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Blog: Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Just Look

In reflecting upon the 2017-18 school year, it’s hard not to overlook the amount of change with which we dealt. However, change is universal and not unique to us as educators. An article I recently read brought this point home to me. Rem Koolhaas has been, after Frank Gehry, the most influential architect of our age. In the article, Architecture in the Age of Gehry, Koolhaas said something that resonates with me:

The areas of consensus shift unbelievably fast. The bubbles of certainty are constantly exploding. Any architectural project we do takes at least four or five years, so increasingly there is a discrepancy between the acceleration of culture and the continuing slowness of architecture.

With an appreciative sense of professional irony, we could substitute the word architecture for education. Our bubbles of certainty will always be exploding because teaching, our project, is not a process of moving incrementally toward a pre-established or provided solution: it is, if nothing else, open-ended and exploratory. However, amidst the daily pull between acceleration and slowness, in an environment where we are continually facing new and unpredictable challenges, what is our constant? In learning from and with some of the brightest and most caring educators here in Abbotsford, I have come to appreciate that educational change is a process of learning best understood as knowledge creation within the context of human relationships.

Michael Chabon in his essay, Sky and Telescope, helps me make this point. Chabon writes of stargazing with his son. Looking into a telescope, he talks to his son about the sensation of feeling like he is four hundred million miles away, orbiting a star:

Maybe he or one of my children will turn out to have the gift of stars. He or she will be able to look up at the sky and see not myths and legends and a history of failure but information, gases and voids, cold, infernal, luminous and pure. Or maybe my children will just look up and remember the weight of my hand on their shoulders as they stood beside me on a warm summer night, the rasp of my beard against their cheek, my voice soft at their ear, telling them, Look.

The one constant in Chabon’s life is the lived relationships with his children. As it is for him, so it is for all of us as we constantly manufacture opportunities to build understanding within the context of our relationships with students, parents and with each other. In continually speaking to the hearts of all, addressing not only what they learn but also what they feel, we stay committed to the promise that our students will always remember how we took the time to reassuringly ask them to look, how we helped them understand that, to borrow from Chabon’s essay, “we’re, like, everything to each other.”

Here’s congratulating you all on a wonderful school year and wishing you a restful and well-deserved summer holiday.

Assistant Superintendent