The Year Ahead

This post was originally shared on the BICS Blog here.

At BICS’ first Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meeting of the school year, I had the privilege of sharing my excitement for the year ahead by speaking about BICS’ 2014-2015 Growth Plan.School_Growth_Plan_2014-2015_Visual

This is a tremendously exciting time to be in public education.  More than any other point in my ten years as an educator, I feel there are incredible opportunities to improve learning for students.  Below, I share some of the strategies in our school’s Growth Plan as well as the provincial context.

To a greater degree, our work is being influenced by developments in brain research and a deeper understanding for the varied needs of students.  Teachers are utilizing self-regulation strategies so that students can be, in the words of Stuart Shanker, “calm, alert and learning.”

The Ministry of Education and teachers across the province have also worked together to develop a new curriculum, still in draft form, which was introduced in the fall of 2013.  The curriculum supports teachers to utilize an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning.  Teachers now have access to planning documents that organize the understandings students are to acquire around big ideas that are in many ways transferable from subject to subject.  Furthermore, curriculum is designed to develop previously gained understandings and lay the groundwork for subsequent learning.  And students are able to support their inquiry by connecting with people, places, print and digital media.  BICS is filled with passionate educators and volunteers who inspire students. Bowen Island has incredible opportunities for students to learn from their environment.  The BICS library is filled with a broad range of resources, and our school has 80 portable devices. This year, students in Grades six and seven have been encouraged to bring in their own devices so that student can access a vast and current variety of resources to support their inquiries.

In speaking to the BICS PAC, it was hard not to overuse many of the buzzwords in education that I used above which are core to the work of BICS and the West Vancouver School District: Inquiry, Digital Access, and Self-Regulation.  But these words, which represent pedagogical strategies and tools, quickly lose significance if they are not connected to the goals they are to achieve.

In my ten years as an educator, I have distilled three simply stated yet anything but simple goals for students:  that students love learning, learn a lot, and see and seek opportunities to put their learning to use.  These goals guide my decisions as an educator but they are too vague for planning purposes.  More specifics as to the objectives for student learning, particularly what “learning a lot” means, is offered in the new draft curriculum.  In addition to supporting teachers with utilizing an inquiry-based approach to learning, the new curriculum articulates very clearly the concepts and big ideas students are to understand and also the competencies students are to develop.  In an information rich society, it is becoming less important for students to know a plethora of facts and details.  What is becoming increasingly important are competencies that help students make sense of the ubiquitous information they are surrounded by and to provide them with the skills necesseary to adapt to an ever changing world.

The Ministy of Education has articulated three Core Competencies which the Ministry asserts, “are vital to personal and social success, life-long learning, and to the changing workplace,” so a student’s development of these abilities are core to their quality of life.  The Competencies include Communication, Thinking and Personal and Social Competencies and I have written on these competencies here.  While it is still important that students acquire a general level of knowledge that allows them to understand the world they live in, the essential goals of the curriculum are the “Core Competencies.”  Reporting is likely to shift in the next year to reflect the changes in the curriculum.

With a greater understanding of how people learn, access to traditional and new tools for learning, and with the introduction of a curriculum that assists teachers with planning and effectively articulates the goals for student learning, change is very much upon us in BC education and very much so at BICS.  Change is challenging, but is far more comfortable when we recognize and understand the goals we are working towards.

With a greater understanding of how people learn, access to traditional and new tools for learning, and with the introduction of a curriculum that assists teachers with planning and effectively articulates the goals for student learning, change is very much upon is in BC education and very much so at BICS.  Change can be challenging, but is far more comfortable when we recognize what all this change is for and be clear about our goals for students.  When immersed in change, there should still be room for asking why and not just how.​

Prezi for PAC Presentation