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February 21
February Message

Teachers’ Convention

       Teachers’ Convention is always an exciting time for teachers. Starting in mid-December, teachers begin by registering for workshops and presentations. Important to the overall professional development for teachers, Teachers’ Convention is a time to reflect and to grow as educators. Through convention speakers, workshops, exhibits and social activities, teachers can keep up with educational developments, identify and propose solutions for common problems, expand their educational knowledge and skills, and exchange ideas with colleagues. (ATA Website)

As my mind tends to thrives on organization, categories and groupings, each year, for Teachers’ Convention, I select a guiding theme or a guiding lens. This year, I selected workshops that focused primarily on supporting executive functioning. According to the Developing Child Harvard University website: Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.

Executive Function.jpg


​​​Executive Functions:

  1. Inhibition - The ability to stop one's own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.
  2. Emotional Control - The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings.
  3. Initiation - The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies.
  4. Working memory - The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.
  5. Planning/Organization - The ability to manage current and future- oriented task demands.
  6. Organization of Materials - The ability to impose order on work, play, and storage spaces.
  7. Self-Monitoring - The ability to monitor one's own performance and to measure it against some standard of what is needed or expected.  – Cooper & Dietzal

Mindful strategies to help support neurodiverse students with executive functioning:

Focus on strengths: respect a child’s uniqueness

Megacognition:

·       Modelling

·       Role playing

·       Intentional teaching of social skills

Time Management:

·       Timers

·       Routines

·       Analogue Clocks

·       Agendas/Planners/D2L (Review weekly with student)

Review before new learning begins:

·       Khan Academy

·       Solaro

·       The Key

Frequent Check-Ins

Organization:

·      Checklists

·       Binders

·       Labelling

·       Colour coding

Environmental Supports:

·       Word to speech

·       Audiobooks

·       Read/Write on google docs (love, love)

 Planned Transitions

·       Breaks

·       Shifts in activities or environment

 

 

February 01
January Message

Reading in at Digital Age

Over the winter break, I read Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World, by Maryanne Wolf. The book itself is somewhat of an academic read, one that I had to read and re-read for understanding and clarification. Ms. Wolf describes how reading, unlike speaking, is not a natural brain function; and, as such, we need to develop and strengthen brain pathways to assist in the creation and to strengthen the ability to read. As we becoming increasingly dependent on digital technologies – checking text messages, emails, social media, etc. – Ms. Wolf cautions that our reading brain, and it’s capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection, are at risk.

While I keep coming back to the book and it’s message, my thoughts are divided. Despite their potential of negative influence, these technologies have also fostered and continue to support reading and writing for many individuals who are able to experience success for the first time ever. It’s about balance, intentionality and thoughtfulness.

As such, I thought that I would share some of my favourite digital supports as a parent and as an educator.

SOLARO

 All students in Calgary have access to Solaro, through the Calgary Public Library website. Following the Alberta Curriculum, Solaro provides access to science, math, social studies, and language arts’ study notes, lessons, review, links to videos and practice tests for student in grades 3 to 12.

https://calgarylibrary.ca/read-learn-and-explore/digital-library/solaro/

LIBBY

This is an app available through the Calgary Pubic Library as well. For veracious readers, purchasing books can be a costly endeavor. Libby allows students (and parents) to borrow ebooks and audiobooks or place holds easily, with a few taps. For many students, listening to an audio book, while reading along reinforces their comprehension and supports focus and attention.

https://calgarylibrary.ca/read-learn-and-explore/digital-library/libby/

READ&WRITE FOR GOOGLE CHROME

As teachers, we have spent a couple of Professional Development Days discovering the myriad of features and supports provided through Read&Write. As parent, I encourage my children to use this app regularly when completing their assignments at home. Read&Write allows students to use speech to text; transfer text to PDF; read PDFs, websites or good docs aloud (or in our case, to help edit and proofread assignments); it also translates documents; helps minimize complexity; and, the list goes on and on… All CBE students have access to Read&Write through their secured Google Drive Account.

