By Dr. Leon A.Barrett
He has given me the options to write on issues in education, politics, social issues, community issues or any other area on which I deem that our communities need education and enlightenment. At this time I would like to focus on education.
Why education? I am an educator of African descent and Caribbean heritage. I recently retired as a teacher with the Peel District School Board and I spent over two decades with this board. Prior this I taught in the Caribbean.
The acquisition and use of a quality education is one of the tools many of us used and continue to use, and which others will use to get and stay out of relative poverty. It is essential then for us to acquire the knowledge to be able to do so. Consequently I will share what I know and come to believe.
During my time with the Peel board, I got involved in various aspects of school operation. These included member of school council, grade and division chair, subject contacts, computer system administrator, extra-curricular activities coordinator, professional development presenter, new teacher induction program, host teacher for pre-service students in the faculty of education at various universities, school newsletter editor and producer, Education Week Committee Chair and Co-Chair, and yearbook editor and producer. I also taught additional qualification (AQ) courses to teachers. Then, having acquired my principal’s qualifications I did a short stint in school administration.
I was also involved in complementary activities. Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s I was a regular columnist with a number of community newspapers. I worked with youth, families and young adults in a group home and community centre setting. I am the immediate past president of a community agency. And over the last five years, along with a group of associates, we have been doing community presentations under the theme, Succeeding in the Educational Maze, resulting in a book of the same name. I have also co-authored, authored and published a number of books.
I have chosen to write under the caption View From Inside. This will not be about revealing inside secrets. It will not be about “whistle-blowing”. It will not be about the Peel District School Board, although at intervals, I may use it as a point of reference and departure.
In spite of its challenges I can honestly say that the Peel Board is a progressive board. It is characterized by, among other things, enlightened, transformational and progressive leadership at the political and administrative levels; wide range of educational opportunities – regular schools, adult education day school, night school, alternate schools, tertiary partnership, professional development; wide range of subject offerings; system’s openness to new ideas; commitment to educational excellence; openness to system improvements; the system is good on the “WHAT” and “WHY”; and diversity on the frontlines.
I have no intention of directly taking on the system. With empowerment which I hope to help others acquire, they can do so. Instead I will pay attention at the school level where the real action takes place and where the impact of positive action is more immediate.
My focus will be on such stakeholders as parents and their children, young people, teachers, and non-governmental organizations (NGO). I will be approaching issues from the point of view that we have choices and choices have consequences.
In the final analysis it is the choices that we make that will largely determine the outcomes of our actions. So in most cases we are individually 100% responsible for our choices and the resulting consequences.
View From Inside will be about staying positive. It will address a wide range of educational issues. It will be about using my observations, personal experiences, knowledge, and the experiences of others to help the readers especially parents and their children to get to a better place, the desired academic and career better place. It will also be about involving in a continuous dialogue with the readers. So I will be inviting readers to submit their questions and issues so that we can have an honest open meaningful discussion.
The idea of a dialogue is that no one has a monopoly on ideas. No one has the answer to any problem or challenge. There are many ways to examine issues. There are many perspectives on issues. And each perspective is as valid as the next as long as it is informed by experience, observation and reflection. The dialogue is also intended for us to learn from one another because that is how we are going to be better informed about issues and increase our knowledge base. That is how we are going to grow. That is how we are going to make progress. That is how we are going to get and stay ahead. By acquiring knowledge and skills we will be better able to use them to make the necessary changes we desire. The use of knowledge is power.
In this dialogue we will be required to exhibit honesty and integrity in our interactions. We will encourage ethical and professional behaviour as we want to stay positive. It will be about collective upliftment and not degradation.
View From Inside will be commentary. Unlike news which is supposed to be facts and nothing but facts, commentary is a combination of facts, ideas and informed opinion. It, at some point, expresses a point of view or two. Consequently it is not bias free, as no commentary is. Nothing that we write is 100% objective. There is always an element of subjectivity. So readers should always bear this in mind as they reflect on what they read and as they contemplate a response.
Dr. Barrett is a retired Peel Region District Board teacher and educator.