Preparing for the Year: Areas of Focus

Fresh from three days of thinking, planning, and collaborating with Admin colleagues from across my board at our Leadership retreat, my mind is definitely spinning. As a newer administrator, I’m very grateful for opportunities to share my thinking with those who have more experience. I’m grateful that I am part of a small board where we truly do have the opportunity to get to know one another and our schools. There were two topics during this week’s learning that I am focusing on:

Culturally Relevant Related Pedagogy
How can we be better at providing conditions that invite safety, belonging, and engagement for First Nations students?

Part of a pilot project with the Ministry of Education, this work intends to strengthen authentic and meaningful relationships with our First Nation partners. There is no doubt that students need to feel safety and a sense of belonging, (which I wrote about last year when I reviewed The Third Path. When I think about it, there are so many elements of the school day that do not reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and learning – and we can certainly think about how we might do a better job of reflecting the needs of our learners. A great example was our discussion on smudging. Our system often, (or always, per Human Rights legislation) provides accommodations for students requiring help to self-regulate, (such as administering medication, taking breaks, etc.). However, we have not traditionally provided the same accommodations for Indigenous students who might use smudging to the same effect. The Ministry did produce a policy paper in 2013 on Culturally-Responsive Pedagogy and while the content is powerful, this work really aims to meet specific local needs. The key to any of this work includes consulting with our First Nation communities to ensure any work we do is respectful. I’m on about that, too – so I look forward to this project.

Usha James – Critical Thinking Consortium
What are some powerful steps we can take to create thinking environments that nurture thinking in all our learners?

This question is our board’s critical inquiry question. Usha James, Executive Director of the Critical Thinking Consortium, led a powerful session on creating thinking classrooms. Administrators were invited to consider how the use of inquiry in schools might lead to deeper, more meaningful engagement of subject matter for students.

From the Critical Thinking Consortium

A few years back, I was lucky enough to work with educator Trevor Mackenzie through a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) on Inquiry in the Classroom. I am excited that this pedagogical model is being expanded in our board; it changed my classroom when I started using it. From an principal’s perspective, inquiry can also shape my conversations with colleagues when talking about their lessons, their practices, and their classrooms and for my own work, inquiry will guide my own problem of practice as I work towards a goal, (I’ll share more on that later) for my own learning within the school.

Three days of powerful discussions, learning, and sharing definitely leaves the brain in a state of chaos, so I’m happy to be able to digest some of the information here. The work also added to my never-ending to do list, but that’s awesome, as well. These two topics provide clear purpose to our work and I am very, very excited about them.

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