Leading the Way
Leadership in Education
The important connection between teaching and lifelong learning
On a brisk morning in mid-November, the halls were much quieter than usual but there was an unmistakable feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air at BSS. Despite the fact that there were no classes for students scheduled that day, the school would soon be filled with inspiration and learning. Chatter from staff gathered in the Performing Arts Theatre quieted down as Judith Carlisle, Head of School, began by welcoming the group and summing up the experience of her first 100 days at BSS. “I had very high expectations of the school when I arrived. And I have not been disappointed. In fact my expectations have been exceeded on every level. We have some of the most well-educated educators I’ve seen in my career. And we have an extraordinary level of talent and commitment to students across the school.”
The agenda that followed on that Professional Learning day emphasized Ms. Carlisle’s sentiments, showcasing the school’s growth mindset in action. Engaging sessions led by BSS staff members from across the school inspired thought-provoking reflection and dialogue amongst their colleagues. The format included an eclectic mix of learning sessions such as Unhealthy Perfectionism, Learning and the Brain and STEAM for Everyone. The group also participated in a staff-led Space Walk, with groups gathering in far corners of the campus to examine what they saw, what was missing and what possibilities each space held. The chance to learn from one another showcased the depth of knowledge at BSS and the possibilities that open up when experts from all departments collaborate together.
Staff members’ constant learning and sharing of their expertise reaches far past the BSS community. Investigations and Expressions is a unique professional learning series facilitated by faculty members who share the latest insights on Reggio-inspired learning, based on their firsthand experience teaching it. Kindergarten to Grade 6 teachers from across the province come to BSS for one-day workshops throughout the year and a four-day symposium in July, with each session introducing new, leading edge themes and topics.
Each year, beyond the walls of BSS, staff members lead professional learning sessions across North America that span a variety of topics. Last year Grade 6 teacher Bart Van Veghel and Junior School Vice Principal Rachel Hughes presented at the University of Waterloo’s For the Love of Mathematics and Computer Science conference. They spoke about the power of teaching students
from Grades 2 to 6 mental strategies that help them visualize their thinking in order to develop a deeper understanding of math concepts. In 2017 Kelly Kirkpatrick, Technology and Innovation Co-ordinator, and Cathy Prain, Database Technical Leader, presented at the first Canadian Blackbaud K-12 User Conference at Hillfield Strathallan College, sharing their expertise on various leading edge technologies based on their experience implementing them at BSS.
Several faculty members from the Middle and Senior Schools represented BSS at the Independent Schools of Ontario Mathematics Association this past January. Math teacher Andrew Ruston and math and science teacher Ruth McArthur spoke about experimenting with the implementation of “standards based grading”. Their findings showed the benefits of this system, which moves away from a focus on overall marks to encourage students to develop a growth mindset, understanding mathematical concepts through active participation in the feedback process. At the same conference, Senior School math teacher and lead mentor Sheila Barclay facilitated a participation-based session about how to incorporate classroom structures that will increase student engagement, movement and discourse, while promoting extended thinking and the transfer of ideas. Carly Ziniuk, Senior School math teacher also facilitated a workshop on using multiple mathematical representations to help Middle and Senior School math students present and represent math functions through real-life problems and their own thinking.
This past March, Grade 7 humanities teacher Amanda Merpaw and Middle School drama teacher Brendon Allen facilitated a half day workshop at the High Tech High Deeper Learning conference in San Diego. Adapted from an immersive interdisciplinary theatre production project they piloted last year, the workshop explored how students perceive and interact with their school spaces, how interdisciplinary work supports the holistic development of student identity and voice, and how students can harness their voice to be agents of change in their environment.
In April 2018, Ms. Hughes and Grade 5 teacher Radhika Raj presented a research paper at AERA (American Educational Research Association) in NYC about a gender investigation initiative that they conducted with the Grade 5s last year titled “Schools in Transition: Girls, Gender and Identity”. They shared their findings from examining social justice in relation to marginalized groups in society, societal expectations of girls and women, gender identity, ethical citizenship, and how BSS girls can affect change in their community.
It’s clear that the well-educated educators and staff members of BSS value their own learning, with an impressive dedication to constant growth and development. What’s most remarkable, though, is the deep knowledge and creativity available to students each and every day, and the examples set for them as they continue on a lifelong journey of learning beyond their time at BSS.