiar with evil side effects of narcotic pain killers. The staff at RW Large Memorial Hospital were amazingly attentive and caring. Upon my return to the community, they helped me to shift to a regime of pain killers which do not make me ill or lethargic.  I am so grateful to them, all of them!

Lions Gate Hospital treated me very well as well. I had very caring and attentive care from nurses who are simply run off their feet with the demands of several patients either waiting for or recovering from surgery. I should say that hospital food is simply hospital food, but I did enjoy the muffins and the sincere efforts they took to ensure my comfort.

After having a rented wheel chair flown up at great expense, I can go back and forth to school with the help of my wonderful husband. It means that I have to work up  my courage up to go up and down stairs in my rental home on ancient crutches and cross a sidewalk that is in an extreme state of disrepair. I get around in the house with a borrowed walker the rest of the time. My confidence is building but I shall tread gently to ensure my self-preservation. Could that be the lesson from all this?!

Needless to say, my part-time office will be my living room as for otherwise healthy two-legged staff members, it is about a two minute walk from the school. My brand new vice principal and I have had several meetings here and he doesn’t seem to mind that Eddy, our Chihuaua-Corgi insists  on sitting in on the  meetings on Derek’s lap.

I was unable to attend two August events that I organized in June. Teachers loved the Staff Orientation at Koeye and now have a better idea what our region, the Great Bear Rainforest offers to the Heiltsuk and to visitors. The Qqs Society has many strong, well-established relationships.http://www.qqsprojects.org/koeye_camp/index.html And is a site worth checking out.

The following day, teachers enjoyed a day with Darryl going over a range of Kagan cooperative strategies and so far, teacher reports on the day have been highly favourable. A sample handout may serve as a handy reference for teachers http://www.tvdsb.ca/webpages/msurti/files/cooperative%20learning%20structures.pdf. Thanks to the FNESC staff members who made this happen.

Tomorrow is the first day of school and I will be there to greet the children, welcome parents, community members, chiefs, leaders, elders, and my staff to a new year, a year that will see yet another group of students graduate from high school and a brand new cohort begin their educational journey in kindergarten.

Ours is a rich and determined history as prior to 1977 students such as I had to go off to the city if we wanted to complete high school. It was a terribly trying time for a generation of children whose parents had known residential school and its impacts. Today, our students can remain with loved ones in a familiar community and attend school as any other child in an urban setting. Our school is central to this community and we take our jobs very seriously.

It has always been a pleasure for me to greet the children and their parents as they arrive to school each day. Expect to see me in my wheelchair until I can put weight on my right ankle.

I look forward to tomorrow when I can spend time with an eager staff, a staff who have already formed significant  professional and social connectiions with each other.  They are  eager to begin a year that they know has already had some challenges.

Our office has no windows because of vandalism and at least one  classroom is without a smartboard until it can be replaced, but everything else is in place and ready to go! The elevator doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, but I will manage somehow…

Happy New School Year everyone! I hope to see many of you lining the streets in the morning to welcome our Sasum to another school year!

Let me know how your start up goes…



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2 responses to “On The Eve Of Another School Year

  1. Wishing you the most successful of school years Jan. Only wishing Texas were closer. Six weeks will fly by and you will be up and “running” in no time.

  2. hgis

    Speedy recovery to you Janice!

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