Photo Credit - Dylan Monteith
Our Learning Story
George Elliot Secondary School serves the community of Lake Country. Our school has an enrollment population of approximately 890 students from grades 8 -12 with approximately 100 staff members. We host international students from various countries around the world and partner with the RINK Hockey Academy which brings us 120 students from across North America and beyond.
Summary of the 2020 – 2021 School Year
This school year was impacted throughout by the challenges associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Senior students received 75% of in class instruction and many protocols were established to limit congregating in the building.
Regardless, the leadership team and staff at the school pushed on with our Love Learn Thrive vision for students at George Elliot. Our focus remains on implementing the OECD 7 Principles of Learning and how we might create learning environments that are constructive and collaborative. Staff also remained committed to caring for our students, recognizing their individual differences, connecting with them, and providing a safe space to learn and thrive.
Looking through a Modern Learner's Lens (Dixon and Richardson) to establish our learning culture, we began in the fall by completing a deep scan of our staff to dig deeply into what we value in our Love Learn Thrive vision statement. This was followed by scans of over 500 students and approximately 100 parents. The winter was spent establishing patterns that would form the basis of our belief statements which were then wordsmithed and now articulated on our Learning Plan. Consultation with our stakeholder groups was done throughout. This vision and our belief sets now accurately reflects the thinking of the George Elliot learning community.
Spring was spent presenting our work to the Superintendent and a Trustee as part of our School Community Learning Plan where we received feedback on our work and suggestions for moving forward. We then looked at ways we will measure and check our progress, gathering and triangulating data in the new year. Plans were also made to reframe the work of the Coyote Council away from crafting the vision towards implementing it.
Summary of the 2019 – 2020 School Year
This school year saw a transition in leadership but the core focus on the OECD 7 Principles of Learning remains our central focus. This is guidance form the Centre For Educational Research and Innovation and is based on the belief that learning is shaped by the context in which it is situated and then actively constructed through social negotiation with others. Therefore we continue to create learning environments that are constructive and collaborative.
This year we also began looking at our school through a Modern Learner's Lens. This work is informed by Bruce Dixon and Will Richardson where the goal is to establish a learning culture. This sounds deceptively simple yet the work is difficult and will take years. It postulates that school as a traditional institution was built for teaching and hasn't really changed much in a century. Today's 21st century learners, however, are much different "clients" than the students the system was originally built for. Therefore, to improve how we deliver education, and meet the needs of our students, we need to shift our paradigm from that of school for teaching that of school for learning. All people in our building are learners; students, staff and community members.
Looking through the Modern Learner's Lens we began we began to look closely at our vision statement for our students - Love, Learn, Thrive. The crafting of the vision is work that was done in previous years. It encapsulates elements of the OECD 7 Principles and articulates the staff commitment to caring for our students, recognizing their individual differences, connecting with them, and providing a safe space to learn (LOVE). It holds learning as the central focus of our school and all that entails - putting our students at the centre of their learning and stretching them (LEARN). Our vision also articulates our aspirational goal for our learners (THRIVE). Our Inquiry work this year was to begin a scan of our staff, students and community around our beliefs, our context and our practices to create coherence around our vision.
The unforeseen challenge of the COVID-19 global pandemic caused us to pause this inquiry work and pivot as we responded to a new method of delivery. Our new inquiry work centres around how to reinvent practice to align with our vision remotely. Mere content coverage became unrealistic and staff had to decide what parts of the curriculum were most essential to cover in ways that would engage students – accessible to all yet open ended enough to challenge those who wanted to go deeper on their own. Teachers quickly established learning networks with colleagues, collaborating within the school, across the District, and some across the Province. This has been constant, daily inquiry. Teachers became immersed in an iterative design cycle as they continually experimented with their practice, got feedback from their students on their "prototype" and reflected on improving on a regular basis. This new inquiry project will continue to occupy staff and they respond to new direction and we anticipate it will continue into the fall of 2020.
