Catholic Central High School 2019 Graduation Address

I am so incredibly honored to have been asked to be your guest speaker this morning! I am a proud graduate of the class of 1978 from Catholic Central High School. I am very proud that both my daughter and my son are graduates of Catholic Central High School.

I though I would tell you a bit about what CCHS was like back in 1978 when I was in Grade 12.

  • CCHS was one school that housed students from Grade 8-12 and we used the  St. Francis building, the main CCHS building and the St. Joseph wing. There was a small “girls” gym where the Eggplant and Music rooms now are.
  • Vassey Hall did not yet exist. Our big main gym was the St. Francis gym and that is where the hub of high school life happened – everything from sports events, to assemblies to school dances. I remember dancing to catchy tunes like Elton John’s Crocodile Rock, Bee Gees Stayin Alive and swaying along to everything by the Eagles and even John Denver’s Country Roads. (Class of 2019 Grad Song)
  • We had an annual winter carnival which included various winter challenges, assemblies and a school dance where I was crowned Miss CCHS 1978. (My family wanted me to wear my tiara today, but I thought that might be a bit too…. shall we say… Amy Farrah Fowler.)

I was a cheerleader from Grade 8 to 12 and we brought home many cheerleading trophies from Basketball Tournaments around the province – I checked in the trophy case last time I was at CCHS and didn’t see them, so maybe they are in that mysterious secret  crawl space below the old St. Joseph wing?

Back in ‘78 we were just cheerleaders – we cheered on our teams, we didn’t have any gymnasts and certainly weren’t a dance squad. We did some fundraising, saved up our pennies and got to go to summer cheerleading camp at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It was there that I first met my wonderful husband of almost 37 years. Mike was there attending Hockey camp, by the way.  

I learned a very important life lesson from cheerleading – and it comes from the leading part of cheerleading: People tend to support those things which they help to create.
Now you may or may not think of yourself as a leader today but you need to know that there will be times throughout your life when you are called to lead. I have found time and time again that the only way to ensure that as a leader, you have others with you is to include them every step of the way, right from brainstorming solutions to creating and carrying out a plan. That’s how commitment is built. How many times have you ended up doing group work, where one person did all the work and everyone else sat around and let it happen?

Become aware of opportunities to lead and be aware of ways to meaningfully include others in the process. The end product will always be richer because of the different gifts that each person brings. St. Paul reminds us that we are all one body and that within that one body there are many gifts and one Spirit. Because we are all created in the likeness and image of God, to meet another person is to encounter God.
Remember: People tend to support those things which they help to create.

I feel like you and I have some things in common right now. At the end of June, your high school days will be complete and I will be moving on into retirement. These are really big significant life changes! This year, I have been doing a lot of looking back and looking forward. As I look back, I feel so blessed to have had the gift of Catholic Education for almost every year of my life since starting Grade One. I attended St Patrick’s School, St. Basil School, St. Mary School and Catholic Central High School and then went on immediately after high school to work as an educational assistant at St. Patrick’s school – right back where I started. I remember noticing the same smell when I walked into the building after 9 years – it was…”school!”  (Books?) I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but in 1978, to be honest, I actually wasn’t sure that I was “smart” enough for university. My reasons for wanting to be a teacher were actually quite naive at the time anyway.

  • I loved pretending to mark re-used worksheets with lots of red check , check, check marks.
  • I could hardly wait to have my own class to take to the library and use cool library tools like the date due stamp to check out books and …  the encyclopedias …and the card catalogue!
  • I was looking forward to teaching in an orderly classroom where my students would sit still, work quietly, do what I commanded them to do … and raise their hands to speak.

During my time at St. Patrick’s I learned that teaching was a much more important and complex calling than I had first imagined. I knew right away that I loved working with students, guiding their learning and helping them to master learning hurdles. I learned from wonderful, kind teachers who cared for their students, respected the dignity of each precious one and went above and beyond daily to make school a great place to learn – just like your teachers at Catholic Central High School.

I began a journey where I learned that the world was changing rapidly and my vision of teaching and learning from my own Grade One experience was already drastically out of date and I would need to learn to embrace change in order to be successful. I have loved and looked forward to every day of my job (well, almost – let’s be real, here). My hope for you is that you will find your passion. I hope that you can do what you love and love what you do every day!

I have basically stayed in the same field – education for my entire career. (Apparently that’s kind of weird and not typical these days.) As we were reminded last night, you could have  7-8 job changes over the course of your lifetime. Nowadays, employers are looking for very specific skills (or competencies, as we refer to them in educational jargon). I believe that one of the most important of these is to be a lifelong learner. (You will need to embrace this if you are an average person who changes their job 7-8 times.) Never stop learning!

