The motto in Bill Clarke’s carpentry and joinery class at Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons is, “I CAN DO THAT!” Bill is teaching his students how to research, plan, problem-solve, communicate and safely complete a carpentry task. Students leave Bill’s classroom as confident learners ready to move on to the next stage in their development as carpenters.

The rest of my visit at Elphinstone confirmed for me yet again the exceptional quality and variety of education that Sunshine Coast students experience. I chatted with teachers who are passionate about their subjects and devoted to their students. They proudly described their programs, boasted of their students’ achievements and demonstrated exceptional student engagement as Principal Fred Thorsell and I observed their classes in action.  The teachers were using (and experimenting!) with technology to enhance learning. Engaged students chatted enthusiastically about their projects and studies.  I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with a group of students who described their school as positive and caring with great teachers who know and respect them as individuals.

As I reflect on the, “I CAN DO THAT!” philosophy from the carpentry class, I realize that it extends far beyond Bill’s class. The entire school has an, “I CAN DO THAT!” attitude. Teachers, administration, support staff and parents are involved together in making Elphinstone a great school.

The Ministry of Education has recently released the BC Education plan to put forward a vision for a positive and productive future for education.   As we discuss the BC Education Plan we need to embrace our proven  traditions that motivate and excite students in their learning. At the same time, it is our responsibility to learn about new, research-based ideas to teach for the changing world that our students are growing into.  Deep and engaging discussions about instruction, assessment, evaluation, technology, reporting and parent engagement are taking place across our province and around the world

Is it possible to take an educational system that was developed in a time very different from our own and update it?  Can we develop an educational system that is based on solid research, creativity and collaboration ?

We can look to Bill’s students to have the right attitude that will ensure our success.