To the Editor:
Thursday November 10, I substitute taught at Pictou Academy (PA) and as usual, I enjoyed the experience. The students were, as always, very focused and effective.
During the day an assembly was held, run by the staff and students and attended by all at PA and McCulloch next door, in remembrance of our fallen. Two minutes of silence was observed and there were recitations of poems, singing and a video presentation. A wreath was laid by students/cadets who were to repeat this on the following day at the cenotaph in Pictou. Afterwards, the VP invited students to attend an open meeting of the School Options Committee (SOC) that night.
I, too, attended this meeting and am here reporting what I saw and heard from students with my own ears. With minimal prodding or questioning, some 20-30 students poured out a passionate and emotional message. “We love our school”, “the community cares”, “we are a family” and “if the P-Grade 6’s join us, we’ll be a bigger family and we’ll embrace the kids and be good role models”, “we know everyone here” “we love our teachers and they devote time to each of us…” These are just a few “sound bytes” of well articulated statements that were made.
Here are some others: “small classes really work for us”, “I thought that small classes were what the province wanted”, “I ask questions at university because I learned to at PA; my fellow students are amazed that I do ask questions”, “I love the feeling of history at PA”, “we compete with each other but at the same time we help each other”, “I knew the MLA writing convention and how to go about writing a thesis because I learned at PA”, “I can walk to school and after school I volunteer at the Shiretown Home”, “we can play all of the sports we want to even if we’re not that great”, “I don’t want to spend hours on a bus”, “I was over at NRHS today and they didn’t know that I wasn’t a new student and no-one asked” and the list goes on and on…
The students feel very strongly. They are willing to adapt to and adopt some form of a P-12 school right there at PA and Thomas McCulloch which are already virtually connected.
Every day, they already mix with the (grades) 7-9s and they’ll make room for their little brothers and sisters in P-6, too. The teachers are like family and that is what is important. Not new stuff; it’s the interaction and the sharing. This bigger family idea can work.
So, readers I’ll end with my own anecdotal observations. As a sub, I can assure you that I never turn down an opportunity to fill in for an ailing teacher at PA, Thomas McCulloch or Pictou Elementary. I love the kids and staff at all three.
I’ve subbed at almost all of the schools in the Celtic family, but I have to admit that there is something special about the Shiretown schools. If you were moving to Pictou wouldn’t you want there to be a school there?
PA produces good senior students. They are quality and they are involved at school and in the community. The class size is small but not ridiculously so. It seems to be about the right size, and I can get through and make contact with the students. In fact, the class size seems about the same as in other schools in Pictou County. And there is never a bussing problem.
I think the province should be creating jobs and industry and trying to encourage a new economy that sustains our people. I don’t think they are doing their jobs very well.
Don’t continue to erode our communities by unravelling municipalities and extracting people from the small villages and towns and dismantling everything we’ve built. Get to work and get the Nova Scotia economy working again.
Legislation was passed in Nova Scotia to protect the Academy. A promise was made. Why? Because it is of value historically and culturally and provides a quality education.
In the final analysis it is the quality of our citizens and people that truly matters. They built a bridge to PEI to honour a promise made to keep a “steamship link” to the mainland. That promise was kept. Should not this one be kept as well?
Eric M. Wilson