When I went to school and even when some of your parents went to school, a successful student was one who could figure out exactly what the teacher wanted and regurgitate the right answers to a set of multiple choice questions. But Life doesn’t work that way. Beyond formal schooling we rarely see multiple choice tests – rather we are faced with real life decisions that require us to consider multiple perspectives and various factors. We know now that you have entire libraries of knowledge and information in your pocket with instant access to the internet. You will need to be good at assessing and discerning what is the best, most accurate and useful information to make big life altering decisions.

Be a lifelong learner with the knowledge that “God loves you too much to allow you to stay the way you are today.”

Since announcing my retirement, I have been asked many times, What are you going to do?” I would guess that you are getting a lot of this same question.  We tend to let our schooling and our jobs define who we are, and it almost seems like when I say I am retiring people assume that I if I’m not working at my job, then I couldn’t possibly be doing anything worthwhile.

My hope for you is that you will also proudly love what you end up doing in your life. Always know that you are not your job – you are so much more than that. You are beautifully created in the likeness and image of God.
Who you are is God’s gift to you. Who you become is your gift to God.

In Summary 3 things to take away

  1. You will be called to Lead – People tend to support those things which they help to create.
  2. Do what you love and love what you do- every day!
  3. Be a Lifelong Learner

Graduation from Catholic Central High School is graduation from all your Holy Spirit schooling. Know that all of your teachers had a part in your education and they are all praying for you this weekend and will continue to pray for you as you go forward into the world. When  I think of the place we belong, I think of the parable of the prodigal son. Even after the son disrespected and squandered his Father’s fortune, the Father welcomed his son home with open arms. Your family, your hometown, our Catholic community…this is home. Where ever you go in the world, this is one place where you will always belong.

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Essential Understandings and the New Alberta Curriculum

Have you ever wondered why students need to learn a particular topic in school and not been able to provide a really compelling application in the “real world?” Students have long been asking, “Why do I need to learn this?” Our current Alberta curriculum is an excellent curriculum, but as access to knowledge continues to grow, it is time to revisit the curriculum and find ways to help students manage vast open access to so much information.

Our recent Holy Spirit Division Professional Development Day began with an opening panel conversation. Our esteemed panel consisted of our Superintendent, our Division Principal for First Nations, Metis and Inuit Education, a High School Teacher who is a curriculum working group member and two High School Students. This panel conversation began with the comment that our curriculum in Alberta is changing and we needed to understand the “why” before we can begin to unpack the “what” and the “how” of our new curriculum Simon Sinek offers a compelling case for the importance of starting with “why” in his famous TED Talk. In another powerful clip, comedian, Michael Jr invites a music teacher to sing and demonstrates how knowing your “why” changes everything!

The first question for our panel was: “Why do we need a new curriculum in Alberta?” Annette BruisedHead, Naato’saakii, Division Principal for First Nations, Metis and Inuit Education made a strong link to the way that First Nations Elders teach. In Blackfoot culture, teaching starts with the big picture and then zooms in to specific details and back out again to the big picture.

Brent Hogan, our high school teacher talked about how the new curriculum will encompass a common language from Kindergarten to Grade 12 across all subject areas. We will be using fewer words more often resulting in different subject area teachers using similar language, only “pronouncing it in different ways.”

Hannah, one of our High School Students, summed it up beautifully when she stated, “Often students want to know why we learn what we learn and this reinforces that everything we do has a purpose outside of just gathering base knowledge.” Rebecca expanded on this idea when she talked about the importance of including competencies in our new curriculum. “Essentially, incorporating and promoting competencies sets up individuals for success outside of the classroom… (which leads to) more rounded individuals that can lead others in society. School (should) be a place where individuals can develop not just their minds but also their character.”

Superintendent, Chris Smeaton summed it all up by reminding us that our “Why” is our students! Our students deserve the very best education possible to prepare them well for their future and we are called to do our best for them.

In the architecture of our new DRAFT Alberta Curriculum, the “Why” is specifically identified in the Essential Understandings. Each subject area in Kindergarten to Grade 5 has only 4 to 6 essential understandings, which are big ideas or broad statements that frame what students will learn. Essential understandings are unpacked through guiding questions and learning outcomes.

One essential understanding, for example, is:

“Exploring connections strengthens our understandings of relationships to help us make meaning of the world.”

