Why ‘Rural?’ Hearing from one of our newest teachers

Christopher Bridge is one of SD 91’s newest teachers.  Chris had the opportunity to complete his practicum at Lakes District Secondary in the fall of 2016 and then had the opportunity to being his teaching career at LDSS in the second semester of this year.  Chris is a proud graduate of Vancouver Island University (VIU) and took time to write an article to their alumni magazine and generously agreed to allow me to share it here in One91.   I want to thank Chris for articulating why many of us have spent our working careers in this beautiful part of the world.  Thank you also to Anna, Chris, Cordell and Raj who are VIU graduates already contributing to SD 91 schools and communities.  Welcome to you all and we look forward to having you with us for many years to come!

chris-bridge

(L-R) myself (Grad 2017) and fellow VIU grads Anna Geddert , Chris Backhouse (Grads 2015), Cordell Ware and Raj Gill (Grads 2016). We are standing in front of Kager Lake.

I left for Burns Lake on the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving 2016. The night before, I had packed my car, kissed my two-year old daughter and my wife good-bye, and left before the sun had fully risen. I certainly won’t pretend I wasn’t worried, scared, hesitant, or any other combination of terrified adjectives. I had committed to leaving my family a solid 12-and-a-half-hour drive away for a shot at my final practicum teaching in rural British Columbia, in the Nechako Lakes’ School District #91.

I had tried hard to research the area ahead of time, plotting ridiculous Google Maps adventures through the town’s streets, calling prior VIU members about their experience on practicum in the same school, researching local events and cultural groups to give me the most preparation possible for a 9-week working stay. Even though I had seen the pictures of the (very large and extremely modern) school, and had attempted to unearth any information on the town, I kept facetiously imagining that I would be teaching in a two-room school built in the 1920s. I didn’t know what to actually expect, and my imagination ran only to extremes.

Within one hour of arriving in Burns Lake, I was invited to a Thanksgiving meal hosted by my sponsor school’s Principal, the Principal of two schools in the area, and three VIU graduates who all found work the prior year. My first day in the school was filled with excitement and warm welcomes wherever I went — I never was made to feel estranged or foreign, only ever a part of a wonderful staff, even when visiting other schools in the area. My roommates — two former VIU B.Ed. graduates — made me feel welcomed, showed me great hiking locations, and the remoteness of my placement was surprisingly never made an issue — Burns Lake had all the amenities that I could need to stay engaged outside of practicum.

My class sizes ranged between 16 and 28 students but always filled with diverse and intriguing personalities. Every classroom I entered had been equipped with a Smartboard, and every class I taught was outfitted with coloured node chairs — like the ones in VIU — which offered me a wealth of activities and options in the classroom. During our Professional Learning Community meetings (PLC), the staff included me in a number of staff-pursued inquiry projects designed for maximizing the potential learning offered throughout the school. I left Nanaimo thinking that I had a relatively strong understanding of assessment, and yet, when I learned of the school’s efforts to globalize the core competencies as the primary, direct attributes for assessment, my perspective was completely flipped. I learned such an incredible amount by watching the cutting-edge pedagogical shifts and adaptations from this wonderful school that I find myself still at a loss for words. I’m truly honoured that they welcomed me into the process, and even offered me an opportunity to teach a PLC group of my own.

The learning opportunities and the potential for employment that rural schools offer is an outstanding opportunity that I cannot overstate. I am proud to write that the amazing school district that I took a chance on for my practicum has offered me a full-time position for the following semester, just as they did for the previous two student-teachers from VIU and several other VIU students in recent years that I have had the incredible pleasure of befriending in the community.

If you feel you’re truly serious about becoming a teacher, I can think of no better opportunity to learn, to grow, to raise a family, and to cement your own identity other than taking a chance teaching in a rural context.

Note: SD#91 Nechako Lakes will be here on campus on March 14th to conduct interviews. Watch the AlumniED Digest for further details.

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