Archive for April 22, 2011

School Education Planning at Greystone ~ Livin’ the Dream!

The most important way for our school community to continue to build momentum and keep moving forward in a way that sees us all working together, moving in the same direction, to provide excellent learning opportunities for our students is to revisit our school’s vision and check in on how successful we are in turning the vision into reality.  How are we doing with “Livin’ the Dream”?  Our staff had the opportunity to do this last week during our Professional Development Day as we began our School Education Planning process for our next school year.  To remind everyone of the continuous planning process I shared this prezi.




<div class=”prezi-player”><style type=”text/css” media=”screen”>.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }</style><object id=”prezi_hgotxqaupbgx” name=”prezi_hgotxqaupbgx” classid=”clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000″ width=”550″ height=”400″><param name=”movie” value=””/><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true”/><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”/><param name=”bgcolor” value=”#ffffff”/><param name=”flashvars” value=”prezi_id=hgotxqaupbgx&amp;lock_to_path=0&amp;color=ffffff&amp;autoplay=no&amp;autohide_ctrls=0″/></object><div class=”prezi-player-links”><p><a title=”Making our School’s Vision a Reality – School Education Planning 2011″ href=”Livin'”>”>Livin’ the Dream</a> on <a href=”Prezi”>Prezi</a></p></div></div>



Step one involved revisiting the vision…dreaming the dream!  This year, we asked everyone to do a little homework in order to check in with the dream each individual has for his/her classroom and school.  Teachers were all asked to jot some ideas down, in whatever way made sense for them, about what their dream classroom would be like.  We shared the Technicolor Dream Classroom Blog post as an example to get the ideas flowing.  Teachers brought their “homework” to school on our PD Day and we began the morning by having teachers share their “dream class” with their table groups.  Staff engaged in active listening by doing a first word/last word activity that gave everyone the opportunity to comment on what they heard from each colleague around the table.  The conversations absolutely blew me away!!!!  Here are a few examples of some of the  dream classroom ideas:



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April 21, 2011


Dream School Reflection



            Counterpoint to the factory model – that which values most (quantity) in least amount (of time).

This model leads to a nexus; a point whence the only thing that is not obsolete is planned obsolescence itself.


            We must choose not to create disposable goods. We are not expendable. Our students’ education is not expendable. How do we reverse this thing that exists at the core of our consumer-oriented, industrialized culture? We need to embrace that which qualifies the visceral and the authentic.  In our society, we have buzzwords that celebrate the antithesis to our factory model. Specifically, if we consider the food industry we have free range, organic, locally grown, and fair trade.


Free range: We wade through our wilderness wisely with others. With the students and parents we ought to engage the teachable moments as they arise, without fear of litigation, retribution, or other technocratic, bureaucratic suffocation.


Organic: Curiosity, Play, Creation, Problem Solving, Experimenting, Excitement, Renewal, Motivation. These are the words I take away from my best days in the School. Students engaged in activities in the Pod, Hallways,Library, Music Room, Gym, Art Room, and Classrooms have been in this state. To this end, organic ought to consider our artificial insulation from failure.


Through the organic lens, we see that:


Students must learn about failure – its consequences and opportunities.

Students play chess

Students play with lasers to learn the behavior and properties of natural light versus artificial light.

Students learn about the brain-mind connection as it corresponds to learning different concepts (as a response to such questions: why do I need to learn this) Students learn how to conduct richer investigations in social studies and science Students contribute to the world of knowledge authentically by seeking publishing, entrepreneurial endeavors, ends in which they are they`re own boss.

Students are challenged to consider the ramifications of their digital native status.

Students work beyond the confines of rigid timetables, teacher switches, etc.

Students, teachers, and parents form a tripartite agreement on the expectation: academic rigor, responsible citizenship.

Students drink tea or water in the class – they serve others before themselves.

Students take on at least one initiative that engages and elevates social consciousness across the school.

Students Blog with teachers for regular, immediate feedback on work, endeavors, and citizenship.

Negative statements and other (anti) campaigns are abolished. We focus on the solution, we dwell not on the problem.

We practice taking and giving time for self and other.

We clean our own space with pride.

We challenge each other in sport.

We sit on our favourite chairs

We check in with each other first thing, mid morning, and afternoon.

The students for whom this model does not work are provided a MYALT structure.

Religion and Politics are discussed at great lengths.

Teachers share their PD aspirations with students, families, and colleagues.

The Spelling Bee is forsaken for individualism run amok. Students are challenged to teach someone less fortunate to read.



Locally grown – Deeper understanding of who we are compared with the other in this world. (See Ted Talks, Empathy)


Fair Trade: we need to engage/connect with the other. Since the end of WWI, we have been party to a dominate culture whereby propaganda has shaped – if not determined- our perspective. Who are we when we understand our world (as it is) not according to, or through the lens of, the mythical narrative of which we are held captive through deep media saturation. We have the technology to connect with the others and learn something true about the human condition: most normal, sane people the world over just want to be happy and live a good life.

(Incendies comes to mind as a recent Canadian film that speaks to this plight.)


My critique of self here is around the notion of my moments/states compared with my evolutionary stage(s). How we move from states into stages is likely related to our sustainability as an inquiry school.


State/Stage – When we reflect on the positive, elevated states, we increase the likelihood that we will advance to the next stage.

My states – as isolated, unreflected phenomena appear manic given inconsistent Stage-oriented development. The dialectic within is my need to follow-up, tighten up, and decide upon a model of/for discipline.

I am accountable to the critical buddy as I am to the students.




It starts with self awareness on the part of the teacher:

What passion do I bring to the context of learning?

