Stomping Out Stigma Related to Talking About Mental Health

Stomping Out Stigma Related to Talking About Mental Health

Superintendent of Schools – On January 27th, I had the pleasure of being part of the kickoff for Langdon School’s Headstrong Summit. All grade 6 to 9 students and staff participated in a day long event to learn about mental health and stomp out the associated stigma. The school was able to garner phenomenal support through partners like Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Headstrong program, Alberta Health Services, Synergy, Connecteen, Stepping Stones to Mental Health, and some community groups.

I was provided the opportunity to say a few words to kick off the day. Here is the text of my message:

I am honoured to be here for a short bit this morning to help kick off your day where you are coming together as a community to talk and learn about mental health and help break the stigma related talking about mental illness.

 

Recently, I’ve seen a ton of commercials on TV and Twitter about the Let’s Talk series sponsored by Bell.  We all need to be encouraged to talk about our mental health – kids and adults too. We need to recognize that it is okay to talk about our mental health just like we talk about our physical health. No one blinks an eye if you talk about a sprained wrist, if you need glasses or if you are seeing your doctor for a checkup but somehow for many of us it is not okay to talk about if we are struggling with depression or anxiety or seeing a counselor. We need to change that.

 

I encourage you to:

  • be that friend who will listen without judging or thinking less of the person who shares their challenges.
  • be the same warm, caring and non-judgmental friend as you were before your friend opens up to you.
  • encourage friends that are struggling with their emotions, feelings, stress, anxiety, sadness to reach out and ask for help.  That help can come from any adult in your life – teacher / parent / grandparent / coach / older brother/sister. They might not have the answers but they can help find the answers.

 

Thanks to the school for organizing this event. Thanks to the presenters joining us today.

 

Lastly, Be brave! Reach out! Speak up!

Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the full day where kids had small group opportunities to hear and learn from the stories of brave presenters, who shared their knowledge and their personal stories related to addiction, grief and anger, healthy relationships, acceptance, suicide, physical harm and other challenges. The event provided information to students about where they can turn to for help and the stories provided opportunities for students to learn, grow, accept and stomp out stigma.

Greg

Assurance in Action

Assurance in Action

Superintendent of Schools – As – sur – ance (noun) 1. A positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise 2. Confidence or certainty in one’s own abilities.

Shortly, a number of senior RVS leadership staff will meet with Alberta Education staff to review our Annual Education Results Report (AERR) as part of Alberta Education’s Assurance Model Pilot. Our AERR is like a report card on how we are doing as compared to our 4-year plan, which say what we are doing (https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/2015_2019_2). We connect our goals (Learners are engaged, supported and successful) to Alberta Education’s priorities. We report out on how we are doing using Alberta Education’s survey data, our own survey data, achievement and diploma exam results. Want to see what our AERR looks like? Check it out here -> https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/2015_16_digital_aerr

Our AERR is provided in a digital format. As part of the assurance pilot we have flexibility and streamlined requirements with the expectation that we demonstrate strong stakeholder engagement in order to inform local priorities. The AERR is a summative piece that describes the previous school year. All that is in the AERR has actually been discussed earlier in the school year. We (and by “we”, I mean our amazing Communications team) take the disparate pieces of information and combine them into one place – our digital AERR.

The AERR is an accountability tool to ensure Boards are reporting to the public about student achievement along with successes and challenges. It is meant as a tool to provide transparency, while used for continuous improvement.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with various leaders to gather information about the various strategies and actions underway to help achieve the goals in our 4-year plan. It was an invigorating two days of meetings because we have so much going on. People want to make a positive difference for our learners and are dedicated to helping achieve our goals. At the Jan 26th Board meeting, we will provide a high-level overview on progress made toward the goals and outcomes. I encourage you to read that report, that will be posted here after the Board Meeting:  https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/accountability-reports

Here is my assurance statement – I can assure you that RVS staff is working very hard, with extreme dedication, to empower the potential of our learners. In my visits to schools or when people are here at the Ed Centre, I see RVS staff committed to engage and support learners so that the learners can be successful. Our 4-year plan is alive through the actions of our staff making the learning real, visible and for everyone. Anyone visiting on of our schools will see that they serve as a living, dynamic, ongoing poster for our 4-year plan in action.

Feeding the World in 2050

Feeding the World in 2050

Vienna and Sydney, WG Murdoch School Students – How in the world will we feed 9 Billion people in the year 2050?  The Airdrie / Crossfield 4H Helping Hands Club went on an eye opening field trip Saturday, Jan. 21, to Journey 2050 and we think everyone needs to hear this message!

As the population pushes up to 9 Billion by the year 2050, will it be possible to produce enough food to feed everyone? This was the key question posed to our Airdrie /Crossfield Helping Hands 4H Club members who attended the Journey 2050 Educational Session sponsored by Agrium currently set up at the Agrium Western Event Centre at the Calgary Stampede grounds.

This engaging five-hour program is being offered to school groups, 4H groups and more from all over the Calgary Region. The goal is to teach students about how important jobs and roles in agriculture will be, and what they might look like, as the world braces for the reality that we will need to produce 65% more food from the current land and water base. Is that even going to be possible? What will it require? Our 4H group was lead through a guided conversation around these concepts with the instructors who taught the day long program through games and interactive challenges.

