Sep 18
September Start | A Principal's Journey

As an educator, I always look forward to September:  leaves turning colour; a cool crispness kisses the air; new groups of students, heading to class, excited to learn and to make new friends, sparking school supplies (did I mention that I love school supplies!), an assortment of clubs & athletics … the possibilities seem endless.

Since the first day of school, I have met so many new students and I have welcomed so many previous students. It never ceases to amaze me how much change happens over a couple of months. Everyone seems taller, older, and much, much more mature.

As a principal, I have an amazing job – I get to teach and learn with teachers and students. Sometimes, I get to sneak into classrooms and become lost in the learning. While other times, I get to work, one-on-one with children or with small groups of students. Whether it's helping with math, recommending an awesome book, practicing regulation strategies, or helping with wellness (puzzles, tea, and putty are some of my favourites), I enjoy my quality time with your children. A huge thank you!

As a team, RTA teachers have already met to discuss field trips, athletics, computer literacy, science fair and our school development plan (in addition to team planning and school organization).

RTA Science Fair: All students will create a RTA Science Fair project. The Science Fair Project looks different in each grade. In grade 5, there is more structure, while in grades 7-9, students focus more on innovation. Some grades may use a digital format, while others may allow mini-trifolds. The majority of the Science Fair Project will be completed in the classroom. Grade team teachers work closely together to support students in brainstorming ideas, formating, researching, interpreting, gathering data, etc.

RTA SDP: Within the SDP (school development plan), we continue to focus on improving LITERACY – managing information in all disciplines and WELLNESS – creating a sense of belonging. With access to immediate information, how to we support students with online research, in selecting rich and reputable texts, in evaluating resources, and in synthesizing understanding?  As a staff, we also brainstormed: What does it means to belong? How can we tell if a student belongs to a community? What words do students use, what actions do we see, if they feel like they belong?

In addition to the learning, RTA students are already running in cross country, bumping in volleyball, and kicking in soccer. Both inside and out, our students are connecting to the community.

We are looking forward to our Meet the Teacher this week as well. This will be an opportunity for families to meet with teachers, glimpsing into the classroom learning (D2L Classroom Shell; PowerSchool, Science Fair, Field Trips and classroom rules and routines).

A huge thank you to all of the families for your kind words and your support in this exciting September Start time.

Brenda Lewis 


Jun 07
​Spring is in the air: Peer Pressure in Middle School

As summer approaches, it is easy to forget that our young students have a lot on their mind. While many children are excited about the upcoming break, they are also worried about their learning, their friends and the changes that the next year will bring.

With the arrival of the warm air and long hours of sunshine, middle school students often struggle in making sense of their world, especially as their world is quickly changing, and they are sometimes exposed to risky behaviors and peer pressure.

​As a team at RTA, we support students with making good decisions and learning from their mistakes. This support also includes working with students and families in building understanding and resiliency, while fostering confidence and promoting safety. 

This can be confusing for some students. We need to work together as a community; we need to introduce dialogue where students feel safe and can ask questions. As parents, you are your child's expert, and we invite your support.

​Peer Pressure excerpt from My Health Alberta Network https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abl0972&lang=en-ca

What makes kids vulnerable to peer pressure?

The one thing that seems to make all adolescents vulnerable to peer pressure is simply being in this age range. They're just doing what kids their age (middle school to high school) do. Research suggests that peer pressure can be especially difficult to resist because, at this stage of their lives, lots of kids:

  • Want to fit in and be like the kids they admire.
  • Want to do what other kids are doing, and have what other kids have.
  • Don't want to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
  • Are afraid of being rejected or made fun of.
  • Don't know how to get out of a pressure situation.
  • Aren't sure what they really want.

What can parents do to help?

As normal as it is for adolescents to go along with their peers, it can be just as normal for parents to take their children's challenging behaviour personally. Just try to remember that kids aren't so much rejecting you as they are trying to establish their own identity.

Whether your child is the most popular kid in class or is someone who has few friends, peer pressure can push him or her to do unhealthy things.

Adolescents still need a parent's help to make good decisions—even if they don't act like it.

