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Posts Tagged ‘Val Brady’

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Checking in on what our leaders are writing about gives a great sense of the current topics and issues percolating in our schools.  In the age of encouraging our students to be public digital writers, we are so  fortunate to have a number of our leaders modeling the way.  What is so interesting is that the ideas from our schools are influencing each other and one feels the diffusion of new ideas and practices.

Bowen Island Community School is one of many schools in our district looking at the shift to learning commons.  School parent, Tess McDonald, recently wrote a guest post on the shift that is taking place.  The parents are clear partners in the shift.

Libraries are turning into Learning Commons; places with flexible furniture that can be moved around to accommodate small or large groups. They have books on movable shelving that doesn’t block the natural light, areas for creating multimedia presentations, listening to guest speakers, using technology that may not be in every home, and yes, reading. There is a librarian but he or she isn’t wearing tweed, but an imaginary super suit! This person is an expert about books and writing, and finding information, and connecting people to the right source, and helping them see bias, and questioning ideas. This person is ready to help you create and question and connect too. (Here is where I admit that, after reading Seth Godin’s blog post on the future of the library, I wanted to become a librarian. It is here, if you are interested).

Another district-wide effort has been in the area of self regulation.  In classrooms and schools across the district the work on Stuart Shanker and others is coming to life.  Cypress Park Vice-Principal, Kimberley Grimwood, has been a leader with this work and recently described what it looks like in the classroom:

We have embraced a number of programs and practices to help teach our students about emotions, mindfulness, and social thinking. In addition, the IB program integrates many self-regulated learning components each and every day.  Specifically it helps to develop the cognitive domain and reinforces reflective practices to allow students to continue to develop their ability to be metacognitive (to think about their thinking). You may see students taking a moment to breathe along with our MindUp chime, or express which zone they are in according to the Zones of Regulation. Or, they may tell you how their engine is running thanks to the Alert Program.  While self-regulation is not a program or a lesson plan, it is a lens through which we are viewing students’ behavior and through which we are teaching them to view their own behavior.  No longer is a behaviour good or bad, but rather we want to understand why, and provide students with tools and strategies to make good choices and to be successful learners each and every day.​

Lions Bay Principal, Scott Wallace, used the blog of the primary school to describe the seemless transition that takes place for young learners between all the different offerings in the school.  It is a true community hub:

Lions Bay Community school is a shining example of quality early childhood education.  Nestled in the woods along Howe Sound, the outdoors provides a perfect backdrop for a child’s self-exploration.  In fact, all three facets of this learning environment; the Before/After School Program, facilitated by the North Shore Neighbourhood House (NSNH); the Preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, supported by a parent run Board; and the Primary school, part of the West Vancouver School District, are all interconnected.  Each unique program draws on the same philosophy that a child should learn to explore their natural environment and ignite their curiosity.  The adults that assist the children at each level are committed to fostering the child’s sense of wonder and provide opportunities and resources to investigate their questions.  For children and parents this seamless organization provides for optimal learning.

There is a lot of interesting work taking place with assessment and reporting in our district and around the province.  While student-led conferences are not new, they have definitely moved more mainstream over the last couple years.  Ridgeview Principal Val Brady makes the case for why they can be so valuable:

Students should be included and actively involved in the process of evaluating their own learning and sharing their perceptions of their progress with their teachers and parents. When students are meaningfully involved in this way, they deepen their understanding of the learning and evaluation process and they grow in their ability to take ownership of this process.  Student ownership of learning results in student empowerment…a powerful motivating factor in the learning!

West Bay Elementary has been looking at assessment and reporting.  Principal, Judy Duncan, described the work of her staff in a recent post, outlining the different factors that they have considered as they have looked at drafting a new report card:

When the West Vancouver School District invited school learning teams to apply for innovation grants, a group of teachers jumped at the opportunity to explore a more comprehensive way of communicating student learning.

What did our team consider while drafting a new report card?

