FISA Conference

At the beginning of February, both elementary and secondary staff attended the FISA2016 conference, which was held as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of FISABC (Federation of Independent School Associations of BC). This organization serves as the “voice” for over 290 independent schools in BC.

Below are some excerpts from a letter written by Anna Welle (Grade 5 teacher) to the Board of PCS. The letter highlights many ways that the conference was appreciated by staff from K-12 and paints a bit of a picture of what we experienced:

I wanted to send you a note of thanks for the amazing conference you made possible for our staff. The FISA 50th anniversary convention was the best one I have ever attended. Somehow sitting in a room overlooking the beautiful Vancouver harbour with some 5100 other educators was inspiring on its own. Thankfully the excellent, experienced speakers also were challenging, informative and inspiring.

Here are a few of the highlights from my point of view:

  • Time spent with colleagues away from PCS, enjoying conversations all parts of our lives
  • The challenges to not be afraid of change and the reminders to hold on to that which you know to be important.
  • Perhaps the most inspiring were the talks given by five independent school graduates, four of whom were overtly Christian. One in particular shared the following as her mantra:
  1.    I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  2.    There is no one beyond redemption.
  3.    Love changes everything.

While not new, these three statements fit so well with our vision at PCS and my vision of doing life in a Godly way. I would like to work at putting them up in my classroom and perhaps even in the entryway at school.

  • Colonel Chris Hadfield suggested that “early success is a poor teacher” and encouraged us to allow our students (and ourselves) to “fail big and fail early!” I think he has a good point. It is through failure that we learn the most about ourselves and about the trustworthiness of our God.
  • Chris Hadfield’s presentation reminded me of the importance of teaching our students to set goals and keep their eyes on them, because this will affect the seemingly little decisions they make along the way. He talked about our lives being made up of all the things we decided to do “next.” When we add to that the fact that we know that God has “good plans” for our students’ lives, the sky is the limit. For Hadfield that certainly has been true! His pictures and stories were mind-boggling.
  • One presenter challenged us to return to our schools and be the “ugly step sister of basic skills!”. She was referring to the importance of building a foundation of basics from K – 6, which would allow for greater success with the many inquiry/project-based opportunities that should occur in the higher grades.  I am happy to take on that role at PCS. You will hear me harping on the need for basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills and pressing for these to be the foundation of the early grades. And pressing for these to be done “excellently!”
  • Another presenter showed us technology that is currently available that will change the lives of our students in many ways. He challenged us to prepare them to face and deal with these coming things. Some are exciting, some are scary, and some downright unbelievable!
  • It was made abundantly and repeatedly clear that the job of teachers today is no longer to pass on information. The children can access, in a matter of seconds, far more material than any teacher can present. We do however need to teach them how to find information, how to discern truth, and how to use that information, all in Christ-like, God honouring ways.
  • Finally, the keynote address by Daniel Pink told us the qualities of any good presentation are brevity (I may have failed in this letter), levity and repetition. So, to repeat…basic skills and solid foundations are still critically important in this age of easy access to information. The new BC Ed plan has many good things but, as is usual in government material (I have witnessed this many times in my 30 plus years of teaching in BC), it needs to be tempered with what we know from experience.

For the levity…the Canucks game on Thursday night with some colleagues was great fun…of course they lost, but, as mentioned above, we are supposed to “fail big” so the Canucks may be an example for that philosophy!

Thank you for all you do to try to make PCS the best school it can be. It has been my pleasure and privilege to work/serve here for over 30 years.   Again, thank you for making these opportunities available to us.

February 20, 2016