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Posts Tagged ‘West Bay’

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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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ted_logo

The TED conferences have recently been in the local news with their announcement about the global conference moving to Vancouver and Whistler in 2014, but TEDxMania IS coming to West Vancouver this May. Of course, since June 2006, when Sir Ken Robinson spoke at TED on creativity, the education world has been captivated with TED.  Since then, TED videos have become integral to classrooms and to our professional learning.

And since then, an off-shoot from the TED conferences — the TEDx events — has been created:

“Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, ‘ideas worth spreading,’ the TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.”

I have had the opportunity to speak at a TEDx (UBC), where I shared my story of working with students during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I really loved the event format because speakers had to be concise with their presentation within an 18-minute time limit. The format also lent itself to participant discussion between presentations, with a good mix of ideas from people in a wide-range of fields and with different perspectives; it was live-streamed on the web and afterward archived on YouTube, and it was focused on ideas. Talks from that day, like the one Barry MacDonald gave on Boy Smarts, I reference to this day. I was also so impressed with those who volunteered to organize the event because it is a huge undertaking, but a wonderful service for the community.

That said, two groups in West Vancouver have caught the TEDx bug and are setting up for an exciting May:

TEDxWestVancouverED comes from the dedication of four thoughtful and passionate West Vancouver teachers – Craig Cantlie, Cari Wilson, Brooke Moore and Garth Thomson. The event, first hatched at an EdCamp in Delta last fall, is focussed on the future of education and asking some big questions, sharing ideas, and inspiration. Their event, at the Kay Meek Centre on May 11, will celebrate and also challenge – it is the very best of our profession. I am honoured that I have been asked to speak, and I am busily trying to recast a previous blog post on Some of My Parenting Wishes into a TED-worthy presentation.

The second event is TEDxKids@Ambleside, also at the Kay Meek Centre, on Friday, May 17 (for many BC schools this is a professional development day). Focused on curiosity and wonder, and led by the ever-dynamic, Grade 7 student, Qayam (also the event’s curator and founder), it is taking on real shape. The event is also supported by a team of students who would rival any organizing committee in their dedication, focus and execution. It is a thrill to be a support for these students, seeing the event gel, watching them solicit sponsors, weed through speaker candidates, promote via social media and turn a concept and idea into a solid event. Currently, the organizing committee is in the final days of accepting speakers, and has already filled more than 50% of participant seating for the day. The event is truly by the kids, for the kids and will feature some amazingly powerful young speakers.

The power of TED is the engagement that takes place on the day of the event, but it is also what Sir Ken and others have shown – the spreading of good ideas and the sharing of videos that emerge to give these ideas legs. Hopefully, many in my network will be able to attend one or both of the upcoming events, either in person or virtually “full of good ideas worth sharing.”

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selfreg

Two of my most popular posts have been about Dr. Stuart Shanker and his work; each post has received well over 10,000 views.  To recap, the first post in November 2010 is here and the second one here  was written in April 2012.

West Vancouver is part of the first wave of school districts in British Columbia, along with Bulkley Valley, Coquitlam, Greater Victoria, Nanaimo and Surrey, who are working together on a project to implement and monitor the impact of self-regulated instructional models.  One of the greatest contributions to date has been a one-stop shop for resources on Self-Regulation (here).

Dr. Shanker’s work is clearly providing inspiration around the province, and we are seeing that in each of our schools in West Vancouver.  While the work models may look slightly different in each school, the impetus of having students in their zone for learning is district-wide.  A number of recent blog posts by some of our district educational leaders support this influence:

Westcot Principal, Liz Hill describes her school’s work with The Zones of Regulation:

We often make the assumption that children know how to identify their emotions, but akin to teaching reading, writing and math, emotional  literacy is a skill that needs to be taught to our children.  The Zones of Regulation framework teaches the language of emotions.  This helps children understand how one’s state of regulation impacts one’s ability to be calm, alert and ready to learn.  Using this framework, students develop  their own personal toolkit of strategies and learn when, how and why to use  strategies to help them  be “good to go” or “ready to do their best learning.”  These self-regulation tools may include breathing techniques, stretching, exercising, reading or simply getting a drink of water.

West Bay Principal, Judy Duncan, describes her school’s efforts to look through a lens of self-regulation:

Self-regulation spans all five domains (biological, cognitive, emotional, social, pro-social) and is really about the burning and recovering of energy.  As Shanker states, “optimal self-regulation requires a child to match his or her energy levels to meet the demands of a situation in a maximally efficient manner.”  More and more research is linking how well students do in school to their ability to self-regulate.  We are seeing this firsthand at West Bay, thus the excitement to improve our practice.

Our school’s Self-Regulation Team meets regularly to discuss how teachers and students can be supported in the quest to maintain self-regulation in the classroom. The team shares its work at staff meetings and in informal conversations; our teachers are keen on deepening their understanding of self-regulation and are open to trying new strategies to support their students. If you were to wander into our Grade Two classroom, you might see some students wearing noiseless headphones, some using cardboard study carrels (they call these “force fields”), others sitting on wiggle cushions, while others may be perched on stools at the side of the classroom.  These seven-year olds are beginning to figure out what they need to help them learn.  This metacognition piece is key.  As one little girl blurted out the other day, “I need to self-regulate!” Being aware of your own emotions and what you need to achieve a state of calm is very powerful!

Lions Bay Vice-Principal, Jody Billingsley, describes a number of ways they are fostering self-regulation including a series of classroom management techniques:

Classroom management techniques that have the children thinking about their levels of arousal when in a lesson.  We have “check ins” where the student self-assesses as to whether she is calmly focused and alert.  We call this level 4 – directly stemming from Shanker’s stages of arousal.  If they are at the level 3 stage (hypoalert) of arousal, they may be daydreaming, whereas at level 5 students may be over-stimulated and not able to focus (hyperalert).  If we see a child that is not at level 4, we give a friendly reminder to “check in” with themselves, or “give themselves a hug” as a way to think about where they are with being calmly focused and alert.  The idea is to have them see when this is occurring, reinforce behaviour with a verbal or non-verbal cue, and eventually watch how the students do this independently.

Irwin Park Principal, Cathie Ratz, has her school focussed on MindUP™ to help students be calm, alert and ready to learn:

It is a family of social, emotional, and attentional self-regulatory strategies and skills developed to cultivate well-being and emotional balance. Based on the notion that intellect does not exist in isolation from emotions,  connections to others or the rest of their bodies, the MindUP™  program is designed to address these components of learning for all students.

By teaching our students about the brain we make them more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. It can also help them to develop the ability to think about thinking, or metacognition. That awareness would then give them better control over their own mind—directing their attention more appropriate, or calming themselves down—in ways that could improve learning.

These are only four stories, but there are stories like these in every school in West Vancouver.  It is often a lament that schools and those who work in them, are slow to change.  Where, three years ago, there was hardly a person in our district who could describe the power and importance of self-regulation, this research now influences how we teach, organize our classes, and how we think about our buildings in every corner of the district.

Finally, I encourage you to spend some time with the wonderful resources being collected as part of the newly revamped website in support of the  Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative.

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Trying  to do something new or different can be a real challenge sometimes.  Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class to students at Gleneagles Elementary School and West Bay Elementary School, and to share my story about how I started blogging. I also had the opportunity to learn about their work and their own digital writing.  The work at Gleneagles is part of a teacher inquiry project that focussed on the following question:

Will students include more meaningful detail and perspective in their weBlogs by focusing on social issues as their ‘purpose for writing’ and will continuous feedback, in the form of threads, lead to deeper understanding of a given issue?

