High School Parents Can Still Be Involved!

Shauna Boyce, Principal of Memorial Composite High School, has always believed in the power of collaboration.  This is shown clearly in her latest post, encouraging parents on the many ways that they can be involved in the learning process as the high school level.  If you are interested, please take the time to visit the Memorial Composite High School (Notes from the Office) to keep up with the latest events!  Please read Shauna’s message below:

It is fairly common for parents to become less involved with their son’s and daughter’s schools as their children get older.  Often this is because it isn’t as readily evident how they can participate.  It is true, high school classrooms do not have a high need for parent-volunteers, and many opportunities to volunteer in other situations become more and more difficult to create.  And of course, there is the small but powerful desire of many students not to see their parents in the school.

That does not mean, however, that involvement in your son or daughter’s education becomes any less important.  There are ways you can be involved at Memorial Composite that reward experiences for all.

Here are a few (in no particular order):

  • Join our  School Council – School Council is a great opportunity to have input into school decisions and get direct information about what’s happening in school
  • Attend Sporting Events – our student athletes love to see the stands full of Marauder fans! Even if your son/daughter doesn’t play on the team, it’s still a great way to spend an evening for free.
  • Attend Music and Drama productions – every performance runs much better in front of a packed house!  We have some amazingly talented students here at MCHS who would love to showcase their abilities.
  • Volunteer to coach, or even drive a bus – we’re always looking for people to help out so we can offer all of our athletic programs.  If you’re not a talented athlete, perhaps you’d be willing to offer to drive a team to a game once in a while.
  • Is your occupation one that is immediately relevant to curriculum? Offer to Skype in or host a field trip in your place of work.
  • Is your son/daughter on a sports team or in music? Join the Green and Gold Society or the Music Parents’ Association – our fundraising committees for athletics and choir/band respectively.  We simply could not offer the calibre of extra-curricular opportunities we do without outside funds.
  • Do you have some construction, fabrication or artistic background?  Our Drama program will probably need assistance in set production for their performances.
  • We have a number of major citizenship events open to the community.  We hosted a very successful fundraiser for the Global Enrichment Foundation, and will soon begin to focus our efforts to raise funds for the General Romeo D’Allaire Foundation . Our first event went extremely well, but only through the amazing support of our students, staff, parents and community.  You would contribute greatly if you were able to volunteer time to prepare for our next event.

Of course, being involved does not only mean volunteering your time.  Being involved in your child’s education starts with becoming informed, thus opening the avenues of communication.

  • Touch base with your child’s teachers and grade administrator – email or phone and introduce yourself. Don’t wait until parent-teacher interviews, which by the way, are scheduled for November 4 and November 8 (5:00 – 8:00 PM).
  • Many of our teachers have facebook or twitter accounts they use to keep students updated and notify them of upcoming important dates. You can join those feeds too!
  • Read and review courses outlines your son/daughter brings home – they contain valuable information about procedures and how grades are calculated.
  • Check in about homework. Most students will have homework almost every day. Remain mindful of how much time your child spends on it and help them to balance school responsibilities with family/friends, and work commitments.
  • You can remain informed about school events and celebrations by “liking” our Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/MemorialComp or following us on twitter www.twitter.com/MemorialComp and of course, regularly checking our website www.psd70.ab.ca/schools/mchs 

The key to a successful high school experience, for parents and students, is communication.  We all want the same thing – for your sons and daughters to be happy, responsible, respectful, caring, and learned individuals. We want them to get everything they can out of high school and to achieve their potential.

I would love to hear your comments about other ways to get involved at Memorial Composite. Please feel free to add to the comment section below.

I look forward to seeing you at some of our events!

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Here we go!

Shaye Patras, a principal at Blueberry School in Parkland School Division, wrote this very detailed post on comprehensive reporting.  We have asked him to share it on our blog site and would love any feedback or thoughts you have on this post.  Thanks to Shaye for sharing his thoughts openly with our school community.  Please take time to read the post below

I am so excited for the journey that we in Blueberry School have begun to embark upon I simply have to share my thoughts.  Parkland School Division has been working for the past several years on a comprehensive reporting project which has culminated in the creation of an innovative new report card to be used within all of our schools over the next two years.

