Perspective is everything

At last week’s Heads and Chairs Conference, we tried an experiment. We hired a painter who brought a large mostly blank canvas to our opening reception. He helped our group create a Tom Thomson replica of “The Canoe” by asking us to paint one small square per person. I think almost everyone claimed “But I’m not an artist” (the subject of another blog); and everyone faced the same public surveillance, as their peers stood around and judged (and congratulations to Drew Stephens who stood up to particular scrutiny!).

I’m including a picture of our final masterpiece below, and I am the first to admit – when you look at it up close, it leaves something to be desired. I am a bit sensitive about mocking the hand that feeds me, but one could go so far as to say…well… it’s a disaster: the paint colours don’t match square to square; lines don’t line up and at least one square is upside-down (or maybe Drew got it right?)

But the next day, as it was displayed in the front lobby of The Rosseau, it caught my eye. It actually looked pretty good! And I noticed that I wasn’t the only one to take a picture of it. And now, one week after the conference, I find myself still thinking about it.

For starters, creating the painting was a fun process. There was laughter and messiness and you had to check your ego at the door, especially in this crowd. Moreover, there’s a good story to the painting. We used the painting as a fundraiser for Camp Oochigeas – Alex Robertson gave a compelling description of the camp, and no one will forget our auctioneer, Hal Hannaford, who was at his best (and when Steven Page is your opening act, you better be good).

But someone commented that this painting is a bit of a metaphor for the work of CAIS, and I can’t stop thinking about that. Two images come to mind:

Last week, in the middle of the CAIS Conference, when unpredictable things happen – like our moderator had to cancel and Tom and Tam Matthews’ reservations were mixed up – I was not thinking fondly about our conference. But now that a week has past, and now that I am focusing not on the myriad bits but the full picture, I can see that we had some valuable learning together on strategy and the future of education.

This month, we are digging deep into our 12 National Standards, and focus groups are meeting to give feedback on the revisions to our Accreditation Guidelines. We have been researching our standards and procedures for over two years now, and pouring over evaluations and international best practice, and now we are gathering diverse groups to give us feedback on the ideal accreditation process. Believe me, when done well, this process should be messy! But I trust that out of all these perspectives there will eventually be some synergy. And I believe that come springtime, the Standards Council and Board will be able to paint a new picture of improved Accreditation Guidelines that not only support continuous whole school improvement but can be a catalyst for change in our schools.

So I encourage you to look closely at The CAIS Canoe. I predict you will smile at the imperfections.

And then I hope you take a step back and look again. And this time, I hope you will see there’s something beautiful in this collaborative creation. I predict that perspective might make you smile again.


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