Superintendent of Schools – Last week we celebrated the grand opening of two new schools in Airdrie – Coopers Crossing School and Heloise Lorimer School. The schools organized fantastic events aimed at a wide audience. In attendance for both events were Jaime Kleinsteuber (MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills), Peter Brown (Mayor of Airdrie) and almost all of RVS trustees. Also present were the lead architect, who designed the schools, key Alberta Infrastructure staff, who served as the project managers for the construction of both schools, and our planning department (Colette and Peter), who were so instrumental in the process. We had a variety of Ed Centre staff present who all played a part in start-up of the new schools.
Many parents attended the event along with all school staff and students. At each event, groups of students participated as part of the ceremony and did a great job. We sang, we watched students perform highlighting their school virtues, we learned about their school logo/symbol.
In addition, there was a group of special guests – family members of each school’s namesake. It was very special to have them present and both schools did a nice job involving them in the day. You could see the pride and honour on their faces that such a major community asset was being named after someone in their family. Their contributions to the community have been significant and now they have been recognized by the naming of new schools after them.
The Cooper family arrived in the area in 1892, establishing a family legacy in grain farming – and community service – that lasted more than a century. The Coopers’ pioneering spirit grew the community of Airdrie that we have today. Hugh, Robert and W Allan Cooper homesteaded the land where Cooper’s Crossing community is located.
Heloise Lorimer was an Airdrie Pioneer, born in Airdrie and lived in here for nearly a century. Heloise Lorimer (nee Vansickle), was considered the ‘First Lady’ of Airdrie and/or ‘Queen of Airdrie’. She was the first baby born in Airdrie and lived in town when there was less than 100 people. She drove the first school bus in Airdrie. One of her greatest joys was to speak to the kids about Airdrie and its history.
Congratulations to both schools for great events and congratulations to both families.
p.s. We will celebrate the official grand opening of RancheView School in the spring of 2017.
Teacher, École Airdrie Middle School – When I was approached by a colleague in 2009 to join her in the pursuit of becoming a UNESCO member school, I was all in! I didn’t know what to expect in terms of what it meant to be a UNESCO school, but I knew anything related to this moniker was generally good.
Getting school staff on board can be difficult, but once goals are set in place teachers quickly realize that what they are already doing in their classrooms conforms to a lot of the ASPnet and UNESCO criteria. School activities can vary between aligning projects with social justice, sustainability, safe and caring, or tolerance initiatives. It can be as simple as choosing a novel study that focuses on inequalities, or partnering with a school across the world or province via Skype to create a global classroom.
A Lengthy Process
If you choose to embark on becoming an ASPnet/UNESCO member school don’t expect your accreditation overnight. It took our school six years before earning our status. We were, however, committed to reaching our goal. This meant filing annual reports that logged our initiatives, all of which aligned with UNESCO’s pillars of learning. I would recommend having a team of two people to take this on, as it requires attending two annual meetings at Barnett House in Edmonton and compiling information throughout the year.
Flying The Flag
Upon becoming a member school, you are given a plaque to hang on your school wall along with, the privilege of posting the UNESCO emblem on your school’s letterhead and website. The proudest moment of all has to be the raising of the UNESCO flag, letting your community know that your school has achieved something great!
To find out more please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/networks/global-networks/aspnet/
Editors Note: Congratulations go out to École Airdrie Middle School on receiving official status as a UNESCO Associated School! Founded in 1953, the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) is a global network of 10,000 educational institutions in 181 countries. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions – work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice. If you get the chance, extend your congratulations to the school!
RVS Humanities 8/Reading Intervention/Drama Teacher, Chestermere Lake Middle School – Nothing brightens my day more than seeing kids learn a new skill or strategy and knowing deep in my gut that it will pay off in their lives for years to come. As a reading/writing workshop teacher in the middle school, luckily this happens regularly and my days are extremely bright!
For all of you middle school ELA teachers out there, choosing a method/strategy/program… can be extremely frustrating. The ELA Program of Studies is extremely complex, and how can we possibly teach “the good stuff” that is going to stick, when all of those outcomes are so incredibly vague?? (Pet peeve #1) I learned long ago, that implementing a reading and writing workshop in my class was the only way that I was going to move kids forward in multiple strands and enjoy the ride along the way.
I have had the pleasure of studying with Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project at Teacher’s College at Columbia University in NYC for the last two years. After teaching 23 years, I wanted MORE STRUCTURE with MORE STUDENT/TEACHER CHOICE in my reading/writing lessons and the new middle level Units of Study in Reading were exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, these reading units for grades 6-8 weren’t available to the public yet, so I decided to save my pennies and take the plunge to learn straight from the masters at TCRWP and get my hands on those units!