This new report card has generated much discussion with all stakeholders in Parkland School Division right from our students to our trustees over the past few years, but with implementation formally beginning this year the conversations are occurring everyday in our classrooms, offices, hallways and parking lots.  It’s exciting to see so many people focused on the education of our children.

These conversations have inspired me to share my thoughts.  It is my hope that having the opportunity to read about the journey of the Blueberry learning community might help others in Parkland School Division and beyond to understand where we are going.  I am also hopeful that I will hear from many of you with your reflections and wisdom to continue my learning.

I have been asked by many parents, colleagues and students, “Why do we need a new report card?”  While this journey for me really doesn’t centre around the report card, but rather about the significant change in teaching and learning that we are undertaking in the field of education, the new report card has served as the motivation to start our transformation in teaching, learning and reporting.

Most people would agree that we have changed how we teach over the past several decades.  We know more about how kids learn.  Kids are different today than they have been in the past.  There is ample brain research to support that kids are learning differently today than you and I did.  So if we know more about kids, and if they are learning differently, it only stands to reason that we are teaching differently.  I know this to be true as I see fantastic teaching and learning occurring everyday at Blueberry School.

Blueberry teachers are reflective practitioners.  They are innovative and are continually improving their craft to meet our students’ learning needs.   If kids are learning differently, and we are teaching differently, then we must be assessing differently now than we were in the past.  Again, I see this on a daily basis.  The multitude and diversity of both formative and summative assessment  expands every year.  Teachers are using technology, projects, observations, presentations and other unique ways to assess the learning of students.  So if kids are learning differently, and teachers are teaching and assessing differently, then it only stands to reason that we need to consider reporting differently!

I am also asked many questions specifically about the format of this particular report card.  “Why are we assessing with these process skills?”  “Why are we using these descriptors – Established, Developing and Emerging? Why not the percents?  What is wrong with them?”  Again, all very good questions that I would like to address.  The Alberta Assessment Consortium shed’s some light on these questions with their recently published document Preparing the Way For Valid Results.”

Alberta Education has recently released a document titled the “Framework for Student Learning”  which very clearly describes the vision that they have for Alberta’s students as we continue into the 21st Century.  This document states that “The Framwork and the new MO, along with revised standards, guidelines and processes, will provide direction for the development of future curriculum…”.

When we examine the Framework for Student Learning and the graphic on page two, we see that the focus remains on Numeracy and Literacy, but that we are striving to support the development of competencies such as Communication; Critical Thinking and Problem Solving to name only a few.  These have been identified through the research and initiatives such as Inspiring Education, andAction on Curriculum.

This new report card  is very unique in the information it can share, and it very much aligns with the work being undertaken not only by Alberta Education, but it is also aligns very will with the skills and knowledge that we want to develop in the “21st Century Learner”.   Parents and students will be provided with a picture of their child’s development specific to the process skills within the variousprograms of study.  Perhaps more important than the information that this report card will share with students and parents is the fact that this report card will support teachers as we continue with a significant shift in our pedagogy.

We constantly hear people talk about schools needing to prepare kids for the “real world” and the need for schools to prepare kids for the 21st Century!  If we really consider what these statements mean then we must look at how we are teaching, assessing, and reporting.

Kids have instant access to information today that we had to memorize as students in the past.  I remember memorizing the capital cities of all 10 provinces in Canada when I went to school.  Before I could recall this information now, a student could use her handheld device, answer the question and be posting it on her own webpage!  There is still a need for students to have basic literacy and numeracy skills.  There are still many pieces of “knowledge” that kids must learn and understand in school, but let’s face it, to prepare kids to be effective in the “real world”, or in the 21st century, kids need to be able to work collaboratively.  They need to evaluate the information that they access.  They need to be effective researchers and critical thinkers.

