Our teaching staff has collaboratively developed our Vision for Learning for the 2023-24 school year:
The vision is rooted in CBE Learning Frameworks and guiding principles, with the branches representing the key elements of the EHS vision for learning. We look forward to putting this vision into action in the months ahead!
As we begin this academic year at Eric Harvie School, our teaching and support staff are focusing even more acutely on supporting our learners to discover and create the conditions that help their learning to thrive.
At times this might be as simple as choosing positive, productive peers to work together on a task, finding a preferred seating location in the classroom that helps them to focus or having word/sound walls around the classroom. These supports for learning are described as being universal supports, elements that are present in each classroom and are offered and available for each learner. Our goal in setting up our classroom and school-wide spaces before the school year begins is to establish learning environments that create opportunities for each learner to be successful.
One specific school wide example of how we are creating these conditions is our school wide Ignite learning time at the start of the day. When learners come through the door in the morning, they follow the morning routines of hanging up coats and changing shoes, and then they have an opportunity to choose from a variety of engaging, hands-on learning tasks to help them to start the day. The goals of these tasks are to help learners start a day ready to be curious to learn, to have their mind active to learn, and often to review skills learned in prior lessons in Math or English Language Arts. This strategy is also very helpful if children are feeling reluctant or worried about coming to school, as having an enjoyable, engaging task that they felt successful completing at the start of the day can help prepare them for further challenges in the day ahead.
The next tier of strategies are more specifically linked to individual needs that a learner or group of learners presents. A simple analogy for this level of support would be providing prescription glasses to someone who is unable to see the whiteboard; you would provide the correct lenses for the individual child to see properly, not just provide the exact same prescription to every child and hope that they can see clearly. These are referred to as targeted supports, as we provide a specific support to a learner or group of learners when the assessment data or observations indicate that the support is required.
Here are some examples of these targeted supports at Eric Harvie School:
Targeted Reading Groups: Starting in a few weeks, we create 30-minute daily reading instruction blocks for each teaching team where we bring in multiple other teachers and support staff to help make smaller groups sizes that target specific reading needs that learners are currently at.
Spark Program: Spark is a 20-minute physical fitness program offered to students as a support for their Individual Program Plan. The goal is to foster their social/emotional/academic success at school through aerobic activities that will assist them to have better focus for learning. This includes circuit training, core muscle development and high paced dance and occurs during the Ignite learning time.
Discovery Centres Program: The aim of Discovery Centers is to provide a social opportunity for students to practice skills in a highly supervised environment that reflects the less structured social environments such as recess. We work to build connections and transfer of skills between what we do in Discovery to other social situations. This takes place near the end of the school day and is adapted programming for learners that need this support.
Our key goal for each learner is to discover what areas we can support in their learning and to help them with developing the tools, skills and understandings that will build these areas of need into a strength. All young learners, and adult learners too, have different needs, strengths and areas of interest. By building towards the goal of engaged, independent learners our hope is to help them to handle any challenge that comes their way in the years ahead!
Dear Eric Harvie School Families,
What an incredible year! It has been a wonderful year at Eric Harvie filled with beautiful learning opportunities, incredible events and many, many new experiences.
We wanted to thank everyone for helping make this year a wonderful year of learning. Images that come in to my mind as I reflect back on this year are:
- Scenes from the Lion King performances where nearly 200 learners all sang, “Hakuna Matata" at the same time!
- Swimming lessons, where originally reluctant swimmers gave their best effort to swim independently
- Small group literacy learning, or support from parent reading volunteers, where learners built new skills each week that helped them progress to more confident reading
- Our Green Fools residency where our learners developed confidence trying new skills they have never tried before…like balancing a feather on your forehead!
- Beautiful outdoor learning opportunities on the land we are so privileged to learn on each day, including time to reflect and think about our own place in the world.
A special thanks to our learners for their joy and wonder and the smiles they bring into the building each day! Another huge thank you to the staff at Eric Harvie School! Their dedication, innovation and visible joy for working with children is what makes this building a special place to work and learn.
