Starting Point 2007
9 am, Wednesday, August 29
Pearson Convention Centre
"We welcome the world"
Good morning! Welcome to another Starting Point and the start of another exciting school year.
I know that, for many of you, the tasks of wrapping up the past school year and preparing for the year to
come overlapped into your summer. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know that every person in this room
did a substantial amount of work over the summer to prepare for the arrival of our students on September
4th. That's just the kind of folks you are—your dedication to getting the job done, no matter what, is what
makes you the outstanding educational leaders you are. It's your endless professional commitment that
makes me so proud of each of you and so honoured to work beside you every day.
I know that over the summer, new schools and additions were being completed—or almost completed, as
the case may be, staff were being hired, school handbooks were being written and printed, and countless
other tasks to prepare for more than 153,000 students to stream through the doors of our schools next
Tuesday. For many, summer has become just as busy, if not busier than the school year. Each year, it
seems Peel leaders and staff perform miracles to be ready for the new school year. Ordinary everyday
miracles on behalf of our students.
That being said, I do hope you made sure you also made some time during the summer to relax and
unwind. Sometimes, you just have to turn the Blackberry off, sleep in, read a book that doesn't have the
words "leadership," "transformation" or "collaboration" in the title. As Christopher Robin says to Winnie
the Pooh in the book The House at Pooh Corner:
"What I like doing best is Nothing."
"How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do,
Christopher Robin,' and you say, 'Oh nothing,' and then you go and do it."
So, I hope you did a bit of Nothing this summer—had fun and did things that help you personally recharge.
Personally, one of the things that re-energizes me after the hectic pace of the school year is to travel. I
know many of you share this interest.
This summer I travelled with my wife Sharon, my daughter Sue and her husband Paul to France, Belgium
Before we left on the trip, I picked up a TomTom 910 GPS system, which turned out to be a terrific
investment. I'm a geography major, so I've always loved reading maps and navigating in unknown
territory, but this little piece of technology worked flawlessly to ensure that both driver and navigator
enjoyed every kilometre of the journey together. It permitted us the luxury of enjoying the sights without
any worries about how we would find our next destination or point of interest.
We toured Paris on foot for five days, and I thoroughly enjoyed reviving my rusty French. We loved
soaking up the history, culture, joie de vivre and the cuisine.
From there, we made our way to Normandy, where we retraced a similar trip I had taken with my parents
40 years ago. It was incredibly moving to stand on Juno Beach and Omaha Beach some 63 years after the
D Day landings and then move inland to view the thousands of cemetery markers so beautifully cared for
by staff of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
My father served in Normandy and beyond in the war and remained a career officer in the Canadian
military until his retirement and eventual appointment as Secretary General of the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission. So this part of the trip had special meaning for me.
We also travelled to Vimy to view the recently renovated memorial to those who fought there 90 years ago
during WW I and were never found. There are more 60,000 names etched in the memorial stone, most of
whom were young Canadians about the age of our current senior students. This memorial and the many
other cemeteries and memorials in the area of Ieper and Passendale in Belgium are sobering reminders of
the terrible toll of human conflict.
The second half of our tour took us to Bavaria and Munich, where we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the
beautiful Alpine villages such as Garmish-Partenkirken, Murnau, Fussen and the many castles built by
King Ludwig II. The most famous castle, which requires a serious climb, is Neuschwanstein. Walt Disney
patterned his signature castle after this exotic mountain retreat. Another highlight of Germany for us was a
beautiful tree-covered walkway we discovered at Linderhof Castle, another of Ludwig's homes. Certainly,
it was a trip we'll always remember.
From talking to many of you this morning, I know that travel was a highlight of the summer for many of
you. And I hope those journeys have mentally and physically refreshed and rejuvenated you for the year
But there was another type of travel going on this summer that has an impact on our school year. This
summer, hundreds of families from every corner of the globe were packing up their children and all their
worldly possessions. This summer, they left behind almost everything and everyone they know to make a
new life in Canada.
