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Posts Tagged ‘Caulfeild’

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It was about six years ago they started.

And here we are, as we are approaching the mid-point of the 2016-17 school year, and so many of our school leaders continue to share their thinking through their blogs.  While the internet is littered with well-intentioned and abandoned blogs from educators, and education blogging may have lost some of its excitement from just a few years ago, so many in West Vancouver are using their blog to tell stories to their community about their school, tackle big issues in education, and let people know a little bit more about themselves.

Here is just a sampling of what is being shared in West Vancouver:

One of the district’s most regular bloggers, West Bay Elementary Principal Judy Duncan took on the #oneword challenge in her latest post and her focus on voice:

One of our intangible objectives is for students to appreciate and to become accustomed to having and exercising their voice.  As adults that will benefit them individually and, in turn, all of us collectively. This should move us to ensure that whether through sport, music, language, drama or art, every child and every person has a voice in 2017.

In his latest post, Caulfeild Elementary Principal Craig Cantlie shares some of his thinking with parents as they make the often stressful “what school should my child attend” decision at this time of year:

Does the learning at Caulfeild Elementary (iDEC) look like it did when you were growing up? Probably not, but neither does the world. Our students learn the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, but more importantly the relevant and purposeful use of those foundational skills. Taking those skills and connecting them with the conceptual understandings behind our science and social studies work makes for powerful learning across the grades. Our students are creators, collaborators, communicators and critical thinkers – all of which will serve them well, whatever their future holds.

Scott Slater, Principal at Bowen Island Community School tackled communicating student learning with his recent post, a topic that is one that is being widely discussed among students, staff and parents and Scott asked the important question about whether the changes are just different or if what is being done is actually new.  He looked at a number of areas including core competencies:

The reports continue to include information on a child’s social and emotional development. In the opening comments, in Core Competencies (for intermediate reports), and in other fields, teachers share information on the child’s social and emotional development. Schools share the role with parents of supporting a child’s well-being and development of personal and social skills. In the opening comments, teachers also refer to an aspect of our school goal of students developing their learning character so parents will find comments related to a child’s development of Responsibility, Openness, Ambition and Resilience (ROAR)

Communicating student learning was also on the mind of Chartwell Principal Chantal Trudeau and she focused on the importance of the student reflection:

One of the most important changes this year is the addition of the student reflection piece. Teachers have a few different options to include their students’ reflections into the report card. At the primary level, it can look like a “happy face” worksheet or a few sentences in the student reflection box on the report card itself. At the intermediate level, many students have written a reflection letter which is an insert added to the report card. I have enjoyed reading the students’ self-reflections whilst reviewing all the report cards going home today. I am very impressed by their meta-cognitive ability, thinking about their thinking and learning. Knowing yourself as a learner is a great thing, at any age. It is wonderful to see that our students know how they are doing, and what they need to do to improve and why.

Also looking at communicating student learning is Cedardale Head-Teacher Jessica Hall.  Her post collected feedback from students on the new reports:

The range of experience with new reporting practices amongst my students is broad and in trying to bring about some collective understanding, I sparked up a conversation about the “new” report cards. I wanted to know how students have perceived this change of not having letter grades listed on their report cards. Grade 6 students immediately expressed a sense of relief over not being labeled with a single grade. In a conversation with one Grade 6 student, he explained that the language in the new Communicating Student Learning Document was more descriptive than a letter grade. He stated that in general, the word “developing” has a less negative connotation and that he liked how the Core Competencies provide explicit examples on how to improve learning skills. A Grade 5 student articulated the first moment she understood that ‘communicating ideas’ is a learning skill. She explained that the Core Competencies have helped her identify and value her personal learning style as the “presenter” and that she prefers working in groups, where she has the opportunity to “share her ideas in classroom discussions”.

Hollyburn Principal Kim Grimwood focused her most recent post on executive functioning and ways that parents can support these skills.  She reminded us of the important of the eight executive functioning skills (and then what they had to do with making waffles):

Impulse control: helps us to stop and think before acting.

