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Questions, Questions, Questions… October 17, 2011

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Recently,  Ms. Hari recognized there was a need to help keep parents of graduation students informed.  The result of her observation was our first Grad Parent Information night (click here to view the presentation). 

Last Thursday we had nearly 160 parents attend an information session that covered topics such as Provincial Graduation requirements, Scholarships and school sanctioned Grad activities.  The evening went smoothly and the formal presentation was followed by a general Question and Answer period.

Not surprisingly many questions surrounded concerns about the impact that the teachers’ strike may have on graduating students. There were number of questions and a high level of concern stressing to us that now, more than ever, communication from the school is a vital connection between home and students.  Yes, many students are fantastic at bringing home messages and passing on important information.  However, based on the questions we fielded Thursday night, we realized that regardless of how great our students are, we can always find new ways to get the message out.

On Thursday we told parents about our email listserve, the school’s Twitter account as well as Facebook, and if you are reading this, you are already aware of the Admin Blog!  One avenue to help with those questions is that we will take questions that you have and post responses to try and answer your queries.  Chances are, if you have a question in mind, someone else has been wondering the same thing!

So, send us your questions (yes students can ask too!) using either the Twitter account, Facebook or by commenting on one of the posts here and we will do our best to answer them.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Why join our PLN? September 18, 2011

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The first question you may be asking is “What is a PLN?”  For those familiar with our school community here at South you have likely heard the term PLC but not PLN.   PLC is a Professional Learning Community and is a very important part of our school community.  Throughout the school year we devote an hour a week where teachers commit to exploring innovative strategies to improve student learning.  While they invest their time in this activity, our students are engaged in peer led activities involving social awareness, healthy living and for our senior students, peer to peer course support for the subject of their choosing.

The PLN is similar in strategy but different in delivery.  My PLN is my Professional Learning Network.  This is a network created by me, for my personal and professional growth and I connect with these largely through Social Media.  Specifically – Twitter and LinkedIn,  Facebook and more recently GooglePlus.

Through this media I can access the experience of educators and childcare workers around the world.  Many times I have received advice and support  while engaging in discussions with people who are experiencing similar challenges or pushing new ideas that help support student learning forward.

Last year we launched our school Twitter account.  A great way to help keep our community informed about life at school and now we launched our school’s Facebook page.  These two initiatives are meant to be more that just information sites.  Afterall, if that is all we intended we could have directed you to the school website!  Our intention is to provide another way for our community to connect and respond to what is happening in our school.  For the school Twitter feed click here.  For the school Facebook page click here.

Please feel free to ask questions, post comments and engage in our school through these two sites.  As your questions and comments come in, we have an opportunity to respond to your thoughts and concerns.  I look forward to creating our own PLN right here at South.

So, Whats New? September 8, 2011

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Here we are, another year is upon us.  In fact, we are on the eve of the final day of the first week!

As you are all aware many of the opening procedures have changed as a result of the current Job Action.  With any change in past practice there is a period adjustment.  Despite the challenge that this shift in practice could have presented the students were cooperative and their patience over the past 3 days is greatly appreciated! By the end of the day today all students had the opportunity to receive a locker, agenda, photo information and pay fees.

The really great part of this process was the opportunity to see and interact with all of our students.  In a building of nearly 1800 it can be busy, so getting an opportunity for the Administration to have a few minutes with several hundred students each was great.  (I have to confess that Mr. Li and Ms Hari along with members of our office team took the bulk of the shifts!).   I can’t reiterate enough that the patience and pleasant attitude of the students helped make the opening go smoothly.

Moving forward we have our grade assemblies beginning Friday and continuing through until Monday.  I look forward to these each year as it is another opportunity to connect with our students and start the year off on a positive note.  For all the school information you can check our website click here, follow us on twitter or find us on facebook.

Until the next post…enjoy the sun, keep smiling and have a great start to your school year!

You haven’t posted in a while… May 18, 2011

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As many educators will say, the time between spring break and the end of the year seems to go by all too quickly.  This is certainly the feeling I have this year.

It is hard to believe that we are down to the final few weeks of classes and I find the Burnaby South class of 2011 in the midst of the traditional celebrations.  Friday night was their Dinner/Dance and next Thursday May 26 they will cross the stage as part of the School Leaving Ceremonies.

