Archive for School Vision and Planning

It Takes a Village … to Build a Playground!

As anyone who has ever been involved in imagining a new playground at a school can attest to it is a marathon, not a sprint!

Several years ago the parent fundraising society – F.O.G.S. (Friends of Greystone Society) began the journey to build some new playground structures at Greystone. They envisioned a place that students in middle years would want to play on, be active, visit and enjoy for years to come.

Then came the planning, the budgeting, and the fundraising, oh the fundraising. Casinos, bake sales and everything else you can imagine went on in order to make the vision a reality. Many families contributed to these fundraising opportunities, and without the support of fundraisers and the community, this playground would never have become a reality.

Now we’re on the homestretch — the building phase. We have had some incredibly dedicated organizers and volunteers who have come out and put in hours of organizing and back-breaking labour in order to create a new play structure for GCMS. We have also had the support of numerous local businesses through donations and discounts that have made this project possible.

The build dates have been postponed from time to time, the weather has been chilly, the ground has been muddy — but the playground is coming together with the help from so many members of the GCMS village. It is going to be so wonderful to see our students being active and playing on the new equipment, that wouldn’t be there if not for the committment and hard work of the community.

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Good-bye to an Incredible School Community!

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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
– Lao Tzu

An inspirational teacher, colleague and friend shared this quote with me a few years ago and said that it spoke to the kind of leader I have been at Greystone Centennial Middle School. This, for me, was the ultimate compliment as it so accurately represents what I believe strong leadership is all about.

As the last days of this school year wind down and I think about leaving the school that means so much more to me than just a place where I show up to work each day, I do know that it is the right time for me to go. I know that my work at Greystone is done, I know my aim is fulfilled and I hope that this amazing school community feels that they all contributed to what we have created together and that they can proudly say “we did it ourselves” …because they did!

I am grateful for an incredible opportunity that came my way when I was selected to be on the Administrative team that opened Parkland School Division’s brand new Middle School. We were invited to dream big and create a place that believed in the promise of our young adolescents. This was to be a school that was responsive to the unique developmental needs of this age group. Our ultimate goal was to design a place where teenagers felt a sense of belonging and would be intellectually engaged in important, meaningful learning. This was definitely no small task we were undertaking. We were filled with excitement as we designed and built a school community from the ground up. “Greystone Centennial Middle School…built on a dream, powered by an Inferno.”

Ten years later, we have learned so much. We have taken risks, made mistakes, improved and grown. We have questioned old ways of doing things, we have tried new approaches, we have faced tragedy and we have continued to move forward and get better. We have not stood still; we have not stopped challenging each other and our work, all in an effort to get it right for our kids.

Through it all, we have learned lessons about what is really important…and that is, none of us is in this alone. There is so much energy, opportunity for support and ability to innovate, when we work together – when we draw on the unique strengths that each of us brings to the school community.

This school community has taught me so much about resiliency, compassion, patience and continuous learning. Daily, I am reminded about how blessed I am to be doing what I love with people I love – a huge shout out to the staff, students and families of Greystone Centennial Middle School. I know you will continue to serve as a shining example for what it means to be a school community that provides everyone with a place to belong, a place that inspires curiosity and a place that holds high expectations for deep, relevant learning.

Once again, I am grateful for the next incredible opportunity that has come my way. I am looking forward to continuing with my own learning as I explore my new role as Parkland’s Divisional Principal of Innovative Leadership and Learning. I know that I will be leading and learning alongside some amazing people and I can’t wait to see where our work together will take us.

Putting Passion into the Learning

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Kathy Kennedy has been teaching at Greystone for the past nine years (minus a couple of maternity leaves along the way). I have had the privilege of working with Kathy even before we both came to Greystone. Over all of these years spent working together, I have watched her become an exceptional learner, leader and teacher. As a mom, she shares an important perspective that contributes to her deeper understanding of each learner in her classroom. She is a dynamic, thoughtful, FUNNY teacher and her students love her!

2013 – 2014 School Year Reflection

Wow!  What an incredible and challenging year it has been for me professionally and personally.  As the summer of 2013 ended, I came into this school year excited to get back and continue my learning and strengthen my teaching from the previous year.  I had learned so much about teaching and learning, from my oldest son and my students.  I couldn’t wait to continue to strive for putting passion into the learning (like we successfully did last year with our 9/11 Inquiry project).  Why?  My biggest fear is that one day my son will come home from school and tell me he hates it!  It is with this fear, I continue to challenge the “old school” methods of teaching/learning and consistently reflect on what I want to see for both of my sons in the future.  I want them to learn because they want too, not because they have too.

