Monday, 24 November 2014

Even Principals Learn

Friday marked the end of Term One!  I hope all of you have found your studies interesting and rewarding so far.  Congratulations for making it this far; but don't stop now - there is so much more to learn.  Speaking of having lots to learn . . .  This is my first year as principal of YouLearn.  I'm fortunate to have a very patient staff who allows me space to ask questions and explore ideas.  There is so much to learn and so many paths of exploration.  I am trying to connect with all registrants in our grade 10 - 12 courses shortly after they register.  (Hence all the files on my messy desk!)  My goal is to discover their educational goals and help them discover how they can best reach them.  I have found it fascinating to discover the many reasons students come to YouLearn.  High school students who cannot fit the course they want into their timetable, adult graduates who need to upgrade a course, and non-graduated adults who want to graduate and serve as an example to their children.  The list is endless.  I'm learning that connection is highly important and that many students who register with us need some help getting pointed in the right direction.  Even though we are a distributed learning school, I am learning the importance of community and connectedness.  Thanks to all of you for being part of the YouLearn community. Keep your learning connected and the people helping you close!

Glen Heinrichs

Monday, 17 November 2014

Professional Development

On Thursday and Friday Naomi, Steve and Glen attended a District-wide Response to Intervention (RTI) workshop. Basically, RTI is a tiered, systematic approach to identifying and meeting students' needs. After speaking with each of them, they were pretty excited about all that they had learned and how it will help their students and our school. They will be sharing what they learned with all YouLearn staff at our next staff meeting. Some of RTI's big ideas, organized by Naomi, can be seen below. You're not alone students! Even teachers and principals work to learn and grow throughout the year . . . and look as if they know the importance of having fun doing it, too!

~ Will

Some of RTI's Big Ideas
(Courtesy of Naomi)

  • Defining/Comparing Terms - Inclusion, Integration, Segregation, Exclusion - We looked at these terms to be clear on what Inclusion means and should look like. Shelley’s premise is that Integration, Segregation and Exclusion tend to be institutionalized. Inclusion is an actual philosophy that can look like a variety of things in practice. Also, Inclusion needs to be voluntary and be about choice or it doesn’t work in philosophy or practice.
  • Aim for the Outside Pins - Shelley used a bowling analogy where she discussed how professional bowlers aim for the outside pins in order to hit somewhere just off center so that the pins then help to know the rest down. Her premise is that if we aim to teach to the “outside pins” in our classes - those who need the most modifications/adaptations and those who need the most challenge - then we will reach the middle as a consequence.
  • Do some grouping and categorizing to make your classroom manageable for planning - Shelley had us look at a system of 3’s on a pyramid. Tier 1 is the group that needs the least support, Tier 2 is the group that needs more support and Tier 3 is the group that needs the most support. Actually looking at any given class composition and seeing where the individuals fall in the pyramid is the first step to planning, keeping in mind that kids may move to different tiers for different subjects and even on different days.
  • Planning for the All - Once categorized, then we looked at a planning pyramid. For any given unit or even behaviour concept we should be able to identify a goal that every student in the class can achieve that matches learning outcomes or objectives. Then moving up the pyramid, a goal can be set that most students can achieve. The last level is where a few students can achieve. If you plan for the all goal, you reach the whole class with activities and even modified students then become included in the classroom and its learning environment. They may stay right at that goal, but you have given them something meaningful to work on (and this may have to be modified further to match actual grade level literacy and comprehension). So you are planning a whole unit that is separate material for just a few students alongside your “regular”material, but are instead taking a section that may or may not need some modifications. This level will benefit all students as they will need to start with these lower level questions (ex. Who are the Vikings? Where did they live?) before being able to move onto the next levels of inquiry (ex. Compare Viking civilization to our civilization.)
  • IEP’s as Documents - Shelley gave us ideas and practices on how to make these documents more practical, accessible and inclusive of all parties involved. Using a student profile that the student fills out can be used as a way for the student to have input into their own IEP. Involving classroom teachers in helping make one or 2 concrete curricular goals makes planning for this student for the teacher and the EA more concrete and value added. This in turn give the student a functioning role in the classroom and thus makes the classroom inclusive. She also showed us a template to take IEP goals and translate them into a useable format for assessment and reporting that is more valuable to the student, the teacher, the resource team and the parent.
  • Supports - Shelley likes to use the word supports instead of adaptations or modifications. She says that supports that are available for the few in the class should be available for the all in the class (ex. modified text on a unit is valuable for all students and they should all have the choice to use if they wish).

What do we think about all this?:
All 3 of us found this workshop to be valuable and thought provoking. There were definitely some “light bulb” moments where we got to experience a shift in thinking. We were given lots of time for discussion in our group and some practice on how the planning concepts can be applied. There are definite “take aways” for Portage. The most interesting discussions seemed to revolve around whether or not there were useful applications for DL.

Shelley’s Web Resources:
This is Shelley’s blog. She has a lot of stuff on here, including handouts, etc. At the very bottom is are the powerpoint presentations for her SD 53 workshop that she took us through.

This is where Shelley has various unit plans and modified materials that she or others have been involved in developing. They are organized by grade levels and topics.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Work Experience at YouLearn

My name is Dryden Lee Hofley and I am a YouLearn work experience student. I started at the beginning of the school year and I go to SOSS. I get to come to Youlearn at the end of my school day to help out around the office. Since I have been here I learned a little bit about programming on Khan Academy, a free online website where you have many courses to choose from one of which is programming. I also help photocopy newsletters and help with the Youlearn website making sure everything works how it is supposed to work. It is a great opportunity to gain work experience and learn a couple things along the way.

Dryden, Work Experience 12 student

Monday, 3 November 2014

Spawning Salmon

Lee McFadyen, one of Oliver's Okanagan River Restoration Coordinators, took time last week to speak to a small group of local YouLearn students and parents and share with us what she knows about the Sockeye returning to the Okanagan. For the first time in 50 years, because of the hard work of a number of Okanagan conservation initiatives the Sockeye have migrated back up through the Columbia River basin and have reached Lake Okanagan! To see the return of the salmon and the mystery of their life cycle first hand is truly spectacular. To see a salmon take its last breath of air, air that is ripe with the stench of dead fish, as other starved salmon around it struggle to keep swimming upstream on a glorious, crisp October morning is quite a powerful experience. Something never to be gained from a video or book. Last week I was reminded we need to remain committed to giving our students experiences, not just information or lessons. Thanks Lee!