Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading Picks

With the rush of Christmas now over, we thought we would share some of our reading picks for the holidays and for the New Year. We'd really like to hear what you think so please leave us a comment or a suggestion or your own.
All the best for 2013!

Linda and Judy’s suggested reading list for 2013

1. Environmental Awareness/Leadership

Education for Sustainability: Becoming Naturally Smart  - Paul Clarke

We believe that every school in the province should have a farm (problem-based learning) and that the farm should be connected to the Pop-Up Farm international network. Paul’s book helps to explain why. So will his video clips from the May seminar – available for your use by September on the website.

2. Reform of Systems

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School - Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan

Strong thinking from two leading reform analyzers – an enjoyable exploration of systems and reform strategies that do and do not work.

3. Learning and Teaching

How Children Succeed: Grit Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character  - Paul Tough

Provocative and hopeful book on how to help children develop perseverance, curiosity, optimism and self-control.

Visible Learning for Teachers John Hattie

If we want to draw on what is already known about teaching and learning,  this book is a strong summary of a huge amount of empirical research.

4. Assessment 

Active Learning through Formative Assessment  - Shirley Clarke

Lots of practical advice for learner engagement from K-12.

Clarity in the Classroom  - Michael Absolum

Especially strong on learning relationships and intentionality.

Embedded Formative Assessment  - Dylan Wiliam

Very good for teacher study groups. The core resource for AFL practices.

5. Parents/Social and Emotional Learning

Ten Mindful Minutes  - Goldie Hawn

Workable strategies for reducing stress and anxiety for family members and learners. Another easy read.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success -  Carol S. Dweck
A book that all educators, parents, trustees and coaches and high school students should read. Clearly and without jargon, Mindset explains why we need a growth mindset to learn. Web resources are excellent too and include questions for a book study.

Seven Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!  - Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins

A useful book for parent reading clubs and for educators interested in learning more about understanding reading.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  - Susan Cain
Great book for understanding yourself, your family members and other educators and students in your work life. An easy read.

6. Professional Learning

Realizing the Power of Professional Learning -  Helen Timperley

Helen is the most knowledgeable international researcher about what makes professional learning a truly high impact activity for adults and for young people. She has synthesized all the studies to find what actually makes a difference to student learning. A must read for informal and formal leaders – especially professional learning committee members.

7. Inquiry

Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana

Not an easy thing to accomplish and this book can help educators learn how to do it – probably better for those who already have inquiry experience rather than complete beginners.

8. Innovative Learning Environments

The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. Hanna Dumont, David Istance and Francisco Benavides

This is a succinct synthesis of the knowledge from the learning sciences – a must read reference for everyone interested in creating more innovative learning environments for young people.

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
Tony Wagner

Valuable for teachers and parents and trustees. Interesting combo of text and tech for those who like pushing the edge.

Coming Soon
Spirals of Inquiry  (2013) Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert

Published with BCPVPA. The research combined with some ‘how to’ practices for school teams committed to quality and equity for all learners and illustrated with case studies from BC schools. 

Making Successful Transitions - The Gift of Sharing

Thanks very much to Debbie Koehn, a Network leader,  for sharing this story from the Nass Valley.

This is the time of year when present opening plays an important role but gifts come in many different forms. One of the most important gifts educators can offer students is our own opening and sharing of practices.  As we grow as educators our students benefit.  The Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network is enabling the learning and sharing of strong practices.   One great example of learning that is taking place is our understanding of the importance of transitions. 

We are learning lessons from the First Nations’ Peoples in the Nass Valley about the power of community.  Last September Gitwinksihlkw Chiefs, Matriarchs, Elders and  parents/family members presented the students to the Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School staff.  A Chief from each Tribe gave their blessing and words of wisdom, as did other respected members of the community.  The staff at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School was honored to be part of such an important ceremony, accepting the shared role of educating and developing students’ potentials as members of the community.  This ceremony was one that demonstrated communal trust and respect for all educators and caregivers working together to help students develop skills and strategies that will help guide them through the future.

Important lessons are to be learned from this ceremony.  The Aboriginal community is helping to lead the way to understanding each individual’s personal need to feel like a valued member of the learning community. Each student is known to all the stakeholders by the end of the ceremony and should be more ready to move into a structured learning community after being acknowledged by all participants. 