Summary of the 2017 – 2018 School Year
Continuing the deeper learning with BC's redesigned curriculum, the year began with an overall school theme of "kindness" to help reinforce the core competencies, particularly the personal and social competency. Our October 2017 Implementation Day continued with a focus on the personal and social competency and on three of the seven OECD's principles of learning (learners at the centre, emotions are integral to learning and recognizing individual differences) through learning about how to recognize and support students experiencing anxiety in the classroom and how to build positive successes into each day. That same day, as a staff we developed a "poster" of our hopes and dreams for our students and used that as a springboard to begin conversations around updating our school vision. Through follow up staff meetings we reflected on what we were doing as educators and how our practices aligned with our hopes and dreams for students. These staff meetings included teacher presentations on school visits to Norma Rose Point and Thomas Haney, innovative learning environments, our grade 7 learning community, our Senior Science Olympics, and awareness of student diversity. Staff meeting professional learning also included a presentation and subsequent discussion in support of keynote speaker, Will Richardson, for the February COTA Professional Development Day
Our Coyote Council began the year with developing their professional learning stories. Once these stories were established, the OECD's seven principles of learning were introduced as a focus and the necessary conditions for growth of our "seeds of inquiry" were in place. The Coyote Council inquiry began with a scan of approximately 180 students from grades 7-12 and scanning results were shared at the Coyote Council Learning Day in February 2018 and as a result a focus, student feedback, was determined. For the rest of the year the Coyote Council members continued to work through the spiral of inquiry process; developing hunches, participating in learning around "student feedback", taking actions in their classrooms and checking back. Support for this deeper learning throughout the process included work with the district's Instructional Leadership Team, release time for collaboration and participation in inservices and workshops, as well as ongoing conversations.
Our Parent Advisory Council was also included in student feedback inquiry through the collecting and sharing of information and ongoing discussions about what student feedback looks like from a parent's point of view.
Summary of the 2016 - 2017 School Year
Beginning in September 2016, part of this targeted approach included building a common understanding of a "growth mindset" and how this mindset aligns with the goals of the redesigned curriculum and with student success. Half of our October 2016 Implementation Day was directly linked to deepening our understanding and further exploring our belief sets around the idea of a growth mindset. With a common foundation around collaboration and "growth mindset", teacher led professional learning groups were again established and focused on aspects of the redesigned curriculum that collaborated regularly at staff meetings as well as other collaborative times throughout the year:
Inquiry was gradually introduced through the inclusion of questions for each one of the learning groups to consider (What is going on for our learners? How do we know?). As we worked through the year, the "seed" of inquiry was planted and each professional learning group approached the challenge in their own unique way. As one example, the "Learning Community" professional learning group, involved all of the core grade 7 teachers embarking on creating a learning community that involved co-planning and co-teaching, as well as cross-curricular activities and personalized learning for students. Another example was the highlighted need for tighter structures to meet the needs of our most vulnerable learners. Again, support for deeper learning included work with the district's Instructional Leadership Team, release time for collaboration and participation in inservices and workshops, as well as ongoing conversations.
Throughout the past two years, various aspects of our Learning Story has been discussed with Parent Advisory Council and their input has been incorporated into our question of what is currently going on for our learners (their children). Our students' voices have also been incorporated into that same question through surveys and conversations. We learned early on that up to 25% of our students did not feel connected to their school community and we felt a sense of urgency to dig deeper into "why" and what connections could be made to each one of our professional learning groups.
We are looking "growing the seeds" of inquiry and start with a comprehensive scan of what is going on for all of our learners in September 2017. From there we will determine what areas of focus we will work on collaboratively with staff, students and families.
Summary of 2015-2016 School Year
Three years ago at George Elliot we began a collaborative learning journey to align with BC's newly redesigned curriculum and create rich and relevant learning for each one of our students. Through this learning journey we continued to focus on our school goal: "we strive to create a community of learners, thinkers, innovators, collaborators, and contributors by fostering a culture that promotes belonging, resiliency and engagement for each student".
Our first step was to begin to build a foundation and culture that encouraged teachers to collaborate and build upon the already established positive working relationships. The October 2015 Implementation Day was the "kick-off" and the day was spent learning about, discussing, and reflecting on what creates powerful collaboration. Once the norms were set, professional learning groups were established and these groups met regularly during the remaining staff meetings for the year. The focus of each professional learning group linked to some aspect of the redesigned curriculum and was teacher driven:
Also embedded were ongoing conversations regarding the "why" of the redesigned curriculum. Numerous questions and challenges were presented through these learning groups, setting the stage for a more targeted approach as part of the next steps. Support for deeper learning included work with the district's Instructional Leadership Team, release time for collaboration and participation in inservices and workshops, as well as ongoing conversations.