Principal, Prairie Waters Elementary School – My 15-year-old son asked me the other day, “Dad, has the world ever been this messed up since you’ve been alive?”
It was a great question. His question was prompted by his knowledge of recent current events that include, but aren’t limited to: increasing tension with North Korea, White Pride rallies, athletes kneeling during the national anthem, and devastating hurricanes that seem to arrive one after another. Not to mention, the Las Vegas tragedy, which occurred more recently. I replied to him somewhat sadly, “I’m not sure that I have.”
We know that if there is one thing that is constant, it is change. However, the pace and complexity of this change seems to be growing. Our world is becoming increasingly connected. Information moves rapidly and our individual and collective decisions can have significant impact, both positively and negatively.
Rocky View Schools’ mission is “We engage all learners through meaningful and challenging experiences, preparing them to understand, adapt and successfully contribute to our changing global community.”
It is an inspiring and worthwhile mission; however, as expected, it leaves us begging the question, “How?” The question becomes particularly complex considering that by the time many of our students in Kindergarten join the workforce as an adult, Earth is expected to have approximately another 1.2 billion humans joining the 7.6 billion that already share this planet (United Nations, 2017, June 21).
I believe that to respond to this extraordinary complexity, our children must become internationally minded in a way that is extraordinarily uncommon. It lies in our ability as educators to develop tremendous compassion for others and a humbling ability to be open-minded. The International Baccalaureate Organization believes that we must “encourage students … who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” This way of thinking is somewhat contrary to what many of us have been taught; however, to successfully respond to our world’s challenges, we inevitably must think differently.
As parents and educators, it is important that we deliberately and mindfully look for ways to build compassion and open-mindedness in our students. Should we create more opportunities for our students to be involved in service learning opportunities? How do we provide opportunities for our kids to be exposed to and learn from our differences? Should we explore issues more deeply through multiple and “competing” perspectives. And, as parents and educators, how do we approach multiple perspectives without bringing in our own biases that will limit our kids’ abilities to approach challenges deeply with an open mind.
Maybe if we are successful in answering these questions, our children’s children will have more optimistic questions to ask their parents.
Teachers, A.E. Bowers School -This project started as a general kindness project when a grade team member mentioned Project of Heart. As a team, we loved the idea behind the Project of Heart and decided to put our own twist on it. Instead of making ceramic tiles, we would get our students to paint wooden necklace tiles that we would sell. The proceeds would be going to the Head Start Program on the Siksika First Nation.
Through this process, students learned about the different Nations in Alberta, their rich culture and history. First Nation, Métis and Inuit Learning Specialist, Chelsea Jackson, helped us connect with an Elder. Elder Randy came to our school and we explained the idea to him and asked him for suggestions on paintings. After his recommendations, using friendship and nature pictures, students in grade 4 got to work.
Mrs Bowers was our expert art teacher who guided us through the highs and lows of working with wooden tiles and paint markers. The final projects were spectacular. Some students came with me to the Airdrie Farmer’s Market on June 14 to sell the necklaces in hopes of raising funds for the Head Start program and continue the conversation and awareness on reconciliation.
It was a very successful evening and to date we will be donating over 500$ to the program.
This project along with attending the Ideas Incubator has developed into a bigger project that I will be undertaking next year entitled “Ripples of Change”.
Superintendent of Schools – Like many of our RVS team, I spent some time away from work last week during RVS’ spring break. After spending a few days back in Saskatchewan celebrating a family milestone, we loaded up the van and returned home. I spent the good part of the next four days in the backyard landscaping. I have no green thumb, but shoveling, pushing the wheelbarrow, and installing edging is right up my alley. The immediate feedback of moving four cubic yards of garden mix from the front driveway to various beds in the backyard works for me. Like many challenges, at the beginning I thought we’d never get that all moved. Wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full and the pile was not changing. Suddenly I noticed the pile looked a bit smaller. A few loads later, it was smaller yet. A couple of loads later we were scraping the driveway to fill the last load. Wow, mission accomplished.
