Apr 09
Draft Curriculum Input

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

By the time a student in Alberta graduates from Grade 12, they will have had access to over 12 000 hours of instructional time at school. On one hand, that sounds like a lot of time. On the other hand, we all know from raising children that time can go by very quickly.

Those 12 000 hours are guided by something called the Program of Studies, more commonly known as the curriculum. The curriculum is the document teachers use to plan what subject matter and topics they will teach at a particular grade level. No matter where you go in the world, the curriculum will be a reflection of the values held by that culture or society. For example, in Hawaii students are expected to know “the beliefs and ideas depicted in a hula dance." Obviously understanding hula dances isn't in the Alberta curriculum because it is not something our society values.

As you are likely aware, the Alberta Government has recently released a draft copy of a new K-6 Curriculum. Many have weighed in with their opinions and thoughts regarding this new curriculum through social media. It is important that you, as a parent, express your thoughts through the Alberta Government website.

Ideally, it is also important you have an informed opinion by reading at least some of the draft curriculum as written, not just the broad overviews. If curriculum is a reflection of what a society values and wants their children to learn, then the question needs to be asked; What do you value and what do you want your child to learn at school? Before reading the draft curriculum, make a list of things you think should be in a curriculum, which you want your child to learn. Then, at minimum, choose a subject and grade to read the draft curriculum, as presented. Celebrate and note the items on your list that match what you do find in the curriculum. At the same time, it is important to be curious and ask questions when things you value are not represented in the draft document.

Feedback from a wide representation of Albertans will be important as we want to ensure that the final published curriculum represents the values of all Albertans. Major curriculum revisions such as this often only occur once every couple of decades or so. Curriculum is literally the learning foundation for a life time of learning. What learning foundations do you want for your child? Be sure to have your say.

 

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal 

Mar 26
There is No Try

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the Star Wars franchise. The movies, the music, the culture, light sabers all come together to create some kind of nostalgic anchor for me. I’m not a fanatic and I would have no need to line up to meet Mark Hamil but I would certainly be extremely excited to learn that a new movie is being released.

In Star Wars episode V, the Empire Strikes Back, we are first introduced to the now legendary character, Yoda. If you are even remotely familiar with the movie, you know that Yoda has the dubious job of educating the fledgling Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Jedi. At one point, Luke is struggling and finally suggests he will at least give something a try. Yoda shoots back, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

While this quote has been unpacked by philosophers to pop culture enthusiasts, I see the profound learning wisdom contained within its sentiments. Learning is an action. It is something we do. When are truly engaged with learning when we are doing, not just trying. At school students learn classical subjects like reading, writing and mathematics. However, in life learning doesn’t come in labelled boxes and is often strongly related to whatever is pertinent to you at the time. We learn when we do. We learn when there is something we need to do.

This spring break, I encourage you to find examples of learning in your home. When you learn something new, point out to your child what you learned. It is important for them to know we are all learners. As they play, observe their actions and conversations. They are learning in the doing. Point out their learning, join them in their learning and discover something new together. It is a benefit to everyone when all of us ‘do’ learning not just ‘try’ it. Have a great spring break!

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Mar 19
Students at the Centre

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

Traditionally, Spring Conferences in CBE elementary schools often take on a format called Student-Led Conferences. For those of you who have taken part in this style of conference in the past, you know that these conferences often are a mixture of students showcasing their learning, demonstrating their newly developed skills and the sharing of progress, as it relates to your child’s on-going learning.

From an educational and child development point of view, this style of conference has many benefits. They allow students to take ownership or responsibility for their learning. By giving students a voice, it honors their perspectives and allows us, as adults, to hear from what supports they require in their learning. These conferences allow us to celebrate and acknowledge the progress our students have made. They allow us to take extended time to slow down and watch our children make their everyday learning visible. Ultimately, students come first and are at the centre of learning. These conferences put students where they should be, at the centre.

Realistically, in light of the pandemic, traditional Student-Led Conferences are logistically more complex to fully enact this school year. We so wish we could have you in our building to see the incredible learning that is happening throughout our school. I am hopeful that will be soon. In light of restrictions, our teachers are working hard to provide flavors of Student-Led Conferences for our conversations next week. How this looks will vary from grade to grade and teacher to teacher. Some teachers have a pre-package of activities and learning for you to explore with your child, prior to your scheduled interview time. Some teachers are cueing their students to be prepared to answer some reflective questions during the interview. Regardless of the format, we hope you will also see the value of including students in these important learning conversations by putting them at the centre.

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Mar 12
Once Upon a Time

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

Would you rather: your child asks you to read them a story or your child asks you to tell them a story? I have no data on how people would respond but I know I feel exposed as a creative fraud when my child asks me to tell them a story. I’m just supposed to make one up on the spot? What will happen? How do I ensure my child enjoys the story? Who will be in the story? With the trepid steps of a toddler I begin my verbal story in the worst possible way, “Once upon a time…” If I piecemeal any story together it will likely end with the same lack of imagination, “…and then they woke up from their dream. The End.”