Our staff would also like to acknowledge and thank our departing students heading off to new learning adventures, including our grade 4 learners. This group of “graduating" learners includes many that have been at EHS for many years, and we have seen them grow and change so much. We are so proud of what you have accomplished so far, and know you are on a great path for all the learning adventures ahead of you!
I wanted to thank all of the parents for your ongoing support over the year. We appreciate all that you do for both your students and for the Eric Harvie School Community as a whole. Parents are a huge part of what makes a school successful and we are grateful everyday for such a wonderful group of parents. Also, a final thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers. Volunteers are a critical support for field trips, coulee walks, sports days, school events and generally all things school related. Thank you!
We hope everyone has a wonderful, adventurous, yet relaxing summer. We will see everyone on August 31, 2023!
Productive Struggle and Resiliency in our Learning
Great learning happens when we are challenged!
Stretching our Learning
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend our Productive Struggle and Resiliency in Learning event on February 15th. We had a wonderful turnout and it was awesome to see so many families in the building. Students and parents had the opportunity to take part in many diverse learning activities designed to push them slightly outside of their comfort zone in order to stretch their learning. Many great cars and slightly wobbly hula hoop towers were built!
We have attached the main presentation that was shared with families as the opening address of this session:
The overall goal of this session was starting the conversation about the importance of challenge in our learning. Effective learning, where learners are moving their skills and understandings forward, will involve moments of struggle and failure as part of the process. Teachers and parents have the role of framing the learning process as one that means going through this process of challenge, struggle and reflection about the process to build new knowledge, understandings, skills and procedures.
Thank you again for attending the event if you were able - and we look forward to keeping the conversation going in the months ahead!
The first month of the school year has somehow flown by at Eric Harvie School! Perhaps it is because the weather has still felt like summer for most of the past month, however it is more likely part of all that we try to pack into the crucial first month of the school year. Teachers find ways to learn more about each learner and their learning strengths and areas for improvement. They also work to develop the routines and habits that will help lead to more effective learning in the months to come. Ultimately, they are focused on putting the building blocks in place for a community of learners that can work together for effective academic learning and to build social skills and connections.
At Eric Harvie School, we choose to have our grade 1-4 classrooms in multi-age groupings. This has been part of Eric Harvie School since it first opened six years ago, and I wanted to share some of the reasoning behind why we are continuing to use this approach this year. It is important to note that our goal and vision is that these classrooms are true examples of multi-age learning - meaning that it is a pedagogical choice intended to help meet the unique needs of learners at different developmental levels - rather than being a multi-grade or “split” classroom where two grade levels of students are put together primarily as a result of the number of students at each grade level not being compatible to reasonable class sizes, and the two grade levels learn mostly independent from each other.
From my perspective, it is important to gather a wide range of sources of information in looking at a decision about classroom organization, and looking at academic research needs to also be combined with observations, data and evidence of what it is actually looking like at EHS.
As with many debates in education, looking at the differences between “straight grades” and multi-age classes has been happening for many years, and as a result some of the research is now becoming quite dated. My own research into the advantages and drawbacks to multi-age learning environments has found that the academic gains of learners in a straight grade level classroom versus a multi-age classroom are essentially equal. The gains that are identified in multi-age classrooms focus on social and emotional learning, which are directly tied into the community of learners that the teacher actively crafts in their classroom.
I wanted to share with you a few of the different sources of information that led to me wanting to share this information with our families (two more traditional and one a bit off the path!) I will also share why I see these sources being part of the puzzle in our approach to multi-age learning at EHS:
This article gives a glimpse into a grade 1-3 multi-age setting, and provides a great look at how a multi-age classroom can focus on meeting individual needs of where each child is at, while keeping a strong focus on building the thinking skills and competencies that develop strong future learners. In my observations of our classrooms, we look to create the classroom culture of the “family” working together that is also described in this article.
This article presents a balanced, research based look at multi-age classrooms while taking into account the era of high-stakes testing in the US that came with the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. While Alberta is not all the way over on that end of the spectrum of mandated testing at this point, the weighing of the pros and cons is interesting to consider. Here is one key quote that exemplifies our approach at Eric Harvie School:
“The strength of multiage education is its emphasis on the learning styles and progress of each student. When implemented with fidelity and reflective of best practice, multiage classrooms can provide a learning environment where students flourish — but positive outcomes are not guaranteed in the absence of appropriate administrative and instructional support.”
