Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do We Care About Adult Literacy? We Need To!

Daphne Greenberg asks some great questions that we who can read need to consider. 4 out of 10 adults in Canada have low literacy and this is not just an English as a Second Language issue. We are so quick to suggest that it's the foreign workers that struggle with reading, but the truth of the matter is that many of them can read, just not English. But they can read in their own language, so they technically don't get counted in those numbers. But as much as it is a need within in our communities, sadly, those who need to read this message, cannot read this blog. That's a big reason that I like to add a video to my blog, because at least people who might not read very well can get something out of this message.

So what do we need to do? We need to invest into adult literacy programs and give our time volunteer tutoring. The benefits are huge. When a person can read a so many more opportunities open up to them either for employment, or even just their quality of life. It's easy for us to take for granted that we can read. I love to read, and I thoroughly enjoy sitting back and relaxing with my Kindle app on my tablet. A whole new world opens up to me as a read a novel, or non-fiction on a given topic of interest. As a result, I'm learning. But if my only source of information is radio or TV, I'm missing out of so much. But more importantly, if I can't read chances are greater that I will struggle socio-economically. And then what about the children? How does this affect them?

Sadly, low literacy is everywhere and we need to care about it.

Here's a few links to look at: Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education

P.A.L.S. - Changing Lives Through Literacy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trains, Train, Learn

How many of you have been on a train? I love travelling on a train, or subway. We see trains all the time. They are not an uncommon sight around Bassano. Many of the staff will laugh about my obsession with trains, because it began while trying to sleep in camper trailer and being woken up several times each evening to the train whistle as it approached the highway crossroads. My father-in-law was a train man for 37 years, and he was telling me there is pattern to the whistles. - Two long, one short or two short, one long means the train is approaching a grade level crossing or road crossing. Multiple short whistles mean Danger! Something is on the track like livestock or a vehicle. In any case, for the first few weeks in Bassano, I heard every train that went through town; supposedly we have 23 that go through each day. I think there are more! People tell me I'll get use to it, and I have already to some extent, but I do like the sound of the train. It's become a familiar sound. 

Every morning that I'm out running at 6:30 AM, I see trains going through town. I love watching them go by. Each car uniquely spray painted by some artist somewhere in Canada or the USA. It makes you wonder where that car has been. And the detail is amazing as illustrated in the picture here. 

How many of you knew that trains were responsible for us living in Mountain Standard Time? Time zones have not always been around. In fact, Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian railway planner and engineer, outlined a plan for worldwide standard time in the late 1870s. On November 18, 1883, the railway implemented Standard Time Zones for all railways in the USA and Canada. Then the Government of Canada passed legislation implementing time zones across Canada on July 1, 1891. 

All this train talk got me thinking about the word, train. Where does it come from? So I did a little research and learned that the word train used as a noun, comes from the Latin meaning to pull, or draw. On a long dress, a train is the long part of material that is being pulled behind. As a verb, train means to educate, instruct, or teach. Training is not confined to just teachers and schools though; training begins at home first. In fact, parents are the first teachers. Following the wise old proverb we as parents are called to, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Train, or Pull, or Draw the learning from the each learner in this lifelong process, that's what we do as parents, and that's what we do as teachers.

We are tasked by Alberta Education to educate our students. We are to train them with the skills that will help them succeed later on in life after school. So this year, we have a Ministerial Order that has commissioned us to ensure that we train our children the following 10 skills or competencies across all subject areas. These competencies are sets of attitudes, skills and knowledge that are drawn upon and applied to different situations and subject areas for successful learning and living. They will be developed by every student, in every grade and across every subject/discipline area. They are:

  • Know how to learn...
  • Think critically...
  • Identify and solve complex problems...
  • Manage information...
  • Innovate...
  • Create opportunities...
  • Apply multiple literacies...
  • Demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others
  • Demonstrate global and cultural understanding..
  • Identify and apply career and life skills...
If you want more information about these, check out the link at Cross-Curricular Competencies. 

We talk a lot about learning these days, and being a lifelong learner, which is very student-centred. But in order, for our students to be successful in learning, we need to train them how to learn, think critically, work through problems, manage the information, and more. We will pull and draw this out of our students, because we believe that can and will exceed their potential this year and in the years to come. So every time you see a train this year, think about learning, whether it is your learning or our students learning. It's a year to train.

September 2014 - Bassano School News

Click here for the latest copy of the Bassano School News for September 2014.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The New Guy in Town

No matter where you go, or whichever community you visit, there are always certain things that stand out when you see something for the first time. I was reminded of this recently, when I was driving down the streets of Prince Albert, SK, and realizing how certain buildings and homes are taken for granted, until something happens to one of them. Then we take notice.

As the new guy in town, living at the Desert Sands RV park for a few weeks until we get housing in order for me to move my family into for Sept 1, I’ve had a few observations. Small towns are as small towns anywhere. And Bassano is no exception. Whether I’m running my 5km in the morning, or driving down the street in my green Avalanche (Proud Saskatchewan Roughrider fan), I’m greeted by a friendly nod or wave followed by a smile. I am feeling welc
omed here. It also helps that Tom Rose, our friendly mayor, was one of the first people to call me back in June and welcome me to Bassano. I must say that was a first, but he and I have had many talks since, and I look forward to working with him. Then there was our local School Board Trustee, Melanie Chapman, who took my wife around house hunting while I was in meetings and made her feel right at home.

My second impression is an important one. I am thrilled with the school. We have a great school, not only the building with its shiny floors, and well groomed yard, but also from the reports I have been reading and the conversations I’ve had with the staff and community members. The previous administration has done some great work, and I hope to continue this work further.  But a school is only as good as everyone working together to make it the best.  You need to know, I’m a very community-minded guy, who will rely on each one of the parents, students, teachers, and staff to help me in this role. I don’t know if you already know this, but the most recent Accountability Pillar Results from Alberta Education paints an amazing picture of academic improvements with our students over the past three years. I think we have great teachers and a great school in Bassano.

My wife, Janice, and daughters, Maryn & Brynn, are moving here from Prince Albert, SK. We are excited about the move. We look forward to getting to know many of you over the years, and we plan to be here for awhile. If any of you have ever moved, it’s an incredibly stressful experience. So we don’t plan to do this again for awhile.

Please stop by and introduce yourself anytime. I’ve been working on the school website over the past few days trying to make it a little more user friendly. We will post lots of pictures, events, forms, announcements, policies, and so forth for parents, students and community members to see over this year. If you have suggestions, please call me or drop by for a coffee to discuss them with me.  The school motto is Respectful – Responsible – Involved, that isn’t just for the school, but a call to each one of us to practice this, live it, and teach for the betterment of the community. It looks like from first impressions, Bassano is well on its way with this motto. You’ve made me feel welcome and I look forward to working with you to take our students beyond their potential.  Thank you and we’ll talk soon.