Wednesday 29 May 2019

Innovative Schools: School Growth Plans WITH our Students

What a powerful evening at the final session of our Innovative School Series with school teams from SD67 and SD53.  This year one of our Through a Different Lens inquiry series challenged school teams to engage with their diverse learners as informants, co-learners and ultimately transformation leaders in making school goals and activities meaningful for everyone.  At our final evening of the series school teams shared how they used student voice to help them set goals, plan, take action, reflect on, and adapt their school growth plan - at the classroom and at the whole school level.

Throughout the series, schools offered ideas on ways they were listening to students - through interviews, daily work, surveys, forums, etc.  We had a number of students come and share in a number of our sessions.  But last night it just somehow all came together with both creative ideas and powerful stories.

We heard about 'passion profiles' at secondary where teachers can learn about the interests and passions of their students which allows them to begin conversations. We heard how important it is to listen to students who are in a place in their lives where school is not a priority because shelter, space, food, and love are, and how over time they become more interested in education and their future.  We heard about students delving into topics such as cyber bullying and mental health issues, crafting questions for further inquiry, and then going out and interviewing their middle school peers about these issues and trying to understand what others are facing.  Teams shared how they are conferencing with students to find evidence of the teachings they are exposing them to - risk taking, courage, and love - and how the responses they received helped them see students as knowledge keepers, not just knowledge receivers. We heard about kids not just having student voice but agency - participating in and planning activities and events important for their learning and that honoured and made a difference for others.  

Overall the theme was so evident - we learn so much when we stop and listen, when we plan and make space for students' insights, and when we change things once we have listened. 

The evening was powerful.

Big thanks to all who participated in SD67 and SD53, and supreme thanks to Dr. Leyton Schnellert who with great enthusiasm and energy asks important questions, prods us on, shows fabulous examples from throughout BC where things are happening, and fills us with the confidence that we too can do great things with our kids!  He reminds us that one of the most important things that we can do is nurture every student to speak on their own behalf, become experts in their own learning strengths, and develop the ability to communicate their insights.  It is our most diverse students who can help us transform education for all.

Blog by Judith King who is thankful for the planning committee:  Todd Manuel, Shona Becker, Marcus Toneatto, and Leyton Schnellert.

Friday 3 May 2019

Something Magical: Intergenerational Learning

The following blog is from a teacher at middle school who took a risk and tried something in a different way.  Here, she highlights communication as an important competency for her grade 8 students.  She also writes so clearly about the area of social and emotional competencies and the surprises she has seen in this area.

This learning opportunity is also a wonderful example of the incorporation of the First People's Principles of Learning highlighting especially 'Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities',  'Learning ultimately supports the well-being of self', and 'Learning is holistic, and relational'. 

The pictures of the students and the seniors really tell a story. 

Navigating social situations and developing interpersonal skills at middle school is challenging, especially in an era when communication revolves around cell phones, social media, and virtual connections.  The chaotic energy and amped emotions that dominate middle school hallways leave little room for students to develop their face-to-face communication skills.  Meanwhile behavioural expectations in the classroom don’t usually allow for practice of communication skills that resemble those seen in a colloquial setting.  To help develop these important interpersonal skills our class partnered with some seniors from the Trinity Care Centre to form a rather unconventional, but successful buddy program.  

‘Who will hold the door?’, ‘How do I roll a wheel chair over a curb?’, ‘How many wheelchairs can fit in the elevator?’, were some of the questions tossed around as students readied themselves for their first hosting experience.  Instead of following a traditional visitation approach our class decided to host our seniors to a series of visits at our middle school.  Each visit took a different shape and varied in structure.  However, consistent throughout all visits was that the students were responsible for planning and providing care to their senior buddy.  The end result: an amaze-show.  
There is something magical that happens every time we bring the seniors over to our school.  It’s hard to explain the positive effect they have over everyone in the building: students and adults alike.  For that one hour a month, when the seniors are in the building, we all slow down.  We get out of our heads and ‘come down to the ground’ to connect with them. We lock eyes for a little longer, smile a little wider, and for that one hour…. we become the best version of ourselves. 

At the outset this partnership wasn’t intended to be more than a couple of visits with the seniors. However, due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the students we extended it until the end of the school year. 

Some unexpected outcomes of this partnership have included:
-      Seeing students who don’t participate in school come to life and fully engage
-      Learning that both students and seniors want to spend more time with each other despite initial feelings of nervousness (for both parties) 
-      Shifting student attitudes and perspectives to include a greater sense of appreciation and respect for the fascinating lives our buddies have led. 

A big thank you to this teacher.
TADL 2019