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.