The next day it was three cubic yards of wood chips. The race was on. How fast can we move those light wood chips? 40 minutes – start to finish and that project was complete. We had time to tackle other pieces of the yard. The next day included three cubic yards of rock on the driveway. So much for another 40-minute job. The weight of the rock combined with my 15-year-old being at an umpiring clinic meant we labored away for 4 hours. Nevertheless, at the end of that day, all the major landscaping groundwork was complete. Now we are ready for the fun bits of planting trees, shrubs, and flowers.
By now you must be wondering, what is Greg writing about all this for? I guess my work is normally focused on the long game: next year’s budget; long-term student achievement growth; multi-year plans; and, creating the conditions for our staff to be successful. Looking back, this project was still about creating the conditions for future plantings to grow (which is not far off from my usual job). It was nice to tackle some tasks that had a defined start and end. I knew the tasks were complete when the piles were moved. I knew I was successful when the yard looked like what we drew up on our garden plan.
Sometimes it is just nice to have a sense of accomplishment with tangible results you can see from your deck!
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
Registered Provisional Psychologist – The idea of inclusion is not a new one and has certainly been discussed in Rocky View Schools, as well as in the larger education system for some time. We all have our ideas about what inclusion means and have the ability to espouse a philosophical and/or theoretical definition of inclusive teaching practice. That is fantastic; however, the discussion and implementation of inclusive practice becomes much more difficult when looking at the operational aspects. According to McLeskey and Waldron (2012) far more teachers support the concept of inclusion than are willing to teach in inclusive classrooms. Much of the time, this is the result of the teacher’s beliefs about disability and his or her professional efficacy. As such, I wish to open up a discussion about how our own beliefs impact the success of meeting the needs of diverse learners. Successful inclusion first begins with self-reflection regarding our personal beliefs about diverse students, such as those with various disabilities, and our perceived role in taking responsibility to reduce the barriers to their learning.
Just as students with diverse needs can be considered to fall along a continuum of learner differences, teachers’ and school administrators’ beliefs about their role in supporting such students can also be considered to fall along a continuum between pathognomonic and interventionist constructs. A pathognomonic construct focuses on identifying or diagnosing students’ problems and weaknesses. Disability is perceived as an internal attribute and condition of the student. Teachers whose beliefs lie in this direction focus on ‘what is’ and perceive themselves as having little impact on the success and outcome of those with certain learning challenges. A pathognomonic outlook supports the practice of placing students with special needs in separate programs and schools, such as those with learning challenges, mental health symptoms, medical needs, etc. However, on the other end of the continuum, the interventionist construct focuses on how environmental and social factors impair a student’s learning. Disability is viewed, at least in part, as being created by external barriers to learning. Teachers with this perspective see themselves as responsible for intervening and advocating for students with disabilities to illicit change in the environment to aide in supporting the student’s learning needs.
Teaching practices and inclusion are largely influenced by teacher efficacy. A teacher’s professional efficacy is impacted by their understanding of certain disabilities and experience supporting such challenges. Toward that end it is important that professionals reflect upon their level of understanding of certain disabilities, as well their level of knowledge or expertise in supporting students with certain challenges. This begs the questions: where do you fall on the continuum? Does your place on the continuum change depending on the student’s disability or learning challenges? Where are you on the continuum for including a student with a learning disability in math, reading, writing, etc? Is it different for a student with behavioural deficits such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, or Attention-Deficit/Hyper Activity Disorder? What about a student with anxiety, depression, experienced trauma, family system difficulties? Which way would you move if a student with medical challenges or Autism Spectrum Disorder was in your class? If your place on the continuum does change, how much of that change can be attributed to your understanding of certain disabilities and/or your experience with supporting students with those specific needs? Would you raise your hand to be the one to support students with diverse needs in your class/school?
Research has shown that teacher and school administer beliefs about disability and their own professional efficacy greatly impact the success of inclusion for diverse learners. Such beliefs are the impetus for supporting inclusion and underlie any theoretical or philosophical definition of inclusion. After reflection upon your own beliefs about diverse learning challenges, and your role in supporting such students, what would you need to move further toward the interventionist side of the continuum for supporting all learners?