This source may seem a bit off the map, however, it was listening to this podcast, and seeing and hearing about all the sport “tryouts” that so many children are going through this month that made some connections for me. In many ways, the design of a multi-age class is intended to provide more opportunities for re-grouping and targeted teaching to meet learners where they are developmentally at. While we still need to evaluate each child’s learning against the specific grade level outcomes for their grade level, using formative assessment to target the specific skills and areas of learning that each child needs to develop helps ensure we help them move forward from their current learning. In addition, I appreciate that this podcast helps me to understand why my October birthdate was such a critical part of me being unable to make the NHL!!
As a school leadership team, we will continue to take a look at all aspects of how we organize for learning with a critical eye to help ensure that how we set up our learning community meets the growing and changing needs of our learners.
"No one should teach who is not in love with teaching.
- Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
33 years ago, this day did not even seem remotely possible! As I entered my first school in the role of 'teacher', the excitement and anticipation of things to come was so overwhelming I couldn't imagine ever wanting to leave! Becoming a teacher had been a dream since childhood and I was a little late to the party - already 32 years old, already married (twice) and already the mother of four children. Achieving the goal of becoming a teacher was something I had worked hard to accomplish and I was overjoyed at having been finally offered the opportunity to fulfill the dream of my childhood!
Why would I ever want to leave??
Actually, the truth is that I might never want to stop teaching - every time I sit with a child, read to a class, speak with a learner anywhere, anytime, I am immediately intrigued by the possibilities of what might happen for this learner - what we might discover and learn together. Teaching has been the most fulfilling, engaging and amazing experience and I believe I will ALWAYS want to be a teacher! I could, I am convinced, happily occupy a classroom teaching position until I am finished with my days on Earth.
From September 19, 1989 through to today, I have simply loved and enjoyed every minute of being an educator - even the sad hours, the frustrating days, the days I felt like I was spinning both my wheels and the kids as we tried to figure out next steps in learning. I believe in the very centre of my being that EVERY child deserves the best learning experience we can possibly offer - I don't believe budgets, opinions, red tape, shortage of staff or resources or any other barrier should get in the way of offering every child the most accessible, meaningful and engaging learning available. And I have spent virtually all of my 33 years in the profession attempting to make that happen for every child. I am delighted with what I was able to accomplish and frustrated with what I was unable to do for children - because that was a reality I often had to grapple with regardless of my personal convictions.
I have been absolutely blessed with the best teaching experiences, schools, administrators, students, staff, teachers ever possible. In my entire career, I have never felt diminished, dismissed or denied opportunities - I have always felt supported and capable, as unbelievable as that may seem. 'Right place, right time' managed to happen for me even when I worried or wondered about taking a new risk.
As a result of retiring, people begin listing one's accomplishments out loud and I feel a little overwhelmed when I see it on paper:
- 33 years with CBE
- principal for 18 years
- opened two brand new schools (Cranston & Eric Harvie)
- Canada's Music Principal 2012
- Canada' Outstanding Principal 2014
And a whole bunch of other things like Calgary Young Writers Conference for 31 years, Women in Leadership ATA Committee, presenting at numerous conferences, etc. Seems like it must have been someone else doing all those things while we were also raising five children, welcoming 7 grandchildren, building a cottage and maintaining a family home full of children, sports and activities and also completing two additional degrees!
Then, I stop and I realize that I have not walked one step of this teaching journey alone. Every step of the way, I have been accompanied by amazing colleagues who dreamed as big as me - or bigger - and were willing to take risks on behalf of children with as much enthusiasm and energy as I would ever be able to muster!
Every step of the way, I have been accompanied by a patient spouse, equally invested in allowing me to pursue every dream and ambition while keeping our family healthy and together.
Every step of the way, I have been accompanied by children and grandchildren who recognized the value of commitment to learning, to children, to dreams.
