I worked at the Bulkley Valley Learning Centre from approximately 1993 to 2000 as a teacher assistant starting with Pat Pearce, the one and only teacher at the time.
We had eight students who did not fit in with the regular school system.
In other words they had been kicked out for non-compliance with the rules of the high school (mostly skipping classes and not doing any work).
We had some big rules at the learning centre that did not differ too much from the main high school. They were: attend class, do your work and homework, no swearing, hitting etc or you were out.
The only difference was that they could start fresh with no demerits every Monday and try again.
By every Friday Pat and I generally had no students because the students had enough demerits to be out for the rest of the week.
Much to their delight, they had Friday off. Pat and I had enough time to drink coffee all day on Friday and discuss what wasn’t working with this system. All the students were back by Monday to start the same routine over again.
Pat came up with a brilliant idea.
How about we don’t make the kids attend, they have to achieve 80 per cent in academics, they work at their own pace, with one on one help if needed, and we have one rule.
Respect for each other, respect for property, respect for self.
The same rule applied to staff.
If anyone fell short of this rule they were sent out for coffee until they could comply (no anger or punishment in this consequence, just “its up to you and welcome back when you comply with our one rule”).
Magically before we knew it we had 100 students and a waiting list.
We had to move to a bigger building, we had more teachers and assistants hired and I can’t remember many students who didn’t say how much they loved coming to school.
I think I can safely say that the staff felt happy and stress free. Our job was to like the kids, help them find out who they were, help them find out how smart and talented they were.
It was a joy to work there. The kids were given full responsibility for their education.
Most lived up to the challenge, a few were not ready but we encouraged them to try again later and many did.
A few parents were not ready and we had to reassure many that their children were capable and willing to accept the responsibility to make decisions in their own life.
The parents gradually came on board because they saw the results.
It was truly amazing.
We had a variety of students.
Those who were rejected from mainstream system for lack of conformity, those who were home-schooled until 15 and couldn’t do the rigid school setting.
We had gay students who had never been given opportunities to feel accepted, abused and abandoned students who hurt so badly they hadn’t been able to learn anything, brilliant students who couldn’t move forward in a confining classroom.
We also had athletes who needed more time for training and students who couldn’t even speak when they arrived at the learning centre.
The respect rule made the school a loving and safe place for all of us.
I haven’t worked there for more than 12 years.
I still see former students who stop me on the street and speak of the wonderful education they had at the Bulkley Valley Learning Centre.
We helped them save their lives, or more accurately, we let them save their lives.
I am disappointed that the mainstream schools did not take on the BVLC philosophy.
It all seems to be backwards to progress of the new generation.