It has now been two years since I became your APEEE President. At the upcoming General Assembly in January, I will be stepping down from this position as planned and from “active service” in the APEEE after several years in various representative roles at our school.
Now, as I begin to step back from the APEEE Presidency, I would like to share some views of the time that has been and to offer some thoughts about the time to come…
First, I will admit that I did not want to step into this position, and I initially resisted as my fellow Board members encouraged, cajoled, and sometimes pleaded with me to take on the role. Being APEEE President is a fair amount of unpaid work, it often feels like you only meet your fellow parents when they are upset and unhappy, and like many jobs that involve representing others, one can get uncomfortably caught in the middle of things. In other words, it has been difficult at moments to see the positives and the benefits of this role, although the necessity of the role and of the larger organisation it serves, the APEEE, are I believe indisputable.
Indeed, as our schools grow larger and more diverse each year and the human and financial resources needed to meet this growth and diversity are stretched thinner, the importance of Class Representatives, Section Representatives, APEEE Board Members, EUREKA volunteers, and other forms of parent volunteerism become critical. APEEE representatives serve not only as the voice of parents at EEBIV, but also as a much-needed glue between families and the school in a time of overcrowding in which the individual and connections between individuals are increasingly getting lost.
As many of you might already know, parents have been a recognized stakeholder in the European School system since the founding of the first European School in Luxembourg in 1953. We occupy a unique place in our schools for this reason. It is not just that we have a voice and role to play in our school. We actually have a “duty” of sorts to step up and serve, if we can and when we can. Part of this “duty” is certainly to stand up and make our voices heard to the school’s teachers, management, and parent representatives when the level of teaching or pedagogy is not what it should be for our children; when we become aware of bullying or the use of violence at school or vandalism at school; when we find a school policy to be detrimental to the learning and/or well-being of the pupils, and so forth. In my years at the APEEE, I have come to see that we parents are very good at being critics and demanding more. In general, I think this is a good thing. We should expect an educationally-sound and quality environment for our children at EEBIV.
But we also have a “duty” to contribute in every way that we can to creating a positive, supportive, and motivating environment at EEBIV, both for our children and for all of the adults at the school who are there to educate and care for our children. We have, then, also a “duty” to praise—to write an e-mail of support to a teacher, educational advisor or another school staff member who has helped your child to learn or develop in some way; to express not only our disappointment in certain actions or policies taken by the school’s management, but also to acknowledge the many challenges our school management is facing and to show some patience, understanding, and even encouragement as they navigate the pressures of overcrowding, a more diverse student body, teacher absences, and so on.
When all is said and done, I believe that we are all the school and the school is all of us. I’ve learned over the years that even the big, “bureaucratic” European Schools of Brussels are ultimately about people: the people working in them, the people attending them, the people taking care of the people attending them. I do believe that we lose the ability to change things that might really need to be changed when we stop communicating with others as people—people just like ourselves. Much more can be accomplished when we remember how human we all are as a starting point for any complaint, compliment, or negotiation.
By way of closing this rather philosophical end-of-the-year and end-of-the-job message, let me also take this opportunity to thank my fellow Board members for all the work that they have done and are doing on behalf of parents and for the collaborative spirit in which we work on the Board. I have really appreciated working with you all. I would also like to thank our resilient APEEE staff for your hard work and dedication to your jobs in the best interests of all families. Our services have faced many challenges these last years. We’ve found solutions to some of these challenges and are still in the process of finding better solutions to others. Persistence, patience, and congeniality on all sides is really key here as the APEEE services team works to adapt to a number of changing realities in ways that best serve all families to the greatest extent possible. Finally, I would like to thank our team of parent Class Representatives and Section Representatives for taking the time and effort to do the sometimes hard but critical work of representing parents and families at EEBIV. You are part of the glue that holds our school community together. Please consider joining this group in the future, if you can. Without parent representatives, the APEEE cannot function.
Last but not least, let me take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you and your families a happy and restful set of holidays—and a very humane and constructive 2024! It has been a great pleasure and sometimes a great struggle to represent you. But I am glad that I did, and I wish my successor(s) and the new Board that will form after January’s General Assembly all the best in their endeavours to keep on representing parents and families in the indispensable ways that they do.
Stephanie Buus, President of the APEEE of Brussels IV