On June 12 I had the pleasure of attending the graduation – or school leaving — ceremony at Britannia secondary school and it reaffirmed my belief in both the great strength of this school and the overwhelming passion and dedication of the staff that work within its walls.
Due to the teacher job action I was seconded into a minor supporting role which provided me with a ring side perch to witness and engage the students and their excitement as they worked through the day from rehearsal to the conclusion of the evening ceremony. Given that the teachers were unable to participate in the planning and execution of the ceremonies, non-teaching staff members, administration, parents, former students and community members were galvanized into action to transform a gymnasium into a venue that shouted out celebration, school spirit, parental love, community pride and, perhaps, most significantly, a sense of home.
One cannot overstate the high level of import these students attach to their collective school experiences in their journey from grades 8 to 12. It is not just that they routinely distinguished themselves in academics, the arts, athletics, school leadership and community engagement; they grew as people and now feel confident in their ability to make an important contribution to society. I know that they believe that they can – and will – as a result of their education at Britannia secondary, be active participants and will make a difference in the shaping of our country’s future.
While one might suggest that I am merely responding to the emotion of the evening, I must caution that I have known, taught and coached many of these students for nine years and have witnessed first-hand not just their accomplishments but the way their high school has empowered them to become confident, inquisitive and thoughtful learners and to believe deeply and honestly in what they can achieve. Who bears responsibly for this achievement of youth development? The staff at the school, in particular the teachers!
It is important to note that there was a large contingent of staff in the audience and their anguish at not being able to participate was palpable. But they were proud and emotional and they registered this by being demonstrably vocal in their support of the students being recognized and feted. This was very well received by all of the students, most of whom made reference to the importance of teacher support in their graduation bios.
On a political note, people in our province often come down on opposite sides of the current teaching dispute that seems destined to extend into the fall. But that night, the dispute was meaningless. At Britannia, the students love and respect their teachers and the feeling is reciprocated. In the end, that is really all that matters. For that matter, I have a deep respect and affection for the staff at Britannia as well. On days like that, when you see what great teaching can really accomplish, I can only offer one mantra: please support your local teacher.
Jim Ion has been a teacher and administrator in Vancouver for 27 years.