Monday, 6 November 2017

Connecting place and learning

If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.  Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, "the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings."
David Sobel

Schools follow curricula developed by provinces, and establish vision and strategies for learning that reflect both the curricula and the strategic mandates of school boards. A commitment our school has established as part of our vision is that our students will learn through and within the context of place - coming to know the land where they live as more than just streets they drive on to get to school, or to get to the local mall. Often, this is called place-based learning and has become a discipline of it's own to study. In the CBE we also call this Literacies of the Land. Whatever the label, connecting place and learning is how we all come to know ourselves in the world at Eric Harvie School. 

The community of Tuscany offers a widely varied landscape for our students to study, explore and use as a source of inspiration, investigation and reflection. Visits to the coulee, Two-Toed Pond and various community walks
 all mean our students have first hand experiences with nature in many different contexts. Sometimes our learning is quite scientific in nature - identifying plant and animal species or footprints, exploring habitats, wondering about food supplies - while other visits are more about making connections when we name our 'sit spots', take time to be quiet and see how we feel and relate to nature, explore colours and seasonal change. Whatever learning adventure calls us though, we are always ready to respond and get outside - even when it's weather inclement!

This fall we visited Glenbow Ranch, a legacy gifted to the province of Alberta by our namesake, Eric Harvie's family. We will visit again in the spring. While we were there, students engaged in a wide variety of activities ranging from observing, naming and exploring to measuring plants, sketching wildlife, reading maps, making bark rubbings, identifying scat, habitat and food sources, noticing landforms and geographic transitions (like prairie to foothills, river valley, wetland) and wondering about the first settlers who established homes and a small community there.  Another close-by natural experience that fosters strong connections to the land and helps children understand the land is a part of us as much as we are a part of the land.

We are using our trip to the Glenbow as a source of inspiration for our non-fiction school-wide writing assessment for all our Kindergarten-Grade 4 students. Whether we write in pictures, swirly writing or full paragraphs, students have an opportunity to reflect on their visit to Glenbow, on their connections to the place and the impact it has on their lives, the lives of animals and the lives of other humans. We have literally hundreds of photos the children took to remind us of things that might have slipped to the back of our memories, and visual journals to capture our thoughts, questions and ideas as we begin to write our images into non-fiction pieces of writing - everything from lists, to poetry to instructions and directions, as well as descriptive and scientific explorations. For our non-fiction writing, we do not need to just rely on our imaginations because we have made connections and observations, we have questions and results from our investigations - and we know the place where we live, the places where we visit, all help us become who we are in the world and how we will grow up to change, preserve and honour the planet where we live.

This is how we connect place and learning. Every day. 

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Teaching Whole Children

"It's not just what you know, it's how you think with what you know."  
(David Perkins, Project Zero)

We've been rocking the school for three weeks now, with the incredible support of the 3 Left Feet Dance Movement Creations team of Elara and Ingrid - and this past Thursday and Friday students showcased their efforts in four outstanding performances.  This was great fun for sure - but these performances also offered excellent demonstrations of collaboration, teamwork, determination, perseverance, mathematical patterning, physical dexterity, rhythm and self-discipline. Elara and Ingrid engaged the children in short, intensive instructional sessions with high expectations, strong modeling and positive encouragement - resulting, I think, in a wonderful demonstration of how school and education must consider the whole child as we plan for teaching and learning.  Imagine the challenges of trying to teach 465 children, aged 4 - 9, all of these skills independently in 3 weeks!!

In an almost 30-year career in education I have seen many, many changes in how and what teachers teach children - sometimes these changes have been significantly positive and persisted over time while other changes came and left pretty quickly! I think the most profound change, however, has been evolving over the past 10 - 15 years (at least from my perspective) as brain research has begun to recognize and show learning is not compartmentalized into disciplines or specific skills for human beings - just as we are born a whole human being, we learn best the same way. 

In fact, children (and adults) learn as much from what isn't intending to be taught in a lesson as what is - and sometimes more! Partly this is because our brains are wired to make connections all the time whether we intend to or not, partly this is because we learn from the environment, tone, presentation style and body language of our teachers and peers, partly this is because we are always learning from the world, from technology, from each other and not just in school - among other biological and neurological reasons. 

