Monday, October 27, 2014

McNair Mini School-Strathcona 2014

"Pushing the envelope"

Getting ready to go at the ferry terminal
Last weekend, October 17-20th, the McNair Mini-School program took its annual trip to Strathcona Pak Lodge just outside of Campbell River, British Columbia.  The trip, normally run the first week back to school in early September, had to be delayed due to the late start to school.  There was some worry that the trip would not be able to happen at all, but the teacher-sponsors and the coordinators at Strathcona worked very hard to come up with alternative plans, and we were able to take the 143 students and 10 teachers last weekend.  Despite extremely wet weather, the students all had a memorable time, made some great connections with new peers and learned some very valuable lessons about ecological footprints and how to conserve energy and resources.  
Overlooking beautiful Strathcona Lake
Some Sunshine!!!
6 guiding principles at Strathcona:
1.  More with Less-  Minimizing one's impact on the planet by making good choices.
2.  Stewardship-  Caring for one's environment and teaching others to care, too.
3.  Challenge by Choice-  Providing opportunities to take risks in a safe environment.
4.  Living on the Edge-  Being open to new ideas, experiences and differences.
5.  Generosity of Spirit-  Thinking of others with kindness, charity and respect.
6.  Happy Warrior-  Performing tasks with enthusiasm an being a positive contributor.
The low ropes course
Getting some instruction
On the high ropes course
Grade 8's problem solving
Working together
A good time at the barn dance
The entire Mini crew
A highlight of every school year for Mini-school students, this year did not disappoint. Included in the activities were: Team-building games, White-water canoe, Low Ropes, High Ropes, Zip-Lining, Kayaking, Rock-climbing and Survival skills.  The Grade 8's had an overnight out-trip where they paddled a canoe about 4 kilometres to a campsite on the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park and then had to set up their sleeping structure, build a fire, cook and clean up from dinner, then go to sleep.  The rain was heavy (especially underneath a tarp), but the spirit of the campers was not dampened.  The  support of the staff was first-rate, and the food was excellent.  The entire weekend was full of memorable excursions where all students learned about the environment, learned about themselves and each other and "pushed the envelope".  I know I certainly stepped "out of my comfort zone". 
All the teacher supervisors
Ms. Arvanitis climbing the wall...
Mr. Leslie reaching out...
And out of the mouths of many of our students:
"That was the first time I ever steered a canoe and I did not know if it was going to be easy or difficult, so I took a chance and tried it."
"I learned to never be harmful or disrespectful to nature because it is part of the air you breathe and the water you drink."
"What I took from this experience is to never give up in life and always take risks, even if you are scared."
"I appreciate nature and all living things a great deal more and I try not to waste as much as a I used."
"No matter what comes ahead, no matter how hard it may seem, if you push yourself, remain positive and never give up, you can do anything you set your mind to."
Congratulations to all those involved in yet another extremely successful Mini-school Strathcona Retreat!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Grade 8 Retreat

On Friday, October 10th, McNair Secondary School hosted its annual Grade 8 Retreat. This event has been in effect for several years and serves as a way to have new students become more comfortable with the staff and students in their new school and as a way for students from five different Elementary schools get to know one another. In the past, the Retreat has been done over three days, with outings to Grouse Mountain's Eye of the Wind, Great Canadian Shoreline clean-up, and some Social Responsibility lessons. This year, due to the later start of school, we had to compress the events into one day and decided to go with Ice-Skating, Bowling and lunch at Triangle Road in Richmond.

Students met in the large gym at the start of the day, we took attendance and gave out McNair Marlins t-shirts.  We had 132 Grade 8 students, 15 Senior Mentors and 10 staff participate on the trip.  After taking care of the administration in the morning, we boarded the buses and headed off to the Zone Bowling Centre and the Richmond Ice Centre.

Lining up to get skates

Getting instructions from Mr. Hirayama

Rolling a few frames...

Skating on the ice

Fun times with new friends

This is fun!!

A great time was had by all, as students got to make new friends, have a few laughs and enjoy a very social day.  The Grads of 2019 look to be a very nice group of students, and we hope they had a great time.

Our next great outing will be the Mini-school trip to Strathcona on October 17-20th.  150 students alongside 15 staff make up this memorable event.  I know I am looking forward to it!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy World Teacher Day!!!

Sunday, October 5th, 2014….

After one of the most difficult stretches in British Columbia education history, it is time to acknowledge the amazing efforts of the teachers in this province.  Since mid-June of last school year until September 22nd of this year, public schools across British Columbia sat empty while teachers were engaged in a bitter labour dispute with the Liberal government.  After three weeks of rotating strikes followed by a lockout and 10% reduction in pay, teachers went on strike.  The reasons for the conflict were many, including the BCTF looking for a wage increase and some way of addressing class size and composition issues, while the government claimed that the provincial budget could not afford such requests. 

After months of negotiations resulting in no progress, on September 17th, teachers voted to ratify a new contract and returned to work.  Did the BCTF get everything they were asking for?  Absolutely not, but schools are once again buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement as staff and students try to get things 'back to normal'.  I commented in an earlier post about how much I missed the energy supplied by staff and students.  Despite being tired at the end of the first two weeks with people back in the building, I find myself energized and excited by their presence.  Many teachers are likely still feeling unappreciated and under-valued, but despite those feelings and the emotional and financial hardships that have been suffered by so many, teachers have managed to overcome feelings of anger and resentment, and the school is busily preparing for the Grade 8 Retreat, the Mini-school Strathcona trip and a variety of other fantastic opportunities for our students.

As a new member of the McNair community, I have been warmly welcomed and I am impressed by all I have seen.  Students are extremely friendly and engaging, and staff are caring and passionate about their profession.  The activities I have seen in classrooms and in the extra-curricular aspect of school have been exemplary.  Already, teams are up and running, teachers are sponsoring clubs and groups, and classroom activities continue to impress the observer and engage the learners in the room.

I want to thank our teachers for:

  • fighting and sacrificing for what they feel is important in education in British Columbia
  • giving so much time and energy to their jobs
  • providing students with first-rate instruction and learning opportunities
  • continuing to volunteer and do extras like coaching, student council and many different clubs
  • welcoming me as part of this community

On behalf of all members of the McNair community and from everyone with a vested interest in public education in British Columbia, I would like to say "Thank-You" and Happy World Teachers Day!  We can not thank you enough for all that you have done and continue to do for the profession and the children in your care.