Jason Leslie is the Principal at Matthew McNair Secondary School in Richmond, BC.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
The holidays bring an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, and to appreciate all that we enjoy in our lives. It is also, however, a time when many people struggle with loneliness and depression as they are reminded of how things in their lives used to be better, easier or different. I just returned from a walk with my dog and stopped in to say hello to a few neighbors, two of which are going through difficult changes in their lives. They seemed a little lonely, and were very welcoming of some conversation with someone. I was happy to be that someone, and it reminded me how important it is to keep connecting with people, since it is easy to get swept up in the business of our work lives.
Today's experience also made me think of what we do in schools. Like most other schools and districts in B.C., we have School Performance Plans and District Accountability Contracts which indicate a strong desire to enhance student Social Responsibility. Like many other schools in BC and across Canada, we have a cause we support on a global level. Students host a variety fundraisers and events to raise awareness for a school we are building in the Dominican Republic. Each summer we send a small group of our students with and agency called Hero Holidays to engage with the community in the Dominican and work on the actual footprint of the building. These are without question life-changing experiences for the students involved, and I endorse them whole-heartedly.
Equally, if not more important, however, is the need to act in such ways on a local level, since we have many people in our own community in need of assistance and attention, and these interactions are opportunities that can impact far more of our students. I am very proud of the work we have done at Burnett over the past several years engaging in such efforts. The frequent class and extra-curricular field trips to downtown soup kitchens, our extremely successful canned food drive, and family adoptions around holiday seasons are just a few of the local efforts Burnett students are engaged in. One of our most successful efforts occurs through our Social Responsibility Conference day, which this year was held on December 7th. We suspend classes for the entire day and students sign up for sessions based solely on Social responsibility. We bring in guest speakers like Jesse Miller on the dangers of social media and how to use it responsibly, and John Banovitch from MADD on the dangers of drinking and driving. Students spend the day thinking about and acting in socially responsible ways, discussing topics like recycling and homelessness with their teachers, and going out to sing carols at the Richmond General hospital and at Seniors homes like Rosewood Manor and Courtyard Gardens. The highlight of the day for many of us is the seniors brunch, where we invite 150 seniors from nearby care homes to come to the school for a catered brunch and some singing, dancing and time for visiting. The feedback we get from our guests is always very positive, and the students walk away from the experience feeling good about the efforts they have made in brightening the days of others, on top of the learning that has taken place regarding the planning, organizing and delivering the event itself.
I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday filled with opportunities to interact with your friends and families, and remember to do your part on a local level to make this season more pleasant for everyone. It is invaluable for the individuals we interact with, and also provides a positive example for our students and family members in creating a stronger sense of community.