Sunday, December 6, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lavish, Magnanimous, Munificent, Ungrudging Giving of Time and Money called Generosity

Generosity is something we all need in our lives. It's a natural progression of kindness and caring for one other. Our acts of kindness activity at the school this past month really took off. The students received a footprint that they put up on the wall, leaving a trail of kindness. 

To build on this enthusiasm, we are extending the acts of kindness for another month and adding acts of generosity. It's important to note that generosity isn't only about giving money or making a donation of some form, but it also includes acts of service and giving of our time. So we are encouraging the students to practice their generosity  and collect a hand print, which they will put their name on and the generous action they performed. Each classroom will have different colored hands and as they collect the hand prints, they will place them on a wall in the gymnasium in the shape of a Christmas Tree. When the parents arrive for the Christmas concert later in December they will see the visual of the Christmas tree made from all the generous acts of the students. This is just one activity that we will do to promote the virtue of generosity within the school.

Here a few practicing generosity ideas for home or the classroom

Give Away the Extras

At our home, we have had a longstanding practice that every time you bought a new piece of clothing, you gave something away from your closet. Otherwise, we found that we just began to accumulate too much stuff. So here's a game you can play with your kids,  “What do we have extra that we could share?” Go through your stuff at home and if you haven't worn it or used it in a year or even in 6 months, give it away to a local charity.

Some examples include:

  • Food – take some food to the Food Bank,
  • Clothing – pack up clothes that have been outgrown or not being worn, and give them to a charity or needy family,
  • Blankets and other household items – many inner-city ministries make home starter kits for those in need,
  • Toys – many organizations collect toys for underprivileged children.
Acts of Service

It's important to note that generosity isn't only about giving gifts, or money, it is also about giving your time. So it's important to think of different ways in which we can help someone out with our acts of service. Make a gift for someone – a card, cookies or a care package – and pay them a visit.

Have the kids make something for someone else. Ask yourself, "is there someone who needs to be encouraged by a gift or a visit from us?” Maybe it will be creating a card for a relative, baking cookies for the homeless, making a care package for someone in need, or spending time with a widow who struggles with loneliness. 

Fun with Generosity

I think one of the things children and even adults struggle understanding is what it means to be generous. Generous is defined as showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected. The word comes from the Latin, Generosus, which means to be magnanimous or lavish kindness on others. So to illustrate this, have the kids make ice cream sundaes or decorate monster cookies for other members of the family, being generous with the toppings.

Each family member makes a sundae for someone else in the family. Put out ice cream and a variety of toppings, and allow your children to be generous in making sundaes for other family members. You can also do this with “monster cookies,” which are oatmeal cookies filled with numerous additions like nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc. Family members can make monster cookies for designated family members, decorating each other's cookies generously. 

When it's all said and done, talk about it with the kids and ask them to explain how being generous with the toppings can translate into being generous in everyday living.

Habits of Sharing

During meals and while you are visiting with others, model how to share treats and be specific about encouraging your children to share.

Some fun ideas include:

Sharing your dessert with your spouse or children and say something like, “This ________ is so much sweeter because I shared it with you.”

A family tradition you could start is that when treats, desserts, etc. are given out, whoever divides the treat allows the other to choose which part of the treat they would like. For example, one child breaks the chocolate bar in half, then lets the other choose which half they would like.

Demonstrate sharing without being asked. Provide extra treats for your children to take when going on outings with friends so they can practice sharing and being generous.

While driving, use these questions for conversation starters:
  • How do you feel when someone else has a treat and you don’t?
  • How do you feel when someone is playing with a neat toy and does not share it?
  • How does it make you feel when someone shares a special treat with you?
  • How about when someone gives you first choice of which toy to play with?
These are just a few ideas about teaching generosity to our children.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Time to Practice...No...Live Out Our Kindness

It doesn't matter where you go, there’s always a bully, that’s not to excuse it, but state the facts. The idea of bullying is not a new concept. We've all had our own experiences with bullying. I’m sure if we sat down and had a chat about our childhoods, we would have stories to share about being picked on in school. School was a difficult experience for me because I was by nature a very gentle and kind individual.  It didn’t help that I was a red-haired, freckled face boy growing up. I’m not sure why people naturally gravitate towards targeting the gingers. But they do! Then add to that my teeth were a mess. I broke my jaw when I was 4 yrs. old,  and my teeth came in all over the place. So I had braces for five years during school. Many a school picture had me barely smiling, because I didn’t want anyone to see my teeth or later on my braces. However, I survived with a few bumps and bruises along the way.

