39 Reasons: Reason#11 The Space

This story is among the #39Reasons I am running as a Trustee for Vancouver School Board (VSB). Each story is based on my experience working at the VSB for over 7 years with CUPE and PASA.

She walked in, shoulders relaxed, face exhausted

Every week we converted this space into an after-school check-in spot

Without the understanding of her principal and teacher, we wouldn’t have a secure room with tables, chairs and computers and without them we wouldn’t have a cleaner who politely worked around us

She walked past the computer and carefully around the cleaner, to greet me as I was seated at the big round table holding snacks and materials and offered her a seat at the table

Out of her worn bag, she pulled out her textbook, Math 8

She placed the book on the table and began with a high-pitched voice, “Jennifer, I need help to understand this chapter”

She went on to tell me, “I was always good at Math, but somehow I don’t get this chapter”

She flipped to the chapter and after shuffling papers in her bag, some deep exhales, she pulled out a page with some instructions for her assignment. It was multiplication and division.

You wouldn’t know it by the way she speaks, but she did have gaps in her education making the re-connection to math challenging

We read together outloud, her voice was melodic, slow and positive, she stopped to ask questions about the meaning of words.

Just 15 minutes into it, we got to an equation, she read, “two times two, two times two, two times two equals…” She stopped looked deep into the page, I was anticipating the answer with my finger on the equation

“Two times two equals, I’m worried about my uncle because he had a surgery and I know it’s hard for him to get to and from the hospital, I used to go with him before we moved”

I knew then, with some students on the computers, others in small groups working on other activities, she had a lot on her mind and I was glad that she was there and that she felt comfortable enough to share it with me

Her wellbeing was inextricably linked with that of her family, when she wasn’t in class she was accompanying her mom to the bank or to a doctor’s appointment, so I took a moment to pause and talk about what was on her mind

She reminds us that each learner is a multifaceted individual with immense pressures from self, family, community, peers, society, and the list goes on. She reminds me that as an educator, we can make the space,  take the time to know the learner as a person, where they are at, ask questions, and join them on their journey rather than placing rigid expectations based on our assumptions of where a student should be

She was only fifteen years old and it was important that we had the time and space right in her school to connect, reflect, and work together. I’m grateful to that teacher who graciously shared her classroom and to that principal who understood that these students needed an opportunity to build connections and get support

As the class size and composition is reinstated and the budget is being presented as “balanced” we need to ask ourselves what “adequate” service to students really looks like and what the loss of 31 enrolling and 8.43 non-enrolling staff really looks like from the perspective of a student

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