Inspiring Hearts & Minds: The Beginning and Beyond

Here is a somewhat concise description of the inception of Inspiring Hearts & Minds (IHM). Our School Division was very lucky as we began this process: our goals and vision dovetailed with the Alberta Ministry of Education and international initiatives which allowed support, validation and cash(!) to continue this journey. Also, it is not easy or quick; the Board is currently struggling with its role and function. We are asking a lot of parents, the community, teachers and our administrators. As we forge ahead, ultimately it is the kids who matter and the kids who will benefit.


In the fall of 2007, Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) launched Inspiring Hearts and Minds – A Strategy for the Future of Public Education in the Bow Valley. This stemmed from discussions at the February School Board retreat where the board conferred with the ELT – Executive Leadership Team – principals + senior administration. It was the first time such a consultation had happened at retreat.

Informally referred to as ‘Futures Planning’, we began a year-long series of open forums and conversations with teachers, students, parents, administrators, school board trustees and the general public. While declining enrollment and shrinking resources first prompted this process, the talk soon became much deeper and more thoughtful. We challenged ourselves to think beyond present day practices and consider the possibilities for schooling and learning not just in two to three years, but a generation ahead. It wasn’t a matter of a new program or two – we aspired to look at education through a much wider lens.

Why? Because we all want to prepare our children to meet the challenges of the exponentially changing 21st century. How will we do this? By focusing on the WHOLE CHILD. No one can predict the future: so even in this exercise, we did not know where we’d be led. We had to be flexible, prepared to take risks and to model transparency and civil dialogue.

The desired outcome? Futures Planning informs CRSD #12 strategic planning and decision-making; it leads to actions that will support student learning over the short and long-term.

A speaker, whose task it was to stimulate and even provoke opinions and discussion – to prime the pump, preceded each of these Community Forums. Then participants were seated at tables for a World Café, managed by independent facilitators. They collected and organized the notes, delivering a summary from which the direction for the next forum’s questions arose.

Community Forum 1
Envision a young person who is prepared for the world …
• What skills, knowledge and qualities does this person possess?
• What is the role of the school and community in the preparation of this young person?

Community Forum 2
Envision a young person who is prepared for the world …
• What shifts, trends and driving forces happening in the world will impact the public school system’s ability to prepare this person?
•  …Of these, which ones are the most important and the most uncertain?

Community Forum 3

The two over-arching directions for the School District used to frame the discussions:          •Deliver education that fosters development of the whole child (intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development)
• Position schools as the centre of learning and development in the community with the aim of building strong connections between schools, families and community organizations in support of educational delivery and life-long learning

Table discussion topics for Forum 3
1. Program delivery – e.g. ways of delivering education; thinking beyond the traditional classroom; program options; use of technology; school day and school year schedules; student involvement …
2. Community connections – e.g. partnership development; community networks; linkages with individuals, families, organizations; sharing of resources,expertise and learning opportunities …
3. Learning content and assessment – e.g. ways of learning; learning beyond the 3R’s; whole child development; curriculum (content and amount of material); ways to assess and evaluate learning …
4. Learning places – e.g. where can learning take place; use of facilities (school and community); infrastructure; the outdoor classroom; healthy buildings …
5. Role of teachers – e.g. changing role of the teacher; relationship between student and teacher; whole teacher development; who else is the‘teacher’?; teacher training and support …

Discussion questions in each of the five topic areas:
• What has to be considered or happen for our district to move in the directions of (1) whole child development and (2) schools as the centre of learning and development in the community?
• Of the ideas generated, which are the top two ideas that are most significant for achieving real and deep-rooted change?

Pretty ambitious, right? The discussions were rich and deep, providing a foundation for moving forward.

The graphic to the left was inspired by the text below, the synthesis  of all the descriptors. It is the screen and the filter through which the School Board, administrators, teachers and students examine policies, practice and intention. The phrase, Inspiring Hearts & Minds and its acronym, IHM, will gradually disappear from usage; it will just be ‘the way we do things here’.

How Do We Educate The Whole Child? By focusing on 4 integrated elements:

WHOLE LEARNING APPROACH:

  • Create learning environments that foster academic excellence and develop 21st century skills – critical thinking and problem solving; communication and collaboration; creativity and innovation; digital-age literacy and emotional intelligence.
  • Personalize learning to respond to each child’s gifts, needs, interests, and aspirations.

WHOLE TEACHER APPROACH:

  • Support and develop teachers in their role as facilitators of learning.
  • Knowing that teachers make a significant difference in a child’s life, create conditions that strengthen student-teacher relationships.

WHOLE COMMUNITY APPROACH :

  • Engage with parents as partners in whole child education.
  • Engage the resources and expertise of our local communities to enrich student learning and deepen community connections.
  • Expand partnerships with agencies and services and connect people of all ages in order to make our schools the hub of learning in the community.

WHOLE WORLD PERSPECTIVE:

  • Use technology and human connections to bring the world to the classroom and the classroom to the world.

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