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.
Today, January 1st, 2018, marks 2 years since the day we announced the opening of Via Vita Academy.
2 years! Wow!
Via Vita has grown from just an idea, well, suggestion really, from some very special people, to now an operating school filled with families, students, and teachers - even more special people! The parents who have came through our doors, the students who have participated in our programs, the children whose faces we've painted, those who've chatted on the phone with us, met us at events, donated supplies, shared our information, shook our hands, liked our posts, recommended us to a friend, checked out our website, or even asked us how we're doing - we are forever grateful. It all supported us through the birth of Via Vita and continues to support us as we find our place in the community, Where we've come from and what we are today has shaped so much of who we are, our values and goals.
Even through the busy times of school assignments, report cards, field trips, lunch duties, meetings, enrolment, and growing lists of administration tasks can leave us feeling swamped and stressed, we honestly, really, truly, it might sound crazy, but we really mean it - we wouldn't trade it for a thing! Opening this school took much planning, and with that, much anticipation for these busy times. The work is, and continues to be, a labour of love. The day we signed the dotted line, marking the beginning of Via Vita Academy Ltd. as a real, functioning "thing", we made a conscious decision to change our lives, and with that, hopefully, the lives of many families to come.
It has been nothing short of amazing. Copious amounts of work, but amazing and extraordinarily rewarding. 2 years ago and onward, we knew there was nowhere to look but forward, As educators, employers, colleagues, business partners, parents, and friends - we set our focus forward, with the support of so many wonderful individuals.
Somehow, magically, along the way, we also found teachers who agree and put in 110% every day. Their dedication is unmatched and truly enables our school to stand strong. Even on their holiday break, they stepped up, offering us this tidbit to post today. When asked to help us write a New Year's Day post, they produced something truly heartwarming and inspiring, setting us up right for 2018.
So, we give you this, from our current staff of 6 Via Vita Teachers, looking forward to 2018 with goals and learnings for ourselves and our students. Education is our passion; learning is our life. Here's to a year of kindness, joy, more learning, and mutual support!
Can you guess who wrote each one?
In 2018, my wish for my students...
To continue fostering relationships with each other, spreading kindness, developing their love of learning, and discovering who they are.
To expand upon the approaches to learning that we have explored together--through questioning, and a shared willingness to understand more about our world.
To find excitement in new activities and persevere when things become challenging.
To learn more about the world and themselves.
To continue discovering just how unique and amazing they are, and that they are each so, so important.
To continue to develop their sense of wonder and to never stop questioning.
In 2018, my wish for my teaching...
To grow and adapt as I learn with my students.
To inspire both my students and myself to build upon--or perhaps add to--our individual skill-sets.
To inspire my students to create their own path and take risks along the way.
To be informative, engaging, and fun!
To be reflective of my growing appreciation for each of my students. I wish for my teaching to be ever more patient, engaging, and inspiring, for my students and my colleagues.
To continue to grow and develop with the students we have at our school.
In 2018, I plan...
To learn even more about my students, so that I can best serve them both academically and emotionally.
To read more than I have for many years before; gotta practice what I teach!
To find the fun in ordinary tasks
To organize my desk so I don’t drive Ms. Yolanda crazy!
To roll with it! Well, try to at least!
To set realistic goals, and to not procrastinate so much, so I should get on setting those goals… since it is now 2018!
In 2017, I learned...
That once in a while the plan needs to be scrapped in order to meet the needs of the students in the moment. Sometimes what students learn from those “teachable moments” is much more important that what you had originally planned for the class.
That I can teach as much by listening as I can by speaking.
To be flexible and let my students lead the way.
To appreciate more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.
To take it day by day, enjoying the little things!
That I am not a spring chicken, and I need to get more sleep!
Happy New Year, Everyone! Welcome to 2018!
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!