My mother always said that if I saw somebody hurting or have a need I was the first one to offer to give them the shirt off my back if that would help. Maybe I'm too trusting or always trying to see the good in people, but I have found over the years that it is easy for people to take advantage of me because of my kind nature. I dislike seeing people hurting. I think that's why I like being a teacher so much because when I see students coming from difficult situations I want to help. I can't always fix things or make things right but I can at least show some kindness and care for the students. My hope is that with a little bit of care and compassion I can make a student’s life a little bit better. So when I hear about bullying in school it is certainly something that we want to address at the school level. But rather than focus on bullying or anti-bullying, we try to focus on the virtue of kindness. We do so because when we only point out the negative or what behavior we don't want to see it doesn’t call our students to the practice of the virtue that we want to see from them. Rather than saying to a child, “Stop bullying,” we ask the students to be kind to one another. What does a child learn when we only point out mistakes or failures or what isn't working rather asking what it is we want from them.

The flipside of this also is that if we want to see more kindness we need to model it for them as well. It's so important that we speak to our children and students in a way that builds them up and encourages them to do the right things rather than pointing out all the things that they don't do right. This doesn't necessarily come easy or naturally for us as human beings because we’re inundated with such negative messages around us, so we find it easy to criticize and put others down. So if we want our children or students to practice kindness, we as adults need to do our part as well. So Nov 13th is World Kindness Day. Let’s be kind to one another.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Connections are Essential for Student Learning

If you have time, watch the TedxTalk by Johann Hari, Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong. Johann has been researching and writing about the War on Drugs for a number of years. But during his research about drug addiction, he realized that all kinds of addiction, such as gaming, gambling, sex & pornography, internet, cell phones, and other kinds of issues had one common factor in the lives of those who were living the addiction. Each person struggling with addiction had or were experiencing a loss of connection. Many of those caught up with addiction replaced relationship for alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, etc. Johann states very clearly that what individuals struggling with addictions need most is connection to people who love them and surround them with hope. He says, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” 

It has been my experience that relationship building is hard work. We are flawed, imperfect individuals trying to make something beautiful in our lives. No matter what we do with building relationships someone will mess up, make mistakes, say something they will regret along the way. But when we replace connection for something other than something living and breathing we get into trouble. Where’s the relationship in playing video games for six or seven hours a night? Or what about the youth who can’t live without their phone for five minutes? I’m worried about our next generation that would rather resort to texting or Snapchatting, than sitting down and actually talking face to face where you can engage all five senses. 

I say all this knowing full well that relationship building is a lot of work. It’s no different for us at the school. We have families, spouses, children, and friends in our lives, in which, we strive to maintain healthy relationships. So it is only natural that we extend that relationship building to our students. It’s been said that very little learning goes on where relationships have not been first established. All of us need to work on those relationships, first between staff members and then with our students. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that from time to time because we get so busy and our priorities get misaligned. We have a saying in our home, “family first.” That means we put relationship first over everything. We want our school to be the same way. We need to operate like one big family working through challenges and coming up with ways to work together in order for learning to happen. But it doesn't stop there, we need to have the relationship with parents at home too. We know we have some work to do to build stronger relationships with parents. Our hope is that this year will be a turning point that engages the home more and increasing student success.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Project-Based Learning Samples via Video Production

Over this past semester, the students have done a lot of different projects. I want to highlight just a few to show the depth of understanding that these students demonstrated in shooting and editing video.

The first one was by Davy Jerry and Treston Bear.  They chose to do a freestyle format for shooting the video. I love the humor they incorporated into it. They use the Jurassic Park music in the background.

The second one was called Zombie Sequence by Ty Iron Shirt. I really loved this video, as gross as it was, but he worked tirelessly on Garageband editing the audio until he had it perfect. When he had it, he exported the audio out and imported it into Premiere Pro. Excellent!

The hockey playoffs are in full swing, and Wyatt Baxter and Gary Doherty are big fans. They scoured hours of video in a couple of days and made up a compilation video highlighting the two teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's a smooth flowing video that really comes together well. These guys also worked on the Brooks Bandits live broadcasting this winter as well and did the promo video as well.

Or the Kyrie Irving Video Remake by Wacey Many Bears, who used the audio and demonstrated his own basketball skills on the court. Well done, and lots of fun.

Finally, the School was asked to video readers at the Family Literacy Night at Brooks, and the students then took the video and used the book to illustrate the video for students to view later. Despite some audio issues, it was a great effort.

Wacey Many Bears and Braden Good Eagle worked on a video project for Alberta Health and Alberta Education highlighting the effect of the flood of June 2013. They did an amazing job of this video.

What Learning Style are You?

I can hardly believe how fast the year has gone, and summer is fast approaching. It has been an incredibly busy year. It seems only like a few weeks ago when I was sitting down in my office and thinking about the upcoming year and imagining what it would be like. First impressions? It's been a good year. However, either I'm getting old because I'm tired a lot of the time, or we have packed so much into the school year that we've worn ourselves out. Summer is going to be a time of rest and rejuvenation. Many of students need that rest too. So I hope they slow down a bit during the break and get some much needed rest. But I digress.