Flexibility: allows us to adjust to the unexpected.

Emotional Control: helps us to keep our emotions in check.

Initiation: allows us to take action and get started.

Working Memory: the ability to hold information in mind to complete a task.

Planning and prioritizing: helps us decide on a goal and make a plan to reach it.

Self-Monitoring: allows us to evaluate how we are doing.

Organization: helps us to keep track of things both physically and mentally.

Rockridge Principal Jeannette Laursoo used a recent post to update the community on the various ways students have been contributing:

Rockridge’s students have been busy contributing to both the local and global communities. To highlight just a few of the initiatives, the Blush Club collected warm clothes and blankets for those less fortunate,  the Umoyo Club fundraised by selling cookies to benefit Nyaka Orphanage in Uganda, and our community made a difference in the lives of teens by donating backpacks filled with essential items to Convenant House.  We thank everyone for their generosity and support.

And a final sample of the recent posts comes from West Van Secondary Principal Steve Rauh who paid tribute to retiring teacher Bruce Holmes, and included a number of comments from students in his post:

“A student once came in crying; Mr. Holmes took the time to cheer them up and help them.” – Madison Duffy

“I have been in Holmes’ class since grade 8. Not only has he taught me woodwork, but he has also taught me a lot about life.” – Gabriella Langer

“He likes to take you out of your comfort zone.” – Ashley Kempton

“We really like his sense of humour; he loves to gossip and threaten to give wet willies.” – Nicole Torresan & Alexa Harrison

“I appreciate how he never turns down any student ideas no matter how absurd or impossible they sound. He will always stick with you to help you see your ideas come to real life.” – Jesse Diaz

In re-reading these posts, and others from across the district I am reminded there is no one model for blogging.  I find that the range of topics, and approaches is reflective of the various leaders in our schools.  Selfishly for me these blogs are a great way to stay connected to the thinking and work in our schools.  And I know, especially in an era of fewer print publications (an issue I have lamented in the past) these posts are a great window into the work of public education.

Whether you are a current student or parent, or a perspective one, or someone interested, curious or passionate about education, we have so many great leaders publicly sharing their thinking and acting as great models for students in the modern world.

HERE is a link to all the West Vancouver Schools websites that host the school blogs.

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Each school and school district has their amazing stories about the people who are there, and it is particularly wonderful when those on the outside shine a light on excellence in the system.  While there are many candidates who are deserving of an award, I would like to share the powerful and individual stories of three award winners from our school district; their stories are powerful, but the stories also transcend the winners, and speak to the wonders we see each day in our schools.

Arlene Anderson is a recent winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

I have written a post about Arlene before (here), in describing our technology innovators in classrooms across West Vancouver.  The press release around her Award for Teaching Excellence well describes her as the ”techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”

Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with, and lead, the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.

She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project, there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on a wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.

Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.

Diane Nelson  has been awarded one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, as recognized by the Learning Partnership.

Diane is the founder of the West Vancouver School District’s Premier Sport Academies, which include hockey, soccer, tennis, baseball and golf.  Diane is a dedicated, well-respected advocate for today’s youth. Along with her 28 years of experience in education as a teacher and administrator, Diane has obtained her Bachelor of Education, Diploma in Counselling Psychology, and Master’s degree in Educational Administration, all from the University of British Columbia.

In my letter of support for Diane, I wrote:  “In my role as superintendent I receive many accolades for the success of our academy programs. I am often asked what others can do to build these programs. The answer is, they need to clone Diane . . . . Diane’s vision, passion, perseverance, work ethic, and ability to connect to kids, parents and the community are why her programs have been so successful, and why we hear from dozens of families every year that she has changed lives . . . she is leading change in public education.”

