The TONE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING AT BBCS
It has been a whirlwind of activity at BBCS! Being in a K-12 school makes for a dynamic place! Unlike public school, supervision is a given here. Everyone has two spots on the weekly rotation, which will be finalized once new staff members are in place. No one is exempt from supervision – not even admin. Parents and grandparents are at school on a regular basis to drop off and pick up children. Lunch is an hour-long event because everyone goes home and the school is closed during that time.
Getting to know the “culture” of the school and the people who make it what it is has also been a focus over the past two weeks. Who does what and what traditions contribute to the tone of BBCS are slowing being revealed to me. By culture, I am referring to two areas of focus. One is how the Heiltsuk culture is being integrated with classroom curricula and the other is the tone of teaching and learning in classrooms and indeed throughout the building. These are two areas that are high on my curiosity agenda over the next while…. Another area, which began with the short course for principals this summer, is a focus on a goal for every eight year old at BBCS.
EVERY CHILD, AGE 8: READING
Meeting with elementary teachers to establish a plan for engaging with each other in professional learning communities has been a thread over the first two weeks. Considering our greatest areas of need and the intention of the mission statement are areas of discussion to reflect upon as teachers meet with their respective team members: primary and intermediate. Setting norms that will allow for full and respectful collaboration with each other is integral to effective working groups where no one person is in charge, but group processes may allow for each team member to contribute equally.
Norms for working together as a collaborative group are important. This is one sample that was crafted by one PLC groups in another location – not BBCS.
PLCs are a powerful form of job-embedded Professional Development and continuous improvement model.They have been defined as “a shared vision for running a school in which everyone can make a contribution, and staff are encouraged to collectively undertake activities and reflection in order to constantly improve their students’ performance.” “To create a professional learning community, focus on learning rather than on teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results.” (DuFour) There are many core characteristics of PLCs including collective team work in which leadership and responsibility for student learning are extensively shared, a focus on reflective inquiry, emphasis on improving student learning, shared values and norms, and development of common practices and feedback. Dufour & Eaker (1998) and Levine & Shapiro (2004)
Instructions: To evaluate the effectiveness of your PLC implementation, highlight the statements that reflect current practice. At regular intervals, repeat the process to gauge progress towards sustaining.
Three Big Ideas of PLC
1. Focus on student learning
2. Collaboration between group members
- What do we want each student to learn?
- How will we know when each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
When teachers work in teams engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning, the result may lead to higher levels of student engagement and ultimately student achievement.
Graduation Rates at BBCS
Something that may be of interest to schools and districts who are trying to improve the overall graduation rate for Aboriginal learners is that the graduation rate at BBCS is about 95%. The grad class for 2012 stands at 20. Right now they are working with a graduation coordinator (teacher) to plan a university and college fieldtrip and they are raising funds to have a community wide graduation celebration in June. Graduation is a givenJ Going on to post-secondary school is something that requires some attention so it is one teacher’s job to organize that and a career fair as a way to feature the important transition to post secondary school. I will write more about this at another time.
HEILTSUK LANGUAGE AND CULTURE: THE FABRIC OF THE COMMUNITY
It is evident that the Heiltsuk language is a high priority as each student receives a half hour of instruction every day from a highly committed staff of fluent and emergent speakers and some trainees. The highly successful professional development day on Friday reveals the level of commitment of BBCS in integrating our collective knowledge and awareness of Heiltsuk culture with mainstream curricula. Teachers were engaged in learning about ancient Heiltsuk medicines and resources to support this integration with mainstream curricula and they worked together to find ways to bring the learning in the classrooms to the outside where nature in all its wonderment thrives. I am looking forward to some specific feedback on the day as staff fills in the survey monkey request.
CLASS VISITS THIS COMING WEEK
The wise words of Max Van Manen come to mind for me as I ponder my focus for my visitations to classrooms for this week – one of my tasks is to visit each class for a few minutes each week to provide instructional support. As a starting point, I have looked to the work a researcher whose work is not referred to as much as it has been in the past, but its validity rings as true today as it did when I first read his work in 1990. Van Manen’s exploration of pedagogical sensitivity has always intrigued me: I plan to take everything in with this mindset:
“In everyday life in classrooms, the thousand and one things that teachers do, say, or do-not-do, all have practical pedagogical significance”
How often do we consider why we do what we do and what impact those thousand and one things have on the tone of teaching and learning in our classrooms and on individual student learning. Here’s what I would ponder:
- How and what atmosphere is created by the many (seemingly innocuous) things that teachers and students do?
- How do I adjust my tone of voice in different situations and in different circumstances?
- How do I encourage the children? Respond to individual learners?
- How are my students responding to what I bring to the teaching and learning environment?
I have a lot to learn as a new staff member and I look forward to learning more about the factors that contribute to the tone of teaching and learning at BBCS. I am looking forward to my week of visiting classes:)
Out of interest, check out Principal Carrie Burton at Bear Creek Elementary School in Surrey BC: Making Learning Visible