The Importance of the Community School

a mural painted at St. Anthony School to celebrate the Italian heritage that shaped the early history of the school

 

Community schools that are truly integrated as a partner into the wider neighbourhood are rare. However, they are increasingly important as more community agencies try to work together to solve complex social problems.
Education institutions stand apart from these cooperative efforts mainly because they still see themselves as silos or islands of instruction not to be sullied by outside influences.
It does not have to be this way, and it would be heartening to see a shift away from the silo approach to education in our society.
There is no question that the connection between a school and its surrounding community is vital. Really, the two should be inseparable, both working together to make a stronger union and a better community.
As a principal, I have always tried to do this, especially in the last school I worked in.
St. Anthony School in Little Italy serves a diverse population of new Canadians from countries around the world.
Our staff believes strongly that we need to reach out to our community so that we can do a better job of serving our families. Over time, we established strong ties with organizations like Somerset West Community Health Center,  Rec LINK, a wonderful small organization that links families up to recreation opportunities for their kids, and the Dalhousie Parents Day Care – a community organization that resides in the basement of the school and until recently, had office space in the school.
Dalhousie Parent Day Care
We also had strong ties with the local Italian community who raised thousands of dollars for playground renewal and other projects. We even had a great partnership with a local store called The Bike Dump. Dave, the owner of this store supplied cheap or free bikes to our kids every year and last year even found us a mechanic to fix all the bikes before we handed them out to our kids.
These are just a few of the many partnerships we worked on over the past years. We also tried to make the school as open as possible to all parents. This was really important as many parents come from countries where positive relationships between families and institutions were not encouraged.
Unfortunately, this can all change very quickly. In the past few months, community agencies have lost office space in the school. There is little communication between Somerset West Community Health Centre and the school. The doors of the school are locked, keeping the parents away from the building. The social media accounts – Twitter and Facebook have fallen silent. The school, in essence, is retreating in upon itself.
This is not what should be happening. Community schools should encourage partnerships with the agencies that support their families. Surplus space should be used to offer additional services to the community. There is space in the school for adult literacy classes, even space for a computer room for parents who do not have access to computers or wifi. These ideas have been discussed but were never implemented.
It is important to remember that all schools are ultimately the property of the Province of Ontario and they all need to be utilized to serve the community in the best way possible.
The current trend away from the community is distressing and it shows a complete misunderstanding of the role a school should play within its community.
This situation does not have to continue. Ultimately, the Ottawa Catholic School Board can push back against this trend and become more involved in making the local community its top priority. To ignore the importance of St. Anthony School to the surrounding community risks losing an important community asset.
Schools should be the heart of the community. It is sad when people ignore or just don’t understand the importance of this relationship. I hope this will change in the future and that new principals will be better trained to understand that schools do not and cannot exist in isolation.
To offer an excellent education for our students, we need to learn to be a part of the community. Are there ways that the community could reach out to bridge the current gap? Can the Catholic School Board begin to see itself as a vital partner in Dalhousie? Only time will tell.

Where is the next network? Google Educator Groups

Google
Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

I am always looking for opportunities to push myself to learn more.  I find that becoming an active member of networks is a great way to do this.  At the very least, it gets me to write and post more material.  The OSSEMOOC is a great example of a network that has motivated me to post.  It’s a little like the ‘publish or perish‘ notion.  If your blog is publicized on other sites, but better keep writing!

Yesterday, I heard about another network that looks like it has potential – Google Educator Groups #GEG.

I took a look at where you can find GEGs and there are none in Canada!  We need to do something about that.

The idea behind the GEGs sounds really interesting.  From their site, GEG leaders benefit in the following ways:

  • Meeting like minded people, breaking the walls of isolation
  • Becoming well connected to people of similar passion
  • Building learning management, event management, communication and organization skills as you hold events.
  • Eligible to attend local GEG Leader summits hosted by Google

This is what is wonderful about social media and education, there are so many great networks that you can join that connects you to other educators.  In the past year I have connected to ECOO (the BIT 2014 Conference), OSSEMOOC, DLMOOC (need to get back to that!), #SAVMP mentorship group via @gcouros, a terrific Edmodo book chat on Digital Leadership through #satchat, Learning Connections – Google + group run through #OCSB as well as a whole host of Twitter chats and Google + discussions.

Every day I learn through these great networks.  At this point, I can’t imagine being an educator and not being connected, my networks are my own personal school.  There are so many great initiatives and ideas out there that I would be totally in the dark without my learning partners.

Even worse, without my personal learning network I would be dependant on professional development delivered in the tradition method through our own district.  This way of learning simply does not work anymore.  We can complain about this or we can do something much more useful – make up your own learning network – get connected – today!

