A Joyful Start

September 27, 2016 - 4 minutes read

west-vancouver-schools-chris-kennedyBy Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools

This fall, you’ll likely be hearing quite a lot about BC’s revised K-12 curriculum in the news, from your child’s teacher and from us. The media and many of those who work with schools or provide resources to schools have also started to pick up on the changes – and I’m sure there will be a lot more in that regard as we move through the year.

But as we discuss what kids need to know, I hope that the conversation also includes deeper discussions on the topic of not only what kids are learning, but why and how students learn best, because more than any other ingredient, joy and curiosity inspire spontaneous learning.

As a district, we explore a theme on opening day to harness this potential in students and connect staff to the vision that will guide us through the year. This event is our district’s ‘New Year’ celebration, when we reflect not only on what we resolve to do each day, but on the people and ideas that make our district such a special place to be.

This year, two speakers brought messages to inspire joy in our work and connect personally to the idea of encouraging dreams, exploration and perseverance in students. Natalie Panek, a young rocket scientist on an inspiring journey to become an astronaut, told us that supporting each dream, and surrounding students with relatable mentors, is a critical part of keeping students engaged and focused. Dean Shareski shared a funny and engaging presentation on the magic that happens when students connect joy with a learning experience and staff knows that they’re doing their personal and professional best to contribute to that success.

Already I have seen this joy and wonder as I have been visiting schools. I have seen it at Pauline Johnson, as students begin to explore their new Outdoor Learning and Community Park, among our students participating in our robotics academy at West Vancouver Secondary School, and at the elementary cross country meets.

The nice thing about each of these messages is that you don’t have to be a teacher by profession to make a difference in learning outcomes for students – it is often more than enough to inspire wonder and curiosity, or help a student build leadership skills doing the things that they love.

In West Vancouver Schools, we are fortunate to have many examples of counselling staff, custodians, parents, administrative assistants, leaders and managers who interact with students on this level every single day. While the teaching and learning is important, the relationships and interactions that our students have in school and at home are important starting points for success.

This brings me to the role of parents, key partners in education. I am both a teacher and a parent, and having my own family has helped me better understand the challenges of balancing the demands of work and family. There will always be days when we wish we could do better in that regard, but I have also learned that when our experiences in either realm are joyful, all experiences are more fulfilling.

As we embark on a new school year, I wish all of our families a year full of joy and discovery, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in our schools.

Chris Kennedy, Superintendent