This essential understanding is common from Kindergarten to Grade 4 and appears in the Mathematics, English Language Arts, French Language Arts, Social Studies, Arts and Wellness curriculums. With this one enduring understanding, students will make meaning of the world through their developing understanding of connections and relationships through a variety of lenses. Here are a few examples:

ELA k-4 EU

Math k-4 EU

SS k-4 EU

The essential understanding is unpacked slightly differently in each subject area and at each grade level, but it is the same big idea applied to different situations and contexts. With repeated exposure to this idea over time and across contexts, students will develop a deep understanding of what this means to them and how it applies to life beyond school. Teaching for transfer of learning is a key component of this new concept-based curriculum.

For me, one powerful reason “WHY” we need a new Alberta curriculum is to help our students take the knowledge and skills that they learn to a level of conceptual understanding that is transferable across time, place and situation. Framing the learning around essential understandings will provide the structure needed to accomplish this.

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Concept-Based Curriculum

This past summer, I had the great opportunity to learn intensively about Concept-Based Curriculum from Dr H. Lynn Erickson, Dr Lois Lanning and Rachel French. As you can see from my Goodreads list, I have become fully immersed in learning about this approach to curriculum.

Working on my “elevator speech” for Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction, when asked what it is, I will reply something like this:

Concept-Based Curriculum is an approach to teaching and learning that puts learning in the heads, hearts and hands of students. Our current Alberta curriculum follows a Skills, Knowledge and Attitudes (KSA) model, where emphasis is placed on students learning many specific learner outcomes or facts. The current curriculum is said to be ‘a mile wide and an inch deep.’ A huge part of the call to develop new curriculum in Alberta was that there are currently far too many outcomes to cover in any given subject and grade level.   A Concept-Based Curriculum teaches facts and knowledge, while purposefully guiding students to understand bigger concepts and the relationships among these concepts. When learning is taken to the conceptual level it becomes transferrable across time, place and situation and is therefore retained in student memory much more solidly than isolated facts alone.

Hmmm…I wonder how many floors on that elevator I would need to be travelling? Realizing my elevator speech still needs a bit of work, remember, I too, am in the process of learning and refining my understanding. When concept-based units are planned well, we see classrooms where students are doing the thinking. In this inductive approach, students learn to uncover learning rather than the teacher covering a plethora of facts. A Concept-Based curriculum allows students to go deeper with fewer topics, rather than the reverse, which is often the case with KSA only curriculum.

In looking forward to implementing Concept-Based curriculum in our Alberta classrooms, our teachers will benefit from a great deal of support along the way. In order for our teachers to plan well for this type of student learning, they will need to take time to work together to unpack this new curriculum and this new way of teaching and learning. All partners will need to work together to find ways for teachers to find time to collaborate in meaningful and sustained ways as they work with the new curriculum. I am certain that our teachers, through professional collaboration and knowing our students will bring this exciting new curriculum to life.

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New Curriculum Development in Alberta

After a very long break from writing on this blog, I have decided to try again to commit to writing. I am very excited for the new curriculum being developed in Alberta and hope to be able to share up to date information and perhaps a few insights.

As we continue to move forward with new curriculum development in Alberta, it is important to stop and remember how far we have come. Although the Draft Curriculum documents for Kindergarten to Grade 4 were only made public this past summer, we have been in the readiness phase of implementing new curriculum for a number of years already.

Here are some examples:

  • The Ministerial Order on Student Learning in 2013 outlined an emphasis on Literacy, Numeracy and Learner Competencies
  • The “Guiding Framework for the Design and Development of Kindergarten to Grade 12 Provincial Curriculum” sets the common direction for provincial curriculum development. From this document, we know that consideration is being given to the Nature of Learning and the Learner; Pluralism and Diversity;  Inclusion; First Nations, Metis and Inuit Experiences and Perspectives and Francophone Cultures and Perspectives
  • The new curriculum is being created using a common architecture between subject areas and throughout the grade levels by teachers from across the province
  • Competency documents describe each competency as a standalone as well as through each subject area lens
  • Literacy and Numeracy progressions have been developed to guide instruction
  • New curriculum will be in a digital format accessible to teachers through the New Learn Alberta site.
  • Our new curriculum will be Concept-Based. I look forward to sharing what I am learning in this area more in future posts.

What’s New? Today the latest DRAFT of the New Alberta Curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 4 has been made available. If you are interested in learning more, town hall discussions are planned for October 16 and 17, 2018.

