Teach to the Whole Child

"What made us send our daughter to Glenfir?  There was never any other choice for us. 

Before Barbara was born, she was headed to Glenfir.  We had two nieces attending Glenfir at the time, and our family had been strong supporters of the school since almost its inception.  My sister said something that really resonated with me.  She talked about how if you only have a specific amount of money you're willing to put into your child's education in his/her lifetime, why would it not be when they are young and can take advantage of what Glenfir offers?  Then, they will be so much more equipped to find a way to get to university, even without your financial help - qualifying for scholarships, for example. 

Way back when, I went to see my eldest niece at the Kiwanis Music Festival - she was in Glenfir's choir.  The Glenfir kids looked smart in their uniforms, knew how to wait their turn outside the venue and how to behave once they were inside.  Kids from schools were disheveled, running around, and just generally disorderly and disrespectful.  I felt very proud of "our" kids, and wondered then why more people wouldn't seek out the type of school that could turn out kids like ours. 

After Barbara was born, I regularly took her out to Glenfir to spend time where her big cousins went.  When she was just a toddler, I often had her on a harness.  Once when we were just entering the front office, one of the busses went by.  Out the bus window, one young boy yelled "Nice dog!" referring to little Barbara on her "leash". I didn't give it much thought. A few minutes later, when we were downstairs near the classrooms, there was a tap on my shoulder.  The head of school had overheard the young boy's crack, stopped the bus and accompanied him to come find us - to apologize for yelling at us so disrespectfully.  I can't tell you how many times over the years I've thought about that little incident - and how I could not imagine that ever happening in public school, especially after official school hours. 

When Barbara was finally in kindergarten, one Saturday we were in the mall.  Across the mall, I heard someone yelling "Barbara!"  It turned out to be a grade 8 girl, who was a friend of my youngest niece - not even with us that day.  She came running over to chat with us, being very friendly to little Barbara.  I love that sense of community that Glenfir kids experience.  In public school, once they move on to middle and high school, they can't possibly maintain that connection with the younger children to the same extent.  It's so positive to have these role models for the little ones - and the older kids can develop real leadership skills.

Over the years, Glenfir has had many faculty members come and go, including heads of school.  But one thing that has remained constant in my opinion is the sense of community that builds self esteem, responsibility and confidence in Barbara.  I truly don't think that other schools can achieve this in the way Glenfir does.   Maybe it's partly because I was a shy child, but if there's any way I can help Barbara to develop these qualities, I am in total support. That includes supporting Glenfir in any way we can. 

There are additional things Glenfir kids have available that other schools do not.  We can't deny that our small class sizes afford superior attention and individualized learning plans than the bigger classes can elsewhere.  The teachers are amazing and I feel that they really know my child.  They have the time to figure her out, deal with her specific issues, and communicate with us in a very timely manner.  One concern I expressed in the last set of parent-teacher interviews, was brought up as a topic of discussion in class (CAP) within a couple of days! I was super impressed with how quickly that was dealt with.  Mr. Dunbar subsequently indicated to me that the faculty was really trying to be pro-active and have quick responses when issues arise.  Other concerns I have raised have been dealt with quickly, including those relating to academic problems (how to catch up in class, how to improve work habits etc.)  I have a good rapport with Barbara's teachers and feel comfortable in bringing anything up with each of them. 

Some families have pulled their kids from Glenfir citing the lack of social interaction due to the small numbers.  Sure, over the years when Barbara had social issues, it hasn't really worked to tell her to go play with someone else.  But when my eldest niece graduated when Barbara was in kindergarten, I remember thinking about the twelve kids in her class - about how different they were, yet they were bound together by virtue of their small class. They travelled to London on a school trip, attended most of their classes together, and naturally, some dated and ultimately broke up!  Regardless, they learned that in real life, you don't always get to pick who have to interact with.  You have to be respectful, work together and get the job done.  I think that at Glenfir, they got a jump-start on learning that skill.  I hope that Barbara has that same opportunity as she gets older. 

I believe that at Glenfir, we teach to the 'whole' child. We balance off the importance of strong academics with a fabulous arts program.  Not only did Barbara receive good marks on her report card last year for example, but she came away with the visual arts award, loving art class, and enjoying band.  She has been developing public speaking skills since kindergarten - many of us start that treacherous journey as adults!  She loves helping with the junior kindergarten and other primary children, and is now keen on earning her 'service hours'.  Barbara is getting a superior well rounded education that she would not receive in another school.  Sure, I think she would pull off good marks in public school, but aren't 'marks' only telling part of the story?" 

- Lynda Jones Layng, Penticton Parent of a grade 6 student
November 26, 2010

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