We could find many of those families today, I'm sure, in school offices across Peel. As I speak, your staff
are helping the children get registered for school.
Of course, you know that already. For some of you, it's common throughout the school year, not just at
peak times, to register families brand new to Canada. We're so used to this pace of growth that we take it
for granted. But it's far from typical across the province, as you well know from speaking with colleagues
in other boards.
As Janet said, we were happy to receive additional funding over the summer. Over the past few years,
Janet, in her role as chair, and all of our trustees have been struggling to help the government understand
that the policies and formulas that work for the rest of the province often fit rather awkwardly for Peel.
Because, while we have the problem that we can't build schools fast enough to keep up with our growing
enrolment, many other boards can't close them fast enough, there's such a decline in their student
We're fortunate here in Peel to receive strong support from our entire board of trustees and exceptional
leadership from Wayne McNally and Judith Nyman. You need to know that it was the work of this
leadership partnership of trustees and senior leaders, supported by all of you, that lead directly to our
announcement of new funds.
Notwithstanding the new schools and additions that we always struggle to finish in time for the start of
school, we’re lucky to be building new student spaces. Despite our occasional frustration at the
government's inability to recognize the differences of our needs compared to the rest of the province,
growth is an infinitely happier problem to cope with. Spending the summer hiring staff is certainly
preferable to spending the summer laying them off, as so many of my colleague directors find they must
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to meet with almost 500 newly hired teachers. I'm delighted to
share with the leaders in this room our excellent progress in finding talented and diverse teachers for our
classrooms. It's evident that you’re consciously looking to attract teachers who represent the diversity of
cultures, languages and faiths of our students and to find new teachers of all ages and life experiences.
You’ve also had very good success in finding male teachers for our elementary classrooms. We need all of
these role models for our students.
We know that our growth is coming increasingly from newcomers to Canada. Since September 2003,
we've registered well over 11,000 students who have been in Canada three years or less. Most of them
speak a first language other than English. In fact, as you know, fully half of our 153,000 students have a
first language other than English.
And guess which way that percentage is going. With the birth rate in North America at the lowest rate in
history, all of our population growth in Canada right now is from immigration—and that trend will
continue in the years ahead. It's clear that we're fortunate to be located in such opportune proximity to the
airport and in an area with huge amounts of development potential and employment opportunities. We are
also, according to the Economist, the fifth livable city region in the world. No wonder the world is coming
In his book, The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham says, "With leaders, the future calls
to them in a voice they can't drown out. The future is more real than the present; it compels them to act."
In Peel, the future is also the present in a remarkable way. Every day, we're living the future of Canada. Of
course, all parents and educators hold the future in their hands as they help the next generation learn, grow,
and feel valued. That requires the ability to see the potential future for each child. And our schools
certainly do that. But I'm talking about something else. Something more rooted in the here-and-now.
Next Tuesday morning, take a good look around at your students and families. Here in Peel, we're out in
the forefront of a trend that will affect all of Canada. Statistics Canada says that by 2050, Canada as a
whole will have a demographic make-up similar to what the GTA looks like right now. By the middle of
this century, when our places will have been taken by those who are school children right now, the racial,
cultural, religious and linguistic diversity that we see in Peel today will be evident not only in Caledon and
cottage country, but in Flin Flon, Manitoba, and Swiftcurrent, Saskatchewan, and Miramichi, New
Brunswick. And everywhere in between.
Sometimes, I'm asked how we respond as a board to the challenge of diversity. My answer—it's a privilege
to be chosen to be the place where the world comes to learn. And for students, it's a competitive
As Andrew Cohen says in his book, The Unfinished Canadian, "In the language of nations, let it be said,
Canada isn't a question mark; it's a colon. We believe that there is more to come. That our story will
continue. That others will follow. That our best years lie ahead."
I'm not telling you anything you don't know. This has been happening gradually over many years. Eleven
thousand newcomer students didn't all arrive on the same day to register for school. But here's the trouble
with gradual—we stop noticing it.