I have been so truly blessed and I am so very, very grateful for all these people who have supported, laughed and cried with me throughout the years - colleagues, friends, family. Without their connection and faith and willingness to work hard too, this would be a very different ending to an amazing career.
I have also been blessed to build daily relationships with so many learners, so many families, so many children whose passions, curiosities and energies needed to be fostered rather than diminished. I never expected or planned to be a principal but, when the opportunity presented itself and I jumped in, I realized the pedagogy I had embraced all my life could now be enacted within schools by likeminded, willing and caring teachers. Peace Education, inquiry, borderless schools, moving learning outside to be more experiential - these were just a few ways we could make a difference for learners.
I am retiring from CBE to write a different chapter in my life as a Program Director with the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth, a non-profit agency supporting immigrant learners and families in Calgary for almost as long as I have been teaching. I will no longer work in schools but I will continue to be connected to them and to children. As I slow my life down just a little to make room for one more grandchild and try to reclaim my evenings and weekends, I am tremendously grateful for all the people, children and relationships that have permeated my life and helped me write such a beautiful story of learning, teaching and growing in life.
It is June 28, 2022 and in two short days I will say a fond farewell to Eric Harvie School, staff, teachers, students and families. This beautiful centre of learning will forever hold a huge piece of my heart and be a filter for learning going forward.
Thank you to all the families, children, staff, teachers, leaders and colleagues that have made these past six years - the last six years of my teaching career - an absolute joy despite the pandemic and every other challenge that came along.
I am proud to have spent 33 years teaching and that I can unequivocally say "I am definitely in love with teaching!"
"I dwell in possibility." - Emily Dickinson
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School (for 2 more days!)
"Adults who have ADHD but do not know it are at much higher risk than the general population for serious problems. Mood disorders, extreme sadness, and anxiety often occur when ADHD goes undiagnosed. Even if these conditions are are treated, the underlying problem, if left untreated, leads to other problems.
Adults with undiagnosed ADHD get fired from their jobs more frequently, or they impulsively quit, or they underachieve, slowly losing self-esteem, confidence, drive, and joy in life. They often resign themselves to a life with less success and luster than it could have were they diagnosed and treated." - Dr. Edward Hallowell, 2021
"Left untreated, learning disabilities often lead to debilitating low self-esteem, drug use, teenage pregnancy, crime and lifelong poverty.
80% of students with serious learning disabilities will not graduate
- 60% of teens being treated for substance abuse have learning disabilities
- 75% of juvenile offenders in NYC have undetected learning disabilities" - Promise Project, 2021
"Anxiety disorders have the potential to affect every part of a young person’s life, including their physical health, emotional well-being and social skill development. The combined impact can lead to kids feeling socially isolated, stigmatized, and incapable of being active members of their community.
Mental health has a direct relationship with a child’s physical health. Both physical and mental health influence how children think, feel, and act on both the inside and out." - Dr. Lisa W. Coyne 2021
It is clear from these three quotes - and I could include data from many, many studies with detailed statistics to corroborate these statements - that not diagnosing and treating concerns that impact learning in schools, or trying to downplay, ignore or inappropriately treat these issues has longterm, potentially devastating effects on children as they grow into adulthood. What we don't manage in our children comes back to haunt them in adulthood - a sad but true statement.
Perhaps an even more distressing fact is that even when we do attend to learning issues, sometimes the impact of the children's experiences as learners prior to interventions being put in place linger well into adulthood anyway, impacting self-esteem, confidence and adult relationships.
It is important to take note of potential concerns early in a child's life - even before preschool - and monitor closely. If, as a parent, I notice a pattern through to grade one of inattention, anxiety or frustration resulting from my child not feeling successful with small tasks, there are things I can do to support my child while also monitoring for either an escalation or diminishment of impact on learning. Although grade one may be too soon to seek a diagnosis, it is important to bring a family doctor or pediatrician into the conversation to explore whether there are any biological issues (such as a vitamin deficiency, sleep concern, etc ) that might be at the root of the issue. Beginning with a biological exploration is essential, in my opinion - there have been many, many incidents over the years where other medical concerns were at the root of learning issues and those are treated much differently. In fact, treatment for ADHD and anxiety differ greatly, and are even more diverse than treatment for learning disabilities.
