The Journey to Come

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ernest Hemingway

Here we are, at the start of a new school year. Our teachers have been hard at work planning this year’s journey, much like parents planned the wonderful family holidays we’ve heard about since our students’ return. In the same way that our students will soon be goal-setting for the term, here are the school-wide areas of focus, the ends if you will, that our teachers are working toward:

  1. Living the Mission, with the Habits of Mind, Body and Action; Project-Based Learning; service learning; student leadership; Learning for the Love of It; and more  that support the development of lifelong learners, that I look forward to sharing as the year unfolds
  2. Student Wellness, following up on feedback from students in our Student Voice; faculty and staff-wide professional development (PD) on mental health first aid and faculty PD on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; a review of our Social-Emotional Learning practices; and full launch of our concussion protocol
  3. Technology, with more 1:1 and 1:2 access from grades 3 and up, and increased access to iPads in grades JK to grade 2
  4. Assessment, with the development of a new report card for next school year and the exploration of other new tools to help capture and share the story of our students’ growth
  5. Writing, with the pilot of new tools in multiple grades
  6. Social Studies and French, to align with the new Ministry curriculum in these subjects

Some of our areas of focus are ongoing from previous years. Others are at the start of a multi-year focus.

Much like a good journey, you can’t plan for everything. Surprises likely lurk, as do bumps in the road that will need to be worked around. Ongoing collaboration, flexible and creative thinking, persistence and responsible risks will carry us forward. At KCS, that’s what happens on the journey, and that’s what matters in the end.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Consider a New Year With No-Marking Time

What would happen if students weren’t marked?

I’ve heard too often that the assumption is little learning would happen, so this post starts with a sad state of affairs. Thankfully, the true answer is both heartening, and possible.

Marks are an imperfect reality in formal education. While feedback is a valuable part of learning, marks wield power that is disproportionate to their brevity. Their power reinforces the notion that learning is something externally imposed. Marks judge, and regularly remind too many students that they simply fall short. From the attention they get, it too frequently appears that marks have usurped learning as the reason for school.

Contrary to what might be assumed, it’s not necessarily better for those earning high marks. Understandably, these students are lulled into liking favourable judgment from others and commit themselves to this model. Both the successful and struggling alike have a relationship with marks that has little to do with the resilience, curiosity, independence and internal drive needed to be successful beyond a mark-driven world. Taking risks, like the ones needed for leadership, creativity and innovation, has no place when marks are on the line.

Outside of school, it’s very evident that children and youth will readily learn without being marked. While marks are here for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason why schools can’t make room where students learn for learning’s sake. Give them time to choose what to learn and how. In these cases, let them set the standards and expectations. Let them share this learning with others without judgment, simply to create an environment of learning for the love of it. Let them take risks. Support the process and leave it in their hands, as these are the hands that need experience if the end goal is lifelong learners. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen what students will learn when marks aren’t involved. It takes nothing but a willingness among teachers to make some time for it, then let it grow.

To teachers looking forward to a well-deserved Christmas holiday, consider starting the new year with time for unmarked learning. It’s a risk worth taking. And no marks are on the line.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.