When was the last time that your supervisor gave you a problem that they already knew the answer to?  Is this the real world?  Why are we constantly doing this in our classrooms and schools?  Should we not be posing questions that develop the skills I’ve mentioned above?  If we are truly going to prepare kids for the 21st century and the real world then we need to examine the information that we consider critical to teach and report to kids and parents.  It used to be focused almost exclusively on knowledge and the application of basic skills.  Now it’s critical that we change our focus to the process skills that have existed in the programs of study for longer than I have been teaching.

Not only do we need to continue to provide meaningful information on students’ knowledge of various topics, units of study and subject areas, we need to be expanding our focus to assess and report on students’ abilities to “problem solve; think critically; use mental math and estimation strategies; research, etc.”  These skills have existed in the programs of study for decades and teachers have been teaching through them, but often we have not been taking the time and energy to assess students’ abilities within these skill areas.

Considering my ramblings thus far, given where we are with learners and their ability to instantaneously access information that we would have had to memorize when we were students, should our focus now not include our responsibility as educators to ensure that when students use their technology that they know how to discern reliable information from unreliable information?  Do we not want to support students in developing their skills of research to ensure that they are finding reliable, accurate and credible information?  Should we not continue to support them to understand that Google is not gospel?  Just because it’s a result of their search does not mean it’s useful “information”.

Lets go back to one of the other thoughts I brought up earlier.  “What’s Wrong with Percentages? Everyone knows what they mean.”  Really… let’s examine these statements.  I do not believe that there is anything wrong with percentages.  They are an accurate way of sharing the degree to which students can recall basic knowledge.  If a child achieves 7 out of 10 on a spelling test, 70% gives parents and students an accurate picture of understanding and performance.  Does 64% really tell you the degree to which a student is an effective communicator?  As a parent, what does 64% on “problem solving” tell me?  What do I do with a 73% on critical thinking to help my daughter?  I would much rather know that my child is “developing” her ability to solve problems.   She is able to formulate a strategy, test this strategy and recognize where it falls short, but continues to require teacher support to develop an additional strategy which is more appropriate for the problem.

Does everyone really know what 75% means in Social Studies?  Does it mean that your child understands 75% of the information and concepts covered?  Which 75%?  How does this help students and parents to focus on improving learning?  Is 75% at one school the same as 75% at another school?  As professionals, we all try to be as consistent as possible but when we consider the math in this percentage based structure it can become very difficult.  Do all schools have the same assessment format?  Are tests worth 30% in all schools?  Are projects worth 35% in all schools?  Is the “final exam” worth 20% in all schools?  I think you get the picture.

I recognize that percentages offer a level of comfort for students and parents… and some teachers… but does our comfort mean that they are the best way of reporting achievement?  Parents often feel that if they see a 75% they know that they just need to help their child gain 5% more to reach the coveted “honours” level.  Who decided that 80% is honours?  Why not 85%?  How long has 80% been honours?  What research supports this particular standard?  Okay, I digress.  So it really shouldn’t be that difficult to move the 75% to 80% should it?

For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider the following scenario.  To have the mark of 75% mentioned previously, a student has scored 70%, 72%, 80%, 82% and 71%  on his tests/projects etc.  When we do the “math”, if this same student  next scores 85%, followed by a 90% (let’s keep in mind that he has not yet scored above 82%this year), his average will still only be 78.6%.  He will need to score another 90% on the next assessment just to get to the coveted 80%!  Now that he’s reached “honours”, does the student or parent yet know what pieces of information and what skills are still missing?

I began this post talking about my excitement for our new journey.  While I have many other thoughts on our new report card that I would love to share, I would like to leave you with this one final thought.

There’s an old story that I remember reading in Times Magazine some time ago.

Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred year snooze and is of course utterly bewildered by what he sees’. ‘Every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when finally he walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school”, he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906”’

Every profession, field, industry etc. have evolved over the past 1oo years, has the reporting in Education evolved?

Thanks for indulging me in my ramblings.  Please share your thoughts with me.