I started off the school year with the focus on building relationships with my students and their respective families; to create a classroom environment where every student was comfortable to make mistakes and learn from them, and to find something this year that would emotionally invest my students in their own learning.

After building the foundational routines and expectations needed and getting to know my students and their academic and social/emotional needs I became very frustrated.  Unfortunately, with the system we had in place, I knew I wasn’t meeting the needs or even building the relationships with the grade 7’s like I wish I could.  We had 5 grade seven classes, and it felt like we were herding them from class to class like cattle.  I was teaching two grade seven classes Language Arts and three grade seven classes Social Studies – there was no room / time for curriculum integration, team-teaching, deeper learning inquiry projects, etc… because of our schedule. The focus of our teaching became content vs. skills because the variety of learners I had in one room was so difficult to plan and prepare for.  For example, I had reading levels in one room that began at a grade two reading level all the way up to a grade nine reading level.  Choosing literature to study in my class became very challenging, as I knew for some it would be way above their level and for others not academically challenging enough. 

After much discussion with our staff (as I wasn’t the only one frustrated), we decided to make a very bold change – to group our students based on their learning styles and skills they need to develop in the areas of literacy and numeracy.  This would allow us to be more flexible and target the learning to the specific skills students needed to work on / develop.  We changed our schedule, and every teacher in grades 7,8, and 9 became a numeracy and literacy teacher.  It was from these changes that I have learned the following:

1)     How to collaborate!  Up until the changes, I really only had to collaborate with my teaching partner, Lynn.  We both are Humanities and very similar in our teaching practices… naturally it was easy!  As soon as the changes happened, I quickly learned that collaborating with 5 other teachers for our Numeracy, Literacy, and Social/Science inquiry was extremely difficult.  There just was never enough time, and we found our meetings full of conflict and frustration.  After Spring Break, things changed, and we started to learn to pull out and rely on each other’s strengths and use them to be productive within the time limits we had.

 

2)     Emotional investment from a student does not have to exclusively involve exciting content to learn.  Last year, I left the year thinking it did (due to our 9/11 project), but I have learned this year that most students will also become emotionally involved if they are feeling success!  An example of this is with my Math class.  Before the changes, there was a student in my homeroom who hated math.  Now, with going at a pace she needs, breaking it down for her understanding, etc… she comes each day to class and is emotionally involved in her learning.  How do I know this?  She comes to class with her homework consistently complete, puts up her hand to give an answer (something she never did before), and has also told me that she likes Math class now.   Her “buy in” is not because she loves fractions, including adding or subtracting them, it is because she is feeling success! (By the way, this is only one example of the many in my room).

 

3)     Feedback, Feedback, Feedback!  For a student to also become emotionally involved in their learning, they need the chance / time to fail and also take risks; they need to know clearly what the expectations are for any given task, and they also need to understand what the purpose is.  Through modelling, practicing and getting formative feedback quickly, I have learned that students’ quality of work increases dramatically.  For example, Lynn and I have spent, literally, 6 months working with our students to make strong connections to something they have read to a personal experience, another text, or the world.  We began by modelling it with our class (we did it with 3 different short stories), then we allowed them to practice it with a read aloud (which we provided teacher and peer feedback), and finally we have now had them practice on their own through two different novel studies.  Through both of these novel studies, we have also continued to give feedback, and have had many discussions within our classroom about how we can make them even better.  I am astounded by the quality of work and level of thinking our students are demonstrating… it is way higher than I ever imagined!  In previous years, I would never have spent so much time on one significant reading skill, but today I feel every moment was worth it for my students.  Feedback and the time to learn / build upon mistakes allowed our students to feel successful; therefore, they also become more emotionally involved in their learning.

 

4)     I love looping!  For a teacher who knows they are going to teach the same group for two years, the investment and time building relationships and expectations with students and families becomes much more worthwhile.  Not only that, but we also have the time to really focus on the skills our students need to be successful (vs. content), and be able to take the time (not rush) to build these skills so our students are better prepared for their academic futures.  I loved that as an LC 7 team, we have really spent the time “training our troops,” as it is going to make the beginning of next year flow more smoothly!