We are very grateful for the dedication of our teachers who are participating in the curriculum working groups and curriculum focus groups. They are providing the voice of our teachers to the development process. The process may seem slow to some and too quick for others, but this much needed refresh of our curriculum will surely serve our students well.

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Learning at ISTE 2014

ISTE 2014This past summer, as has been the case every summer since becoming a teacher, I was able to continue learning through participating in some professional learning activities. My second time at the International Society of Technology in Education Annual Conference was big, busy and almost overwhelmingly full of choices. The conference happens on site as well as virtually. Most sessions provided digital materials to support the ideas shared whether it is a website, a shared document, videos or sharing of presentation slides. In addition to attending sessions in person, through a virtual conference registration,  participants can continue to view recorded sessions well past the live conference dates. Of course, the real benefit of attending in person is the opportunity to meet and talk face to face with people. It is always such a treat to meet face to face with people who I know mainly through social media. This year, I had the added benefit of attending along with two other school administrators from Holy Spirit Catholic Schools which definitely added to the experience!
Here are a few highlights of some of the sessions I was able to attend:
Ashley Judd, the opening keynote speaker spoke from her heart alluding to her own personal experiences of growing up and moving often from one school to another. She reminded the 14,000 attendees that “when a child tells you something … believe them.”

It was a pleasure to attend Chris Lehman’s session, “Technology transforms pedagogy: Combining the tools and the vision.” Chris Lehman is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, in Philadelphia and I have watched his presentations online over the past few years as I seek to learn more about inquiry based learning. During his session, Chris had participants contribute to conversations through tweeting out ideas around some thought provoking sentence stems:

  • Schools should help students become…
  • Technology helps me realize my vision by…
  • Technology means that I have to let go of…
  • In 2014-2015, learning can be…

Thanks to Stacia McFadden for creating this Storify, which captures the Twitter conversations.
As you can see by the responses, there were many great minds in the room – the session hashtag #istetransforms even trended during our time together. Responses to “Schools should help students become…” confirmed for me how on track the new Alberta Ministerial Order on Student Learning is with naming ten competencies necessary for learning, work and life. Chris’ idea of bundling the main idea of what we want to get across to our public into ten words was also a good reminder on being concise, precise and to the point in communicating our messages to non-educators.

Having worked with George Couros as a keynote speaker for our Holy Spirit Catholic 2013 Division Professional Development Day,  I made a point of attending his session. Over the past few months, George shared his ideas online and asked for feedback as he planned his ISTE 2014 session, “Conquering the Myths of Technology.” Throughout the presentation, I was reminded again of George’s passion for learning, his focus on students and his conviction in the importance of relationships. George is a talented and empowering presenter – we laughed, we cried, we were inspired – who shared personal stories, research and of course some very thought provoking videos and photographs. You can read more about the myths of technology on his blog, or if you register for the ISTE Virtual Conference, you will gain access to a recording of this session.
Here are the myths, George continues to explore:
Myth 1 – Technology Equals Engagement 
Myth 2 – Don’t Talk to Strangers
Myth 3 – Technology Makes Us Narcissistic
Myth 4 – Technology Will Replace Face to Face Interaction 
Myth 5 – Technology Dehumanizes
Myth 6 – Technology Makes us Dumb

Kevin Carroll, the second keynote speaker shared his passion for play – every single day. Through the image of one red rubber ball, Kevin helped us understand how he came to know that play is fundamental and transformative in the lives of children and in the lives of adults. He talked about how play – both playground play and organized sport – taught him courage, discipline, how to make sacrifices, deal with disappointment, challenge self and to dream big audacious dreams.
Kevin used the metaphor of the red rubber ball to represent chasing your passion. He identified a few key supports that helped him to be able to get up each day and chase his passions. Three key influences in Kevin’s life were participation in sport, learning on the playground and attending school.
Plato once said that “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.” Kevin elaborated that an hour of bowling, playing cards or softball will reveal a lot about a person, whether they are selfish or empathetic, celebratory and supportive or someone that takes away all the time, whether they are leaders, good communicators, or good at resolving conflict. It all happens in a game. Some of our greatest lessons are learned at recess. Dr. Stewart Brown from the International Institute of Play researches how play shapes who we are through the study of play history. The people we associate with, hang out with, the way we solve problem are all learned in play. “Play is as important to us as eating, drinking and sleeping.”
Kevin expressed gratitude for special people in his life that believed in him and inspired him to continue to challenge himself every day: “I am a mosaic of all of the people who influenced me.” He reminded participants that we were each present in the room because someone had an impact on us. As educators, we are those people who are impacting our youth. We can all be global game changers. Through our curiosity, creativity and ingenuity; through being problem solvers, we are influencing our students.
Finally, Kevin shared the powerful story of the Soccket ball, a soccer ball which generates and stores energy when kicked around. In Abuja, Nigeria, the Soccket ball has brought electricity to the community through active play. In the video, Uncharted Play in Nigeria,  James Ajah Eiche explains how “light is life” in this community because it allows students to continue to study even after dark. “Without education, we are nothing.”