Bringing an understanding of how the brain works into the field of education has been truly revolutionary - the focus is no longer only on the content - where it certainly was when I began teaching - but requires teachers to consider how children learn and the connections they make to the world as well as how to apply, engage and question what they are learning with what they already know and wonder about. 

This has taken the focus off 'doing well' in a particular discipline and moved the focus to 'doing and thinking' regardless of topic since there is acknowledgement all learning is connected in some way

In a way, this seems to me to be an honouring of the human condition - when I think about evolution and how humanity evolved through time I am pretty confident humans learned many things at the same time as a whole being trying to survive and thrive in a challenging and perhaps hostile world. Our brains must have been able to handle a multitude of information simultaneously and capable of making snap decisions while processing many sources of data - that would, I think, mean our brains are still capable of multi-tasking and we do not need to learn everything separately.

Does that mean we never teach one thing at a time? Not necessarily - but what it does mean that as educators we need to be flexible, ready and prepared to offer learning nimbly with opportunities for intentional, direct instruction, but also with opportunities to learn through contexts where multiple skills can be developed simultaneously. The child is always whole, still part of a large world where information is constantly bombarding their brains as they try to make sense of everything. 

In other words, we all learn through as much as we all learn about - and that is an enormous change in how teachers plan for, engage students in, assess and report on learning.  

As teachers we now understand that children acquire a love for reading through their experiences with reading about adventures, science, math and history,  by asking questions and wondering - not only by learning the alphabet and decoding. They learn to love math as they play with real world math concepts and move from concrete manipulations of things like rocks and buttons through to pictorial illustrations they can create or scribble on as they count, divide and sort and finally on to symbolic manipulations, where they are curious about numbers, algorithms and formulas. Children become enthralled with science through trying out ideas, observing, predicting or hypothesizing, asking questions and wondering. They come to appreciate history through stories, explorations, experiences with artifacts and museums, looking at maps and globes, asking questions and wondering. 

And, as educators offer learning possibilities where children are learning through as much as about particular ideas, the 'whole child' also learns skills like collaboration, problem solving, empathy, generosity, questioning and a whole raft of other thinking and learning skills. Brains are engaged, bodies move, voices are heard, skills practiced and refined. Children learn how to be, how to impact, how to invent and improvise, respond and generate original thoughts, questions and representations of understanding. 

Dance programs, artist in residency experiences, field experiences, inquiries, projects, inventions, book clubs, special events - all of these learning engagements offer learning through as well as learning about as they engage the whole child in learning across a spectrum of disciplines. Learning in schools in the first decades of the twenty-first century look and sound like this because we now understand the brain works more successfully in concert (think: a symphony) rather than trying to isolate (think: a tuba). While the brain can isolate, it learns more effectively in concert. 

And so we teach the whole child.  And have great fun in the process - the best bonus of all for children is when school is fun!

Lorraine Kinsman

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

In search of a kinder world...

"Alway remember it is better to be kind than to be right."  - Jimmy Casas 

Sometimes, when your blog drops to the bottom of your do-list during the month of September, the list of possible things to write about seems overwhelming...and then suddenly it is October 3, 2017 and the events of the past four days offer only one topic that seems reasonable to write about - what can be done to make the world a little less cruel - a little more kind - than it has been these last few days?

Because I am an extremely strong advocate of peace education, I frequently say peace education is a strategy for building a kinder, more thoughtful future generation of policymakers, citizens and governance - and I fully believe this to be true. 

However, we all have to live in the world as it is now and that world seems to be increasingly more harsh, violent and intolerant of anything that is not 'right' according to personal views and perspectives. Sometimes, it can feel like "we" are all under attack from a wide variety of "different from us" folks - different ideologies, different mental states, different upbringings, different socio-economic experiences, different cultures, different colours of skin, different clothing styles, different music preferences, different beliefs about everything from taxes to religion to traffic patterns to nuclear armament. 

What can we do? What can those of us in search of a kinder world do? Yesterday, I had a discussion with my grandson about exactly this - what can we do when the whole world seems to have gone a little bit crazy?

