Superintendent of Schools – Last Sunday I had the opportunity to swing by W.H. Croxford to check out their third annual Show ‘n’ Shine car show. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning and it was packed with cars and people of all ages from across multiple communities within our area. I am not really a car buff, but it was a very impressive collection. While many were dazzled over the souped up ’60s and ’70s vehicles, I gravitated to the brand new $200K Tesla.
You might be wondering why a school would be hosting a car show. Schools are so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic these days. Schools have built and maintained an important position in the community. Schools are community hubs. It does not matter if the event is a paint night, a drama production, a sporting event, a band performance, a teepee rising, a celebration of learning or a car show. All of these types of events draw people in from the community to gather and share common experiences.
But why do schools organize event such as these? All of these types of events give opportunities for our students to show ‘n’ shine. They get to put into practice technical skills they learn in various curricular areas, along with the opportunity to demonstrate the critical competencies. When I am at such events, I see students taking on so many different roles and excelling at them. For some, these types of roles push us out of our comfort zone. For others, they get positive reinforcement that they are getting good at problem solving or communicating with adults. These become real world opportunities to connect with people while making their learning visible.
To all the staff in RVS who give their own time to put on events such as these, thank you! You are building community, connecting generations, demonstrating that you value learning outside of the four classroom walls, and so much more.
Superintendent of Schools – Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to be part of a couple of days where we have begun the process of building the next Four-Year Plan (4YP). Since 2008, Rocky View Schools has supported the transformation of its schools into innovative learning environments by maintaining a commitment to the implementation of its strategic plans, “2008-2011 Engaging 21st C Learners“, “2011-2014 Building the Power to Enrich”, and “2015-2019 Empower the Potential” – each for a full three or four-year window. The 2018-2019 school year marks the fourth year of RVS’ current plan and identifies the need to engage its stakeholders in the development of a four-year plan for the term 2019-2023.
RVS’ four-year planning process is premised on the desire to inspire, gain insight, and build capacity, with all stakeholder groups through the introduction of a learning narrative. This learning narrative will define how RVS teaches, learns, and assesses student learning, as well as solidifies an evaluative framework in which to monitor and assess the jurisdiction’s progress. The process will engage multiple stakeholder groups and employ a learning design approach, involving a myriad of activities, such as “learning walks”, “exhibitions of learning”, “inquiry”, and “mentorship and coaching”. Stakeholders will work in both small learning pods, as well as in large group consultation settings. Last week I participated in a full day of engaging conversations with colleagues using a variety of design protocols to begin the development of the learning narrative. We are using our own Learning Design Team members to facilitate most of the sessions over the next year.
Like the Board’s previous engagement strategy, the process will engage stakeholders only where they most appropriately can provide feedback. For example, all stakeholders will be involved in defining RVS’ learning narrative, inclusive of a new vision, mission, goals and outcomes, while various branches in the Education Centre will be charged with building learning and communication tools, such as the realignment of RVS’ 21st C Competencies to Alberta Education’s competency structures. You will have seen in the recent release of the professional learning day formats for 2018-2019, we are dedicating time in October for all staff to participate in the process. Once complete, representatives from the learning pods would identify performance measures, while Superintendent Working Committees would be charged to identify strategies for the plan. Following a second round of stakeholder consultation, the plan would be tabled with the Board for approval in March 2019.
I am personally looking forward to learning, sharing and growing throughout this process.
Superintendent of Schools – Probably not a huge stretch given my role, but I think every week should be Education Week. This year from April 30 to May 4, Albertans are celebrating education across the province. Education Week in one form or other dates back to the late 1920s in Alberta, while other provinces celebrate education at different times in the school year. It is meant to be an opportunity to celebrate the great work of schools.
The theme of Education Week in Alberta is Learning is a Journey. The theme is meant to “highlight the importance that education plays in shaping the future of our province”. In RVS, we take pride in the education we provide to our students and communities. The quality is a direct result of the amazing team we have supporting the journey. That team involves teachers, caretakers, human resources professionals, bus drivers, principals, secretaries, finance staff, maintenance workers, education assistants, directors, IT techs, trustees, family school liaisons, purchasers, communications staff, learning specialists, success coaches, OT/PT/SLPs, and superintendents. Together we put students first and focus our efforts to ensure learners are successful, learners are engaged, and learners are supported.