Help them become the people you hope they can be by helping them learn to:

  • Say "no." It can be hard to resist the pressure to engage in risky behaviour when other kids are doing it too. Before your kids find themselves in one of these situations, role-play with them. Help your kids figure out how to respond when someone says to them, "Come on and have a drink with us. It's way more fun than studying. Or are you too chicken?" or "I really like you a lot. Let's text each other some pictures of ourselves naked. It's called sexting. Everybody's doing it."
  • Develop good self-esteem. Take time to praise your child and celebrate his or her achievements. Children who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices.
  • Choose their friends wisely. This means online friends too. Lots of people (peers and adults) try to pressure kids to make bad choices. But if your children have friends with good values and good self-esteem, they can help your kids make sense of new technology, stay away from risky behaviour, and resist unwanted peer pressure.
  • Create special code words. These are special words your children can use when they want your help but don't want their friends to know they're asking you for it. For example, if they don't feel comfortable at a party, your children can call or text you with an agreed-upon phrase like, "Mom, I have a really bad earache. Can you come get me?"
  • Use you as an excuse. Let your kids know that if they ever face peer pressure they don't know how to resist, they can always refuse by blaming you: "My parents will ground me for a month if I do that."
 ​​And you can help yourself by learning to:
  • Stay calm. If your children want to do something you don't agree with, try not to overreact. Dying their hair purple or wearing sloppy clothes can seem like your children are rebelling. Compare this kind of behaviour with how your kids are doing in school, who their friends are, and how maturely they usually behave. If they're doing well in these other areas, try not to get upset, and resist the urge to judge or lecture them.
  • Stay informed. Pay attention to the substances that kids this age are using, the way they dress, and how they're using the latest cell phones, social media, and other technologies. The more you know, the better you can protect your kids and help them learn to make good decisions.
  • ​Stay in your kids' lives. Even though they may not act like it, most children this age still listen to their parents. Keep talking to them—about their interests, accomplishments, and friends; about the music they listen to; and about the things that bother them.

Calgary Youthlink | Conversation Starter Kits: Facts and Tips for Families

https://youthlinkcalgary.com/conversations/

I would also encourage families to explore the amazing videos on the Calgary Youthlink Website:
  • Say No
  • Vaping
  • Gang Recruitment
  • Special Photo
  • Pass it on

As always, we want to work together will families in supporting students' learning with fostering a safe and secure learning environment. We are more than happy to meet with families if they have any questions or suggestions in making RTA the best school in Calgary.

Kind regards,

Brenda Lewis​


May 12
Readapting to Online Learning

​A friend of mine, Jason Hartl, the principal of Dr. Martha Cohen, recently shared an article​ entitled: Learning from Home: Top Ten Tips for Parents to Keep Kids on Track​, from the STEM website Mindfuel.

Online learning requires more than just putting the curriculum onto tablets, we need to find engaging ways to teach kids and ensure they are learning and having fun, said Cassy Weber, CEO of MindFuel.

Tips to keeping kids engaged online:

1. Limit distractions and make sure the space is functional.

2. Encourage regular breaks and stretching, and remember mental health is just as important as physical health.

3. Turn learning into a game for a change of pace.

4. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and class.

5. Encourage your child to enhance their learning and try to learn something new.

6. Allow for flexibility in your child’s learning schedule.

7. Setting goals and rewarding success goes a long way.

8. Find ways to do things together throughout the day.

9. Take your child’s learning outside when possible.

10. Incorporate regular classroom activities into your child’s day.

Children thrive on routine. Chances are there are regular activities your student’s teacher plans throughout the week. Maybe there’s a theme for certain days of the week, or a certain activity they do together such as reading a book chapter at the end of the day. 

At-home learning is a new reality Canadian students may face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Please see visit the website for more information.

Kind regards,

Brenda





​​

Dec 07
Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot Thinking

“Moonshots" are the incredible, seemingly impossible, ideas that change our world.

Dr. Gray, RT Alderman's amazing Music and Band Director, excitedly shared Moonshot thinking with me this year. An avid learner, I immediately began to research this new concept, a concept that I hadn't heard of before. Immediately, I was hooked.

In his 1962 speech at Rice University, John F. Kennedy stated: “We choose to go to the moon this decade." Despite the barriers and obstacles, Kennedy believed that humanity was going to accomplish something incredible.