The activities placed in front of our members helping them learn about farming and food production practices around the world today and how agriculture is going to become even more important as an industry as the population grows. It was a great chance to learn from experts, and work alongside other 4H members from all over the Calgary region.

We personally will be in our 40s in the year 2050. How will our diet compare in 2050 with what we enjoy now? Our members discussed the importance of balancing environmental, social and economic issues as the world tackles the key question of what we will all have to do to secure food production for 9 billion.

Crops will likely need to change, we will need to find ways to put lands like swamps and mountainous terrain into use for rice production and grazing animals like goats that can adapt to rocky outcrops for grazing space. We will also need to preserve the current supply of farmable land and not mow it over with urban sprawl.

Our club members left the session feeling the weight of this challenging issue. We found ourselves talking about what we can do now to 1. Reduce our personal food waste, 2. Eat and consume sustainably, 3. Monitor and reduce our personal water use, 4. And how we can reduce our environmental footprint. This is only a small number of topics and questions posed in this day-long session. Our club members are very grateful for the chance to learn more about this important environmental question – we hope everyone in the Rocky View region will attend Journey 2050 while it is in Calgary and we would encourage classrooms and 4H clubs from around Rocky View to consider checking it out!

Big thanks to our 4H friends in the Flatlands for organizing a 4H day at Journey 2050. More information is available online at Journey2050.com

 

Integrating the Arts into Learning

Integrating the Arts into Learning

Principal, Elizabeth Barrett Elementary School – Engaging students should be at the forefront of everything we do as educators. We know that once students are engaged, learning is more likely to be alive and fluid. There is nothing more energizing than seeing children’s eyes light up and the excitement is contagious.

In addressing the 21st Century Competencies, such as critical thinking, collaborative learning and environmental stewardship, our current students are empowered to make differences in our world, with a consciousness of the positive impact they will have on our world.

Sharing student learning through the arts in an effective way of engaging learners. Our students are advocates for the arts. We are proud of their voices to provide leadership and sharing their work through the arts. The following link describes how the University of Calgary is connecting the importance of integrating the arts into elevating students’ consciousness of learning. http://tinyurl.com/rvsebspherald

We know enabling our students to self-reflect and become self-reliant learners is powerful. Reflecting on their learning and feeling confident is critical to becoming a lifelong learner. The article in the following link highlights one means by which students have been doing this at Elizabeth Barrett School by integrating the arts into their learning. http://tinyurl.com/rvsebsp1

We are in an exciting era of learning. Setting our students up to be successful is at the heart of what we do. Personal engagement of their learning is paramount to success. Being a part of this journey is a privilege.

 

Talking With My Kids

Talking With My Kids

Superintendent of Schools – Like many families, my family is a very busy family with everyone hustling to different events. In the fall and winter my family is consumed with hockey. Hockey practices, games, skating on the pond, skating treadmill appointment, hockey fundraising activities, getting skates sharpened, weekend tournaments, checking out the latest gear, spring hockey tryouts, etc. The same can be said for most families, but you can substitute soccer, basketball, dance, swimming, piano, language learning, skiing, dirt biking, 4-H, sledding, etc. for hockey.

It is challenging because it seems like all activities are asking youngsters and families to commit to only one activity. Specialization is commonplace and the days of kids playing multiple sports, while skiing recreationally and learning the piano are gone. Now that said, we are guilty as we allow ourselves and kids to get sucked up into the vortex of hockey in the fall & winter and baseball in the spring & summer.

Despite the busy schedule, we try and make the time to eat together most evenings. It remains the best opportunity for us to have conversations, check in with each other, and see what else is going on in our lives. I’ve recently engaged in another opportunity for discussions with the boys, the captive audience hockey road trip.

As we have two boys typically heading off in different directions for hockey, we have to divide and conquer. Both of the last two weekends I’ve been out of town with one of the boys at different hockey tournaments / away games. The drive to and from the event provided me the opportunity to talk with my boys. My car is the low-tech vehicle in the family, so there is no TV, videos, satellite radio, Xbox and Wi-Fi to distract us. This past weekend we listened to a story on CBC about the US election and it spurred a great conversation about democracy, political organizing, voter turnout, media, and more. We would not have had that conversation if not traveling in a car for an extended period. The previous weekend, as we drove down Hwy 2, it was talking about ranching, which neither my youngest nor I know much about. We were engaged in a conversation based on what we saw while driving. It was a place-conscious inquiry project where we just talked and on a few occasions had my son open up my phone to find out some information that furthered the conversation. Visiting towns that are new to us provides more opportunity to talk about what industries are in that town and why, the age of the hockey rink, and why it is where it is, how we develop an appreciation for things that are different and so much more.

We are fortunate that friends of ours always volunteer to drive their kid and their kid’s friends to and from events. The kids are older and often it means going out on a Saturday night at 11 pm (or later) to pick up a group of kids. I asked them why they do it and they told me, just like my hockey road trips, it creates an opportunity to talk and learn about what is going on in their kids’ lives and the lives of their friends. No need to stalk their Instagram account or SnapChats, the kids talk in the car. The adult can ask questions and while their own child typically rolls their eyes, other kids in the car will chime in and respond. They describe it as a direct pipeline into the lives of their kids.

So, the next time you are heading out to drive the kids somewhere, take the long route, turn off the radio (or put it on CBC), pretend you forgot the phone charger, and see where the conversation takes you.

Greg