Our VVA staff is truly something special. Up until the years of VVA, we had never worked with such diverse, supportive, and passionate group of educators who truly take risks together, share and reflect together to build such a positive work and learning space. Another dream conquered - a work environment that feels like home! Every day we see new layers of ourselves appear because we feel so supported and apart of an amazing team. Thank you VVA staff. Truly, thank you.
An extra special thank you to Mr. Ryan for writing this beautiful post, describing a very special day for all us of at VVA, the day we decided upon our Vision Statement. A couple year's into operating, and we still hadn't narrowed down our vision statement enough to confidently share it with the world, that is until this wonderful summer's afternoon. It was a day none of us have forgotten, and often long to create again. The wonderful mix of mindful reflection, nature at it's finest, and clear and confident minds that came together that day has truly left a beautiful mark on all of us.
Now that it’s January, I thought I might share a flashback to this one day that our teaching team shared back in August, when things were warmer, and our vision for this school first officially took shape...
Mid-August arrives, and the Via Vita Teaching Team gathers to envision how our year of learning together is going to look...
...But before we can start, there is a major list of tedious to-do’s to be done; rooms need rearranging, schedules need straightening, forms need filling, protocols need punctuation, new staff need to be shown the ropes, plus-this-plus-that and then some, among a bunch of other one-last-little-items. Phew. The first days of our first week back have us feeling a bit hectic, straight outta the gate.
Then comes a surprise: we’re invited to spend a day together out of the school, well removed from our list of to-do’s. There’s this place, on a lake, away from the whirring, clunking sounds of the city. A place surrounded by trees, whose leaves will be gently rustled by the crisp winds of late summer. A place where the year ahead might be more comfortably envisioned.
Also we’ll be fed dinner.
Away we go.
Upon arrival, everything that was promised comes to life. We are alone on the lake, where all but the Judas Trees are still green with the vivacity of August’s bittersweet ending. We set up shop in a wide oval on the deck, and for that day’s first hour, we do little but breathe this place in together, and exhale the last few days away. This place. This is where we’ll truly begin our year.
Working comes easily. We have a list of to-do’s for this day, too, but here, getting things done flows as readily as the lake lightly rippled by the breeze. So we explore things that might’ve been harder somewhere else--our personal strengths and struggles, how we can be more mindful in our learnings and teachings, and how to move forward as a new team, together. These talks are challenging, but they are beautiful, and as we share, our vision of the year ahead becomes ever more clear.
There is one item left on our list, but the day is young, so we stop to eat and laugh. Above us, clouds waver indecisively about whether to rain, while late summer sunbeams promise to keep things warm regardless. After several helpings of delicious food, we’re feeling ready to take on that last to-do: make a statement about the school, one that encapsulates, in one line, what it is we’ll be ever-envisioning for our school as we learn, teach, play, and work alongside our students.
Our team is in full swing; we’re especially pumped about this line, and it shows in our approach; in pursuit of something simple, true, and achievable, we take to willfully weaving our ideal pursuit. Somehow, what we envision has to fit into this one clear-cut sentence. It sounds heavy, it sounds intimidating, and yet for us, melding likeable minds lakeside, under the shifting summer sky, the day’s last to-do is done not long after we’ve begun:
Our vision is a culture empowered by community, compassion and wonder.
We’re finished, but, because we’re feeling pretty great about our day, we decide to keep it going. So into the lake we finally go. Some dive straight in, while some dip toes. Some swim to the raft, and some soon after leap off in a rush after spotting spiders. While we’re laughing and treading water together, The sky finally makes up its mind, and we watch as the wind pushes a warm rainfall across the lake toward us. And we stay put, and keep treading water, and laughing together.
Happy New Year!
Three years ago, today, we announced to the world that we would open a school.
The echo of those words still, every time, sounds so strange in our ears, "Open a school"?! I think we still follow that up with, “who does that?” Because honestly, who does that? Did we really actually do that? I guess we did! And really, it turned out to be everything we dreamed it could be, plus some. Which really was a gamble, don’t you think?
We recognized that opening a school would be the riskiest, scariest, bravest, most unheard-of thing we could do at the time for our teaching careers and lives. It would change everything in our lives, from personal to professional, and everything in between. But, with a special blend of trust in each other and our skills, a strong dose of perseverance, and great amounts of passion for what we believed education could be, we took that big leap of faith and announced to the world January 1st, 2016 that we would open a school. (We didn’t realize that that would be first of many great leaps of faith we’d be making along the journey of entrepreneurship, but that’s besides the point)
So, looking back, has it been scary? Was it really a big deal? Yes, 100%. Managing people, money, time, resources, clients, families, our own beliefs and values, goals, ideas, and our own families is no easy feat. The toughest part is reminding ourselves that it’s okay, it’s not easy, and there’s no perfect way of doing it. We’ve made it through, with smiles on at the end of each day. And what’s even better, we’re still going strong with that same recipe for motivation that we started with.
