Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Our Role? What is Your Role?

As part of the design process for a new high school (opening September 2014) our district has recently been seeking input from students, staff, parents, and community members. I've enjoyed hearing what different people want to see in a modern high school, and also hearing from our architect and representatives from Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education re: the design and function of other new schools.

At this stage in the process, the focus of the design efforts has been to ensure we have a facility that will meet our needs in September of 2014, as well as many years from now. Flexible is among the most common words I’ve heard used to describe the facility design. Beyond facility design though, I'm looking forward to when the new principal and staff will begin to focus on programming and instruction!

As we begin discuss our vision of what the high school experience for students will look like in 2014, it is evident lots of changes are on the horizon.

Historically, teacher preparation programs describe the system of public schooling originating for the purpose of helping students acquire the knowledge and skills required to be productive members of society upon their maturation into adulthood.

It is common today for educational reformers and educational critics to claim that our current model of schooling is outdated. Our system is no longer current, some reformers claim, because public education was originally created to produce graduates able to focus on tasks, perform in structured environments, and meet time-constraints that exist as students graduate to work in a factory environment. Those critics feel today's society, however, needs students to graduate with different knowledge and skills than in the past.

Historically then, our public education system has deep connections with our communities. Schools exist because of communities and I believe communities thrive because of schools. In Grande Prairie, our district celebrated our 100th anniversary in 2011, which means the school district began before the city did, as GP was incorporated as a village in 1914. After all this time, I think we need to dig deep and look to see if our current relationship with our community is still meeting those needs.

If school exists to meet certain needs of society, it is a certainty then that parents of our students and their peers within our society have a role to fill in education. Who better to provide us feedback on our roles than those who expect us to fulfill a role? Just as students, teachers, administrators, district-level staff, and School Board members have a role in our system, so must our communities.

We’ve opened a door with our recent consultations on high school design. I hope we keep that door open and look for more opportunities to engage in these discussions with ALL OF our stakeholders. There is a lot to be learned, and gained, from conversations such as these.

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