As a teacher, it's important to reflect over the year and think about what we taught, how we taught it, and how we assessed learning. If I just motor through the year and do the same thing year after year, and don't review my lesson plans, or examine the curriculum outcomes, or think of new ways to present the material, or do new activities for the upcoming school year, I'm not doing my job as a teacher. I wouldn't go to a dentist who did the same thing the same way for 50 years. There have been some significant changes in practice and technology over the years that I would hope the dentist would adopt. I would hope that they are continuously bettering themselves as a professional so that it makes my visit less stressful and painful. As a teacher, I need to do the same thing. I need to constantly be learning. Reflecting on my past school year is part of that process in learning. Already I'm thinking about how I will do some things differently. Some of my lessons and activities missed the mark with the students, so I need to differentiate (a big word for saying use a variety of methods to teach a concept) the instruction. 

You see, not every student learns the same way. That's why Howard Gardners 7 Styles of Learning are so important to education. Not everyone learns the same way. So when I'm teaching a class, I need to be aware that in a class of 20 students, there may be up to 7 different ways each student learns a concept. As a teacher, I must vary or differentiate the instruction so that different learning needs are addressed, and students get the greatest possible advantage available to learning that concept. Take for example, I'm a visual learner. I need the visual, hands-on instruction. If I am trying to figure out how to fix something at home, I go to Google and watch a video showing me how to do step by step. But once I've done it once, I've got it. So I've added a visual, because some people need the visual to understand what I'm talking about.

As I am reflecting on my teaching this year, I realize there are things I need to improve or change for next year, but I'm also concerned by what I see from some of our students. Despite all the efforts to make the curriculum more engaging and mix it up in how we teach the material, I'm sensing an apathy among some students about school or learning. Being a small school, we try very hard to compete with the city schools and offer as many extras as we possibly can so that students feel they are getting as close to equal as anywhere else. Staff cheerfully immerses themselves into coaching, travel club, field trips, music festivals, video projects, and more, because we want those extras for students. But when it comes to learning in the classroom, we seem to be losing ground on engaging every student on the importance of learning starting at about grade 8 and up. I recognize we live in a very social society, and that trickles into school as well. But schools have become more about a social get-together than an opportunity to learn for the future. Don't get me wrong, I want students to have a social life, and they need that social interaction, but there needs to be a balance. Have you ever gone on a trip with your kids and they spend most of their time on their phones, while you are taking in the sites and wonders? That seems to the norm for our teenagers. They spend a lot of time on their phones with Instagram and Snapchat. The result is that they are so visually stimulated by all the visual images and video clips it isn't really a surprise that sitting in a classroom and taking notes and listening really doesn't meet their expectations on the excitement meter. Homework is constantly interrupted by the ding of iMessage. How can they possibly focus on the task at hand if they are checking their phones every minute?

So when it comes to school and learning, it's not enough for teachers to provide a lot of busy work to students, we need to engage students so they are learning. There's no easy fix for this other than we need to do a better job of differentiating the instruction so that we can cover the 7 learning styles. They are:
  • Visual Learning - when the student prefers using pictures, images, and spatial understanding,
  • Solitary (Intrapersonal) Learning - when the student prefers to work alone and self-study,
  • Social (Interpersonal) Learning - when the student prefers to work in groups or other people,
  • Logical (Mathematical) Learning - when the student prefers using logic, reasoning, and systems,
  • Physical (Kinethestic) Learning - when the student prefers using body, hands, and sense of touch,
  • Verbal (Linguistic) Learning - when the student prefers using words, both in speech and writing,
  • Aural (Auditory-Musical) Learning - when the student prefers using sound and music.
So what learning style are you? 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Outcomes-Based Education Means Outcomes-Based Assessment too!

With report cards, making their way home, it seems appropriate to talk about some changes we are gradually making to how we report to parents and students about their progress. As I explain the process of assessment, I hope to simplify the explanation so everyone can have a basic, foundational understanding. Yet it is not a simple matter to understand; it took me a few years to make the changes to my assessment practices because I was rooted in how I was graded as a child and then how I graded as an early teacher. But the more I read up on assessment, the more I argued with a friend of mine, it finally broke through that I needed to change how I assessed student learning. Sadly, for years, I marked the old percentage method which doesn't accurately tell us what students really know and understand of the outcomes that we teach in the classroom.

The Challenges!