The art of story telling is not a skill we directly maintain as adults. Yet, the cognitive processes for telling a story are so important to brain development. To tell or write a story requires creativity, organization, logic, strong linguistic skills, an awareness of audience, sequential reasoning and a whole lot of persistence. Story telling also often requires an ability to openly accept critical feedback from both yourself and others. No wonder we tend to avoid it so much.

At home, we readily support our children with reading or even math but how often do you support their writing development? There are many ways you can support the creative development of young writers and story tellers. You can simply point out well written sentences in literature and reflect on what makes it a good sentence. You can get in a habit of telling imaginative stories to each other, no matter how flawed the characters or the premise. You can find strong picture prompts on websites like Once Upon a Picture and begin brainstorming the story inspired by a certain image. Our youngest students often love to randomly share the stories in they make up in their head. Encourage this conversation by asking clarifying questions. What will you do to develop your story development skills and what can you do to support your child’s story development skills?

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Mar 05
Don't Walk in the Hallway

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

When I was an elementary school student the very first desktop computers made an appearance in my school. Our school had 6 Apple IIe computers. I provided the link for a good chuckle at the meager specs and the high price of those early computers. Every day my Principal would ask a trivia question over the intercom. One student from each class would then get to come to the office and give an answer to the question. If they were right, they could use the computer at lunch. Students would sprint down the halls like cheetahs chasing their next meal in hopes of winning the prize. As a current Principal, everything about this plan seems crazy to me but as a student, I so desperately wanted to win this opportunity.

In school we often tell students to ‘walk’ in the hallways. There are a lot of good reasons for this expectation to be in place. However, this past week, at our school, I didn’t see many students walking in our hallways. In fact, many were moving slower than a simple walk. They were jumping, hopscotching and twisting their way down the halls. New floor decals were installed this week in a few spots throughout our halls. You can find pictures of these decals on our Twitter page. These decals encourage students to move in ways that elevate heart rates and promote physical literacy. They literally come stamped with the hashtag #DontWalkInTheHallway. Virtually all of our students slow down in these zones and become instantly engaged by a few decals on the floor.

Developing healthy physical literacy habits is just as important for the body as learning to read can be for the mind. Activities as simple as walking have immeasurable benefits for our bodies. However, if your kids are like mine they aren’t always keen to ‘go for a walk’. What other ways can you promote physical literacy, in your home, which would be fun and engaging for kids? What would happen if you brought a hula-hoop or skipping rope on a walk? Are you up for a mini sprint challenge with your child while walking down the sidewalk? When is the last time you played hopscotch? I just did this week in our upstairs hallway! Physical literacy doesn’t need to be boring. Have fun, make it engaging and join your child in creating healthy habits.

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Feb 26
Zones

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

We all have days, even moments, when we feel on top of the world, we can accomplish anything. At other times, for no explicable reason we may feel glum or even grumpy. We may even spill into angry when a circumstance doesn’t play out in our favour. Experiencing emotions is universal, no one is immune. Our children also experience these same emotions. By adulthood, we have likely developed strategies for supporting the emotions we are feeling. However, for children they are in the very formative years for understanding how to both recognize and deal with the emotions they are experiencing.

You may have heard your child talk at home about being in the red zone or being in the blue zone. At Sibylla Kiddle School, all of our students have been engaged in on-going conversations and lessons with respect to something called the Zones of Regulation™. You can read more about the Zones, as we call them, from this website. In a nutshell, the Zones help students recognize four possible emotional colours they may be experiencing. This includes; Green (Happy, Excited, Calm), Yellow (Nervous, Surprised, Confused, Silly), Blue (Sad, Upset, Hurt, Tired) or Red (Angry, Aggressive and Mad). The Zones allow students to put language to their feelings and to self recognize what their emotions are in order to then implement strategies for appropriately dealing with whatever Zone they may find themselves in.

The movie Inside Out (2015) is both a poignant and beautiful representation of how emotions play a role in our mental health and what can happen when certain states of mind come to the surface. If you have access to the movie, I encourage you to watch it with your children. You will get a great laugh but it will also open up the possibility of meaningful conversations within your home about the Zones. Whether you watch the movie or not, having developmentally appropriate conversations with your children about navigating life’s emotions will help to give them further strategies for developing resilience and support their life long mental health.

Sincerely,
Brad Emery
Principal


Feb 19
Touchdown Confirmed

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

I spent some time yesterday in one of our grade 3 classes watching a live feed of the landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on the planet Mars. There was a hushed anticipation for the final minutes as students quietly observed the precarious process unfold along with watching scientists carefully hold their collective breathe throughout the final delicate stages. When the scientist on audio said, “Touchdown confirmed” a huge cheer went up among the students along with similar cheers coming from a few other classrooms.

