Creating a Solid Foundation for Future Achievement

Barb Holden – Principal, A.E. Bowers – I recently purchased a new book, "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman. Because I have a strong aversion to sad endings, I always skim the last chapter in the bookstore. If I think I will enjoy the journey to that end, I buy the book. Though the book is related to Autism the author’s meaning is relevant to everyone.

As we learn more about our neurodiversity, we must focus on developing strengths, uncovering passions and ultimately celebrating each of our students.

This is no small task. To achieve this, we need to examine what we are doing well and 'lean in' to our next steps.

A characteristic of the strongest education systems across the world is the offering of a broad-based curriculum that encompasses academics and includes arts. We can be proud that students in Alberta have access to a broad-based curriculum and when tested score among the highest in the world – with Alberta students performing among the highest in Canada. PISA 2015

Through innovation, we need to ensure we continue to provide students opportunities to learn in different ways and through different disciplines. The new curriculum in Alberta continues to build on what we do well by shifting and elevating student learning into the realm of concept-based learning.

For our students in the Early Years, this means teaching and learning will be structured and intentional and, at times, also messy. Deep learning requires spending time in dissonance and having the perseverance to find the connections between concepts and within the disciplines – becoming metacognitive about your understanding. Students must be encouraged to be risk-takers and reflective about their experiences and learning at quite a young age.

In Rocky View Schools, we are using the Power School Parent Portal and my Blueprint to offer space and structure for on-going reflection and goal setting. As students grow and change, we can see them become increasingly articulate about their learning and themselves as learners.

As students come to understand themselves, they must have opportunities for learning that immerse them in and allow them to learn through their interests and passion areas. For example, encouraging some students towards an arts-focused high school education could make the difference between completing high school or potentially dropping out. In Rocky View Schools, the Building Futures program is the right fit for other students, in that it creates pathways that enable them to realize the vision they have for their futures. Recently, RVS also began conversations about learning through a Farm School, an innovative program offering exciting opportunities for even more authentic and meaningful learning.  

Graduation from high school is a marker of success for some students and their families. It's a time when students are making critical, life-altering decisions…without a fully developed frontal lobe…(insert parental anguish here). It seems wise that students should base their decisions on a foundation built upon authentic and meaningful learning experiences and continue to develop their interests and passion.

Where do we go from here?

It's important we have a clear vision of what we want for our all our students and a plan for how we will support them to get there. Goal One in the Four Year Plan highlights the need for students to connect to their passions and interests. Through project-based and inquiry learning, highly structured and guided learning experiences, our students will focus on developing their strengths, uncover their passions and, as some would say, 'surpass' their own potential – as individuals and as our message of hope to the future.