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Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Parents-on-sideline-at-a-youth-soccer-game

We had a theatre full of parents from our school district last week and my message to them was clear:  I need your help in line at Safeway and on the sidelines of the soccer fields.

The Safeway and soccer fields message is one I have delivered before.  Parents in our community have been outstanding advocates for our local public education system. We can create shiny brochures or interactive websites, but parents want the straight goods from other parents, whether they run into them at the grocery store or at their kids’ practice.  I credit positive word-of-mouth for being a key reason for our increase in enrollment over the last decade.  The conversations I was asking parents to assist with this time are different.  I need their help with revised curriculum that is being rolled out across British Columbia – first in K-9 and then grades 10-12.  As I wrote in my last post,  there is tremendous positive energy among educators as they work together embracing the new curriculum, and often new approaches, to meet the needs of students.

Positive momentum among educators is great, but I was reminded by Ron Canuel, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Education Association that this is not enough.  In a presentation he gave recently, he spoke about changes that were made in Quebec with curriculum a number of years ago.  In many ways the shifts resembled those we are making in B.C.  He said that the community was never properly brought along on the journey, and the changes were temporary, not permanent, and a more traditional curriculum returned.

So far British Columbia seems to be making the right moves.  The curriculum has been co-constructed by educators from across the province, and I have sat in many sessions with post-secondary institutions, the business community and others as the shifts in B.C. curriculum were dissected and where those in the room helped inform the discussion and the changes.

But back to Safeway and the soccer fields.  The task I gave our parents is to share some key messages around the curriculum and be myth busters in the community.

Some the messages include:

  • we are working from a position of strength – we have one of the highest performing systems in the world
  • foundation skills in literacy and numeracy are still vital and they are not going away with the changes
  • incorporating Aboriginal perspectives, applying real-life situations to learning, focusing on big ideas and developing core competencies are not new ideas but they are better reflected now in our curriculum
  • as curriculum shifts, so will assessment and reporting and the K-12 system is working with the post-secondary system and others to ensure there is alignment

The session we held last week with parents was inspiring.  Our Director of Instruction Lynne Tomlinson spoke about “B.C.’s Curriculum from 30,000 feet” and then 4 teams of school administrators shared different aspects of the work.  While the rich discussion was an obvious highlight, I have included the presentations below – please feel free to use them and share them (if you receive this post via email  you may need to open the website to see the presentations).

Curriculum Refresh from 30,000 Feet – Lynne Tomlinson, Director of Instruction

Foundation Skills – What are we Still Doing? – Chantal Trudeau and Kim Grimwood

Big Ideas / Central Ideas – Jeannette Laursoo and Tara Zielinski

Core Competencies – Scott Slater and Cathie Ratz

Aboriginal Learning – Steve Rauh and Scott Wallace

Coming off of a couple of days of planning with our teachers, and our session with parents, my belief has been reaffirmed that this is a very exciting time for learning in our province.

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Modern Loyalty

Buzzword Cubes: Loyalty

Most principals or vice-principals who want to meet with me, simply send me a text or an email to set up a time.  There are the rare occasions that they set up an appointment through my Executive Assistant in the office.  Really there are three topics that they usually go through her for a meeting:  1)  they want to let me know they are pregnant 2)  they want to let me know they are retiring and 3)  they want to let me know they are applying for a job outside the district.  I appreciate how difficult all three of these can be to discuss with your boss.  Of course pregnancies are wonderful events to celebrate and so are retirements.  And then there are the third group.  I appreciate how nervous people are to discuss applying for a job somewhere else.

I know there was a mindset held in school districts, like in many other professions, that loyalty to a school district was a paramount value.  I have always had a different view of loyalty in education.  It is for that reason, that to the surprise of almost everyone who comes to my office to talk about an opportunity elsewhere I treat it like a celebration.  While I am very competitive, and want to have the best possible staff, I also want to work in and model an organization that is encouraging of risk-taking and pursuing new challenges.

When someone is applying out and is successful in another district, the message to me is that we are doing something right.    When looking out, school districts want to attract candidates from good schools and good school districts.  It is a badge of honour for our district when our teachers and administrators are being recruited from other districts.

