Returning North Toronto students were met with confusion as we entered our new building for the first time. Our nostalgia-drenched hallways had been replaced by clean concrete; our unique classrooms had been replaced with blank rooms, every quirky and much loved detail of our old building seemed scrubbed away. Most felt the building was disloyal to tradition, too different, and the complete opposite of what they had hoped for. Yet, what about the other point of view? Can we look at our concrete walls and imagine not the loss of tradition but rather the possibility for new ones? Murals and art from the graduating classes of years past were a distinguishing characteristic of the old North Toronto, examples including the teddy bears in the cafeteria or the feet above the entrance to the foyer. Perhaps we should look at these concrete walls as a blank slate instead of as an untouchable barrier against our traditions.
I asked the students to voice their opinions about the new school; “it looks like a jail to me” says Angalee, “it doesn’t have [the] character and memories that [the old building] had.” Angalee’s views are echoed throughout the student body. “The old school was really home-y,” clarifies Alex. Liam. He then adds, “I find it boring with all the grey, it lacks character. It’s not as distinctive as the old building, it feels so monochromatic.” That may very well be the case; however, we have a new school, after all. In due time, the marks we leave behind us will become the historical eccentricities we loved so much in our old building.
Yet what’s stopping students from making the school our own? What do we have to do to start our own traditions? “I wish we could paint in it like in the old school, or at least put up posters. That would make it feel more like our home,” says Angalee. I discussed this with the principal architect, Mr. Paul Cravat, who explained “I’m ok with student art… [but the verdict] is the principal’s choice.” When asked the same question, Mr. Gorenkoff replied, “it’s the teacher’s choice; some teachers may feel nervous about making their classrooms more [personalized spaces], but we’re encouraging [decoration].” I finally posed the same question to a teacher, Mr. Zohar, who responded “[teachers] were told not to put up posters, by the architect, [the architect] had wanted to do tours to exhibit his work.” So who has the final say? Nobody knows.
Since our plans for future personalization cannot yet be, as we wait for the final word on redecoration, we’ll have to be ready for when we can take the space we’ve been given and form it into the space we envision. While, the new school is an overwhelming experience. We now have a chance to make it our home; instead of following traditions, it is now time to make our own.