Happiness & Generosity

In 2012, the United Nations declared March 20th International Day of Happiness. Last Friday was the world’s third celebration where the United Nations stated, “The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

There is a political element to the day with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging member states to consider the impact peace and climate have on the potential for happiness of the “human family.”  The UN Foundation also encouraged global citizens to sign the Live Earth Petition which urges world leaders to “sign a strong and meaningful agreement at the climate negotiations in Paris this year.”   (For more on Paris 2015 COP21, click here.)Generosity

The day also recognizes that while happiness is fostered in conditions of peace, prosperity, human rights, and sustainability, happiness to some degree is a choice and individuals can take control it.  The charity Action for Happiness has articulated Ten Keys to Happier Living, described here and summarized in the graphic to the right.

At BICS, we are focusing on the Virtue of Generosity for the months of March and April.  This virtue flows well from the virtues of Kindness and Tolerance which were a focus in January and February. Generosity is both an act and an expression of kindness and leads to more kindness and generosity as it contributes to the happiness of all involved – givers and receivers.

So, part of generosity is giving.  But as Ban Ki-Moon reminds us in his message of happiness for 2015 below, celebrating happiness also involves giving thanks for what makes us happy.  Therefore, we can use our focus on generosity not only to encourage being generous to others, but also recognizing the generosity of other people and our planet.  As spring is upon us and Earth Day is April 22nd, it is a fitting time to recognize how the earth so generously provides the necessities of life – food, water, and clean air.  It is a fitting time to recommit to school initiatives to reduce the amount of garbage we produce through the encouragement of litterless and boomerang lunches.

Let March and April be a time where all members of the BICS community generously commit acts of kindness, for each other and the planet, and more fully appreciate the generosity of others and the earth.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon ‘s Message for 2015:

I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness!
The pursuit of happiness is serious business.
Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations.
Peace, prosperity, lives of dignity for all – this is what we seek.
We want all men, women and children to enjoy all their human rights.
We want all countries to know the pleasure of peace.
We want people and planet alike to be blessed with sustainable development, and to be spared the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Let us give thanks for what makes us happy.  
And let us dedicate our efforts to filling our world with happiness.
Thank you.

Making Use of the Core Competencies

Many of our efforts at Bowen Island Community School (BICS) to transition to the new draft curriculum are focusing on understanding and making use of the Core Competencies: Communication Competency, Thinking Competency, and Personal and Social Competency.  This is not easy work and my understanding of the competencies continually shifts thanks to conversations with educators at BICS and in #SD45PLN.2015-03-19_0946

Below, shared in green, are three understandings I think will affect the way educators and students make use of the competencies.  In blue, based on the understandings, I share how the competencies can be used by teachers and students.

1.  The Core Competencies, the Draft Curriculum notes, “are sets of intellectual, personal, and social and emotional proficiencies that all students need to develop in order to engage in deep learning and life-long learning.”  The competencies are not subject-specific (subject-specific competencies are called curricular competencies, i.e., the scientific method in the subject science), they are transferable and often applicable to all areas of learning.

Most learning experiences can develop some facet(s) of one or more of the competencies.  While teachers are always mindful of developing literacy and numeracy foundations, in my experience as a teacher I have sometimes planned lessons and assignments with too great a focus on knowledge acquisition and not enough focus on what students would be able to do, or to do better, as a result of the lesson or assignment.  When planning, the teacher can examine the competency facets to ensure what students can do is a core part of the lesson or assignment.  The facets may even broaden or simply make explicit the range of abilities students can develop.

2.  The competencies are a continuum which a person develops from the moment they start learning to the moment they stop learning.  In other words, they are not limited to a student’s experience in K-12 education and the profiles of each competency are not intended to align with any grade level expectations; for example, it is not expected that all students have reached profile level 3 in the Personal and Social Competency by grade five.

It is not important to focus on what profile level students achieve because a students level will vary from task to task.  Profile level 8 for the Communication Competency does not mean “A+” or exceeding expectations.  Students should also know that experiences outside of school, such as participating on a sports team or attending a community event, develop competencies.

3.  Following from point 2, the profile levels within a competency are more pertinent to the task assigned to the student rather than the student’s performance in the task:  some tasks only require the development and demonstration of a certain level of competency so regardless of how competent a student might be as a communicator, the task itself may be limiting to what the student does.

The competencies are helpful for self-assessment.  But self-assessment when using the competencies is more about assessing the task and the opportunities the task offers the student to demonstrate and develop the competencies than it is about assessing the student’s performance in demonstrating the competencies.  In other words, self-assessment is more about understanding the task and what competencies the task makes use of and develops.  Therefore, a major, if not the major, part of self-assessment happens prior to starting the task when the student assesses the task and identifies what abilities they have, or need to develop, to be successful at the task rather than after completing the task where the student evaluates their performance.

In summary, teachers can use the competencies to design learning experiences that effectively develop what students can do, not just what they are to know.  Teachers have long used learning outcomes and the Performance Standards to ensure planning developed students skills as well as understanding but determining what facets of a competency might be applicable for a task allows teachers to broaden the purpose of learning tasks and provides language to articulate this purpose clearly.

Students can use the competencies to understand a learning experiences:  beyond what knowledge and understanding they are to gain, how is the task intended to make the student a more capable/competent communicator or thinker?  What skills do students already have that they should apply to the task?

The key to planning for teachers and to self-assessment for students is to have a strong understanding of the end in mind.  While I am not yet certain how students will be assessed or self-assess the competencies for reporting, or even if they will do so, what is clear is that educators can make use of the competencies for planning, and students can make use of the competencies to understand tasks and their purpose.