As I watched the students get excited over the moment, I observed highly educated scientists and engineers cheering, fist pumping and clapping in the exact same fashion as the 8 year-olds in front of me. I got to stand back and witness the joy of accomplishment. That exact moment when hours of work, unrelenting effort and tenacity merge to culminate in pride and jubilation.

It occurred to me, in that moment, how appropriate the name of the latest Mars Rover is – Perseverance. Theoretically, the state of accomplishment is achieved upon the completion of any task, no matter how ordinary. However, we don’t demonstratively celebrate the accomplishment of washing the dishes or walking the dog. Rather, we save those celebratory accomplishments for feats that require significant perseverance. For a toddler we cheer at the accomplishment of a first step. We go wild when our child can finally figure out how to independently balance and ride their bike for the first time. We share posts on social media after hours of tooth wiggling results in their first pulled tooth.

What is your child persevering towards in their learning right now? We can easily forget how hard it can be to learn how to read, to memorize some basic number facts or write our first sentences. The challenge with these difficult and important learning feats is that touchdown is never confirmed in a singular moment. Learning is primarily an accomplishment wrapped up in process, not in product. Take time to understand what your child is learning and to celebrate the smallest of steps they make in achieving whatever they are setting out to accomplish. Cheer them on with wild abandon, as if they just put a rover on Mars whenever the achieve the smallest of milestones. Their sense of confidence, pride and willingness to persevere in learning will be far greater than you could imagine.

Sincerely,
Brad Emery
Principal


Feb 12
Valentines for the Ordinary

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

Our Grade 1 students have recently been studying poetry. They are learning how poets carefully weave their words to create vivid imagery and let us see the world from a different perspective. As part of their learning, I was invited to read some poetry to our students. In my search for the perfect poem, I stumbled on a poem for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t share this poem with our students but I felt I would share it here. It is called Valentine for Ernest Mann by Naomi Shihab Nye. I encourage you to take a moment to read this poem as it will provide context to my words.

Nye invites us to re-invent the skunks of our world into something good. She encourages the reader to look into the ordinary and see what is beautiful. She challenges us to find the good even in “the person you almost like”.

This weekend celebrates both Valentine’s Day and Family Day. In a city that is bitter cold and a world that has us confined to our homes, I encourage you and those you live with, to find the good in the ordinary. Have some fun digging through sock drawers and through boxes under stairs in search for good. Challenge yourselves to act on your discoveries. Maybe write your own poems to express how much you care about someone else. Whatever you end up doing with your discoveries, I hope you take time to enjoy what you’ve learned. More importantly, I hope you take time to enjoy the ordinary but amazing people you spend your time with on a daily basis. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day and a great Family Day.

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Feb 05
What have you been learning lately?

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

What have you been learning lately? As an adult, are you still actively engaged in the process of learning? Almost by default, we are all learning every day. Often we actually learn from our mistakes. I recently learned it isn’t a good idea to take off a pullover hoodie while walking on a treadmill. I didn’t intend to learn that lesson, but life taught me never to do that again. However, intentional learning is different. This is the learning we purposefully seek out of necessity, curiosity or self-improvement.

This upcoming week represents an important time on the annual school calendar for educators. On a weekly basis, teachers are continually engaged in the process of intentional learning. However, this upcoming week is Teachers’ Convention. These two days are set aside for teachers to focus on skill development for the purposes of improving on and building our professional practice. This learning allows teachers to remain current with respect to relevant educational based research and gives them further strategies for enhancing the learning of students.

For me, examples of sessions I have registered for include the topics of; student health and well-being, building student resiliency and how to further engage students in the process of writing. What will you be learning this week? How do you hope to leverage your new discoveries to positively impact others?

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


Jan 29
Report Cards

Dear Parents of Sibylla Kiddle School,

At some point in your life you have probably had medical tests that give you and a health professional some data as to how your body is functioning. The data isn’t judgemental, it simply helps everyone have a clearer picture into the health of your body. Often the data is nothing more than a clarification of what is already known, other times the data suggests some adjustments should be made.

Report cards are a somewhat like this health data. They offer a professional snapshot into how your child is progressing in their learning. The data you read on the report card, on February 1, should be both a confirmation and an affirmation of what you already know. Our teachers aim to keep strong communication with you, throughout the year, so report cards are simply the formal documentation of where students are currently at in their learning. If you encounter information on the report card that requires clarification, please reach out to your child’s teacher as they would be happy to help.

Furthermore, I encourage you to have a conversation with your child regarding their report card. Have them reflect on areas in which they are proud and take time to express your pride in their learning. Likewise, report cards are a good time to set or recalibrate learning goals. Does your child have something they would like to work towards? What supports do they feel they need? Have you expressed your goals, for your child, with them? Are they in agreement with those goals? We want to thank you, as parents, for your incredible partnership in the learning process. We all share the common goal of working toward success for every student, every day.

Sincerely,

Brad Emery
Principal


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