Terry Brookes, vice-chairperson for Yellowknife Education District No. 1’s board of trustees, spoke to Yellowknifer recently what he’s learned as a trustee after nearly 30 years of service.

What is one interesting experience that you’ve had during your time as a board trustee?

“That’s a tough one because there’s lots.

“I was just down in Vancouver the previous week at the British Columbia School Trustees Association. (I was) in a big ballroom and (there were) brand new trustees and also veterans.

“They’re having the same problems we do and that (creates a sense of) connection and you can relate to things.

“There are other people working on the same solutions (with) different ideas. It’s a real pleasure to see that.

“(Education) is a broad topic. We might be ahead here, and behind there, and so it’s back and forth. That often happens in these conferences.”

Brookes also cited a comment he heard while in Vancouver.

“Politics is what gets you elected. Governance is what gets things done.”

Could you tell us about your job as a board trustee and how that relates to teaching?

“(Teaching is) one of the few occupations where (you are thrown) into a classroom with a bunch of (grade two students) and (are) expected to survive. It takes support. It doesn’t matter how much academic training you have.

“There’s an experience of how to handle 20, 25, 30 kids. It takes a real talent. I am envious of that because I don’t think I could do it but that’s okay. I’m there to support those who can.”

Brookes created an upside-down triangle with his arms and hands to help convey his next point.

“I am here at the bottom. I’m there to support the structure… the upper level, the kids and the teachers.

“There’s the integration of education, learning, and experience going on. That’s my focus.”

Could you share some of your philosophies on education?

“I don’t want my grandchildren (to be) educated (the same way as) my children. That’s not a criticism of the teachers of the time. (The next generation) will know more and should be able to do better (than the last generation).

“I’m always amazed when I read magazines on how (people) learn (and) how the brain works, and it’s not a one-stop for everybody. Some people are reflective learners, and some people are very tangible learners. Some people are intellectual, like they can look at something and they think about it and they learn (that way). Every child is different.

“To see the ‘magic’ occur, as kids have the ‘aha’ moment, if you want to call it that it just amazes me.”

Brookes compares education of times past, memorizing the solution to a single problem versus the modern approach of focusing on problem solving which applies to a variety of things.

“I don’t want to say (students are) filling up their brains. Today’s philosophy, what’s often called ’21st century’ is more along a problem solver. It’s not rote learning (a memorization technique based on repetition).

“There’s so much stuff out there that we can’t teach you, but what we can teach you is how to understand, analyze, and problem solve an experience.”

Students adapt to their environment

Brookes describes another issue surrounding the abilities of students, and uses a cartoon to help illustrate his point.

“(Imagine) sitting at a desk and across (from you are a) bunch of different animals, (including) a fish and a monkey,” he said. “If I rate intelligence by your ability to climb trees, a fish is a pretty stupid animal, but it’s adapted to its environment. We have to measure each individual to their special skills, and we need to tell them that (they are gifted in other areas, and not being able to climb a tree) doesn’t hold (them) back.”

Brookes reinforces his point with another example.

“I’m a magician (myself), and (once I) watched (another) card magician. He’s really good. He sits in a wheelchair, and he has (only) one hand. How would I do that (if I had that limitation)? We haven’t counted him out because he’s in a wheelchair or he’s one-handed. He was enjoyable. He was adding to society. Everybody has skills to move forward. Everybody has skills to contribute. Part of school is to be able to bring those out, and I can’t do it. It’s teachers and all the staff.”

Jonathan Gardiner

After a tough break looking for employment in Alberta, I moved to Yellowknife in 2017 and became a multimedia journalist in 2022. I enjoy the networking side of my job, and I also aspire to write my...

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