Thursday, 2 January 2014

Looking Back or Looking Forward

There are times I look back and hang on for dear life to the wonderful accomplishments of 2013.  I love to reflect on the growth shown by staff to embrace all students, including those with identified disabilities - the "aha" moments when staff realized the tics and anxieties in Tourette Syndrome could not be controlled and it wasn't just behaviour after all! - to the joy when a little one with Autism signed his first sentence (because we knew he could do it all along!) -to the moment a teacher showed me the writing of student who used Word Q to produce a full page of writing when "he would not even attempt a sentence before!" - to the excitement of a class doing a Mystery Skype for the first time with Krissy Venosdale's class in the US (even though a student blurted out 'Canada' because of his excitement!) - to viewing the Storybird created by a student who was SOOOO reluctant to write - to seeing the total engagement of the grade 3 students taking part in two Genius Days while the grade 4s went to Drumheller on their annual trip (I had to teach them something!) - to one student with severe sensory issues taking part in gym (because we let him address it at his own pace) - to grade 6 Leadership students using the bus borrowed from a neighboring junior high to make the trek down to Calgary for We Day and their complete excitement about changing the world when they returned! - to our super fantastic, amazing, cool, and brilliant Leadership Day  and our first ever Leadership Luncheon as part of the Leader in Me Program - to our Morning Mile daily walk (the first school in Canada to take part!)- to the completion of identifying our essential learning outcomes and collaborative planning for student success as part of goal to become a professional learning community - to expanding our intervention time in the gym (all students in the gym with me so teachers could work with individuals or small groups who did not understand outcomes being taught)- to all of the amazing things that happened in our school journey throughout the year.

I took a course about Assistive Technology and learned so much about how to give students their voice! I am so excited by this learning that I just want to share with everyone (and some might think I am a bit crazy when I give them all the new tech ideas I have!!).

All that and I accepted a new position with the district that offered a wide variety of new opportunities to spread the message of inclusion.  What a year!  In the first four months of my new position I have had the good fortune to visit many schools and classrooms.  I have been able to offer suggestions based on my past experiences and have had rejection of such suggestions (because "we already tried that before - it didn't work").

There are times when I want to just revel in what has been and stay there, enjoying the ambience of success (of course, forgetting all the hard work that got us there!).  But I know I must forge ahead.  I am excited to look forward at the work our team is doing with the ISP classes.  I look forward to working with folks in my PLN to make these learning spaces better for students, complete with real learning to be had!!  I look forward to working with teachers and educational assistants as we work to make each classroom a welcoming space for all learners in our district - for equitable education for each and every child who walks in the door of our school.

I look forward to working with Renee Laporte to explore the creation of a whole school inclusion "IPP" and to present this idea to other "thinkers" at Redcamp2014.  I mean, what a concept - something beyond a simple checklist to see if your school is really inclusive.  Paula Kluth gives a great list of Must Haves to be an inclusive school, but how could a school write this as an IPP complete with goals to work toward? I am excited to work with Renee to explore the possibilities.

I am sure this will be a great year, both personally and professionally as I seek to expand my horizons, to dream as I never have before and to work with a vast array of educators for equity in education.

A book I am excited to dive into this year is "Rethinking Equity - Creating a Great School for All" by J-C Couture and Stephen
This book, authored in Alberta, promises to demonstrated that any change in Alberta schools needs to be systematic and draws comparisons to schools in Finland.  Should be a great read as our government proposes an inclusive education system complete with equitable learning for all.  I am interested to hear the opinions of the authors (whose book was supported by the ATA) regarding what steps the government is taking to create such an inclusive environment.

I am not sure where my path will lead this year but I know that I can only see change happen if I step off my beaten path, if I try new things, if I expect that sometimes I might fail and that is okay because I will learn!

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