Here you will find writings that give some insight into Trinity’s programs.

Volunteering for the EAST Alternative Open House play…15 years+ later

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in

Back in the 1990’s, my sons, twins, Alexander and Matthew went to Gledhill Junior Elementary School in the French Immersion program. This meant they were going to move on to a middle school before entering high school. Because we live in this great city of opportunity, I suggested we look around at options for their grade 7/8 years. That’s how Alex ended up at EAST Alternative School (and Matthew at Canada’s National Ballet School – but that’s a story for another day).

EAST Alternative was only in its second year of existence when Alex started there, but even then, in its infancy, it had a very strong arts-based enriched curriculum and its renowned equity and social justice ethic. Over the years the school has continued to grow and mature into one of the most evolved, caring and safe learning environments I have encountered. At this school you will encounter confident, articulate, respectful, engaged students, nurtured by caring, courteous, yet demanding teachers. And you will encounter parent volunteers.

Parents are expected to volunteer 15 hours a year at EAST. (I think that they even have to sign a contract now). This is how the school manages to pull off all the incredibly ambitious enriched curriculum programs, projects, field trips, etc. I was, and still am, one of those parent volunteers. Years ago, when Alex was at the school, I dragooned Alan into helping me create a play for the EAST Open House. I have continued to direct this Open House play for over 15 years now – which would put me in the running as the longest serving parent volunteer!

So I’ve just spent two days this week at EAST, directing this year’s play. The play is made up of the voices of EAST students draped on a framework of mission statement, philosophy and teacher speeches. The students write colourful descriptions of the life at an equity and social justice-based alternative school that get turned into script which helps to enliven the ‘pitch’ to parents and students interested in coming to the school. The students have their lines now that they will memorize over the holidays then in January we will block the play.

It is always fascinating to hear the voices of these 12-13 year old students as they enthuse about EAST. And it is always fascinating to work with the ten precocious ones who are the actors in the play. Far and away though, it is always fascinating to spend time in this school, soaking in the energy that envelops all who enter its midst. The walls are covered with brightly painted masks revealing ‘inner selves’, posters describing stem cell research and alternative energy; there are fish tanks containing ecosystems; there is always a buzz of excitement among the students and teachers alike. Yesterday, as I was gathering up the actors for our rehearsal, I came upon the grade 8 English class delivering ‘rants’ on social justice issues – the two I witnessed were about assisted suicide, and homelessness. As the actors gathered I overheard one supporting the other “You’re just too invested in the relationship… but that’s point of relationships, isn’t it?”

EAST has an ambitious mission statement. “EAST fosters personal responsibility, self-discipline, independence, critical thinking, community spirit, and an appreciation of diversity.” These students leave this school well prepared for their transition to high school, and even better than that – they leave as aware, awake, responsible citizens. Don’t let their age fool you, these young people have been challenged to take a look at themselves and at the world around them, and really do have something to contribute. I hope they get to do so.

 

 

Holiday Reflections

Posted on Dec 8, 2015 in

How to celebrate a non-religious Christmas on the road to “finding yourself”?

The miraculous birth in humble surroundings for instance and a flight into Egypt…

When we become aware of the incredible complexity involved in the growth of a fetus – from the union of a single cell, an ovum, with a sperm cell literally trillions of special function cells develop to form tissues, in turn to form organs and systems of integrated activity-

It is apparent every birth is a miracle

And given the frailty of our human condition

Every birth occurs in humble surroundings

Because when our species evolved larger and more complex brains

The period of post-birth dependency of offspring lengthened

Till it means today it takes longer for a newborn’s thinking patterns to mature and for enough learning to occur that they might join the social systems we as primates are always building

Humble and perilous beginnings

And none more so than sifting through

The inherited mindsets and practices

Of your communities and culture

Of coming to know all you couldn’t know

But could only absorb as you were growing

Images of miraculous intentionality

And dangerous intimate struggles

Not particular to our Christmas alone

But of the growth of consciousness

And compassion in everyone everywhere

Closing a Chapter

Posted on Dec 4, 2015 in

The end of my residency at Trinity is upon us and there is only a week left in my term here. The last seven months have flown and were full of learning, new relationships, and self exploration. These seem to be the purpose and calling of Trinity- to challenge people and push them toward growth through learning, relationships and self-reflection. I can certainly attest to this.

Speaking to the first element of my journey with Trinity- new learning- I can say without question that I have learned an immense amount from my time here. Whether that’s the technical skills of programs like Adobe Illustrator or the ins and outs of the education system and most importantly, what students now are experiencing, worried about, and facing on a daily basis. From my time in the classrooms I’ve learned more about how I engage people (youth specifically), where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and who I want to be in that fight for stronger public education that develops the whole person.

Over the course of the seven months I’ve met so many incredible people from students to teachers to impassioned community members and beyond. I think I have been most blown away by the passion of individuals and the genuine curiosity that people have for the life experience of others. So often, young people are not given credit for their intuitive knowledge. Let me tell you, after 7 months working with this group of youth, they know a whole lot more then society gives them credit for and a conversation with a young person is a reciprocal learning relationship not to be ignored.

Since May, I’ve questioned what I believe about life, society, and myself on many occasions as a result of working with Trinity. As with any deep questioning this was both a positive and negative experience that was by no means a simple process. It is inherent in the questioning process that one’s reality be shaken and thus discomfort occurs, but what emerges at the end is a more empowered, honest, and clearer sense of self. This is a powerful process that any participant in a Trinity program must be prepared for.

Don’t let that scare you! Like any worthwhile program or process, there is work involved in a Trinity program. The difference with this work is that it is in the interest of improving the participant’s life in the long and short-term. By exploring your self in the context of new learnings and surrounded by supportive relationships, you just cannot lose.

So a cheers to Trinity and the growth I’ve experienced in this short period as a result of the association!

-Meredith