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!