In my grade 8 classroom, the first month is spent developing the students’ reading lives. Many students read very little outside of school time anymore, so I need to give them mass amounts of time to explore, investigate and analyze their reading interests, skills and goals. While building this reading life, I also focus on one aspect of narrative reading that is beneficial to them in later analytic endeavors – characterization. It is difficult for kids to analyze and interpret the themes in a piece, when they are still struggling to analyze and interpret the characters and their actions. Through a series of read-alouds, minilessons, conferences and mostly INDEPENDENT SELF-SELECTED READING, I see kids slowly reaching their reading goals (which were all based on growth mindset, of course), talking about books they are reading daily.
Mentor Text for Unit 1: First, French Kiss: And Other Traumas by Adam Bagdasarian – Humorous memoirs of a boy growing up in the 80s…so many cringe-worthy, laugh out loud moments! This novel was exactly what I needed to motivate uninspired readers to want to search harder for more books that interested them.
At the end of the unit, I followed the lead of my colleagues at TCRWP and celebrated! This year, I decided to have a “Glow-In-The-Dark Reading Party” complete with toasts to their reading accomplishments (with water in champagne glasses) and gummy worms (to symbolize their status as bookworms, get it??). I don’t know about you guys, but after 25 years of teaching, I need to pat myself on the back more often for a job well done and the students need that boost as well. Candy is usually part of that celebration in my world!
As part of a balanced literacy program, I alternate a reading unit of study with a writing unit of study, so my students have now moved on to building their writing lives and figuring out what moments of their lives they want to share in their first published memoir. Now how should we celebrate? I’ll let you know when we do!
Until next time,
Superintendent of Schools – Last week my 14 year old son, JT spent the day at work with me as part of a national Grade 9 campaign entitled, Take Your Kid to Work. Given my work is connected to schools, my kids have a decent idea about what I do, but it was a behind scenes day for JT.
He was excited because he got to wear a shirt and tie just like it was a hockey game. Throughout the day he remained very professional and took the day very seriously. Throughout the Education Centre we had 3 other students attending work with their parent for the day.
I warned him that the day was not planned for him and it will probably be a day full of meetings. The day started with us working on some behind the scenes work on the Ward Boundary Review project that JT pretty much just watched and asked questions about. We then had an hour and a half long briefing style meeting about one of the branches of our Learning Department. We moved right into another meeting about one department’s budget. JT was interested in that meeting because he got to watch a bit about how resources are allocated and some of the challenges when you want to do a number of things but the funds just are not available. He saw us prioritize spending based on the overall student needs.
At one point during the day I had to ask JT to step outside as it was a confidential material, but for the rest of the day he was with me fully. We attended a committee for about an hour that was working on the development of RVS’ new internet site. That was probably his favourite part of the day. The group asked his thoughts on the design because it directly related to students. His day finished with a bit of office work, and then when I headed out for an evening meeting he got to go to his hockey practice.
Since that day he has asked me a couple of follow-up questions about things that were discussed during the day. Overall it was a good opportunity for him to better understand what I do and I really enjoyed having him around for the day.
Psychologist – “This tells me that there’s a lot of brains in here right now that are wired for survival, and just might be a little on edge.” That was the sentiment expressed by Biology teacher, Erik Gordon, when responding to the information that in his class more than 13 students indicated that they have experienced significant trauma in their past.
The concepts of trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive approaches or practice seem to be popping up everywhere in the education system. Our ability to support students who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) also is finding its way into many staff room conversations. So what exactly does it mean to be trauma-informed or trauma sensitive? Well, a quick Google search will bring up a number of articles, programs, and ideas around how schools can begin to work with students who have been traumatized. Some of these programs can be quite expensive, but behind any commercialized answer resides two key concepts that are at the heart of being a trauma-informed educator:
- Understanding that trauma impacts a child’s developing brain and can cause structural changes, which can impact a child’s behaviour, memory and learning.
- Belief that positive educator-student relationships, where the child feels safe, valued, and cared for can begin to tip a child’s resiliency scale towards the positive, even though it might be stacked with negative weight.
This shift in thinking can sometimes be difficult because sometimes ‘the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.’ When Erik Gordon learned about the impact that ACEs had on a child’s brain architecture, he began to work with them differently. He started to try to find more ways to connect with them, such as jamming together over lunch hour. He also began to see their behaviour as something that they may not have full control over. In fact, at Erik’s school, all of the teachers learned about the impact of trauma on the brain. They started to have regular meetings where they would discuss what was going on for their students and identify strategies to have more positive and meaningful interactions with them. As a result, suspension rates went down and achievement went up. Erik’s school’s story has been captured in a film called ‘Paper Tigers’ that Rocky View Schools Learning Support has purchased a license for.
Interested in watching Paper Tigers? Register an account using your rockyview.ab.ca email at https://rvsls.tugg.com/ and watch the documentary in its entirety. Perhaps you could hold a screening at your school and have an open dialogue about the film and its connections to your school.