September 23, 2010
On Tuesday afternoon at Gilmore Community School, which has been undergoing major seismic upgrades the last couple years, there was a moment of peace–in more ways than one.
The roofers’ constantly rumbling asphalt machines fell silent for a few minutes as the entire school celebrated its commitment to being a positive, peaceful school with the raising of a special flag.
The flag marks Gilmore’s membership into Peaceful Schools International (PSI), which provides support and resources to schools wanting to educate students on peace.
PSI was started in 2001 by Hetty van Gurp, a Halifax teacher whose 14-year-old son died as a result of an assault by a school bully.
Gilmore principal Sheilagh Pace was working in Montreal when she heard van Gurp speak and wanted to bring the lessons to her own schools.
Gilmore is the first Burnaby school to join PSI and only the third in B.C., following schools in Sechelt and Coquitlam, said Pace. Students and staff have spent the past two years focusing on creating a peaceful, respectful school environment.
Students have been encouraged to make good choices, take responsibility for their actions and handle conflict in non-aggressive ways. They’ve worked on initiatives and fundraisers to support children and families both locally, regionally and in Afghanistan.
In the gym prior to the flag-raising ceremony, Pace encouraged students to leave “peace prints” instead of footprints behind in the school, by playing well together and picking up garbage, to show respect for both the custodians and the school.
She told them to think of PSI and its lessons whenever they’re frustrated or upset with schoolmates.
“We know there will always be conflict in the world,” she said. “It’s how you handle conflict that shows your own character.”
Pace said in an interview that while Gilmore was always a peaceful school, it’s “an ongoing process” and the efforts of the past two years have resulted in the number and intensity of conflicts among students being reduced.
“I think our students are more capable of resolving conflicts themselves, before it escalates to a teacher or the principal.”
Back at the flag-raising, students were reminded of their responsibilities to being peaceful and respectful daily. They conducted a minute of silence to ponder their own behaviour and commitments to peace in the upcoming school year.