So this morning, I want us to take notice. I want to give you my version of the TomTom GPS to help you
navigate the future. I was tempted to call it the JimJim, but my family persuaded me otherwise.
Jeffrey Immelt, the chair and CEO of GE, says that "every leader needs to clearly explain the top three
things the organization is working on."
Over the last several years, I've been very clear about what I believe are two of those top three things.
There's no doubt in my mind that Transformational Practices and the improvement of instruction has been
embraced by this system. We will not deviate from that work this year or for the foreseeable. Our strategy
is working in every school and in every classroom, and we're making a dramatic difference in student
learning in Peel.
The second unwavering commitment is to the strengthening of School Success Planning and our Report
Card for Student success. The collective commitments you are accomplishing with your whole staff are
ensuring that our students are continuously gaining stronger skills and finding new and relevant pathways
to success in post secondary education, the world of work and in life.
What I want to talk about this morning, what I want to make sure each of you is able to clearly explain to
your staff and communities is this: Welcoming diversity is the third area we’re working on. Welcoming
diversity in all its forms—faith, race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, family type, learning ability,
and much more.
How can we make sure that we’re adapting to meet the changing needs of our students and families? How
can we make sure that we, and our staff, take that gradual growth and turn it into understanding and
action? That we can say we have five or 10 or 20 years of experience in welcoming diversity, not just the
same experience 20 times? This summer, I came across a book entitled: Too Soon Old: Too Late Smart—
30 Things You Needed to Know by Now. I didn't buy it. But it made me think—how can we make sure that
we're not "too late smart"? How can we make sure that our welcoming response goes beyond the
superficial, becomes more substantial and meaningful, more effective over time?
Our commitment to The Future We Want remains strong, and I’m determined to see us go much deeper in
our understanding and actions to address the full range of diversity in our schools and workplaces. It’s
time to go deeper than cultural fairs and multi-cultural potlucks.
It starts with our mindset. Author Bill Bradley tells a story about a woman from Boston who goes to San
Francisco for the first time. When he asks her how she liked it, she says, "Not very much—it's too far
away from the ocean." The perspective and predispositions that you carry around in your head shape what
you see and what you don't see.
So, our mindset must first perceive why it's important for us as educational leaders to focus on the issue of
welcoming diversity. Why is this one of the top three things we're working on?
Futurist John Naisbitt says, "The future is a collection of possibilities, directions, events, twists and turns,
advances and surprises. As time passes, everything finds its place and together all pieces form a new
picture of the world. In a projection of the future, we have to anticipate where the pieces will go, and the
better we understand the connections, the more accurate the picture will be."
So, let's look at the picture of the future that we see embedded in our world today. Here are a few pieces of
that new world picture.
We've all heard the dire predictions about the death of the printed book. With DVDs, TV, movies, cell
phones, iPods, iPhones, video games all vying for children's attention, how can books possibly compete?
But there is one category of book that is skyrocketing in sales, particularly among tweens and teens. Many
of you must certainly know what it is. That's right—graphic novels. And most of them read from right to
left, back to front, because they're translations of books originally printed where? Japan.
The impact of the graphic novel can't be overemphasized. Right now, you can get a graphic novel version
of everything from Shakespeare plays to the 9/11 commission report. This gives us a picture of a present—
and future—world in which our students will need to quickly adapt to diverse cultural influences.
Here's another example: Pull into the McDonald's drive-through off Highway 55 near Cape Girardeau,
Missouri and you'll get fast service, even though the person taking your order is not in the restaurant—or
even in Missouri. The order taker is at a call centre in Colorado, more than 1,500 kilometers away. The
owner of this and 12 other franchises has cut order time to less than half the time that the average
McDonald's drive-through customer has to wait by outsourcing.
It's not just McDonald's hamburger orders that go on a service journey. Radiologists in India are analyzing
X-rays—sent over the Internet—of American patients. Online tutors may be half a planet away from the
students they're coaching, as they connect through web-based software.
