Thank You From The Bottom of My Heart

Dear Mini School Parents and Students,

I have received a number of inquiries over the summer so I apologize for not communicating with you, as the process was very late.  As many of you have heard by now, I will be making a move to Steveston-London Secondary School come this September.  Some of the inquiries expressed the news was sudden, for others it was unexpected.  However, it is about time I “push my envelope”, embrace change, and try something new to continue my growth and learning, like I have told all Mini School students for years.  My decision was not an easy one to say the least.  McNair and the Mini School have been my life for quite some time.  However, I have to admit that I became a little more jealous every time another Mini School class had a farewell event as a send off to a new situation to continue their growth.

Over my twelve years at McNair, I have had the privilege of getting to know all of you in the Mini School family.  As a teacher in such a wonderful program, I have been the lucky one.  I have been able to live the Mini School experience for more than double the time of any student who has graduated from the program.  I have been lucky enough to work with every student who has been a part of the program to date and been able to learn a little something from each and every one of them (and from many of their family members, too.)  I have also been able to work with the very finest colleagues and have learned an incredible amount from them.  The program has always been in the best of hands, hands down.

The Mini School was started seventeen years ago when Bill Cartwright and Don McCormick decided to create a family-oriented entity that would promote well roundedness and provide opportunities for students to go beyond our already great education system.  In my opinion, the virtues of the program were ahead of their time.  It is only today that private business and education circles are discussing ways to implement strategies to increase productivity and learning without incentives, more rules, and harsher penalties.  The Mini School is NOT for marks and it is not a mandatory program for all students (although all could benefit in some way but it simply would be impossible to provide such a time-consuming and enriched environment to the sheer numbers we have in our schools).  However, it is a program for those who wish to engage in and commit themselves to something that will build character and provide opportunities to try new things, fail in an emotionally-safe environment, learn to adapt to change, experience stress, manage time, and ultimately to learn.  It is a model that will educate more than just the head, but the body and soul too, and provide social and emotional learning.  It is also a vehicle to many experiences and conversations that will promote students to respect themselves, their peers and environment, and to respect learning, too.  All this comes from a team of teachers whom I am so proud to be associated with.  This group of people are involved because they believe the program is a set of experiences that will be valuable to students and their futures.  They believe in it so much that they run the program completely voluntarily and on top of their teaching responsibilities.  From watching them work, I know Bill and Don enjoyed creating the program.  I enjoyed contributing my efforts.

So as I depart, I wish to ask something of all the students and families who are involved and who wish to be a part of the McNair Mini School:

  • If you have had, or are having a positive experience, let it be known.  The Mini School may be on the Internet and social media, but nothing can be more powerful than the words from someone who has actually had real experiences.  (That goes for parents and students.)  Speak loud and proud and promote your education.
  • I ask you to fully engage yourself.  See the opportunities provided for what they are.  They are designed to expand your comfort zone or allow you to be a part of the expansion of someone else’s.  They are for you to move beyond mediocrity if you so wish.  They are also for you to become wiser and virtuous, if you let them.  Have faith in the long term benefits this program will serve you and resist getting sidetracked by short term goals such as marks.  If you are engaged, committed and work hard, they will come anyways.
  • I ask you to spare 20 minutes of your time and watch the following talk by Barry Schwartz at a past TED Talk (Link at bottom of page.) If you have not heard, TED is a series of talks that are presented by great minds and speak to Technology, Entertainment, and Development.  The layers in this video are closely linked to the virtues of the Mini School program.  Like I said earlier, the program was well before its time but it holds all of what is necessary in education.  What kind of future leader, and citizen, do you want to be?

I can only express how proud I am to have been involved, for twelve wonderful years.  Thank you all (students, parents, and colleagues) from the bottom of my heart.  You have all contributed to my learning and adoption of a lifestyle.  I will miss you.


Bernie Soong

Link to Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk: The Real Crisis?  We Stopped Being Wise


About bsoong

Vice Principal at Gladstone Secondary School in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Son, husband and father. Sports and movie fan.
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