Archive for April, 2023

Just play the greatest hits!

When you go see a legend in concert, you often just want to see them play the songs that made them famous. I just heard an interview with Roger Daltrey of The Who, where he said there was no point in producing any new music because the fans just want to listen to the classics in concert. He said, “People want to hear the old music. I don’t know why, but that’s the fact.”

So, how does this have anything to do with teaching or education?

I think great teachers are in my many ways like great rock stars – each year they build a setlist that they take out on tour.  The challenge is whether to just play the greatest hits, or mix in some new material.  Teachers have their greatest hits.  Every year in October they might do that awesome lab down by the beach, or in February they give that test that all kids say is the most difficult test they will ever write, or maybe in May there is a field trip that kids remember years after.  

When I think of the musicians I admire, they are the ones that know the fans want the greatest hits, but they are also committed to their craft and always still creating.  I was thinking about this recently as two of my favourites are releasing new albums in the next month – Paul Simon and Cat Stevens.  They both know that if they choose to perform again, people will want to hear Sounds of Silence and Moonshadow, but they are both still creating new ideas.  They are evolving and reinventing.  They are not running away from their greatest hits, but also looking to add new material.  I wrote previously about Paul Simon, on the release of his 2018 album, about how he was also taking previously published material and reworking it.  All of this that Paul Simon and Cat Stevens are doing is just like what happens in the classroom.  As good as you are, or as famous as you have become,  there is great power in those who are continually recreating and mixing in new material.

I think of this in my work as well.  It is so easy to just work through the rolodex in my mind and play the Superintendent Greatest Hits.  And I definitely do some of that.  But I want to be Paul Simon or Cat Stevens, someone who could get away without still creating, but does it anyway, because I am forever curious and continuously striving for reinvention.

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Much has been made about the expanded mandate for the school system. In British Columbia, this mandate now includes early learning and our system is continually reinventing itself. K-12 is no longer a stand alone system – we are a human learning system. As many see it, we are really now a system that spans people’s entire lives.

West Vancouver has already been a leader in expanding our reach.  We know we have a great brand and one of the world’s top systems, so we want to continually look to go to new places.  We were first with full day kindergarten, a leader in international programs, a power player in the academies world (you have heard about our robotics haven’t you?) and today I am pleased to announce our next expansion.

Beginning in the fall of 2023 each of our schools will no longer just service the humans in our community but we are launching  Animal Kingdom Academy  programs attached to every one of our schools in the district.  We have been leaders in human education, and we can do the same for your pets.  We have been leaders in digital literacy and physical literacy and we are always looking at what is next.  We know animalia literacy will be crucial to be productive citizens in our world.

Beginning today, you can enroll your pets for school starting in September.  All pets are welcome.  We are building our expertise to support dogs, cats, birds, fish, and small mammals, and each pet will have an individualized program to support their specific needs.  In future years, we plan to expand our offerings to pets in the broader community. 

International Head Frankowski with 2 students  registering.

Of course with the challenges already in funding in the education system, there will be questions on how this new program will be funded.  The core funding for the program will be through the government’s pet tax on all pets in the community.  There are a variety of other ways that we will get supplemental funding for the Animal Kingdom Academy including bake sales (think regular human bake sales with cupcakes but for your pets), onsite petting zoo – we know people will pay top dollar to snuggle your pets, and door-to-door sales of pet goodies (if you think kids selling cookies at your door works well, you should see cute dogs coming to your door to sell pet treats).

We know we have the expertise to do pet education differently.  

And of course it is not just the pets that will benefit.  This will also completely change how we educate our students in K-12.  All of our students will learn about pet care and responsibility.  We see this initiative as key to supporting the mental health of our students and their needs around learning empathy and compassion.  

The courses our students take will also now be different.  At each grade approximately

Principal Finch is all in at Sentinel.

40% of the curriculum will be dedicated to pet learning.  There will be lessons related to pet care, such as learning about different types of pets and their needs, how to train pets, how to groom pets, and how to recognize and respond to pet behaviors. As part of their annual culminating project, students will become bark-itechts – learning to design and build their pet’s dream house.

Students will also get to take better advantage of our natural surroundings, as students and their pet fish will be part of an integration program where they learn to improve their swimming side-by-side in the ocean.  And of course every morning will begin with the “feline flow” – a chance for our pet cats to lead the entire school in morning stretches.  

Principal Evans with a brand new student.

Some of the courses that pets will take during the day include:  athletic agility training, aquatic fitness, behavioural modification training, relaxation and wellness massage, and dance choreography and performance.  Of course different animals will have different starting places in these courses.  Fish will have a head start in the water-based courses, and dogs and cats may have an early advantage with some of the agility training.  This issue of varied starting places is no different in school when some students have a head start over others in certain areas.   We would anticipate our pet test scores to be top tier, just like our human test scores.  All pets will take the P-SAT (Pet Scholastic Aptitude Test) each spring and rankings will be published by school.

Principal Ratz expects waiting lists at Westcot.

This new learning direction will lead to some changes on each of our campuses.  Half of all school grounds will be dedicated for animal use.  Knowing the high number of dogs that will likely be attending, artificial turf areas will be installed in various hallways to accommodate the needed potty areas.  Desks in most classrooms will be replaced with large cushions and been bag chairs so they can be used by human or pet students.  School cafeterias in the high schools will sell wet and dry pet food and water fountains built for

1st registrant on Bowen Island.

pets to hydrate themselves will be installed in all schools.  

While this program will be great for raising the achievement of pets in our community, we know it will also be a way to further attract students to our school district.  Just as programs for other human members of families in schools can help make schools community gathering places, the Animal Kingdom Academy Programs can also do the same.  

It is going to be Pawsome!  

Director Nelson will be exploring a dog soccer academy program.

You will have noticed that there are some limitations to this program.  In our initial

Principal Campbell is excited for the outdoor learning.

offering for 2023, we are limiting enrolment to typical domestic animals (cats, dogs, fish, birds, guinea pigs etc.).  As I write this we have a team of structural engineers inspecting each of our schools for the maximum weight the 2nd storey of our buildings can hold.  We want to be inclusive and not discriminate, so hope to welcome cows, pigs, horses and other larger animals to our program in 2024.  And what will this mean for our students?  Starting in 2024 we will also have the first student rodeo academy program in North America!

Today’s announcement is the latest in the long line of innovative actions from our school district.  Here is the list of those from recent years:

In 2012 I launched my FLOG.

In 2013 I made the announcement of Quadrennial Round Schooling.

In 2014 we formalized our System of Student Power Rankings.

In 2015 we created our Rock, Paper, Scissors Academy.

In 2016 we introduced the Drone Homework Delivery System.

In 2017 we introduced the Donald J. Trump Elementary School of Winning.

In 2018 we announced the construction of Soak City Elementary.

In 2019 we went back to the 80’s with the launch of the Belvedere Learning Academy.

In 2020 we embraced the latest in learning styles with our PBL (Pajama-Based Learning) Program.  

In 2021 we announced we were going out of this world with our Galaxy High Program.

And just last year in 2022, we announced New Nicknames for All of Our Schools

Ripley will be part of  the IB Program at West Bay.

Principal Hayes registers Gryff for the fall term.

We know you have come to count on West Vancouver Schools to

continue to innovate.  And today’s announcement raises the bar again. Hopefully your April 1st is as good as ours!


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