Reflections on Student Shadowing

Mark Turner

As we hurtle towards Spring Break, I am pleased to have this opportunity to bring you up to date with progress so far during 2020.

Firstly, our 2020-2030 strategic plan, Floreat, has been launched to positive acclaim. This document will serve as a clear guide and road map as we navigate decisions over the course of the next 10 years.

Secondly, I particularly wanted to write to share my experience of two wonderful days productively shadowing students from Grade 5 and Grade 11. These days completed a quest to see life from the student’s-eye view, which was begun last year when I was able to immerse myself in the Middle School.

These recent days started at the bus stop at 7 am in one case, in torrential rain. I was immediately made aware of the resilience of our students who start the day early, often in the dark, waiting for the bus to arrive. In both cases our buses were punctual, efficient and as soon as we were on board, we enjoyed the camaraderie of the bus community. That said, at that hour in the morning quiet contemplation takes precedent over effervescent banter!

Statistics tell us that school buses provide the safest form of road transport bar none. I was particularly aware that our drivers take a personal interest in their young travellers, including regular advice to make sure belongings are not left behind.

Once we had disembarked at the Junior School, I enjoyed a fantastic day of wall-to-wall action – creative writing, challenging math tasks (thank you to those who helped me through the problems), basketball shooting skills (I made the ‘shoot-off’). I also enjoyed the opportunity to allow my creative instincts to find full expression in the creation of a patterned ceramic tile. After pizza lunch and recess spent learning the game of Mancala (played 2, won 1), I felt that I was able to establish strong rapport with my student hosts.

All in all, I was deeply impressed by the commitment of our students, the friendly informality of the relationships and a prevailing adherence to the highest civilized standards. These are so deeply embedded at our Junior School that they are almost taken for granted. I know from past experience that they should never be. Such a positive, inclusive atmosphere has been built up by wise decisions and good practice over many years.

At the Senior School, once again I started my quest at the bus stop, and after a short journey found myself gathered together with a group of friends in the warm and comfortable surroundings of The Snowden Library. After the issues of the day were discussed, it was off to chemistry where an hour of stoichiometry confirmed my fear that the ability to assimilate large amounts of complex information declines with age! Homeroom and recess provided brief respite and the opportunity for recovery. Then it was on to a double block of Spanish to translate the exploits of St. George in slaying the dragon. The entire lesson was conducted in the target language, which once again showed off the confidence and fluency of our students. Over lunch I was invited to a meeting of the Green Team.

During a busy meeting, the results of a recent survey on student travel were discussed and analyzed. An announcement was made about the recent protests at the BC Provincial Legislature and I was able to mention that the Board of Governors had recently extended an invitation to members of the Green Team to address them on issues of sustainability. We believe that this is historic. As far I am aware, the Board has never before heard directly from students without going through the filter of the Head of School or other members of the Senior Leadership Team. The plan is that ideas will be communicated to stimulate a generative discussion on sustainability due to take place at the board retreat in the fall.

I was left with many favourable impressions from my shadow day at the Senior School, but one of the most enduring will be the benefits to our day students from the fact that we have a boarding community. I was made aware how many day students regularly stay at school for after-school activities, have a meal in the Sun Centre and then work through the evening in the secure and studious surroundings of The Snowden Library. This ability to have a flexible end to the day, sometimes well into the evening, must give our students great advantages over other day schools where the campus closes at a fixed time.

All in all, my shadowing experience gave me a real insight into the operation of the school from the student’s perspective. I am most grateful to my guides for their generous hosting.

With best wishes,
Mark Turner

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