School blues

The little school around the corner from us is up on the chopping block so tonight we’re heading off to a school board meeting to show support for keeping it open, even though we are one of a number of families who have gone elsewhere. Apparently our reasons are fairly typical. We heard rumours of it closing from the moment we moved into the neighbourhood so we mentally dismissed it as a possibility before we even really considered it.

Plus we, like so many other parents, want “special” programming. We’ve ended up at the next closest school, still within easy walking distance in a French Immersion program (woohoo we won the lottery!).

When we were considering French Immersion last year a wise friend and colleague said to me that if your kid emerges from elementary school with basic literacy, numeracy and social skills, it’s done its job. Learning a second language is a bonus. This grounded me (somewhat.)

Don’t expect scintillating project based learning, creative analysis and action on world issues, experimentation in democratic decision-making, outdoor experiences, rich storytelling, exposure to a variety of modes of artistic expression, creative use of various technologies and tools. Don’t not expect that either- you just might find a teacher or two who can provide some of that, or a school community that takes on some aspect of it.

By the end of term one I’m focusing on the basics. There are over 600 kids at Hastings. There are 4 “safety monitors” at recess. Harry, with his still unshaken faith in his own super-hero ability is engaging in some kind of game of cat and mouse with the bigger kids (“the bad boys”). He knows what bully means. He looks at me like I have horns growing out of my head when I tell him to go to a grown-up if trouble starts. Where exactly might they be?

It’s early days but I find myself wondering if this big a school can truly be the caring, kind community it aspires to be, especially in BC’s current political climate where cutting anything to do with children is fair game. In reading through the comments on the blog and discussion forum to keep Garibaldi open I came across a parent who said her child knows the name of everyone at the school. That sounds pretty damn good to me right now.

I’ve got lots of ideas how a small school like Garibaldi might truly reflect and serve this incredibly, culturally diverse neighbourhood we live in and help prepare kids for lives in these very uncertain times. I’m not alone- there are many creative and impassioned ideas of what this school might be.

When I take Dex on his morning shamble through the back lanes I am daily struck by the sheer creative ingenuity that generations of my neighbours bring to growing food in a small, urban space. What a magical, experimental, learning and growing space we could create on the school grounds. It’s got this fabulous southern exposure. I’d love to see examples of urban forest gardening, a Chinese medicinal garden and gathering space where our Asian elders could practice tai chi (they’re often on the bit of lawn at the front of the school by the road.)

It’s those images that I’ll be meditating on at the meeting tonight.



  1. The school situation is dear to my heart, as you would know. So much depends on the individual teacher and a principal with some vision–sadly lacking much of the time as there is so much administrative stuff to be taken care. Case in point is the Scarborough Bd of Ed which is now lost in TDSB
    I am sorry to hear that your local school is in a precarious state. I served on the committee when closing Highbrook discussions were taking place-they seemed interminable and the outcome was that the facility is now for teacher training .
    Schools can get too big, that’s a mistake. It’s best if the teachers know every kid by name. That makes it personal and then every kid is accountable. But small means some programs have to be cut. Oh dear, the dilemma. Tell us about the meeting and the outcome.

  2. Mom,
    Did you know you’re my number 1 fan?

    Thank-you for such a great comment. It inspired another big post. Why can’t I write short and pithy? They all turn into monsters.

    For those who might be reading who haven’t been following the education beat in Toronto- TDSB stands for the Toronto District School Board.

    I grew up in Scarborough (in the same house my mom lives in now) and went to a small school. It was a pretty great way to spend a childhood. My mom taught at the neighbouring school.

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