Superintendent of School – Leadership – ˈlēdərˌShip – the action of leading a group of people or an organization.
All too often people get caught up thinking that all leadership needs to come from the top of the org chart. I do not believe this to be true. I strongly believe that we are all leaders in different ways and all can demonstrate leadership in a wide variety of ways. An important group of leaders we have in our organization is our students.
Many RVS schools have formal leadership programs. Students are given a voice in their school and help build and maintain a positive culture. These leadership groups are well beyond formal student government groups that existed when I went to school. These groups are now integral parts of a school’s fabric. Leadership students work collaboratively to address topics/issues that they want to support in their school / their community and as global citizens. Some students gravitate to these more formal roles, while other are quiet leaders in their classroom, club, team, bus, or peer group.
This week a variety of high school student leaders, with the guidance of two teachers – Dot and Scott – hosted RVS’ 10th annual middle school student leadership conference. The day is structured as an experiential learning opportunity, where younger leaders experience a number of activities and then reflect on the activities with a lens of how they could use such activities with other groups. The theme of the day was “Leadership Takes Flight” and I was asked to say a few words. So, given that theme, here was my message to the students:
Welcome to RVS Air, where you have a say in how we operate. You have a unique opportunity to influence where your journey will take you. As up-and-coming RVS Air leaders, you are provided an opportunity to be a tour guide for many other travelers in your school and communities. At RVS Air, we value a set of competencies that will serve you well no matter your destination. These include skills such as: critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, communication, collaboration, globally aware & civically engaged citizens, while being a self-directed learner who is literate in many domains.
Here at RVS Air, our leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but keys to success include: your ability to demonstrate enthusiasm; being well prepared; communicating effectively; caring for everyone – not just your buds; drawing on your creativity; helping to solve problems; demonstrating high character; being adaptable and dependable; and valuing everyone and encouraging people to work together to make a positive difference. Being a guide is not always easy, but you will get back what you put in. Every trip is not perfect, but you learn and build those learnings into your preflight checklist for next time. You are not the first person to take a trip so make sure you talk to fellow travelers to try and make the trip as successful as possible.
Today, fellow leaders will walk you through a variety of activities, provide opportunities for you to reflect on them and then later you will get to apply them on your own trips.
Thank you for joining the RVS Air leadership team. I am excited that you are part of our leadership team and good luck. Now, make sure your seat belt is securely fastened, your tray is in the upright and locked position. Bon Voyage.
Superintendent of Schools – Our Four-Year Plan (4YP) has three key goals – learners are engaged, supported, and successful. Another means we use to describe the key work of RVS is making learning visible, real, and for everyone. One only needs to watch the #rvsed Twitter hashtag to see daily examples of how schools and staff create amazing learning opportunities for our students. In any given day, you will see teachers creating learning opportunities bringing those three concepts to life.
Last week I was at an event at Banded Peak School where students were given a place conscious challenge – utilization and beautification of a piece of land in the town area. In parallel, the community has created a committee looking at the space and trying to decide what to do with it. The students were challenged to design a functional space that would become a community asset. Students surveyed members of the community to see what people wanted. They asked about overall concept, preferred materials, activities that could take place in the space, and learned about lighting concerns, strategies to make the space low maintenance, and many other ideas. Students also met with local experts to gain further information. Students toured the site. Ultimately, students produced a scaled drawing, key information panels, and a model of the park. I was among a number of adults who walked through the student stations and had students explain the details of their designs. It was a great opportunity for making their learning visible.
Often we get caught up in the final product of the learning activity, but it is the process that is truly important. In gathering the information and ultimately explaining their learning to a stranger, students had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of our 21C competencies. I asked students tough questions about their design and I am pleased to say they could answer the question or at least recognize the issue as a challenge in their design. The kids were invested in the activity because it was engaging and real. They walk or ride by the land in question and want to contribute to a solution to make it better. They were given an authentic problem and access to real world experts and resources. This was not open the textbook, read a chapter, and answer 1,2,4 and 7. Kids toured the site, learned the nuances of the land, looked at a solution from multiple perspectives, and had to handle competing priorities and diverse opinions. It was real and they made their learning visible.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a common occurrence in RVS. I saw on Twitter the previous week about grade 3 Sarah Thompson School students designing and building models/blueprints for ways to address opportunities and challenges in the hamlet of Langdon. They shared their ideas and presented to the local county Policy and Priorities committee. I cannot list all the examples so just watch #rvsed to see some of the amazing ways our staff are making it real.
Superintendent of Schools – For me it was a teaching assignment at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon. I actually had one more class to take over the summer before graduating but I got a job teaching. It was only going to be a one-year teaching assignment while the regular teacher I would be replacing was covering for someone else who was away on a year-long leave. That morphed into spending 22 of the next 25 years working in the public education space. One year I worked in the private sector (wanted to see what life was like in the “real world”) and two years working in the post-secondary sector.
Last week I was very lucky to be able to help out at the RVS booth at the recent University of Calgary career fair. For three hours, I spoke to prospective teachers who were graduating this spring from the U of C. I had the opportunity to brag about the great things going on in RVS, what drew me to RVS (twice), and how we support our early career teachers. I answered questions about how people can apply and what prospects look like. I must say it was great to be at the RVS booth as we had a steady stream of students interested in what we have to offer. Thanks to Meghan, Shannon, and Roel for letting me join all of you.
The following night I had the pleasure of attending the ATA induction ceremony for over 100 teachers who are part of the RVS family and are either new to the profession or new to Alberta. I wish I could have stayed for the full evening but it was a chance to say a few words and get to learn about many of our new teachers. Each school created a short video to help introduce the new teachers. These videos were quite amazing and kept the crowd laughing. I’ve asked for the DVD so I can watch the other half of videos I missed. Key messages I shared with the group (but also apply to our entire RVS team): we are in this together and on the same team; keep learning and growing; okay to take risks and innovate; collaborate with others; invest in yourself; take care of yourself; and thank those who helped get you here!
In that spirit – thanks to Mr. Richard Turcotte who was my grade 6 teacher and teacher-coaches Dan Boyer, Al Andrie, and Ivan Tam who made such a positive impact on my life. I am a teacher today because of all of you.
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.
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.