A whole month has gone by since we started the 2012-13 school year! I now know the names of all staff members. My next big challenge is to learn the names of the 200 children in the school. If I was in the classroom, I would already know about 120 names, but it is a bit more difficult when one is not directly connected to a group of children on a regular basis. I hope my upcoming visits to classrooms will allow me to match names to faces.
What stands out for me for September 2012? The SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) afternoon festival was a highlight as the entire community was invited and many staff members from BBCS were in attendance doing diverse activities from cutting and placing salmon on barbeque sticks to judging the entries for the recipe contest. Yours Truly won 4th or 5th place for my Chunky Smoked Salmon and Artichoke Dip☺ Elders were there to enjoy a lunch and to visit while the children, school staff, and community members engaged with diverse activities. Being so close to such pristine wilderness and opportunities to engage as stewards is exciting. Several classes visited the salmon hatchery to learn about the salmon life cycle. Despite the rain, the last group of high school students were eager to take a short hike to a lake not far from the hatchery.
The Heiltsuk Language Pro d Day was a successful day of powerful learning. Teachers went out into the outdoors on one of the most beautiful days of late summer to gather ancient medicines. Others engaged in a series of events to learn about how to integrate SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) with classroom curricula. Others stayed behind to look at local Heiltsuk resources to support classroom curricula. In all, it was a highly successful day. I am looking forward to seeing what this will look like in classrooms as I make my weekly visits to classrooms and how this emerges in the year plans that teachers will be submitting tomorrow.
As an instructional leader, I visited several classrooms to get a sense of the tone of teaching and learning in the school and intend this week to spend more time in classrooms to observe student learning. How students respond to the teaching and learning tasks in classrooms with is an area of high interest for me. This week, I will focus on the following:
• Are students given opportunities to collaborate with each other?
• How much one-to one do they have with the teacher? With the TA?
• Are students engaging in diverse types of tasks? What does this look like?
• Do students appear to be “on task”?
• Are students encouraged to use creativity to represent their learning?
• What kind of feedback are students receiving?
ASCD has a great summary of Powerful Learning by Ron Brant. I have gone back to it a few times as it is so succinct and so important. Here is a snippet of the article:
In general, we can say that people learn well under the following conditions:
What They Learn- How They Learn – Where They Learn
. What they learn is personally meaningful.
. What they learn is challenging and they accept the challenge.
. What they learn is appropriate for their developmental level.
. They can learn in their own way, have choices, and feel in control.
. They use what they already know as they construct new knowledge.
. They have opportunities for social interaction.
. They get helpful feedback.
. They acquire and use strategies.
. They experience a positive emotional climate.
. The environment supports the intended learning.
Although I missed it as one administrator had to stay back at the school, the elementary students participated in the Terry Fox run on Friday afternoon. It couldn’t have been a better day! Look at the excitement of the grade 5 teacher and her group of students as they headed out! Next year though we need to send out a notice to drivers to please ensure student safety by allowing them to own the road for this important fundraising event. Staff did a great job of raising awareness of who Terry Fox was and why his legacy is so important.
Open House was a roaring success! Many parents, grandparents, and students showed up to meet the teacher, to eat some snacks, and to fill out our homework survey. The results will be compiled and shared with the staff at our next whole school meeting. I haven’t checked with everyone but in one class, all buyt one parent showed up. The teacher was certain it was because the child had been sick for several days leading up to the evening and wasn’t well enough to attend. I loved the scavenger hunt where students had to find every staff person and do a personal introduction in order to get a check mark. It was a great way to meet students that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting.
Over the course of the month, I became aware that at least one teacher was struggling with students either losing and/or not doing homework. My curiosity was piqued. How important is it for students to be given homework? What constitutes worthwhile homework? Should homework be for students who simply need more time to finish an assignment? Should it be to practice and reinforce a skill? Should it be to consolidate learning? At what age or grade level should homework be given? Cathy Vatterott author of “Rethinking Homework” is featured in an interview with ASCD staff writer. She recommends that schools develop some guidelines to ensure that the homework assigned has the potential to support and reinforce learning that is taking place in the classroom. For our school,
- What does a good homework task look like?
- How do we differentiate homework tasks
- How do we use homework – for grading or for checking for understanding?
- How do we as a school support homework? A homework club?
At the Open House, parents were invited to fill in a homework survey in order for us to determine parental and grandparental views on homework. I will address this a little more when I compile parent responses with the hope that we as a staff and community can have a good discussion about this. Perhaps we can come up with some guidelines that will meet the needs of staff, students, and community members.
Last Wednesday school was dismissed at lunch and we held a full afternoon meeting to discuss events and topics that impact teaching and learning in our school. It also featured a presentation from two people who work with the UBC e mentoring initiative. Nahannee Gillett and Anette Kinley presented to the grade 10, 11, and 12 students with a goal to help us address a goal of encouraging grade 12 graduates to attend post secondary school. The concept was warmly received by staff, students, and parents. We look forward to the impact this initiative will have on helping students make the transition to post secondary school. E mentoring has a facebook group if this interests you. Please note that UBC e mentoring was selected as a winner in the a winner in the Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning competition
Off to check out the grad fundraiser at the gym. Until next time…