But these examples are not about outsourcing. They show us that the trend for the future is global
collaboration. Do you know where the next generation of the most all-American car brand—Buick—is
being designed? In GM's hottest design centre—Shanghai. Originally designed for the middle-aged
American car buyer, Buick was not going to be a big seller in China. So GM put a team of Chinese
designers on the job. They rethought and reshaped every piece of sheet metal, turning the LaCrosse into a
glamorous, elegant sedan. The result—the LaCrosse is selling more in China that it can ever be expected
to in North America. Now, Chinese and American designers are collaborating on a new model for the
American market. Says GM, "We had to realize that we had more tricks in our bag working together than
just the ones we had here."
Here's another case in point—the way in which Boeing now builds airplanes. Using French-made airplane
design software, Russian engineers collaborate with colleagues at Boeing America—in both Oregon and
Kansas—to create computer-aided airplane designs. Boeing has set up a 24-hour workday. It consists of
two shifts in Russia and one in America. Using a variety of advanced technologies, they pass their designs
back and forth between Russia and America. They use videoconferencing when they need to talk face-to-
But it doesn't end there. The Russian engineers have outsourced elements of their work to India. And
suppliers in Japan outsource parts engineering to neighbouring countries. The bottom line—with its model
of global collaboration, it now takes Boeing just 11 days to build a 737, down from 28 days a few short
years ago. The next generation of planes will take just three days to build.
And Boeing is only one instance. Right now, Harvard economist Richard Freeman estimates that about 2.5
billion people around the world are taking part in international trade and commerce in some way.
BRIC—Brazil, Russia, India and China—are predicted to replace America as the global economic
superpowers by the mid-21st century. For example, China's economy has doubled every seven years for the
last three decades. Technology is, in part, making it possible. For example, many in China have gone
directly from no phone to cell phones—skipping the "land line" phase altogether.
Says Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, while we're thinking about Generation Y here in
North America, we also need to be mindful of Generation Z, or the Zippies, the cohort of youth aged 15 to
25 in India. These young city or suburban residents are cool, confident and creative, destination driven,
outward looking and upwardly mobile. They seek challenge and love risk. And, with 54 per cent of India's
population under the age of 25, there are more than 500 million of them.
Two decades ago, all the competition in India was to get a job abroad. "Now," says the head of Microsoft's
research centre in Bangalore, "the fiercest competition is to get an IT job in India. It's no longer, 'Well, I
have to stay here,' but 'Do I get a chance to stay here?'" The same is true for engineering and other fields,
where increasingly, candidates from Western countries are competing for prestigious jobs in the emerging
As Bill Gates says, "Natural talent has started to trump geography. Now, I would rather be a genius born in
China than an average guy born in Poughkeepsie."
Or, as Chinese leader Deng Xiaopeng said almost 30 years ago, "The colour of the cat doesn't matter, so
long as the cat catches mice."
And where better can today's children prepare for this world of global collaboration than in Peel schools,
where the diversity that is being predicted for the future already exists today. Virtually every student in
Peel has friends and classmates with diverse racial, socio-economic, cultural, religious and ethnic
backgrounds. We have a unique opportunity to prepare our students for a world in which Marshall
McLuhan's term "the global village" will truly come into its own.
In his most recent book, John Naisbitt talks about how he developed his future-oriented mindset. He
recounts an experience in which someone said to him: "What you say sounds like rain falling on different
ground." Your mindset determines whether particular information and experiences will take root and
What I'm suggesting this morning is that every one of us needs to develop a "welcome-the-world" mindset.
In some ways, that mindset is not so different from what we've always done. Education has always been an
enterprise in which there's a great deal of welcoming to be done. For example, My wife Sharon is a
kindergarten teacher. She starts every school year by talking to her new students about how she prepared
for the first day of school—and then has each of them talk about their preparations. She shows them
pictures of our family and asks them about their families. Over the course of a few days, each child finds a
comfortable place in the group.
In the Toronto Star on [date] was a story about how some of some of our other Peel kindergarten teachers
work over the summer to help welcome children to school for the first time. But it’s not just kindergarten.
