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Mind Shift in BC Education

The “new” BC Curriculum is set to roll out in legislation in September of 2016.  With it, a change in how we assess our students with the Core and Curricular Competencies and the content we are prescribed to achieve these competencies.  A lot of teachers are worried about various aspects of the curriculum implementation such as assessment, learning new content, or anxiety around inquiry/project based learning.  For teachers we have collaboration, professional development days and curriculum implementation days to get ready for September.  But what about the two other major stakeholders in this entire process that are being left out right now: Students and Parents?

I am sure that each district in BC is or will be holding parent info nights to “educate” the parents about the new curriculum, the competencies and the power their children will hold in this new phase of education.  However, like teachers, I am sure they will leave these evenings with more questions and confusion.  Lucky for teachers we have had sixteen months to prepare for September 2016.  Parents, sorry, that was or will likely be the only “open house” info session you will get until September.  So for me, I want to write the rest of this blog as an open letter to both the Parents and Students.

Dear Students.  You have probably experienced some changes this year as your teachers prepare for the new curriculum.  Some of the changes you might think are pointless or as my grade 12s say “dumb” (such as no percentages in gradebooks and less marks but more feedback as assessment).  Others you might think are awesome (collaborative essay prep, creating your own unit tests and fewer lectures and more inquiry/self-discovery).  What I ask of you is an open mind and a willingness to try something new.  Trust me, it is difficult for your teachers too, who have likely been doing some of the same teaching practices for years.  Change is difficult and a lot of work but you should be thankful that your teachers are trying something new that, in the long run, will benefit you greatly.  The new curriculum is designed to provide you with skills required in an ever changing job market.  The top three job requirements at Google are: cognitive ability (problem-solving/critical thinking), leadership (ability to work collaboratively) and humility (ability to say you were wrong and move on).  Right now you are probably still sitting in rows in some classes, listening to teachers talk to you about content and then giving you worksheets to check for understanding.  The new curriculum is going to ask your teacher to shift their mindset and yours to get elbow deep in the learning right alongside you.  You will be asked to work collaboratively in groups to first problem find, then problem solve.  You will likely fail along the way (not fail the course because your teachers won’t be grading you along the way).  But don’t worry your teachers will be there to help you get back up, back on track and encouraging you to find new and creative ways to solve problems and find information.  Just as you will fail along the way your teachers will likely fail too.  There will be the proverbial lesson that, half way through, your teacher realizes is not working (although you and the entire class realized it 20mins earlier!) and they will have to improvise and fix it.  Help them, encourage them, challenge your teacher to do more and give your teachers LOTS of FEEDBACK along the way.  Teachers got into teaching because we are life-long learners.  We all learn best by trying and doing and then figuring out what worked and what didn’t.  The fact that your teachers are willing to take risks in front of you every day should be encouragement enough for you to take risks for us and trust that we are doing what we truly believe is best for you.  This mind shift is what creates grit and resiliency and grit and resiliency will get you that job at Google!

To the Parents.  I ask that you also enter September 2016 with an open mind and shift your mindset to help facilitate the new curriculum.  Yes, you have a more active role in this than you think.  First, you must stop perpetuating the culture of achieving by asking your child what they got on their tests, projects, presentations etc.  Instead you must talk to your child to ask them what they did well, what they could improve on, and any mistakes they made along the way that they can ensure they do not make again.  As I said to the students, your child will likely fail along the way, you must be there, as their teacher will be, to catch them and encourage them to keep going and help them refocus their learning.  Second, create a routine when you get home to help create a growth mindset.  My kids, who are in grade 1 and 4yr old preschool hear these three questions every day: 1) what did you work hard at today? 2) What mistakes did you make today?  3) Who did you help today?  It has become so entrenched in our after school discussions that they ask us when we will ask them the questions.  They have already started reflecting on their day before they get home in anticipation of the questions.  It is a great and easy way to get and stay involved in your child’s lifelong learning regardless of if they are in grade 1 or grade 12!  Third, encourage your child to get on social media and follow them on it (after you have helped show them what proper use of social media looks like).  With the new curriculum your child will likely be creating blogs, digital portfolios and seeking out experts on Twitter and Facebook (grade/age depending of course).  This is the project/inquiry based portion of the curriculum and certain teachers will require this more than others.  For me in Criminology 12 and Law 12 I will be asking them to reach out to experts in the field from around the world to help problem find and problem solve locally in Walnut Grove.  For you to follow them on these sites you will be given a front row seat of what your child is learning and will allow you to continue the conversations at home about their experiences.  This will enable to you to further support the culture of learning we are aiming for with the new curriculum.  Finally, I ask that you too cut the teachers some slack as they are in the trenches, neck deep in learning with your child teaching them the skills they will need for jobs that haven’t even been created yet!  Yes the content is still there but it is not the focus.   Your child will dive deeper in specific topics and due to this they might skip other content.  In the end your child will come out of BC’s Education System with 21st Century skills like critical thinking, creativity and an enriched ability to collect and organize information.  They will do so by using tools of collaboration, communication and citizenry to become better students, people, global citizens and most importantly lifelong learners.

In closing, the world we live in and the new curriculum is participatory.  We need all the stakeholders to participate, take risks and change the way we have traditionally done things to ensure everyone has the chance to succeed and grow as a learner.  Our common goal is creating communities of classrooms where parents, teachers and students collaborate together to support each other!

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