Leadership Through Kindness

Monday, February 15, 2016 - By: David McCarthy

While Grade 10, 11 and 12 students were writing a mock provincial exam on Thursday morning, Grade 9 students were in workshops looking at developing leadership skills with a focus on kindness. February is anti-bullying month and many students have heard the messages before about the impact of bullying and the roles that individuals play in either combating it or supporting that negative behaviour. What we know is that kindness is the best defense and it can happen in many ways, all requiring leadership-type decisions and behaviours. The morning began with a look at how small acts can make a difference: http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bezos_a_life_lesson_from_a_volunteer_firefighter#t-210430

The workshops, where students were reunited in groups from their Strathcona trip in the fall, were facilitated by senior students and teachers. They had three activities to look at: what they had already learned about cyber bullying, the concept of culture, and the characteristics of kindness. Students were then asked to use the characteristics of a culture of kindness to create Recipes for Kindness which are now on display in various places around the School. The final task was to create ideas for a Campaign for Kindness at Brentwood. After Midterm Break, students will be asked, if interested, to volunteer to look at these ideas in more detail and in collaboration with SPARC, decide where we might grow kindness even more at our school.

Collaborative Time

The Academic teachers have taken a new approach to “staff meetings” on Wednesday mornings and are using the time in different ways. On a rotating basis, Wednesday mornings are being used for staff meetings as a whole group, departmental meetings, and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Carving out time for collaboration within departments and interdepartmentally was identified as an important factor in helping us to learn from each other.

In department meetings, one area of focus has been looking at the new curriculum that has been released by the Ministry of Education in British Columbia. The documents for Kindergarten through Grade 9 are to be implemented in September of 2016 and the draft documents for Grade 10 through 12 are set to be finalized for September, 2016 and implemented in September, 2017. Currently, our departments are looking at the draft documents and providing feedback to the Ministry on aspects that they like and areas where they would like to see some changes.

There will be more about the new curriculum as we get closer to full implementation as the changes range from minor to significant and some decisions have yet to be made by the Ministry that could affect graduation requirements in the years to come. One of the changes that is consistent through all grades is the emphasis on four core competencies; Communication, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Personal and Social Responsibility. [https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies] The approach is that teachers use content to develop these core competencies. Teaching and learning are based on big ideas and essential questions that encourage students to explore content in a variety of ways.

The time in PLCs for our academic teachers has been based on the work of Heidi Hayes Jacobs and her book, Curriculum 21. The goal is to create meaningful discussion around the future of education and how students are prepared for what comes next in their journeys. The combination of teachers from different subject areas allows for different perspectives which has been very helpful as we consider the new curriculum and the possibility of more interdisciplinary studies.

As teachers design learning environments that encourage communication, creative and critical thinking, and collaboration, it is great modeling for their students to see that they are doing the same. 

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