BIG HUGE LABS

I was introduced to Big Huge Labs as a grade 9 teacher and Learning Leader of Language Arts at David Thompson about 10 years ago. Easily accessible, it allows students to create trading cards, motivational slides, magazine covers, CD covers (for those of us who remember), etc. Moreover, it is linked to Flickr, which has a free reservoir of clip art for students to use in their work.

https://bighugelabs.com/

SCRATCH

As a Science School, I would be remiss if I didn’t also highlight Scratch. At RTA, students begin to learn coding in grade 5, as part of their CTF option, connecting it to Makey Makey. Scratch allows students to program interactive stories, games, and animations: “Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.”

https://scratch.mit.edu/about

 ​

December 31
December Message

Positive Psychology and Wellness

As part of our School Development Plan, we have identified student wellness as a key goal to success and to learning in our school. Homeroom teachers have conducted surveys with students, identifying adult and peer connections and supports inside and outside the building. Furthermore, as a staff, we have learned how to journal with students and to communicate through sharing circles. It is rich work; it is important work; it is emotional work.

Realizing that the impact of wellness touches all of us, Alberta Heath Services presented a Wellness Workshop to RTA staff in December, focusing on Positive Psychology. We were reminded of the importance of making a paradigm shift towards positivity: the study of human flourishing – the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

So, what is happiness?

“The experience of joy, contentment, or positive wellbeing, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” - Sonja Lyubomirsky

Ways to wellness:

·       Mindfulness (mindful listening; mindful grounding; mindful awe; mindful eating and mindful breathing)

·       Meditation Calm Welcoming Spaces Exercise

·       Movement Gratitude

·       Journaling Kindness

·       Compassion

Mindfulness is not a one-size fits all practice.

Mindfulness Apps and Mindfulness Websites:

·       Anxiety Canada MindShift (website & app)

·       Calm (app)

·       Headspace (website & app)

·       re (website & app)

·       Heart-Mind (website)

·       Insight Timer (app)

·       Mindfulness for Teens (website)

·       RelaxMelodies (app)

·       Smiling Mind (website & app)

·       The Breathing Room (app)

·       UCLA Mindful - (website & app)

·       University of Berkley - Mindful Breathing Instructions (website)

 ​

November 22
November Message

Wondering at RTA…

" So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes a universe exist..." Stephen Hawking

Wonder has been pervasive in my thoughts lately.  As Mr. Emery, from Maple Ridge, and I are preparing a presentation for the January Board of Trustees' meeting, we started by brainstorming: what does it mean to learn in a Science School?

After lots of conversation, and a myriad of ideas, we kept coming back to the concept of wonder – evoking wonder, the wonder of the unknown, the undiscovered, the discovered, the world inside the classroom and the world outside the classroom… The big stuff, the big wondering.

In many ways, wonder is a thread that ties us together; and by us, I don’t just mean the students in the building. 

We just had our parent teacher conferences this week, and I’ve discovered that our parents wonder as well ;)  So many parents greeted me in the hallway, or the library, or the office with their big wondering…

·       Did Icelandic Volcano spark the French Revolution?

·       Why can reindeer see ultraviolet light?

·       Why do turtles need calcium?

·       Could we create our own music clinics at RTA?

·       Can we experiment with our DNA for Science Fair?

As educators, we are supported and we are embraced by wonderment. It inspires and nurtures our teaching, it fosters personal wondering; it evokes student passion. Wonder is in everything and it is everywhere, and at RTA, it is the foundation that supports our learning.​


October 28
October Message

Science Fair 101: Thinking like a Scientist

Science Fair is one of the most exciting time of the year at RTA. While the work is hard, the results are rewarding.

The Why?

·       “… science is a process. It’s messy, it’s here, it’s there. They might be doing something and all of a sudden they get data they didn’t expect to get and suddenly they’re off on a tangent. That’s real science.”  

·       Science Fair “encourages science as interactive, live process, not just memorization

·       Science fairs can make science relevant by allowing students to conduct an experiment based on their own interests.”