Every year, in every school, we welcome students to a new grade. Then they go to middle school and high
school, and we work to welcome them there.
So, what's different about what I'm suggesting? What is a welcome-the-world mindset?
In fact, it's not different from what you're doing right now. The thoughts I'm going to share with you about
what makes a welcome-the-world mindset come from my direct observations of the things happening in
Peel schools right now. What may be different is that it may not truly be a mindset—you're doing these
things intuitively, but perhaps not as consistently and thoroughly as possible.
A welcome-the-world mindset starts with you.
Here are some of the characteristics I've observed of principal/VP teams who've really embraced the
You are seen to be interested in and involved with the local community.
Where possible, the local business owners know you personally, because you've introduced
yourself to the local merchants and make use of some of their services--dry cleaners, food
stores, flower shops, gas stations.
You know where local faith centres are, and you've visited to introduce yourself to local faith
leaders. You've encouraged them to talk to you personally if issues or questions arise in their
faith community about your school or education in general. At a board level, we meet
regularly with the faith leaders in Peel, and last year, the senior leadership team visited a
Hindu temple and Sikh Gurdwara. We will continue visiting other faith centres as a senior
team, but the local school connections are also vital.
You participate in some of the local community gatherings and cultural events. And
understand that these gatherings won't always take the form that we're used to or most
comfortable with. From unfamiliar foods to new traditions, it is we who are the learners in
You lead the whole school staff, including custodians and secretarial staff, to ensure that each
child and each parent is welcomed to the school and made to feel they are an essential part of
the school and the learning process
You make every effort in the hiring process to select staff who have excellent teaching and
interpersonal skills, who understand and embrace equity and diversity and, where possible,
who reflect the range of diversity of the student population.
You actively cultivate and encourage a representative participation of parents on the school
Welcome is a chorus, not a solo
Walt Disney once said, "You can design and create, and build, the most wonderful place in the world. But
it takes people to make the dream a reality." The same is true for creating a welcoming school. Your entire
staff needs to embrace this way of thinking. The people on the front line know what's going on better than
anyone else. They're making the critical decisions every day that make an encounter either welcoming or
not. It's up to each of us as leaders, to give those people the freedom and resources that they need to do that
How do you do that? Well, I believe actions speak louder than words. When you are out on the front line
with your staff, modeling the welcoming behaviours and attitudes you want to see in others, word will
reach every corner of your school.
What does it look like?
All staff at your school actively welcome students and parents.
Increasingly, they reflect the diversity of the community you serve. They bring a wealth of cultural and
faith-based understanding to their work with their students.
Like you, they make efforts to become acquainted with the local community—shopping locally,
participating in local events.
Your teachers serve as associates for diverse faculty of education students and mentor
internationally trained teachers who are looking to gain some experience in Peel classrooms.
The school council is inclusive and it accurately represents the diversity of your school. The
council is a resource in your outreach to diverse communities.
In middle and secondary schools, staff to step forward to mentor student groups that support
the diverse needs of all students. Many of our students are seeking to understand their place
in a complicated world and need safe settings of sponsored dialogues about culture or
meetings of a Gay/Straight Alliance or simply gatherings to talk about bullying or safe
schools and safe communities.
Welcome is a universal language
It's important to welcome people in their own language. In part, I'm literally talking about families' first
language. As a board, we already have the multilingual Welcome poster, the international award-winning
multi-lingual websites, Language Line service, interpreters and much more—all to help "speak" to people
in their first language.
Of course, sometimes pictures speak louder than words, and the creation of a welcoming environment also
relies on visual signals. The corporate world has certainly recognized the advantages of visually
capitalizing on diversity. In 1984, an Italian fashion company began a series of ads under a banner the
company still uses today: "United Colors of Benetton." The ads showed culturally diverse youth and
presented a theme of racial harmony and world peace. The ads spoke powerfully across cultural
boundaries, raising social awareness by presenting powerful human themes.
