||Volume 24, Number 5, March 2012
Giant’s Head Elementary School staff write to George Abbott
Thank you for your visit today. We are pleased and honoured that you have chosen to visit Giant’s Head Elementary School.
We certainly believe Giant’s Head School is a very special place. It’s a people place! It is a place where we strive every day to make a difference in children’s lives. We put our heart and soul into our work here. No doubt, that can be said for many public schools in our province. Teachers care about kids. That is why we do what we do! We are here to share the “aha moments” and we are here to work hard “in the trenches” for those kids who need more time, more resources, and more love.
We are the voice for those children. Today we want you to hear our message on their behalf and on our behalf.
We pride ourselves at Giant’s Head Elementary School for our teacher-driven initiatives. We are leaders in education. Teacher-led professional development is the norm at our school. Many of our teachers have worked with Susan Close and Adrienne Gear to bring rich learning experiences to our classrooms. Several of our teachers have offered their classrooms as demonstration sites so other teachers could see SMART learning in action. Many teachers on staff have been using the “Inquiry Model” to determine the next step in professional development. Because of our flexibility and initiative, Giant’s Head teachers have become exemplars and provincial master trainers for programs like SMART and Tribes. Besides being able to impact our classrooms, many agree it is the richest professional development they have ever done!
We thrive on learning as professionals. For seven years, we have had an active learning community that has always sought to solidify best practice in areas such as language arts, math, or social responsibility. When we determine an area where we want to see professional growth, we make it happen. We are working together on a model for teaching mathematics which incorporates the latest research in this area. We bring in experts to enhance our music, art, and DPA programs. Other times we are the experts and we share that expertise throughout the district and province. This year in the midst of job action we jumped into a book study based on Ross W. Greene’s, Lost at School. We sit with our colleagues after school and try to solve the dilemma of how to reach those kids in our building who are “lost at school.” We do this not because we are directed to do so, but because we want to make a difference in our students’ lives.
So, Mr. Abbott, we get worried when we hear talk about the government changing professional development from being locally developed to something that is going to be prescribed to us from afar. We know what we want and what we need to best support our students. “Top down” is not the model that has worked so well for us at Giant’s Head Elementary School. Support us, but please don’t try to control us.
We need your support in many crucial ways. We need your help to right the wrongs of slashed contracts. We need language in our contract to ensure classroom environments are student and teacher friendly. Smaller class sizes would be a great place to start. All of us have seen the challenge of teaching with too many children in a classroom. The amount of individual attention is limited. We are putting in more of our own time, funding our own resources and still we cannot meet all of their needs.
Adequate funding for special needs children is also crucial. This applies for children not only at both ends of the spectrum—our gifted and our learning challenged, but also our behaviourally challenged. Some of us remember a time when program aides were available in classrooms to help those “grey area kids” who would turn the corner on learning when they had just a little more help. Now every CEA is a personal attendant or Care-aid and little help is available to those other children who struggle to adapt to the classroom environment. We have many special needs children who get very little specialized help because our Special Education teacher and Learning Assistance teacher are stretched to the maximum. We turn to them for help but they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of children they service, not to mention testing, developing Individualized Education Programs, school-based meetings, and parent meetings. We have other children who need help but because the funding formula has changed they no longer qualify for funding because the bar has been raised. In the meantime teachers are working harder than they ever have to meet the needs of every child in their classroom. Without extra support in the classroom to meet the increasing mental health, physical, and emotional concerns of the children of British Columbia, teachers are finding it overwhelming to even implement the exciting initiatives we are passionate to put into practice.
As technology is a cornerstone for personalized 21st century learning, we wonder how we will manage with a lack of funds for hardware, software, training, and support.
Please, fund the equipment and maintenance of it, and fund the training we might need to use the equipment. Right now much of our equipment and software is outdated and we struggle daily to make do with what we have.
We are happy to have you visit. The Grade Five Ambassadors will be proud to tour you through their school. It has been their home for several years now. They are leaders and proud of their role. Students will be nervous, but happy, to have you stop and watch them in action. They know what is expected of them as ambassadors of our school. We hope they live up to those expectations! But kids are kids—some days they soar and some days no matter how hard they flap their wings, they don’t quite get off the ground. Teachers will be glad to see you too. But in the busy-ness of our days, we may be caught up in a learning moment and miss the opportunity to say “Hello….and by the way, Mr. Abbott, I want you to know….”
We are passionate about kids and we are passionate about our work with kids. We urge you to see us as stakeholders and to support us in the work we do so well. We are not adversaries; we are a part of this family of learners that stretches across this wonderful province of ours. We need your support and welcome the opportunity to further communicate with you about what is happening here, “in the trenches.”
With regards, teaching staff of Giant’s Head Elementary School, Summerland