Moonshot thinking involves embracing the chaos and uncertainty and changing the world (hmm... does this sound familiar?)  It's about better thinking: thinking bigger; thinking smarter and thinking faster. It's about thinking different. Moonshot thinking is only limited by imagination.

Moonshot thinking is when “you choose a huge problem, such as climate change, and propose to create a radical solution to the problem using disruptive technology. For this to happen you have to abandon the idea of creating a 10% incremental improvement and focus on a solution that will bring ten times (X10) improvements, or solve it completely" (Alayon)

Moonshot Thinking Framework

  1. Moonshot Thinking
  2. Moonshot Launch
  3. Moonshot Landing
  4. Transform Yourself

“Moonshots live in that place between audacious projects and pure science fiction" (Villafuerte). When I listen to our students' and our staff's learning, their conversations, their research, their brainstorming and their ideas, I realize that moonshot thinking lives and breathes at RT Alderman.

Each and everyday, I humbled and in awe of being part of the moonthinking!

Brenda Lewis

  • Leading the future | Moonshot thinking by Peter Fisk at the GeniusWorks.Com.
  • Understanding Moonshot Thinking by David Alayon.
  • Google X Head on Moonshots: 10X Is Easier Than 10 Percent by Fitz Villafuerte.​


Oct 26
October Message

Fostering a Sense of Belonging

“Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them."

 – Rita Levi-Montalcini (Italian Neurophysiologist)

As part of our SDP (School Development Plan), we have identified “fostering a sense of belonging," as our wellness goal at RTA.

In addition to disrupting student learning in the spring, the COVID pandemic has also unbalanced our connectedness to community. Teachers and students moved to a different type of learning, prioritizing well-being in a world of unknown. Teachers and students were separated from their peers, their friends, their teachers, and their school.

And while September has brought a new normalcy, we recognize that fostering a sense of belonging remains at priority.

Currently we have 74 students in HUB online learning, they are part of the RTA community; we have 22 Homeroom Cohorts, they are part of the RTA community; we have 4 HUB teachers, they are part of the RTA community; we have 2 EAs, a resource teacher, 4 office staff members, 4 caretakers, 1 library, 8 lunchroom staff, 2 PE and 1 Music teacher, they are part of the RTA community.

We are working very hard to create a sense of community in the building – a sense of community amongst the students, the staff and our families. The PE team has begun recognizing monthly Homerooms; in school and online classes are participating in our monthly STEM challenges; and, Ms. Grey has invited both in school and HUB students to present during our Remembrance Day Assembly. As always, we are open to ideas and suggestions as well. This is important work and we need everyone's support.

We will continue to have regular class meetings and check-ins, at all grade levels. This may take the form of a sharing circle or a conversation in grade 9. We will continue to invite student voice, through surveys and self-reflection and journaling.  We will continue to grow and to learn together.

Brenda Lewis

 



Sep 23
September Message

A world with possibilities…

During the past few weeks, I have been inspired by possibilities – possibilities that bloom in the outside, in the trees and the parks, possibilities that change the way we use technology, while celebrate honoured traditions, and possibilities that bring us together in unique, but different ways. Despite a shift in normalcy, our new near normal identity, I know, with confidence, that greatness is a constant.

I have been inspired by our students – their resilience, their humour, and their compassion. Each and every day, I see students coming to school with huge smiles in their eyes. And, when I remind them of the upcoming non-instructional day, they say 'ah, but we like coming to school!"

I have been inspired by our teachers – their creativity, their passion and their potential to inspire and to challenge. Each and everyday, teachers share their learning stories and their adventures with the students. Our teachers eagerly greet RTA students outside in the morning and before school starts in the HR classroom, saying goodbye at the end of the day. In a very, very short time, teachers have explored Google Meets, D2L Virtual Classrooms, Skype and Microsoft virtual parent meetings, and our first school wide STEM challenge.

I have been inspired by our families – their gratitude, their understanding and their strong believe in the learning. On my morning and afternoon bus supervision, I have been told stories of students coming home excited to share their learning, taking over the dinner table. Thank you!

Together, we will problem solve and discover endless possibilities.

