Friday, February 13, 2009

typical, really

If you weren't aware (and I'm assuming most of you weren't) Saskatoon Public and Regina Public became "partners in learning" at the end of last year.  My understanding was that this partnership was to support both divisions  in their pursuits of renewing their respective collegiates, and the practices that occur there.

You can imagine how dismayed I was, to hear that after visiting with presumably the downtown voices of Collegiate Renewal, all the deputy director took away was that Regina Public was ahead of Saskatoon Public because Saskatoon just built two brand new schools, using the exact same blue prints.  This is 100% true, there is one extra locker in Tommy Douglas compared to Centennial.  Now, I by no means support how the new schools were designed, or that to save money the possibility of making improvements to the original plans for the second school wasn't even considered.  However, the deputy director's statement underlines (at least) two huge misunderstandings about what Collegiate Renewal is.

1)  If, the partnership with Regina was forged as part of our system's plan for Collegiate Renewal, there should be no competition between our divisions.  It's not about who's "further ahead," it should be about using our shared experiences to learn and grow to be better educators.  There has been a large focus about minimizing the competitiveness that can occur between Collegiates in the city so we can focus on collaborating instead of worrying about enrollment numbers.  It seems like a  ridiculous waste of energy to compete with a Division that we don't even share students with when the reality is both Division have extremely large amounts of work to do in regards to updating their practices.

2)  If the deputy director had spent any amount of time with the research on successfully engaging students in their learning, he would be aware that while the physical shell of the school can have an impact on student engagement, it is one of the least cost efficient way to approach engaging students and does not guarantee to engage at all.  If he truly wanted to have a meaningful "competition" with us, I would much prefer he start talking about how much more comfortable his teachers are with new instructional practices, with new assessment models, with responsive programming that respects student needs, with superior professional learning opportunities for staff, essentially with anything a little more substantive than "we're going to build better buildings."  You can have the nicest, most functional, most modern building in the world and if your teachers are still teaching like it is 1851 what good does it do anyone?

Now, I am sure the deputy director thinks in a way that is slightly more advanced that "our buildings are better than theirs," but his comparison undermines all the work teachers here and in Regina are doing.  The programming being put into place in his new building is far more important than the building that houses it.  If our jobs are reduced down to no better than the buildings and equipment we have to work with, the possibilities for improvement are few and our efforts quite futile.  I think I prefer my visions for Collegiate Renewal, and in that respect, you are way behind Mr. Deputy Director.  Luckily, Collegiate Renewal is about learning and growing, so there's a chance you can join us sometime in the (hopefully) near future.