It was one of those magical nights.
Last Friday night I joined a sold out crowd at the Kay Meek Theatre (one of two sellouts of close to 500 people each that night) to see the premier of Longshot: The Brian Upson Story. It was like a community reunion – for one night our community was transported back in time to 1982.
The Brian Upson story is hard to believe. It feels like a script for a Hollywood movie, the kind that people would read and say, this is not believable enough. With the premier of the movie, it has been told several times recently. The short version of the story is that the West Vancouver Highlanders won their only provincial basketball championship in their history in 1982. They won the final game defeating their league rival Argyle by a single-point, after losing to them three times earlier in the season in-front of a capacity crowd at the Agrodome in Vancouver. And it is far more than just a story of winning a basketball title, as the Highlanders were coached by Brian Upson, who, battling colon cancer had not been expected to live long enough to make it to the championships. He coached the team to the title, and passed away two weeks later. This does not fairly tell the story – it is worth reading the full story. In 2012, Len Corben described it as the most memorable sports story in the 100 year history of West Vancouver. Recently, in anticipation of the film Rosalind Duane did a wonderful feature in the North Shore News and Steve Ewen did a feature that ran in both the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.
This post is not about retelling the Brian Upson Story – others have told it far better than I ever could.
I have seen many student films. This was different. I thought I was watching an ESPN 30for30 documentary. It was a professional film. I have a vision in my mind what a school project film looks like. But this blew me away. Teacher Dave Shannon and his students had taken on an incredibly challenging project and done an amazing job. And what a great reminder – when students do real work for a real audience they will rise to the occasion. I realize they didn’t have much choice – they had to do a great job. They were telling the story of the greatest sporting event in our community’s history. They had interviewed Upson’s wife and children and the players from the team – they were all going to be in the audience. And the students delivered. This is one of those great reminders about school. We too often don’t do real world work, but when we do it is magical.
And the power of real work was not the only reminder from the movie. The movie reminded us of the power of high school sports. All of the players, now 35 years later, spoke to the impact of the team and being part of the experience. The crowd footage from 1982 was amazing – as 5000 people cheered on the teams in the final – many of them students. It was something that connected the school. Schools are more than just taking courses in the same room together, they are communities.
And the film also reminded us of the power of a teacher. The players spoke about the profound impact Mr. Upson has had on their lives. He helped make them who they are today. Teachers and coaches have an enormous impact on young people and the movie serves to remind us of that. It also reminded us that it is very often those connections outside the class that are most significant – for teachers and students.
Even though everyone in the room knew how the story would end – they cheered along. When the buzzer sounded and the game ended the crowd in the theatre madly applauded. We were all transported back thirty-five years. Thanks to the students of the Rockridge film program.
Friday night was one of those special nights. It showed the best of community. And reminded us of the power of teachers, coaches and schools. Pretty impressive.
Here is the Official Trailer for the movie:
Posted in SD45 | Tagged basketball, Brian Upson, Dave Shannon, ESPN, Longshot, Rockridge, Steve Eewn, West Van Secondary | 7 Comments »
Last January I embraced the word hungry.
I like to think I lived that word in 2016 at the crossroads of competing and curiosity. Without a doubt, my relentless competitiveness was always only just below the surface (and even sometimes above the surface).
So what about 2017?
There is a lot of negative energy coming out of 2016. Like many I am left shaking my head. Throughout my life I have always thought that progress was always a forward moving event – so progress for human rights around the world, for example, was something that was always improving. And those who looked to limit rights or push against those rights – whether they are based on gender, race or sexual orientation were on the wrong side of history. So, coming out of a year that produced a lot of fear and disappointment I look to a word that will guide me and speak to possibility.
While not my favourite of the Star Wars series, like many, I saw Rogue One, over the recent holiday break. And the final word spoken by Carrie Fisher takes on a greater meaning after her death. Her word that concluded the film – hope.
Those of us in education are in the hope business. Education is about possibility, it is about creating opportunity and it is all about hope. Education is about the hope of parents that their children will become good citizens, the hope of students that they can work to be better versions of themselves and the hope of all the adults in schools that we can find better ways of connecting with the students we work with every day. The more I think about hope, the more closely I link it to the creativity and curiosity we are so wanting to better instill in our students and our system.
And on more concrete terms – let’s have hope that the politics that lead up to and then follow the upcoming provincial election build hope and opportunities for public education. Our hope for a better world is tightly linked to a strong education system locally and globally.
And then returning back to Star Wars, let’s hope that Episode 8 that comes out in December is everything good we got from Episode 7 but even more.
To quote Leia from The Force Awakens, “Hope is not lost today… it is found.”
What word is guiding you for 2017?
Posted in Change, Professional Development | Tagged Hope, OneWord, Star Wars | 7 Comments »
As I read the media reports of the 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results I could almost feel the media’s disappointment. Of the 72 countries and jurisdictions around the world participating, students in British Columbia were the highest performing in reading, 2nd highest in science and 6th in math. The results are outstanding. And this is no small test – over 500,000 15-year-old students participated around the world including more than 20,000 in Canada. Of course, good news just doesn’t make “news” like bad news. There are far more people who seem to enjoy a “Students Struggle with Reading” headline, rather than a “Local Students Top Readers in the World” headline. (See full Canadian results here).
I dedicate dozens of posts each year on this blog to talking about the need to do things differently. And results like those from PISA do not change the need or urgency. They do remind us in British Columbia (and all across Canada) we are improving from a place of strength. We have an exemplary education system that is not satisfied with the status quo and we want to be sure that as the world continues to change, our curriculum, assessment and programs continue to adapt to ensure our relevance.
I have written about PISA two times before (when both the 2009 and 2012 results were released – and I still hold to these commentaries). Beyond the high-level numbers the power of PISA is that there is a lot of data that helps tell a more complete story. I find the most useful information are deeper in the report below the silly “who won” conversation. From first look, one sees that there is a very small gender gap in science in Canada, for example, and overall the level of equity (the difference between the highest and lowest scores) is better (more equitable) in Canada than elsewhere. As I said in my comments three years ago, when asked about PISA – “It is what it is”. It is one part of the education story, but when governments invest billions of dollars into education, it is a powerful tool to help see we are doing some things right.
I am also left thinking about Finland today. Like many others, I have visited Finland to learn about what they have done to develop such a strong education system. And just what first attracted me to Finland? Well, it was their PISA scores. The same PISA scores that today indicate the world has a lot to learn from Canada and British Columbia. The same PISA scores that remind me that we can learn a lot in British Columbia from colleagues in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and truly across the country. The same PISA scores that remind me as Superintendent in West Vancouver, there is a lot we can learn from Surrey, Victoria and Bulkley Valley.
Of course we have many areas in British Columbia we can improve – it is forever the nature of education. We need to continue to work to improve our Aboriginal graduation rates, and support all learners in our classrooms. There is a danger that a report like this can suggest we tick the education box in our society and stop investing – we need to do the opposite and continue to invest in public education in British Columbia so we grow from this position of strength. And yes, PISA is just one measure – we know there are so many factors beyond tests like these that we need to track to ensure our students are strong academic performers and capable citizens (and yes, there are many thoughtful critics of PISA).
But let’s leave the other conversations for another day – today is a day to recognize the system we have – and it is damn good! All of us who have children in BC’s schools, and all of us who work in BC schools should be very proud.
OK, that is more self-congratulating than most of us Canadians are used to – let’s get back to work!
Posted in Assessment, Change | Tagged British Columbia, math, PISA, Reading, science, testing | 4 Comments »