Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What are the ingredients of a Sullivan Star?

Bear with me - this may get a little long, but it's worth it.

I have the privilege of being the yearbook "teacher" at my school.  I use the term teacher loosely, as I really feel like it's more of a team leader or mentoring process.  I have done this job once before - and I have to be honest - it wasn't much fun.  It would be easy to blame it on a difficult group of kids or intensely steep learning curve of the management involved or software used, but the truth is that I was missing the point of why it is we make a yearbook at all.  I lacked vision.

On my way into the classroom back on that fateful day in 2009, a colleague stopped me in the hallway for conversion.  He argued that in an age of social media, maybe the yearbook was irrelevant.  It that moment I wondered if he was right.  I didn't really understand, as the teacher of the class, what it was I was trying to accomplish.  What was the point?  

But then last year I was forced to move schools.  I spent a year away from home.  And it was in this time away that I truly began to understand the idea of school culture.  And when I was lucky enough to get my dream job and return home again I was able to look at Sullivan with a new lens.  

So today, in my yearbook class, I asked my students "What are the ingredients of a Sullivan Star?"  What makes us "us"?  Why do you love being a part of this community?  What aspects of this school make you feel at home here?  What makes you belong?  If there were a recipe for Sullivan Heights, what would it be?  Because if we know this.  If we know who WE are as a community, then we can make a yearbook.  We can produce 192 glorious pages that reflects this world to which we all belong.

At first they were reluctant.  There were limited answers and kids wanted to move on.  But I pressed forward.  I asked them again.  and again.  and then it started.  The answers.  And they continued for an hour.  Pages and pages of things that made them proud to be part of this community.  People who made them feel valued.  Experiences that, to them, defined all the things they love about the school.  And I'd like to share them.  For the audience of readers to know this school - please read this and know how much you are loved by these students.  For those who do not know my school, take the time to think about your own school.  What makes you who you are?

Ingredients of the Sullivan Community (in the words of my students)
  • Quirky and Laid Back (students, teachers, environment)
  • Amazing Dance teams (that dominate) 
  • Setting records in all areas (ex. Field Hockey or History 12 Provincials)
  • Teachers who aren't afraid to have relationships with their students 
  • Teachers who aren't afraid to let their personalities show (ex. Neuf and Edwards)
  • Clubs - we could do anything.  We have the freedom
  • Amazing Artists
  • Everything related to Mr. Vaughan.  He's really inspiring.  Especially in how he cares about the environment and seeing us become good leaders
  • Our Co-ops are awesome.  And we love Mr. Hepting.  
  • There are so many opportunities.  More than I have time for
  • We get to go on great field trips, like visiting temples, grouse grind, or bard on the beach.  Teachers go out of their way for us
  • The athletic department.  everything about it.
  • The way teachers focus on student responsibility.
  • Our school has a lot of student leaders.  And a lot of them (and others) are selfless and give of their time for others
  • We care about our reputation.  We don't want to do anything to hurt the school name.
  • Our Janitors are the best.  Ian and Tony always go the extra mile for us.
  • We have big dreams.  We always aim to do the best we can.
  • Teachers encourage us to go above and beyond expectations.
  • Our VPs are the best.  They go out of the way to say hi to us and treat us with respect.  They are friendly and care about us.
  • Our school is inclusive of all people.  Students are respectful, considerate and friendly.
  • Band trips are some of the best memories from being here.  Mr. Williams goes out of his way to create amazing experiences for us
  • Mr. Mitchell's Physics class
  • The Grade 8 retreat was my standout high school experience.  Without it I wouldn't have made the great friends I have today.
  • Ms. Yahn's Dance class is my favourite place to be.  
  • Great Coaches
  • Mr. Neufeld as Taylor Swift will probably be one of my favorite high school memories. 
  • Mr. Neufeld in general
  • PE field trip to play Broomball was the BEST! (I followed this one up with what is broomball?)
  • Halloween Fashion show is the highlight of the year
  • Mr. Pederson's PE Class
  • Guitar Class
  • Being able to make amazing friends.
  • The Teachers.  
  • The Teachers.
  • The Teachers.
  • I agree.  The Teachers.
  • Totally.  The Teachers here care about us.  They want us to do our best and push us to go above and beyond.  (insert 20 nodding students).  We definitly have the best teachers of anywhere.  

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