Maybe the solution is just to re-focus ourselves - every one of us - on the word 'kind'.

I think this is going to require a grassroots movement from everyone to just stop and take a breath and think 'How can I help this situation become kinder?" 

How might the world change if every person in it just stopped and said or did one kind thing right now...what if we answered every question we were asked with 'A kind way to think of that might be..."

There are some beautiful picture books to help us share the concepts of kindness with our children and to serve as reminders to ourselves that kindness is always better than 'rightness'.   A few of my favourites are:

1) 'What Does It Mean to Be Kind?'  by Rana DiOrio & Stephane Jorisch
2) 'In My Heart' by Jo Witek & Christine Roussey
3) 'Me and Mr. Mah' by Andrea Spalding & Janet Wilson

Last night we read a picture book about kindness together, my grandson and me - being almost 11 is a good reason to still read aloud - and together we resolved to use the word 'kind' every day quite deliberately - at least twice a day. 

Maybe this will make a difference in the world, maybe it won't. But I truly believe the ripples will swell outward from these tiny pebbles of change we are attempting to toss - and one day these ripples of kindness will warmly bump up against and embrace the peaceful learners who are currently in our schools trying so hard to be the very best citizens they can be so their world will truly be a kinder place than the one they are growing up in today.

Say the word 'kind' once a day - seems like a small thing but Jack and I are going to give it a try!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

PS - And now the blog is started again for this new school year - I am delighted to be back opening Eric Harvie School for Year #2! 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Every Summer Has a Story....

As the first year of Eric Harvie School being open comes to a close, it is easy to shout

We have accomplished so many things, built some amazing relationships, played outstandingly well together, created, innovated, read, solved problems, cried a little and laughed a lot together.  We are well launched and looking forward to a long history of success as one of the newest members of the Calgary Board of Education's portfolio of schools.

There are many people to thank - the School Council and the Eric Harvie School Enhancement Society most of all for the incredible support they have offered financially, with volunteering, with insight and advice and the highest level of grace and good humour as we have embarked on this journey together. It is hard to describe the dedication of the parents who give their time and energy completely without question to everything our school has attempted to do and I would like to thank and acknowledge their efforts from the bottom of my heart!

I would also like to thank all the teachers and support staff who joined our school for the most challenging work of all - creating a school.  For a school is much more than a building - it is a culture of thinking, caring, teamwork and relationship that is grounded in the belief school is a place for students to not only learn the basics of knowledge but also citizenship and service to each other and the community. We came together as a group of individuals with widely varied life experiences and teaching backgrounds, and managed to become a cohesive unit whose primary focus is the advancement and achievement of children. From my perspective, there is no greater achievement than to serve student learning, and I am constantly in awe at the levels of commitment to children our staff bring to school each and every day - even in a first, most challenging year.  We are not the same people who started this journey - we are stronger, more courageous and committed to student learning than we ever believed possible one short year ago. And we laugh more than any of us ever thought possible too!

There are so many appreciations to be expressed for the people who make up the Calgary Board of Education - from Joy Bowen-Eyre, our Chair and local Trustee, to David Stephenson, our Chief Superintendent and Brant Parker, our Area I Director - who have all contributed so much by way of support and encouragement to the opening of our new school - to all the many, many support folks in facilities, grounds, purchasing, finance, programming, curriculum and other areas who have ensured we were well supported at every turn. No school comes together without enormous 'behind the scenes' investments of energy, time and hard, hard work and we are so greatly appreciative of everyone who has contributed to opening and sustaining our building and allowing us to accomplish amazing learning with our students.

And we could never remember year one of EHS without sending enormous 'thank yous' and lots of love to the staff, students and parents of Tuscany School who not only housed us when we were essentially 'homeless' but also nurtured us, supported us with playground fundraising and other events, cheered for us as we made our way into the new building and have remained our staunch supporters and friends.  Also a huge 'thank you' to Twelve Mile Coulee School and all the support we have received from their leadership students, Art Department, students and staff as we embark on new combined projects. Tuscany is a fortunate community to have such a strong connection between the schools that fosters relationships amongst children of all ages.