So, yes, all of that was big and scary. But what’s bigger to us, what really gets us saying, “Wow”, is when we’re standing in the back lobby right after snack time when the kids are hanging their coats and rushing off to their next class. You see 58 pairs of boots lined up on the shelf, older ones stopping to tie a little one’s shoe, a younger one stopping to say hello, and they all bustle past and then suddenly, it becomes quiet as classes get started – that moment of quiet, when we both look at each other and know exactly what the other one is thinking. Wow. What is it, you ask? What is it about that moment that gives us goose bumps, wide eyes and is immediately followed up by a deep breath? It's when we both realize that all of this just wouldn’t be without that that great leap of bravery 3 years ago and the continued leaps every day since. It makes every once of effort worth it. These students wouldn’t have made new friendships, wouldn’t be aware of how different a class of 10 can be. They wouldn’t be bouncing to math class with the skip in their step, lining their boots along the shelf with care. They may not be confident in their ability to speak up, or even acknowledge the needs of someone else to tie a shoe. This all happens, day in and day out, which we think is quite amazing and awesome, because of a big decision we made, and truthfully continue to make every day, to push through barriers, go against the grain, and open Via Vita.
We, now, get to be apart of each of these students’ lives and play a role in shaping their future. They inspire us daily to be better and try harder, and we are forever grateful for that. We have met and continue to learn from the most amazing educators, parents, and community members who teach us everyday the value of working as a team.
To all of the wonderful teams of people who we’ve come to meet along this journey, and those we will get to meet in 2019, thank you, thank you, and happy New Year! Thank you for supporting us, challenging us, motivating us, inspiring us, and most importantly, reminding us stay true to who we are. It truly takes a village, and we are beyond proud of the village VVA has become.
Please welcome one our newest members to the teaching team at Via Vita - Ms. Rhiannon MacDonald! We are so proud to have found such a kind, generous, and inspiring soul - she is truly an amazing individual who has brought so much heart to the school. We are beyond excited to see her in the classroom in September and pumped for the kiddos to get to know this awesome individual!
When I was growing up, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to experience sports in many ways. My dad was a coach, my grandpa a physical educator, and my mother a runner. I was able to try what I was interested in, without being obligated to enjoy or commit fully to sports (which was important). I tried a lot of sports that just weren’t for me - hockey for one day, gymnastics for 10 minutes, and so on. It wasn’t until I was 14 and found rugby that I knew I had found a sport I truly loved.
Growing up with open minded conversations all around me, I was independent and wanted to learn the game all on my own. It wasn’t until a week into try outs that I asked for advice from my dad (a rugby player for 30 years). I will never forget what he said, “be versatile, be the ball if you have to”.
I remember being confused at the time but wanting time to think about what he said on my own before asking him what he meant. So, I ventured off to tryouts, and games, and classes, and life and that bit of advice never rang more true as I grew older. Now, years have gone by and I think of that quote often.
At the time, I didn't realize the value in his words and how true they would eventually become to so many aspects of just being me. I have used his advice to get me through many areas of my life - areas that have nothing to with sport. School, friends, relationships, jobs, and yes, sport - basic human interaction was key to it all, working together and being what was needed in the moment.
I have learned that versatility is one of my many gifts. I love having the ability to explore various areas of life, trying new things, accepting new challenges, and bravely facing all the ups and downs of life - whether that's physical such as sport, or creative, academic, and even emotional. What I've taken from that moment, trying out for rugby those years ago and how it has added to all of the experiences life has offered me thus far, is that there is so much possibility out there. There is so much to grasp, to experience, to be, and to overcome. I don’t believe anything is just one thing. And for this reason, teaching became a journey I wanted to take. Inspiring others to be more, to try more, to see potential in themselves and in others. And that, in itself, is it. That's the thing, that nothing, ever, is just one thing. It can be so many things.
Yes, sports are a way to exercise and keep healthy, but also they bring about new friends, new learnings of valuable life long skills, a way to have fun, and a way to build self-love and confidence.
A laptop can be a way to communicate, a way we can store photos and memories, a calculator, a way to create, an entertainment set, a way to learn new information.
A meal out can nourish your body, spark new interests in food and cooking, create memories with friends, support local entrepreneurs and feed our local economy.
A pet can be a furry friend, a way to teach responsibility, or a companion who undoubtedly supports and loves you unconditionally through good times and bad.
And a school can be a way to make and grow connections, a home away from home, a place to create a family, a place that fosters a love of learning, and a safe place to gain new skills. A school can also be a place to learn who you are and who you want to be, a place to find your people and grow to seek your best, and a place that catches you when you fall and supports you back on your own again. A school can be where you discover who you can really be.
A teacher can be a fascinating facilitator, a meaningful motivator, an active listener, a role model, a resilient leader, a friend, a parent, and often, a learner, along with their students.
A student can be anything and all those things, of course. But that, depends heavily on the environment created by the teacher.
And, this, is why I teach.
It takes a teacher to inspire us and believe in us. To hear us and encourage us. To be the ball, really. In all of life's events, I think teaching is where I use the 'be the ball' lesson in versatility the most. I dream to inspire, encourage, and engage my students to be anything but just one thing.
So, be the ball, if you need to be. Don't settle to be just one thing.
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!