Archive for September 29, 2013

When You Know Better You Do Better



I am fired up this month as I am hard at work on something I have been dreaming of, hoping for and believing in for more than FIFTEEN years. I have been collaborating with some talented Parkland School Division educators, including Diane Lander, Leah Andrews and Scott Johnston, on a project that will cause us to see some BIG changes in the way we “do school” in the province of Alberta. I am so excited about the possibilities that lie ahead – I can barely find a way to explain all of this – other than to say:

When you know better you do better.

~Maya Angelou

We have known, for a long time, that we cannot get it right for our students when we try to personalize learning using a standardized curriculum that focuses on a one size fits all program of studies and when student success is narrowly defined, and more narrowly measured, by a one size fits all standardized test. We have always known that the curriculum included important skills that need to be taught to our students; however, focusing on developing these skills was difficult, if not impossible, due to an overpacked curriculum that included so much disconnected, subject specific content. It has always been far too time consuming and challenging to develop, assess and report on the important process skills contained in the curriculum. Instead, teachers have raced through the curriculum “covering” content instead of “uncovering” understanding, connections and deeper meaning.

We know better now. We know that we will never get to the important “forever skills” that will see our students find success now and in a rapidly changing world if we continue to emphasize content consumption with our students instead of content creation through the development of skills in critical thinking, inquiry, reflection and collaboration.

Alberta Education is giving us hope in the future of student learning in our province by doing something completely “out of the box”. They are looking to ¬†amazing educators who are “in the trenches” doing amazing things with students to set the direction for the redesign of curriculum in Alberta. Alberta Education is going to learn from the excellent work that is already going on in schools around the province in order to create a model for transforming education. School Divisions have been invited to apply to be part of the prototyping for what teaching and learning will look like when we are getting it right for today’s learners. This is an incredibly exciting time to be an educator in our province as the pockets of innovation in education that exist in schools throughout Alberta will have the opportunity to set the direction for how we “do school”.

I am so proud of Parkland School Division for taking the initiative to submit a prototype school proposal. I am ECSTATIC that Greystone Centennial Middle School will be named as the site for this important work if our School Division is successful in the application process.

For many of us in the world of education, we have been hopeful, for so long, that the kind of teaching and learning we know our kids need would become a reality in more of our classrooms and schools. This latest initiative from Alberta Education is a reminder to Never. Lose. Hope.

Kids Create Their Classroom

What an awesome first day of school at Greystone – so many energized kids being welcomed by an incredibly dedicated staff team who have looked after every last detail in preparing for today…name tags on lockers, colourful posters highlighting key ideas from the curriculum AND inspiring messages on walls around the rooms. All the teachers had done an amazing job creating welcoming classroom spaces for students. Well, almost all of the teachers – except for one…

His classroom walls were bare, no colourful posters, no name tags, the room was pretty empty except for some questions written on the board…


I was curious – I had to find out more. So I visited this classroom a couple of times today to watch the magic unfold – here’s what I saw…

Kids were collaborating, creating their own bulletin boards, name tags, labels for bins, classroom agreements for how the learning should happen this year. Kids having ownership of their learning space…AWESOME!

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