Although it has been a very challenging year (with all the changes, teaching multiple subjects not necessarily in my comfort zone, etc…) I have enjoyed looking back and reflecting on the positive learnings that have happened for me as a teacher versus the negative struggles we have gone through!  I am looking forward to continue learning next year, and hopefully continue to help with the push to change our approach to student learning and curriculum re-design!

Walking the Talk ~ Teachers as Designers

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It’s been a while since I have felt so inspired that I needed to capture my thoughts, in the moment, following a NEW experience that I have been involved in.

The last few months have been engaging, exciting and have provided me with many experiences that have reminded me, daily, about what I love in my work – connecting with kids and community. There have been SEVEC Student Exchanges, a Sun Run Trip and a conference with my awesome school leadership group – Design Team; however, these are all experiences I have had before – nothing has really ignited a spark in me to reflect, write and share…until today.

Today was different. I decided it was time to walk the talk…be a risk taker, do something that was outside of my comfort zone, something that intuitively felt right.

Last week, Greystone’s Design Team attended the IDEAS 2014 Conference at the University of Calgary. A highlight for us was participating in Ewan McIntosh’s Design Thinking workshop. This workshop provided us with the opportunity to experience a step-by-step process which taps into the creativity, innovation and design thinking capacity that each of us possesses. The whole process is something we experienced as learners and it helped us to explore how we could and would use it with our students to build their capacity for developing these important competencies. I left the workshop, completely inspired, wondering how to bring this to all of our learners (students AND staff) at Greystone.

Timing is everything. Today, six days after participating in the Design Thinking workshop, our scheduled Professional Development Day took place. With the learning from last weekend, fresh in the minds of our Design Team, Greystone’s Assistant Principal, Jesse McLean, and I decided that we needed to apply our new learning to our school context. Today’s Professional Development Day was devoted to School Education planning for next year. Instead of the usual data review and collaborative work to determine what we needed to start/stop/continue in the lengthy, existing School Education Plan and Annual Education Results Report, we decided to work with staff on the Design Thinking process to create the “Best Year of My Life” for the 2014-15 school year at Greystone.

It was THE MOST ENGAGING School Education Planning experience I have been a part of…EVER!!! The feedback from the staff supported how I was feeling. Not only was today’s work engaging for our staff, but it also provided them with the opportunity to learn a process for how to be “designers”, an experience which we can work to develop with our students.

We ended our session this morning by getting the staff’s advice on next steps. They suggested that we post all of the work from the morning to continue to get feedback from each other on the ideas that were “sketched up” this morning. I am looking forward to taking their ideas to our Design Team and pulling them together into a plan for our work next year. Stay tuned, I know there will be more on this in the weeks to come…

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Action on Inspiring Education – Let’s Go Already!

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I listened to a passionate Greystone teacher, Jenna Wilkins, describe her frustration with all of the talk that is going on around the province about Inspiring Education, the Ministerial Order on Student Learning and Curriculum Redesign. It’s not that she is opposed to any of this. In fact, the opposite is true. She is so keen about all of the talk, but in only her second year of teaching, she is already frustrated with the lack of ACTION.

Welcome to my world, Jenna! After 29 years as an educator, working in a system that moves forward with painstaking slowness, I sometimes wonder how I managed to keep optimistic and hopeful while swimming upstream in my push for positive change. The traditional educational structures are solidly in place, the political pressure to maintain the status quo is strong and the fear that is created among the community when we talk about trying new ways of doing things that are aligned with current research about learning is very real. Change feels uncomfortable while tradition feels safe.

How, then, do we make the new vision for student learning, that is shared in our province’s Ministerial Order, a reality in our classrooms and schools?

We turn talk into action by understanding and valuing the idea of innovation. Innovators create new ways of doing things by asking great questions, playing with ideas, trying things out, reflecting on experiences and failing…often! These are exactly the kinds of skills we want our students to develop. So why aren’t we allowing ourselves the same kind of opportunities as the ones we want to provide for our students? Schools need to become places where we, the adult learners, are supported to take risks, try new initiatives through small scale pilot projects, learn from mistakes and then share the learning with others.

