Charlotte Views: Teaching is a two-way street

Last week the staff and students at GidG̱alang Ḵuuyas Naay Secondary met to help kick off the next stage in a years long process to develop a more responsive, individualized, and relevant program for every student at the high school. A year ago a weekly block in the timetable was added, meant to provide individual support to students (called Academic Intervention, or AI). This year all students will be provided with AI twice a week, building on the successes and lessons learned from the program. In addition, a new period, called CAPS, will be added. This broadens individualized teaching and learning for all the students at the school. It is based on student input, bringing their interests to the forefront of their own education.

CAPS stands for “culture, arts, passion projects, and sports” and will increase student choice and empowerment. Hopefully it builds connections across domains, bolstering academic success and strengthening student engagement. CAPS is intended to make education better connected to student interests by building links between student passions and their diverse ways of learning. It’s been developed through a years-long collaborative process, centred on listening and responding to student input and ideas. Thanks to the dedication of Deavlan Bradley, principal of the high school, staff and students alike have had a voice throughout the process. Last week, the ante was upped, as CAPS could only proceed by first hearing from the students themselves. Without engaged students, learning cannot happen. We depend on the work, effort, creativity, leadership, and passion of the student body.

After staff introduced the basic framework to the entire school at a brief assembly, held in the first week of school, students had time to share their ideas. The range of learning possibilities is impressive. Students proposed ideas such as art workshops, carving, archery, photography, creating films, bicycle repair, learning how to hunt, traditional Haida song and dance, poetry, meditation, anime, forming knitting circles, public speaking, metal works, theatre sports, food gathering, Haida hip hop, scientific study, scriptwriting, coding, Aussie rules football, building computers, intramural sports, canoeing, Dungeons and Dragons gaming, grunge music band, debate, social justice campaigns, gardening, going fishing, cedar weaving, creating pottery, tree climbing, hot yoga, paintball, and leadership development. Many other ideas were contributed by students, speaking to the creativity and curiosity of the young people in our community.

Reading this list makes me realize how much I have to learn to be able to teach our students. It’s exciting to think of how much the students can teach me, the only way I can learn it all. At the heart of CAPS, and other enrichment programs at the school, is the recognition that we are all teachers, regardless of age. Learning is a lifelong process. Just as important is the idea that, as one student told me on the first day of school, respect is a two-way process. In this sense, respect is about much more than civility or following authority. It’s about recognizing each other’s human power, our shared dignity, and equal status as human beings. Students teach me the importance of this every day. That’s because students empower education by making the school what it is. I consider myself the luckiest person around to be able to work with the students of Haida Gwaii.

Charlotte Views