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Flattening the Organization

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by e900

“The question isn’t whether you will be transparent, authentic, and real, but rather, how much you will let go and be open in the face of new technologies.” Charlene Li, Open Leadership

As I have tried to continuously grow and learn in my own practice, I have started to see some real shifts in the way things are happening within our own school division.  As schools continue to leverage technologies, we are seeing a truer and wider range of collaboration, that is leading to more of a “flat organization”, where leadership is truly distributed.

Spending time on Twitter and networking with many amazing educators, you see this idea there every day.  Although every person I connect with has some role in education, the positions really don’t matter.  Yes there are people with more or less followers, but in reality, that has nothing to do with position.  It usually has to do with not only the message they share, but how they share it as well.  Whether you are a superintendent, teacher, student, principal, or whatever, you see people learning and sharing with each other.  Although I believe it is important to also connect with others in your role or that share your interests, the idea that stands out for me is that we can learn from anyone.   Twitter has been great for this but have we been mirroring that in schools?

This year, within Parkland School Division, we have been trying to utilize technology and social media to connect with all stakeholders and be very transparent in our learning.  Our superintendent recently wrote a post about the vision of our schools and the continuous development of that vision.  Doing this in a blog and being open to feedback is something that I really believe is important and needed in our schools.  If we have technology to do this, why wouldn’t we?

Although I really believe in the power of connecting with staff, I was overwhelmed with what I saw recently on our school division’s 184 project (modeled after the Edu180Atl project).  When Taylor, a student in our school division, made the first student post to the project, it was amazing how adults came together in the division to respond to the work that was done.  The comments were not limited to teachers from Taylor’s school, but educators, in all different positions, spanning across the entire range of our school division. When it came to a student, people ensured that they made time to encourage their work.  This was now a priority.  I have always believed this to be the case with educators, their continuous dedication to all of our kids, but it was just reinforced through the post and process.  This project is something new to our division, but it has already helped bridge some of the obstacles that are unfortunately created by geography.  Everyday it seems we are taking one step forward.

In this whole process, I am seeing technology proving to be more than just a tool.  It is transcending the way we do and think about things.  The idea of learning anywhere, any place, any time is not just for the students; this is for all of us.  These opportunities did not exist to the extent they do now and I see (hopefully I am not overly optimistic) our school division coming together as a learning organization more every day.  I feel that when you know that you can connect this way but ignore it, it could be ultimately detrimental to the success of an organization.

The more we can all be in on the learning of any and every student, the better.  We need to take advantage.

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Message from the Superintendent (October 2011)

What a month we have had! From our opening Professional Development Day with approximately 1100 staff members gathered at Memorial Composite High School to the first day of school for 9700 students, to the many school-community events that have already taken place (i.e. BBQs, School Council Meetings, Awards Celebrations, volleyball games, cross-country running), 2011-2012 looks to be an exciting year!

You will hear us talk about Success for Every Student as one of our goals in Parkland School Division and you will come to understand that while there are some common themes, success is individual and looks somewhat unique to every learner. This fall, I have been thrilled to see the foundations of success developing in classrooms across the School Division. Relationships between staff members, between staff and students, students and students and staff with families, are critical in establishing an environment of trust.

So to those wonderful nurturing relationships, great teachers add high standards and a belief that every child can learn and then they go about finding the ways to support every child. Thankfully, we have moved away from assessment that ranks and sorts students into a much more robust process that is less about “judgment” and more about holding students accountable and ensuring that learning happens.

In a planning session with our Board of Education last week, there was great discussion about the importance we must continue to place on the “whole” child. Trustees spoke passionately about those needs beyond the academic needs of students and reinforced the value that we place on citizenship and social responsibility and on serving the physical, emotional and behavioural needs of our children and youth. This is a tall order. This is important work and nothing that is ever taken for granted.

We are serving students in 21 schools and 4 alternate sites. In each and every case, the individual student is at the center of the teaching and learning experience. It is the student who is the focus of our energy and while you will see Parkland School Division moving ahead with many initiatives please understand that the reason for everything that we do is to improve student learning.