If the issue is not biological in nature and persists into grades two and three, it may be a good idea to seek further support from a psychologist and/or counselor - perhaps a speech and language therapist or occupational therapist may be appropriate as well. The school can be an essential point of contact at this point because they will be able to offer insights to professionals that sometimes are not as obvious at home. Occasionally - although far less often in 2022 than in previous years - the school will have access to some of these supports and may be in a position to pursue assistance or assessment free of costs.
If a formal diagnosis is made, it will include specific supports and recommendations for your child's learning needs, regardless if the diagnosis comes from a psychologist, a pediatrician, or some other clinician. For the school, this is the most important information - knowing specifically what interventions and supports we are able to offer that will target the issues most directly. Often these are shared supports and recommendations for both the school and home to follow - when we say education is a partnership between school and home, this is a great example of what we mean :)
As mentioned in this blog before, a diagnosis may also lead to the creation of an Individual Program Plan that specifically describes the strategies and supports being put in place at the school for your child. The IPP also means the parents and teachers will meet 2 - 3 times through the school year to share how things are going and if any strategies need to be adjusted. Parents sign off to say they have met with the teacher and may either agree or disagree with the strategies. Usually parents and teachers are able to agree on approaches that support the child both at school and at home. In Alberta, a formal diagnosis can also mean accommodations may be continued to support student success through post-secondary learning as well - a huge benefit for young adults leaving the school system.
Like everything in life, there are no guarantees. Having spent 33 years navigating challenging learning situations and concerns with families, I do know early awareness and appropriate interventions can make a world of difference for a child. Every young learner wants to grow up to be as functional, happy, connected and successful in relationships and work - just like we all did when we were young learners ourselves. It is my hope that these last three blog posts on the 'big conversations' will help parents and families understand the processes involved in ensuring every child has a successful learning experience.
Our kiddos are not all the same and neither are their learning needs. Schools are here to help navigate the journey with children and parents even when it is an uncertain path.
"It takes a village to raise a child" is an old African proverb. At Eric Harvie School, we like to add "Welcome to the village!"
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School
"Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver (found)...self-directed executive functions develop most during childhood...and include any mental processes that help us work towards achieving goals - like planning, decision making, manipulating information, switching between tasks and inhibiting unwanted thoughts and feelings. It is an early indicator of school readiness and academic performance...and even predicts success into adulthood. Children with higher executive function will be healthier, wealthier and more socially stable throughout their lives." - Ellen Wexler (edweek.org)
It is clear to parents and educators that executive functioning is critically important for children of all ages. The indicators mentioned in the quote above translate into skills schools develop learning experiences around - including planning, working memory, attention, flexibility, time management, task initiation, self-control, perseverance and metacognition (knowing what you know and using it to help you learn). These skills are not, of course, fully developed when children enter school - these are skills that continue to develop and are enhanced throughout children's learning careers and into adulthood.
Like all other areas of child development and growth, executive functions develop idiosyncratically, reflecting each child's physical make-up. And there are neurological conditions and interruptions that may present as children continue through school, like attention and focus issues, anxiety, behaviour or communication concerns, as well as specific learning disabilities. When challenges to learning present for any of these reasons - including delays in appropriate executive functioning overall - schools respond with strategies and supports that are specifically aligned with the evident learning challenges and will often create an Individual Program Plan that details both the strategies and the progress of students through each school year.
It is important to understand that young learners will often appear to be struggling with attention, communication, task initiation or perseverance or time management as they enter school. While schools will work with families to mitigate these challenges and support learners, the majority of young learners will have adjusted to school and these challenges will have disappeared or been reduced significantly within the first couple of years of school. Issues that persist through grades 2 and 3 are most likely indicators of ongoing neurological, learning or social/emotional concerns that will require a more focused, diagnostic approach to longterm support for learning in school.
