Transformation of education = the key to happiness?

Last Wednesday evening, October 12th, Sir Ken Robinson’s speech in Banff bracketed two events dealing with the transformation of education. This presentation acted as the closing speech for the OECD: Innovative Learning Environments Conference (#OECDILE) and the kick-off keynote for 21st Century Learning Leadership Forum. I was glad that so many of Canadian Rockies Public Schools staff and parents were able to hear this witty, passionate and wise gentleman. He looked a bit terrified when we “flash-mobbed” him… but quickly realized Trustees are benevolent, especially when accompanied by their Superintendent. 😉

I was very lucky to be able to attend #OECDILE all day on Thanksgiving Monday, as well as other sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Canadian Rockies Public Schools District was the local host, while the Alberta Ministry of Education deserves kudos for its endorsement and sponsorship of the Congress. I was not able to attend the subsequent Forum. Kim Bater has written about it here.

The participants came from all over the globe; my breakout session included researchers, a principal, Ministry of Education employees and a trustee from Israel, Belgium, Austria, Spain, USA, and Canada. The presenters were from Mexico and Australia. Following the discussion, I was delighted to hold a long conversation with the Spanish researcher – our common language turned out to be French! It was wonderful to see the drummers and dancers from the Stoney Nation (some of whom were our Exshaw School students) perform for the delegates at the banquet on Tuesday evening.

What did I learn? Thriving, healthy Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), with a culture of collaboration, respect and trust seem to be a common feature to all the ILEs. Differentiated learning, differentiated assessment: those are the factors that will get – and keep – kids engaged in learning.   An effective PLC realizes this; its teachers are always probing, reflecting, experimenting, sharing, and evaluating to improve pedagogical practice.

Committed effective leaders also form part of the equation. Indeed, scalability of ILEs after the departure of such charismatic individuals is a concern. Whatever is designed must be designed around learning. It all begins there.

Ms. Duggleby's & Ms. Moleski's Banff Elementary School Grade 5 students made centrepieces for the banquet: beautiful seed flower on one face, "Ways to learn" on the other.

The transformation of entire schools, of entire school districts is possible. Steve, a principal from South Australia, could barely contain his glee as he reported the positive results from initiatives taken in his school. Students, once engaged in their learning, no longer misbehave and disrupt; teachers began to see their efforts pay off with the kids. The satisfaction levels in surveys done with students, parents and teachers soared off the charts. Wow. Could the transformation of education be the key to happiness?

We honour the students in our charge when we accept their differences and provide the resources they need; each child’s unique character and competency will blossom to benefit our world when we all do our part as we should.

Lastly, a quote from Sir Ken continues to resonate: “Human communities depend on a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.” That means that I will continue to explore and seek to understand the meaning of  inclusion and true assessment for learning.

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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