Walking the High Wire
Educators know that learning involves taking risks. To foster ethical, engaged and entrepreneurial learners, we must often relinquish what Starratt refers to as “imperfect certainties” and “obsolete understandings” and take a leap of faith in order to grow and move forward. With this in mind, on the Oct. 25th PD day the staff of SGCHS left the safe confines of the school and headed for Birch Bay Ranch in Strathcona County. In the morning, support staff, including our beloved custodians and EAs, worked with Center for Education’s Nicole Lakusta and Carolyn Jensen to develop strategies and practises that will better enable a more inclusive learning environment to accommodate the diverse needs of all of our students. As SGCHS moves towards evolving comments as opposed to formal report cards, certificated staff, under the facilitation of Asst. Principal Kathy Mann, explored the ideas of Susan Brookhart in order to provide feedback to all stakeholders that is timely, relevant and even motivational in terms of improving student outcomes. Lunch brought everyone together as we fueled up for an afternoon of outdoor pursuits.
On the afternoon of a beautiful fall day, staff participated in a variety of activities: some chose to try their hand at archery, others left for a nature walk and others enjoyed a roaring bonfire in a serene pastoral setting. For the more adventurous, there was outdoor wall climbing and no less than three zip lines. To climb the ladder to the top of a zip line, cross a rope bridge to the line’s platform and then to sit, overlooking the precipice before letting go while careening towards the ground along the zip line requires an element of risk and a leap of faith. Some staff embraced the feeling and “zipped’ to the ground with zest and zeal. For others, “letting go’ required closed eyes and clenched teeth. For a few, jumping off the edge required more than one attempt to acquire the requisite courage. Although certainly more extreme, the courage required to climb a sixty foot wall or zip towards the earth is not entirely unlike that which we ask of our students every day in our classrooms and hallways. Some learn with zest and zeal, some with closed eyes and clenched teeth, and some require more than one attempt to acquire the requisite learning. For many of us on that fall day looking down from the wall or the platform required that we relinquish our imperfect certainties and obsolete understandings about how we see ourselves and how we see our world. And that is what learning is all about.
Chris Shaw is a Graduate of Memorial Composite and is currently an Assistant Principal (Acting) SGCHS. He is passionate about High School Redesign and will be finishing his Masters in Education from the U of A this spring.