I also think in education, that while we divide up into public and independent schools, and organize our schools into districts, when it comes to the kids who attend, they truly all belong to all of us.  We want all kids to have great teachers, principals and schools.

And of course, movement is healthy, and new people bring new energy.  Those leaving bring new energy to their new location, and that leaves opportunities for new people to take their positions, also bringing new excitement and new ideas.

I was reviewing the appointments we have made over my last nine years in West Vancouver into leadership positions.  About 80% of the time we have hired from within our system, and about 20% have been candidates from outside the system.

I think a generation ago educational leaders were far more loyal to where they worked.

Modern loyalty in education is about being loyal to people, and being loyal to the work but it recognizes that sometimes you have to leave to grow.

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Follow-your-Passion
It is hard to believe that one of the key tasks of January is to begin promoting our program offerings in our schools next September. This past month, our Board approved a series of new secondary school courses and programs. It is exciting to see a culture of innovation come to life in the program offerings that teachers, principals and schools are bringing forward – I absolutely love the passion-based offerings for students.

We have been offering academy programs for just over a decade.  It started with hockey and soccer.  For many years, students interested in a particular academy program would have to transfer to one of our high schools to participate.  We have changed this over time.

About four years ago, we began to talk about the idea of “one district, three campuses”.  This is based on the principle that students should be able to attend their local secondary school with their friends, but have access to programs for part of their schedule at another site.  It has not been a simple move.  There have been logistics to overcome – calendars had to be aligned so high schools all had the same professional development days.  Timetables also had to be coordinated.  In our case, we now have timetables at each of our high schools where the blocks in the morning rotate and the afternoon blocks are fixed.  So students have the same last period class each day.  This allows us to bring together students from multiple sites each day in the afternoon.

Our school schedules are built so students can complete core areas in the morning, and if interested, pursue specialty programming in the afternoon.

This coming year we now have 10 different academy-style programs open to students from all schools.  We continue to be strong with sports – offering academy programming in soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball, rugby, field hockey, and tennis.  We have also now added mechatronics robotics and dance for next year.  The majority of these programs occur in the afternoon, with some classes before school and on weekends.  In addition to these programs we have several courses that are open to students from all schools – YELL (an entrepreneurship program that runs after school and partners students with business leaders in the community, FAST (First Aid Swim Training, where students earn credentialing towards becoming a lifeguard) and a District Honour Choir (that practices in the evening and performs locally and beyond).  In Art West 45 students can attend their own high school one day and every other day participate in a program that allows those passionate about arts to get extended time in this area.  It is the same principle for ACE-IT Carpentry where students attend the program every other day working towards their Level 1 carpentry credential.

In all we are now at about 15 and growing in the number of options we have available that allow students to pursue their passions as part of their school program – coming together with students from across the district who share these interests.

There is wonderful value in students attending their local school but we also need to find creative ways for students to pursue their passions.  Five years ago none of the programs existed that would allow students from a variety of schools to attend.  Now they are part of our culture.  A culture where talented teachers share their passions with students who are thirsty to pursue these areas.

I am not sure that what we are doing is transforming our system.  I can hear my friend Yong Zhao in my ear that we are maximizing the current system and not changing the system.    We are continuing to find ways for students to pursue their passions which is all part of building a system that is relevent, connected and engaging for our learners.

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one-word_feature

My education colleagues understand that in our business Labour Day is New Year’s Eve.  With the school year starting the Tuesday after Labour Day (New Year’s Day in our world), it is at this point in the year that we do most of our goal setting and resolution making.

That said, I am getting into the spirit of the season for this post.

For my first post of 2016 I am taking on a New Year’s theme and embracing the one word challenge.  What is that one word that best defines your hopes and goals for the coming year?  What word links your professional pursuits to your personal ones?  What one word sums up your focus and direction for the year ahead?

My one word is hungry!

I was searching for a word that was at the intersection of competing and curiosity and landed on hungry.  I also owe my colleague Diane Nelson some credit for the word choice.  One of the books I have enjoyed over the holidays is one she recently gave me – Hungry – Fuelling Your Best  Game by Ryan Walter.