As the 2016-17 school year fades into memory, students and staff will go off on well-deserved holidays and vacations - each writing new stories even as the 'first year' story of Eric Harvie becomes part of our collective past. We need the rest, the down time and the luxury of forgetting days, timetables and commitments - it is in these lovely, lost moments we will rejuvenate and refresh and come back in September ready to create a whole new story together.

Thank you for your support, your kindness, your willingness to believe we would become an amazing place of learning from Day One. It has been a true pleasure opening Eric Harvie School as your principal and I wish you all long, warm, lazy summer days! I'll definitely be enjoying some of them myself  :)

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

Monday, 22 May 2017

STEM & STEAM: Why & What?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​"The principle goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done."   - Jean Piaget

There is no greater integrity, no greater goal achieved, than an idea articulately expressed through something made with your hands. We call this constant dialogue between eye, mind, and hand "critical thinking -- critical making." It's an education in getting your hands dirty, in understanding why you made what you made, and owning the impact of that work in the world. It's what artists and designers do.'  John Maeda, former President, Rhode Island School of Design

It is rare to wander through the Hub, Studio or Learning Commons at Eric Harvie School and not see a child creating something - it might be a prototype of a system to filter water, soil and air in some future home, or a new kind of garment to help a mother through a busy day, or a plan to write an intriguing new ending for an old, much-loved fairytale. Sometimes there are great meals being planned and concocted in the Hub's 'kitchen' or geodes smashed apart in the Learning Commons are being explored with magnifying glasses. There are often prototypes of many things - reading rooms, Rube Goldberg machines - being crafted from cardboard that morph and change several times before being re-purposed and replaced with something completely different. Creativity abounds - as does design thinking, problem solving and the application of many skills learned both in and out of school. 

Although we don't label any of our work with students as being particular STEM or STEAM-related efforts, the roots of much of our students' work lies in these initiatives, and we have been fortunate this year to have seven of our teachers involved in a pilot STEM Learning professional development opportunity that has provoked our thinking and helped us build a vision for learning that is engaging, hands-on and as generative as possible, based on student questions and curiosities. 

Merging the study of Science, Engineering, Technology and Math together to promote innovative thinking and problem solving across the disciplines is a widely researched and supported strategy for innovative thinking that has supported space exploration, advances in technology and medicine over the past half century. In schools that focus on STEM education, student learning is focused on using the scientific method in ways that can be applied to every day life, through the blending of science, technology, engineering and math disciplines into formats of learning that encourage students to use computational and critical thinking to solve real world problems. Promoting STEM learning has taken on greater significance in the past 15 years or so because it has slipped in popularity as an area of study and significantly so for girls - yet the need for skilled workers in STEM-related professions is growing exponentially around the world. What STEM teaching does is advance complex thinking and innovation with students to support continued learning in innovation within occupational and research fields such as manufacturing, technology and engineering-related fields. 

John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, noted "innovation happens when convergent thinkers, those who march straight ahead toward their goal, combine forces with divergent thinkers – those who professionally wander, who are comfortable being uncomfortable, and who look for what is real." (2012) Adding the arts to the combined study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics brings an element of creativity and greater freedom to add artistic design to innovative thinking and planning. This added bonus of creative thinking also brings the aspect of understanding situations that require innovative thinking to be considered from a humanistic perspective as well, rather than purely through the lens of science or mathematics. When the Arts are added into the equation, STEM becomes STEAM and offers a more open, flexible approach to using the scientific method, computational thinking and critical thinking to generate innovative solutions to modern problems.

Corporations and governments around the world are promoting STEM and STEAM related learning to help draw students - both male and female - to engage in cross-disciplinary, creative approaches to solving highly complex issues emerging from our fast-paced growth and development world wide.  And that is essentially the 'why and what' of STEM and STEAM.

In elementary schools, students engage in inquiry-based and real-world problem solving situations to develop an appreciation and understanding of design thinking, computational thinking and critical thinking to promote innovative, creative and hands-on approaches to thinking and learning.  As students advance through school, opportunities to engage in related STEM/STEAM learning will seem more familiar and therefore enticing and inviting to pursue as they flex their design thinking skills, understand the meaning and needs of both humans and technology behind the problems they are solving, create prototypes to meet needs and understand the processes they are crafting as essential steps impacting human growth and interactions.