·       “A science fair project allows students to develop important independent learning skills such as time management, responsibility, organization and communication.”

The What?

 

Experimental Projects: These projects involve testing a hypothesis under controlled conditions using the scientific method. As the researcher, you control several variables, manipulate one variable in a controlled way, and then measure, record and analyze the responding variable, to reach your conclusion.

 

Innovative Projects: These projects focus on the development and evaluation of innovative devices, models or techniques in technology, engineering or computers (hardware or software). As the researcher, you should demonstrate an understanding of the properties of the materials/methods used; the reasons for choosing them; and the effectiveness of your design. Test your innovation and modify it if you discover shortcomings during testing.

 

The How?

Home Expectations:

  • Experiments
  • Purchasing of materials needed for experimenting
  • Pictures/Visuals of experiment
  • Observations 
  • Anything not completed during school time
  • Trifold completion

School Expectations:

  • Proposal
  • Background research
  • Hypothesis and problem
  • Data analysis 
  • Graphing
  • Conclusions
  • Start Trifolds

The Where?

Logbooks:

  • All experiments need a logbook
  • A small binder works best (divided into sections)
  • EVERYTHING needs to be in here
  • Needs to be present during judging

Trifolds:

  • Do not paint the trifold!
  • They need to be neat and clear (ruler, ruler, ruler
  • There should be many pictures/visuals (A picture is worth a thousand words!
  • The Scientific Process should be visible.
  • All the steps should be document and distinct, in their respective section
  • All the Trifolds for the RTA Science Fair are provided by the school (as funded by the School Council
  • Graphs should be accurate, labelled, and titled


The When-ish – The Dream?

  • October 31:  Science Fair is introduced
  • CTF Week 1: Nov. 18-21: Students begin to write their Science Fair Proposals.
  • CTF Week 2: Nov. 25-29: Students hand in signed proposals by Nov. 25. CTF Week 3: Dec. 2-6: Purchase supplies for Science Fair.
  • CTF Week 4: Dec. 9-13: Research is complete by the end of the week.
  • CTF Week 5: Dec. 16-19: Experimenting (complete by Jan. 8)
  • CTF Week 6: Jan. 7-10: Analyzing data/results creating charts, graphs, etc.
  • CTF Week 7: Jan 13-17: Start trifold/poster on Jan. 13; trifold/poster goes home on Jan. 17, if needed
  • Feb. 5: All projects are back in the building
  • Feb. 6: Project Set Up/Celebration of Learning/Open House.
  • Feb 7: Science Fair judging

Please refer to the Science tab on the website for more information: Logbooks, Ethics’ Form, etc.​

September 30
September Message

The last 30 days have disappeared quickly…

RT Alderman has grown so much in the past 3 years; it is sometimes hard to keep up... As I met with my Educational Director, last week, I proudly shared pieces of this amazing journey – a journey of numbers.

  • Entering RT Alderman, in 2015, home of the Blues, I was a principal of 174 students and 11 teachers. 
  • I was a principal of 1 building with 2 schools, as RT Alderman shared it’s space with another school. It was a unique experience and we learned a lot about ourselves. 
  • By month 5, Dr. George Stanley opened it’s new doors and RTA opened the accommodation process. In conversations with families, it became apparent our CBE students wanted more science… 
  • And, voila, we arrive at year 2: RTA, a new dual track school:
    • 1 science alternative program
    • 1 community program
    • 5 new teachers
    • 100 new students
    • 1 robotics program
    • 1 new 'green' room
  • As the science program grew, the community program moved to DTS. 
  • Thus, year 3 for the new RTA Ravens: 
    • 4 new teachers
    • 100 new students
    • 1 single track program
    • 1 science alternative program
    • 1 CYSF Elementary Aggregate Award. 
  • And, swoosh, it’s now 2019-2020, year 4
    • 8 new teachers
    • 5 new Learning Leaders
    • 1 new Resource teacher
    • 110 new students
    • 449 students 

August 13
August Message

Despite there being a few weeks remaining in our summer holidays, I would like to share a few things with you and your child(ren), prior to the commencement of classes. 