Simon Breakspear describes the process well:

We have had lots of opportunities to prototype innovative practices for our learners at Greystone. Some of the ideas we have had success with are:

  • looping
  • flexible block scheduling
  • student collaboration
  • staff collaboration
  • co-created student project work
  • team teaching in flexible learning spaces
  • common team planning/feedback time
  • student led conferences
  • student generated rubrics
  • formative assessment practices
  • competency based report cards
  • inquiry based learning
  • staff book studies
  • Bring Your Own Device Initiative
  • Innovation Week
  • alternative classroom design
  • flexible groupings for targeted instruction in Literacy/Numeracy

We continue to be a work in progress with these and many other initiatives at Greystone. We are still, and always will be, refining and improving upon our practices. We know that taking action, before recognizing clearly what the final result will look like, is a necessary first step in the innovative process. While we don’t jump blindly or carelessly into new initiatives, we also understand and value the process of exploring different ways of doing things that are aligned with our vision for student learning, through trial and error, reflection and sharing. I just hope that Alberta Education is prepared to support this kind of innovative practice in all schools around the province so that action will be taken to make the vision of Inspiring Education a reality for our students.

Why Not?

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This past month at Greystone was spent adjusting to a pretty significant change we made to our program delivery model. After many conversations with individual teachers, grade level teaching teams and our entire staff during Professional Growth Plan Meetings, after school Faculty Meetings and Professional Development Day conversations, we decided to “blow up” the time table and organizational structure for our Learning Communities in grades 7, 8 and 9. This change was to answer our question:

Why are we doing things that don’t feel right for our kids?

Due to our increased enrolment at the beginning of this school year, we added additional home room classrooms at each grade level in 7 through 9. Doing this caused our teachers to become subject discipline specialists and instead of having larger blocks of time to focus on deeper learning, ensuring success for ALL learners and providing meaningful integrated inquiry projects, teachers were moving kids through their classes, on the traditional “conveyor belt” with a focus on content delivery as opposed to student understanding and success.

We needed to figure out a better way forward. The questions then became:

Why not?  Why not change this so that we can put students first? Why not figure out a way to meet the individual learning needs of our diverse learners? Why not take as much time as we need to help students who are struggling to learn concepts and skills? Why not give those students who need more of a challenge to extend their learning the opportunity to do this? Why not try something that we haven’t done before and see if our students are more successful?

Teachers, who are already extremely collaborative, worked together to re-organize students into flexible groupings designed to target instruction in the areas of Literacy and Numeracy. We switched the schedule up and provided additional collaborative planning time. So far, although it is very early on, we are noticing some positive results. We are seeing students feeling more supported, successful and for those learners who need the extra push, they are feeling more challenged.

This change has not been easy for our teachers. They are expected to teach new skills that they are not familiar with; however, they are a driven and dedicated group who, with the support of each other, our Learning Coach, our Inclusive Education Lead and our Administration Team, are working together to get it right for our kids.

Early feedback from students, teachers and parents has been positive. A recent survey of our parents provided us with comments like these:

I think that separating into specialized groups for instruction for math and reading is a great idea. It will provide more one on one help for those kids who struggle and provide more challenge for those kids who need to be challenged.

The concept of having classes to teach at a student’s pace of learning, instead of just going through the curriculum based on the calendar is something I feel very supportive and pleased about. I feel that this will be a great system to ensure children receive the curriculum in a way they can understand and flourish.

I feel that Greystone strives to ensure my child is successful individually. The staff has worked as a team to ensure we are aware of any challenges and listen to our views as well.

I really like the new way they have made the classes since January. The teachers are all great and easy to talk to. The staff at Greystone is very dedicated and we really appreciate all the extra work they put in.

We haven’t got all of this figured out just yet but we will keep asking the right questions. Should we make changes to what we are doing if it is in the best interest of our learners…why not?

Leading Innovation = Vulnerability

I am excited about the future of education in our province. The new Ministerial Order on student learning and the work taking place around Inspiring Education and Curriculum Redesign means that our schools will see us focusing on helping our students develop these competencies:

 

This transformation of education will require courageous leaders in classrooms, schools, and districts who are ready to do things differently, explore new possibilities and risk making mistakes – not an easy thing to do in the world of public education. However, leading change, growth and innovation require that we step out of our safe, comfortable traditions and recognize that we need to be vulnerable in order to learn and grow together.

In his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes,

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable…It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Brene Brown writes about vulnerability in her book Daring Greatly .Brown shares how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. She describes how successful leaders get their people to engage and take ownership not by telling them to do something but by letting them come into the idea in a purpose-led way. Brown states that the job of the leader is to create the space for others to perform. This shift is from “having the best idea or problem-solving” to “being the best leader of people”. It’s a shift from controlling to engaging with vulnerability – taking risks and cultivating trust.

Brown shares that the way to develop an innovative “daring greatly” culture is to make the organization a place where honest, constructive, and engaged feedback is valued.  Brown states:

Where there is no feedback, there is no transformative change. When we don’t talk to the people we’re leading about their strengths and their opportunities for growth, they begin to question their contributions and our commitment. Disengagement follows.

Brown shares that this kind of culture is difficult to create, but not impossible. She suggests that feedback and growth thrive in a culture where the goal is not “getting comfortable with hard conversations” but normalizing discomfort. If leaders expect real learning, critical thinking and change, then discomfort should be normalized: “We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it’s going to happen here – you’re going to feel that way. We want you to know that it’s normal and it’s an expectation here. You’re not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean into it.”

The work we have ahead of us as we transform education in our province is going to involve risk taking, being open and vulnerable to making mistakes in order to grow and learn. Our schools will need to be places where trust is the foundation, where instructional practice is discussed and where individuals understand that everyone is a learner and needs to be open to giving and receiving feedback to move forward. It will be uncomfortable – but if it isn’t, then what are we really learning? What are we really changing?

 

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.

Turning Vision into Action

This past school year, our Greystone Teachers collaborated on a year long process that was designed to build a shared understanding of what we should expect to see in classrooms that are meeting the needs of our learners. I have been asked by a few individuals to share what we did. Here is an overview of how our work unfolded.

As part of our yearly process of developing our annual goals for learning at Greystone, we looked at data from several sources – way back in the Spring of 2012. The data that interested most of us came from a fairly new tool we have been using – the Tell Them From Me Surveys – which provide us with student feedback. An area that stood out for us was around the intellectual engagement of our learners. In spite of all the work we have been doing at Greystone to develop our students’ skills in critical thinking and inquiry, we felt that we still weren’t getting it right. We needed to continue to make learner engagement a focus for our school…and we needed to define specific actions, strategies and ideas around what we should be doing in our classrooms to foster the engagement of our learners.

We developed an overarching inquiry question for our teachers that we revisited at each Professional Development Day the following year:

What do we believe about Learner Engagement and…

What is the evidence we are getting it right for our learners?

Not only did we revisit this question at each PD Day, we also connected it to the Vision and Mission Statements of our School Division:

Our Vision

Parkland School Division is a place where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams.

Our Mission

Our purpose is to prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community.

We talked about what it would look like in our classrooms if we were living out these words and ideas. What would we see happening in each classroom if we were putting the vision into ACTION?

Specifically, here is what we accomplished over the course of the year:

PD Day #1

We asked teachers to reflect and discuss at table groups some of their experiences from the classroom. In particular, we asked them to share specific learning tasks, projects and experiences when they felt they were successful in engaging their students. We then asked groups to brainstorm words and ideas that captured what kids are doing when they are engaged. These words and ideas were represented on large chart paper that was shared and then collected.

Design Team Meeting

A group of teachers, who represent each grade level in the school, met to review all of the ideas that were shared. After MUCH discussion and wordsmithing, a more concise list of processes/skills/competencies was created:

Risk Taking ~ Learners are persevering to grow outside their boundaries.

Creating ~ Learners are thinking, acting, and engaging with ideas to discover possibilities.

Collaborating ~ Learners are open-minded to different perspectives in order to build an interdependent learning community.

Questioning – Learners’ natural curiosity is leading them to explore deeper learning.

Ensuring Authentic Learning ~ Learners are emotionally and intellectually invested in work that is personally relevant and deeply connected to the world in which they live.

Providing Evidence ~ Learners are an active part of the assessment and feedback process to move their learning forward.

 

PD Day #2

We kicked off the morning of discussion with the following video designed to keep pushing the vision of what today’s learner needs in order to be engaged.

Future Learning

After individual reflection and group discussion of the ideas in the video, we shared the 6 key areas listed above. Using a google doc, we asked teachers to collaborate with their groups and provide examples of how students demonstrate each of the 6 key areas. We invited teachers to comment, via the google doc, on the contributions that others were making.