It was at the dinner/dance that a student mentioned that I hadn’t posted in a while and I have to admit he is correct.  In the past month we have had so much to celebrate at South with Choir winning Gold at the Fraser Valley Kiwanis Music Festival, the Tennis, Badminton and Senior Girls Soccer teams all winning District Championship banners all while students were writing AP exams and teachers were preparing students for whatever challenges they may face after the completion of courses in June.  The Green Team promoted environmental sustainability and Leadership held Pink Week in an effort to support their Anti-Bullying campaign.

While all of these great activities were taking place the schedule is being built for next year, including course selections and timetable building.  A group of teachers is exploring ways in which students can pursue their interests and passions through Personalized Learning opportunities and Student Government is in the final stages of preparing for RebelFest.

These are just a sampling of all the great things that have been happening since my last post.  There are many other events, field trips and activities that our students and staff have represented South proudly in.  If you know of some of these topics, please add them by posting a response to this entry or send them to our Twitter account @bbysouthsd41

What does it all mean? March 9, 2011

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Over the past year there has been a great deal of public discussion about education and what is best for student learning.  In this post I will try to provide some background information that may help you develop a clearer picture of some of the great things that are happening in classrooms around the SD41.  You may have heard talk about changes in education as the world around us changes.  Some of the terms you may have heard, among others, probably include:

Personalized Learning

21st Century Learning

Independent Directed Studies (IDS)

As your familiarity of these terms will vary I included links for each of those sections.  If you are completely new to this (and that is completely understandable) your ability to choose which links to click or to skip them altogether  has allowed you to personalize your learning!

Personally I am not convinced that the term 21st Century Learning captures the full meaning of what we are doing.  This is not meant to devalue  the great research and time devoted to this title, I simply prefer the term Personalized Learning in the 21st Century.  Or, to take it a step further, I am even more comfortable with the notion that we are personalizing learning in changing times. I prefer this because we live in an era that is changing so quickly that students (and educators) are learning with rapidly advancing technology.  Due to the rapid nature of this change, it is challenging to predict  what the world will be like for our students ten years from now let alone throughout the 21st Century.

IDS courses allow students to pursue their personal interests, with the guidance and facilitation of a teacher.  To me this is a perfect example of personalizing learning in changing times because this form of learning puts the student squarely in the driver’s seat of the learning.

The descriptions above are by no means exhaustive nor definitive as there are teachers, administrators, parents and students who are actively exploring what those terms look like and mean to learners across SD41.  If you are reading this and you have your own definition or examples of those terms, I encourage you to include those in the comments section to help push the thinking forward on what is best for learning. (more…)

More Time… February 8, 2011

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This post has been inspired by questions generated from my last post Time Is Flying.   Although the questions varied in form and delivery the general notion was that people wondered how I had the time to Blog while working in a school the size of Burnaby South, especially at this busy time of year.  My answers were like the questions, they varied in form and delivery yet they carried the same notion…I make the time.

Now, I have to admit I have not found a time machine, nor have any or our students developed a way to make time as part of an Independent Directed Studies course.  Simply put, I choose to carve a bit of time out of my schedule to write my thoughts down and share them.  Over the course of the year I have intended to make weekly posts.  Some weeks I have been successful and others I have fallen in the “Not Meeting Expectations” category of my personal rubric.   It has been a balance that has kept me inspired to write more frequently, while acknowledging that the school doors will open and close regardless of the frequency that  I post.

The more I thought about the question the more I wanted to research what others in my Personal Learning Network had to say about “Time”.   I have written before about staying connected with other educators through social media so I started with those connections.  I found that the thoughts varied from those who had their own questions about time, to those that believe when something is important to them they carve out, or make, the time.

Although I feel that my thoughts have been shaped by a combination of my own practice and the influence of those with whomI work, I feel the need to acknowledge the influence of the work of a few bloggers which I try to read at least once a week, if not more.

– Chris Kennedy’s Culture of Yes

– George Couros’ Principal of Change

– Chris Lehmann’s Practical Theory

I know that Chris has written about time and I have to admit that I have not developed a system like he has to manage his time, but it is something I would like to work towards!

Although there are a number of Blogs that I check in on regularly, I find myself returning to the 3 above the most regularly.  I am not here to suggest that you follow these 3 educators but rather I recommend that you check out those who Blog about things that interest you.  In my experience, other peoples’ thoughts help us to reflect and develop our own ideas further.  That process, to me, is worth all the time in the world.

Mr. Tyler

Time is Flying February 1, 2011

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Today marked the official half-way point of the year.  I was surprised this morning when I realized that time has moved so quickly.  Over the coming weeks we will be completing course selection.  The grade 12 students will begin their Grad Transitions interviews and our students will have several opportunities to put their school spirit on display as our basketball teams enter the playoffs.