While the theories and practices behind STEM/STEAM learning underpin highly technical innovations that could and will play an enormous role in the future of the children currently attending Eric Harvie School, most of our students see our work in STEM/STEAM related events as fun, practical, hands-on learning. Our new 'Wonder Time' adventures are one element of encouraging students to pursue interests and ideas outside of the everyday learning routines students usually follow while borderless access to the Studio, the provocations in the Hub and the Learning Commons offer multiple, daily opportunities to take a different approach to problem solving using every day items like cardboard, nails, hammers, elastic bands, duct tape, etc - as well as art supplies, books, paper and design tools. 

Our goal is to provide seamless opportunities for children to see the world as a strong foundation for learning as well as an infinite opportunity for asking questions and solving problems. Not a blank canvas but certainly one they can change and adjust to as it changes with confidence and imagination. And to have a whole lot of fun in learning, reading to learn, designing, writing to explain learning and creating at the same time!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Design Thinking & Wonder Time

"It starts with the students. They are the reason we teach and the future of our world. My daughter is four years old, and soon to be going through our public school system. I want her generation to have opportunities to explore, analyze and create projects that have unique meaning to each of them. Instead of answering a multiple choice test on The Great Gatsby, why can't my daughter have the opportunity to write, collaborate, sing and produce a song that explains in detail the major themes of the story. Through 20% time, we give our students a voice in their own learning path, and allow them to go into depth in subjects we may skim over in our curriculum."   -  A.J. Juliani

We often say, as educators and parents, that if we encourage students to pursue their passions they will find out what they want to do in life that will make them happy - yet their experiences are often our experiences as we offer them opportunities to play the sports we enjoy, or the musical instruments we are familiar with - even as we try to find alternatives that might pique their interest. In schools, we are guided by curriculum topics and the limits of available resources - including those parents work so hard to fundraise to provide. Finding ways to invite students to expand the parameters of their experiences within school helps us also encourage them to use tools of learning - like design thinking, reading, writing, using math skills - among many others - in real-life contexts. 

The idea of inviting students to engage in learning about a topic of their choice is not a new one - teachers have been trying to work this concept into lessons for as many years as I've been teaching - and probably for thousands of years before that - I believe even Socrates sought to engage his followers with considering issues near and dear to the challenges of life in ancient Greece! Strategies like  'show and tell' or 'Student of the Week' or 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation' all offer opportunities for students to showcase their own personal experiences for their peers and friends. And students love being in the spotlight (usually!).

20% Time is an idea that originated with Google when the company invited their engineers to devote 20% of their time at work to focus on any project they liked, no questions asked. The idea was simply that if people worked on something that interested them rather than projects that were assigned, productivity would increase. The idea has worked so well for Google that about 50% of their most popular products - like Gmail and Google News - resulted from these 20%-time projects. 

Several education researchers and teachers have co-opted the idea of 20% time as a way of deeply increasing student engagement in learning - and one name for the idea is 'Genius Hour'. We've named the concept 'Wonder Time' at EHS, and we believe providing students a designated time to delve into a topic, idea or experience they are really interested in extends into something with enhanced learning potential, and changes the focus of engaging in a personalized task into a personal pursuit of something that is significantly interesting to each child. 

At Eric Harvie School, we launched this learning strategy this month - we've been exploring the idea for several months as we have engaged in using design thinking strategies in a variety of ways, and made the decision as a staff to pilot a 4-week project called 'Wonder Time' based on the premise of Genius Hour or 20% Time. We want to see how our students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 perceive the opportunity, what level of learning they will engage in and whether or not launching a Wonder Time extends student learning and invites them to explore their world from a different perspective.

