A new school year always brings a sense of renewal. And while we are starting the year slightly later than we all would have liked, in my visits across the district over the first three weeks I have felt that sense of excitement and optimism about the year ahead. I have used this space in the past to write about inquiry, self-regulation and digital access – and I can tell you that these themes will continue to permeate conversations in our schools this year. While we take great pride in our exceptional results, we also continue to focus on improving student engagement and ensure our students are well prepared as citizens in a changing world.
I recently wrote a blog post on modernization (here) outlining some of the shifts we have seen over the last five years and what is ahead this year and beyond. I think there are four trends you will see in schools this year – many already taking place – and they will continue to flourish in the years ahead.
Rethinking common space
Many of our schools have already begun this work, with libraries being re-imagined as Learning Commons. While we are unlikely to have any new schools in our district over the next several years, our spaces will continue to evolve. When I walk into West Vancouver Secondary now, for example, its learning commons area looks like a marriage between a traditional library and Starbucks – with a variety of spaces for students to connect and learn.
Refreshing the web and digital environment
While it was only five years ago that we took a giant leap forward in the digital world with new websites, portals and places for students to extend their learning in the digital environment, the digital environment has changed dramatically, and continues to shift on an ongoing basis. We need to remain leaders in this area to ensure that what goes on in our schools is connected to the world inside and outside our buildings.
Ensuring kids are ready to learn
I have written before about Dr. Stuart Shanker, and his work with the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative, based on brain research in Canada and around the world. Dr Shanker was back in our district working with us in August, and I know many parents from our district and around the province had an opportunity to join us for that session. Self-Regulation will continue to be a major influence in the district and we will be working with staff and families to further develop the skills and environments that are most conducive for student learning.
Getting students outside
Grade 6 and 7 students attending Bowen Island Community School had the opportunity to take part in Outside45 last year. This exceptionally successful and popular program is spreading to other schools and curricular activities. Three years from now, I am convinced our students will be spending more time outside learning than they are today.
It is a very exciting time in education. People often link modernization with technology, but in this district, modernizing our schools, classes and learning approach is far more complex. I recently heard Jan Unwin from the Ministry of Education and Advanced Education in BC ask ,“Can we stay status quo or has the quo lost its status?” We will continue to take great pride in our success, and also be relentless in our efforts to be better.
My thanks to all the families who have chosen public education in West Vancouver and my thanks to our outstanding staff – there is plenty of excitement ahead!