Superintendent of Schools – Wow, where did June go? June is a busy month for everyone and we have made it to the last few days of the 2017/18 school year. I appreciate the Herculean efforts made by our RVS family. We opened two and a half new schools this past fall. Our students and communities benefited from countless volunteer hours given by our staff for performances, field trips, sporting events, and so many other events. People worked on numerous committees giving their time and knowledge to help others. We engaged in meaningful professional learning in a variety of different forms. We continued to work hard to ensure that learners are successful, engaged and supported.
No matter what your title is, where you work, or how long you have been with RVS… you are making a difference. Unfortunately, I do not get to say ‘thank you’ enough, but I want you to know that I appreciate you and your efforts.
To those completing your last few days with RVS, thank you for your contributions! Whether you are retiring, moving to another school division or waiting for the next position, thanks! It is the people in RVS that make us great. I wish you the very best in your next challenge or in getting the next contract.
With almost 2,500 of us on staff, life brings many challenges over the year. Thoughts are with any team member who had a tough year for whatever reason. I continue to be impressed when I see our RVS family rally around a fellow teammate who may be struggling. I hope everyone’s 2018/19 school year is great.
Some teams are getting ready for the summer break, while others are ramping up for their busiest season of the year. Whether you are off for summer vacation soon or ramping up, I wish you a great, safe and joyous summer. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, so you can enjoy our wonderful surroundings. Enjoy time with friends and family, finish that series that you only got halfway through over the winter, float down a river, and make time to do what you enjoy.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your contributions to our communities, students, families and organization. You are making a difference in the lives of others and we are all better for it. Take care!
Learning Design Specialist – The Rocky View Schools Indigenous Games were hosted by Elizabeth Barrett Elementary, Manachaban Middle School and Cochrane High School (with support from Jumpstart Canada) on May 24, 2018. The purpose of these games was to promote Indigenous history and culture, and to provide Elders an opportunity to share their culture and history through storytelling and ceremonies.
Prior to the games, Elizabeth Barrett students researched Canadian Indigenous Games and created posters, which were then presented to Manachaban Middle School students. The day of the event began with a blessing and a smudge by Elder Virgil Stephens and a lesson on the history and the purpose of Indigenous Games from Joseph Makinaw of the Stoney Nakoda Nation. Once the games got under way, Cochrane High School physical education students led 30 different stations of Indigenous Games and activities for over 850 elementary and middle school students. Because the Games were non-competitive and interactive, all 850 kids got to enjoy the sunshine and physical activity outside. Next year, these schools hope to expand the Games to other schools.
With the success of this day, it begs the question, wouldn’t it be amazing to not only have a division-wide track meet, but also a divisional Rocky View Schools Indigenous Games Day as well?
Superintendent of Schools – June is an incredibly busy time in Human Resource departments in school divisions across Canada. In my past life I used to work in an HR department and was directly involved in staffing for all positions in a school jurisdiction. Now, I am involved to a much lesser extent with a focus on staffing for principals, assistant principals and senior leadership roles. No matter how much or little staffing I do, I enjoy the task.
I often describe the process of staffing to be like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The key is looking at the picture you are trying to build and then finding the right person to excel, while addressing that school’s/department’s specific need. The jigsaw analogy worked because each person’s skills, abilities and experiences are somewhat unique. No matter the person or role, we all add to what that school/department looks like. We are not all interchangeable and fit into any need or role. Each of our amazing RVS staff members bring unique skills, talents and experiences to their school/department.
Recently, I realized that maybe my analogy could use some adjustments. The puzzle analogy still resonates but may be too simplistic. Sometimes staffing is like a game of chess. You need to look multiple moves ahead. Earlier moves impact your ability to make future moves. There needs to be a strategy in the order you approach things. In the puzzle, that piece always fits beside its neighbours no matter what order you connect the pieces. In staffing you have an immediate need (e.g. a Grade 3 teacher for your school), but based on which great teacher you place in that role, it impacts the needs, culture and dynamics of a school. That Grade 3 teacher also has a passion for French and can help teach that in the school. Now the next move for the school is changed.
No matter which analogy works for you, the key is finding, supporting, nurturing, empowering and recognizing great staff to help your team. I can tell you that RVS is exceptional at doing that. A special shout out to all those people working hard these days trying to find the right person for the right move to the right position on the big board we call Rocky View.