So next, time to get some GEGs into Canada – any volunteers?

Our day at Learning Connections #lcocsb

 

English: QR Code takes a browser to the articl...

Today I attended my first Learning Connections workshop at our school board office (OCSB). What an amazing experience! In the morning we all attended six different presentations put on by elementary teachers from around the school board. We had ten minutes in each presentation before we were moved on prompted by a makey makey banana bongo. Each presenter had all their material linked through a QR code – really helpful!

lc 1
One of the presentation centres – all info was accessible through QR codes

After this, we met with other participants to compare notes and create a summary of our key learning. We created a Powtoon – a totally new tool for me. The results can be found at the top of this post.

The great thing about this session were the experts available to help us with our creations. Our expert was a junior level student from one of our elementary schools. He patiently took me through the steps on how to set up my first powtoon. He was an excellent teacher!

This is a good lesson for all of us. The real experts in this new digital age are the students. There is no way we can learn this technology as quickly as the students can. Whether it is an app, a maker kit or the newest chromebook, the students are the new experts. We are all learners!

the learning connections google community
the learning connections google community

What a terrific group! Learning Connections is a unique gift to our staffs. It is a growing group of educators learning new digital tools to innovate and learn. As a principal, I need to learn all that I can from this group. Educational leaders need to know how to use digital technology. We don’t need to be the experts, but we certainly need to be open and accepting of the changes happening on a daily basis.

We need to be gateways for the teachers and students who want to innovate and experiment with brand new ways of doing things.

Thanks Learning Connections!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Our first Blogging Party!

Social & Policy Innovation in the Obama Admin 2o2
Social & Policy Innovation in the Obama Admin 2o2 (Photo credit: dpict.info)

I’m hoping to try something different at our next teacher PD session.  Our PLNs are essential. We have used them for the past three years.  Our teachers meet in grade or subject-based groups and plan their learning throughout the year.  At our upcoming consolidation session, we are going to attempt our first ‘blogging party’.

Rather than have the teachers present their findings orally, we are going to ask them to create a blog so that they can share their learning with the world!

To make this a bit easier, we are planning to teach them how to create a simple blog.  Audience is everything, we really want our teachers to share their great work with professionals around the world.

Our blogging party will be May 2nd.  We will post using the hash tags #ocsb and #bloggingparty.  Please comment, this will be a great motivator for our teachers!!

 

DGM Triad Evidence of Learning Document

Consolidation 2014

 

Tell your story or someone will tell it for you

@NMHS_Principal

 

How to set up your blog

 

1.  Go to https://www.blogger.com – you all have a blogger account as one of your Google tools.  Take a look at this OCSB Teacher blog run through Learning Connectionshttp://ocsblc.blogspot.ca/

 

2.  Click on the ‘new blog’ button on your dashboard.  You will then see a collection of templates to choose from.  You will also be prompted to choose a title for your triad blog.  Try something catchy!  Remember, ultimately your blog may be read around the world!!  Your will also get your address – please bookmark this! (good time to try Symbaloo)  Don’t worry if you have to come up with a temporary address to move on, your can change it in Settings after – your address is important, you want something as simple as possible – I am using triaddgmjunior.blogspot.com

 

3.  That’s it!  You have a name, a template you are ready for your first post!

a sample blog you can use!
a sample blog you can use!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  The rest is just a matter of trial and (a bit of) error!

Blogger  DGM   Edit post

5.  Try to set your blog up now!!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Designing outdoor classrooms at St. Gregory

The work of greening our school continues.  With financial assistance from the City of Ottawa, Evergreen and TD Friends of the Environment, we have planted twenty trees on our property and have added raised beds to nine of these trees.  In the process, we have created a community partnership that includes our funders, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, Carleton University and our parents, staff and students and two wonderful resource people from Evergreen – Ann Coffee and Andrew Harvey.

Phase II of this project was the construction of raised beds
Phase II of this project was the construction of raised beds

We are now working on Phase III, the construction of two outdoor classrooms. Research shows that getting students outside helps them to learn better, keeps them attentive, encourages their imagination and improves the overall class environment (Globe and Mail, September 24, 2013).

The planning phase is really interesting.  Ann and Andrew have always based their planning for design of our green spaces on student consultation.  Conversations with our students happened before any trees were planted and now have taken place to help come up with a design for the outdoor classrooms.

one of the early conceptual drawings for one of two outdoor classrooms
one of the early conceptual drawings for one of two outdoor classrooms

We have a long way to go, but I would say these consultations are the most important part.  Their ideas and opinions breathe life into the plans and proposals we are putting forward.  What a great way to make a permanent mark on your school!

Landor Print DefaultToyota