Learning is a Journey – Celebrating Education Week

Learning is a Journey – Celebrating Education Week

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.


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.

Building Tools to Support Inclusive Practice

Building Tools to Support Inclusive Practice

Director of Learning Supports – There is a rich history of digital tool use in Rocky View Schools. From being one of the early pioneers of online learning in the province, to belonging to an early provincial cohort group of school boards to adopt one-to-one learning environments, RVS continues to improve connections in the digital learning environment, as well as improve communication of student learning.

teacher-students2In keeping with the advancement of technology and its benefits to our learning system, this year RVS will be transitioning to a software platform entitled “Dossier” that supports the creation and digital documentation of individual program plans, known more aptly as IPPs. This transition is intended to assist teachers efficiently document the learning needs of our diverse students. It also aims to compile our students learning needs in one central digital workspace, allowing staff to readily access and share a child’s needs with other teachers and his/her parents. A final aim is to leverage all the information gathered regarding a child’s attendance, instructional modifications, social/emotional needs, and academic success so that we can improve how we support the needs of our students and families.

As we begin to build understanding in the use of this new technical platform, we will continue to follow our regular IPP planning process that calls for the documentation of key goals, strategies, and supports to meet the learning needs of students. We also will continue to share with parents on a regular basis the progress of their child. Parents and students are encouraged to contribute to the planning of identifying learning goals, as well as how teachers can best support students reaching their potential and realizing success in their learning experiences.

Of Course We Want Meaningful Learning – But How?

Of Course We Want Meaningful Learning – But How?

blog_pic_chapmanPrincipal, Prairie Waters Elementary – It is not uncommon in today’s schools and on social media to listen to someone speak about the importance of authentic learning, purposeful learning, and meaningful learning. Others might preach about the importance of students doing “real life work” to prepare them for the “real world.” I certainly have used all of those buzz words and sometimes all within the same sentence on occasion. However, what is spoken about less often is HOW a teacher or a school might shift what they do to provide an environment where students access authentic, meaningful, and purposeful learning opportunities.

I certainly am by no means an expert on creating this type of environment for students. However, I am increasingly learning that it needs to be grounded in community and relationships. While this may sound simplistic, it is very complex and requires a long-term commitment and lots of ‘buy in’.blog_pic_russ

To provide students with learning experiences that are purposeful, authentic, and meaningful, educators must eliminate the walls that confine our teaching to approximations of what we are trying to achieve. Truly authentic experiences can’t happen day after day in closed spaces. By accessing opportunities and connections in the community our students’ learning can gain purpose and relevance. If we want our students to know “why” they are learning something, getting them out of the school or bringing the right people in can help a lot. Yet, a desire to engage with our greater community isn’t the whole answer. That is the easy part. The much harder part is developing the relationships that allow this to happen. This demands a commitment that takes years to develop and countless conversations to change paradigms.

Business owners, agencies, artists, and trades people don’t traditionally interact a lot with schools and students. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. By developing relationships with them and engaging them in our desire to shift what schools look like, we can change our learning environments to look more like the ‘real world’ and less like the factory inspired model that they were built on. That invites the question – What can you do to build relationships with your community to impact your student’s learning?


Leadership Trees

Leadership Trees

Superintendent of Schools – I’m a big NFL football fan and I watch my team play weekly, watch league highlights, enjoy pre-game shows, etc. The league is a multi, multi-billion dollar enterprise that is half business and half about the ego of the owners. Successful teams find the right balance between consistency and innovation.

The head coach often survives based on the win-loss record of their team. Head coaches serve at the whim of their owner. Head coaches are most likely to be fired after a poor start to the season, just before their bye week or the Monday after the end of the season. Some head coaches last one or two years and others stay for seven to ten years. Some coaches are fired from one team and then days later are hired by another team. When a head coach is fired often all of their staff is fired at the same time. NFL coaching staffs are always in a state of flux in the NFL.coach_s

One of the interesting phenomenon about NFL coaches is about their coaching tree. The head coach is surrounded with coordinators, countless assistant coaches, quality control staff, training staff, doctors, video staff, etc. A successful head coach typically has a group of assistant coaches/coordinators that stay with them from team to team. When the team does well the coordinators suddenly become head coaches elsewhere and the remaining head coach takes someone they have developed and moves them up to be the coordinator. The coordinator who gets a head coach position often tries to bring people they have worked with previously to their new team. The new head coach may bring a scheme from their past teams that they will want to use on their new team.

Over time you can track many head coaches and coordinators back to one team or head coach. The role of the head coach is not just to win games, but also to develop their entire team (coaches especially) to be successful. Check out this website which demonstrates what I’ve tried to describe above – the larger the dot the more coaches they have directly worked with and if you click the same dot more than once you see how many those direct coaches have influenced -> http://graphics.wsj.com/nfl-coaches/

Enough about the NFL, in public education we have our own leadership trees. We learn from the people we have worked with along our own journey. Not just from fellow administrators, but also from the amazing admin assistants, building operators, teachers, CDAs, electricians, etc. Sometimes we learn from colleagues that we’ve never actually worked directly with, but through conversation and observation –  it still impacts you. We take what we saw in one place and add it to our own bag of tricks. We try and learn from the scars we have from prior mistakes. We sometimes try and bring some of the people we’ve worked with in the past along with us. Successful organizations build the vast majority of their leaders from within, but also supplement with outside talent. A great RVS example of this is our administrative leadership program where we are actively supporting teachers who have expressed an interest in future formal leadership opportunities. Most of our new principals and assistant principals are from within RVS but we have some who have joined us from elsewhere.

I know that I have certainly been impacted by the people I’ve worked with along my own journey. Some of my elementary teachers continue to impact how I operate today. I hope that when I am finished my own career that my leadership tree is flourishing with many leaves.

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