Walter, a former NHLer and Stanley Cup Champion makes the case for being hungry, and staying hungry.  He writes:

Throughout my lifetime I have asked myself to help me stay hungry:  Why not?  Why not play on a winning team?  Why not develop an amazing culture?  Why not create an incredible family?  Why not push to play your Best Game?  Why not live hungry?

I landed on hungry having first considered competing and curiosity.

A recent influence for me is a TEDx Video I highlighted in my last post – Allison McNeil’s Collaboration . . . It Start’s With Competition.  I think we mistakenly believe that in education, with a decreased emphasis on ranking and sorting, somehow we want to compete less.  I want to compete more.  I am teased for my sometimes overly competitive nature, but if anything I want to compete harder this coming year.  I also don’t want us to shy away from building a sense of compete  with the young people we work alongside.

When I think about curiosity I am reminded of my conversations with my friend Dr. Stuart Shanker.  I have written about Stuart’s work and his influence on our schools numerous times including this one recently on the shifts he has influenced in our system.   But it is the conversations we have that I always find so striking.  He lives a life constantly curious.  He is always asking questions when we talk.  Whether it is about video games, sleep patterns or junior hockey – he is relentless in asking me what I think, linking it to what he has heard before and asking even more questions.  I know he does not just do it with me, but with everyone he speaks with.  I often think, how come someone so smart is asking me all this stuff?  Stuart lives a curious life, an ongoing curiosity I want to live more in my life.

So from Allison and competing and Stuart and curiosity I land on hungry.

Walter describes those who are hungry with words like fun, excited, focused, proactive, energized, on top, communicative, challenger of the status quo, listener, informed, open, synergistic, courageous, tribal,winner and motivated. That is a pretty impressive list.

Here is to a year of being hungry.

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Top 3Welcome to my final blog post of 2015 and my annual tradition of my Top 3 Lists for the year.

Previous Top 3 lists for  2014 (here) 2013 (here) 2012 (here), 2011 (here) and 2010 (here).

Hopefully there is a link or a video that connects with you and starts a discussion.  I am finding I am having fewer interesting discussion online – hopefully something here might help.

Top 3 “Culture of Yes” Blog Posts which have generated the most traffic this year:

1. The Learning Commons Mindset

2. How Was School Today?

3. Will School Sports Disappear?

Top 3 Learning opportunities  I went to:

  1. CONNECT 2015 – I am usually not a fan of large conference events, but this one has a good mix of sessions are great opportunities to network across the country.  I see they have Chris Hatfield as a keynote for 2016.
  2. IGNITE West Vancouver – Sean Nosek hosted our first Ignite session in West Vancouver.  It was a great way to learn with colleagues in a relaxed environment.  Who knew pro-d at the bar could have so much value.
  3. C21 Superintendent’s Academy – A group of about 25 superintendents from across the country have monthly conference calls meet in-person a couple of times a year.  We helped put together the Shifting Minds (pdf) paper earlier in the year.

Top 3 Education Books I Read That Influenced My Thinking:

  1.  Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros
  2. Beyond Measure by Vicki Abeles (and the movie is also excellent!)
  3. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson

Top 3 Speakers I Saw And Remembered Their Messages Days or Weeks Later:

  1. Yong Zhao – I saw him speak several times in 2015, and even if I heard some of the same jokes a few times – he said something that stuck with me each time.
  2. Wab  Kinew – I got to see Wab in the spring, and I am really looking forward to having him as our opening day speaker in West Vancouver this coming August.
  3. Will Richardson – Will’s TEDx Video (see my next list below) proved again that he is one of the best out there at making the urgent case for change in our education system.

Top 3 TEDx WestVancouverED 2015 Videos:

  1.  Collaboration . . . It’s Starts with Competition by Allison McNeil

 

2.  The Future of Education is Ready by Lane Merrifield

 

3.   The Surprising Truth About Learning in School by Will Richardson

 

Top 3 Technology Influences I Saw in Schools This Year:

  1.  FreshGrade – It is a monster in British Columbia and likely it will be across Canada soon.
  2. Google Classroom – If you don’t think people in your district use it – you are wrong.  They are just not telling you.
  3. Coding – Each year it gains momentum and Hour of Code is part of most schools now.

Top 3 Signs That Have Nothing To Do With Technology (mostly) That Show Schools are REALLY Changing:

  1. new curriculum in British Columbia with a focus on big ideas
  2. all the value being placed on core competencies for students
  3. the changes in student reporting

Top 3 Pop Culture Phrases That Get Used Too Much in Education:

  1.  This ain’t my first rodeo
  2.  Go down the rabbit hole
  3. Anything 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 or . . . .

Thanks everyone for continuing to read and engage with me through my blog.  It continues to be a great place to work through ideas and connect to some of the most passionate people I know.  I have struggled to get a tweet from Dean Shareski out of my mind – he said something like, blogging is like jazz – it is not for everyone but will have a loyal following.  I did think that blogging was going to be for everyone but I was wrong.  There seem to be fewer people in education writing today than even a year ago.  I am not sure why.  That is probably a good blog post for the new year :)

Happy New Year – I look forward to learning together in 2016!

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sleep

There has been no shortage of coverage in the media around the lack of sleep that young people get.  And while it is not a new issue, it does seem to be an increasingly worrisome trend.  An image shared on the  Facebook page from Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin this past fall went viral and was shared thousands of times:

sleep-for-kids-CHART

While the information aligns with widely recommended guidelines for sleep it does surface some of the challenges of actually meeting these guidelines, from parents often working into the evening, out-of-school activities and homework sticking to these numbers is really challenging.

I was reminded of the sleep dilemma this past week listening to North Shore Medical Health Officer Mark Lysyshyn.   In his presentation What You Need to Know About the Health of Students, so much of it kept coming back to sleep.  Issues like physical activity, mental health and safety are all important, but the lack of sleep was pronounced.  Two particular slides from the 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey emphasized the challenge.

In the survey of  local 13-18 year olds almost 20% of them were getting 6 hours of sleep or less:

Getting enough sleep

 

And to answer the question of so what?  There was a direct link between those reporting low hours of sleep and mental health challenges:

Mental Health and Sleep

It was interesting the discussion that followed with parents.  The community data also indicated the need for students to be getting exercise and participating in sports and many discussed how it was this participation in organized sports that often cut into sleep time – really a no-win situation.  We want our kids to be active and to get 8 or 9 hours of sleep – but soccer practices can go to 9:00 at night and school often starts by just after 8:00 in the morning.  Of course there is also persuasive data that indicates later start-times for school would be helpful but very few jurisdictions have built this into the systems.  Clearly we have structures in our lives that make it hard to adhere to the recommendations.

Media have been regular reporters of this – including this comprehensive story from Global News this fall.

There are many lists circulating the internet on tips for young people and sleep like this one from Canadian Pediatricians:

Have a relaxing bedtime routine. Have a light snack (such as a glass of milk) before bed. Try to go to bed at about the same time every night. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet but open the curtains or turn on the lights as soon as you get up in the morning.

Always fall asleep in your bed. Use your bed for sleeping only. Avoid doing homework, using a computer or watching TV  while in your bed. Try to be in your bed with the lights out for at least 8 hours every night.

Napping during the day can make it difficult to fall asleep. If you want to nap, keep it short (less than 30 min). Definitely don’t nap after dinner.

Get exercise every day, but avoid very hard exercise in the evening.

Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea and sodas) after mid-afternoon. Don’t use any products to help you sleep such as alcohol, herbal products or over-the-counter sleep aids.

Limit screen time before bed. Using electronic media and being exposed to the screen’s light before trying to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

On weekends, no matter how late you go to bed, try to get up within 2 hours to 4 hours of your usual wake time. This is especially important if you have trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights.

Make sure you are not trying to do too much. Do you still have some time for fun and to get enough sleep? If you are having trouble sleeping because you have too much on your mind, try keeping a diary or to-do lists. If you write things down before sleep, you may feel less worried or stressed.

There seems to be more and more research around the power of sleep.  From athletic performance to academic performance and letter grades in school.  It is one of those issues that seems so simple, but just isn’t.  I know in looking through the list of tips for helping young people get a good sleep – I am often missing the mark as a parent.

It is important to be continually reminded that poor sleep for young people leads to more than just being tired the next day.  Overall physical and mental health are very much connected to sleep.  Good reminders for parents and educators.  I am reminded by a quote I have often heard from my friend and former Surrey Schools Superintendent Mike McKay:  “When will what we know change what we do?”

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code
It is always interesting to visit schools and pick up on the trends. One can often see ideas that are spreading from one class or one school and quickly to all schools. One of the challenges in a district position is trying to capture the growing areas, and help support them to grow even further – looking at questions around how do we expand these great opportunities to not just some students in some schools but more students in more schools.

Much of the discussion in British Columbia is currently dominated by the refreshed curriculum.  While there are conversations that start about the content – what is the stuff being covered in each subject and each grade, these conversations are often moving to the pedagogy and assessment needed as part of this process.  And when we look deeper at the differences, I see the greatest shift over the  last two years is likely in the work around Aboriginal education.  As I have written here different times in different ways, we see Aboriginal understandings across grades and subjects.

I am always curious to see the words and ideas that are growing.  It was from individual classrooms and schools that ideas around self-regulation, inquiry and digital access have exploded.  I have also written before about the growth of outdoor learning among other trends that are taking hold.  It is sometimes hard to track their growth – it comes from students, teachers, parents and the community and when they stick – they become the new normal.

The two ideas this fall that I would add to the list and I think are just beginning to blossom are coding and robotics.  When I look at the growth plans of staff, or the inquiry questions of our Innovation teams, or listen to the interests of parents, these ideas are coming up more and more.

Coding is not new, and it is part of the ICT 9-12 curriculum.  In part driven by the global Hour of Code initiative, there are efforts to expose all students to the possibilities around coding not just those who select it as a secondary school elective.  More and more we are hearing from students, teachers and parents that we want to engage younger learners with these skills.  Cari Wilson has done a wonderful job leading the Hour of Code initiative in our district – getting into elementary and secondary classrooms.  Given the Star Wars theme this year I am sure students in classrooms and at kitchen tables across our community will be engaging with coding.

Hour-of-Code-Star-Wars

It was interesting to read recently that there may be a “significant decline” in IT literacy in our tablet / smartphone era. Given the seemingly continued importance of these skills, projects like Hour of Code may be even more important.  And we are trying to figure out how to move beyond this initial exposure and build in regular opportunities for young people with a passion for this type of learning in their elementary years to engage with activities as part of their school program.

Robotics has a somewhat similar story.

I had the chance to visit several schools in Delhi, India two years ago. And in one particular school, in a community of immense poverty, where the power went out three times while we visited, and nobody reacted as that was typical, where there were sparse resources, there were students building robots.  It was stunning what I saw . . . .

Robotics2

Students were working together building robots.  As the Principal reported, this is the future.

Fast forward ahead to this fall, and I am seeing the same curiosity and excitement around robotics in our schools.  We have had a number of staff working with robotics over the last several years.  It really has been a natural progression from makerspaces, digital access and trying to connect students in relevant ways to our world. This fall Todd Ablett, a past winner of the Prime Minister’s Award  for Teaching Excellence joined our district and he has begun to infect (in a good way) our district with his passion for mechatronics and robotics.  For now he is running a club at West Vancouver Secondary and doing guest lessons with every grade 6 and 7 classroom in the district.  The plan is to continue to grow the program – hopefully into a secondary school Academy Program next fall, and also a grade 6/7 program.  As I watched student-built robots shoot balls across the Board Room at last week’s Board Meeting as everyone in the Gallery took out their phones to record the moment – one could feel the excitement.

Abblett

The structures are a work in progress but we have an unwavering commitment to ensuring our schools are relevant and connected to the world our kids are participating in – the world that I heard Todd describe where self-driving cars are just the beginning of what the future may hold.  I often wince when asked “what’s new” in our school district.  The truth is most of what we are doing is about going deeper and getting better at what we already do.  We are also trying to keep our eyes open and look around the corner at what is coming next.   If you want to look for two things I think you will hear about and see far more in 2018 than you do in 2015 – I think coding and robotics are good bets.

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