Sunday, March 22, 2009

What Have I been Up to lately?

The past little while has been a blur of conferences....

March 9- Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week Launch. I was inspired by the Working Group's dedication to addressing all areas of sexual exploitation including child pornography, child luring on the internet, and prostitution. I joined the committee.

March 12- I continue to work with the Challenge Program students at Meadowlark School once a week on their documentary film projects. The Asst. Principal has taken on a very ambitious project with me and is bravely tackling the technical and logistical challenges of this project.

March 13- 14- ASBA Summit on Public Engagement at the Shaw Conference Centre. Amazing, inspiring. How can we build this future, where people are excited about the importance of education and feel personally engaged in the outcomes? Shared decision-making. Putting the public back in public education. I felt like I had arrived "home."

March 15- West Edmonton Community Leagues Council meeting- Community League Presidents of the west end Community Leagues working together to create better communities. I was pleased to attend and hear how they wish to work more closely and cooperatively with schools.

March 16- Symposium on Healthy Schools, jointly presented by ESPB and the Edmonton Catholic Board. Great speakers, great idea-sharing. I attended the session on The Way In- a tri-school initiative in Millwoods to provide wrap-around mental health services to students in grade 7. Inspired and necessary...How can we duplicate this across the District??

March 17- Volunteer! Conference organized by Jasper Place student, Malikka. High school students from across the city sat down with trustees and talked about their "top issues." In the afternoon, they worked on increasing student volunteerism and engagement. Congratulations to all the student organizers and supportive staff at JP!!!

March 20- 21- Alberta Association for Community Living Conference.
Two days of parents, teachers and professionals (and one trustee!)... learning about inclusive education. The hopes, dreams, challenges and successes of having children with special needs accepted and included in schools and in society. I heard powerful messages about embracing difference. For me, this cut to the core of what it means to be human in a just society. How do we welcome everyone? How can we face our own prejudices and wrestle with the desire to be separate from those that appear different? I heard more than one parent talk about the pain, the frustration and the utter exhaustion of trying to find acceptance for their child. I heard one parent ask for us (in government) to have the "tough conversation" about the fundamental right to inclusion.

My head hurts from all the information that has been crammed in over the past 10 days. I'm looking for common threads and take-away actions. What does it all mean?? I think one idea is bubbling up to the surface: Human Disconnect. People feel disempowered. They feel their voices aren't being heard. They have something to contribute....they want to make things better, but they perceive that those in the decision-making seats aren't willing to share their "power." (I put the word power in quotes, because as one of those sitting in one of those seats, I can assure you, I feel just as powerless.)

How do we create a true "public"-- a body that decides, based on the needs of all? How do we ensure that those who are closest to the impacts of the decisions are keenly involved in those decisions? What needs to change to increase human connections, to empower those who feel marginalized and forgotten? Education is about building lives.

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