Sunday, 19 February 2017

Quick and Creative Collaboration

The introduction of B.C.'s revised curriculum has challenged educators to shift their thinking in regards to the way teachers teach and students learn. While historically education has been a profession where people often worked in isolation, opportunities to discuss ideas and communicate with colleagues have never been more necessary.  Schools, districts, and regional networks have been working to provide various ways for teachers to share their thinking with each other. Three teachers at Parkway Elementary in SD67 came up with a simple but effective method for creating dialogue and exchanging ideas. When they developed something to help their students understand the core competencies, they posted their ideas on the cupboards in their staff room with a written explanation for the staff as well as a pile of sticky notes and a pencil for others to provide feedback. Their message to the staff clearly emphasized that their ideas were a work in progress and that critical feedback would help with the continual revision of their initiative. By choosing a communal space within the school building (the staff room) and providing a simple and quick way (sticky notes) for others to provide commentary, the teachers were able to collect a wide range of responses and suggestions for improvements.

It was a creative solution to the challenge of providing teachers with the essential opportunity to collaborate in regards to the revised curriculum, when there is often so little time available to do so.

Related Posts: See this post for further commentary on the importance of idea exchange in education, or this post for a discussion about teachers as learners.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Arboretum Activity: A Metaphor for the Core Competencies

A few months ago at a regional network meeting we were fortunate to experience an activity designed to help teachers understand the original intentions of the core competencies. Two members of SD23’s Instructional Leadership Team Carolyn Durley and Keely Flannigan began by giving us a little potted plant.  We were asked to discuss with a partner “What would success look like for your plant?”

Then we were asked to consider, "How would you care for your plant so it can be successful?" Some of us were fortunate enough to have little labels with instructions for proper care, however others had to make educated guesses about what their plant might require to thrive.

After our focus on the individual plants, we looked at a photo of an arboretum and discussed the strengths and beauty that resulted from the diversity of the plants represented.
The activity was a clear reminder of the intention of the core competencies which is to honour the individual strengths of every child and not to think of students as components to be evaluated, but as unique and complex people whose holistic growth must be supported and nurtured.

Next we were each given a personal blank plant label and asked to create care instructions for our own strengths. We were asked to consider “What care instructions would you write for yourself? What does success look like in learning for you? What do you need in order to be successful?” Reflecting on our own personal strengths as professionals was an excellent experience to help us prepare for developing self-reflection skills in our students.

While this activity is effective for helping educators reflect on the holistic intentions of the core competencies (and therefore resist the urge to reduce the competencies to a checklist or a rubric) it also has potential for classroom use.

Dave Searcy started his second semester Law 12 classes with this activity. Students began by looking at small plants that were brought in. After discussing the metaphor, the students were given their own plant labels and asked to create care instructions for themselves, both to begin practicing the self-reflection skills that would be needed in the course as well as to help their teacher understand what they each needed to thrive as learners. The labels became a visual display of the complexities and unique capabilities of each person, and the process gave the students a voice, allowing them to communicate their strengths and take ownership of their earning.

Note: Click here for a related blog post about getting to know your students at the beginning of the year or the semester.