In the world of education, reflection is an important and yet sometimes overlooked action.  Educators are busy people and because of the hectic pace of our lives, we may find ourselves planning and acting without taking the important step to learn from our actions and to assess the impact of our efforts so as to inform our next steps.  As I prepare to transition from being Director of Education for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) in January, I have plenty of reasons to reflect. Seven key insights have emerged for me over the last five and a half years and in my last blog post as Director of Education, I would like to share them.

My first insight is Culture is a powerful force.  No matter how talented people are or how effectively they are implementing various strategies, the culture in classrooms, schools, departments and entire districts can enhance effectiveness or it can be an obstacle to effectiveness.  In terms of HWDSB, we have been focusing on creating an effective learning culture that honours the professional contribution of each staff member.  At the heart of this learning culture is a commitment to collaborate, to persevere in the face of... Read More

Last week we had the opportunity to celebrate the work in which we have been engaged in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to “Transform Learning Everywhere”.  Students, staff and families came to our new HWDSB Education Centre to share their learning, to celebrate this exciting vision, and to provide examples of what happens for students when we think differently about our classrooms, the learning relationships in the classrooms and the learning opportunities provided to students in our schools.  This vision is based on a number of important beliefs:  Learners are able to own their learning.  They are able to work independently and collaboratively to engage real life issues and ideas.  Our learners are creative and innovative if we give them the opportunity to be these things. They are champions of social justice and willing to challenge the status quo if we create the conditions for them to do so.  Our learners do not solve problems in only one way and their ability to identify and assess issues from complex perspectives supports their creativity and their resilience.  They are able to evaluate what they learn, make important connections, and communicate effectively about their learning, which implies that they understand how to reflect upon their... Read More

The Grade 7 class at Dundas Central wrote to me about why they do not enjoy doing homework.  They offered a few suggestions that could potentially change this reality.

They wondered why homework never included outdoor physical activity in light of the fact that physical health and well-being are so important.  They requested that they could solve real life problems when doing their homework.  They dreamed about doing homework collaboratively, something that might become easier to do as we effectively integrate technology into the learning process.  They wondered about music and art, two subjects that are seldom assigned for homework.

One student suggested that instead of assigning homework in those areas where students struggle to learn and comprehend, leave this to school time; rather, assign work in an area where students are most passionate and interested so that they can deepen their skills in this area.

A common response was “why are our interests not regarded when the teacher is assigning homework, and why does most homework have to include writing?” I would certainly acknowledge that writing is important, but these students do have a point if most of our homework does include writing.  How is this challenging a student... Read More

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