The classroom was both face-to-face and virtual, and teaching students I couldn’t see was new and challenging.  Teachers are accustomed to reading a student’s body language, and receiving cues from the class.  Half of the students were in front of me at Gleneagles, but the other half were viewing the class on-screen at West Bay via Lync, and it was a one-way video.  The students could ask questions, but I didn’t feel the same connection as when they are in front of me, in a room, or at least when I can see them on video.

Of course, the whole topic was quite new for the students as well.  We all agreed that even two years ago, there would have been no way we would be having a conversation about digital writing and blogs; what it meant to have a personal brand, and what kind of topics we would write about if we were going to share our ideas with classmates, or the world.  Out of the presentation came a number of excellent questions:

  • Why do you blog versus using an alternative platform to share your message/knowledge?
  • Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your many blogs?
  • How do you create an effective blog?
  • Where/how do you find the time to blog so frequently?
  • When you started blogging, were you inspired by anyone/anything in particular?  Do they continue to influence your thinking?  If so, by what/whom?
  • Do you follow other bloggers and use their techniques/messages as a model for your own?
  • How do you decide on the graphics, pictures, and links you embed when there seems to be so many to choose from?
  • How often do you post?  Why?
  • Do you believe the good connection with your readers is because of your transparency as a writer?

It is a different way to think about writing, and I often say that I think in blog posts.  When I sit in a meeting, I write my notes around themes that may later become posts; I can think of the visuals that might go with the words, and this is so different from only a few years ago.  I have started dozens of posts, which may or may not become a blog at some point, but they have helped me organize my thinking.  While I write about one post a week, I think about hundreds. It was great to hear students discussing the stories they would like to tell, because we all have stories; we all have our own powerful narratives to share.

Toward the end of the session, one of the excellent discussions was about commenting. I offered that when I comment on other blogs I try to expand on an idea raised by the writer, perhaps give a different point-of-view, or add additional information the writer, or other readers, may find interesting or valuable.  I am hopeful some of the students who participated in our session last week will do just that with this post — extend and reach out with all of your learning.  So, what did you find interesting/valuable? What are you going to do next?  What questions do you still have?

Thanks again to the students of Gleneagles and West Bay for your engagement.

Thanks also to Colleen Denman for session photos, and all of the teachers and administrators who were involved in organizing and setting up the session.

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This past week the Honourable George Abbott, B.C.’s Minister of Education, spent a day in our district. It was another great opportunity to share a slice of West Vancouver’s public education story, and while I do cover many of our schools’  initiatives and learning directions through my blog posts, this time, I would like to share it through photos of the day spent with the Minister connecting with students, teachers, administrators, parents and others in our schools. I would also like to share what Dean Shareski described as “narrative champions”, telling our exciting, ongoing and ever emerging story.

At Eagle Harbour Montessori School, although there was a room full of adult visitors, students remained focussed and intent on their work:

All groups working together at Caulfeild — administrators, teachers and parents discussed with the Minister the work the school has undertaken with its iDEC Program:

Also at Caulfeild, students demonstrated some of their work with self-regulation and how they are more easily able to answer the question, “how fast is their engine running — too slow, too fast, or just right”:

An opportunity for students to share how inquiry and digital technology are coming together using their student dashboards:

At West Bay, we heard firsthand from students about choice and ownership of their learning:

As part of the school’s work in inquiry, outstanding interaction and questions between teachers and students as part of this work:

At the Premier Sports Academies (with Rockridge and Sentinel students) we watched as students pursued their passions:

Albeit a small slice, it was a very representative slice of learning in West Vancouver. Different examples, often fulfilling the same narrative, could be found in all of the schools. The West Vancouver District has had a long tradition of choice  — in programs, and in learning opportunities within the programs.  What has become increasingly important are inquiry, digital technology and self-regulation, and elements of all three can be found in all schools.

We also know that a large part of our great story can be attributed to our outstanding teachers, supportive and engaged parents, and passionate students. But the most gratifying element of the visit was the outside voice reassuring us we are on the right track.  Call it “21st century learning”, or “personalized learning” or “the West Van way” it can be seen in all of our schools.

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