One of the gifts of being new to a school is the ability to view the organization with an objective eye that is not clouded by being a ‘part of’ what goes on in the school. Although this ‘objectivity’ is already starting to fade it has allowed me to make some wonderful observations during my first three weeks at Birchland.
One of the first things I noticed at Birchland was that the systems built to support student learning were designed differently than those present in other schools in which I have worked. Instead of planning a lesson and then finding ways to adapt the lesson to the level of their students (which often involves ‘pulling’ students out of class) teachers at Birchland think first of the needs of their students and then use U.D.L. (Universal Design for Learning) to design lessons that will meet the needs of all the learners in their classes. This process is guided by three primary principles:
- Providing Multiple Means of Representation – Which involves allowing students many ways to acquire information or knowledge,
- Providing Multiple Means of Action and Expression – Which involves allowing students many ways to demonstrate their knowledge, and
- Providing Multiple Means of Engagement – Which involves tapping into students’ interests, to challenge them appropriately and motivate them to learn.
Designing learning opportunities in this way allows for learning support to be given in class, to all students in a seamless way. As well as a resource teacher who works within the classroom context, all students at Birchland have access to many “assistive-technology” tools to use in their learning. The SOLO-6 Suite (Co Writer, Write Out Loud, Read Out Loud), Smart Boards, Sound Field systems and Document Cameras are some examples of the many tools seamlessly integrated into instruction here at Birchland (It is also of note that SOLO-6 can also be used at home, which is very useful for our intermediate students). As you can imagine this looks different at the primary grades where the curricular goals are met in a more exploratory and play-based way. It is significant to note however that a similar planning process is used and that similar tools (document cameras, Smart Board, and software such as Tumble Books) are woven into the day of our younger learners.
If you haven’t yet had time to interact with the BC Education Plan being put forth by the Ministry of Education I would strongly recommend that you take a few minutes to take a look. When you do you will probably notice that many of the ideas put forth in this plan are already in place here at Birchland, which offers an explanation as to why the Honorable George Abbott (Minister of Education for British Columbia) chose to come see the exemplary things taking place at Birchland during his brief visit to our district last month. Personally I think he wanted to see an example of what every school in the province could be providing for their students.
Please remember that these are my initial impressions regarding the thought that goes into the teaching process at Birchland. Teaching is a very complicated process and there is much for me to learn about how the educators in our building work to engage your children in their learning and help them to develop into self motivated learners. Please take the time to speak with your children about their learning and ask them how some of the above tools help them to engage in their interests and work towards becoming independent learners. (762)