More and more advertising companies are springing up specializing in marketing to specific diverse
markets. Aspirin, for example, has different ads for South Asian and Chinese customers. Closer to home,
Rogers and RBC both are highly skilled at reaching specific cultural communities. And as a board,
increasingly, so are we. For example, this summer, we ran ads in 40 multi-lingual newspapers to promote
our adult ESL program.
Of course, sometimes messages get lost in translation. We've all seen examples of the unintended humour
of mis-translations. Here are some from the corporate world. American Express's "Don't leave home
without it" turned into "Stay home with it." Rice Krispy's "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" into "Break, crush,
explode." Sprite's "Obey your thirst" into "You are commanded to drink." In China, before the company
developed an official brand, many shopkeepers made their own signs, adopting any group of characters
that sounded similar to the words "Coca Cola," without a thought to the meaning. One improvised sign
translated it as "female horse fastened with wax." Another: "bit the wax tadpole." Coke has now settled on
an official Chinese name that sounds similar to Coca Cola and means "permitting the mouth to rejoice."
Pepsi's Chinese product name means "everything that makes you happy."
Other companies, Ikea, Swatch, Mont Blanc, Apple and Nokia are just some of the many companies that
sell worldwide, creating product designs that don't need to be adapted to different cultures.
Of course, you may think it's unfair of me to compare us to these corporate giants. And, to be sure, you're
right. Our work with children and families is much more important. I don't know of anyone's life that was
changed by owning—or not owning—a bookcase, watch or cell phone. But lives are changed forever by
That's why today we're providing you with some powerful new tools to welcome the world. There's a new
multilingual "welcome to school" toolkit. It contains a CD with extensive electronic resources in 25
languages. Also in the package today, we're launching a new multi-lingual "Welcome" decal you can put
on your school's windows and doors as a visible sign of our collective commitment to welcome the world.
Welcome is an every day miracle
Welcome doesn't just happen the first day a student arrives to register. You give them a nice tour of the
school, a welcome letter in their first language and then, "tick" you can check it off your to-do list. That's
why I believe it's a mindset, because we have to practice this every day. But much of the language of
welcome is non-verbal. It's the wide variety of signals we give out through every action and behaviour.
We want our students to feel welcome every day. We want students, when they come to school to regularly
say: "I feel at home here" and "People here care about me."
Part of what makes that happen is that we have to recognize our students as individuals, not just learners.
Their culture, heritage, nationality, language—and yes, their religion—are all part of who they are. The
Faith Forward program is designed to help welcome faith within the public school setting. To help you and
your staff, we have exciting new resources for you this year—a Reflections on World Religions book and
poster set. In the package you'll receive when you leave today, you'll find a sample of the book, and you
can preview the poster set at the Faith Forward table in the Department Showcase in Hall D. You can
order classroom sets of the book and posters for every teacher at your school.
This isn't just another print resource. It's ground breaking and revolutionary for public education. At a time
when politicians are arguing about segregating faith from public schools, we're going to have schools
where all feel welcome and included. I want you to imagine how much it will mean to a student, to a staff
member, to a parent, to walk into a public school and see a poster that greets them with: "Shubh
Deepawali," "Happy Easter" or "Eid Mubarak," with images that reflect the meanings of those
celebrations. We have worked with our local faith leaders for more than three years to develop the Faith
Forward resources and to make sure that they're accurate.
I want to be very clear that this is not about having students or staff celebrate the religious holidays of
others. The point is to help people feel welcome and included by reflecting the spiritual side of who they
are. And to build a real understanding of the many faiths of those with whom we work and learn—now
and in the future.
Of course, building that kind of understanding goes deeper than a poster. The resource book is an excellent
way to learn more about each faith. As another new resource, there are also more than 60 sample lesson
plans posted in the Teacher-to-Teacher section of the intranet. You will find them by going into the
"Discussion Group" section under any grade or subject. They're designed for your teachers to use as a
source of ideas—we hope they add their own ideas and post those in Teacher-to-Teacher, to share with
Welcome is a collective verb
What can be more important than building strong relationships with parents and families, so they feel
welcome and included in our schools? This is the ideal we should strive for—that they feel as comfortable
in their school as they do in their living room. If you think about it, what we do is very intimate and
requires a great deal of trust from parents and families. What could be more intimate, what could require
more faith, than entrusting us with their children—with their children's future?