Have you ever sat down and thought about how teachers derive the marks they do for students? We really do try our very best to make sure that we are being fair and equitable, but it's hard to keep subjectivity out of the process. Robert Marzano points out that "the score a student receives on a test is more dependent on who scores the test and how they score it than it is on what the student knows and understands." That's kind of scary when you think of it. But subjectivity in the grading process isn't always bad, because as teachers, we know our students, understand the range of students' work, and usually have a clear sense of the progress made over a period of time. At Bassano School, our teachers teach the outcomes for each AB Education course or subject, we call that outcomes-based education. So it would make sense then that when we measure students' understanding or proficiency of learning, that we are measuring how well students know the outcome and can demonstrate it other than just recite facts. We use multiple forms of assessment to determine students' knowledge of outcomes. We use lots of formative assessment, (informal or formal assessment like portfolios, projects, checklists, and more) to provide ongoing feedback to students, which becomes part of the learning, that's what we call Assessment for Learning. We aren't just assessing how well students get it, but we use the assessment as a method for adapting the instruction to ensure students are learning. When we mark or grade a student's work, we are looking for evidence of learning against a standard determined by Alberta Education required at each grade level as mastery. As teachers, though, it's important to look for evidence or proofs of learning. It's not about looking for what is not there or missing from the answer, but what is present as proof of learning. When we look for what's missing, it's easy to turn assessment into a punitive exercise.

Zeros - Unfortunately, over the past forty years, schools have been great at pointing out student shortcomings even to the point of being a form of punishment. What do I mean by this? How many times have students received a zero for something, when that couldn't be further from the truth of what the students knows about a subject? Giving a student a zero is like saying a student doesn't know anything; they have zero knowledge or understanding about the outcome that was being taught simply because they didn't turn in the assignment. They may have had the work half completed, but they are being told they get a zero because they didn't turn it in. Is the grade supposed to tell us what the student knows, or punish them for not turning it in?

Averaging - Another area that poses some challenges for schools is the 100 point/percent averaging system. Thomas Guskey says that the averaging of grades "falls far short of providing an accurate description of what students have learned...If the purpose of grading and reporting is to provide an accurate description of what students have learned then averaging must be considered inadequate and inappropriate." Doug Reeves goes further to say teachers "must abandon the average, or arithmetic mean, as the predominant measurement of student achievement."  Why? Typically what has happened in the past is a student might get the following marks for five different assignments 93, 70, 87, 55, 90 in an outcome or unit. What does a student get on their report for the first term then? Well, if we average the marks, they have a total of 365 points, which we divide by 5 and they get an 79% on their report card. But does this really give us an accurate measure of what they know? No. They have clearly demonstrated mastery understanding in 3 of the 5 assignments when you measure it against the proficiency standards. In reality the student should have received an 87% average because that's the median. But Alberta doesn't do that for our students doing the diploma exams. They take your school mark and your diploma mark and add them together and divide by two, and that's your grade. Take a student that gets a 90 in Math 30 from their teacher, and gets 60 on the diploma. They get a 75% for a final grade. How unfair was that? When you look at the test anxiety our students have experienced on exam day, because a comprehension exam that was taking a 3 hour snapshot of what they learned over the entire semester. So because they were stressed, they were punished for doing poorly during that testing period. I realize that AB Education is changing the spread from 50-50 to 70-30. But it's still an averaging of the two grades.

Time Factors – In other Alberta school, students are penalized for late work, or not allowed to resubmit work or rewrite tests after a period of time. But in reality, life doesn't put limits on us to demonstrate learning. If I fail my driver's test, I can retest as many times as I want. Time shouldn't be a barrier to learning; however, it has been in many schools, but not at Bassano School. We do not deduct for late work, and we allow for rewrites, and redo’s. If a pattern develops of chronic lateness, then measures need to be put into place to make provision for getting the work done after school or during lunch hours. It's more important that the students learn the value of doing work well and in a timely manner with a hope to improve things.

Some Changes!

We have been making some assessment changes over the past few months in the junior high, and some philosophical changes in the high school to reflect fair and equitable assessment practices. Kindergarten – Gr. 6 uses the 4 point scale, much like in the figure below. 

We are starting to implement the 4 point scale into the Junior High for grades 7 - 9. Already we have seen significant changes in student performance. As Rick Wormeli says, it is important to provide students hope for them to feel more engaged and take ownership of learning. So one of the ways we do that is by encouraging students to strive for proficiency and mastery as a minimum of learning. We use the slogan, "If it's not a 2, it's a redo." We will not accept anything less than adequate learning which is a level 2. So students redo assignments, rewrite tests, and fix or correct their mistakes. We don't make them redo the whole assignment or rewrite the complete test. They only have to redo or fix the problem areas and make the necessary corrections to demonstrate proficiency. The buy-in from the students has been huge. We've had to get them to change their thinking about assessment from thinking about grade point averages or a total average of grades, to do I know this outcome, and how well do I know it. The grade doesn't motivate like a sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you know what is being taught.

