Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Schools’

We spend a lot of time talking about how our network influences our professional lives and how technology often assists in that networking. But, when B.C. educators talk about “THE NETWORK” it means something quite different.

For more than a decade, the Network of Performance Based Schools — school-based teams with an administrator and teachers — have focussed on  B.C. Performance Standards with some of the deepest, most powerful professional learning in our province.

Instrumental to this professional learning, Judy Halbert and Linda  Kaser have brought a network of teachers and administrators together in ongoing conversations about improving education opportunities for all students.

And just what is the Network?

The Network of Performance Based Schools is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Education and is designed to improve quality and equity through inquiry, teamwork across roles, schools and districts, and a concentrated focus on applying coaching forms of assessment to assist learners to take greater ownership of their learning. Participation in the Network is on an annual basis and is voluntary. There has been a steady growth in Network membership since its inception in 2000.

Dedicated to the vision of EVERY learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options, the network is supported by volunteer leaders in sixteen regions of the province.

Schools participate in an annual spiral of inquiry that provides the structure for their improvement and innovative work.  School questions, case studies, resources and reflections are shared in a spirit of generosity and curiosity. The BC performance standards provide a framework for educators, parents and learners in developing a deeper understanding of content area progressions and assist learners in answering three key learning oriented questions identified by John Hattie and Helen Timperley:

Where are you going with your learning? How is it going? Where to next?

The six key strategies of formative assessment are used to assist learners in taking ownership of their learning. Without clear learning intentions, the thoughtful use of criteria and informative descriptive feedback, it is virtually impossible for learners to answer these questions.

Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have an amazing way of making everyone feel special in the Network —  they link what we do to the very best work they have seen and heard of around the world.  Part cheerleader, story-teller, social connector and deep co-learner, Judy and Linda have invited thousands of teachers and administrators to join in the journey.

The Network has brought the BC Performance Standards to life as guiding documents for teachers, administrators, parents and students as we continue to move from a sorting to learning system.  And, the Network continues to evolve; it has moved from a strict focus on reading, writing, numeracy and social responsibility to asking the essential questions about Aboriginal learning, healthy living, and focussing all of our work to be better tomorrow than it was today.

When asked about the one professional development experience I recommend for teachers or administrators, I always say “to get a team in the Network”.  The connections that come out of this participation can improve us as professionals, and help move our schools forward.

As another successful year of the Network comes to a close with the recently held Leadership Seminar and School Project Showcases / Celebrations around the province, much thanks goes to Judy and Linda for continuing to lead this conversation.  More than a decade in, the Network is one of the quiet, non-political and powerful ways that differentiates our system and how we work from so many others in North America.

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I feel very lucky to Chair the West Vancouver School District Comprehensive School Health Committee.  I have written (here) about this group before and a presentation we heard this fall from the McCreary Centre Society.   Our committee includes students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, the District of West Vancouver and a number of key personnel from Vancouver Coastal Health.  We had another excellent session today and one topic emerged that clearly merits more discussion.

There have been amazing changes in our schools over the last five years when it comes to healthy choices and healthy eating.  The Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools have eliminated the sale of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools.  While, from time-to-time, groups need reminders about alternatives to cupcake sales, students in our secondary schools now, will never know a time when vending machines were stocked with Kit Kats and Coca Cola.  We have proudly been leaders with this work, and have exceptionally supportive schools and parents, supported by Kathy Romses, a Community Dietitian with Vancouver Coastal Health, and a provincial leader in the area.

The discussion today focussed on: while we have made great progress with food sales, candy is still widely being used as a reward.  The word “rampant” was used to describe the use of candy as a reward for good work, on-task behaviour, among a host of other reinforcements in classrooms.  The consensus of the group was we need to address this.  Parents are frustrated that while they are promoting healthy choices, some schools are giving mixed messages. The guidelines do speak to selling food items only, so it does seem to send a mixed message.

I think there are a couple of approaches to this.  First, there is the issue of the use of extrinsic motivators with everything we read from respected professionals like Alfie Kohn who argues:

More than 70 studies have found that the more you reward people for doing something, the more they lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. It’s not just that rewards are ineffective over the long haul; it’s that they are actively counterproductive.

There is also the recent thinking of Daniel Pink in Drive, where he writes about what motivates us (this RSA Video below is well worth 11 minutes of your time if you have not seen it):

Even if we don’t look at the issue of motivation, there is the health issue of using candy as a reward.  As Kathy Romses points out, food rewards connect food to mood and encourage rewarding or comforting oneself with food and eating when you’re not hungry; long-term eating patterns are often carried into adulthood; sticky or foods high in sugar cause tooth decay; using unhealthy foods as a reward sends a mixed message about healthy eating.

Okay, great, but what are teachers (and for that matter, parents) suppose to do?  Kathy, as shared in her VCH document, Healthier Rewards, also has a series of suggestions if you are looking for extrinsic non-food rewards.

  • Class or group field trip
  • School supplies (e.g. pencils, pens, marker, post-it notes, white out, bookmark)
  • Certificate of recognition
  • Activity items (e.g. jump rope, Frisbee, ball, hacky sack)
  • Water bottle, tea bags
  • Hair accessories, shoe laces, chap stick, deck of cards, key chain, toothbrush
  • A plant, or a pot and plant seeds
  • Movie passes or recreation centre passes
  • Gift card to bookstore or music store

The healthy schools movement is clearly a journey and we have made some great progress.  Today’s discussion is a good reminder we still have some more important conversations to have in schools, and communities as we promote healthy lifestyles.

* Thanks to Kathy Romses and others on the District Comprehensive School Health Committee for their thoughts that contributed to this post.

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Yesterday, the McCreary Centre Society made a presentation of their findings from their 2008 British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey to our District Healthy Schools Committee.  The depth of information found in these reports is amazing, and the findings are very instructive as we work as a community to build better supports for young people.

There was one particular slide that struck me in the presentation:

While still very concerning, the general trends are moving in the right direction regarding youth aged 12 – 18 in British Columbia, who reported seriously considering suicide in the past year;  although 12% in 2008, this figure is down from 14% in 2003. Suicide is the second leading cause of death (behind vehicle accidents) for youth in this age range.

But, this one particular slide on the topic was striking. While students who have been physically or sexually abused reported much higher rates of suicidal ideation, for these students, there is a direct relationship between a lower rate and how connected they feel to school.

We often discuss the power one adult can have in a young person’s life, and this data dramatically displays this. While it is often said students spend a very small portion of their lives in school, if they feel connected and build engagement and trust with the adults in their school lives, the positive power can be dramatic.

More resources on building resiliency and protective factors are available here on our School District Website.

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