Thank you for the privilege of serving your children. It is an honor to be working alongside so many terrific families as we continue to collaborate, create and learn together. With your help and with the commitment of an amazing staff we are moving from good to great!

I invite you to read my recent Collaborate. Create. Learn. blog and I look forward to hearing from you. You are still welcome to stop by my office but this year, you can even send me a tweet!

Tim Monds
Superintendent – Parkland School Division

Phone: 780-963-8404

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Message From the Board Chair (October 2011)

Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, all aspects of the “Social Media” have invaded our lives to the point where their sudden removal would be viewed as a catastrophic attack on freedom of speech and human rights. We are all lifelong learners and even I have embraced the winds of change and regularly Skype (richardchair), Tweet (@rgilchristpsd70), Facebook and of course rely on the ubiquitous email rgilchrist@psd70.ab.ca or richard.gilchrist@shaw.ca.

So what does this mean to our world of education? I have just finished reading Superintendent Tim Monds’ latest blog, in which he does an excellent job of outlining the initiatives through which Parkland School Division No. 70 is transitioning to meet the needs of the 21st Century Learner. Transition is a word that continues to be used but how well does the general public understand this process?

To me, transformation of the education system in Alberta, and particularly Parkland School Division 70 is a process designed to provide the very best opportunities for our students as they prepare for life in a global economy. It was to my surprise and appreciation that the Progressive Conservative party chose to elect a new type of leader in Alison Redford. Not only is our new Premier elect an intelligent and well qualified individual, she brings to the leadership of Alberta a global perspective. Her commitment to education, I believe, will position our children to be world leaders well into the future.

David Cameron, British Prime Minister, recently cited (video below) Alberta as being the highest performing education jurisdiction in the English speaking world. High praises indeed, in fact the United Kingdom is looking toward the Alberta model to help transition its education system. So, we must be doing something right.

Over the coming months, I and my fellow Trustees will continue to dialogue within all community members as to how the education system is transitioning and how this will benefit our children and their children.

Richard Gilchrist
Board Chair – Parkland School Division

Email: RGilchrist@psd70.ab.ca

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Collaborate. Create. Learn.

“.. I believe that the single most important idea for reform in K-12 education concerns a change in goal. The goal needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.” Steve Denning


Wow!  What am amazing start up in Parkland School Division (PSD).  I continue to be amazed by our passionate staff focused not only on ensuring our youth receive a quality education but how they are embracing learning. Parkland School Division’s vision remains steadfast:

Parkland School Division is a learning organization dedicated to the development of children.

More than ever, we here in PSD are talking about each and every one of us being a learner and the importance of lifelong learning.  Our vision is clear…we are all learning.  The question now; is what does that look like for staff, students and parents?  How we learnt/taught 50 years ago does not hold true for today.  Do we throw out the system of education that has been around for over a 100 years?  No… but we must revisit the “how” we are instructing our children.  We must ensure we meet the needs of our students in a global economy.

Our children are connected more than they ever have been, they have information readily available.  In PSD we are talking about collaborating, creating and learning together as we move forward in transformation.  Our focus in PSD remains on pedagogy, good sound instructional practices aligned to the Provincial program of studies.  Some think transformation means introducing “technology”. As Marc Prensky discusses, the focus is always on the pedagogy:

“Just adding technology, however, will not make this happen.  In  fact, in some cases, laptops have already been added and removed for having “failed”.  But the failure in those cases was neither of the students nor of the technology, but rather of the pedagogy.” Marc Prensky, Teaching Digital Natives  

In PSD technology will be used to provide innovative and  unique opportunities for our learners, but it is just one of  many ways that we are wanting to improve the environment for our students.

John Seely Brown in The Power of Pull stated:

If we are going to succeed in this rapidly changing world, we face two challenges; making sense of the changes around us, and making progress in an increasingly unfamiliar world.

