Posts Tagged ‘Gleneagles’


February 27 marks Pink Shirt Day in British Columbia.   In its sixth year, this event is being recognized as “taking action to stop bullies in our school and around the province”.  While the day here in Vancouver is often linked to local radio station CKNW 980 (through promotions of the day),  Pink Shirt Day’s roots were set in Nova Scotia in 2007, from an incident regarding a Grade 9 boy  who, on the first day of school, wore a pink polo shirt and was harassed because of it and labelled a homosexual. In response, hundreds of classmates showed up in a “sea of pink” to show their support.

With that bit of history, I need to make a confession — I have been slow to be a passionate and vocal supporter of the day.  I am always a little skeptical when a lot of attention and resources are pushed toward a one-day event to recognize an important issue requiring serious thought and reflection. The reason — sometimes the very nature of a high-profile, one-day event can generate many simplistic sounding solutions to some very complicated problems.  I am also wary that the conversations around anti-bullying can focus on all the behaviours we don’t want to see instead of those we want to see and encourage in our youth.

That said, I am a convert.  Over the last few years I have seen Pink Shirt Day become a symbol for work that is happening during the course of the year in schools and in the community.  Yes, it is only a one-day celebration of this work, but the work is not limited to the one day.  In the West Vancouver School District, there are so many great examples of raising awareness and sustained and purposeful action.

Students from Gleneagles Ch’axáý Elementary School were part of a group of 2,000 students across Metro Vancouver, who participated in a flash mob at a  Vancouver Giants game in January to focus attention on the issue of anti-bullying, acceptance and inclusion:

Schools across West Vancouver will also join the “sea of pink” this Wednesday, from École Cedardale Elementary, Hollyburn and Irwin Park Elementary to all three secondary schools. BUT, schools will be doing more than ‘wearing pink’. Rockridge Secondary students are connecting their antibullying efforts around restorative justice, and at École Pauline Johnson, the focus will be on work with and from their Virtues Project. Lions Bay will focus their antibullying efforts on how to do stop antibullying through inquiry, how they express themselves through body language and feelings, as well as how to solve problems peacefully. Chartwell’s Pink Shirt Day is a month-long focus on inclusion.  While all of these efforts are a one-day statement, the learning experience is not just for one day.

So, I will be in my pink shirt this Wednesday, along with my own kids at their school, and many of our staff and students in West Vancouver.  Yes, it is only one day, but the attention of one day will carry over to the next day, and the next.

There are many wonderful collections of resources to support anti-bullying in the classroom.  The BC Ministry of Education’s ERASE Bullying site is an excellent spot to find resources for teachers, parents, and youth.  I have also written two previous posts on the specific topic of anti-homophobia in 2011 and 2012 and both have links to other key resources.

One final video to share is Shane Koyczan’s To This Day Project:

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Trying  to do something new or different can be a real challenge sometimes.  Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class to students at Gleneagles Elementary School and West Bay Elementary School, and to share my story about how I started blogging. I also had the opportunity to learn about their work and their own digital writing.  The work at Gleneagles is part of a teacher inquiry project that focussed on the following question:

Will students include more meaningful detail and perspective in their weBlogs by focusing on social issues as their ‘purpose for writing’ and will continuous feedback, in the form of threads, lead to deeper understanding of a given issue?

The classroom was both face-to-face and virtual, and teaching students I couldn’t see was new and challenging.  Teachers are accustomed to reading a student’s body language, and receiving cues from the class.  Half of the students were in front of me at Gleneagles, but the other half were viewing the class on-screen at West Bay via Lync, and it was a one-way video.  The students could ask questions, but I didn’t feel the same connection as when they are in front of me, in a room, or at least when I can see them on video.

Of course, the whole topic was quite new for the students as well.  We all agreed that even two years ago, there would have been no way we would be having a conversation about digital writing and blogs; what it meant to have a personal brand, and what kind of topics we would write about if we were going to share our ideas with classmates, or the world.  Out of the presentation came a number of excellent questions:

  • Why do you blog versus using an alternative platform to share your message/knowledge?
  • Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your many blogs?
  • How do you create an effective blog?
  • Where/how do you find the time to blog so frequently?
  • When you started blogging, were you inspired by anyone/anything in particular?  Do they continue to influence your thinking?  If so, by what/whom?
  • Do you follow other bloggers and use their techniques/messages as a model for your own?
  • How do you decide on the graphics, pictures, and links you embed when there seems to be so many to choose from?
  • How often do you post?  Why?
  • Do you believe the good connection with your readers is because of your transparency as a writer?

It is a different way to think about writing, and I often say that I think in blog posts.  When I sit in a meeting, I write my notes around themes that may later become posts; I can think of the visuals that might go with the words, and this is so different from only a few years ago.  I have started dozens of posts, which may or may not become a blog at some point, but they have helped me organize my thinking.  While I write about one post a week, I think about hundreds. It was great to hear students discussing the stories they would like to tell, because we all have stories; we all have our own powerful narratives to share.

Toward the end of the session, one of the excellent discussions was about commenting. I offered that when I comment on other blogs I try to expand on an idea raised by the writer, perhaps give a different point-of-view, or add additional information the writer, or other readers, may find interesting or valuable.  I am hopeful some of the students who participated in our session last week will do just that with this post — extend and reach out with all of your learning.  So, what did you find interesting/valuable? What are you going to do next?  What questions do you still have?

Thanks again to the students of Gleneagles and West Bay for your engagement.

Thanks also to Colleen Denman for session photos, and all of the teachers and administrators who were involved in organizing and setting up the session.

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It is very exciting to see how different schools in West Vancouver are working to answer the question of how we prepare our students for the future.   Whether it is called personalized learning, 21st century learning, or self-directed learning, there are some common themes emerging in both our elementary and secondary schools.

Gleneagles Elementary School, Principal Lynne Tomlinson, shared with me a presentation she gave at the school’s recent Curriculum Night. With the assistance of Head Teacher Chris Parslow, who is a key leader with the technology, they shared a learning vision for students in the school rooted in the very best current thinking around teaching and learning.

While sharing a slide deck never really does justice to any presentation, here is the framework shared with parents this past week at Gleneagles:

Unfortunately, some people get so excited about the possibilities of technology, that learning does not stay in the forefront of the change.  Gleneagles has it right – technology is not the story here, but it will help support the changes to prepare our students for the future.

It will be exciting to follow their journey!

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