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    CANADIAN LIFE

    Take a drive - a long drive – up Western Canada’s highway 19 into the rarely visited parts of Vancouver Island and turn sharply left at a backwoods junction onto a logging road called Zeballos main and a few flat tires and near-death experiences later, you will find yourself in the sparkling glacial fjord in which sits the sleepy town of Zeballos. A mining boom early in the last century brought a few thousand inhabitants to the area and today, in the village proper, there is little left but an echo of that boom. The town has dwindled to 107 lively and resolute permanent residents. Nearby, on the same inlet, stands the Ehattis reserve where live the Ehattisaht people and twenty or so km further up the road, on another inlet, stands the Oclucje reserve, home of the Nuuchatlaht. The high school at Zeballos Elementary Secondary School serves the youth of these reserves and class sizes are in the single digits.

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    THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

    Such small classes offer both challenge and opportunity for a teacher at the beginning of his or her career and I have found that what some call "alternative practices" are pretty well standard here. Our 'options' section of the day is particularly fertile ground for sowing the seeds of self-regulation, inquiry, and experiential learning. Back in January, our community was roused at 2:30 am by the sound of an air-raid siren, signaling a possible imminent tsunami. We were all evacuated and spent two and half cold and rainy hours in the darkness of the nearby wilderness, lamenting all of the things that we had forgotten to bring with us, lest it go out to sea with our homes. Today, with a group of intrepid students and an enthusiastic set of teachers, we started cutting trail into the woods. This way, we will be able to get to high-ground quicker and save time to save our things. Students are learning the challenges of working with their hands in the wilderness and they will face the difficulty of maintaining the trail in a wilderness which strains at our efforts with perennial vivacity.

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    HOW THEY INSPIRE US

    The breadth of the students' interests is truly staggering. This week, some students will be off campus learning GIS so as to map culturally significant paths, areas, and places. Some students are using our make-shift recording studio to create rap tracks. Others are using this time to take up Italian language, Greek mythology, still-life drawing, novel-writing, poetry, University entrance applications, pod-casting, letter-writing, driving-tests, work-experience, and more. Perhaps most importantly, the students have chosen to learn that which interests them: to develop skills and knowledge that they can see is relevant. It is a real cornucopia of learning and I find the days rushing past in the flurry of activity.

    Here, my role as teacher is - among other things - the role of a facilitator. I cannot presume to have a working knowledge of everything that these students want to learn. In fact, I find them teaching me myriad new things every day! Rather, I can see my practice developing into something I am truly proud of; I am here to present the opportunity to learn, to foster creativity, to nurture joy, to laugh when it is time to laugh and to listen when it's time to listen. I am a guide, a facilitator, and a mentor, and I love it.
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