COVID-19 Distancing

Social Distancing at Spanish Banks
“We can chat from cars!”

We are social animals.  A range of cultural and social institutions, as well as businesses have been organized around this premise.  COVID 19 strikes.  The World Health Organization responds with 5 basic rules for us to follow.

Do the Five by WHO
5 things to prevent the spread of Covid19 #DoThe5 #Covid19

The first two imperatives are under our direct control on a regular basis and have been implemented to varying degrees over the course of the last several years.  Kids in public school are familiar with repetitive reminders to wash their hands and the mantra – “Cough into your elbow, away from people”.  The success in NOT touching the face depends  largely on how successful people have been in conquering the habit of nose picking.  Unfortunately the adult nose picker driving a car demonstrates this is an ingrained habit in as many adults as children.  To obliterate this habit could be the one upside of the global pandemic.

People have clearly taken the recommendation to stay home if they are sick.  I have heard a few sneezes but none of the coughing that is usually quite apparent at this time of year.  The last time I heard someone coughing in a public place was at a yoga class before Prime Minister Trudeau appeared on television and the level of concern and vigilance increased exponentially.  The obviously sick person had a big box of kleenex on her mat and evoked a fair amount of angst in the group.  I’m not certain if she returned to class while sick but it was enough to have me to take an extended break from yoga class and for the studio to close their doors within days.  I have heard the occasional sneeze escape in a grocery store or outdoors, followed by a plethora of apologies or explanations of allergies.  Sick people are self isolating due to the directive or reaction of the general public.

Maintaining a distance of at least one metre between people is the most challenging of the directives to implement.  Even though many people are trying, habit is again the culprit.  The hand goes out to shake.  The hug to say thanks.  The high five to recognize.  Fortunately Star Trek has given us the “Vulcan handshake” along with the very appropriate “live long and prosper tagline.  For long time trekkies, it also is guaranteed to evoke a smile.  Better to avoid  the physical proximity of the elbow or toe tap.

The direction to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has met with good timing with the two week Spring break in British Columbia.  Yet, the wild card has been the Vancouver sunshine.  As every Vancouverite understands, sunshine screams, “Get outdoors now”.  Life in a temperate rainforest has taught us that rain is often just around the corner.  A pause in quickly getting outside to relish the sun is perceived as a lost opportunity.  Certainly by me.  What better place to socially distance than to be in the great outdoors?  This is the case in many places.  NOT in city parks of Italy or Lower Mainland of Vancouver where scenic parks are magnets for people to convene.

Living in Kitsilano, the most beautiful and accessible places to head are the beaches, parks, bike/ walking routes west from Kits Beach to Spanish Banks and east around Granville Island and the Stanley Park seawall.  As the week of stay at home lockdown has been self inflicted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all these scenic places and routes have become much busier and hundreds of people are congregating to have a coffee, chat and watch the children play at the beach and in the parks.   Apparently this is also the case at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody and the White Rock boardwalk.

Social Distancing is possible.

There are some valiant efforts to establish the  recommended 1 -2 metre distance between people.   Many people have jumped on their bikes to do this.  In too many cases they are too difficult for some to sustain or not taken seriously.  Certainly that has been the case on the playgrounds.  Yesterday there were some new signs reminding people to maintain a 1-2 metre distance at Kits Beach but the sheer quantity of people made that difficult in high traffic areas.  My husband wanted to go for a walk, rather than a bike ride and we were unable to maintain the recommended barrier when passing people at Kits Beach or along the Granville Island walking route.   What healthy people do not understand in their risk as carriers.  Clearly on the beach and in the parks, there are also some people who believe their own physical health will protect them.   They don’t understand their role in exponential numbers of other people getting sick and the implications of the stress on the elderly, the vulnerable, medical system and the economy until we emerge out of flu season.

It does seem that we need to exercise our own judgement about how to monitor the physical proximity of ourselves to others.  I feel grateful to have my husband in stay at home lockdown.  Yes, partially for the chores around the house I’ve wanted to get done for some time, but mostly because we have fun being together.  We still want to get daily exercise outdoors, however we will be more discerning about how, when and where to do that. We will choose less busy places to walk and ride.  My pivot has been to bike the Arbutus Greenway, continuing along through the quiet Kerrisdale neighbourhood bike route to UBC, and staying on the road in the busiest sections of Spanish Banks.

If we are not making good decisions to avoid contact during a pandemic, then we are inviting government to make those decisions for us in order to protect the population.  Then again, the inevitable Vancouver rain seems poised to grace us and it will assume the responsibility for enforcing social distancing as more people are more inclined to stay inside.  Then those of us who love the smell of rain will be free to venture to the beach routes for our daily exercise without risk of close contact with others.  In the meantime, #DoThe5 and stay healthy.  Books, Netflix and binge watching all beckon.

