What is a School?


In 1993, as a Carleton Board of Education school trustee, I submitted a Brief to the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning: What follows was one of the appendices. And it is very interesting to note that just twenty years ago, schools were considered safe places. Now all we hear about is bullying. And it is tempting to suggest that the unending violence on TV, in the movies, and the computer games may have something to do with that.

First some “official” answers to the question followed by the answers from the students, teachers, staff and other adults, in that order.  There is one exception: Kaira put herself at the very end when she retyped this for me.

Schools are caring, nurturing places that address the needs of every child.
Royal Commission of inquiry into… Education.
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1992

A school is a centre of learning that presents a welcoming, caring and safe environment in the community. It is an institution to help people develop skills necessary to self-preservation, continuing self-development, self-examination, self-building, self-renewal, and self-respect.
PEI Philosophy Committee.

A school (junior science college) is a place where “the home-room creates a ‘family’ environment where advisors take the role of parents or members of families.”
Extract from Briefing Notes
1993 Malaysian Educators Tour

A school is a home away from home.
Bill Ellis
CBE Trustee

A school is a place where I learn things.
Christopher Logan, Grandson, Grade 1, Castlefrank Elementary School

From some Grade 6 students at Parkwood Hills, “A school is a place where”:
I learn the wonders of the world. (Elizabeth Cross)
Students and teachers communicate. (Ericka Yang)
You’ll be able to know you have a future. (Arian Johnston)
Where there are friends, and where people care about education. (Matisse Mazutis)
You learn different facts about the world [and where] you also learn how to respect and share. (Catherine Bulinski)
I see my friends and am helped to understand some of the mysteries of life; where I work, start learning organizational skills, and can get away from my annoying brother. (Name withheld by me).

A school is a place where we have lots of fun, we learn stuff, we socialize, we get an education and we play sports.
Five Grade 8 Students
Bridlewood Community Elementary School

 A school is a place to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are which will guide you through the rest of your life.
Steffen Wytenburg, Student,
Elizabeth Wyn Wood Site

A school is a place where educators provide a service to students. That service is to meet the needs of students and prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead in life.
Jeff Colpitts, Student Co-President
Bell High School

A school is not an isolated place. It is a microcosm of the community that surrounds it.
Winston Latourelle, Principal
Glen Cairn Public School.

A school is a beacon of light in a sea of societal fog.
Lynda Brooks, Principal
A.Y.Jackson Secondary School

A school is a place where children enjoy being.
Jack Schoular, Vice-Principal
Katimavik Elementary School

A school is a place where students, staff, and members of the community feel at home in an atmosphere of friendliness and warmth thus allowing learning to take place.
Jaques Torjman, Vice-Principal
Bridlewood Community Elementary School

A school is the only home that some kids have.
John Irvine, Principal
Eamers CornerPublic School

A school is a family.
David Lemke, Principal
North Gower/Marlborough Public School

A school is a place where students some to engage in formalized learning of specific skills, information, and habits under the direction of instructors.
Robert Widenmeir, Principal
Roland Michener Public School

A school is a safe place where a child learns, practices and refines the skills necessary for life.
Pearl Simpson, Special Education Resource Unit
Roland MichenerPublic School

A school is a safe place where children are prepared for their future.
Doris Sheehan, Vice-Principal
W. Erskine JohnsonPublic School

A school is a place where children are cared for enough to allow them to live up their potential.
Nancy Prescott, Co-ordinator,
Alternate Program, Elizabeth Wyn Wood Site

A school is a community of learners and facilitators. A successful school provides a safe, enabling and encouraging environment where the learner is challenged to reach his or her potential in a variety of ways.
John Kitney, Asst. Head Maths,
Loyalist College, Kingston

A school is a place where the work-force of tomorrow is grown, nurtured and developed, in readiness to take on the responsibilities that will be placed upon the, in the future.
Terry Dyche, former chairman
CBE Advisory Vocational Committee

A school is a place where potential is nourished.
Ron Coleman, Principal
Parkwood Hills Public School

A school is four walls surrounding a future.
Harvard University Professor

A school is a door to the future through which all students must go. The room they enter is the world. How they decorate and shape the latter depends on their learning experiences as they pass through the doorway.
David Huether, Vice-Principal,
Rideau District High School

A school is a place where the children of today are introduced to the ideas of the past in order to prepare them for the future.
David Banks, Science Head
South Carleton High School

A school is a place where you live to learn, and learn to live.
Vic Draper, Vice-Principal
Fitzroy Harbour Public School

A school is a place where the learning never stops – for students, or teachers, or administrators.
Sue Taylor, Program Adviser
Western Superintendency, CBE

A school is a place for learning at your own time, your own speed, through mediums, contexts and experiences that please the learner.
Bruce Topping, Principal
Emily Carr Middle School

A school is a place where students are taught to feel happy and confident about themselves, their school, their family and their country.
Dan Mason, Principal
Educational Services

A school is a place that provides opportunities for self-expression, creativity and achievement.
Kim Comrie, Music Teacher
Katimavik Elementary School

A school is a place where learners acquire, in a safe, caring environment, those attitudes, values, skills and knowledge that allow them to secure employment and to remain productive, participating citizens.
Reg Laventure, Vice-Principal
Sir Guy CarltonSecondary School

A school is a place where students and staff feel safe, challenged, and have a sense of pride that they are working on something that is going to make a difference to their life.
Mac Prescott, Principal
South Carleton High School

A school is a place where students come to develop and broaden their knowledge and are prepared for their future. To this end, students are given opportunities to acquire practical and research skills, and encouraged to work both independently and cooperatively. Today’s school is also a place where students benefit from a rich multi-cultural environment.
Jill Doherty, Secondary Schools ESL Coordinator

A school is a place where adults interact with learners, with a sense of purpose and loyalty to place. That purpose is to help students through the adolescent stage and to gain an understanding of what their potential is.
Garry Gauthier, Principal
Gloucester High School

A school is a place where children learn about themselves and about others through explorations of their emotions, their skills and their world.
Lyndi McDonald, Principal
Manotick  Public School

A school is a place where students interact with their environment to become academically competent and socially skilled.
Meredith Norman, Vice-Principal
J.S.Woodsworth Secondary School

A school is a place where young people can achieve their personal goals in a positive, structured, environment, where caring teachers encourage and challenge them to realize their potential, and develop intellectually, physically, emotionally and sociably.
André Langlois, Physical Education Head
Earl of March Secondary School

A school is a place where students, teachers, and parents cooperate to develop values, skills, knowledge and creativity in our young people.
Mary Crooks, Art Head
A.Y. Jackson Secondary School

A school is a place where each unique individual can develop to his or her fullest potential in a caring, structured, environment that focuses on the whole person so that they may have full and rewarding lives.
Daintry Topshee, coordinator
Frederick Banting Alternate Program Site

A school is a nightmare.
Grade 9 Transitions Teacher

Two of the Parkwood Hills teaching staff. ‘A school is a place where’:
Seeds of learning are planted.
It is possible to share exciting ideas and experiences.

A school is a place where a child feels safe and cared for and where learning is an ongoing cooperative process.
Wilma Free, Office Administrator
Roland Michener Public School

From the office staff at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School. “A school is a place where”:
I go to work and enjoy being with good friends and interesting young people.
I learn to appreciate my own children, and watch others mature and grow up into fine young people.
People have many opportunities and resources to find out who they are and where they want to go.

A school is where “everyone” within learns.
Malcolm Hamilton, Building Superintendent
Gloucester High School

A school is a place where children and adults congregate to learn and grow together.
Suzanne Gourley, Office Administrator
Stephen Leacock Public School

 A school is a place where children are taught how to learn.
Karen Ellis, Parent
Castlefrank Elementary School

A school is a locus of learning.
Barry Bockus, Parent
A.Y. Jackson Secondary School

A school is a place which helps you learn to love life, learning and people.
John Harrison, Parent
Former School Trustee

A school is a place where persons can learn what they need to know to be able to manage their lives.
Ingrid Lay, PTA President
Glen Cairn Public School

A school is where the shape of the future is decided.
(“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”)
Rosemary Ann Lewis, Ratepayer
Dunrobin, Ont.

A school is a place where a basic understanding of human beings is taught and learned. The actual educational studies are peripheral to socializing and peer activities.
Sally Gunther, Editor,
The Kanata Kourier-Standard

At first I believed that a school was a united community, working together to right wrongs and pursue the dreams of our youth. But the principals and teachers and even your parents don’t tell you that it confines you. While school is a place of learning and some teachers make the classroom settings all worthwhile, there are heartbreaks and feuds and relationships that can plain suck. Some teachers will not nurture you and guide you in the best ways possible. Same goes for the students. To prevent this, I have come to the conclusion that I have made good choices. I have made friendships and relationships and bonds with teachers, for myself that could never be severed. And they are a result of my choosing how I want to execute my learning. I have a say in my learning. And because of this newfound theory, I no longer feel like school is a prison, rather an escape from the daily on-goings of life.
Kaira Ayer, Student,
Reynolds Secondary School
Victoria, BC