Brenda Lewis

The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely great.
― Louis Pasteur


May 31
June Message

Transition to RT Alderman School

Transitioning to Middle School can be both exciting and scary at the same time. It is normal to feel a bit nervous. There are approximately 200 new students joining RT Alderman next year – students in grades 5-9. Therefore, if you are new, you are definitely not alone!

There are several practices that we have created at RTA to help facilitate the transition into Middle School:

·       Intake meeting with Ms. George and Ms. Renkema – RTA Resource Team

·       Teacher meetings with feeder schools

·       Student and family feedback

·       August Scavenger Hunt for new students

·       Staggered Entry in September: Gr. 5s and Gr. 7s on the first day of school.

·       Classroom Orientation during the first week of school

·       Gr. 5 Question and Answer Slideshow  

·       Gr. 5 Question and Answer Presentation to Maple Ridge School

·       Gr. 7 Slideshow Presentation and Gr. 7 Slideshow

Middle years learning focuses on a strong awareness to the emotional, the physical, the cognitive, the behavioural and the social domains. It is an amazing time of exploration and wonder.

Brenda Lewis​


Apr 22
April Message

 

“We can all change our habits for a brighter future.”  - Earth Day Canada

Earth Day celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year!

My worldview is closely connected to the environment. Growing up, a veracious reader, I was profoundly impacted by the works of Rachel Carlson – a scientist and a poet. Moreover, as my passions grew, I became further inspired by David Suzuki and Jane Goodall.

During my first venture into post secondary education, my thesis, not surprisingly, focused on Environmental Law and the cod fisheries in the Atlantic. It is hard to believe that it has been over 25 years since I attended Carleton University. I can vividly recall countless hours spent reviewing articles on microfiche (a kind of pre-Google for my young readers). Moreover, it was an amazing professor, during a graduate class on Environmental Education at the University of Victoria that inspired me to become an educator – an educator that shared and that taught my passion.

The environment plays a huge role in our daily lives. As a school, especially as a Science School, we have a responsibility to protect and to promote environmental stewardship.

There is a lot that we can do as both individuals and as a community to shift our thinking and to promote an ecological transition. As a school, how can we take action and how do we become greener? As a principal, I am hoping to look at ways to better promote composing at RT Alderman. What are you going to do?

Ms. Lewis

 

 

 

 

Mar 31
March Message

2020 RTA Staff:

Favourite Children Books

As an avid read, before Spring Break, I asked RTA teachers to send me the name of their favourite children’s book. Like my husband, many teachers struggled with the openness of my question. By favourite children’s book, did I mean favourite picture books for 5 year olds and under? Did I mean favourite elementary book? Did I mean favourite pre-teen book, and so on, and so on…

My goal was not to cause any undue stress. Really, I was just interested in how they would answer my question.  Several teachers changed the question (which I called ‘cheating’), providing me with name of multiple favourite books. While some teachers answered the question based on their family environment. Yet, other teachers, who gravitated towards a specific genre or author, game me favourite names.

Favourite Children Books

Schooled

Gordon Korman

Strong themes of perspective and empathy with each chapter told through the lens of a different character. - Braben

The Eleventh Hour 

Graeme Base

The Eleventh Hour is a mystery story set around a birthday costume party. Both the rhyming text and the beautiful illustrations give clues to solve the mystery of who ate the birthday feast. The Eleventh Hour encourages the reader to delve deeper and immerse themselves into the mystery; I spent hours poring over this book as a child, and cannot recommend Graeme Base enough for the captivating way he creates a journey through his books. - Hanley

 

The Giving Tree

 

Makes me cry every single time and is so awesome for teaching empathy. Forces the reader to consider if they are the tree of the boy. - Wiens

 

Hardy Boys & Matt Christopher books

Good old-fashioned adventure and mystery.  Simple reads, predictable stories, mostly traditionally masculine heroes, but grade-5-Wiens read them voraciously. – Wiens

 

I have to go

Robert Muncsh

 

Anything Robert Munsch. - Rigg

The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson

 

This is my favourite book from my boys' early years. The rhymes and slightly scary but fun storyline makes for a tale that can be repeated over and over again. - Hadley

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

 

I read this series when it first came out and I have reread it several times since. Engaging science-fiction/adventure story of a dystopian society and the struggles of a teenage girl to survive. - Hadley