Those of us who went to school in the 20th century may have memories of special needs classes, codes and segregated learning for children exhibiting challenges in school of any nature. Those strategies were appropriate for their time but our understandings of how the brain develops, how to best address various indications that might interrupt learning and how to set learners up for success for longterm learning have changed significantly over the past twenty years. Our students are embraced and surrounded with inclusive learning practices as well as principles of peace education, ensuring best-possible learning experiences in school. Additionally, we work very hard with all our learners to encourage them to be independent thinkers and problem solvers, and to advance positive self-esteem and confidence in all our students.
Perhaps the greatest advance in the past twenty years has been the acknowledgement and understanding that everyone continues to be a learner throughout their whole life time - brains continually grow and change throughout all our lives. Universities, trade schools and colleges are aware of this as well and will accept learners with IPPs in school into their programs willingly as students continually demonstrate their abilities to learn with appropriate supports.
These big conversations between families and schools are sometimes challenging to work through - different perspectives and past experiences always colour the way each of us engages with unanticipated bumps in the road - particularly when those bumps are associated with our children. It is important to approach these conversations with a growth mindset - things will improve and success will be redefined but occur nonetheless. Children's brains continue to grow and change throughout their lives and, as parents and schools work together, new paths and journeys are designed and travelled successfully. Respect, care and confidence in the work we all accomplish in concert together will ensure positive outcomes for learners, families and schools.
I encourage families to contact the school anytime there are questions, concerns or issues that emerge unexpectedly - the stronger our shared bonds of understanding are the greater the opportunities for success will be for learners.
"It takes a village to raise a child. Welcome to the village!" - African Proverb
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School
"There is no standard child. Every child has talents, passions and abilities unique to them."
- Brad Johnson (author)
Sometimes, despite the best of circumstances, children will struggle with learning when they are in school. Occasionally, the challenges appear soon after a child begins school, while other times challenges emerge as the elementary years progress.
And whenever challenges begin to appear, there are big conversations to be had between parents and the school.
I have been on both sides of the table, so to speak - as the parent of a child experiencing challenges at school - and many, many times as a teacher and/or school administrator attempting to support a family whose child has begun to demonstrate learning complexities.
It is not easy being in either position - these are our children, the humans who embody the greatest emotional investments of our lives. Knowing they are encountering challenging experiences impacts us emotionally - our job is to protect them after all - as well as logically as we try to figure out a cause and the shortest route to a resolution of any problems.
We are their protectors and we are also their life-guides, especially when children are very young. Navigating school-related challenges feels like something we should be able to do quite easily because we were all students ourselves at one time.
Emotional responses from parents are essential because they ensure the family will be there to support their child no matter what happens - ever! Emotional responses require empathy and patience on behalf of the school as we all come to accept and understand whatever challenges a child is encountering, and together we continue to place the emotional safety and physical well-being of each child at the centre of our thinking.
Logical responses from parents are essential as well - the questions, suggestions, approaches offered from a learner's family are the beginning steps towards discovering and implementing the best possible supports for each child. And logical responses from the school should offer a pathway to discovery and implementation of those supports.
It is when the emotional responses and the logical responses become tangled together that the biggest conversations occur. It's been my experience this almost always happens whenever any child is finding school to be a struggle for any reason - it is almost inevitable that families and school staff will spend time working through possibilities, concerns, fears, questions, suggestions together before any learner is able to feel supported with whatever learning challenge they are facing in school.
I am going to try and unpack these processes a bit over the final few blog entries I will be writing as Principal of Eric Harvie School, since my retirement from this position will occur in just a few weeks. Supporting families, learners and school staff through the processes that emerge when a learner begins to struggle in school requires a significant investment of time, focus and opportunities by school administrators. It is my hope to clarify some of what occurs and what parents might expect that will be of greatest benefit to learners who find themselves encountering challenges in their school.
The most important thing to never forget is that successful support for learners encountering difficulties in schools demands a collaborative, team effort on behalf of both the school and families. Success for learners requires collaboration, sharing and open communication between home and school at all times. It will require their entwined emotional and logical responses to successfully implementation of support for learners.