What I love most about the ISTE conference is that outwardly, it may appear that the emphasis is on technology, but if you are really paying attention, you soon realize that it is ALL about our students, their learning and how they will shape our future. These keynote talks each underscored the importance of curiosity, connection and hope.

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Curriculum Development Prototyping

In an effort to describe the educated Albertan of 2030, Inspiring Education: a Dialogue with Albertans  has proven to be foundational in our move forward with educational transformation in Alberta. Inspiring Education describes shifts that will need to occur in order for our students to develop the competencies necessary for success in work, study and life in 2030 and beyond. We are not waiting for change to begin. It is already well underway in our best school jurisdictions, schools and classrooms. Inspiring Education has led to initiatives such as theTask force on Teaching Excellence, Curriculum Redesign, High School Success, Student Learner Assessments, the Learning and Technology Policy Framework, the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, the Education Act and Regulations Review, and Speak Out: Alberta Student Engagement Initiative. The newly refreshed Alberta Education Inspiring Education Website houses information, resources and engagement opportunities for each of these areas.

Curriculum Development Prototyping as one aspect of Curriculum Redesign, endeavors to engage partners in reviewing, refining and re-imagining what students learn in school to better reflect the insights Albertans shared through Inspiring Education. Earlier this week a new resource for Curriculum Development Prototyping was launched by the Calgary Board of Education and the 17 partner school jurisdictions working together on Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9 and Grade 10-12. The Curriculum Development Prototyping website provides background on the work of prototyping, connections to the bigger picture of Inspiring Education as well as opportunities for engagement in the prototyping process.  The website describes prototyping in the following way:

“Prototyping, in part, is the creation of new ways of working together throughout the design and development process. This involves creating ways for all of our communities to come together to share their best ideas about what students need to learn in school. Participants include school authorities; Francophone and First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners; teachers, students and parents; post-secondary institutions and a variety of other business and community organizations.

Once a process for evolving and developing curriculum is in place, Alberta Education will begin to write new curriculum. The curriculum will focus on basic skills like reading, writing and mathematics, as well as teaching critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills. Once a draft of new curriculum is prepared, it will be shared with the community for feedback before it is finalized and shared with teachers and schools across the province.”

On the Inspired Curriculum website, under the Educators Conversation tab, we are invited to sign up for an account and then given access to the “Guide to Convening Conversations for Educators.” The Guide is designed to be user friendly for groups of educators to gather, read, reflect, discuss, explore and contribute to a growing collection of responses to: The Nature of Learning Outcomes, Scope and Sequence and Imagining Curriculum. Educators are also being invited to participate in face to face regional sessions focused on the same conversations at various locations throughout the province. Our Southern Alberta session, scheduled for May 26 is open to all jurisdictions – not just those directly involved in the Curriculum Development Prototyping project.

The website also houses a Community Conversation guide that is designed to support students, parents and community groups in hosting and engaging in a series of learning conversations. The Inspired Curriculum website has been developed to invite participation from all Albertans.

As educators in Alberta, it is vitally important that we are engaged thinkers who add our voice and contribute to these conversations. I encourage you to become involved in curriculum redesign through sharing your thoughtful responses in one or more ways. Here are just a few of the opportunities at your fingertips:

  • Attend and participate in a regional face to face session,
  • Join the Inspired Curriculum Community, download a Convening Conversations Guide and host a conversation at your school, in your Professional Learning Community or with a group of your colleagues,(doesn’t work well on my older version of IE, but looks good in Chrome)
  • Visit the Alberta Education Inspired Learning Website and participate in a forum conversation or two,
  • Visit the Inspired Learning Community and contribute to one or more of the deeply reflective conversations already underway;
  • Follow and contribute to the Curriculum Development Prototyping conversation on Twitter by following @ABCDPrototyping or #abcdp

Please bring your voice to the conversations and encourage others to do so also.

