Blog Posts Tagged: education

The Past, Present, and Future of Sustainable School Effectiveness

by Kathy Cassels

I’ve just returned full of reflection from my experience at ICSEI 2014 (International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement). The theme this year was “Redefining Education, Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century: The Past, Present, and Future of Sustainable School Effectiveness”. Together with colleagues Paige Fisher, VIU and Lynn Brown, HSN leader and SD 68 teacher, we were welcomed and greeted sincerely by the people of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  Their gentle presence inspired us as we were invited to join individuals from 37 countries to seek diverse perspectives and commonalities of problems and solutions.

The congress keynotes featured Jim Spillane, whose research explores how organizational routines can develop leadership practice and improve student achievement and Karen Seashore, who posed the question “Whose public schools are these?” Karen shared an inspirational quote from Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I will meet you there”.  Both confirmed DASH’s value of collaboration and shed light on our work in between the systems of education and health.

Jill Jameson’s keynote asked the question “How can educators enable young people to cope with the difficult world they live in?” and subsequently addressed the importance of building trust at all levels. She made reference to visible and invisible aspects of leadership and shared the following quote, “to lead the people walk with them, as the best teachers, the people do not know of their existence… the people say we did it ourselves” (Lao Tzu).  Her presentation reflected our work with others to promote connectedness as a foundation for all learners to realize their potential.

Paul Clarke of Pop Up Farms, speaker at the 2012 Healthy Schools Symposium, made his presence felt in many of the gatherings at ICSEI 2014 as he reminded us of the real ecological crisis we share and urged us to cast away old models as we try to rethink and reconsider the role of schools in relation to nature, community and the planet.  And perhaps best of all, to see our own Lynn Brown on the stage with international colleagues sharing her grounded, intelligent practitioner perspective in the plenary session Policy, Practice and Research Discussion.  A highlight I will treasure and remember.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a substantial focus throughout the congress on the need to rethink the role of family and community as we seek to create effective learning environments and a realization from many contexts that it’s been wrong to create school spaces that exclude them.

The opportunity to visit schools is both a highlight and unique feature provided at the congress.  My visit included an elementary and secondary school where the local traditions of food, music, dance, and batik were very evident and woven into the day as part of the learning experience.

During the coming months, I look forward to sharing more of the wisdom and rich flavor of conversations at ICSEI.  In closing, I’m so grateful to learn and work with so many colleagues who are inspired and passionate about making a difference for all BC learners.  I’ve come to understand it isn’t what we get out of our work but rather what we collectively become as a result of it.  I’m confident our collective commitment bodes well for our future.

Why healthy schools? What does it mean to be a healthy school?

All students deserve to have the opportunity to be physically, mentally, and socially healthy and to learn in an environment that enables them to reach their full potential. The school setting is the ideal place to start and to make that connection. Healthy students are better learners.

Two weeks ago, People for Education, an independent organization working to support public education in Ontario’s schools, released a report that discussed the importance of healthy schools and the province’s plan for building healthy schools. In the days that followed the release of this report, the topic of healthy schools was featured on several newsfeeds.

What is a healthy school though? When most people hear the term “healthy school”, the first things that usually come to mind are healthy eating and physical activity programs. That’s fair, as in the past there has been a big push on getting healthier foods into school cafeterias and vending machines, and ensuring that all students participate in a certain amount of physical activity each day. That’s usually the healthy school news that we hear.

But there is so much more happening! Just as BC’s Minister of Education said in his message addressing the province’s Education Plan, “It’s an exciting time for change, and that change is putting students at the center of their own education. We need to create new learning environments for students to allow them to discover, embrace and to fulfill their passions. Before us, lies a tremendous opportunity. By working together, we can take what is a good education system and make it great!”

Things are changing, and it is becoming apparent that a healthy school is no longer only about healthy eating and physical activity; creating a healthy school is about working together, going beyond the classroom and school walls, and involving the broader school community. A healthy school is organized so that students are supported to be physically, mentally and socially healthy to enable them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to achieve life-long success.

There is a new movement occurring, the healthy schools movement, and DASH and our partners (including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and other key stakeholders in the school community) are leading the way in BC. The healthy schools movement supports the BC Education Plan.

Please follow our new blog for discussion on the importance of healthy schools, and to learn practical ways that you can make a difference – today, tomorrow, and in the futures of students in BC – by starting small and becoming a part of the movement.