The work under way in Parkland School Division is about making sense of this “unfamiliar world”.   PSD is embracing this journey of transformation to meet the needs of our students as 21st Century Learners. Transformational initiatives include:

  • Leveraging leadership to lead change
  • Meaningful engagement with our community
  • Inclusive education
  • Meaningful assessment and reporting
  • Professional learning as the foundation of a learning organization

To support our transformational initiatives we are focused on three verbs…collaborate, create and learn.  Recently I attended a thanksgiving dinner put on by students at Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove.  Student in grade 7, 8, 9 under the supervision of staff worked together to cook turkeys, potatoes, dressing, vegetable, pies and all the fixings!  They created a feast to be enjoyed by staff and students.  Students met our facilities staff and senior team at the front door and showed us to the Food Studies Lab where we shared the feast.  The learning was huge!  Cooking a turkey and making pies was just part of  what students learnt.   Students greeted guests, engaged in conversation with guests, assisted guests and planned for this great event.  Citizenship and social responsibility was alive and well; a testament to collaborate, create, learn!

Our collaborative approach begins in our back yard here in PSD.  Through such programs/initiatives such as Citizenship and Social Responsibility , learning coaches, curriculum based report cards, learning leader program, 184 Days of Learning, Board of Trustees system review, we are focused on coming together to collaborate.   As David Weinberger said, “The smartest person in the room is the room”,  and that is why we focus on the need to come together.  We make better decisions as a collective and we need to focus on building the strengths of the individuals of that team.

“As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates

Out of collaboration comes innovation; the opportunity to create.   When we encourage students to connect with other students with similar interests/projects not just face to face but through social medi, we start to see amazing things begin to happen.   For example, last year Forest Green School had created some amazing connections through their portfolio project and were able to learn from experts Skyping into the classroom to work with students.  These are opportunities that we did not have as kids, but we need to ensure we take advantage for our own students.

“We can think more creatively if we open our minds to the many connected environments that make creativity possible”.  Stephen Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Our youth are inquisitive and do want the world to be a better place.    As our youth are exposed to the global world and we as educators facilitate their learning as an ethical citizen, their entrepreneurial spirit will flourish.  The same holds true of our staff.  Given the opportunity, I have always believed those with passion will step forward to make the world better.

“It is the habit of curiosity that allows an individual to begin to wonder how a system might be substantively improved or even reinvented.” Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap

In PSD we are all embracing learning.  We are continuously asking questions, breaking down barriers and sharing our learning.  We have entered a world of connecting with other learners at the school and division level.  Tweeting, blogging as well as the 184 Days of  Learning project has provided us new avenues to learn from others while connecting.  We are still focused on face to face learning, meeting Provincial learning outcomes/competencies, but we are also embracing the connected world that will enhance not only our students learning but ours.

Throughout my education, I have always felt that things needed to be perfect before the final product was shared. As I have grown in my own practice, I have seen the power of sharing the process of learning, as the contributions of others only help enhance what we are doing for our students.  We need to embrace this open process with our school community, and especially our students.

I have always thought of myself as someone who is passionate about  learning and doing what is “right” for kids. Through my recent learnings, my excitement for the future of education and passion has been heightened.  As we talk about transformation and what it means to us in Parkland School Division, every chance we have, we need to collaborate, create, and learn as an organization and a community.  It is always about doing what is best for kids.

What a great time to be in education!

Embracing Change

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Collaboration and Sharing

From the first moment we step into school, we are taught about the importance of sharing.  This is something that we know is right, yet as we move on in school, it has seemingly become harder and harder to do.  Parkland School Division is continuously looking at ways that we can implement sharing of best practices to benefit all students.

With technology that we have now, sharing has the potential to become a lot easier.  If technology is used correctly, collaboration and sharing should just be a part of our everyday world in school.  Currently at Parkland School Division, we have shared items such as the “184 Project” and have seen an immediate impact on the connections that are being made across the division and the world.  All posts, sharing learning, impact people in different ways.  We know there is a tremendous power in sharing our stories.

We are currently exploring the implementation of Google Apps for Education in school.  Living in a world where collaboration is commonplace, and a key to success in most industries, Google Apps provides opportunities for our students to easily share and learn together.  Moving away from programs such as Microsoft Word are making more sense when Google Docs just makes collaboration easier.  If you have never used Google Docs, check out the video below:

As we continue to move forward in Parkland School Division, we are trying to find more ways to share our work and create opportunities to be highly innovative.  Through my own experience, I have learned to connect with amazing educators using my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) to try to implement the best practices in schools.  An educator who has had a significant impact on my practice is Dean Shareski, an educator from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, working for Prairie South School Division.  His K-12 Online Keynote last year entitled, “The Moral Imperative“, really opened my eyes (and many others) on how as educators, we need to share our work.  Parkland is continuously looking at doing this in safe yet powerful ways, to create the best opportunities for our students.

Please take the time to watch Dean’s video below from the conference.  It is over 20 minutes long but is extremely powerful.

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Reflections of a Superintendent

Wow!  What a wonderful start up in Parkland School Division.  As I travelled to schools, spoke with high school students, elementary and middle school students…I felt the enthusiasm!  In preparation for the start up I want to thank the great team I work with…our Senior Executive, Directors, Principals, Learning Services facilitators  and Centre for Education staff for all of the behind the scenes work to ensure we had a smooth start up.  Here at PSD we held a new teacher orientation, new administrators orientation, bus driver meetings, senior team retreat, informal meeting with the board; all culminating in an afternoon where all of the staff (all employee groups) met at Memorial Composite High School.  We heard from our Board Chair Mr. Gilchrist, John Clarke our guest speaker and I as Superintendent.  We shared PSD plans for the future.  It was an absolute pleasure to feel such excitement and enthusiasm about learning in PSD on opening day.

Last year I spoke to staff about connecting with children and the profound impact each of us have on our youth.  We have the ability to touch so many lives in a positive way.  I shared a clip  from Mr. Holland Opus at start up last year:

In Mr Holland Opus, the governor talked about not knowing the number of lives you will touch as a teacher and that a teacher’s symphony is the children they teach.   I have always believed as a teacher, and now as a superintendent, that the connections/positive relationships we have with our students, parents and community will touch many lives and shape our future.  Never lose sight of the importance of connecting in a positive manner with our youth.  No matter the age, kids want to connect, learn together and do well.

Last night my wife Patty and I attended the Josh Groban concert at Rexall Place.    This was the third time we had the pleasure of enjoying one of his concerts.  His voice, showmanship is amazing.  I watched, listened as the concert began and thought…where are the big screens, he is so far away from everyone!  The last concert we attended  had big screens and a massive light show.  This concert began in a much more simplistic manner.  Josh spoke of the intimacy he wanted to have at his concerts.   He had begun this tour in smaller venues and liked the connection with the audience.   He was now trying to connect with thousands of people in an intimate manner in a larger venue, Rexall place.   Well he did!  How?  He travelled, had two stages, and made sure each member of the audience could see him, feel the excitement and passion as he shared his music.  Just prior to the concert beginning, the audience was invited to text him questions.   Not only was there a connection with the audience face to face, but he invited us to connect through texting.  Part way through the performance he answered some of the questions.  We could see who asked the question as he asked that person to stand.  We were connected.  One young lady asked if he ever asked someone from the audience to sing with him.  Josh took the challenge and invited her up and they sang Happy Birthday to those in the audience with a birthday.  What a powerful voice this young lady had and what an impact on the audience.

Josh reminded me, we must never lose sight of the impact positive face to face connections/interactions have on our children.  Not only is it a priority to connect face to face with our children to build strong working relationships, but to facilitate their learning.   When kids are safe and valued, they will embrace their learning.  Josh also reinforced my learnings this past week of how using social media will enhance the learning experience of our kids and allow us as educators to further our connection with our youth, understanding how they are learning today.

