Monday, April 9, 2012

How Lucky Am I?

What great people I get to work with.  We had a meeting at Maggie on Tuesday where the teachers talked about the work they are doing, and the kids they are focusing on.  I so appreciate their commitment and the trust that has built in the group.  What a great group!  I learn something at every meeting.

The consensus of the group is to carry on next year, with the same kind of commitment and focus, but to broaden the group and let it grow if others are interested.

The report written for the Vancouver Foundation really shows how powerful the work is.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


At the end of semester 1, all of the secondary teachers in the project got together to work on their case studies.  There were 12 case studies of students who had completed term 1 courses.  There was also pre and post surveys for the 7 completed secondary classes. 

It took a great deal of time to work through the data and try to make sense of it.  The survey data was complicated and I was very fortunate to be able to work with Sharon Jeroski.  Sharon helped me look at the survey data in many different ways and then find the ways that best tell our story.

The case studies were fascinating and I read them over and over looking for themes. The themes soon became very evident.  And so... the writing began.  The report itself is 13 pages long and I hope to figure out how to attach it to the blog.  But for now I will attach the final summary.

When I read this summary again -- I am really struck by the hard work, the creativity and the commitment of the teachers involved in this project.   All of them tried new ideas, focused on students that desperately needed their attention and care, and shared their excitement and insights with all of us.  I can say for sure that the kids benefited from being involved -- and I am quite sure that all of us adults did as well.

In Summary:

            The purpose of the Through A Different Lens project was to see if we could remove some of the barriers to learning that our vulnerable students face, particularly our Aboriginal students and students with behavioural difficulties.  Teachers in the project made a commitment to teach and assess in alternate ways in order to capitalize on students’ interests, talents and strengths.  Each teacher recorded the strategies that they used and the students’ response to those strategies, with a focus on one or two students at-risk in their classrooms.  This was not an easy task, as many of the students that they focused on had difficulties in both academic and social areas – behavioral issues, emotional issues, attendance problems, drug and alcohol dependencies, and unstable home lives.
            Case studies completed in January 2012 on the twelve students from seven semestered academic secondary classrooms showed the power of this work.  Eleven of the 12 students successfully completed the course by January, with only one student continuing to work on completion.  In all cases, the teachers observed their student(s) at-risk engaging in the content to a greater degree, participating in class, and interacting with both the teacher and the other students more often and more successfully.  In addition, these students who do not normally feel that they are academically capable began to demonstrate their strengths and talents in the classroom.  Student interviews with both students who are academically successful, and with our students at-risk, showed how students positively respond to being taught and assessed in more interesting, hands-on and creative ways  (see “student voice” on through a different lens blog,, and how they appreciate having choices in their learning.
            Student surveys reinforced what was learned in the case studies and interviews.  All students felt more academically confident, more socially engaged (positive relationships with teacher and peers), and more aware that they had strengths and talents that could help them and others in the class learn.
            Strategies that the teachers found most successful with these 12 students included: Connecting with the students strengths and interests; establishing a positive relationship with the student; partnering students with other students depending on the need; teaching using a variety of creative, hands-on, interesting and ‘fun’ ways; and scaffolding the learning.
            Teachers in the project grew professionally as they shared ideas with colleagues, observed students, planned with their student at-risk in mind, and worked diligently to establish positive relationships with the students.  These teachers made a huge commitment to their students and to the project, and experienced some powerful successes with some of our most vulnerable students.