 

Design Team Meeting

The group looked at the google doc and decided on next steps. We wanted the shared document we were co-creating to be useful to teachers and felt that all of the ideas that were contributed at the last PD Day should be included in a guiding document; however, we also wanted an easy to read poster that would be put up in each and every classroom. This poster would serve as a daily reminder for all staff members, students and parents of what learning is about at Greystone Centennial Middle School. Design Team felt that the poster needed some specific action words that would help to clarify what each of the 6 key areas looked like in practice. Design Team decided to go back to the staff one more time and have them help with this.

PD Day #3

We started our day by looking at the learning taking place in other schools and classrooms. We looked at David Truss’s blog from the Inquiry Hub in British Columbia and we looked at a video from the Inquiry8 Program at another school in B.C. After reflection and conversation, we asked teachers to come up with 3 specific action words for each of the 6 categories. We had teachers select their favourites and defend their choices. From all of these, we established a consensus and included these in our guiding document and in our poster.

Meeting with Graphic Designer

We shared all of these ideas with a graphic designer who suggested that we include students in on the process. We asked teachers to have their students create a drawing to represent each of the 6 key areas. All of the drawings were submitted to the Design Team and they chose one student drawing for each key area. This was given to the Graphic Designer. Several poster proofs were created and shared with Design Team for feedback. After a few adjustments, we agreed on a final draft which is now being printed and will be presented to each of our teachers at our back to school staff meeting for the upcoming school year.

In addition, the guiding document was shared with all of our staff before the end of our last school year. The final version, included here, will be given out, once again, when we return to school at the end of August. We will be using it to guide our practice, as the criteria for giving each other feedback and as a reference point for establishing our Professional Learning Goals for the upcoming year.

Learner-Engagement

I am very interested in getting any feedback about how we can use this document to keep our staff moving forward together in our learning. How did we do? What else could we do to make the ideas and actions contained in this document and the accompanying poster become something that all of us bring to life in our classrooms?

 

 

 

 

Don’t You Love Surprises?

Reading this tweet from one of our creative Greystone teachers while I was away this month really got me curious…what clever prank was she up to this time?

Our Greystone staff are becoming very good at surprising each other, our students and me. Examples of the kinds of surprises we have had in the past include a whole school appreciation assembly, a piece of artwork students created for the school, a couple of flash mobs – the most recent one performing “Thriller” on Halloween, an entire classroom being relocated to the learning pod one day, and of course, the amazing success of our Innovation Week just before Christmas holidays.

When I walked into the school this past Tuesday morning, rushing to get to my supervision post, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I ended up being late for supervision because I couldn’t pull myself away from staring, in awe, at the latest Greystone surprise…

This is one of the five words that was represented by each of our five grade six classes – words that are the core of what our school is about. Each class had the task of looking around the school for images of the letters needed to make up the following words:

Synergy~Creativity~Citizenship~Exploration~Imagination

The best of the best photos were chosen, sent off to be transformed into banners and then the five banners were hung in the front foyer of our school – all done without me knowing a thing about it. I was overwhelmed with the work that went into this and so impressed that it had been a project involving an entire learning community of students and teachers.

The week ended with another great surprise – our Inferno School Assembly. This wasn’t a surprise assembly, nobody made a surprise appearance or shared a surprise performance. What surprised me was how moved I was with all of the sharing that was part of this one hour of time together and the positive energy that could be felt among our school community. Here are some highlights:

→Video of our Hair Massacure Project – created by one of our students and his parent (this year we had a record number of students participating – 140!) and students sharing their personal stories about why they got involved and how it felt to have their heads shaved (brought several of us to tears)

→Our Student Advisors sharing examples of how Synergy~Creativity~Citizenship~Exploration~Imagination come to life in their classrooms at each grade level through special projects and activities

Check out what the kids were talking about:

Learning Community 5

Learning Community 6

Learning Community 7

Learning Community 8

→Guests from Youth in Action inviting our students to join their organization and make a difference in our community (and comments like this from our guests made to me following the assembly…“your school is incredible!”)

→Pictures and videos from our SEVEC Student Exchange to Quebec got the whole school singing and swaying as the music played on in the background

→Standing ovation for our Drama Club who were amazing this week at our school’s first ever evening performance at Horizon Stage

 

 

Who doesn’t LOVE these kinds of surprises? Thank you Greystone!

 

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