Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Day with the Amazing Sue Gower!

I honestly do not know anyone whose level of enthusiasm and passion rivals that of Sue Gower. She left us with filled with the hope and commitment to do what it takes to impact student learning.

Professional Learning Community: A Journey that we will Embark on at BBCS The framework to guide us will be:

A. Focus on learning: impact on students

1.What is it that students need to learn and be able to do? (Essential learning outcomes)

2.How do we know they know it? (Common formative assessments)

3.What are we going to do if they don’t get it? (interventions) ie pipe cleaners as a learning strategy for teaching DNA

4.What are we going to do if they already know if? (Enrichment))

B. Collaborative culture: Work with other teachers. Together we’re better!

C. Focus on result. What does our data tell us?

Some Mantras to Live by:

Have high expectations for all kids

Challenge what we believe about student learning!

No longer accept the racism of low expectations!

The Big Six Shared Mission, Vision, Values and Goals: Let it flow from your lips and heart

Collaborative teams

Collective Inquiry

Action Orientation, Experimentation

Commitment to Continuous Improvement

Results Focused – takes 2-3 yrs for change. It must be how we live, learn, and work. Attendance is crucial PLC at the school level.

The school and community develops and talk about our mission, vision, values, and goals

The school uses data to identify the greatest area of need (GAN)

The school follows the framework of PLC to address the need(s)

A PLC oriented school

A focus on process: to monitor, to intervene…

A way of thinking

A way of focusing our work

A way of living, of interacting,

imageBig ideas

Learning.

Teachers work together

Kids learn because of what we do

What it looks like:

People working collaboratively

Considering essential knowledge and dispositions for students

Using assessment data to determine next steps

Believing that evidence can inform us.

PLC as a way to meet: Around a common purpose, collaboratively, To seek new ways to teach, learn, assess.  To recognize the importance of engagement

Constantly ask ourselves: What is our purpose? What do we hope to achieve? What are our strategies for Improving? How will we asses our efforts collectively?

The commitment I will make as a principal:

To participate in PLC groups to go through the journey

To provide time for teachers to meet regularly

To establish lead teachers to be the keepers of the agreed upon norms

 

 

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Gratitude…

Gratitude…

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a
rather large amount of Gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Being so immobile as a result of my broken ankle has provided me with more time to think and ponder… I recognize how humbled and grateful I am for all the big and small things that so many people have extended to me. It has been truly amazing. I am so grateful!

Minutes after I stumbled off my decrepit sidewalk, many of my wonderful teaching staff and the husband of one of my teachers, an off- duty paramedic neighbour were at my side and many remained with me until the ambulance arrived an hour and a quarter later. Some helped load me onto the ambulance as the entrance is sloped in a terribly illogical way and it was a difficult maneuver. Over the next couple of day, they visited me at the hospital to ensure that the upcoming whole staff events would run smoothly in my absence. I was on serious narcotic painkillers while I waited to be air-ambulanced out but I somehow managed to maintain what I think were reasonably coherent conversations.

In my absence, the day long orientation day to Koeye went incredibly well. It was apparently a perfect day weather-wise and many teachers new to this area were overwhelmed by the beauty and the pristine area. They are traditionally barbecued fish done on cedar sticks and observed whales as they travelled on the boat.

DSC_0008

The pro d day on Kagan Cooperative strategies, by all accounts, was a “shot in the arm” to teachers. Many have reported how successful the strategies have been in their classrooms.

Since i have been home, unable to get around very easily, I have had so many of my staff bring us, dinners, cake pie, and many well wishes. Delicious food! I plan to host a dinner of sorts when I am on my two feet as an expression of my gratitude.

One person in particular has been by my side throughout this entire event. My husband Vic has done absolutely everything since I returned home from my surgery. He has done everything from helping me to find the courage to maneuver my way in and out of our house on the sidewalk which I tripped off to bringing me tea and pillows to elevate my leg at the end of a work day and everything else. All this as he returned to work full time last week to replace a position that was vacated by a teacher. After I am on my two feet and the new teacher is hired, he will need a vacation.

I haven’t missed a day of work and I manage to get around with my wheelchair and crutches at school. I am still able to cruise the hallways to hustle high school kids to classes and I make every effort to greet the students when they arrive to school in the morning and after lunch. Many of the primary children automatically come over to give me a hug and offer to push me through the hallways on my wheel chair. One will push while another walks beside me to be the eyes for the one in the back. Intermediate kids simply want to walk beside me and get the gory details of how I broke my ankle. High school kids simply smile shyly and acknowledge my greeting. I realize my limits of being wheelchair bound but I can still do what matters most and that is to make daily connections with students and staff.

My heart is filled with gratitude and I long for the time when I will once again be mobile and independent, but I have discovered the goodness and kindness of people over these four weeks and I am grateful for it.

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Welcome Address to the BBCS 2013 Open House

(This my original  speech which I adapted because our sounds system was not accessible)

I want to tell you how pleased I am that you are here. It is important for us to have the opportunity to meet often. I want to hear about the hopes and dreams you have for your children and how we can work together toward those goals. I appreciate your presence and your attention as I go over some information that I want to share with you.

But first, take a moment look around you at the beautiful gym that we are seated in and think about how beautiful the school looked as you walked through the Eagle Head entrance. This is the result of the intense renovations that have taken place over the past year or more. This gym was unavailable for much of last year, so we are thoroughly enjoying its use and look forward to the eventual completion of the remaining renovations and the replacement of windows in the office area. In all, we are in great shape. Well, the school is in great shape, I personally have a ways to go as you can see (by the air cast on my right ankle).

Let’s reflect for a moment on how we came to be in this beautiful building.
The Bella Bella Community School opened its door to students in Sept. 1977. This was a result of a lot of hard work and lobbying by a small number of visionaries who decided that they no longer wanted to send our children away from our community to attend high school. Students in the previous generation had attended residential school and their children in turn, were sent off to boarding homes in order to go beyond grade 7.

In 1973, these visionaries signed an agreement with the federal government to take control over the education of the children and the next four years were dedicated to building and staffing the school. Children no longer had to leave home in order to attend high school.

The children in our community now attend our school with a dedicated staff and classes small enough that students can receive extra assistance or enrichment if required. I would like to express my gratitude to those individuals who worked on our behalf to get us this beautiful building: Ann Housty, Bradley Hunt, Liz Brown, Esther Innes, Polly Waterfall, and others who also contributed to making this a reality. There were others and if you know who they are, please let me know.

The Bella Bella Community School currently enrols approximately 200 students from K4 to grade 12. Our school follows the BC Ministry of Education School Curricula offering small classes and a wide range of course offering taken in class or by distance education. Our students have every opportunity to receive extra help or enrichment as required. Their success and well-being is our most important priority and we know that is your priority as well.

The class of 2013 was perhaps one of the largest graduating class in the past 27 years. Nineteen students completed grade 12 and several of those students are now enrolled in post-secondary school on Vancouver Island. Please stop by and look at the Wall of Fame that has been installed in our foyer. Their successful completion of high school represents hard work on their behalf and it reflects your encouragement and support from home. It is also the result of the time and effort of a dedicated staff who worked with these students from nursery through to graduation.

Please know that when a child enters school, our expectation is that the child will stay with us long enough to earn a high school diploma which we call a Dogwood or an Evergreen. Please discuss these options in detail with the high school counsellor if you wish to pursue that understanding a bit more.

It is important for parents and grandparents to know that a high school graduation is not what it used to be. Yes, it is an important milestone, but nowadays getting meaningful employment and a job that pays enough to more than just get by, can only be accessed by attending post-secondary school. Our goal is to see students through to graduation, but also to provide them with the opportunity to explore and pursue a post-secondary education. That way we can have community members working in jobs that are currently filled by several outside contractors and professionals. Please spend a few minutes every now and then to discuss with your children, their hopes and dreams and what it might take to get there. This is so important. As well, work with me and my staff by keeping your expectations a weekly conversation about what is going well and what may be on their minds.

“Our mission is to develop in a just, caring, and respectful environment, students who are independent and life-long learners, incorporating our community traditions and culture with the acquisition of skills needed to succeed in both the traditional and the modern world”

The statement addresses areas that will allow students to thrive and progress and be comfortable in our traditional world and the one that they will have to exist within if they move away from this village. This statement was adopted by the Bella Bella School Board and directs us to create learning opportunities that address the needs of the students in our building.

Parents and grandparents, we have three additional goals that will guide staff in a direction that is intended to address student success. They include the following:

A. Increase Parental and Community Involvement

B. Increase Opportunities for Student Engagement

C. Create conditions that will Enhance Student Success and School Climate

We need you as parents and grandparents to help us with this. You can help us by doing the following:

Ensure your child is here regularly. When students are here, we can engage them with rich and diverse learning activities. They can be part of a guided reading group or they can be engaged in a science experiment or in reading literature exploring how others think and get around in their places in the world.

If students are away too often, gaps in learning occur and this inhibits learning. Chronic early absenteeism is a predictor that a child will struggle academically and socially in later grades. If your child is away for illness, of course, this is an exception. In that case, I would like you to call and let us know if your child can do homework or not. When students are present the majority of the time, successes are easier to meet with. The children are happier and staff is happier as a result.

I expect staff to arrive on time and I expect our students to be here on time as well. I expect high school student to arrive equipped with the tools they will need for learning: textbooks, notebooks, binders, pens and pencils. As well, i expect each child from intermediate through to high school to have their agenda books with them at each and every class in order to write down reminders such as homework.

Finally, It is vitally important that parents and teachers communicate regularly to discuss the progress of our students, your children and grandchildren. It is important for you to know that if you have questions or concerns about your child’s progress that you first discuss it with the teacher. That is your first line of communication and the most important one to maintain.

You should have received in the mail, a parent-student handbook. If you did not receive one, please pick one up. It contains information about the policies and school procedures.

Parents and grandparents. I know I can count on you to be our students’  biggest cheerleaders –  to recognize their achievements and to encourage them through some challenging times.  Encourage them to keep an open mind and to engage in learning activities within and beyond the classroom. We have a wonderful year ahead of us and I look forward to having the opportunity to talk with many of you in the months ahead.

Walas gayasixa!

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On The Eve Of Another School Year

Back to School!

I love my job! I really do! It’s exciting to be at the helm of a school that is charged with the responsibility of making learning meaningful and reflective of the culture of the community but yet cognizant of the need for students to be able maneuver within both a traditional Heiltsuk lifestyle and an urban lifestyle. Our mission statement speaks volumes about this mandate.

“Our mission is to develop in a just, caring, and respectful environment,
students who are independent and life-long learners, incorporating our
community traditions and culture with the acquisition of skills needed to
succeed in both the traditional and modern worlds”

In an unfettered way, what does it mean to be an independent, life-long learner? Does it mean being very self-directed in that one knows exactly what ones wants in life and has identified a pathway? Or does it mean that one has very good problem-solving strategies? Does one identify one’s self as a lifelong learner or is that just a reality of our modern world, a world that requires us to be lifelong learners so that we can figure out ever-changing technology? This at a time when I am still learning some of the ancient technology that has been part of Heiltsuk way of life forever. Indeed the mission statement brings with it, a need to be collaborative and inquisitive as we forge ways to do justice to the mission statement and create plans to engage students in suitable learning activities. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

When I couldn’t have been busier getting ready for school for my first stint as Principal, I tripped and stumbled off the sidewalk beside my house. I broke my ankle in two places and eventually had to be ransported by air-ambulance to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver for surgery. It was an ordeal and one that will keep me off my right foot for six weeks. Teachers in Bella Bella live in teacherages all around me and so several, in fact, most of them were gathered all around me within a few minutes. I lay there for an hour and a quarter under the care of a wonderful off-duty ambulance attendant, the husband of one of my teachers. I waited for the only ambulance in town as it was already busily transporting two patients to and from the hospital.  The overwhelming feeling of  frustration and powerlessness remained with me until the pain took over.

I spent two evenings in the local hospital before I could be air-ambulanced out and became very familiar with evil side effects of narcotic pain killers. The staff at RW Large Memorial Hospital were amazingly attentive and caring. Upon my return to the community, they helped me to shift to a regime of pain killers which do not make me ill or lethargic.  I am so grateful to them, all of them!

Lions Gate Hospital treated me very well as well. I had very caring and attentive care from nurses who are simply run off their feet with the demands of several patients either waiting for or recovering from surgery. I should say that hospital food is simply hospital food, but I did enjoy the muffins and the sincere efforts they took to ensure my comfort.

After having a rented wheel chair flown up at great expense, I can go back and forth to school with the help of my wonderful husband. It means that I have to work up  my courage up to go up and down stairs in my rental home on ancient crutches and cross a sidewalk that is in an extreme state of disrepair. I get around in the house with a borrowed walker the rest of the time. My confidence is building but I shall tread gently to ensure my self-preservation. Could that be the lesson from all this?!

Needless to say, my part-time office will be my living room as for otherwise healthy two-legged staff members, it is about a two minute walk from the school. My brand new vice principal and I have had several meetings here and he doesn’t seem to mind that Eddy, our Chihuaua-Corgi insists  on sitting in on the  meetings on Derek’s lap.

I was unable to attend two August events that I organized in June. Teachers loved the Staff Orientation at Koeye and now have a better idea what our region, the Great Bear Rainforest offers to the Heiltsuk and to visitors. The Qqs Society has many strong, well-established relationships.http://www.qqsprojects.org/koeye_camp/index.html And is a site worth checking out.

The following day, teachers enjoyed a day with Darryl going over a range of Kagan cooperative strategies and so far, teacher reports on the day have been highly favourable. A sample handout may serve as a handy reference for teachers http://www.tvdsb.ca/webpages/msurti/files/cooperative%20learning%20structures.pdf. Thanks to the FNESC staff members who made this happen.

Tomorrow is the first day of school and I will be there to greet the children, welcome parents, community members, chiefs, leaders, elders, and my staff to a new year, a year that will see yet another group of students graduate from high school and a brand new cohort begin their educational journey in kindergarten.

Ours is a rich and determined history as prior to 1977 students such as I had to go off to the city if we wanted to complete high school. It was a terribly trying time for a generation of children whose parents had known residential school and its impacts. Today, our students can remain with loved ones in a familiar community and attend school as any other child in an urban setting. Our school is central to this community and we take our jobs very seriously.

It has always been a pleasure for me to greet the children and their parents as they arrive to school each day. Expect to see me in my wheelchair until I can put weight on my right ankle.

I look forward to tomorrow when I can spend time with an eager staff, a staff who have already formed significant  professional and social connectiions with each other.  They are  eager to begin a year that they know has already had some challenges.

Our office has no windows because of vandalism and at least one  classroom is without a smartboard until it can be replaced, but everything else is in place and ready to go! The elevator doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, but I will manage somehow…

Happy New School Year everyone! I hope to see many of you lining the streets in the morning to welcome our Sasum to another school year!

Let me know how your start up goes…

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