·     The shifts in the province and how other districts are responding

·      The IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) requirements to report on the five essential elements (knowledge, concepts, transdisciplinary skills, Learner Profile traits/attitudes, and action)

·      Recently released B.C. Draft Curriculum documents

·      What was missing in the current report card

·      How to report on the breadth and depth of the learning in a clear, comprehensive manner

The full post explores the comprehensive and inclusive approach the school has taken to looking at the reporting issue.

West Van Secondary Principal Steve Rauh recently described how students are using technology in powerful ways to stay connected, even as they travel the globe.  We can all be a “digital fly on the wall” as students are engaged in learning around the world.  Rauh, in citing several examples of students on trips using blogs and other digital tools to stay connected compares it to his experiences as a high school student:

I also remember being fortunate enough in my grade 12 year to participate on a school athletic trip to Europe. A privileged experience for many youth both then and now, and quite often one of the most memorable experiences of their high school journey. I also remember on that same trip diligently selecting and purchasing several postcards along the way to mail home to my family to show my appreciation for their support, as well as to update them on our travels. The final memory I have of this tale is of leaving that stack of postcards, duly filled out, addressed, and stamped, on the overhead luggage rack of a train somewhere between Munich and Berlin; they were never seen again, and their existence questioned when I returned home.

It is not just school leaders that are using their blogs to share what they are seeing and learning.  West Vancouver School District Secretary Treasurer Julia Leiterman focused on aboriginal education recently with her blog and the power she has seen with First Nations learning in our district and how it has had an impact on her:

I can’t fix the old wrongs, and I don’t know whether our work in the schools will inspire our First Nations students, or whether they need inspiration in the first place.  I hope I’ve been using the right words, but I don’t even know enough to be sure I’ve been politically correct here. What I do know though is that I’m grateful that our First Nations neighbours have agreed to partner with us, because thanks to their willingness to share, what I finally, truly feel in my heart is respect.  And that’s a good start.

Huy chewx aa.

So the quick scan of the district – some themes emerge – ones reflected in these blog posts, but ones I see alive in so many of our classrooms and schools.  This sampling nicely summarizes the new work that is taking place.  I am seeing a shift to learning commons, self-regulation, strong early learning connections, powerful efforts around assessment and reporting, new ways of using technology to stay connected and a commitment to aboriginal education and our partnership with the Squamish Nation.

It is an exciting place to work!

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562px-Lighthouse_Lighthouse_Park (1)

I want to check back in and share some of the work going on in West Vancouver.  I last blogged about Some West Van Stories in November.

Director of Instruction Lynne Tomlinson got a boost for her most recent post on our district arts showcase – The Lighthouse Festival – when Sir Ken Robinson shared the post with his 167,000 Twitter followers.  Lynne highlighted the diversity within the arts at our schools:

The festival is indicative of the many programs offered in our district.  The variety of the performances provides a rich schedule of entertaining events as each teacher’s program is unique and highlights different aspects of performing arts.  We have enjoyed performances including: spoken word, theatre, choir, soloist, band, pop musical, flash mob and varied dance.

And she concluded, “This is public education at its finest.” – So true! It is great to expose the larger community to the great work in our schools, and give our students the opportunity to share their work with the “real world”.

Fellow Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, recently shared some of the initial feedback around our 1:1 Action Research.  There has been the good, the challenging and also the surprising.  Included on the surprising list from teachers:

  • It surprises me that people feel that students having 1:1 access to technological devices at any time at school is anything but to be expected. Many have their own iPads, or iPods in their backpacks. At home, although they often must share devices with other family members, all of my students have access to technology almost anytime.
  • How fast it is to find information (instant) when we are discussing things in-class
  • How much having google images supports our ability to “see” what we are learning
  • How many options exist/how many things we can DO with technology to show what we know or find things out
  • For educators too, tech opens up endless teaching and learning opportunities that far-outweigh the frustration of slow Internet, missing chargers, and access denied messages!
  • I was surprised when a teacher said, how can the students take notes from my lesson if they are ‘playing’ with their devices.  I figure the students take snaps and vids when they need to. A paradigm shift needs to be made here.
  • It surprises me that children think that computers are smarter than they are. When they figure out that they are in fact in the driver’s seat of these powerful tools and that the sky is the limit, they begin to see and think over the rainbow!

