Jonathan Todd is a grade 11 student at DSS. He is also #1 on the Canadian Aboriginal charts for his recording "Moonshiner." I had the privilege to sit down with Jonathan Todd a few weeks back to talk about school. His reflections on our conversation are shared in an article published in the District's Aboriginal Newsletter. Jonathan is an impressive young man. An accomplished performer and recording artist, he is a deep thinker with thoughtful insight on many topics, including youth, school, and culture. My conversations with Jonathan have been a source of deep personal reflection. There a special moments in our careers when the student becomes the teacher.
Here's an excerpt from his article:
I sat down with Mr. Terry Ainge, the principal of Delta Secondary School, and we discussed some of the questions that I took some time to ask him. In total, it was 10 questions that related to him as a Principal and also regarding the Aboriginal Program that goes on here at DSS.
I started out by asking him about his experience in high school himself, and his main interest was sports. He says that he played basketball, football and read Sports Illustrated a lot. His social life was put around physical activity, while he did his work in school; he was based on something else to keep him going. I then I asked him why he has become a Principal, and his answer was very surprising. Mr. Ainge says that he was first a teacher for many years teaching a grade 7 class, which he said was nice because he got to know all the students solely. After his job as an elementary school teacher he went on to become a high school teacher for English, Social Studies, and Physical Education and he also coached Basketball and Football, which was obviously good for him, because he did coach those two sports in high school. He then went on to be a VP for several years and now he is tackling the role of being a Principal. Mr. Ainge said that if he were to become a teacher again now, he would become an Alternate teacher for an Alternate Program.
After that, I asked him about how he thought about the reputation of the school. The first thing that he said was “The school has character”. I totally agreed with that. He also said that the people in the school had soul, enjoyed relationships and have firm strengths that show very well. With that in mind, I brought up what a healthy strong school looks like. He talked a lot about positive energy. He also said that everyone needs to be working together and that will lead to improved learning and stronger relationships that help build a closer bond between teachers and their students. I then asked him about what he thought he could do alone as a principal to disperse of racism and bigotry. He said that was a big job for one person! He also said that the reason for racism was a lack of understanding and lack of education that kept it going.
Mr. Ainge would love to see some more Native styled art in the hallways and not even just Native art, but also art from other cultures. He says that there is a greater sense of urgency within some students and some teachers to reach a goal of understanding. I highly disagree, since I don’t see it. I know when I see something, and I think students, and some teachers, must be educated on the different culture that surrounds our school on a daily basis. I then asked him if he was aware of the problems that Aboriginal students face on a daily basis. He said that he knows that there are challenges. When I asked him if there were any common mistakes among the school community (principals, teachers, executives, support workers etc.), he said, “I think all schools have challenges, and building relationships is key to developing greater understanding among all members of the school community. Too often we come to conclusions with too little information.”
Mr. Ainge believes that the Aboriginal culture at DSS is proud but quiet. He says that he would like to see the culture have a higher profile at the school, starting small, so people can learn over a period of time, and this is a positive way of showing the culture.
I believe that this was a good interview, and besides the few things that I disagreed on, there is a common ground and in the end, everyone is striving and working for the same thing that everybody else is working for, and that is peace.
You can follow Jonathan's music career at http://www.jonathan-todd.com/index.htm