I love how Diane has taken her passion for teaching and learning and combined it with her passion for sports.  From an idea, she has built one of the most innovative learning experiences in the province; students and parents regularly rave about how their experiences with Diane have been some of their most powerful schooling experiences.  The letter of support from Hockey Academy parent, Denise Cotton, is further testimony to Diane’s teaching excellence:  “The Premier Hockey Academy developed by Diane has been a life-transforming experience” for her son, who now plays in the Western Hockey League. “Diane Nelson has most definitely made a unique contribution to education in Canada. She is a visionary, developing sports academies that are a perfect blend of academic excellence, personal growth and athletic development. It is no wonder that she has waitlists annually for enrollment in her academies.”

Caulfeild Elementary School received Honourable Mention, for the Ken Spencer Award that focuses on innovation in K-12 education. Caulfeild was selected from well over 100 applications for this recognition.

Caulfeild has been on an intense journey over a very short time. Facing challenges of declining enrollment, and ongoing conversations about its school signature, iDEC was born — a commitment from students, staff and parents to create a school-wide innovative learning experience marrying the best of what we know about good teaching and learning, the student-centric approach of inquiry-based learning, and embracing the technology of the world of today.   iDEC provides a digital environment that supports any technological device and platform.  From Kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are embedding student ownership into their digital learning, everyday, with the help of Smartboards and iPads. By Grade 4, students will be able to bring their own electronic device into the classroom, and student webpages will serve as a central area for their learning and participation, where they solve problems, are creative, and participate positively in the school community.  With thanks to Principal Brad Lund, the entire staff, and the support of our parent community, Caulfeild Elementary is generating interest around the country for its innovative programming.  When people first engage in the program, what they leave with is an understanding of what “‘power of the people’ can mean — and people are the key to this educational transformation.

I see excellence in the school system everyday.  The stories of Arlene Anderson, Diane Nelson and Caulfeild Elementary School are repeated across the district everyday. Public education in West Vancouver, and across the province is blessed with amazing people committed to doing great things for kids everyday.

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The Globe & Mail recently ran a series (one example here) on teachers across Canada who are leading the charge with innovative teaching infused with technology.  As part of the story, parents, teachers, administrators and others were encouraged to submit their stories about how and in what ways teachers were doing this. I can’t be sure of just how many West Vancouver teachers were nominated, but four applications were shared with me, as well as submitted to the paper, and I want to share their stories because they are such key learning leaders in our district:

Cari Wilson, Teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School and Digital Literacy Resource Teacher for West Vancouver School District.

Cari has been leveraging technology with her students for the past decade, finding ways to make content engaging and empowering students to own their own learning through various web applications.  In her current role, Cari has spent time in every Grade 4 – 7 classroom teaching the power of “creating a learning network.” Learning networks are made possible through technology previously unimaginable; students can connect with other students, teachers, and digital content to help improve their learning understanding and opportunities. Cari’s tireless and enthusiastic approach has provided a glimpse for our whole district about what is possible when we tap into the “collective wisdom” of our learning network. It is work that is shifting our understanding of teaching and learning, and what can truly be possible with innovative practice and digital access.

Martin Andrews, Teacher at Caulfeild Elementary School

Martin has taught at Caulfeild Elementary School for the past 20 years, and currently teaches a Grade 6/7 class. Martin has always been a leader in the use of technology in the classroom, so it was natural for him to jump at the chance to become involved with a new program called iDEC (Inquiry-Based Digitally Enhanced Community). In his role as a lead teacher, Martin helped create an environment which employs Smartboards at the Kindergarten/Grade 1 level, iPads at the Grade 2/3 level and student-owned laptops at the Grade 4 – 7 level. Each classroom was fitted with a wall-mounted, short throw wireless projector and teachers were provided with technology appropriate to their level.  Martin works tirelessly to train teachers, encourage students, and assure parents that what we are doing is making a dramatic and positive difference in student engagement and achievement.  The program uses the Understanding by Design model to deliver curriculum enhanced by the latest digital tools, and also teaches the soft skills necessary for a well-rounded 21st Century Learner.  We call these skills our S.U.C.C.E.E.D. Skills (Self-regulation, Understanding, Creative and Critical thinking, Cooperation and Collaboration, Empathy, Enthusiasm and Determination). Martin helps his students use the technology as an ethical tool to communicate.  They also represent their learning with various types of technology under his tutelage. The iDEC program would still be a dream without Martin’s leadership.