Members of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network will be taking this practice a step further, examining it thoughtfully so that we can emulate this wise practice when transitioning our students from grade to grade or from school to school. 

Imagine the impact on the community when the students leaving one school structure are formally presented to the new school and staff by not just their current teacher, but by caring Elders, Chiefs, caregivers and members of the Aboriginal community painting a picture with words and actions of who the student is as a person and a learner.  Students could feel ownership of a place, before even attending, knowing that the important people in their lives have come together to celebrate them as individuals. Community members could feel more at ease, knowing that students were entering a place where they already were known and knowing that the seeds of relationships had already been planted. Students and community members will have begun to develop an understanding of the new school expectations.  

If done in late Spring and early June students could have the possibility of moving back and forth between the buildings they are exiting as students and the buildings they are entering - creating a bridge of relationships between the two.  Peer learning partners could be established so that the learning community is actively interacting long before the official first day of the school year. The importance of moving through life skills (represented by educational buildings) would be acknowledged and celebrated in a traditional, dignified manner.

Although we cannot replace the meaningfully relationships built in home communities, we can begin to learn through watching, and attempting to embed in our schools the wise practices of education that take place daily in our Aboriginal communities.

                                                   Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Connections and Transitions

When we started the Network in 1999, we had no idea that thirteen years later the work would be continuing. Neither of us has ever lived in a house that long let alone stuck with an initiative that has become such an important part of our lives. We occasionally wonder when it will be time to step away and say that the work is all done. From our perspective in working with schools across BC, there is still much to be done. We are encouraged by the ways in which more and more educators are embracing the goal of every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options. We are gratified by the extent to which coaching forms of assessment is becoming a way of life in many settings. And, we are deeply interested in the various ways that professional inquiry is becoming central to professional learning.

At the same time, we hear from, see and meet many educators who continue to feel isolated in their settings, where professional learning is disconnected from the needs of their learners, and who are thirsty for the kinds of connections across schools and districts that the network provides. We also know that there are still many learners who are not intellectually engaged in their learning and who feel little or no connection to their schools. To borrow from the words of Robert Frost "We have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep." Our promise is to always provide a space for BC educators to explore powerful ideas, to interact with each other, and to make a contribution to the learning of others.

So, what does that look for the Network going into a new year? We are welcoming questions from any school in BC (or the Yukon) who wants to be part of a networked inquiry community. The template is easily accessible on the website ( and while we would like to receive questions by the end of December, it is never to late to get started.  We are looking forward to the spring seminar that will be held May 5 in Vancouver - there will be lots of opportunities for interaction, for learning from other schools, and also for probing some leading edge research. Look for a flyer early in 2013 and save the date now!

Across the province, network meetings are taking place in a variety of forms. We know that face-to-face meetings are really important - and that if we use technology skillfully we can create many other ways for connections to be strengthened. The big idea is that teachers, principals and support workers have the opportunity to learn from and with each other in ways that are not constrained by geography, or role. We are also very pleased that starting early in January, there will be a research study looking at the impact of AESN in  deepening knowledge and changing outcomes connected to the goals of district enhancement agreements. We are also very pleased that we have secured funding support from two foundations. This will help us to deepen and extend the support provided to schools. We are pleased with the ways in which other initiatives, for instance the Changing Results for Young Readers and the VIU Rural Literacy projects are building on much of the work of network schools. We are looking forward to the release in February of Spirals of Inquiry and very much appreciate the partnership with BCPVPA that will direct all proceeds to network schools.

The next phase of the OECD Innovative Learning Environment project also has a direct connection to BC and to Network schools. We have been invited to be part of the international team looking at ways to sustain and extend the learning that had emerged from the international case studies on innovative learning environments. The BC network is seen as an important example of a sustained approach to innovation and we are looking forward to sharing what we learn from the workshops and deliberations that will be taking place at the International Conference on Innovative Learning Environments in January.

Our very best wishes to everyone for a relaxing an happy holiday season. May 2013 be filled with enthusiasm for learning, new connections, and the contentment that comes from knowing that our work truly does change lives.