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But what if they forget?

To begin, this post is not about the 1 week vs 2 week debate.  There are many pro’s and con’s for each and I will leave that discussion for another time and place.  This post is about learning.  There are many different ways to describe what learning looks like.

I recently had the opportunity to consider one view of learning when someone pulled me aside over the recent Spring Break and asked whether I thought a 2 week Spring Break was tough on students because “so many of them will have forgotten what they had learned prior to the break”.

What I am concerned with, is the notion that students could have “forgotten what they had learned prior to the break”. Regardless of the whether a break is 1 week, 2 weeks or 9 weeks – the thought that people will have “forgotten what they had learned ” is concerning to me.  I would counter that if that is truly the case then the student (regardless of age) never learned the material in the first place.

What I think happens is that the students fall out of the routines that the shape their days while attending school.  This forgotten patter is something we see in September when it takes a class or two (or in some cases a week or two) to settle into the routine of school and the current structures of learning found in schools.

This is very different than “forgetting what they had learned” especially when we consider the Learning Outcomes that are explored throughout a school year.  In most subjects, and courses, the curriculum builds on material learned in the previous level. This material is not always restricted within the subjects, as a great deal is learned through cross-curricular instruction (basically instruction that covers many subjects for example writing an essay in Science will help develop skills learned in Humanities).  When students can apply the knowledge and skills gained in a particular course or through a series of courses then have learned something.  If this material is forgotten in a matter of weeks then it was probably never learned in the first place.

With this perspective of learning in mind, I believe, that after a break, students will be able to apply knowledge and/or skills acquired prior to leaving.

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What does it all mean?

Over the past year there has been a great deal of public discussion about education and what is best for student learning.  In this post I will try to provide some background information that may help you develop a clearer picture of some of the great things that are happening in classrooms around the SD41.  You may have heard talk about changes in education as the world around us changes.  Some of the terms you may have heard, among others, probably include:

- Personalized Learning

- 21st Century Learning

- Independent Directed Studies (IDS)

As your familiarity of these terms will vary I included links for each of those sections.  If you are completely new to this (and that is completely understandable) your ability to choose which links to click or to skip them altogether  has allowed you to personalize your learning!

Personally I am not convinced that the term 21st Century Learning captures the full meaning of what we are doing.  This is not meant to devalue  the great research and time devoted to this title, I simply prefer the term Personalized Learning in the 21st Century.  Or, to take it a step further, I am even more comfortable with the notion that we are personalizing learning in changing times. I prefer this because we live in an era that is changing so quickly that students (and educators) are learning with rapidly advancing technology.  Due to the rapid nature of this change, it is challenging to predict  what the world will be like for our students ten years from now let alone throughout the 21st Century.

IDS courses allow students to pursue their personal interests, with the guidance and facilitation of a teacher.  To me this is a perfect example of personalizing learning in changing times because this form of learning puts the student squarely in the driver’s seat of the learning.

The descriptions above are by no means exhaustive nor definitive as there are teachers, administrators, parents and students who are actively exploring what those terms look like and mean to learners across SD41.  If you are reading this and you have your own definition or examples of those terms, I encourage you to include those in the comments section to help push the thinking forward on what is best for learning. Continue Reading »

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More Time…

This post has been inspired by questions generated from my last post Time Is Flying.   Although the questions varied in form and delivery the general notion was that people wondered how I had the time to Blog while working in a school the size of Burnaby South, especially at this busy time of year.  My answers were like the questions, they varied in form and delivery yet they carried the same notion…I make the time.

Now, I have to admit I have not found a time machine, nor have any or our students developed a way to make time as part of an Independent Directed Studies course.  Simply put, I choose to carve a bit of time out of my schedule to write my thoughts down and share them.  Over the course of the year I have intended to make weekly posts.  Some weeks I have been successful and others I have fallen in the “Not Meeting Expectations” category of my personal rubric.   It has been a balance that has kept me inspired to write more frequently, while acknowledging that the school doors will open and close regardless of the frequency that  I post.

The more I thought about the question the more I wanted to research what others in my Personal Learning Network had to say about “Time”.   I have written before about staying connected with other educators through social media so I started with those connections.  I found that the thoughts varied from those who had their own questions about time, to those that believe when something is important to them they carve out, or make, the time.

Although I feel that my thoughts have been shaped by a combination of my own practice and the influence of those with whomI work, I feel the need to acknowledge the influence of the work of a few bloggers which I try to read at least once a week, if not more.

- Chris Kennedy’s Culture of Yes

- George Couros’ Principal of Change

- Chris Lehmann’s Practical Theory

I know that Chris has written about time and I have to admit that I have not developed a system like he has to manage his time, but it is something I would like to work towards!