Each learning journey looks a little bit different. For some the journey is from point A to B, while others need a different route. One way is not better than another. We increasingly are trying to personalize and customize the journey based on the learners’ interests and needs. We want students to have a voice and choice in the journey. We want to leverage the expertise of the tour guides to ensure students are getting to see the key markers along the route. We build on the strengths and experiences of our staff to make the journey engaging. We also try and make sure that there is plenty of fun along the path too.
One only needs to watch the #rvsed hashtag for a week to get a sense of the many ways we support the learning journey in a week. We serve our students and communities through challenging work and we are proud to be part of the public education system.
Thank you to all of the RVS team members for all that you do. As we celebrate Education Week, this week we are celebrating your efforts.
Director of Learning Services – Learning and teaching, and even parenting in 2018 is incredibly complex. The mindset that is required to navigate these dynamic times is one of flexibility, continuous growth and reflection. The inclusive and diverse classrooms that are the 2018 norm require keen attention, structures, protocols and goals to create the culture and environment to effectively facilitate students’ acquisition and development of competencies for today’s world.
In what ways are professionals and students expected to ‘shift’ their mindsets? Well, in many ways. Students are no longer merely ‘consumers of information’, nor are teachers the ‘founts of knowledge’. Information is ubiquitously accessible and students are not merely consuming and regurgitating information that is universally accessible to them; they are expected to create and contribute to the community with their critical analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information, formulating understandings and insights that they can transfer to multiple contexts. Teachers are no longer merely ‘sages on the stage’, but facilitators and designers of learning, who consistently analyze and reflect on their practice in order to ensure students’ learning is relevant, engaging, and transmissible, ultimately allowing students to gain personal confidence and skilled competence. Assessment is not the ‘end in mind’ it once was, but is utilized to inform practice, understanding students’ strengths and needs, so that design of instruction can target areas for student growth, not merely ‘provide a mark’. With today’s diverse classrooms, recognition of the ‘one size fits all’ approach to designing learning as insufficient requires more personalized and individualized learning opportunities for both students and staff. With what we know of brain research and developmental psychology, student disciplinary processes have been revisited; the dated notion of punishment as an absolute consequence for poor decisions and transgressions has been married with a progressive restorative practices approach. The focus on the future, moving forward in a generative fashion, is the new norm and mindset permeating today’s educational world.
The Government of Alberta has recognized that the educational landscape is not what it once was and has tabled a new Teaching Quality Standard (TQS), Leadership Quality Standard (LQS), and Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard (SLQS) to formalize that. Key in the new Standards is the requirement for educators and leaders to be committed learners. As the TQS states, “A teacher engages in career-long professional learning and ongoing critical reflection to improve teaching and learning.” As leaders and learners, this is a lifelong commitment in the service of students. Heidi Hayes-Jacobs shares in her book Bold Moves for Schools (2017), when describing the seismic shift in teachers’ roles, “This change in roles may be one of the greatest shifts in our profession – from being the keeper of knowledge to being a model for how to learn.”
For students, staff, parents and leaders, ‘learning how to learn’ is at the heart of our work in 2018. With the creative, dynamic, exciting and disruptive world in which we live, embracing a growth mindset and leaning into learning makes each day a wonderful and rewarding adventure.
Superintendent of Schools – Wednesday, April 25 is Administrative Professionals’ Day for 2018. It is a day where we celebrate the amazing work of our admin team members and what they do for students, parents and colleagues. This incredibly hard-working group are on the front line of our schools and departments. They are most often the person who will greet a parent or student when they walk into the office or call into the school. Most are amazing at remembering names and faces. With a smile, they work to address the needs of the person in front of them and then seamlessly, they move on to the phone which is ringing, the courier who is waiting for a signature, and the youngster who desperately needs an ice pack or band-aid. Somewhere along the way, they have mastered the incredible healing powers of the ice pack.
When I rejoined RVS in August 2016, it was comforting as I walked into many school offices and found colleagues that I knew from my stint here in the early 2000s. Still as friendly as ever, they are like the circus master managing way more than three different activities going on all around them. Their role requires them to masterfully manage complex tasks and they typically are exceptional multitaskers. They are constantly required to learn new processes and software applications.
The work often goes without much fanfare, but it is appreciated. The countless ways they support the school/staff makes a real positive difference for the entire school community. On behalf of the entire RVS team, thank you for what you do for the kids, families, school, department and community. We are so lucky to have you as part of our team.