Afternoon Update March 22, 2020 – Metro Vancouver cities have closed outdoor sports areas.  Parking lots for popular beaches and parks have been closed.  Prime Minister Trudeau adopts language indicative of further measures to ensure people people are practicing emergency distancing.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Distancing”

Reconciling Assessment & Reporting Practices with the New Curriculum in British Columbia

The implementation of the New Curriculum in British Columbia has garnered a lot of attention throughout the world.  Our population is made up of Canadians, immigrants and refugees from many different places, with many different schooling traditions.  In my little school of only 328 students, we have 34 home languages.  Yet what we are doing to prepare our students for the demands of the 21st Century is bringing good results.

img_2007

Students are encouraged to ask the key questions laid out so effectively by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser in The Spirals of Inquiry.

  • Where am I now in my learning?
  • Where am I going next?
  • What do I need to get there?

Suzanne Hoffman, Superintendent, Learning Transformation, Ministry of Education emphasizes the significance of “unveiling the hidden curriculum” by deliberately teaching and assessing core competencies.  Deliberate instruction and reflection of  communication, thinking and personal / social responsibility skills have the power to transform lives of our students (SAHoffman, Nov. 15, 2017).  Mandatory self assessment demonstrates that core competencies are important enough to be measured and help students to learn about themselves as learners, to develop the skills required for collaboration and to supports the creation meaningful goals.

Aside from the students themselves, teachers have the most significant impact on the students in their classrooms.   Teachers in British Columbia have a high level of professionalism.  They  are well educated and have regular access to professional development and opportunities for collaboration.  As John A.C. Hattie aptly states in Visible Learning for Teachers:  Maximizing Impact on Learning ” (2013)  “…those teachers who are students of their own impact, are the teachers who are the most influential in raising students’ achievement.”    By making learning intentions explicit, teachers help their students to learn intended learning outcomes, as well as the strategies of how to learn.   The development of scoring rubrics with students or  a review of criteria prior to assignments or marking, helps students to understand expectations and plan their time.  The challenge for teachers is to determine those strategies and practices that will enable students to ask complex questions, problem solve, work collaboratively and persevere to find answers and discover future possibilities.

In the new curriculum students are given far more responsibility for their own learning.  One rationale is to improve student engagement in school.  Another is to create students who will be able to respond to the demands of the 21st century.  My son works as a designer in Lululemon’s “Whitespace” with engineers, scientists and technologists.  Beyond the frosted glass and carded access, he is researching how clothes impact physical performance and the mental and emotional perception of athletic ability.  The goal is to respond to trends, create markets and tailor sports clothing for 4-10 years down the road.  To our amazement as his parents, the childhood fascination with lego, trials riding, downhill riding, skiing, snowboarding and the construction of death defying jumps were the things that provided some of the rudimentary learning required for the job.  We can’t predict all of the jobs in the future, but the new curriculum sets out to enable students to ask and respond to tough questions and learn through engagement in the things they find fascinating.    Students are now responsible for assuming responsibility for their learning, engaging with peers to learn cooperatively and participating in evaluating their progress.

In the not so distant past, teachers aspired to be a fountain of knowledge and rushed in to speed up the process of answering questions or finishing explanations expeditiously.  Jon Saphier,  recently featured in a Webinar sponsored by Corwin (Nov. 13, 2017), suggested three ways to make learning visible and deeper:  Turn and talk.  Explain. Restate.  In the new Curriculum, we want students to take the time to think about difficult problems, to be comfortable being stuck, to engage in dialogue, to ask peers to explain their thinking, and to persevere until they discover their answers.

 

The shift from summative to formative assessment is necessary to assist students in this new role.  In order for our students to take more responsibility for their learning, they require ongoing feedback embedded in their daily instruction.  The focus is not on one letter grade but movement along a continuum to demonstrate growth in student learning.  The initial response was the development of paper based portfolios that allowed students to self select items to demonstrate learning outcomes.  The accessibility of technology has added several other layers and possibilities with the addition of pictures, videos and attachments with comment.

The Surrey School District has been using FreshGrade for the past four years to facilitate the collection of online portfolios to provide what Sir Ken Robinson calls “a continuous glimpse into each child’s progress that parents and students can share”.  It is one of the possible online applications that BC teachers like for the ease of use by young children and the inclusion of BC Performance standards.  The VSB is currently exploring how Office365 can be used in conjunction with various applications to fascilitate learning, store and showcase student work from entry in Kindergarten to graduation in Grade 12.  All school districts in British Columbia are developing reporting directives for implementation in September 2018 that will mesh with the new curriculum.