Some might say it's best to make these changes after the summer holidays, or when everyone is ready to be on board. The quick response to that is that's not really how life works. If we expect students to learn and grow during the school year, as teachers, we need to learn and grow with change as well. We needed to make this change for our students benefit, because we value them so much. The benefits we've seen a few short months are huge. Already students are working harder to learn the outcomes. Levels of engagement are up. Students are giving more effort to learn, where they once sat in their seats giving up. So that's why we didn't wait. We believe it was worth it for the students.

Our Commitment!

We are committed to:
  • support and encourage students to meet the high standards set before them,
  • being fair, and equitable in our assessment practices for students,
  • using multiple forms of assessment to help students build on their knowledge base and expand on their opportunities,
  • building meaningful relationships and rapport with parents, students, and community through regular and positive communication,
  • creating a flexible learning environment that leads to students being responsible and accountable for their learning,
  • eliminating barriers, such as time, through continuous learning opportunities for mastery learning.
If you want to watch some videos that speak to good assessment practices, watch Rick Wormeli: 

Monday, February 23, 2015

It was the Best of Times...It was the Worst of Times.

The last thing I want to do is create panic or fear, but I think we need to be thinking about current economic trends and the impact it may have on Bassano. I don't know how many of you have ever been unemployed for a short or extended period, but it's no fun. I used to pride myself that I was only on unemployment for four months when I was 22 years old. So for thirty years, I was fortunate enough to be employed even through college and university. My dad taught all of kids the value of work, he has been a great example for me over my life. At 76, he still makes his way back into the bush behind my parents house and cuts brush, limb trees, plows, hauls, and whatever he can find to keep himself busy. So I have learned a lot from him, and I have tried to model myself after him in terms of working hard. But sometimes life hits you, and hits you hard.

Many people from the area probably don't know that in May 2014, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) cut our funding for our school that we created in 2005. Credenda Virtual High School laid off all its employees on May 16th, 2014, and yet most staff volunteered their services until the end of June with no pay just so students could get their credits. The fact that AANDC did what they did is still a sore point for me, especially since we had an agreement until the end of August. But that's for another time. What I want to highlight is the tremendous stress being unemployed puts on families. Going from a decent salary to waiting for unemployment to kick in and then trying to live on less than 50 percent of what you were used to was extremely challenging. Then add into the equation, both of us lost our jobs because we both worked for the same organization. It was a difficult time, and we have spent months trying to get caught up. I don't share this for people to feel sorry for us, but for the purpose for people to know we didn't come to Bassano under the easiest of circumstances, and we understand tough times. We are very thankful that this opportunity opened up for us, and we have adapted well to our new surroundings. We have no complaints about the weather. We gladly left the cold north!

That brings me to what is happening in Alberta at large and specifically here in Bassano. A few weeks ago, I caught wind that CPR was closing our local maintenance shop. Quite shocking since CPR is reporting record profits of $1.76B for last year. When I spoke to Tom Rose, Mayor of Bassano, he had this to say, "There are a myriad of reasons as to why I'm concerned with the potential closure of our CPR maintenance shop. First and foremost, I'm concerned about public safety. Fewer workers servicing more track will most certainly lead to more derailments. There is a tremendous amount of dangerous goods passing through Bassano on an hourly basis, so I find it reprehensible that CPR is considering cut backs of this nature and putting not just our community, but others as well, at risk." 

Tom and I reached out to Jason Hale, MLA to see what he could do to help. Jason had a couple  of conversations with the VP of Gov Relations for the CPR regarding the closure. "I asked him to look into keeping the Bassano shop open, but it was a decision made above him. Although he explained it as a corporate restructuring with no effect on safety, I agree with Tom, the fewer people looking after the track, there are more chances of derailments and increased safety issues." CPR has already been quietly making cuts though. Unknowingly to the general public, we only have three CPR workers stationed in Bassano, instead of the designated six, because CPR didn't fill the other three positions when they became vacant. So we have three fewer workers sharing the workload of six people and covering more track. In addition, it makes more sense to maintain Bassano's shop that is heated and only one mile off of being half way between Calgary and Medicine Hat. Take these three employees from Bassano and the impact to the community could be even more significant economically. If we lose these three families, that's seven students from the school (which amounts to about half a teacher's salary), fewer local shoppers at the local grocery store, restaurants, and other businesses.

Now add to that reports of other layoffs from the oil and gas sector, which could affect more families. The drop in oil prices is going to hit Alberta hard. The government needs to find ways to make up for lost revenue if it's going to keep programming at the same level. Hiring freezes are in place at various government levels. In addition, the government is proposing health care premiums. And let's hope that the BSE cow in Spruce Grove doesn't add to matters and affect that industry as well.

