Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Letter to The Minister

As we all know, The Village School is not exactly "text book". (Pun totally intended.) Having witnessed my dear friend go through a Colossal Struggle to register a playgroup for two to four year olds, I can safely say that registering this new progressive "strange" school will be slightly more challenging than a cake walk in the park.

So, I figured, why not go straight to the top? Get the reigning Minister of Education - The Honorable Mr. Desmond Bannister - to be a supporter of the school so he can, well, put in a good word for us. (Read: Tell them to approve the school and don't ask any questions because I said so.)

I rang the Ministry and spoke with his very kind and helpful secretary, Ms. Pratt. (I am still having a hard time believing that I got through to not one, but TWO very helpful women who pointed me in the right direction!) Not only did Ms. Pratt give me his email address, she encouraged me to email it and bring the hard copy in to ensure they letter gets to Mr. Bannister sooner than later.

I emailed it to him on Thursday morning, first thing.

Here is the letter I wrote to him:

October 8th, 2010

The Honorable Mr. Desmond Bannister,
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education,
Teachers and Salaries Credit Union Bldg,
East Street South,
New Providence,
The Bahamas

Dear Mr. Bannister,

It is my understanding that, together with the Department of Education at The College of The Bahamas, your ministry has designs to create a laboratory school at the T.G. Glover School once renovations are complete. I further understand that this school will feature experience-based learning and that this will function as a test of alternative education in the movement toward broad scale educational reform in The Bahamas.

I am, myself, a specialist in Progressive Education and have been studying the various methodologies over the past several years. In addition to my in depth studies, I have also attended two conferences on leading edge educational methods in North America.

I am creating a new learning environment that will be quite unlike anything we have yet had in The Bahamas. This school will offer students the opportunity to learn in ways that optimize their capacity for critical thinking, self-motivation, self-awareness, strong ethics, community-mindedness and the passionate pursuit of learning; characteristics which I am certain you will agree will be beneficial to our society.

As I have said in my appearance on the television show, “Dialogue”, on JCN, “education is the foundation of our society”. Consideration of the whole person engaging a whole life learning process is imperative if we are to create a healthy, happy, sustainable community.

I realize that the model I will be using is outside our familiar territory and I believe that this is precisely the kind of innovative approach necessary for us to begin the process of addressing the educational system.

Below are some of the values of the school I am starting:

. Recognition that young children need a significant amount of free play time to foster intellectual growth and understanding of the world around them
. All forms of intelligence, including often unrecognized kinesthetic, musical, artistic, linguistic, spatial and mathematical intelligence
. Intentional cultivation of our core values of social justice, cooperative living and environmental sustainability
. Time for self-directed learning to allow learners to pursue what matters to them, thereby facilitating deeper knowledge and richer personal growth
. Mentors who are passionate participants in their field of work and in the community, helping to build strong inter-personal connections
. Hands-on projects that are collaborative and relevant to the learners’ experience.
. Full familial involvement and connection

These aspects, among others, will equip the people who graduate from this learning context with more than literacy, numeracy, and facts; they will also help each person to know how they fit into the society and how they can continue to make our country and our world a better place.

We the supporters of the school, like you, believe that an excellent education must be made available to all children. In effort to make this kind of learning accessible to all the people who may want to experience it, we will offer a considerable number of our spaces at significantly reduced or full scholarship tuition; a demonstration of our core value of social justice. Of course, we will rely heavily on fundraising and grants in order to facilitate this.

Bearing in mind our hope to make progressive education widely available, I would also like to discuss the possibility of introducing this method of education to the public school system as a lab school.

Please allow me to personally share my vision and invite your support for this venture. When you participate in making this pioneer school a reality, you will be creating invaluable opportunities for Bahamian children.

I look forward in earnest to meeting with you to further discuss this amazing school!

Kindest Regards,

cian t. sawyer,
Founder and Director
The Village School

As it turned out, I didn't need the hard copy after all because I opened my inbox the following day to find that he had actually responded! When I saw his name in bold sitting there waiting for me to know that he'd written back I had a nervous catch in my stomach. What did he say????? I wondered. Click.

Dear Cian T Sawyer:

Thank you for your letter. We appreciate your interest in starting a new school, and look forward to the development of your plans as you fulfil your goals.

Thank you for keeping me apprised of developments. Please ensure that you fulfil registratation requirements with the Ministry.

Best wishes.

Desmond Bannister

"That's IT? He's blowing me off?!?!" I said to myself. Not so easily. And I wrote him back:

Dear Mr. Bannister,

Thank you for your speedy response! While I fully intend to register the school through the proper channels, I am aware that I may face some challenges due to the non-traditional methods we will be using.

It is my sincere hope to present this to you in person to garner your ministry's support.

I look forward to meeting with you in the near future.

Again, many thanks for your consideration on this matter.

cian t. sawyer

That was Friday. It's a long weekend here, so I am assuming that he is resting and spending time with his loved ones, as we all are. I am hoping he'll write me back on Tuesday. I fully intend to be persistent, respectfully but boldly letting him know that I simply will not take "No." for an answer. It's not an option for me.

Stay tuned for an update early next week. Because, my friends....

I wanna be starting something!

(Even though the lyrics don't exactly match, this song popped into my head and I'm sharing it for entertainment value.)


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