Monday, April 30, 2012

Success for ALL Learners

Recently, at the provincial FNMI Conference in Grande Prairie, I had the pleasure of seeing some inspirational people from Alberta schools receive recognition for their considerable efforts to help our students succeed. There are some amazing people involved in education in our district/region/province, and it is always inspiring to hear the passion in their voices as they talk about what working with our students means to them. I'm fortunate to have been able to share in their celebrations.

I also had the great fortune to spend Friday March 30th working with Dr. Russell Bishop, from Waikatu University in New Zealand, and my peers from the GPPSD administration team. Dr. Bishop has committed a significant portion of his career in New Zealand to improving, the academic and cultural success of indigenous Maori students in New Zealand schools.

Dr. Bishop's work has led to the Te Kotahitanga Project, which is a project embedded in New Zealand schools and focused on helping teachers improve their practice in ways that will contribute to improving Maori students' achievement.  The model Dr. Bishop shared with us, has the following mission:

Te Kotahitanga is a research and professional development programme that:
  • supports teachers to improve Māori students' learning and achievement, enabling teachers to create a culturally responsive context for learning which is responsive to evidence of student performance and understandings
  • enables school leaders, and the wider school community, to focus on changing school structures and organisations to more effectively support teachers in this endeavour.
There are some excellent video resources on YouTube, if you'd like to see Dr. Bishop and other passionate individuals speak of the project.  If you're interested in seeing our FNMI students achieve higher levels of success, I'd encourage you to take a look and see what we can learn from the NZ experience of Dr. Bishop.  I am incredibly optimistic the strategies at the core of this project have the potential to improve our system, inform our work with community and benefit our students!

Dr. Bishop spoke about the power of EMBEDDING support for Maori students into our classrooms, and shared that  "What is good for the Maori student can be good for all students, but what is good for all students is not necessarily what is good for the Maori student."  To me, these words echoed what we know about inclusive education, embedding technology into instruction, etc.

Our support should be systematic, must be based on highly effective teacher-student relationships, and I think in an ideal world it will occur during class time and not outside of class.  I know that as a teacher, I benefited a great deal by learning while co-teaching with my peers.  Reflecting on systematic and embedded support, there is a lot of talk about the role learning coaches can play in supporting our teachers in the province.  As we look at the potential for this type of embedded support in our schools, I'm excited to see the results!  

In the end....Dr. Bishop again affirmed for us what we all intuitively know already.  The teacher is the key to student success and it is essential teachers create effective relationships with students.  The relationships facilitate learning.

In essence, like any other parent, I want my children to know their teachers care for them and build responsive, reciprocal, and respectful relationships.  Our goal should be to have that for every student!

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