Once again, I don't say this to scare folks, but because we need to rally around and support our affected families. In order for our small communities to survive difficult economic times we need to be resourceful and very creative around economic development. Alberta cannot build its entire economy around oil and gas. Saskatchewan learned this lesson through twenty plus years of economic drought. They invested heavily in multiple industries and diversified their resources so that when one resource dropped in the market, it didn't collapse the entire economy. That's why Saskatchewan is growing. So if Bassano wants to continue to grow, we need to attract businesses that do not depend strictly on oil and gas. 

This gets personal for people like Jason Hale, who added, "I was born and raised in this town and this is where we have raised our children who are the 4th generation of Hales to live in Bassano. The current financial situation in the province will have a negative impact on many businesses and families. But we must all work together to come up with solutions to keep our communities and businesses sustainable. I care deeply what happens here and will help however I can." So when we have our Bassano Vision meeting on March 3, 2015, maybe you need to come join us and give your input. This is a time for action and not just sitting back and talking about it.

We've already one family move away up north to secure employment this year with two students. It's hard on kids to relocate, make new friends, or become accustom to new surroundings, such as schools and teachers. Sometimes we have to move, out of necessity. However, lives are affected. So what do those who find themselves in these situations need from us. Most importantly, empathy, not sympathy. Empathy is that coming alongside someone in need, listening, and understanding what they are feeling. We don't empathize from a distance, being overly detached and unfeeling, or even self-centered caring about only our own needs.

What can we do from the school side? First of all, we can't assume we know what is happening in people's lives at home. So please contact us if you need to talk. Maybe there are things we can do by way of recommending retraining programs. We are currently in talks with Medicine Hat College about bringing the University Transfer Program to Bassano School. Maybe it's time to start working on the university degree before transferring to the University of Calgary, or Lethbridge. But why not do it here in Bassano without having to move. These would be evening and weekend classes. We only need 15 people to register with Medicine Hat College, and sign up for the Fall to make it run. We are also looking at the Healthcare Aide program as well, since we have the simulator that was donated by Cenovus, Dick Haskayne, and others

There are a few things we can do help those in need in the community, but we need to all pull together with one concerted effort. Reach out to those in need, or call us if there is any way we can help with pointing you in the direction of training, upgrading, or just listening. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Reasons for Every Teacher to Have a Digital Presence: A Principal's Perspective

More and more we need to control the message that goes out from the school. We don't have to look far to find reports of schools doing poorly, or a news story about another violent act in a school, or some bad news that affects schools, or whatever. In the midst of all this, we need to control the message and ensure that we are getting our message out to the general public, or parents about the good things that are happening in our schools. When I look around, I see so much good happening in our school, and we have been very purposeful in engaging in Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook for our students and parents. The result? I think many students and parents are very happy about what they are seeing online.

I realize there is a skepticism among some about using social media in education, but the truth is that there are more pros than cons for engaging in social media from an educational perspective. I will not let the misuse of these mediums limit my use of them for the good of our school and community. I've heard the stories of cyber bullying on Facebook; I've heard of students hacking into Instagram accounts and putting up rude and hurtful comments about another person; I have seen some of the disgusting tweets put out there for people to read. But in the end, I want to use these mediums for good, because they really are powerful tools that can spread a message of hope and bring about positive outcomes. We just need to know how to use them. That being said, I have 5 reasons why every teacher should have a digital presence.

1) Control the message about your classroom success


One of the most important tasks a teacher needs to do is let parents know what is happening in the classroom. It really is about relationship building. It's not any different than the relationship building that needs to happen in the classroom, as well. With the access we have to technology, whether it is email, texting, using Remind 101, connecting with home shouldn't be the challenge it was 20 years ago anymore. So with a tool like Facebook, I encourage teachers to create a Facebook page and invite all the parents to LIKE it so only they have access to see the student work that is being posted, the pictures of students working on activities, or just to send out announcements or homework.

I think one of the best examples I have seen of a teacher controlling the message is Kathy Cassidy, Gr One Teacher from Moose Jaw, SK. Here's a couple of her links for her blog, Primary Preoccupation that she posts weekly with video, pictures of students and her Twitter account, where she promotes her blog, and her classroom activities. She's an excellent example of getting the message out there for parents to connect to the school. I would want my children in her classroom by what I have seen her doing with students. Check it out.