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The Learning Walk

Our Collaborative Peer Mentor Program has once again been a wonderful learning experience for me as I journeyed through 5 half day sessions with this years’ group of 17 highly engaged educators. In our sessions, we briefly explored different models of coaching including instructional coaching, peer coaching, reflective peer coaching, embedded coaching, cognitive coaching, and school based learning coaching. We viewed and discussed a few video clips from Jim Knight as we learned about the “Partnership Principals,” and “Using video to help improve instruction.” Throughout the series of sessions, we engaged in numerous partner conversations around how Inspiring Education and the Cross Curricular Competencies are brought to life in our classrooms. The sessions were designed to help the participants reflect deeply on their own professional practice as well as to form a strong trusting environment where participants could speak candidly with one another about their observations and hopes and dreams for their students and classrooms. Each session started out with an agenda, but based on the needs, interests and curiosities of the group, we meandered to that which was most important to participants. Often our sessions focused considerable time to sharing and reflecting on what we learned from our between session visits to partner classrooms.

One of my own learning goals for this school year was to learn more about “The Learning Walk.” Through this website and the related videos and resources, I asked the Collaborative Peer Mentor group if they would like to explore the Learning Walk format with me more deeply. The discussion that followed is a great example of the depth to which we were able to consider the idea. In the end, 5 participants chose to accompany me on a Learning Walk through Catholic Central High School along with Principal, Carol Koran. Here is a summary of our planning conversation:

We would tailor the walk to meet our needs and not rely heavily on any one specific model presented on the website.

  • The video on the website pointed out that there needed to be a compelling reason to do a learning walk. Our compelling reason would be to learn from the teachers we observe and to continue to learn from one another about effective and engaging teaching and learning strategies.
  • We liked the Agreements posted on the website except for #6 – refrain from talking to the teacher. This was our biggest area of discussion. We wondered how we could do a classroom observation without interacting with the teacher. We wondered about how we could meet before and after with the teachers to discuss what we observed and to ask further questions. We are very sensitive to the trust and relationship piece and to the partnership principles of equality, choice, voice, dialogue, reflection, praxis and reciprocity. (Jim Knight)
  • We hoped that teachers would be open to the observers talking to students about the work they are engaged in. Our visits would highlight learning in action and therefore be very student-focused.
  • We didn’t really think 1 minute as described in the video would be sufficient for a classroom visit.
  • As far as the post visit conversations, the group felt that this needed to be very organic. The list of questions provided seemed a bit too judgemental and supervisory in nature. The one question that we leaned towards was something like: What will you take away from this observation to enhance learning in your own classroom?”


The Learning Walk was a huge success from the point of view of the participants! We visited a total of 8 classrooms in just over one hour, spending about 10 minutes in each classroom. We saw a wide variety of courses including Biology 30AP, Science 10, English 30-2, Foods 20/30, Drama 20/30, Art 10, and Social 30-1. We were able to see inclusive learning in action right from advanced placement core subjects to fine arts and “dash2” streams.

We were able to observe a wide variety of learning in action and in all cases were very impressed with the high level of student intellectual engagement in their work.

  • Biology students were assembling chromosomes in small groups to determine genetic defects,
  • Science students were working on self-directed projects in partners,
  • English students were sharing heartfelt personal passion presentations to their peers,
  • Foods students were cleaning up after eating delicious smelling meals created by teams of 4 and 5 students,
  • Drama students were performing and critiquing monologues for one another,
  • Art students were working on art projects,
  • English students were composing essays in the computer lab, and
  • Social Studies students were working on mind maps.

What we noticed in all cases was the primacy of relationships and trust. Teachers and students, and, students and students showed obvious high levels of trust in baring their souls and sharing their vulnerabilities with one another. In almost every classroom, students were working together, collaborating to accomplish a common goal or critiquing one another’s efforts. We all agreed that the high school classrooms we were visiting were very different than those that we experienced as students. With all of us currently teaching in elementary school settings, we agreed that teaching High School would be an opportunity that we would definitely be more open to.

We were very grateful for the opportunity to share lunch and follow up conversation with the teachers whose classrooms we observed. We certainly achieved our compelling reason for visiting in that we learned from one another and from the students we talked to in each classroom. We observed a variety of learning activities, which were good reminders for our own classrooms. Most importantly for me, the Learning Walk was a chance to visit classrooms, reflect with colleagues on learning in action and to try out a great strategy for educators to learn together. We will definitely continue to explore and grow the idea of Learning Walks withing the Collaborative Peer Mentor Program and within our schools.

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