Although there are a number of Blogs that I check in on regularly, I find myself returning to the 3 above the most regularly.  I am not here to suggest that you follow these 3 educators but rather I recommend that you check out those who Blog about things that interest you.  In my experience, other peoples’ thoughts help us to reflect and develop our own ideas further.  That process, to me, is worth all the time in the world.

Mr. Tyler

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Time is Flying

Today marked the official half-way point of the year.  I was surprised this morning when I realized that time has moved so quickly.  Over the coming weeks we will be completing course selection.  The grade 12 students will begin their Grad Transitions interviews and our students will have several opportunities to put their school spirit on display as our basketball teams enter the playoffs.

With our Fine Arts Night recently completed many of the students whose work was showcased in January are now in the final stretch of preparing for the production of Little Shop of Horrors – to be performed in the MJF Theatre this spring.

The Music and Business departments are combining to take students to New York over Spring Break meanwhile Student Government is taking time out of their RebelFest preparations to organize a Silent Auction Fundraiser for the Sister School.

Grad activities are starting (note to parents official activities are posted on the school’s website!).

The list above is just a brief snapshot of some of the great things that have been happening and continue to happen with our school.  I know I speak for all of the Administrators when I say how proud we are of our community for all of the phenomenal things that are happening both curricular and extra-curricular.

The 2nd half of the school year promises to bring a great deal of excitement.  It’s a fantastic time to be at Burnaby South.

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The beginning of the new year brings with it a sense of renewal.  Over the holidays we (students and staff) enjoy a break from our regular routines that life in a high school brings.  As many friends and family discussed the traditional resolutions of hitting the gym more, running a certain distance of race, eating healthier, I realized that my sense of a fresh start is different than those outside the realm of school life.

I began to think about why my view on January 1, and the resolutions that come with it, would be different than others.  It wasn’t until I returned to work that I was able to formulate an answer to my question.  As I encountered different staff throughout the morning of the first day back it was exciting to see the happy faces of those who had re-energized over the break.  Walking the halls I could feel the energy building throughout the day as students reunited with friends and teachers.  Finally, sitting in my office reviewing a Term 1 report card with a student and discussing strategies for improvement I realized the answer to my question.

My view of resolutions, of new beginnings, is different because of the world I live and work in.   Yes the traditional calendar year still runs from January through to December, but like many educators, the calendar that my life is connected to runs from September through to August.  In this calendar we experience an entire series of new beginnings.  September is a the start of a new school year.  December brings renewed goals for Term 2 which are reinforced with the traditional January resolutions. March brings a new set of goals for the final push of term 3 and then June brings an entire different set of resolutions as both students and staff make plans for the summer that focus on improving some aspect of their lives for the next September.

As I examine these cycles more closely, I can’t ignore that there is a series of other resolutions brought on by the learning that comes from peoples choices.  This reflection has me excited about the fact that I work in an environment that allows people to reinvent themselves when they are ready to do so.  People do not need to wait until a single date on a calendar to make a significant change in their lives.  The start of the new year is just one date that we can say ‘I am going to do ____ from now on’. In the world of a school, if you wake up Monday and you want to start something new you can and the people around you will support you in your efforts.

With that in mind, I challenge you to ask yourself… what are my  resolutions today?

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So last Monday our school had a school-based Professional Development Day.  The students look forward to these days as a long-weekend and a recent conversation with a group of students indicated that some think school staff view these days in the same way. After this conversation I thought this was a great opportunity to shed some light on the great things that happen in schools during Professional Development.

Last Monday began with coffee and muffins and some great conversation with colleagues.  During the welcome period, videos played capturing the theme of our day – Personalized Learning.  The morning focussed on the role technology plays in 21st Century Education.  After a presentation exploring our topic we broke into groups to utilize technology in a brainstorming exercise.

This led to eight different break-out sessions that further explored some key themes in Personalized Learning including differentiated instruction, assessment, social media in the classroom and Tribes Learning.   Staff signed up for one of the smaller group workshops to provide an opportunity for each participant to focus on an area of personal choice.

Following lunch we resumed a closer look at Personalized Learning.  Click here for the slide deck to my presentation.  The afternoon portion of the discussion focussed on 21st Century Learning separate from technology, focussing on a Paradigm Shift that is beginning to take place in public education.  This shift focusses on the way students learn, how they become engaged in classes and how we can continue to best meet the needs of all our learners through a variety of different approaches.  We managed to pack all of those activities in before 2pm when staff returned to their specific Departments to continue the discussions that we began throughout the day.

The above description captures the essence of what we explored throughout the day at our school.  At other schools I know that there were a number of exciting opportunities where teachers also engaged in meaningful and important discussions about topics that are relevant to their students and those staffs’ professional interests.  These types of Professional Days model the pursuit of lifelong learning and capture the spirit of our Personalized Learning.

I hope you found this useful in creating a visual for the next time you find yourself wondering what happens in schools during Professional Development days.

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I Remember…

Having worked at, and attended, schools in BC for most of my life I have recently rediscovered my appreciation for the work that people have done over the years to secure the environment I live in. Every year I have joined others to pause in a moment of silence to honour those who have given their lives and risked their future so I may live in peace.

Working at Burnaby South I am humbled to say that I have begun to truly appreciate the risks that my great grandfather WW1 and two grandfathers WW2 and Korean War took for us.

Last year, I contributed in the organization of our school’s Remembrance Day Assemblies. In a school of our size we hold 4 assemblies throughout the day in the setting of the MJF Theatre.  Here the VPA Department performs music, song, dance and video paying tribute to those men and women lost to war.   This year I was able to observe these performances and later talk to students. In these discussions, it became apparent to me that several students who are new to Canada have never participated in these ceremonies. They are visibly moved that we honour these people and they are equally thankful to have the opportunity to say a silent thank you.

It has been the discussions with students coupled with the moving performances that have made me realize how appreciative I am. Despite participating in these assemblies each year and honouring those who have given their lives, it has been the past two years that have made me realize I still have the opportunity to say more than a silent thank you. With that in mind, I will bring this to a close, I need to phone my grandpa.

Mr. Tyler

In an effort to stay informed on current topics that are relevant to the delivery of education, I use social networking to connect with a number of educational leaders from the Vancouver area, across Canada and internationally. Through this networking I have the opportunity to explore initiatives from our own school district as well as others. Using the technology available to me, I have created my own PLC. As many of you are aware, the concept of developing a PLC is central to the rationale for creating our collaboration program within Burnaby South.
Among the many people whom I have interacted with in this network I have met George Couros a K-6 Principal in Alberta, Chris Kennedy, the Deputy Superintendent of West Vancouver School District, and internationally recognized educational leader Sir Ken Robinson. I do not use these names as means of self-promotion, nor name-dropping, I use them to illustrate the power of social networking when it is used responsibly.

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What a Week!

When I sat down to write this week’s entry I realized how lucky I am to be a part of this school community. So many great things have happened over the past week that I will try to capture a few of the events I was able to take part in.

Last Sunday was the start of a very special 10 day cultural visit from Niigata Meikun High School. Sunday afternoon, after nearly 20 hours of travel, 80 Japanese high school students arrived with their Vice-Prinicipal, two teachers and a tour agent. This visit originated before my time here at South and it has involved a great deal of coordination from many people. All of this work has culminated into a visit that includes ESL classes for the students each morning followed by various activities in the afternoon. This week these activities involved 2 classroom integration sessions where the students from Niigata were partnered with one of our students to take part in Canadian High School lessons. There was also an afternoon highlighted by games of floor hockey and lacrosse. Their week ended with a trip to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the students are returning from a weekend in Victoria as I write this. Next week the Niigata Meikun students will be hosting a cultural share fair on Monday afternoon where our students will have the opportunity to learn about some of the things that are culturally important to the Japanese students.

Also this week, I was also lucky enough to take 5 Burnaby South students to the School Completion & Beyond student voice forum earlier this week. This forum is organized and led by students, for students. Schools from across metro vancouver were represented as our students made up a portion of the 52 representatives from the Burnaby School District. After sharing a morning with John Abbott talking about 21st Century Learning, our students spent time preparing a project that will focus on strengthening relationships within our building.

The last event I wanted to share with you is regarding the quality of our Intramural Sports program. Currently there is a floor hockey league that runs at lunch hour and consists of 8 teams including a staff team. I enjoyed a quick game against a group of students on Wednesday and I have to say how impressed I was with the students’ sportsmanship and I enjoy observing the positive interactions that have resulted amongst opposing teams before and after games. The positive energy that these students generate each day amazes me.

I have undoubtedly missed talking about some of the other fantastic things that happened throughout the week but I wanted to share a small glimpse of all the great things that happen in our building and make me proud of the activities our students and staff share in.

New Beginnings at South

So we have made it through the back-to-school rush of September and our students and staff have settled in to their classes. I have not taken the opportunity to update this blog as much as I would have liked in September but my intention is to make this a priority through the rest of the year.

I was asked recently by another administrator why I have this blog and I thought that was the perfect topic for this entry. Some of the reasons I feel this is a good way to communicate and an important tool include:

- I enjoy the process,
- making connections with people in our community is important to me,
- it is a great way to share ideas and get feedback with people beyond our school and district,
- I think it is important to offer different ways for people to discover all the great things that happen in our school,
- social networking is more than just socializing and this extension provides some of the benefits that can be gained from that practice.

These are just a few of the reasons I am motivated to blog. Of course there are obstacles but I see them as just that – obstacles that can be overcome. The first is dedicating time to getting my entries published. To that end I will try to make an entry each week – some with pics and others words.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts expressed – feel free to comment as I progress through this.

Mr. Tyler

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