Learning Design Specialist – John Hattie said, “When teaching and learning are visible, there is a greater likelihood of students reaching higher levels of achievement.” The RVS Learning Design Team embraces the idea of making learning visible using a design process in which students empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and share their learning.
After hosting four successful cohorts this year (Rocky View Productions, #UXRVS, Rocky View Maker and RVS Living Local), we felt it was about time to bring the amazing work that both came out of the cohorts, and what was already happening in the division, to light!
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the Learning Design Team hosted the Living Local Gala Exhibition. As with many prototypes, we erred on the side of caution, as we were unsure what the uptake would be like for the day… and wow! Rocky View teachers and students really stepped up!
The Gala began with 23 Grade 5 students from Herons Crossing School recording RockyTalks that they each wrote, reflecting on their Changemaker experiences. Afterwards, their teachers, Kendra Jewer and Kate Pike, reflected on their own perspectives as designers of the learning opportunities they provided the students. These engaging RockyTalks were followed by a panel discussion about “The Farm”, an innovative new project we are currently developing in RVS, in which students from Grades 7 through 12 will learn and work on a farm!
While all these filmed discussions were taking place, other student projects were showcased, demonstrated, discussed, and celebrated. The evening was a flurry of excitement, as students, parents, and teachers explored incredible products of student learning. Students were able to discuss the processes of making, creating, and doing in a variety of modes. Guests were able to engage with digital resources, hands on activities, virtual reality, student demonstrations, visuals, and physical projects. The degree to which students had opportunities to make choices about their learning and voice their opinions about the direction and products of that learning were incredible. Their confidence was astounding.
We look forward to making next year’s exhibitions even bigger and better! Mark your calendars for the Winter Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, and Spring Design Gala on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Keep them in mind as you have kids in your classes do great things throughout the year. We would love to help you show them off!
Superintendent of Schools – June means graduation season for school jurisdictions. Over the past week I attended three separate graduation cap and gown ceremonies with one more to attend late in June. Each year I write a base speech and then customize it based on the school or theme of the graduation. Yes, I actually do the writing and try to have variations from year to year.
To be honest, I know that the graduates are not overly excited to hear most of the speeches at the ceremonies. I assume they wish we would hurry up and finish. While the majority of speeches are focused on them, the real audience is probably the parents. Here is my message to the graduates (okay, the parents) for 2018:
Good afternoon everyone. Graduates, today is an exciting day as we celebrate your completion of high school. For most of you, public schooling began back in the fall of 2005 with you rocking your Blue’s Clues t-shirt and SpongeBob lunch bag. You are the first graduating class of school X where most of you are born in this millennium. Look at you now; you’ve come a long way! Along the journey you made new friends, had many teachers, went on memorable field trips, were involved in clubs / teams / productions and even managed to meet the graduation requirements. Congratulations, you have made it through this stage.
You are ready to take on the “real” world. It is time to call upon the skills you have been building over these past 13 years with the assistance of your family, teachers and friends. These skills include: problem solving, overcoming challenges, communicating, handling adversity, thinking critically, collaborating with others, and utilizing the various literacies you have developed. These are the skills you will need to leverage in the next stage of your life. These are the competencies that we have been working hard to get you ready for, no matter what your next choice is – whether that be the world of work, post-secondary education, travelling the world or even living in your parents’ basement.
Remember that you are not alone. You have family, friends and teachers rooting for you and ready to provide assistance. Sorry parents, but the balance of power is shifting as the grads are making more of the important decisions and taking more responsibility for those decisions. Grads, you will make mistakes, all of us do, but it will be how you recover from those mistakes which is most important. I encourage you to keep your options open, believe it or not, you may need to change your mind and consider another option. Mistakes and changing your mind are part of the “real” world.
To all of the RVS staff who helped you get here, thank you! To the families here today, congrats – you were a big part of getting them to this point. To the grads, I encourage you to take some time this weekend to thank those who helped get you to this point. Say thanks to your parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, administrators and everyone who has helped along the way.
In closing, we are very excited about what you will do, where your journey will take you and the contributions you will make. Take care of each other and welcome to the “real” world.