  • The online RTA Spirit Wear Store is now open. Families can purchase a range of RTA clothing: t-shirts, hoodies, shorts, joggers, hats and headbands. The store will remain open until September 17th, allowing time to process the order. Ms. Clark will also have some sample sizes available in the PE Office. Moreover, Ms. Clark is hoping to re-open the store prior to the Winter Break for any additional purchases. (The link is also available on the main page of the school website and under Athletics, should you have any problems).
  • Homeroom teachers will be contacting families via an email or a telephone call on Friday, August 30. (We are still in the process of hiring a couple of teachers.)
  • First day of School; staggered entry: Tuesday, September 3 is the first day of school for grade 5 and grade 7 students only. All grades will attend school on Wednesday, September 4th at 8:55 AM.
  • During the first week of school, teachers will be reviewing option choices with our grade 7-9 students. Options will not begin until the second week of school. Gr. 5 & 6 students will also learn about their options during the first couple of weeks of school.
  • The RTA Office will open on Wednesday, August 28th at 9:00 AM.
  • The first School Council Meeting and Parent Association Meeting is on Thursday, September 12th at 6:45 PM in the Learning Commons. 

I hope that you are enjoying your summer and please stay tuned for more information.​

Brenda

June 28
June Message

As the school year closes, I would like to wish everyone a relaxing summer, filled with books, breaks and bicycles.

As we continue to grow, we will see many new faces in the fall – parents, students, and teachers. We have not yet finished hiring next year’s staff, so we are unable to provide students with homeroom and teacher information until the last week of August. A messenger or a phone call will go out to all families before school starts.

For my super keen families, we have posted suggested school supply lists on the website, under the Back to School. In grades 5 & 6, the school will provide the majority of the learning materials. In grades 7-9, we have tried to anticipate some common educational tools, such as paper, binders, pens and pencils.

The school closes at 12:00 PM on Friday, June 28 and will open again on August 26, 2019 at 9:00 AM. 

First day of school for ALL grade 5 and 7 students is September 3 at 8:55 AM and on Wednesday, September 4 ALL grades will be in school starting at 8:55 AM.

In closing, I would like to share some sage advice given to me by my son’s principal: According to Dr. Delaney Rushton, this is a great time to review family expectations with technology and see if there needs to make improvements.  Check out this latest blog from Screenagers.​

May 28
May Message

​As we approach the end of the year, things seem to be speeding up, versus slowing down. With the beautiful weather, children are spending more time outside and more time playing sports. Additionally, students are busy reviewing for final exams or PATs. As a parent of a grade 6 and a grade 8 student, I understand the importance of helping my children develop and foster time management skills. I am also realizing that what works for one child, doesn’t necessarily work for the other child. In many ways, it is about listening and learning, and suggesting and supporting.


According to a recent article by Amy Morin, How to Teach Time Management Skills to Teens, there are several steps that parents can take to teach time management skills:

  • Model good time management habits. If you're always running late or you miss a lot of deadlines, your teen/tween will follow suit. Practice managing your own time wisely and show your teen that you can accomplish the most important tasks in any given day.
  • Give your teen/tween time management tools. Whether it's a planner that your teen/tween writes everything in or an app that manages your teen/tween's schedule, help your teen find the tools that will work best for him/her. Talk about the importance of creating a schedule and using lists to prioritize his/her time wisely.
  • Encourage your teen/tween to write down his/her schedule. Your teen/tween's time may easily get taken up with video games or social media if he/she's not careful. Teach him/her to schedule his/her day so he/she can set aside time for chores, homework, and other responsibilities. Encourage him/her to schedule free time as well, so time doesn't idly pass without feeling like he/she hasn't done anything fun.
  • Help your teen/tween prioritize activities. It's common for teens/tweens to have conflicts in their schedules. A basketball game, birthday party, and family function may all coincide. Talk to your teen/tween about how to prioritize activities, based on his/her values and commitments.
  • Encourage your teenager to develop routines. Encourage your teen to establish healthy habits, like doing his/her chores right after school. Once he/she gets into the routine of doing things in a certain order, he/she won't have to waste time thinking about what to do next.
  • Avoid repeat reminders. It can be tempting to offer repeat reminders. But, telling your teen/tween to do his/her homework or his/her chores over and over again, reduces his/her responsibility. Set rules about your expectations and follow through on consequences when necessary. Then, your teen/tween will learn to manage his/her time better in the future.
  • Set limits on electronics. Your teen/tween may waste countless hours on social media or playing video games if he/she's not careful. Establish rules that help him/her create healthy habits with his/her cellphone and other digital devices.
  • Encourage him/her to set goals. Talk to your teen/tween about personal goals he/she wants to reach. Then, help him/her identify how much time he/she'll need to work on that goal each day. Whether he/she wants to exercise for 30 minutes 3 times each week or he/she decides to apply for scholarships one Saturday afternoon each month, goal setting is a great way to help him/her manage his/her time.

​As always, rich work takes time and patience. Be supportive, be encouraging, and take a deep breath.

Brenda Lewis

How to Teach Time Management Skills to Teens, Amy Morin, August 12, 2018: https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-teach-your-kids-time-management-skills-4126588.

 
April 24
April Message

I’m still waiting for the one-size fits all, works for every child in every situation, transition book for parents. Just when I think I know what I’m doing, just when I think that I am starting to see major success, bam – they go and they change. Imagine throwing a lot of growing, the establishment of new and life-long peers, an explosion of learning, and hormones (need I say more?)… And, yikes, welcome to Middle School!

As teachers, we are very mindful of the importance of transitions. Transitioning students and staff into new schools, new classrooms, new grades, new subjects, and new timetables... the list goes on and on…

For the most part, I really do love change (and, even challenges connected to change.) I like to connect the dots and I love see the possibilities.  I’m just one of those people. But, I always, always need to feel prepared.

RTA is changing. Next year, we will be welcoming 100 new families into the building. And, with this growth, we will be hiring new teachers as well. It is a very exciting time!

To help with next year’s transitions, we are excited to offer the following supports to our new families:

·       AMAZING RACE: WELCOME EVENT: Friday, May 31, 2019 at 1:30 – 2:30 PM; RTA has created a very exciting, self-directed scavenger hunt-like experience, an Amazing Race event, where students are given an opportunity to explore the various learning environments at the school. All new families are invited to attend this event.

·       OPEN CONFERENCES: Tuesday, June 18 & Wednesday, June 19th; Families may book a 15 minute conference time with Ms.  Lewis/Ms. Renkema.

·       STAGGARED ENTRY:  Gr. 5s and Gr. 7s will be starting school on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. All other students will begin school on Wednesday, September 4, 2019. This gives Homeroom Teachers some extra time to support our larger transition groups.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions that will help support our RTA family.

Brenda Lewis​​

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Learn more about what students and families can expect to hear from their schools next week. Classes are cancelled and students will not be returning to their schools, but learning is ongoing. https://t.co/2k2t0CUwTV #wearecbe

Yesterday we sent a message to all Gr. 10, 11 and 12 families about diploma exams. Diploma exams are cancelled, but under special circumstances, students can request to write a diploma exam. For more info, see info on our website https://t.co/Vt8kke9SuE

All city and school playgrounds are closed effective immediately to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. City parks remain open. Let’s all work together to protect the public’s health. #WeAreCBE

CBE Spring Break runs Mar. 23 – 27 for Traditional Calendar Schools, until Apr. 3 for Modified Calendar Schools. CBE Schools are closed during this time. Students and Staff, enjoy your time off, be safe and take care of yourselves. #WeAreCBE

An important parent message and video regarding continuation of learning for students was posted today. https://t.co/LBNFIPhl7L