Conversations

So today I started the day a little frazzled but had decided already that I wanted to talk to the kids about how stories reflect real life. I am listening to Where the Crawdads Sing while I work out in the morning and Internment in the evenings at home and we have been talking about them and how they can serve as commentary on different topics in society. For my students I turned to a handful of picture books to explore this topic further.

We started with the discussion around Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass doors from Rudine Sims Bishop. It was interesting to see my students work through the analogy. I thought it would be harder to understand but they got the Mirrors and Doors part immediately. For the windows they just couldn’t see it because, “if you had a sliding glass door why do you need a window?” haha

We moved on from there and discussed topics of the world that picture books might address and looked at titles like Those Shoes, Last Stop on Market Street, Love, The Promise, Adrian Simcox does not have a horse, The Invisible Boy and a few others. Students read them in small groups and discussed what they were thinking. Today the connections were pretty surface level but the conversations were happening. The scene in Love with the boy under the table always sparks a conversation about why that scene is needed. The representation of multiple elements and struggles that we see in The Invisible Boy were expanded as a student pointed out an issue I had not considered.

Later in the day this same class had a few options, continue working on the picture book reflections or work on some poetry exploration. The class split half and half and it was enjoyable being able to read amazing poetry (I am totally getting them all to love the work of Rudy Francisco) and discuss elements of picture books. Throughout our rather chill period the kids and I discussed how the year is flying by and the topic of a final exam popped up. It was crazy how quickly the chill joyful attitude was sucked from the room as the kids started focusing on the tests that were still months away. The anxiety that spiked and the questions that broke away from the creative side and became more grade obsessed.

A day of joyful literacy work where conversations create more conversations came to a screeching halt because of one word. Test.

As we reimagine what education looks like, especially in the face of those who say the traditional ways are best, we need to make sure the most important voice is that of our students. Are our intentional and unintentional actions promoting learning and growing? Or are we shutting the door on that process for the mechanical process of testing?

I will choose a million conversation about learning over a test on it.

Setting the bar

Today we were watching a TED talk with a young girl that proclaimed that students will work to our expectations as teachers. If we set the bar low they will meet us there, and if we set it high they will strive to clear it. We need to have faith in our students and believe it.

Kylene Beers talked at NCTE about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and “you don’t need to be a reader to be a thinker.” I feel too often teachers set expectations based on a skill or a measured ability instead of getting to know their students, instead of challenging them despite what the test said.

I think this is one of the reasons I love doing a whole class novel as primarily a read aloud. I love the opportunity to take on a bit of the lifting (the reading) to allow my students a chance to really think about the text, how it makes the feel, what it makes them think and how it might change them.

Reading Refugee I knew some of my students might have been hung up on names, the why of the events and so much more if I had left them to read in isolation. Through reading I opened up so many opportunities for those same students who would have struggled to thrive. The expectation that they could provide meaningful conversation never faltered. I knew all my students could participate at the level I expected, sometimes they needed a little boost a scaffolding of how we approach a deeper dive but once they jumped in they could swim. I trust them and they trust me and they know I expect their best. That won’t look the same for everyone but the expectation for them to bring their “A” game is there and I think my students knowing my faith in their awesome brings it out more.

We can look at students that struggle and just let them sink deeper into that quicksand or we can pay attention, walk around the quicksand and find another route to success. Providing our students a chance to show they are amazing in areas that we might miss if we look at learning as a single track is one of the most important parts of our job. Confidence builds success and when kids get a chance to participate in conversations, that in the past they have been only an audience member, the exponential growth is incredible.

It is all about expectations. Our students deserve to be held to the highest and then helped to get there.

With all kids in mind

This last week as we started #projectspeak in my 8th grade LA class I have spent a lot of time thinking about student voice and choice, who is being represented in the books we choose, the discussions we have and work we do. We currently face in Alberta an election where one party suggests we need a more rigid curriculum focused on skills and “the basics” and moving away from guided inquiry work. To say I disagree with this thinking would be an understatement but it is not because I don’t think the basics are valuable or because I think kids for the most part have mastered these skills, they haven’t. I disagree because if we really want to help students learn we need to look at each INDIVIDUAL student. We need to understand how they learn, moving to a rigid curriculum that makes no room for that inquiry, that exploration, is bound to isolate students that don’t learn the “regular way”, this path will only lead to greater extremes in student success. Those who are more traditional learners will thrive and those who are not will be forced to conform or left behind. Conforming is the opposite of education.

As I was at the gym today I started thinking beyond this, instruction is not the only way we isolate our students. We also do it in what we place our focus on, who we choose to give the spotlight and who we leave out in the cold. Last year my eyes were opened to this thinking when a student, who is not an athlete, wrote in his journal about how much he hates being in a school that doesn’t see him. At the time I was reading a short story about a Basketball player and thought, “Yup this is going to engaged the kids because…Basketball” The false narrative in my small community that I had bought into is that because we are so sports centred that it must be engaging for all. Man was I wrong. When you think about school sports there is only a small percentage of the student body that excels at a certain sport. In a student body of 200 kids only 20 make the basketball teams, 10 percent, and yet if we were to ask around the kids not in sports would say, “[athletes]” get 90% of the attention. We can just look to a sports event, say a Volleyball game or Basketball game, the people that come to attend those events outnumber the Band Concerts and Play by a relatively large margin. At least in the eyes of the students in those activities.

After this conversation around my student’s written response last year I committed to getting to know as many of my students by their interests as much as their academic abilities. I learned about Manga and Anime, I went to judge 4-H speeches, students talked to me about their novels they are writing with their friends and their parkour adventures (those scared me). But the difference that my students felt, as my interest in them as awesome unique people, was measurable. This year as I ate some lunch with past students one said, “Mr.Gilson we loved your class the most but it was more because we know you care about us, like actually care, and try to get to know us more.”

Small simple things make the biggest difference. Our decisions as a school, the intentional creation of a culture that sees ALL students needs to be just that INTENTIONAL. We need to celebrate the kids who have started a garage band as much as the kids that make the basketball team, we need to know about the artist that has created their own comic book universe as much as starting point guard.

A schools success depends on the success of all students and as I sit and reflect on the future I wonder about how I can dedicate more time to getting to know those students I still don’t. The number shrinks every day as I pause between classes to visit with a sibling of a student that I have yet to meet or stopping by the foods lab to sneak some goods (my favourite). These simple actions have introduced me to more of the student body and built those connection, shining a spotlight on the corners of the school that don’t always get it.

It is easy to say ALL KIDS MATTER but if our focus doesn’t show it they are only words typed in all caps.

The Light Jar and Lessons learned

I have been reading Lisa Thompson’s The Light Jar over the last couple weeks. I love Lisa Thompson’s The Goldfish Boy so much I bought a bunch of copies in the hopes that students will read it in book clubs. I loved The Goldfish Boy because while it was an extraordinary story but part of the characters struggles where rooted in realism. A boy who develops OCD and germaphobic behaviours and can’t leave his room without significant struggles. A child goes missing and he is determined to solve the mystery. Thompson doesn’t rely on magic she simply relies on a character overcoming a real and significant struggle with the help of friends and family.

In The Light Jar Thompson focuses on Nate, a boy who is rushed away in the night as his mother attempts to escape her abusive boyfriend Gary (not since Voldemort have I disliked a character more). I would hate to spoil anything but I will say the plan does not go off without a hitch and Nate is faced with the reality of caring for himself in a remote cabin. Nate deals with a fear of the dark that evil Gary continued to contribute to in a rather evil design that continues to impact Nate. Some new found friends help Nate along the way and much like the Goldfish boy this tough topic is handled masterfully by Thompson as it become a piece of the story but not the whole story.

When I think about literature lately I can’t help but notice the increase in stories that are set in a real and relatable world with problems that provide an opportunity for students to see themselves. If it is problems with mental health, illness, family struggles, poverty, bullying, abuse, sexual assault these stories provide students with mirrors, windows and sliding doors in a way that I don’t think many educators consider.

We work to build libraries that are are diverse but I think forget about diversity of experience being equally important. If it is stories like The Light Jar that weaves a mystery into a survivors tale of emotional and psychological abuse, The Benefits of Being an Octopus looking at Poverty, Or Obsessed which has my students completely engrossed in the struggles of a teenager falling deeper and deeper into her obsessive compulsive behaviours.

Some might argue that these books are too tough, the topics are ones that we should not be focusing on but these things are happening in our students lives and these books teach our students going through them that there can be a light at the end, that the struggles can get better, that they can over come the dragon. As teachers we can’t keep these books and experiences from out students because we are worried they are too tough, the books might be the message and help they need.

Darn it

So I have been playing around the last 24 hours with a post idea and in my best procrastinating stance I have decided that rather than marking (I have a ton to do) or planning (lots of that too) I am just going to get this post done.

A few months back I submitted to present at Nerd Camp Michigan. It happens in the summer and I thought it would be a good way for me to over come the fear I have of public speaking. Well last week friends and contacts all over the internet were sharing their excited messages about being accepted to present, I checked my inbox and aside from some mailing list emails I have never bothered unsubscribing to there was nothing. It was a little disappointing but at the same time a relief because I proposed presenting on something that I have yet to try. A journey my grade 8 class is going to go on to discover the power of inquiry learning in a literacy world. We will see what happens.

Then just yesterday on top of discovering that there will be some major changes at the school that I am needing to take a surprising amount of time to process and stop stressing about (not a change guy) I received an email that another attempt to present at a conference on a topic I find interesting was denied. The Nerd Camp experience repeated itself as countless friends posted about how excited they were about their topics being selected. Some along the lines of what I was hoping to share on and some on topics that I was shocked are even being suggested. But here we are, disappointed and wondering what about the ideas I presented were not interesting enough to the selection committees. I took a moment thought Darn it and then focused on what learning could be done. I read a wonderful message from Kylene Beers and other messages from friends all around and felt lifted up.

I can’t help but connect this to the classroom, to teaching in general. Sometimes things don’t go our way. There is a million reasons why this could happen and should we always focus on finding the needle in the haystack or should be celebrate the opportunities to learn and grow. A bad lesson does not mean we look to blame it on all these outside factors we can’t control, it means we reflect on what we can. Our students need to be clear on this as well. We can only control a tiny number of possible outcomes so why do we focus so much on the ones we really can’t? I think part of it is intended to make us feel better but I felt way better yesterday after hearing words of support than I did in the initial moments expressing frustration and blame.

It is a lesson we can live by, it is ok to start in a mindset of “darn it” but take those moments quickly and shift to a mindset of “What can I learn?” Opening our minds to that thinking and then taking those steps will always get us a lot farther along than being stuck in a rut.

Speaking of forward steps, feeling a little motivation so off to get some work done. Looking forward to booking my NCTE trip early and planning to see all my amazing friends to cheer them on. šŸ™‚

Dear Virtuoso Educators

I know my friend Mary Howard does not like the term expert so Virtuoso it is. In this day and age where access is quite literally at the tips of our fingers and we are able to reach out and interact with the educators that previous generations could only learn from in books gives us the opportunity to be incredibly professionally blessed. To those educators, I want to say thank you for making yourselves so available, for continually providing tools to better classroom instruction and help our students.

Last week I noticed multiple posts where teachers were asking of different experts advice that could have very easily been answered with google or consulting the author/teachers book. I started to ask around and heard stories of receiving emails asking for assistance that are pages long, that they take the time to read and discover that they are asking for something that is clearly laid out in a book or blog post that people just don’t bother to read because they feel it is ok to just ask for the answer.

Following different Virtuoso teachers ( haha) on twitter we see their travel schedules, the conferences, the workshops, the airport delays, the time prepping for a keynote and the time they also take for themselves. I worry that because of Social media teachers have started to ignore the fact that even the Virtuoso teachers need that time for themselves.

When we think about our own teaching lives how thrilled are we to dive into the emails on a Saturday or Sunday or at 9pm on a Friday night after a long week? How excited are we to walk someone through something that they could have very easily googled? Now times that by potentially hundreds or thousands of requests.

In the last few days I have noticed on Facebook alone teachers asking for full lessons and resources from experts that I won’t name because it could be any of them. These requests followed posts that indicated being tired after a great day of learning with other teachers and yet people still asked for more. My friend Mary has resorted to posting closed signs on her Twitter and Facebook when she is on holidays to try a slow the constant flow of requests for research, opinions and feedback. These signs do nothing because people just say “she can’t mean me” or “she will just read this later” It does mean you and she won’t read it later, she will stop what she is doing to read it and find the answer because she is awesome and wants to support teachers even if it takes away from her own time to rejuvenate.

I am so grateful for all the amazing teachers that I have to learn from and I have asked them questions before as well, this isn’t about not asking for help but I do think we as teachers are becoming almost helpless to solve these problems ourselves and at the same time putting too much on the experts that have so graciously opened their Social media accounts to us, who share their wisdom in these tweets and posts to give us small pieces of brilliance to work with because we can’t be at all the conferences and speaking engagements. I think we have to remember the time they are putting in and respect them enough to realize that they don’t owe us responses. That they have lives of their own and perhaps we need to consult some journal articles, read great books and find answers on our own.

Kind of like we expect our students to do.

Sitting in Silence

I am very often loud. I am a rather high energy individual and teacher. I have fun, I get excited about ideas and I go off track… a lot. Today was not an exception. We were discussing the poem Complainers by Rudy Francisco and different lines that were sticking out. Earlier as the poem finished a student clapped, students that normally don’t share started talking about the lines, the power of this poem, of these words was evident. And then it happened. As I sat there taking a moment in the silence appreciating the pause in conversation the idea for their final project of the year just came to me. This post isn’t about that project so I will share that another day. Today we talk about silence.

This morning I was listening to Tom Newkirk talking with teens about their writing on Heinemann’s podcast. A comment from a student stuck out to me, “My best ideas come when I am just sitting alone or bored” There is some kind of clarity found in the silence.

My students start every class with silent individual choice reading time. Don’t worry the occasional chuckle or excited share with a classmate is more than acceptable, even encourage, but for the most part we are silent, we take in those moments where the words just grab us.

I walked into my room at lunch today, the lights in the room were turned down and kids were spread out around the room silently reading, I asked them what they were doing, some replied reading book club selections but one just ignored me and kept reading. I asked, “started Grenade?” and all that was received back was an “ummhmm” and back we all went to the silence.

I finished Randy Ribay’s After the Shot Drops tonight. I am a slow reader and have been savouring this one. I just finished helping coach basketball this year and thought what a great title to finish up the season with. I want to read it again. I love the characters, I have become a big fan of these books written in the perspectives of different characters and I think it is so important to expose my students to books that show the whole world not just theirs. The basketball elements of this story will draw them in. The characters will keep them.

Words have the power to inspire us, to captivate us and to help us sit in the silence and just appreciate them.

Gasping for Air

The last sentence is just beautiful

It is no surprise to regular readers that I am a huge fan of the work of Bob Probst and Kylene Beers. I work with my students to help them understand and discuss text better with Notice and Note and I try to get them to connect to their text with the Book Head Heart Framework. Earlier this week Kylene tweeted out this gem and I just had to capture it in a Canva poster.

Last night my sister sent me a text concerned over some information she read on my niece’s new school web page. The main point was that the school relied on a computerized screening exam (Star 360) to assess all students k-12 in their division twice a year. My sister is concerned because my niece already has assessment anxiety in grade 1 and the teacher told my sister that my niece was behind by a letter compared to her peers. I can imagine the regular reader of the blog know what happened next but for the first time readers I will just lay it out.

First, because I know Renaissance Learning when I see it, I told my sister what the test would be like and that hopefully they don’t put much weight on the results because well it is terrible. Second, I told her that if AR was even mentioned to demand that my niece not have to do it and that any school based competition include an alternative way for her to participate. Parents don’t always know the damage these programs like AR do (not talking about all program type things, some have a purpose, AR however only has one to kill reading joy), luckily for my sister she can send me a quick message and we can talk through it. My sister shouldn’t know what letter my niece is, my niece isn’t a letter she is a 7 year old girl that has the most infectious laugh in the world and a joy that literally pours from her soul but she is a frustrated reader because she knows she struggles, she knows she is behind her friends and by all means why don’t we add some computer tests to her life. Perhaps the goal really is to extinguish reading joy.

I was fired up last night and then went back to Kylene’s words above. I decided I really needed my students to see them because I need to make sure they know what I believe in deep in my soul and I could not write it better, so I shared it with them and we wrote.

Below are quotes typed because it was a quick write not a neat write haha. I will put in the pictures at the end.

I agree with that quote! You don’t get better at reading by taking tests or being told you have 3 minutes to read a paragraph full of words you don’t understand and can’t read.

Grade 7 Student

I know that Kylene Beers is right. That kids should be able to pick their own books and read what they like, not what they “need” to read…Teachers need to let children know that it’s okay to be behind and they can get help with reading.

Grade 7 Student

Books are important because they help you read and they get you off your phone and tv. They allow you to have a world away from reality, an imagination. They give you more than a movie or your phone.

Grade 7 Student

I think Kylene Beers quote is verry accurate and smart. What would be the point of time testing a kid in kindergarten?

Grade 7 Student

Thinking about what might happen next can make the book more thrilling. (on why students should take their time)

Grade 7 Student

Books are for reading. Not for taking tests on them for prizes. They are for people to have fun with what they are reading.

Grade 7 Student

“Readers need a book not a lexile level” I agree with this quote as well because I never really liked AR. It wasn’t very fun and you kinda lost some motivation to read after you got your certain amount of points in order to go to the pizza party.

Grade 7 Student

I agree with Kylene Beers on what she is saying, I was timed at grade 3-4 cause I had a problem which makes it hard to read every sentence. I would stutter and it made me mad. I would write a letter to that school to if that happens.

Grade 7 Student and reading this response made the eyes itch a bit haha

Sometimes you should let kids read picture book even if it’s to easy.

Grade 7

When Kylene say’s that “they need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in” that really stood out to me because finding books that I enjoy can be really hard but when you find that really good book that is how you feel.

Grade 7 Student

“they need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in” I love that comparison. It really makes you think and physically feel it.

Grade 8 Student

“They need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in” This made me think of when I am reading a book and the character is holding their breath and I’m holding mine. When I am so into a part of the book I stop to breathe and just keep reading until I all of the sudden need air because I forgot to breathe.

Grade 8 Student

I remember (in elementary) that the teacher won’t let me read my books that I want so at lunch I go to the library and sneek a book hide in the corner and the teacher got after me and I got in the “Blue Book”! But now I can read the book. Yay!

Grade 8 student (I tried to type exactly as written)

AR is like a bribe to read, once you got your goal there was no more incentive to read.

Grade 8 Student

Last year reading felt like a jail. I felt I couldn’t read what I wanted to and it seemed like they were challenging me. It was also harder because we weren’t reading for fun. But with Grade 7 it is so much fun I actually read at home.

Grade 7 Student

I think [the tweet] is telling us that instead of making kids read books let them pick between millions of books that they love so that they can take the million pound weight off their chest to love books in the future.

Grade 7 Student

Reading through all of these responses from my students I am so proud. I am proud that they felt safe enough to express their thoughts on reading. As teachers part of our job is to protect our students. While they might not be physically harmed by these practices there is no question harm is being done. With phrases like “jail” and “forced” being thrown about without hesitation I can’t understand how some continue to justify these practices.

My students were horrified that my niece was going to have to be taking tests so young, that she was already aware she was behind. What are we doing?

The picture to follow is a students response. I decided to leave it as is. My students know Kylene Beers as the lady who’s words are on our wall, as my teaching idol and today they know her as an inspiration for their writing. I am grateful to know so many wonderful teachers and so many wonderful students in the pursuit of becoming readers coming out of their books for gasps of air.

Love the Notice and Note reference šŸ™‚
The lady who’s words are on our wall šŸ™‚

Book Clubs Revisited

The Books

Why book clubs?

I started working with a book club approach a few years ago as an experiment in 6th grade. I wanted to move away from whole class novel after whole class novel as had been done in the past. Now please don’t take that to mean I don’t like whole class novels because I do… a lot. I also believe that WCN can be more a training wheels event with the book clubs becoming the two wheeler down the road a little shaky but trying. In all 3 of my LA classes we have finished our WCN, Peak by Roland Smith in 7th grade and Refugee by Alan Gratz in 8th. We have reflected and done a little work post text to explore conflict and characters and now we are going to move to a more independent set up with the book clubs. I love book clubs because it provides choice, opportunity to have meaningful talk and meaningful writing time each period. Students get in groups and by the end of the week are responsible to be members of their book club asking and answering questions and sharing their thinking.

How we do book clubs in Room 157

We are starting tomorrow which means speed book dating. All options are going to be out at different tables for students to work their way around and read small portions (first pages, book jacket, review blurbs) they will then indicate their top 3-5 choice on a list. I will be taking the list to look at pairings and if certain groups are going to need much higher levels of support, access to another supply of texts and so on.

From there we will be looking over our reading journals, it is the only “work” requirement they have during the book clubs. No tests, no worksheets, no programs, no clip art. Last year they had to have a pages for each day to show they were reading daily. Because this was a stupid idea on my part I am shifting things this year a bit. I saw a tweet talking about Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle and their 2 page spread requirement. I love the idea and it gives kids the chance to reflect in a way that works best for them.

Now it is not just a free for all assignment. Weekly there is a guided focus question or task that is assigned on Monday and I check for completion Friday. They also are asked to included signposts they find, thought log stem responses and questions for their peers. We meet on Fridays to discuss all we have noted in our books and then set goals for the next week. At the end of the book club cycle they are responsible for a written response that fits into our curriculum and last year they did a partner project. Time became an issue but I am looking at still having a group assignment but it would be closer to Pernille Ripp’s 12 word summaries .

How we DON’T do book clubs

This will be quick. No booklets, No Teachers Pay Teachers, No purchased “Novel Studies”. Moving on.

Excited for the possibilities

Giving students and chance to read and showing them that we value their thoughts and ideas is empowering. We want students who read and think. I am not interested in marking booklets tied to a novel like I was subjected to in Junior High and High School. I am excited to listen to their conversations, check their meeting notes and sit down to go over their observations with them.

I see book clubs as a way that we can cover multiple outcomes and in a way students enjoy. It is work but it is work worth doing. The same can’t be said for the booklet novel studies.

Choice+Time+Access= Joyful Reading, adding in the group dynamic just increases the possibilities for students to explore their thinking.

Moments

In November I signed on to help with our varsity basketball program. I still chuckle about the notion as do many others who know me. This season for the boys has admittedly been bumpy. We are a relatively young team with only two returning varsity players after a large group graduated. Last night was our last game.

I learned a lot this season, a little about basketball and a lot about life.

First I want to say to both our teams, the Zeniths and Pandas, I am proud of you and you bring honour to our school and community. Anyone that says otherwise based on a win-loss record or a few lost moments is not focused on what matters.

As coaches and adults involved in the lives of student athletes our duty is to build up not cut down, criticism must be constructive not destructive. What are we helping by reminding students of the moments things did not go right and placing blame on them? How can we ask students to keep their head up and keep going as we pile the weight of their mistakes on their shoulders and don’t let them forget?

Coaching and teaching have so many parallels. The other day I was going over some writing with a student and there were a lot of errors, a lot of areas that they could improve. Telling them all of them, piling them on would only weigh down the student and make the task seem impossible. So we look at the positives and then constructively add support to the weak areas. As a teacher I want to see my students succeed but not to the detriment of their self worth.

I have had a few examples of great coaches in my life. My father obviously to me is the ideal to try and attain. He taught me that sportsmanship was just as, if not more, important than winning. That players should be taught to help build teammates up, to support and not tear down and coaches should be the same. He also taught me that we can hold players to a high standard and help them get there when they stumble. The other example I now have is Ryan Blackmore who invited me to join him on this adventure this year. I still struggle to adjust to the rougher coaching style of Southern Alberta sports and sports culture. I am not really a fan of the “this is how it has always been” thinking that supports abusive fans, un-sportsman like behaviour and other things I see as issues and when Ryan asked me to join him he said things would be different and they were. He was a great example to the boys of passion and dedication with the occasional language violation that I came to appreciate and laugh about. What was most apparent was his dedication, respect and deep sense of caring for the players on the court, he took the time to build, we improved as a team and as people as the season went on and I am grateful for the time I had to learn from him.

Finally I just want to put in to words my gratitude for the kids. I am not a big speech person, i like to think and ponder and then write. To the student athletes I got to work with and support this year both the boys and girls. Thank you.

Thank you for holding your heads up when things got tough.

Thank you for being an example to the younger kids who come out to cheer you on with their homemade signs and funny costumes.

Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you all in a different role than a teacher in a classroom.

Thank you for laughing with me on the bench as I try and learn a game that is far more complicated than I ever knew.

Thank you for including me in this journey.

Your community is prouder of you then you will ever know and don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you really need proof look at the eight year olds who are following in your footsteps, the kids lining up at the end of a hard fought game just to show you the sign they made. The kids who proudly say they want to be a future Zenith or Panda. Look to the sweet old lady that travels in from out of town to zones just to cheer on “her teams”.

Losses are tough but those moments do not define you and they certainly do not diminish the honour you have brought to our community. You are teenagers and the weight of a town should not be on your shoulders.

Thank you for the season, for the great moments and the tough ones, they are what shape us.