2) Network with peers for ideas and support

Matt Davis wrote a blog, Social Media for Teachers, a few years ago that is worthwhile linking here that highlights how teachers can use Social Media effectively. Over the years, I have tried a number of different tools. I've had an page, which I eventually deleted because I didn't see the value of it for networking purposes. I've used Linkedin to expand my network, but I'm not sure I felt more support or gained more ideas because I used it. I've created my boards on Pinterest, and pinned lots educational ideas that I shared with others, and I've gained a lot of good ideas too, but I don't feel connected to the people that follow my boards or vice versa. So before I open up a bunch of accounts and getting caught up in the novelty of a new fad app or tool, I've started asking myself the question, why am I opening another account, and what do I hope to achieve with it.

The more I work with social media, the more I find the need to network with peers about ideas. For that, I use Twitter. I'm getting more selective about who I accept to follow back, as well, because I want it to have value for my learning. I can pose questions for discussion and get the feedback from other teachers and administrators. I receive immense value from tweeting. Those that I follow and who follow me back provide valuable insights to issues and ideas that either give me validation or correction.

3) Manage your professional development

In addition to the networking, one of the greatest values I receive is the professional development. I engage regularly in #satchat, #sunchat, #sblchat, #TN2T, #skedchat, and more. They have become my greatest source of professional development. I am in contact with people all over the world who share their enthusiasm for learning as I do. The ideas I learn are invaluable. It forces me to keep up my reading, which I access through Flipboard, Zite, or Feedly. I have subscribed to feeds, blogs, and news articles that register with my interests. By linking them to Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and Scoopit, I can share the articles I read with others and give my feedback as well. As a principal, I feel it my duty to take the lead for my learning and set the example for my teachers. As more teachers from my school connect to Twitter, I make sure that I include @BassanoSchool to Tweets for my teachers to be able to see, where I retweet for our parents and students, who follow our school Twitter as well. It's all part of the bigger plan to spread the word so we are all learning together.

4) Promote yourself and your accomplishments

One of the things that many of us educators struggle with is promoting what we do. Maybe part of this challenge is that we are trained to be too modest. Whatever the case, teachers need to promote their achievements and accomplishments where they are experiencing success with students. Why should others have to experience more challenges in their classroom, because we don't want to share what's working and what's not. Blogging has become that tool for me. I find myself, with more practice, sharing what I've learned, what I am learning, and some of my greatest successes. I encourage teachers to blog. It's surprising the reach my blog has had. It's been read around the world with over 33,000 pageviews by complete strangers. Many of the comments I have received are that my insights have been helpful.

5) Be a Changemaker

Finally, if we are going to change the world of education, we need to engage in the mediums our students are using and use them for good. Recently, I took some pictures of some of our boys enrolled in a mentorship program at the school. They were mentoring younger students by taking them to the hockey arena and teaching them how to skate and play hockey. This experience was a game changer for the kids, but I put the pictures up on Instagram and shared them out to Twitter. Three different online newspapers retweeted the images, which was later retweeted by a national morning show TV host. The boys were thrilled, and they felt great about the volunteering they were doing. Parents and teachers were excited about the work these boys did, but more importantly, it produced change in a few boys lives that needed to hear something positive about themselves. Teachers have the power to be changemakers, not only for themselves, but for their students. Having digital presence makes that more than possible. It's time to get connected, and make a difference in people's lives.

What's the Virtue of Love look like? Feel like?

What is Love? 

Love is a special feeling that fills your heart. You show love in a smile, a pleasant way of speaking, a thoughtful act or a hug. Love is treating people and things with special care and kindness because they mean so much to you. Love is treating other people just as you would like them to treat you—with care and respect.

Why Practice It?

Without love, people feel alone. When they don’t feel they matter to anyone, they become unhappy. Sometimes they act angry and don’t let others get close. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone likes to be loved. When you are being loving, you help others to feel important. They become gentler and kinder. Love is contagious. It keeps spreading.

You are Practicing LOVE when you… 
  • Treat others as you want them to treat you 
  • Say kind and loving things 
  • Share your things and yourself 
  • Love people just as they are 
  • Take good care of the things you love 
  • Do what you love and love what you do 

I am a loving person. I show my love with thoughtful acts, kind words and affection. I treat others the way I want to be treated.

