This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of joining our District helping teachers from Curriculum, ELL, Technology, Learning Support Services, Career Programs and Aboriginal Education in a half day session titled, Our Joint Efforts in Building Community Around New Curriculum and Assessment. In listening to all of the presentations about the new curriculum what became clear was this: we are now paying attention to learner competencies and not merely the content; that in reducing the volume of learning objectives we are now increasing flexibility to personalize learning to meet the strengths and needs of our students; that we are now committed to placing our collective focus upon the process and not merely the product of learning. In doing all of this, we are facilitating new “ways of doing” that will be transferable in an age of ever changing and increasingly sophisticated product.
As I reflected on this, I began to see that through these presentations we could easily create a somewhat bold statement of purpose:
Our schools will be places in which students can discover and pursue their passions and in so doing engage in ways that will allow them to discover and develop their own admirable purposes.
A solid statement but put the word lifelong learning in it and you’ve got the classic mission statement that’s posted in the office and has had no effect on the kids who have been sent down from class to see the Vice Principal. No. What I got out of this half day session, surrounded by all of our District’s outstanding helping teachers who were focused on creating an action plan, was not a long statement but rather a simple yet meaningful mantra:
Ours schools will be communities where we do work that’s worth doing.
For students, teachers, administrators and parents our joint efforts in building community will, to borrow from Suzie Boss, help us create learners that will be:
- Action-oriented: able to recognize problems and advocate for worthy solutions;
- Networkers: able to collaborate, build on others’ ideas, access resources;
- Risk Takers: willing to suggest or consider unconventional solutions;
- Forward Looking: recognize potential for game-changing ideas;
- Resilient: able to apply problem solving strategies to overcome setbacks;
- Able to help good ideas grow by attracting others to support an idea.
In listening to Kanta, Cindy, Patti, Leigh, Perry and Shelley, what I got was the very real feeling that we are on the precipice of
transforming the learning experiences in our schools – that work worth doing place! We’re going to minimize the prescribed learning to maximize the possibilities for innovation, creative thinking, and ignite passion in students by allowing teachers to bring their own passions to their classrooms. Through the Ministry draft of grade 10-12 curriculum, we’re going to explore modules of learning and remove silo scheduled classes which will allow students and staff to connect the dots and connect their learning to their very real and very important lives. We’re going see technology as a means to move us from learning spaces to learning places and emphasize real world contexts and global modalities. We’re going to create a leaning culture that promotes a philosophy of social justice, character development and personalized learning. And we’re going to do this not as pockets of good practice but as a system wide plan of excellence.
Perhaps the greatest impact this day made on me was twofold:
One – by bringing all of our departments together, by sharing the expertise of all these great teachers in one room, we are saying that we cannot leave to chance the necessary connecting and building of networks needed for new curriculum implementation – what’s required is an aligned system that promotes a network of innovation, that creates a culture wherein connecting and building (between levels, departments, individuals) is the expectation and a shared expertise becomes the accepted norm;
Two – within this network, the teacher provides the living pulse, not just as an educator but now, with this new curriculum, as an artist. I think of the importance of this role and I remember the words of Ricardo Levins Morales:
We artists have no special answers unavailable to other people. What we have is work that’s intricately entangled in our people’s dreams, hope, and self-images. Like it or not, we are part of society’s process of dreaming, thinking, and speaking to itself, reflecting on our past and finding new ways forward.
Dreaming, thinking and speaking…reflecting and finding new ways forward…intricately entangled with those we serve. Think of this while you move forward building community around new curriculum and assessment.
Thank you everyone for a truly inspirational day.