Saturday, 5 April 2014

Puddle Jumping

This past weekend I had the chance to visit my brother, Garett, his wife and their young son in Vancouver.  They are a young working family that would qualify as being middle income.  They rent a small two bedroom apartment on the 25th floor of a downtown highrise.  My nephew Toby, is a busy little 3 year old and his mother Carolyn, is starting to consider what school to enroll him in as he approaches his kindergarten year.  As so often happens when people are aware that you are involved in education, our conversation turned to the topic of ‘what should I do with Toby in the coming years?’.  Carolyn knows that I am well versed in information around independent education, so she had several questions:  “What do private schools cost in Alberta?”, “Do they teach the same curriculum as public schools?”, “What is the admissions process like?” It was easy to see that she was clearly thinking of this option for Toby.  It was about half way through the barrage of questions that she said something profound,

“I just believe that private schools will provide the safest environment for Toby to learn and to become his best self.” 

For obvious reasons, these words resonated with me and reminded me of the vision of Rundle College. 

Later that afternoon I went out for a walk with Toby.  It was just Toby and I, walking down an empty sidewalk.  It had just stopped raining and there were puddles strewn about.  Toby, being a curious little man, he was drawn to most every puddle on the sidewalk and on the street. 

I knew that Toby’s parents were not big fans of him playing in water and getting too wet, so as his uncle I had a decision to make.  Do I let him safely explore his creative and playful impulses or do I restrict him entirely?  It was in that moment, that I decided it was best to let him learn and play, within parameters.  He could jump in the small puddle that were on the sidewalk.  After explaining the guidelines to Toby, we took a second and quickly defined small puddles and made sure we both understood what was the sidewalk and what was not.  We walked down one street after another and indulged our fun loving creative selves, together jumping in one small puddle after another.

After the excitement of the day was over and Toby was in bed I was back at our Bed and Breakfast, I reflected on the day with my Sarah.  We were talking about Carolyn’s decision and about the walk I had with Toby. It was in this moment that it occurred to me that I had just experienced the essence of what makes Rundle College so special.  There were three points that were clearly illuminated in my short time with Carolyn, Garett and Toby. 

First, Rundle College is affordable to most middle class families.  My brother’s family currently pays around $1200 a month in child care.  They certainly have to make sacrifices to make this happen, but they have made the necessary cutbacks and are making ends meet.  In British Columbia independent schools do not receive government grants and as result, they are roughly twice as expensive as Rundle College.  In short, my brother’s family cannot afford private school in BC whereas they could afford it in Alberta as a middle income family.  The second learning came in Carolyn’s statement about why she wants Toby to attend an independent school, “Because I want him to be safe.”  Carolyn is certainly thinking about the impact of other children on Toby but in the coming years she will realize that safety extends well beyond the immediate student to student interactions.  Safety is about having a great place to learn, empathetic teachers who are skilled at their craft and people working together to create a culture where students choose to be kind to each other.  Finally, Rundle College is about taking chances within parameters.  Much like Toby’s puddle jumping experience, at Rundle College we create an environment that acknowledges the individual learner and their excitement about learning.  We provide a well rounded environment where students can excel in any number of areas outside of their core curricular.  Students can choose debate, football, drama, technology, track or music.  More than anything, students are encouraged to take chances in a safe environment.  They are encouraged to jump in the academic and extracurricular puddles that surround them!

Who knew that puddle jumping could illuminate much of what Rundle College is all about?  Those puddles really brings to the forefront that at Rundle College, we are blessed to have a program that is affordable, safe and individualized.

Jason B. Rogers

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