Some activities to use in your classroom with students:
  • Love, List & Listen Game - Using a timer have each child tell the group as many things as they can that they love in 15-20 seconds. After everyone has had a turn to share their loves go around and ask how many things the group can remember about what each one said. Don't tell the children ahead of time that you'll be going back to ask them what they remember from their friends lists. This is a great way for the kids to learn more about each other.
  • A world made of love posters - Cut out a large pile of various colored little hearts. Have the kids use all the little hearts to make collage pictures.
  • Growing Hearts - Have the kids paint or draw pictures of hearts growing like flowers in a garden.
  • Valentine's Cards - If you're doing this lesson around Valentine's Day have the children make make home-made Valentine cards and decorations.
  • The Golden Rule - Following the Golden Rule is one way your child shows love to others. Adapt the rule by having your child consider how a sibling, classmate or stranger wants to be treated. Also consider ways not to annoy others as an extension of the Golden Rule. Present scenarios, such as a homeless man on the street, a child without toys or friends in a room full of toys and a sibling who doesn’t feel well. Help your child brainstorm ways to respond or role-play what he might do.
  • Loving Stories - Read books with your child that emphasize love through friendship. For example, for kids ages 4 and older, the book "You: A Story of Love and Friendship," by Stephen Michael King, uses simple prose to inspire children to show love toward each other. If you want to instill the message of loving each other from a biblical point of view, check out, "Loving One Another: Beginner's Stories About Being a Good Friend," by Neta Jackson, also for ages 4 and older. 
  • Crafting with Love - Encourage your child to show love to a friend by making a craft for her. One idea is to make a beaded friendship bracelet. Have your child use beads that are in her friend's favorite colors. She can also make a matching bracelet for her friend. Another idea is to make a friendship blossom flower to representing a new, blossoming friendship. Help your child to cut out flower petal shapes out of colored card stock. Poke a hole in the center and stick a small lollipop into the center. Your child can write a note on the petals for her friend as well.
  • Love Games - Engage your child and her friend in interactive games that also reinforce the importance of friendship and love. For one game, have the kids sit in a circle and give each child a pencil and a piece of paper. They must write down 10 kind things about the person to their right as fast as they can. The person who finishes first gets to go first, but they all get to read their list and give their paper to that person. For another game, take the kids outside in a large space. Two kids are the "friendship stealers," and the others are on one side of a field and must run to the other side to safety without getting tagged by the friendship stealers. If any child gets tagged, they must remain frozen until a teammate tags them. The kids cannot get on safety without everyone, reminding them to never leave a friend or someone you love behind.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Breakfast of Champions: Bassano School Parent Council

I've been struggling to sit down and write something, because in truth, I have so many things I wanted to write about that I couldn't decide on one thing, so in the end, I didn't write about anything. So today, I forced myself to sit down and write.

Growing up as a young boy in the 60's, times were different. We lived a simple life, and not always an easy life. We didn't come from affluence. We had the basic necessities of life. My mother made lots of our clothes; she was resourceful. My father hunted as much as possible. We had the only farm on the Reserve. We always had milk cows, goats (because my sister had allergies to cow milk), horses, and chickens. So we had milk for our daily porridge, and eggs for baking needs or for selling. But we had some lean times, even though I was usually oblivious to the stresses my parents were going through financially. I do remember one time we ate porridge for three weeks breakfast, dinner, and supper. My mother was very creative with the meals, and we didn't complain. But from the outside, most people wouldn't have guessed we had any needs, because my parents did there best to provide us with those three basic meals and dressed us properly.

Although times are different from the 60's, I don't think this part has changed. Most parents do their best to provide for their children and make the necessary sacrifices often before their own needs. Unfortunately, we do still have people in need in our communities, but most don't talk about it and want anyone to know. And I can respect their need for privacy. The last thing we want to do is make people feel bad about their situations.

LtoR: Leslie DeMott, Nickole Buck,
Darcy DeMott, & Sandra Mitchell
So that is why I am thrilled to share with you that on January 12, 2015, Bassano School started a Breakfast Program. Thanks to the donation of a local charity, money was provided to start a breakfast program for our students, in cooperation from our Parent Council volunteers. 19 parent volunteers have offered their time to come to the school and prepare a simple healthy breakfast snack of cereal, yogurt, and fruit to our elementary and junior high students that may have a need for breakfast.

We are thrilled to see the community come forward to assist in this. It will not interfere with student learning times, as teachers and teacher assistants are not required to help out. The parent volunteers show up at 8 AM to prep the food and get the cart ready, and are delivering the food to the classrooms by 8:30AM.  

A student breakfast program is an excellent way to help ensure children and youth in our community attend school well-nourished and ready to learn. National statistics state that 1 in 7 children have not eaten breakfast each morning. Our school is no different, especially with students getting on buses as early as 7:15AM. By the time they get to school, it’s been 2 hours since some of them ate before coming to school or some not at all.

Research shows that breakfast nutrition programs help to:

  • Provide students with healthy meals and snacks that provide the energy they need to stay alert and engaged throughout the school day;
  • foster a happy and healthy school environment;
  • decrease student absenteeism, in-class disruptions and conflict between students;
  • increase students self-esteem, problem-solving skills and creative abilities;
  • develop life-long healthy eating habits; and
  • provide children and youth with the best chance at success possible!

The Breakfast Program is available to all students in elementary and junior high, however, they are not required to participate. We follow all health and safety guidelines for this program, as well as comply to the nutritional food guide. If you have any questions, please call the office and ask to speak to me. I would love to field your questions.