When learners begin to experience school as an overly challenging situation, their challenges will usually be presented in six key ways:
- executive functioning concerns
- issues related to attention and focus
- significant challenges with learning
Sometimes more than one challenge will be represented with one child - this is a fairly common situation and one that schools are well-prepared to respond to with appropriate supports.
Schools always have an organized approach to any issue that becomes a clear indiction a learner is struggling. Often these challenges are best met with suggestions from the teacher - perhaps a checklist to help with organization, or reinforcement at both home and school focused on sharing, asking questions, making requests to go to the bathroom, etc. Simple challenges that are quite quickly resolved are the daily work of classroom teachers and families, working together.
When struggles with learning become too impactful to be handled simply - whether the struggles reflect an actual learning component or an interruption to learning in some way that is prompted by inappropriate behaviour, attention issues, anxieties, communication or self-regulation - then the concern is usually elevated to 'the school learning team' (SLT). This might include any or all Resource or Diversity support teachers, Learning Leaders or school administration. The purpose of the SLT is to acknowledge a child's learning concern and then begin to explore best strategies for meeting that child's learning needs in the school.
The SLT might recommend in-school support with an Educational Assistant, additional teacher support for literacy or math, small group instruction or a school program such as SPARK, Discovery, CALM or another school-developed support approach. Or they might recommend a learner be seen for a speech and language referral, OT/PT assessment, pediatric assessment, social/emotional assessment, psycho-educational assessment, counseling or behaviour support assessment. There are many strategies the SLT might recommend to begin the process of assessing the best ways to mitigate and support a learner who is struggling.
Once the SLT has met, then the parents will be engaged in more formal conversations regarding the recommendations. Communication between school and home becomes more frequent and directed - this might include a 'day book' or frequent messaging communication between home and school, with the intention of tracking successes and misses related to strategy implementation.
An external recommendation for one of these types of assessment may also result in the creation of an IPP (Individual Program Plan) that clearly describes the goals and processes to support each student in achieving their best learning. Not every learning challenge requires an IPP; however, when one is required it is a way to formalize the support and the IPP will also ensure support for a learner through to high school and even college/university.
Whenever a learner is struggling, communication between school and home becomes of paramount importance. Keeping an open mind and honouring the very best interests of the child, the family and the school will be what ultimately supports the best learner success, no matter what the nature of the learning challenges might be.
There will need to be big conversations about the what, the why, next steps and ongoing adjustments. The most important thing to remember - no matter which side of the table one is sitting - is to hold the child at the centre of the discussion, the decisions and the adjustments.
We are a team, collaborating to best meet the child's learning needs at all times.
Next blog entry I will explore the nature and representations of the various challenges children most frequently demonstrate at school, to build understanding and clarity of the processes schools often suggest.
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School
"...to establish and sustain a learning environment that fosters creativity and innovation in a peaceful community of connected, independent thinkers, problem solvers and learners."
- Eric Harvie School Vision Statement 2016-2022
'...navigating what will come to be known as this inter-pandemic space—a time between what our traditional notions of schooling once were and what they have the potential to become." - Allison Rodman, 2022 ASCD
Since we are a Kindergarten through Grade 4 school, over half our school population has never experienced what we would typically consider a full 'school year' experience. Children currently in Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 have never participated in a spring concert, a year-end celebration of learning at the school with their families present, seen our Magician (Steve Harmer) perform in person, participated in a year-end sports day, been part of a parent-attended Peace Assembly. Even our current Grade 3 students would have experienced these things through the lens of a Kindergarten student with modified participation due to the half-time nature of the program itself. And for our Grade 4 students, participating in all these new experiences only once as Grade 1 learners may seem very much like distant memories.
This is without considering how learning itself has also looked and sounded vastly different over the past 2 years and 2 months than it ever did before.
Should we consider this a loss for our students currently enrolled in our K - 4 school?
Well, it is a loss of what used to be for sure - yet, perhaps not a loss of what is now 0r might be in the future.
Children don't actually have a sense of loss for such experiences as spring concerts and sports days, anymore than they have a sense of loss for field trips or guest speakers or reading clubs in the library they have yet to experience either.
The children and babies I've encountered over the years have a lot to teach us about living each day for the experience and the joys of living in that experience - they do not mourn what they do not know they have lost.
