BRANTFORD – Let’s talk about building better schools.
To kick off education week with the Grand Erie District School Board, the elementary teachers’ foundation held its first ever community forum last night in Brantford to engage with the community and share ideas on how the public school system could benefit, also focusing on indigenous issues and ideas.
“We all want to ensure our public education system and schools are the best they can be,” said Grand Erie Local President Shawn Martin, Monday, May 1. “That’s why we’re reaching out to our communities to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard at this forum.”
From class size to standardized testing, to support for students with special needs and other issues, it’s important to come together to discuss how public schools can better serve the community’s children, families, and communities.
The forum was held for parents, school and parent council members, community groups, leaders in education, and others to share their ideas on how to build better public schools.
The night included a panel discussion, small group interactions and presentations, followed by a large group discussion where the ideas issues and topics were further fleshed out.
The foundation selected panelists who have very active roles in the lives of Brantford’s and its surrounding community members.
Dave Carrol, a church leader with the Freedom House Church in Brantford was a panelist who shared a little bit of his story and how he is helping people find out and use their skills to serve their community.
“How can I be in my neighbour’s life?” is what Carrol asked when first addressing the audience. He said that everybody has a place and a skill they can be using.
Carrol is also the founder of “the Kindness Project”, a Queen’s Jubilee Medal Recipient, breakfast program co-ordinator, and a local superhero (Captain Kindness).
Sabrina Sawyer spoke next on her role and view on indigenous education within the school board and how the goal should be to teach students Canada’s true history, yet also focus on the important on the issues of healing prior mistrusts, broken treaties, and cultural sensitivity.
“Not any of the original treaties have been upheld,” said Sawyer as she held up a replica Two Row Wampum belt and explained its importance. “We’ve gotten off track. Our job now is to try and get back on track while respecting one another’s journey.”
Sawyer is an elementary school teacher and indigenous education consultant with the school board and a member of the Grand Erie Elementary Teachers’ Foundation Executive.
The final panelist, Marc Laferriere, spoke on children’s mental health and his role in navigating mental health within the school board. He started by giving the audience a few statistics on the percentage of millenials who currently face issues in mental health. A millenial is common western term for individuals born between 1981 and 1997.
Laferriere asked why the group thinks millenials are under a lot of stress and some of the responses were: job uncertainty, changes in parenting skills, environmental issues, social media, and more.
“Mental health issues is becoming less stigmatized,” said Laferriere. He also explained how students are likely to be affected by certain triggers and shared tips on how to navigate those waters.
Laferriere is a Justice Studies professor and the co-ordinator of the Community and Justice Services Program at Mohawk College’s School of Community and Urban Studies.