Jun 30
See You in September Part 2
"Students who thrived in the remote environment during the pandemic demonstrated competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, resilience, independence as learners, self-regulation, cognitive flexibility and perseverance. 
These are the attributes that are noted as critical for future employability across industries and geographies."   - (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020)


n this final blog entry for the school year 2020-21, I am going to explore elements of academic achievement and school organization through the lens of pandemic implications on the experiences of children, as a strategy for considering learning in our school in the 2021-22 school year. Even as we contemplate possibilities for opening up schools again, there is an inherent layer of anxiety and concern that permeates every consideration, every plan, every decision. 

Academic Achievement 
An interesting element of cohorted and online learning has been that student achievement was impacted negatively for the most part - except for students who were already motivated to work digitally or in solitude, while students were often doing their very best, they were also very isolated and restricted in movements and conversations. Without the 'just in time' guidance of the teacher, there were significant impediments for students to demonstrate their own learning and understanding of new concepts and to receive the support needed to ensure learning was focused and on track.

Data from the Reimagining Education 2020 fall investigation into the global impact of the pandemic revealed that more than 98% of participating students indicated they preferred personalized learning opportunities with a teacher rather than automation. "Personalization is among the most effective means for accelerating academic and cognitive growth," the report noted, explaining further that "students want to be be creative and believe they learn more when they have greater voice and choice and receive personalized feedback."

As we explored the overall achievement of our students at Eric Harvie School through this pandemic year, we were intrigued by many of the findings. Overall, our students' achievement levels did not shift significantly through the 2020-21 school year, likely as a result of the stability of our in-person learning environment overall. 

Students generally achieved a similar success ratio to what we have consistently achieved in our previous four years across most curricular areas, with slight variations downward in applying new thinking in novel situations (an expected outcome of being constrained primarily to the building and to particular classrooms for much of the school year).  Areas where we really focused - like teaching writing - were where students generally demonstrated the greatest overall levels of improvement, while students demonstrated a slight deterioration in social/emotional stability as the year progressed (as expressed through our pre and post wellness school surveys). Since these levels began high (with almost 90% of students expressing feelings of safety and happiness at school in November), declining to approximately 86% in June is noteworthy but not disconcerting. 

The interesting factor for us as teachers results from the more traditional approach we had to take to classroom-based instruction this past school year. With students cohorted closely with each other and their classroom teacher, we were not able to regroup for instruction based on personalized learning needs, nor were we able to offer the same level of personalized supports such as SPARK, Calm, Zones, HeartMath, etc. that we typically offer students to help them learn to self-regulate and be prepared for learning. Children did not work as collaboratively as they usually would, were confined to specific learning spaces and unable to make use of the Learning Commons or Maker Space, for example. While, in a usual school year we would anticipate overall improvement in most curricular areas with respect to whole-school learning achievement, 2020-21 maintained the status-quo in terms of achievement levels for the most part.   

There are many factors at play here - this was the most extraordinary year of teaching and learning any of us have ever experienced and we don't want to read too much into the data we have collected. Instead, we are going to look to the fall as a time where we will re-establish our school goals towards developing a strong learners' toolkit of skills that will support students to wonder, investigate, problem solve, pose questions, represent their thinking and work collaboratively in a peaceful community. 

We are going to focus on student learning - meeting any and all students where they are at, rather than where we might expect them to be as they enter their 'next grade level'.  With students returning to in-school learning from a variety of situations - Hub School, CBE-Learn, Home Schooling, interrupted learning due to extended isolations or quarantines and online learning, as well as possibly entering grade 1 without any Kindergarten experiences, or entering Kindergarten without preschool experiences, we fully appreciate every child is going to be coming to school with a highly varied set of previous learning experiences and levels of achievement. We will be establishing our teaching to reflect these realities.

And, our direct and simple mission for the 2021-22 school year will be to "successfully meet learners where they are and support them to achieve academic success through collaborative teaching and learning opportunities.'  These opportunities will continue to be offered through the lenses of peace education, place-based learning and design thinking, as they always have in our school.  This is not new work to us at EHS; it is more a matter of accommodating small differences to reach the highest potential of every student. 

 "Going forward the learning process must foster these competencies through authentic, relevant learning that provides voice, choice and agency to learners.  This necessitates a new role for teachers; one in which they are activators of learning; practitioners who can differentiate task, time and space to meet student needs and include them as co-designers of that learning."  - (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020) 

School Organization
There is no doubt the school's organization will be much different in the fall than it was this past pandemic year, and different again from how we were organized previous to the pandemic. Not only has the pandemic shaped our most recent experiences, the budget constraints have also generated a much changed landscape for our school as we anticipate returning to in-person learning in the fall of 2021.

To begin with, we no longer have a Physical Education Specialist to plan and offer our PE program with and for students. This will fall to the classroom teachers as elementary generalists. And our Music program is being re-imagined as a Fine Arts program with greater emphasis on integrating Music into the overall daily learning of every student. While our beloved Music teacher, Mrs. Coulson, will still be with us, her work with students and in classrooms will look and sound much changed from what it has in the past - we are looking forward to this exciting and energizing way of bridging learning through Music, Dram, Art, Dance across all curricular areas as it makes sense for our learners.

The school will be organized differently as well. There will be six grade 3/4 classes, all housed in one hallway (the HOPE hallway), to facilitate greater access to re-grouping and collaborative projects as we strive to personalize and meet the needs of every learner. There will be 3 team teaching teams of Grade 3/4 teachers to facilitate this work. The Grade 1/2 team will also consist of six grade 1/2 classes as well, all housed in the PEACE hallway, for the same reasons. With considerably less support staff, all extra support for learning will need to come from classroom teachers who will be working collaboratively to plan, instruct and support every learner from wherever they are in their learning journey.

We will teach curriculum of course, but most importantly, we will be teaching children through the curriculum to ensure they are able to progress and grow from wherever they are when they arrive at school in September, 2021 to the highest level of achievement they are best able to attain by June of 2022.  And our learning will be designed to support each child as much as possible with a highly reduced number of staff, understanding as we do that deep learning is what ensures children will be able to progress in life successfully.

 "Deep learning experiences are those that produce learning that sticks for life. They are both profoundly personalized and student-centered and are intrinsically motivating for students as they pursue topics that are real interest to them, have authentic meaning, and are more rigorous. These learning experiences make students want to persist and to succeed. 

This combination of autonomy, belonging and meaningful work inspires students. When students are invited to demonstrate their learning differently, and when learning environments include all students as contributors and change agents, they begin to develop a sense of efficacy. 

Relationships and engagement - the gatekeepers of learning - are emphasized in this learner-centered model. Voice, choice, and agency are central to deep learning." (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020) 

We are excited about the possibilities even during these times of great reduction and change. Education is a changing profession and CBE has a long history of changing successfully to meet the demands of society, of children, of families. As part of the CBE family of schools, Eric Harvie staff look forward to welcoming all our learners on September 1, 2021 for an exciting and much different year of learning experiences!  We are very proud of the work we have accomplished this school year - #CouleeSchool and our beautiful 5th anniversary Mural stand as amazing examples of what we were able to accomplish with our students even during huge pandemic constraints and we know our children will soar next year as well :)

"Education doesn't need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed. the key is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions."  - Sir Ken Robinson 

See you all in September!  Best wishes for a safe and relaxing summer!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School 



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