Harry Potter

Any of them. What doesn’t it have? Good triumphs over evil, there’s friendship and rivalry and misunderstanding and above all, hope. – Peterson

 

Harry Potter &

Narnia Series

I love the Harry Potter series, which I am currently reading to my son at bedtime. Narnia series is another I hope to share soon. It speaks of hope and people making mistakes. I love the morality. – Clark

 

Fudge Series &

Shadow Series

 

The Fudge series by Judy Bloom and the Shadow children series (Among the Hidden) by Margaret Petersen Haddix. - Burkell

A Hero's Guide to Saving your Kingdom 

Christopher Healy

 

The book is laugh out loud hilarious. As it is a trilogy, so two more books. - Armitage

The Underneath

Kathi Appelt

 

For the animal lover, it is written poetically. - Armitage

The Mysterious Benedict Society 

Trenton Lee Stewart

Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson

4 orphans problem solve to find the truth - a four-volume series. - Armitage

A book I give to anyone who needs a good laugh about a woman who struggles with mental health and writes about her adventures dealing with anxiety throughout her life. - Davey

Meet me at the moon

Gianna Marino

This book is about a young elephant who learns that a mother's love is everywhere and is enduring.

It tells a story about how a mom elephant had to leave her little one and go ask the sky for rain because they didn’t have rain for quite a long time. The things were getting dry. It’s a beautiful story and tells how the little one waits for mom to get back. In the meanwhile, he sings the song to her mom by looking at the moon and remembering her love.

We (me and my daughter) both still read this book at bedtime as it's very soothing. Sometimes, after reading the book we will go gaze at the moon and the stars from the window in my daughter's bedroom. - Khurana

 

Salt to Sea

Ruta Sepatys

Classified as Junior High, but wonderful for adults as well. We also have Shades of Gray by her - they are both WW II stories.  I love history, and she helps us understand, in a very real way, what it was like !  ILOVED it! – Smith

Oh the places you’ll go

Dr. Seuss


Harry Potter Series

The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss is a good reminder of the ups and downs of life.

All the Harry Potter books for her imaginative story telling.  - Gray

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Kate Dicamillo

This is a beautifully written book. It is my go to for a read-aloud, no matter the grade. It’s both funny and sad at the same time. I get emotional just thinking Edward’s journey. - Lewis

The Mystery of the Green Ghost

(An Alfred Hitchock and The Three Investigators book)

Robert Arthur


Lost in the Barrens

(aka Two Against the North)

Farley Mowat

Its Alfred Hitchcock mixed in with teen detectives. – R. Lewis

 

 

A pivotal Canadiana story of survival. It is a defining book on the coming of age story of Jamie and his friend, Awasin. – R. Lewis

 

What Do You Do With a Chance?

Kobe Yamada

I feel that this book helps children be resilient and confident to take risks/chances in life, especially in their learning.  I love the message. - Lee

Gruffalo 

Julia Donaldson


This book was published a couple of years before my oldest son was born and I received the board book as a shower gift. It became a favorite bedtime story for my kids and holds many fond memories. - Clack

 

Feb 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

 

 

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A number of CBE schools have participated in #StudentVoteCanada last week and today to learn about democracy in action #WeAreCBE https://t.co/XugrIa8ZpC

RT @NickleCBE: Drive by and check out our new trees! Grade 7 Environmental Stewardship class planted 7 trees in front of our school (purchased by EcoClub last year). We are excited to be adding to the biodiversity of our community! #WeAreCBE #getoutside #environmentstewards @NickleParents https://t.co/Lpg5lX8LyH

We’ve reviewed the new health measures announced by government and provided an update to CBE families https://t.co/2kr6uYxlMq #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/qP1dPOwMTY

RT @ohscbe: It is definitely looking like fall out there! Our Grade 6s are learning about the autumnal equinox occurring on Sept 22, which marks the change of the season! #SkyScience #WeAreCBE https://t.co/BKZZMfmlnC

Thank you to all of the CBE students involved in the safety patrol program. We must all work together to ensure student and pedestrian/wheeler safety on the roads and pathways near our schools. #WeAreCBE https://t.co/QDjFocgZaj