Sticking with technology, Caulfeild parent Andrea Benton wrote a guest post on Principal Brad Lund’s blog sharing her thinking as to why she supports and encourages the use of technology in their school.  Her post inserts itself into the discussion of what is the right balance in elementary school.  She argues:

Some people believe that technology shouldn’t be in schools. For me, this is short-sighted.  Schools shouldn’t be teaching for today but should be educating students for the jobs of tomorrow. This includes project management, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. Technology is here to stay and it is only getting more complicated.

Hollyburn Principal Val Brady recently used her blog to nicely outline the WHYs and the WHATs to writing in elementary school.  Her useful post looked at the purpose of writing and what has been changing:

The philosophical underpinnings of teaching writing have shifted over the years. Developing student skills in writing is still important, but engaging students in writing for real purposes leads to joy in writing and at the same time develops communication skills that will serve students a lifetime.  Whether students put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, engaging in writing for real purposes gives voice and structure and develops thinking ability.

For West Bay Vice-Principal Tara Zielinski, a lot of focus in her class has been on Exhibition - the final stage of the PYP experience for grade 7′s:

In one sense, it’s a rite of passage.  However, after having both participated in and led Exhibition for five years now, I know it is so much more.  There have been and will be moments when our students feel like I did on the zip-line platform – fearful, intimidated, and adverse to things they have not yet faced.  Writing a Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry over and over demands resiliency.  Collaboration requires reflection and metacognition. Interviewing experts takes organization and calls for effective questioning skills.  However, each year it is one of the most rewarding components of my job to observe and support our learners as they integrate the essential elements of the PYP and more than six weeks of intense erudition into a final presentation.

At Pauline Johnson, they have just been through the student-led conferences, and Principal-designate Chantal Trudeau shared her thinking around their power:

The student-led conference is a wonderful opportunity for the students themselves to take ownership of their learning and to show their parents and guests what they have learned over the course of a term. Students invariably feel pride in what they have accomplished. They feel independent, confident and important as they read their favorite stories, lead their parents in the calendar routine, show science experiments or Social Studies projects.  Research shows that student-led conferences is a method that better helps students improve their learning, improve parent engagement, and get higher learning results for our students

Ridgeview grade 7 teacher Cari Wilson shared the story of her students inspirational meeting with Molly Burke:

One of the big privileges that comes with being in Grade 7 is the ability to join your school’s “Me to We” group. Last week many students in School District 45 joined thousands and thousands of other students in Me to We’s “I am Silent” day. It is a day of silent protest and solidarity, designed to bring awareness to the plight of the millions of children worldwide who are not listened to. The children who have no voice.

This year, on the day before “I am Silent” day, 5 lucky Grade 6 and 7 Ridgeview students got a chance to meet Molly Burke, a remarkable young Canadian who although blind has found her voice and is using it to inspire young people.

And finally,  also with a large serving of inspiration, West Vancouver Secondary Principal Steve Rauh had his blog taken over by John Galvani a grade 12 student in a wheel chair:

I am John Galvani, I am 17 and I am in a wheelchair. For my Global Education class I organized for wheelchairs to come to my school. I wanted to spread awareness and education about what my life is like in a wheelchair by giving my class the experience of being in a wheelchair for the day.

I contacted BC Wheelchair Basketball Association and arranged for them to deliver 10 wheelchairs on April 10. Ten students volunteered to be in a wheelchair.  They went to their classes, recess, lunch and some even went to P.E.!

We should do this for all grades so that they can see and feel the challenges that people in wheelchairs go through everyday.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of what I do as being the amplifier of good ideas – whether that is done face-to-face or in the digital world, my job is to tell our good stories and connect and network them to others.    And, there are lots of good ideas to share!

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The beginning of February is generally seen as the midway point of the school year; it also marks the midway point of our first year in the West Vancouver School District, where our school and district leaders have turned to blogging to connect with their school communities.  At a recent principals’ meeting we took a look at some pretty amazing statistics, including about 250,000 page views on their blogs since September, emphasizing how powerful a tool this can be in connecting with a local and global audience.