Bringing the community into the school can help to do that. The school is a natural hub for community
services and resources that families need. For example, last spring I had the privilege of receiving an
award from the Punjabi community for the ways we've reached out to the community, specifically, the
creation of a ground-breaking Punjabi credit course at Lincoln Alexander Secondary School. As valuable
as the new course is, what it symbolizes to the community is even more significant.
Another example—we’ve been fortunate to see a dramatic increase in the number of settlement workers
funded to serve our schools and in the amount of time they’re available in each of the schools they serve.
These workers are a vital link between the school, families and services in the community. If your school
is lucky enough to have one, make as much use as you can of that service.
When thinking about being more welcoming to family involvement, it's also important for us to remember
that there are many types of families. For many in our community, grandparents are as important in the
family unit as parents—and we need to make sure they feel included in school events. Does a student live
alternate weeks with two sets of parents/step-parents? Welcome! Does the student live with two mothers
or two fathers? Welcome! We need to find ways to welcome and involve all the many wonderful
variations of families—to make sure they feel comfortable being involved, because we all know the power
of family involvement on student achievement.
Often community leaders and advocates are important to our families, and we have to welcome them into
the school as well. As the song from the movie Bridge to Terabithia suggests, we need to keep our minds
wide open. We need to be willing to hear their messages. We need to listen to their perceptions. As anyone
who's participated in the Wellman training knows, one of the most valuable gifts we give is the gift of
attention. To actually listen without speaking, or judging.
A good opportunity this year will be the work we need to do around Bill 212. Many parents have
preconceived beliefs about the state of safety in schools. Some communities may even feel that their
children are unfairly blamed for school violence. For us, instead of trying to argue those perceptions, we
need to listen. Because what we can agree on is a common goal—a safe and secure learning environment
for all students.
Staff mean the world to us
The welcome-the-world mindset is equally important for our employees as it is for our students.
Newcomers are equally a vital source of new employees. According to Edward Gordon, author of The
2010 Meltdown, immigrants now make up three-quarters of Canada's labour force growth, and in just four
short years, that proportion will be 100 per cent.
In a growing system like ours, that means newcomers are not only our sole hope for student enrolment
growth, but also for the new employees that will keep our system going. Foreign-trained workers and
occasional teachers are important sources of new employees for us. It's vital that we welcome them into
our schools as teachers, teaching assistants, custodians, secretaries, occasional teachers and volunteers.
The time is now
Where do you get the time to do all this? Time, time, time is on your side. Yes it is. Building
relationships—and that's really what I've been talking about—happens over time. So, you don't get it
wrong, or get it right for that matter, in any one incident or encounter. The other message about time is that
you make time for what's truly important. I don't believe it's a matter of changing course, I think it's a
matter of being more consciously focused on the things you're already doing.
And it's well worth the effort. The result will make a profound difference in the lives of our students.
Through the courier, every school will receive a copy of Sarah Thomson's book Imagine a Day, as my
Starting Point 2007 gift for your staff and students. It's a perfect resource to stimulate student writing. This
Governor-General's Literary Award winning book is filled with spectacular images. Each image is
accompanied by a short phrase of text. The book ends with these words: "Imagine a day when…a place
you've never seen before welcomes you home. Imagine today."
That's my wish for our students. That from the first day they step foot into a Peel school, it feels like home.
The great news is that each of you already fulfils this wish. I want to personally thank you for
that incredible work. It’s important. It is noticed. And it makes a difference.
Every day, in big ways and small, you and the staff you work with make schools welcoming
places in which students learn. Simple things we take for granted—a warm smile, a friendly
hello, the word ‘welcome’ in their first language, a sparkling clean school—each of these actions
beckons our students and families. Every day, you help create remarkable places of learning by
doing things that you see as ordinary, but that are miraculous to our students. Truly, you welcome