 

 

image3-e1510716101970.jpg

Reporting has always included the aspect of what students are able to do, the areas that require future attention and the ways of supporting students.  The opportunities introduced by implementation of the new curriculum in British Columbia are the source of many conversations with colleagues, students and parents about how our system in British Columbia can become even better.  Let the learning continue…

Formal assessments continue to play a role in providing feedback about students and  Provincial assessments , National and International assessments provide a snapshot of student performance in key areas and, over time, can help to monitor key outcomes of B.C.’s education system.

From the Ministry of Education Website:

B.C. students participate in three types of large-scale assessment:

  • Classroom Assessment is an integral part of the instructional process and can serve as meaningful sources of information about student learning.
  • Provincial Assessments:
  • National and international assessments measure reading, math and science skills of B.C. students. Various age ranges participate and student achievement levels are compared with other provinces or countries.

Kids Asking Questions

Inquiry is a natural response of a young child to life.  When my son and daughter were young, I remember the exhaustion of trying to keep them safe in the midst of it.  My son was a bold explorer, scaling rocks to butt heads with young goats in Stanley Park, blazing trails in Mundy Park on his bike and on Grouse Mountain with his snowboard.  My daughter was a fearless follower of her brother’s careful instruction to crawl out of the crib and keep up with her older brother in new adventures everywhere they went.  Clogged drains were explained away as doing Science and our family repertoire of good stories are plentiful and filled with laughter of past and present exploits.  Both kids have emerged into adults who continue to question and explore new pathways to make discoveries.

img_2126

My question as a administrator is much the same as when my kids were young.  How can we support children in continuing the habit of asking questions and developing strategies to find the answers to their questions?  I’m not thinking so much of school completion and continuing on to post-secondary, which may be a by-product, but the intrinsic reward that comes with the discovery.  “Eureka!” is always followed by an exclamation point for good reason.  There is an excitement that comes with discovery about something you care about. I want children to maintain the same level of engagement that they enter kindergarten with.  I believe everyone should teach kindergarten at some point, if even for a day.  The questions come hard and fast and “no I won’t answer it for you even if you are pulling on my sweater”.  In kindergarten, the challenge isn’t getting children to ask questions, it is teaching them ways to discover their own their own answers.

img_1999

My pathway to discovering the power of inquiry to engage learners was through my own professional development.  Maureen Dockendorf, who has been instrumental in the inclusion of inquiry curriculum in British Columbia, invited me to an inquiry group early on in my career.  Each member in the inquiry group went through the process of defining a question of professional interest, refined it and came up with a plan to discover possibilities.  We were responsible for reporting back to the group so reflection of our learning was an integral part of the process.  The inquiry led me to ask my students about their learning.  It made me a better teacher by creating a high level of engagement and a relationship with students that went beyond interest in their lives to develop relationship and enhance learning.  It helped me to invest in students as learners and helping them to learn strategies to learn throughout their lives.  Yes, lifelong learning has become a buzz word but the essence is developing a population that is interested and invested in their work and their life.

I recently had a group of students in the gym for a Camp Read event.  Yes, reading on floating islands of mats with no shoes on is still exciting.  We chatted about inquiry and I put out a banner for students to record their questions..  These were some of them.

Why is the ocean so full?

Why do people go to school to learn?

What was the first moon landing like?

Why is a slug “nature’s hotdog”?

What are “nature’s french fries”?

Why did the first mushroom decide to grow?

How do plants start?

What was the first food on earth?

Why do birds and bats fly into Ms. Froese’s window that faces north?

Why do dogs chase cats?

Why did the sun start?

How do birds fly?

Why don’t some people respect other people?

Was there outer space before the Big Bang?

How was gravity made?

Why does earth have air but other planets don’t?

Are ghosts real?

How was the first iPad made?

How do we grow?

How come some animals started living like people?

Why are there seasons?

img_0282

Finding the answer to each question lends itself to a great opportunity for personal learning.  It is also an opportunity to develop the core competencies and content goals in the New British Columbia Curriculum.  Although the framing and publication of the B.C. curriculum is new, the research and implementation of these practices are not.   Linda Kaser, Judy Halbert and Helen Timperley explain the essence of educational change in British Columbia, Canada with finesse:  “((I)nnovation floats on a sea of inquiry and curiosity is a driver for change.” (2014 CSE – A framework for transforming learning in schools:  Innovation and the spiral of inquiry ).  This is what has enabled British Columbia to emerge as a leader in educational practices and achievement worldwide.