Learning is a Journey

Learning is a Journey

Director of 21C Learning -The theme of ‘Education Week’ this year is ‘Learning is a journey.’  As educators, our own journeys began many years ago, as we entered the formal school system as students.  Little did we know then, how our teachers would motivate, challenge, inspire, surprise, and ultimately educate us to take up the mantle of teaching ourselves.

In my own learning journey, my grade one teacher, Mrs. Thain, towered over us, as she inducted our rambunctious class into the expectations of curriculum, socialization, organization and civility as we donned the learners’ role.  In grade six, it was Miss Bilyk, the brand new, hip homeroom teacher whose passion for her learners and learning compelled us to work hard, enjoy reading, get creative and have fun.  Somehow she channeled our boundless energy into meaningful learning experiences that enthralled us. Mrs. Nelson, in grade nine, treated us like the young adults we were so excited to become, engaging us in the civic and provincial election process through current events, making connections between our school and our world.  In grade twelve, whether it was Mr. Rakoz exploring reproductive systems in biology, Mr. Prodaniuk waxing philosophically about ‘Death of a Salesman’ in English or Mr. Seward outlining the merits of various economic and political systems in Social Studies, our teachers were doing their best to shepherd us out of the ‘system’ as well-prepared, soon-to-be, new graduates. That seems an eternity ago, and yet, the enthusiasm, expertise and passion of those teachers ‘back in the day’ holds sway with myself and fellow educators today.

And it wasn’t only those teachers…As a student, I did not fully appreciate the ‘behind the scenes’ work that our school administration also did to support our learning.  It is not surprising how, over time, perspective evolves during one’s own educational journey.  Over the past two weeks in particular, I have been incredibly humbled and inspired by my administrative colleagues – the school based principals and assistant principals who are the lead learners in Rocky View schools.  Their dedication and commitment to learning, learners, the community and the greater good, is remarkable.  As role models, their fidelity to their own learning remains paramount at this time of year, when they simultaneously inhabit the present while preparing and planning for the future, 2017-2018 school year.  Despite their unbelievably busy schedules, they prioritize time for after school Book Clubs, graduate courses, webinars and online learning among other activities.  They continue to support staff and students in their respective learning journeys, celebrating their achievements and bolstering their supports as the learning gets deeper and more demanding.  As lead learners, they are also exceptionally generous with their own ‘best practices’. I have witnessed extraordinary generosity of ideas in multiple contexts, from elementary to high school teams across the jurisdiction. Our RVS administrators orchestrate rich learning for not only their students, but also their staff as they observe and demonstrate, “We are all learners.”

It was Henry Adams who once said, “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.”  During Education Week, as we reflect on our own ‘Learning Journeys’ we can thank a teacher or an administrator, for provoking and stimulating our learners’ minds. It is with prodigious gratitude, that I thank those teachers who helped me along my educational path to becoming a teacher.  It is with equal respect, admiration and appreciation, that I work alongside our RVS teacher and administrative colleagues as they continue to illuminate the path of the learning journeys of our students and staff. We will delight in today’s students being motivated, inspired and challenged by their teachers and leaders, as they navigate and enjoy the ‘open road’ of learning.

The Exhibition Showcase… it all comes together!

The Exhibition Showcase… it all comes together!

RVS Teacher, Prairie Waters Elementary – Part 4 of 4: The culmination of the Grade 5 Exhibition is the community and school showcase. Students have dedicated nine weeks to get to this exciting point in their inquiry. It’s an opportunity to share and celebrate their learning journey not only through Exhibition, but also their journey through the Primary Years Programme at Prairie Waters.

The showcase is a chance for students to take their knowledge and new ideas and share it with a wider audience. Rather than rely on the recall of facts, students are encouraged to engage in a conversation with guests about their issue. Being knowledgeable about their topic is important and it can be communicated in various ways. Students can share what they learned during site visits and interviews and communicate big take-aways they gained, as well as provide information they found relevant during their research.

To prepare for the Exhibition showcase, students brainstorm within their groups to determine how they can entice visitors to enter into a conversation. It could be a piece of artwork, a hands-on activity, a quote or an artifact related to their issue. Students also can speak about the action they took or plan to take. Ultimately while speaking, we hope that students encourage guests to stop and think about the issue and maybe, just maybe, they too will take action or gain a new perspective. Students also engage in conversation by preparing questions to ask their audience and communicate how their points of view have changed about the issue. Finally, students need to know their topic to answer questions from guests.

Students are free to choose the format for their showcase. However teachers do give them a few suggestions. The first is to keep their environmental impact to a minimum. Rather than giving out fliers or information sheets, students could direct their audience to a website they created. The second suggestion is to consider their audience. The community showcase visitors consist mostly of parents and community members. The school showcase invites students ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 4. Conversations students have with adults will look and sound differently than a conversation they might have with a peer.

The last week of Exhibition is a flurry of preparation, excitement, and nerves. Students continue to reflect after the showcase. They identify areas of success and growth and are given the chance to assess their skills as a learner. The entire Exhibition process is a memorable experience for everyone. Students should feel extremely proud of their accomplishments regardless of where they are in their learning journey.

If you are able to join us for the Exhibition showcase, please do. The community showcase takes place on May 3rd from 5:45pm – 7:15pm. The school showcase takes place on May 4th from 8:30am – 10:00am. If you’re unable to join us, follow us on Twitter. Our hashtag is #pwex17.

#pwex17 Invite
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.

 

Where Are You on the Continuum?

Where Are You on the Continuum?

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 schoolback-plantingNEW 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?

 

Ready to Roll Up Our Sleeves for Literacy!

Ready to Roll Up Our Sleeves for Literacy!

Literacy Specialists – “Literacy skills are required by everyone in every situation – life wide and throughout our lives – life long. “ (Government of Alberta, Living Literacy, p.6)

RVS’ Literacy Specialist Team #rvslit

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With seventy-one years of combined RVS experience, the literacy team is excited to share our passion, knowledge, and support to colleagues across the division as we work to build literacy & numeracy capacity among RVS educators.

literacyOur role is to educate, facilitate, and assist school administrators and educators with the implementation of RVS’ Literacy and Numeracy Framework. Through professional learning opportunities, resource awareness, and working alongside educators in the classroom and schools, we look forward to exploring new literacy tools, strategies, and  assessments in authentic and meaningful ways, while being cognizant of current educational research and the ongoing balanced literacy programming in our schools. These combined efforts will provide opportunities for us to build upon existing best literacy practices and, ultimately, lead to building all students’ competencies, helping to achieve their potential.

We hit the ground running on August 30 with a PL session co-facilitated by Dr. Karen Loerke, a literacy consultant who has been instrumental in the development of the RVS K-12 Literacy Framework . Together we got the chance to meet and work with over 90 teachers, literacy leads, and administrators from gr. 3-4 to provide PL on the Rocky View Independent Reading Comprehension Benchmark Assessment. Over the course of the day, participants were engaged in rich discussions about the assessment tool’s ability to inform instruction as well as provide authentic, ongoing reflections of student growth. Further to this session, we are looking forward to meeting more educators (Grade 1 and 2) on September 19th where we will provide PL on Running Records Assessment. Both these assessment tools are being field tested this year. If you are interested in learning more about these tools,  please contact your literacy coach or a member of the RVS literacy team.

Finally, we hope you will follow us on Twitter at #RVSlit, where we will share all things literacy, as well as showcase the great work that RVS educators are currently doing.

We are looking forward to collaborating with you.

Deb, Susan, Jody and Julie