About 40 members of the Mission Hill High School design team came together on a beautiful Saturday morning for our very first Community Design Meeting. We were educators and activists, students and elders, families and alumni, veterans of Mission Hill School (MHS) and folks who are new to the community … and we were all here to dream about a Mission Hill High School for all children.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …” We started the day with a song that brought us into a big circle, and went around introducing ourselves. We learnt about who we are, what each of us is proud of and a hope that brought each of us into this space.
“The more I have dreams of freedom, the more I find communities like these,” said Abdi, a MHS 5th and 6th grade teacher who facilitated the start of the day.
Ayla, the principal of MHS, welcomed all of us to Mission Hill, and reminded us about the giants whose shoulders we stand on. Because this conversation about building a high school for all children started decades ago, even before MHS came to be.
After grabbing some of the coffee and snacks folks generously contributed, we then split up into three different groups, to reflect and share based on the following questions:
- What does diversity mean as a creative principle for school design?
- What kind of world do you want to create? What high school experience will help create that world?
- What gets nourished and what gets left out in our current high school models?
Each group agreed on their group norms, and explored these difficult questions together. We talked about words that come to mind when we say “diversity” (inclusive, resistance, cultural capital, ranging abilities, abundance, economic, social justice, historical, different, unboxable, exclude, silent, violent, celebration …); how “a design principle of diversity starts with empathy;” how kids and families must be at the very centre of our stakeholder diagram; about creating a world in which children feel safe, a world that is less exhausting; about how people decades ago thought about public schools as the basis for remaking society; remaking a world in which we feel more connected, less isolated; about memories of a teacher who broke the rules; thinking beyond walls …
After sharing lots of thoughts, hopes, fears and ideas, and listening deeply to each other, we came back together as a big group to share our findings with each other. The day ended with commitments and affirmations, which helped us get a sense of our next step on this journey of designing Mission Hill High School.
“I would like to continue going to a school like Mission Hill.”
– Amishai, MHS 5th grader