How can this be integrated?

Who benefits?


 Andrew Craig


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Mind Map created by Christy Haggarty ~ Dream Classroom

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Jessie Krefting included her “Utopia” classroom ideas on her blog ~ Helping Young Minds to Grow.


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After our everyone had a chance to share, table groups pulled out common ideas to include on large chart paper – these were then shared with the entire staff.  One of the groups labelled their ideas “Common Threads” – and it was re-affirming to see that the common threads between all of the groups were about student engagement in authentic learning that focusses on developing citizenship among our learners. 



We continued our morning by doing a “reality check” to see where we currently are in terms of school results…how close are we to “Livin’ the Dream” at Greystone.  Teachers worked in groups to look at school data and were asked to identify areas of strength and areas for growth.  We looked at Satisfaction Surveys, Alberta Education Accountability Pillars, Classroom Blogs and a new survey we have started to use at Greystone:  The Tell Them From Me Survey by The Learning Bar.  It was a lot of information to look through; however, the staff now has a good overall picture of our successes – and areas where we need to strategize on in order to show growth.  We decided to hold off on more work with this until next month as we could tell from the staff that they were drained from a heavy morning of conversation, reflection and data analysis.  We will compile their feedback to us and move forward with work on strategies and measures at our May 20th Professional Development Day.  We are also looking forward to spending time looking at Parkland School Division’s new report card next month ~ it will align perfectly with our focus on authentic learning being all about the development of process skills.  It’s an exciting future ahead with so much to think about, plan for and work on together as we keep “Livin’ the Dream” at Greystone!



Carolyn Cameron 



Making the Transition to Middle School

We have learned how important it is to support the new grade five students entering our school each year so that they feel comfortable and excited about making the transition from their Early Years School to the new world of lockers, dances, teenagers and school sports teams as they reach an exciting milestone in their educational journey…the transition to Middle School.


Our Middle School serves students from grade five through nine.  We find the grade configuration of our school provides us with an excellent opportunity to connect with students and families as we learn together for five years.  During this time, we watch our young grade five students join us with wide eyed enthusiasm and excitement as they start to mature  into young adolescents.  While they move through the grades with us in Middle School, we see so many changes in their physical, emotional and intellectual development.  In this phase of their lives, students experience huge growth spurts, emotional turmoil as they deal with the growing influence of their peers and they face challenges in trying to establish a sense of who they are and their place in the world.  


As students begin their Middle School journey, it is so important to ensure that we establish strong relationships with each of them and their families.  As a school community, we are very intentional in our efforts to provide students and families with a transition process that makes everyone feel supported.  We have established a three part process, that we continue to adjust every year,  to ensure that our new students and families all get what they need to feel secure as they move to a new school.  The process includes the following:


        1.  Visit to the Early Years Schools


The three Early Years Schools in our community feed into two Middle Years Schools.  The Principals from both of our Middle Years Schools make visits to each and every grade four classroom in our Early Years Schools to talk to our “future Middle School Students” early in the Spring.  We bring along a few grade five students to help us talk about life in Middle School.  During these visits, the grade four students have the opportunity to ask questions of our grade five students. 


The most common question about Middle School that comes up time and time again in these visits?


Locks & Lockers!!!!!!  For many of our new students, their biggest fear is that they will forget their combination and not be able to get their “stuff” out of their lockers.  After our students explain how simple the process is, grade four students are able to breathe easier. 


        2.  Open House Night



Once we have assisted students and families to establish which of the two Middle Schools they will be attending in the Fall, we hold an Open House for families.  At this event, students bring their parents to their Middle School and we gather all of them in the gym to welcome them and their parents.  We introduce our staff and we always share a performance from our school’s Dance Team.  We also showed the following school slide show.



   Our students then participated in some centres with their future teachers where they had the opportunity to visit different areas of the school to do a Science experiment, make a creation in the foods lab, play an interactive smartboard game in their future classroom and participate in an obstacle course in the gym.  While students engaged in these activities, our Administration Team met with the parents in the Library to share the following video highlighting the teaching and learning at Greystone:



We shared our schools website, including the grade level blogs and our school’s Education Plan that students helped contribute to using Glogster .  Time was spent time answering questions and collecting registration packages.


3.  Middle School Morning


The last part of our transition process provides our future grade five students with the opportunity to be a “Middle School Student for a Morning”.  We bus the grade four students into our school and they buddy up with our grade seven teachers (who will be looping down to grade five in the following school year to become the new grade five teachers) and the grade seven students.  Together they spend a morning doing activities together which are designed to build relationships with the older students while providing our young students with some time in our school to see what it feels like before they join us in the Fall. 


The last step of the process will see our new grade five students receiving a school postcard in the summer from their new teacher welcoming them to that teacher’s class at Greystone Centennial Middle School in the Fall.


We have already completed step one and step two in the transition process for this school year – so far we have heard how excited our new students are to join us in Middle School – our grade seven students are also very excited to have been part of the transition process, too!


We also look forward to welcoming our new grade five students into the school after hours later this Spring as many of them have joined our Spring League Basketball Teams consisting of grade four, five and six students – coached by our older students.  This has provided our new students with another way to get connected to their new school. 


With all of these supports in place, we have found our young students, and their families, feel  confident that their time in Middle School will be successful.  While we know that the journey through adolescence at Middle School can be challenging and there will be a bump or two in the road, when we focus on building trusting relationships between students and families as they begin with us, we know that our time together in Middle School will see us working together to make sure students leave us at the end of grade nine feeling confident and ready to take on the next transition as they make their way to High School.

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