Arlene Anderson, Teacher-Librarian at Rockridge Secondary School

Arlene Anderson is the teacher librarian at Rockridge Secondary School and the recent recipient of the 2010-11 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The press release around her award describes her well, as the “techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”

Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with and lead the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.

She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on the wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.

Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.

Christine Winger, James Topp, Mike Richardson, Alex Kozak, Stew Baker and Keith Rispin, Teachers at West Vancouver Secondary School

Six teachers from West Vancouver Secondary School  have undertaken an exploration into how technology can improve both instruction and learning. Specifically, these teachers have agreed to spearhead a 1:1 iPad initiative with a cohort of 28, Grade 10 students working in the subject applications for Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Social Studies, Planning, and Science.

The teachers are exploring applications for the iPad in an attempt to find meaningful ways to collaborate, present content, reduce paper and communicate efficiently with students. Students use their iPad to explore, from a learning perspective, which elements allow for deeper and broader understanding, as well as creating a platform for personalization of learning. To date, many aspects of the initiative have been positive. As with any initiative, there have been minor stumbling blocks as all participants strive to find that balance between efficiency and expediency.

What is so impressive about this group of teachers, and students, is their ongoing willingness to take a risk, try something new, and go back to the drawing board when all else fails.

These are four wonderful examples from four different schools about how teachers are leading the way to improve student learning and engage young people with technology.  Of course, a challenge of highlighting some of these achievements is recognizing there are similar stories in all our schools. We are exceptionally fortunate to have an amazing group of teaching professionals taking the best of what they know about pedagogy and marrying it with the tools of today for tomorrow.

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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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A year ago we started to talking in detail about 21st century learning and personalized learning (the 3 C’s and the 7 C’s and sometimes the 8 C’s) and, in the process, the focus in our district has been on delving deeper in order to fully understand and embrace the concept of inquiry. While most jurisdictions around the world largely agree with the skills and attributes espoused by those questioning the current educational system, the challenge has been to formulate what this new model tangibly looks like for students in schools. For us, this “inquiry” is helping us define what “it” really is.

For a couple of our schools this rubric created by the Galileo Educational Network is proving to be a very helpful starting point.

Inquiry is another term that can have very different meanings to different people. The Galileo Educational Network sees it as:

. . .  a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world. As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.

Inquiry is a study into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It is the authentic, real work that someone in the community might tackle. It is the type of work that those working in the disciplines actually undertake to create or build knowledge. Therefore, inquiry involves serious engagement and investigation and the active creation and testing of new knowledge.

In West Vancouver, this process of inquiry is taking several forms. In some places it is well-defined and in others it is more organic. In listening to principals and vice-principals discuss areas of focus for their schools for next year, almost all of the schools have some focus on inquiry.

At Eagle Harbour, the approach is linked to Montessori, while at Cypress Park and West Bay it is connected to the Primary Years Program International Baccalaureate Program (IB). At Rockridge Secondary, they also link their inquiry work to IB, using the Middle Years Program as their foundation. Caulfeild Elementary is launching its IDEC (Inquiry based Digitally Enhanced Community) as a foundation for its school structure. While not as tightly defined, similar thoughtful work is taking place in other schools — many being guided by Understanding by Design (UbD) assessment work. UbD, particularly in the elementary schools, has had a dramatic impact on lesson and unit construction, instruction and assessment. As I have often said, it is some of the most difficult, least glamorous professional learning we can undertake, but it can really improve our practice.

A common theme with inquiry is one that is also true with the conversations around personalized learning — it really redefines the role of the student and teacher and what each of them does in the course of their day. Combined with emerging technologies, this approach to themes and topics is changing what engagement can look like in our schools.

For all who lament the slow speed of change in education, it is fascinating to see how quickly our district is coalescing around inquiry as part of what we do in West Vancouver.

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