The CPVPA (Coquitlam Principals/Vice-Principals Association) set up, through the support of the professional development committee and the help from Murray Peters, who spearheaded the initiative, an opportunity for administrators in different schools to either swap places for the day, or shadow an administrator. Secondary administrators went to elementary/middle, elementary went to middle/secondary, and middle went to elementary/secondary. The purpose of this swap was to create collegiality, support and understanding of how our roles are different, yet consistent in our beliefs.
I had the opportunity to go to an elementary school just down the road from my secondary school where the principal (Michelle Reid) was not only a friend of mine, but I had replaced her when she moved from secondary vice-principal to elementary principal. She had helped mentor me through the first few months, all while navigating her new role in a new school.
I arrived at the school just before recess and had a great first impression of the school. This school is a french immersion school, which means that every English division, there is a mirror French division. So Division 1 is the English Kindergarten class and Division 11 is the French Kindergarten class. Which reminds me, the kindergartners were practicing for their dance recital coming up later in the week (it was so cute to see them go through the moves for the big show). The school layout was interesting, as it needed to have almost double of every space, including the area within the library where both English-language and French-language resources and books are needed.
After a great conversation with Michelle Reid, we went for a tour of the school. One of the best spaces I found was the inner courtyard which had been turned into a garden-classroom. It is an enclosed open-air space, with places for sitting, gardening, drawing, playing and learning (okay, the learning happens all over). The space was not being used for the past few years and had become a storage space for everything you could imagine. I could see such great potential for the students to learn about the natural environment, working together and play.
At recess, I wandered about the yard, watching how students found play in all different ways. Fields became soccer pitches, tag zones, pirate maps, space races. It was incredible to see their imaginations run wild, giving them not only exercise for the body, but for the mind.
The art displayed helped create a colourful, vibrant, and welcoming hallway. I also had the chance to talk about the art as creation/exploration and art as practice for dexterity. Projects like snowflakes, spiral snowmen give students the opportunity to practice fine motor skills around cutting, colouring and pasting. I had not thought of this before, and felt that the arts and crafts side of elementary art was not exposing the students to the creative field. I found out that sometimes motor practice is necessary, and sometimes exposure to the arts (like seeing Munch’s The Scream) is just as important.
After visiting this school, I had a greater appreciation of the hard, different work that elementary administrators do on a regular basis (I was lucky that this was a nice, ‘slow’ day and not when there was teaching-time or Standardised Testing happening). Thank you, Michelle, for inviting me into your amazing school (and I will try to forgive the grade 2 student who wondered aloud if I was your father….). And after all that, I guess an administrator’s office is the same in any school.