And just what have some of  our educator leaders been writing about lately?

Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson, recently wrote about Inquirydom in describing some of the challenges as we embrace inquiry and innovation:

There is a danger in overusing educational jargon and too often, good ideas and purposeful, relevant pedagogy are watered down to a shrink-wrapped version of their former selves.  As educators, we are well aware of the “pendulum swing” of learning models over time and it is important to think critically about the reasons why we may want to embrace any changes to our programs, large or small.

Kalen Marquis, teacher-librarian at Bowen Island Community School guest-blogged for Principal Jennifer Pardee and described the value of digital dialogues:

Used purposefully, Digital Dialogues may enhance the development of important skills and provide timely access to useful information and time-tested knowledge. Used wisely, they may facilitate ongoing inquiry and gradually develop the broadest awareness, deepest understanding, and most inspirational and transcendent wisdom.

Chantal Trudeau, Principal at Ecole Cedardale, wrote about the careful work that often happens at elementary school level to integrate curriculum, particularly when it comes to combined classes:

Teachers do not ‘cover’ a curriculum, they teach students. Teachers plan their instructional program meticulously to ensure that the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO) from the Ministry of Education are taught to their students at their level of ability. . . . In the elementary years in particular, learning and instruction often take place in an integrated fashion and do not always stay within the boundaries of a particular subject area.

Darren Elves, IB Coordinator at Cypress Park Primary School, looked at how we teach learners to ask good questions, and the important value it plays:

At a time when our government is looking at better defining the parameters of 21st century learning and teaching, it is my belief that the students’ abilities to explore the key concepts by acquiring and practicing a range of questioning skills will further enable them ‘to be active participants in a lifelong journey of learning’.

Scott Wallace, Principal at Gleneagles Elementary, recently described play and its importance in school.  Reflecting on a recent workshop staff participated in, he shared five key concepts of the Play is the Way program:

  • Treat others as you would like them to treat you
  • Be brave — participate to progress
  • Pursue your personal best no matter who you work with
  • Have reasons for the things you say and do
  • It takes great strength to be sensible
Val Brady, Principal at Hollyburn Elementary, blogged about a topic that regularly comes up with parents — anxiety and how we can help.  Her post was informative, full of resources, and reassuring as a normal behaviour:
Anxiety is a normal emotional state that we all experience at various times in our lives. Anxiety serves as a means of protection and can often enhance our performance in stressful situations.  It is closely related to fear, which is another normal and necessary emotion that everyone experiences.
Rockridge Acting-Principal, John Crowley, linked the recent announcement on UBC shifting to a broad-based admission system to the important role of “The Other Part of  School Life.”:
I encourage you all to challenge your child to be involved outside of the classroom, to develop the perseverance and leadership skills that come from working with other students, and work on that essential skill called “finding balance”.
And Sentinel Secondary Principal, Jeannette Laursoo, highlighted the amazing experience a number of Sentinel students had at the recent Model UN Conference in New York:
At the conference, Sentinel students became members of a crisis committee and represented the viewpoint of their assigned country when faced with a pressing issue or event.   They discussed, debated, and solved the issue.  For example, Aeron Westeinde, was on the Modern Day Haiti Committee, which was responsible for rebuilding Haiti from the ground up.  They developed programs to improve security, education, agriculture and irrigation within the country.

These are just a few snapshots of what is being written, and how staff are being more transparent with their own learning, and the learning in their schools. Some themes emerge, ones we see elsewhere including the role of early learning and self-regulation, the power of digital learning and the interest in inquiry-based study.  What is also clear in so many of the posts, is the powerful experiences students are having — personalized learning is alive and well in West Vancouver.

The blogs are a great celebration of community – curious students, engaged and passionate teachers, thoughtful and visionary school and district leaders.

For a complete list of the West Vancouver School District blogs, please see (here).

Thanks to all who have engaged with us this year.  We appreciate being able to share, and to continue to share, our learning with our local and global communities.

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