While adults seek to restore some sense of normalcy - or what we remember as normal - the children come to school every day excited to do whatever the day offers to the best of their abilities. They learn, they laugh, they attempt new things, sometimes they get frustrated - or even angry, sometimes they are sad but they are always actively doing something with their brains and bodies active. They are not living regretfully, lamenting lost experiences.
Even when we were enveloped in online learning, the children still were children. Some of them found ways to talk all the time regardless of mute buttons and turned off cameras. Stories continued to be told. They emailed written work and read books digitally, sent photographs and videos of themselves learning. They built relationships with their teachers and peers - differently, for sure - yet they were nonetheless relationships. They still trusted and cared, helped one another and smiled, grateful to see each other without masks without even making note of the difference.
When we look back on these past 2+ years, I have a hunch we are going to notice children who consider school, life and each other a bit differently than what we adults recall.
I believe we will see overall greater resiliency - our youngest learners have grown up needing to adapt quickly to new circumstances - learning at home with parents physically present and their peers absent, going back to school with masks, constraints and lots of adult control for 2020-21, and then returning to school again, in the fall of 2021-22, to an unpredictable school year where masks, constraints and vaccinations were defined and monitored initially. Quickly these constraints gave way to a less-structured approach accompanied by much higher levels of illness for both children and adults, significant school absences, a huge focus on assessment for learning gaps and, finally, the presence of new curriculum waiting to make their next school year yet another one of uncertainty and much-needed adaptability.
And still the children persevere - with smiles!
They put forth effort, seek discoveries, ask questions, wonder aloud at all things unfamiliar. Their spirits are resilient and they do not see themselves as enduring learning losses in any way. They are learners, they are learning at their own pace. They are quicker to notice emotional responses in each other and in adults, and they are more willing to help if they are able.
They also squabble more than they used to, often with the peers they know best. Their patience for each other is less obvious; they are wearying of the specific company of some of their peers. Familiarity, on occasion, will sometimes breed contempt...
Are they reading, writing, counting, printing, etc at grade level? There is a ton of data to sift through and we are trying to make sense of it all. Truthfully, the non-strugglers will forever be the non-strugglers. Other learners will find some tasks to be challenging and other tasks much easier.
All the children will, however, find a way to persevere and try again, to adapt and adjust and find a way to grow, learn and succeed. This is the trajectory of learning, teaching, human existence. Children living through this inter-pandemic space will find ways to thrive, to survive, to adapt and grow. Their ways will not necessarily echo the 'before pandemic' times, yet will define the characters and qualities of this generation.
If we look forward with infinite mindsets, there is a clarity required that is essential for sustaining quality teaching and learning into the future. It is clarity that acknowledges adaptability, resiliency, the capacities to accept a situation as it is temporarily and still make the most of it.
These are qualities humans have exhibited for centuries when confronted with wars, famines, drought, disease, pestilence, poor governance. The human qualities necessary to thrive despite life's challenges have been blanketed by a few decades of prosperity and gentler living requirements - at least in western countries. As learners, as parents, as teachers we became accustomed to every option being readily accessible for as many learners - as well as ourselves - as possible.
And then it seemed like everything stopped, walloped by COVID-19. Everything we wanted was no longer easily accessible - especially to schools and learning as we understood them to be.
We mourned the loss of predictable patterns to the school year, of ritual and sharing and growth, yet the children really did not. They got up and adjusted to a different reality and acquired resiliency and adaptability as a result. It was not a perfect process - not for anyone - for sure. Nonetheless, we have children in schools now who are thriving despite the loss of field trips, football teams spring concerts and big graduation ceremonies. They will become, instead, resilient, thinking, adaptable adults.
Infinite mindsets allow us to imagine a much different future for all of us as a result of a generation of children faced with unpredictable, inexplicable, challenging life experiences. All that is required is staying aware, awake to possibilities, being encouraging, positive and recognizing the potential provoked by two years of interrupted routines and events.
Given what we have endured through the pandemic so far, being hopeful seems like the best possible strategy.
I remain hopeful.
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal