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Posts Tagged ‘principals’

If asked, most people would agree they could do well with more flexibility in their life — this is also true in the education field, and almost all education reform movements include a call for greater flexibility.  Of course, this can mean something very different from one person to the next.  For me, flexibility is about giving more choice and ownership. I shared this slide (below) in a recent presentation giving an overview of what I think flexibility means in the education context.

Just as we talk about students owning their own learning as an optimal goal, the same is true for adults;  the more we own our learning (and teaching), the more optimal and powerful a system we will have.  As a leader in a school district, I want all levels of government to grant us the flexibility to allow districts to have their own flavour, or character within a larger framework.  In turn, as district leaders, we can do the same for schools in allowing schools their own signature. It is a given, tensions may continue around central or local control, but flexibility and balance should be a consideration here as well.

The process repeats itself in schools with principals giving teachers the ability to be flexible, and teachers doing the same for students in giving students choice in the what and the how of their learning.  I do often hear, “we just need permission”, and I am not always sure what that means, but it does point to a culture of thoughtful experimentation where those at each level in the system recognize it as part of their role to increase the flexibility, choice and ownership for others in the system.

Granted, flexibility is only part of the equation.  The commitment of everyone in the system (as it becomes less standardized) is to network — pulling people together to pull together key ideas.  Teachers need to network students with similar passions, principals need to assist in networking teachers, district leaders to network schools, and governments to districts. Ideally, governments around the world would network together, because just as it is important that two students network and work together to solve a problem in a Grade 5 social studies class, the same holds true for everyone in the system. We want BC to learn from and with Alberta, Ontario, Australia, Finland and all others who are on this journey to move education forward.

Part of my role as district leader is to encourage flexibility, to be a cheerleader for innovation and then to tell the story, weaving together the different journeys  in the district as part of a shared narrative.

Creating a more flexible system is all the rage right now — who doesn’t favour it? It does need to be more than just letting people do whatever they want to do. It needs to be systemic, across all roles, giving increased choice for others to work within a larger framework, and pulling the different approaches in a network of learning — together.

I find it easier to write and talk about a system with less standardization and control than what we currently have, but it will be part of our challenge going forward to allow passions to be pursued, and permission to be given. Hopefully, we are now at the front end of the era of educational flexibility.

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The beginning of February is generally seen as the midway point of the school year; it also marks the midway point of our first year in the West Vancouver School District, where our school and district leaders have turned to blogging to connect with their school communities.  At a recent principals’ meeting we took a look at some pretty amazing statistics, including about 250,000 page views on their blogs since September, emphasizing how powerful a tool this can be in connecting with a local and global audience.

And just what have some of  our educator leaders been writing about lately?

Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson, recently wrote about Inquirydom in describing some of the challenges as we embrace inquiry and innovation:

There is a danger in overusing educational jargon and too often, good ideas and purposeful, relevant pedagogy are watered down to a shrink-wrapped version of their former selves.  As educators, we are well aware of the “pendulum swing” of learning models over time and it is important to think critically about the reasons why we may want to embrace any changes to our programs, large or small.

Kalen Marquis, teacher-librarian at Bowen Island Community School guest-blogged for Principal Jennifer Pardee and described the value of digital dialogues:

Used purposefully, Digital Dialogues may enhance the development of important skills and provide timely access to useful information and time-tested knowledge. Used wisely, they may facilitate ongoing inquiry and gradually develop the broadest awareness, deepest understanding, and most inspirational and transcendent wisdom.

Chantal Trudeau, Principal at Ecole Cedardale, wrote about the careful work that often happens at elementary school level to integrate curriculum, particularly when it comes to combined classes:

Teachers do not ‘cover’ a curriculum, they teach students. Teachers plan their instructional program meticulously to ensure that the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO) from the Ministry of Education are taught to their students at their level of ability. . . . In the elementary years in particular, learning and instruction often take place in an integrated fashion and do not always stay within the boundaries of a particular subject area.

Darren Elves, IB Coordinator at Cypress Park Primary School, looked at how we teach learners to ask good questions, and the important value it plays:

At a time when our government is looking at better defining the parameters of 21st century learning and teaching, it is my belief that the students’ abilities to explore the key concepts by acquiring and practicing a range of questioning skills will further enable them ‘to be active participants in a lifelong journey of learning’.

Scott Wallace, Principal at Gleneagles Elementary, recently described play and its importance in school.  Reflecting on a recent workshop staff participated in, he shared five key concepts of the Play is the Way program:

  • Treat others as you would like them to treat you
  • Be brave — participate to progress
  • Pursue your personal best no matter who you work with
  • Have reasons for the things you say and do
  • It takes great strength to be sensible
Val Brady, Principal at Hollyburn Elementary, blogged about a topic that regularly comes up with parents — anxiety and how we can help.  Her post was informative, full of resources, and reassuring as a normal behaviour:
Anxiety is a normal emotional state that we all experience at various times in our lives. Anxiety serves as a means of protection and can often enhance our performance in stressful situations.  It is closely related to fear, which is another normal and necessary emotion that everyone experiences.
Rockridge Acting-Principal, John Crowley, linked the recent announcement on UBC shifting to a broad-based admission system to the important role of “The Other Part of  School Life.”:
I encourage you all to challenge your child to be involved outside of the classroom, to develop the perseverance and leadership skills that come from working with other students, and work on that essential skill called “finding balance”.
And Sentinel Secondary Principal, Jeannette Laursoo, highlighted the amazing experience a number of Sentinel students had at the recent Model UN Conference in New York:
At the conference, Sentinel students became members of a crisis committee and represented the viewpoint of their assigned country when faced with a pressing issue or event.   They discussed, debated, and solved the issue.  For example, Aeron Westeinde, was on the Modern Day Haiti Committee, which was responsible for rebuilding Haiti from the ground up.  They developed programs to improve security, education, agriculture and irrigation within the country.

These are just a few snapshots of what is being written, and how staff are being more transparent with their own learning, and the learning in their schools. Some themes emerge, ones we see elsewhere including the role of early learning and self-regulation, the power of digital learning and the interest in inquiry-based study.  What is also clear in so many of the posts, is the powerful experiences students are having — personalized learning is alive and well in West Vancouver.

The blogs are a great celebration of community — curious students, engaged and passionate teachers, thoughtful and visionary school and district leaders.

For a complete list of the West Vancouver School District blogs, please see (here).

Thanks to all who have engaged with us this year.  We appreciate being able to share, and to continue to share, our learning with our local and global communities.

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