Parkland School Division is pleased to share our learnings/reflections through 184 Days of Learning, our PSD twitter account , and our PSD Blog site, all with links on our main website.

I have spoke often about not throwing out the baby with the bath water as we look at transformation in education.  I mean that…we have much to be proud of in PSD.  We will continue to focus on literacy, numeracy and the skills required to prepare our children for their future.  However, we know as adults how we learned will not necessarily prepare our youth for a new future.  Therefore, we must continue to look at how we engage our youth in authentic learning.

Thanks PSD for the great start up!  I know the time each of you spent in preparing for the first day of school!

Enjoy your September long weekend.

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Superintendent Message (September 2011)

Can you hear the Staples commercial? “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I trust that your summer was enjoyable, that you made some great memories and that your family is looking forward to returning to school.

I’m happy to report that I did everything that I hoped to do over the summer and more! My plan to spend quality time with family and friends, to travel, to reflect on last year’s learning and to rest up and prepare for the opportunities that we will face in the 2011-2012 school year, rolled out without a hitch.

My summer reading included the book, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. This compelling book helps parents, coaches, educators and business people understand how the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment. It describes the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Our school administrators, Directors and Trustees have all received a copy of Mindset, as it will be the basis of our first book study this year.

Parkland School Division is a learning organization. In our commitment to providing the very best education possible for our students we are dedicated to ensuring that we have the most progressive and highly prepared staff. So it is not just the students who are learning – it is also the adults. I invite you to learn along side the students and staff at your local school. Whether we are embracing the possibilities of using new technology or implementing more effective assessment and reporting, it is vital that the adults in our school division ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of the steps that we are taking to improve teaching and learning.

I want to personally recognize the many individuals who have worked throughout the summer to guarantee that we are ready for school start up. From the Maintenance and Facilities staff, to Human Resources, Business and Finance, Information Technology, Transportation and our school custodians, it takes a whole contingent of folks to ensure that we are good to go on August 31st. Our core business of teaching and learning requires the expertise of a strong team. Learning Services staff, our school administrators, secretaries and teaching staff have been preparing for the return of students. For students, parents and educators, this time of year should be filled with anticipation and hope! The Trustees and staff of Parkland School Division take the responsibility of educating students very seriously and I am so excited about the upcoming school year. Welcome back everyone! As your Superintendent of Schools, I believe it truly is the “most wonderful time of year”.

Tim Monds
Superintendent – Parkland School Division

Phone: 780-963-8404

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Paving the Road to Learning

How do we build relationships with students?  I had the opportunity to visit 3 of our schools today and saw witness to that magical connection that establishes an atmosphere of care, trust and respect.  This sounds like a little thing, but I saw written student instructions that invited students to “choose a desk that is the right size for you”.  Honestly, I remember having to sit in alphabetical order as a student in school.  Forget about accommodating the physical needs of students.  Or at minimum, it seemed to be the mission of the teacher to be sure to “split up friends”.  In those days it was control, control, control.  We have come so far in co-creating classrooms where students share the responsibility for many things that were traditionally the sole business of the teacher.

I listened to students this morning in a variety of  “get to know you” conversations and activities with their teachers and educational assistants.  Kids were interested in things like asking the teacher if she has a nickname.  Another class reported their one rule for their classroom this year – Respect!  In another classroom, a teacher confidently invited a student who she knew very well from last year to model for classmates in her new combined class, how to greet a guest to the classroom.  The young girl approached me, shook my hand and welcomed me.

Today, I was reminded that sorting out indoor and outdoor shoes is important to 7 year olds and establishing routines at the beginning of the year provides unlimited opportunity to make deposits in the emotional bank accounts of our students. There were smiles, hugs and lots of  “reconnecting”.  There was a teacher making a point of telling me in front of the student what amazing progress she made in phys.ed. last year!

It’s a wonderful feeling for parents to walk away from our schools trusting that their children are in good hands – that they will be cared for, well beyond their academic needs.  Every interaction, every day with every child needs to reinforce the value that we place on students.  Many times it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

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