Rigour and the Right Currencies

Rigour is being in the company of a passionate adult who is rigorously pursuing inquiry in the area of their subject matter and is inviting students along as peers in that adult discourse.

We have reached Spring Break and what a past month it’s been:

  • Varsha Sharma and Gavin Randhawa meet the Governor General;
  • Basketball playoffs have come and gone;
  • Wrestling Team off to Provincials;
  • Intervention Night School Classes beginning in April;
  • J Olympics (over 800 elementary school students participated in the one day celebration);
  • Kyle Jacques selected as a torch bearer and student reporter for the upcoming Paralympics;
  • Olympian, Clara Hughes, donating $10,000 to Take A Hike and visiting JO to speak and skate with our students.

At the last staff meeting we spoke about the importance of growth mind sets for both students and ourselves.  We looked at Carol Dweck’s article, “Mind-Sets and Equitable Education,” and discussed the “fixed mind set” which saw learning as the students’ responsibility and the “growth mind set” where learning is seen as a collaboration in which the teacher has great responsibility.  In all that we have accomplished together these past two years what has remained constant has been the belief that through their effort and our support JO students can develop their abilities.  They, like us, will struggle but now they do not experience difficulty as insurmountable.

The most invigorating aspect of John Oliver, from a professional perspective, is that we are continually engaged in growth mind set discourse around examining and improving our practices.   Our discussions this year have focused squarely upon our classroom practice because as Ridile rightfully asserts, “responsible change always leads directly to the classroom, because it is in the classroom where the business of school – teaching and learning – takes place” (Ridile, 2010).  So, what do we know about our “business” partners? A recent article by Robyn R. Jackson, “Start Where Your Students Are?” answers the question for us:

“The explicit curriculum is the stated objectives, content, and skills that students are expected to acquire. But to access that curriculum, students need to understand and possess certain underlying knowledge and skills [currencies]”.

“. . . students need to have the right currencies. They need to know how to take effective notes, study from these notes, independently practice applying their skills, learn from their errors and self-correct, pay attention in class, monitor their comprehension, and ask for help when they do not understand [soft skills]”.

Start Where Your Students Are – Robyn R. Jackson

Our students struggle in school not because they can’t learn the explicit curriculum, but because they don’t have the currencies needed to access this curriculum.  We have said that to access these currencies students need an understanding and appreciation of ‘rigour.’  But, what is rigour, how do we shape it, how do we embed it in our classrooms?

Larry Rosenstock, from “Project Based Learning at High Tech High,” presents us with the starting point that links rigour with passion.


Passion but in an accepted and appreciated structure that values soft skills and promotes a growth mind-set – this is where we need to go.  Over the next few months we will collectively look at our instructional delivery and how we can define the ‘stages’ of our classes to maximum learning opportunities that stress process as much as product and help our students access the currencies needed in a high-performing school.

I wish you all a restful Spring Break and in parting I leave you with the words of Robyn Jackson:

Great schools are not a matter of circumstance.  They are a matter of will.  Building a culture of success is not about money.  No amount of money will buy mind-sets, high expectations, beliefs, commitment, or dedication.  A culture of success is about will, determination, and persistence.