"In my language the word for education is Akinomaagewin. When you break down the word - 'aki' means earth and 'no' or 'nong' means stars or sky world. So our word for education is the study of the earth and sky world."
- Dominic H.K. Beaudry
As this new school year begins, fraught as it is with an overwhelming feeling of deja vu and great insecurities about in-person learning without the presence of vaccinations for children, it is vitally important from my perspective that we return to our centre point for schools and explore the questions that have grounded our teaching and learning every other year of my career in education:
Why do we have schools?
Who learns here?
How do we learn in a way that keeps our children as safe as possible?
How do we make learning as engaging as possible?
How do we meet the learning needs of all our students?
Last year, as the pandemic truly unfolded around us in an enormous bloom of anxiety, fear, exhaustion, questions and very few answers, we worked very hard as a staff to generate and sustain a safe learning environment that made sense to our learners as learners. We did not want the children in our school to look back on the 2020-21 school year and remember the year that:
- we were all forced to stay in one room
- in one chair all year
- the year we had to distance from each other all the time
- the year we were always wearing masks
- the year we didn't get to have Peace Assemblies or field trips or artists
- the year we didn't get to swim
- the year we didn't get to have Choir
- the year we didn't get to have concerts
- the year the grade 4 kids didn't get to celebrate moving on to Middle School
So we focused on what we COULD do for learning regardless of all the other restrictions. And we were delighted with the students' great interest and investment in our Coulee School venture, as well as our grade 4 students' amazing work on our first art installation '5 Years of Learning Together' on the front of our school. 2020-21 will be, we hope, etched forever in our students' memories as the year we did Coulee School and the year we created the first 5-Year mural. In perusing our newly released 2020-21 EHS School Yearbook, it is astonishing to re-visit all the learning that did take place in our building despite quite significant restrictions - one of the many reasons I love our Yearbook:)
And now we find ourselves knocking on the door of school year 2021-22, opening the door with a fair bit of hesitation on another year of unknown and unexpected events still heavily shadowed by the pandemic.
We learned a lot from our experiences last year - how strong we were as a learning community, how creative we could be even in the face of great adversities, how much we were willing to invest in truly caring for each other in multiple ways as we continued to build peaceful communities together. We also learned we needed each other - as humanity always does - despite our genuine fears and challenges.
We are meeting the challenges of this new school year with a different perspective.
We matter to each other.
We matter - each of us.
Our school wide peace book that we have all read to inspire us to continue to invest in each other even though the messages of the world seem to cry 'distance! distance!' from every corner, is called "You Matter" by Christian Robinson. It is helping us remember we matter to ourselves and to each other and will guide our connectedness this school year.
As will learning.
We are working with our Artist, Rebecca Ellison, to complete two more murals for the front of the school. We are expanding our experiences in Coulee School back to Glenbow Ranch Park. We are looking forward and letting learning lead the way. The pandemic and it's inherent restrictions will not define the learning experiences of our children as we 'study of the earth and sky world.'
Learning will lead our way through the 2021-22 school year and we are excited to invite you to join the journey with us - virtually, in-person, in writing and in experiences!