Checking in on the blogs across the district is a useful way of getting a sense of the topics that are being highlighted this fall. I have written several times about the power our schools are finding using the blogs to connect to the community. At some schools they serve as a news update, at others they tackle issues. Our metrics indicate they are very well read.
Here is just a sampling of the topics and issues that are being discussed this fall:
Bowen Island Vice-Principal and Program Builder for the outside45 program Scott Slater recently looked a the challenge and opportunities of going deep on a particular topic and the value of extended field experiences – all particularly relevant with the recent release of new draft curriculum in B.C.
Is it worth it?
We assess the value of things constantly. Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the time?
For teachers, the latter question, “Is it worth the time?” is an ongoing concern.
Teachers look for a balance between spending enough time on topics so that students can thoughtfully and thoroughly understand concepts, and retain this understanding for the long-term, with obligations to teach many learning outcomes deemed important by the BC Ministry of Education.
Students are also asking the question is it worth it? Is it worth my attention? Is it worth my effort? If a teacher spends too much time on a concept, student interest might decrease; if they do not spend enough time, retention may not occur.
A regular topic on this blog has been the work in our schools with self-regulation. Irwin Park Principal Cathie Ratz recently did an excellent job of outlining the work and the changes, in this area at her school, now in its third year of focusing on self-regulation:
So what is different?
We have been looking at our classrooms and students through a different lens. We have become aware of the need to include regular breaks for our students. We are examining what and when students eat and drink. Transition times, going from one lesson to the next or moving from one room to another, are used as opportunities to get some sensory work or refocusing done. Staff is also working hard to reframe how they see behaviours. These understandings are then used to help students identify early signs that they need to choose a strategy to help them self-regulate. This comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. It has been great to learn as a team and use the new information to make a difference in how we teach and how students learn. Staff is explicitly talking about and teaching to everyday opportunities and challenges. Self regulation is embedded into our daily work. Our teachers are having rich conversations and asking thought-provoking questions. What can we do to help students flourish? What stressors and triggers are within our classrooms that impact student learning? What strategies might be effective in dealing with these stressors? What tools and resources are available?
In her post, Zombies in Front of Screens? Not Even Close!, West Bay Vice-Principal Brooke Moore tackled another theme that permeates the district – the thoughtful inclusion of digital tools in our classrooms:
Authentic audiences spark a sense of meaningful work and pride in their learning that simply isn’t there if students are asked to present their learning on a poster that gets hung in the school hallway. (Of course, for younger students, the hallway audience can be just as exciting as they are eager to share their work with parents and friends.) Teaching students how to engage safely in conversations beyond our walls is of absolute importance and allows for authentic “teachable moments” about cyber safety as an extension of their learning work through technology.
This shift towards students bringing a laptop to school as part of their school supplies is provoking some thoughtful conversations and it all comes down to both parents and teachers wanting the best for students. That’s a pretty great conversation to be having.
For Pauline Johnson Vice-Principal this fall has been a bit of deja vu – as a former French Immersion student now back teaching in a French Immersion school. He is finding himself reflecting on his previous student experiences as he returns to teaching Immersion:
I also remember how as students we were constantly encouraged to speak French beyond regular classroom interactions; in the hallway, the gym and on the playground. As a teacher, I find myself in that same position, pretending not to understand when a student asks me a question in English until they ask me in French. If only my former teachers could see me now? Strangely enough some of my past teachers have been able to see me now, former PJ teacher M. Yin and the mother of Mlle. Macdonald were both teachers while I was at Cleveland Elementary and Handsworth Secondary.
Director of Instruction Gary Kern’s work has been highlighted in the blog a lot recently – he deserves much of the credit for the leadership behind digital devices for teachers and creating flexible ways for classes to experiment with Bring-Your-Own-Device Programs. His latest post looks at the power of active engaged learning:
As we want students to experience learning that is more actively engaged and applied, we need to design learning experiences differently. Students need to be curious and inquisitive (inquiry) and they need the tools to explore divergent ideas and to dig deeper into areas that will be unique and personal (digital access). Inquiry and digital access can help us move our students learning become more active and applied.
Our other Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson has been leading our district’s work with the Squamish Nation. She recently reflected on Reconciliation Week:
West Vancouver School District sits on the Squamish Nation traditional territory. It is our responsibility to teach our students about the history of this place and its people, including the Residential Schools and their impact on many of our Squamish community members. With the help of our Squamish colleagues, including Rick Harry (Xwalcktun), Bob Baker (Sa7plek Lanakila), Faye Halls (Yeltsilewet), Wes Nahanee (Chiaxen), as well as Deborah Jacobs (Snítelwet), Head of Education for the Squamish Nation, we are working to improve our curriculum and program implementation with an authentic focus on the indigenous principles of learning.
With a large population of non-aboriginal students in West Vancouver, it is important to improve their knowledge of local culture and history. Aboriginal Education needs to become a part of the regular curriculum so that it is more embedded in daily work. This year, we will continue with our goal to increase our students’ understanding of First Nations’ issues seen through the Aboriginal lens.
These are just a sampling of the stories that our staff are telling for their school communities and the world. And while they offer insight into their individual schools – they speak to so many of the larger themes of the district: self-regulation, inquiry, digital access. They also cover other emerging areas of growth including our relationships with the Squamish Nation and the power of outdoor learning.
It continues to be an honour to be part of a community that takes the risk to share and reflect in the public space. Blogging is not an easy task, but the stories help grow our community.
The entire West Vancouver social media community can be tracked here – all in one place.