With our Fine Arts Night recently completed many of the students whose work was showcased in January are now in the final stretch of preparing for the production of Little Shop of Horrors – to be performed in the MJF Theatre this spring.

The Music and Business departments are combining to take students to New York over Spring Break meanwhile Student Government is taking time out of their RebelFest preparations to organize a Silent Auction Fundraiser for the Sister School.

Grad activities are starting (note to parents official activities are posted on the school’s website!).

The list above is just a brief snapshot of some of the great things that have been happening and continue to happen with our school.  I know I speak for all of the Administrators when I say how proud we are of our community for all of the phenomenal things that are happening both curricular and extra-curricular.

The 2nd half of the school year promises to bring a great deal of excitement.  It’s a fantastic time to be at Burnaby South.

What do you do on Pro-D anyways? November 30, 2010

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So last Monday our school had a school-based Professional Development Day.  The students look forward to these days as a long-weekend and a recent conversation with a group of students indicated that some think school staff view these days in the same way. After this conversation I thought this was a great opportunity to shed some light on the great things that happen in schools during Professional Development.

Last Monday began with coffee and muffins and some great conversation with colleagues.  During the welcome period, videos played capturing the theme of our day – Personalized Learning.  The morning focussed on the role technology plays in 21st Century Education.  After a presentation exploring our topic we broke into groups to utilize technology in a brainstorming exercise.

This led to eight different break-out sessions that further explored some key themes in Personalized Learning including differentiated instruction, assessment, social media in the classroom and Tribes Learning.   Staff signed up for one of the smaller group workshops to provide an opportunity for each participant to focus on an area of personal choice.

Following lunch we resumed a closer look at Personalized Learning.  Click here for the slide deck to my presentation.  The afternoon portion of the discussion focussed on 21st Century Learning separate from technology, focussing on a Paradigm Shift that is beginning to take place in public education.  This shift focusses on the way students learn, how they become engaged in classes and how we can continue to best meet the needs of all our learners through a variety of different approaches.  We managed to pack all of those activities in before 2pm when staff returned to their specific Departments to continue the discussions that we began throughout the day.

The above description captures the essence of what we explored throughout the day at our school.  At other schools I know that there were a number of exciting opportunities where teachers also engaged in meaningful and important discussions about topics that are relevant to their students and those staffs’ professional interests.  These types of Professional Days model the pursuit of lifelong learning and capture the spirit of our Personalized Learning.

I hope you found this useful in creating a visual for the next time you find yourself wondering what happens in schools during Professional Development days.

I Remember… November 11, 2010

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Having worked at, and attended, schools in BC for most of my life I have recently rediscovered my appreciation for the work that people have done over the years to secure the environment I live in. Every year I have joined others to pause in a moment of silence to honour those who have given their lives and risked their future so I may live in peace.

Working at Burnaby South I am humbled to say that I have begun to truly appreciate the risks that my great grandfather WW1 and two grandfathers WW2 and Korean War took for us.

Last year, I contributed in the organization of our school’s Remembrance Day Assemblies. In a school of our size we hold 4 assemblies throughout the day in the setting of the MJF Theatre.  Here the VPA Department performs music, song, dance and video paying tribute to those men and women lost to war.   This year I was able to observe these performances and later talk to students. In these discussions, it became apparent to me that several students who are new to Canada have never participated in these ceremonies. They are visibly moved that we honour these people and they are equally thankful to have the opportunity to say a silent thank you.

It has been the discussions with students coupled with the moving performances that have made me realize how appreciative I am. Despite participating in these assemblies each year and honouring those who have given their lives, it has been the past two years that have made me realize I still have the opportunity to say more than a silent thank you. With that in mind, I will bring this to a close, I need to phone my grandpa.

Mr. Tyler

21st Century Leading for Learning November 1, 2010

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In an effort to stay informed on current topics that are relevant to the delivery of education, I use social networking to connect with a number of educational leaders from the Vancouver area, across Canada and internationally. Through this networking I have the opportunity to explore initiatives from our own school district as well as others. Using the technology available to me, I have created my own PLC. As many of you are aware, the concept of developing a PLC is central to the rationale for creating our collaboration program within Burnaby South.
Among the many people whom I have interacted with in this network I have met George Couros a K-6 Principal in Alberta, Chris Kennedy, the Deputy Superintendent of West Vancouver School District, and internationally recognized educational leader Sir Ken Robinson. I do not use these names as means of self-promotion, nor name-dropping, I use them to illustrate the power of social networking when it is used responsibly.