For this pilot project, teachers and support staff each identified a possible area of interest they would be willing to support a multi-age group of students to investigate without much structure. This is a considerably different perspective from most of our daily teaching where we have specific targets and goals in mind as we work with students - as well as a much wider spread of student age/ability than teachers usually work with at the same time. It is a bit of a risk for all of us - students and teachers alike! Once the topic list was generated, a google doc was used for students to indicate their top 3 topic choices to explore and then we used a simple sorting system to place students in their categories of choice. And suddenly we had 15 groups all ready to begin exploring and investigating topics of choice.

Two weeks ago, on May 5th, Wonder Time began at Eric Harvie - all those groups of children ages 5 - 9 came together at various places in and out of the school to investigate and experience topics they were personally interested in. Cooking, design/building, space, fabric creations, Canada, photography - these are just a few of the topics children have begun investigating and experimenting with over the past two Fridays - and these experiences will continue each Friday through to June 2/17.  By all accounts, these have been the 'best part of the week' for many of us!

So what is actually going on when we have Wonder Time?

Children are exploring in depth ideas they might not get opportunities to explore within the designated grade-level curriculum topics, while using the competencies and skills that are in the curriculum. They are coming together to help each other, inspire each other, coach each other and also travel different paths of investigation from each other as often as they investigate things together. There are no 'tasks' or 'assignments' in the sessions but there are plenty of things to do! Cooperation, collaboration and sharing are essential as they come together with resources and sources gathered onsite, or brought from homes, or mined from teacher homes - there were no special purchases made to support our projects. Students are using ipads, cameras, sketch books, egg cartons and artifacts they created themselves (including pizza) to document and gather evidence of their investigations and explorations. And ideas are flying all around the school - along with laughter, pride in new creations, children moving all around the school as they pursue their investigations and loads of questions, questions, questions! 

Using the design thinking principles (discovery/empathy, interpreting/defining, ideation, experimenting/prototype, evaluate/test) provides students with a framework for thinking - yet there is no expectation that students proceed through the stages in a linear fashion, for Wonder Time is about experimenting, trying, exploring as much as it is about building a prototype or testing. Could happen but might not - and whatever happens is okay ;)

We've been tweeting out some of our experiences and documenting others on teacher blogs, but the greatest source of information about our Wonder Time are the students themselves - in the telling of their stories of wonder lie the seeds of curiosity and joy that spark imagination and invitations to lives forever filled with learning.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal 
Eric Harvie School

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Literature and the Power of Storytelling

“The story is the basic unit of human understanding, and we will never understand each other and we will never understand ourselves, if we do not tell our stories every chance we get.”
James Maskalyk/Drew Dudley

"We know our literate learners and our literate learners know themselves." - Dr. Frank Serafini

There are so many excellent reasons to share our stories - ranging from expressing our ideas/emotions/understandings, to building empathy, to learning from each other's experiences, to enhancing self-esteem, to strengthening the development of language and ideas - I could fill this entire blog post with reasons to share our stories!

 Stories are at the heart of all the work we do at Eric Harvie School - we use stories to build our relationships with each other and to offer opportunity to listen well, experience language and find our common ground. We use stories to push our thinking, capture new ideas, question old ideas and describe our innovations. We use stories to make sense of things that seem senseless to us and to wonder about the things that make the most sense. We use stories to laugh and cry and celebrate and try on new personality qualities we didn't know we had - like bravery and curiosity and risk-taking. 

 As our first year as a school enters our final two month-wrap up zone, we are using our stories to amplify the learning journey we have ventured on together this year. We have shared so many wonderful stories - picture books, novels, non-fiction texts, news articles, tv clips, movies - the ones we shared AND the ones we made together, youtube videos, cards, oral stories - that we wanted to find a way to capture them all and celebrate them together with our families. We have some exciting adventures in storytelling ahead of us for sure!

Our first adventure with sharing the power of literature and storytelling begins this Tuesday, May 9th, with our Student Led Learning Walk #2. This learning walk is focused on the curricular mandate " ‘Literature is used to advance student learning across the disciplines”.  As our families join us in the school gym, there will be beautiful examples of our work - evidence that literature and stories are helping us make sense of our world and how to best function as agents of kindness, generosity of spirit and changemakers. There will be evidence of solid teaching based on the latest and most effective research; evidence of how students are learning in different ways and evidence of the tremendous growth in reading, writing and applying critical thinking to learning students have experienced this school year.  As Serafini noted - we know our literate learners and they, in turn, know themselves.

