It started with a vision, a commitment and an invitation.
The vision – empower our learners to be more, think more, care more and do more.
The commitment – provide time and resources for all stakeholders in education.
The invitation – to all able and willing to contribute to a cause bigger than themselves.
Like a patch on a big quilt…
In October Beckett Farm PS took part in the 9th Annual YRDSB Peace Tree Spirit “Citizens for Peace” and Inclusive Education Student Conference. As such, I was privileged to lead a group of grades 5 and 6 student ambassadors to represent our school. An excerpt of the goals for the 2014 conference is below.
The Peace Tree Spirit conference develops leadership and promotes respect for diversity, equity and inclusivity for students with opportunities to:
Engage in critical thinking and differentiated learning experiences
Develop a climate within the school learning community that models peaceful and respectful behaviour in the relationships between all members of the school community
Provide an understanding of peace, human rights, social justice, local community and global issues
Put peace-making into practice and build communities of character both in the school and in the wider community
So why am I telling you about this now?
Since it is the end of our calender year it is a great time to reflect on the good, bad and the possible. In reflecting on the Peace Tree Spirit Conference, there is the good, bad and the possible. I see this as good because of my belief that students in grades 5 and 6 can change the world. I see this as bad because it is limited to 2 grades (5/6) when it could encompass K to 12. And I see this as possible after witnessing the genuine engagement of students, parents, teachers and leaders on this day and beyond as the students returned to our school.
This is not a passing comment. It is the reason I have chosen to lead and teach this age group for my entire career. When you consider the enthusiasm, energy and empathy of this age group there exists unlimited possibilities for excellence. In advance of the full day conference our group collaborated on creating a statement piece in the form of an artefact (a patch pictured above) as a contribution to a giant quilt of pieces formed with others from over 100 different participating elementary and secondary schools. Our students wanted to represent the idea that equity and inclusivity were found rooted in love, respect and freedom. It was their insistence that kindness and fairness be present in all schools in order to achieve this goal
What I witnessed on the day of the conference was nothing short of inspirational. Imagine, if you will, a day expressly for students where they become aware of the power in their collective voices, and their abilities to effect change? Imagine students having a place to share and express themselves away from the constricts of the classroom, but in interactive workshops instead? Imagine a speaker named D.O who encouraged and exhorted excellence in us all? Now imagine that potential spreading throughout each of the participating schools when those students returned?
That is the power of the Peace Tree Spirit Conference. From the vision of founders in 2005 to a yearly commitment by thousands of students/educators/parents empowered to change the world with peace, inclusivity and kindness.
When I reflect on 2014 I cannot help but recall an amazing day in October which is still impacting our school.