Our next adventure in storytelling has really already been launched with the introduction of Jeff Stockton to our children.  Jeff is a master storyteller himself and he is also skilled at supporting the youngest of learners to become vocal, powerful storytellers in their own right. Over the next eight weeks, students will be gathering together as well as independently to capture, render and share their stories in a wide variety of storytelling styles and genres - capturing all the adventures shared and experienced in our first year at EHS. We are excited, a little nervous and captivated by the possibilities of our risk-taking - how amazing can we really be if we take the time to shape and craft our stories with care and attention?  We think:  PRETTY AMAZING!

To finish this blog entry, I would like to quote Frank Serafini one more time:

"Because of the pressure from federal and state legislatures to raise test scores, public school classrooms may become places where children learn to read well enough to score higher on standardized tests, but may not be places where you learn to love to read, discover great authors and pieces of literature, or learn how to read in order to succeed in the “real” world.

…Reading instruction in schools should develop students’ passion to read, support their engagements with texts of all sorts, and encourage them to become lifelong readers capable of fully participating in a democratic society…."

This particular passage caught my attention because I believe it honours the enormous work of school - to educate for life, not just for test scores. Students need to know reading is a strategy for storytelling and story sharing, that reading also allows us to to understand the world and helps the world understand us, that we all have amazing stories to share and that becoming lifelong readers - story tellers - story receivers - story shapers - is the only true way for us to successfully support each other in a social world.

We have literature. We have each other. We have stories. And voices. And courage. We are all storytellers :)

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Public Education: A rich, contextual landscape!

The shelf life of knowing just facts is becoming increasingly short; what one can do with those facts has longevity & sustainability.   - Justin Tarte

Public Education offers students and teachers one absolutely amazing gift: the world. 

Over the past couple of months, I have been privileged and honoured to attend 10 Grand Opening Celebrations for new schools in Calgary, as one of the principals opening a new school too. I have been blown away by the quality, diversity and incredible creativity offered at each of these celebrations and delighted to witness the rich, contextual landscape of music, art, athletics, drama, literature, cultural representation and student engagement. Public Education is alive and thriving, bringing the world to our doorstep. 

It seems we too often focus on the latest budget that never has enough, or the lesson that did not work as planned, or even the student whose needs we know we are not meeting - yet. These are the pieces of public education that often keep us awake at night. But it is the beautiful diversity of learning, the rich experiences our students bring alive every day in so many unique ways that inspire, validate and invite us to continually invest our hearts and energy into the future - into Public Education.

I might be an oddity, but early on in my teaching career, one of my mentors encouraged me to write my personal vision statement for being a teacher.  I did - and have continued to update and refine that vision many times over the span of 27 years. This year's version states:

"My vision as an educator is to ensure every child knows they are capable, loving and lovable. That each child develops the capacity and personal awareness to advocate as needed for themselves and others in order to promote considerate, effective and appropriate life practices that will make the world safe, comfortable and interesting for each and every person. And that each child develops the skills, strategies and interests to pursue a life filled with learning, adventurous experiences and personal collaborations that bring them joy, challenge and a sense of fulfillment." 

I re-visit my vision periodically and I do know it has changed dramatically since that first year when it was very much focused on helping Grade 5/6 students learn to read and not much beyond that. Fortunately, my career has taken many turns since those early days as well, and that has expanded my perspectives as well. But re-visiting my personal vision statement as an educator each August helps me stay committed to the principles of public education - high quality, free and inclusive opportunities for every child to grow to their full potential. 

Every day I have the great good fortune to witness and celebrate the incredible richness public education offers students in my own school - and sometimes I get a lovely opportunity to share the same in other schools as well. I appreciate the valuable learning experiences my own children lived in their schools and those my grandchildren are immersed in today. We often say schools are our future but they are so much more - they are our connection points with the world as it is today, where we invest our best efforts to make sure there is understanding, expression and innovation to enhance today as well as the future. 

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal