Collaborative Changes that increased student engagement.

Many junior high schools in rural areas are limited by factors such as staff, resources, space, time, money and experience when it comes to providing optional classes to students. Seba Beach is also in this predicament, being a school of less than 150 students ECS through grade 9. To increase the opportunities for the students for students at Seba as well as the three schools (TomahawkWabamunEntwistle) which are all eighteen minutes away. The schools in the far western portion of Parkland School Division run collaborative WEST end options. Ironically WEST stands for the four schools that are involved:

Wabamun  – W

Entwistle    – E

Seba Beach – S

Tomahawk – T

By joining the schools for options we almost double the number of optional classes that the students can choose from, which is amazing for the students.

However, at the end of the last school year, while planning for the next school years scheduling. I noticed that there is a sufficient amount of time during the week that Seba Beach could run some of these same options as in-house options. Now, I know that some teachers and administrators out there are thinking two things :

This is going to be more work for the teachers?

Are teachers going to be taking away time from the core subjects to allocate for this additional option time?

The truth of it, is the answers for the questions are yes and no, respectively. Yeah there many be some more time that the teachers have to plan for and some more work in relation to keeping students motivated, but what it the outcome.

Students that are participating and enjoying their learning experience

That is a more than acceptable trade off. Remember it is all about the kids. Aside from this there is another benefit and it is not solely to that of my students. With the students in my school having the other options earlier in the week. It leaves additional spaces for the other schools students to participate in those options instead of competing for spots. I will be honest, it does mean that my students do got two options per term instead of one, but that only means that they have a better rounded year.

I do however have one request, if you have an idea for an option that you believe would be feasible in a small rural school please share. It will be greatly appreciated.

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After School

On October 3rd, RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) announced a five-year, $100 million “Believe in Kids” pledge to support a wide range of programs dedicated to the well-being of kids and youth. Since that date, RBC has donated $7.4 million to after-school and children’s mental health programs, announced Career Launch, a program to provide young people with community experiences and core workplace skills, and became the title sponsor of Sports Day in Canada.

In the west end of Parkland County and Parkland School Division, the commitment of RBC became a reality when RBC donated 35,000 dollars to Parkland School Division to be allocated for an After School Program at Seba Beach School. The program is delivered as a partnership between RBC, Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area.

The After School Program is hosted at Seba Beach School, however it is accessible to all of the students in the WEST (Wabamun, Entwistle, Seba Beach and Tomahawk) schools. The program started in the third week of September, with monthly calendars being sent out to inform members and participants the details of programming that will be available.

The range of activities are vast and vary from day to day, as they are geared to specific age groups and are focused on providing students with a structured, supervised and safe environment to work on skills and build self esteem.

Here is a small list of the programs that are offered:

  • Sports activities
  • Art activities
  • Leadership and mentorship training.
  • Safety Training
  • Citizenship and Social Skills activities.

The staff, students and parents of Seba Beach School are excited about the possibilities and outcomes of the After School Program and look forward to continuing our work with RBC and Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Edmonton.

Seba Beach Fashion Show

In late December some of my parents approached my stating that they would like to create a student project that would help the community and at the same time work on Citizenship aspects and goals for our junior high students. I informed the parents that I thought this was a great idea. After some quick discussions, it was determined that the students would hold a fashion show and a dinner to raise funds for our communities senior center that was in need of an elevator. The elevator was essential to allow some of our community members access to the second floor of the center.

I am a strong believer in building leadership and that if someone is given the responsibility to undertake a project that they inherently accept some authority. I simply asked the parent volunteers to keep me in the loop and appraised of how things were proceeding and if they needed any help from the school to come and see me. The committee organized a tea and visit for our students to meet some of the seniors that access the center, they also arranged for the purchase of some items from the thrift store for the fashion show. The parents also created the menu, the itinerary, the seating charts and in collaboration with the students that agreed to participate the themes.

Although there were many hick-ups and challenges, at time minor conflicts and the feeling that things were not going to fall in to place right up until the dinner. I was proud of the students and the parents. Everything came together beautifully despite the worries and anxiety. The committee put together a fabulous meal, the food was amazing as was the desserts and was the topic of conversation right up until the fashion show started. The show was incredibly put together and the students did a marvelous job. They were entertaining, got into the roles in relation to the different themes that were presented and when needed were elegant and purposeful in their actions.

I was not only proud of the students, but as well of the parents as the all had gleaming smiles on their faces when they realized that there napkin, coffee planning all resulted in a breathtaking experience. After  the fashion show, I did my small part thanking everyone for coming and supporting our students and their cause, which raised just over $1000.00 for the center. I thanked the students for their memorable participation and thanked the committee for all of their work and that without them it wouldn’t have been possible.

As the evening wore down and people started leaving, I made sure that I was visible to thank them for coming and supporting, and every time that someone stated that I had done great, I was quick to point out that I could take only the minimalist of the compliment that 99% of the credit needed to go to the parents, the students and to the community. I have always believed that credit is given where credit is due. All I did was allow the event to have a date. As a tribute to the evening I did what I do best . . . and here is a summary video of the evenings events.

I hope you enjoy it and if you have any questions or ideas for the future please do not hesitate to share them.

Music in the West

I must start by being clear that this is not a complaining or venting post.

A large and complex struggle that occurs for rural schools, in my opinion is the access to the same level of community resources as our urban sister schools can. To be frank, the majority of activities that city schools are able to participate in, we out in Seba Beach cant and this is primarily due to distance and well cost. A great example of this happened two weeks ago when the majority of my grade 5-9 students travelled to see the theatrical presentation of The Pirates of Penzance, put on by one of our schools. The play was student acted and directed, which is wonderful the only draw back is that the students at my school had to travel roughly 45min one direction to watch the presentation and the drive the 45min to get back to school. Therefore a one and half hour presentation turned into roughly a four-hour escapade. Was it worth it? Of course, the students at my school were able to see their peers in a performance and were also able to go to a theater. This however is not something that can occur even on a every term basis, the amount of time lost and transportation cost makes it difficult.

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On Behalf of Seba Beach Summer Village – Sgt. Young

The purpose for this post is to relay a wonderful opportunity that allowed for community resources to come to us. I was very pleased and excited when, late last month my divisions Resiliency Coordinator contacted me about the possibility of having an artist come out to the school to do a concert I was EXCITED. Felicia was able to coordinate her resources and work her magic, as always and was able to secure a morning concert to be played at Seba Beach School by Ridley Bent. With the ball now rolling and in play I was able to quickly coordinate with some of my other area schools and ensure that they would be able to attend.

So today, with a HUGE Thanks to The Summer Village of Seba Beach and Music Center Canada in Spruce Grove, AB the students of Seba Beach School, Entwistle School and Wabamun School were able to spend a morning not only listening to Ridley Bent and Chris Dunn play music, but were also able to interact with these two great artists. After SGT. Young presented Ridley with a token of appreciation on behalf of the Summer Village of Seba Beach, the students were presented with some great information about learning to play musical instruments like the guitar. The students were advised about opportunities and a number of programs and packages that would suit their schedule, lifestyle, and musical goals. During the concert it was wonderful to see the artists interacting between songs with the students, answering questions and over having a great time. The students clapped, tapped, cheered and danced to the music and were dancing out of the gym and back to class at the end of the concert.

Through some great work and collaboration on the part of Felicia O, The Summer Village of Seba Beach and Music Center Canada, our students were given an experience that they do not readily receive and were also given memories that they can always look back on. Therefore I would like to thank:

Felicia O., Sgt Young and The Summer Village of Seba Beach, Music Center Canada for allowing this event to occur.

Ridley Bent and Chris Dunn for their talented and marvelous music.

Mrs. Jonsson and Mr. Leadbetter for joining us from our division office.

Mr. Worthington (Entwistle) and Mr. Sydora (Wabamun) for bring their students and joining us at Seba Beach.

As well as all of the staff and students of all three schools for making this a great memory and a great experience. I hope that we are able to do this again in the future.

Student learning is enhanced by the use of community resources.

 


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On my journey to understanding Instruction Leadership one of the sections under the Principal Quality Standards is supporting the use of community resources to enhance student learning. It took some time to wrap my head around this, I pondered, does this mean the use of guest speakers, of presentations that are motiviational or should they focus primarily on academics.

I came to the conclusion that any resource that adds to the understanding, learning and building of a student would fit into this catagory. Like many schools, Seba tries to have as many outside resources come out to the school to add or supplement the learning of our students, the only limiting factor is the distance that Seba Beach school is from a large metropolis. This being said I am excited to say that I have made some direct connections and additions to our school and our students experiences by inviting or soliciting exteranl resources to add to student learning and experiencing. Although the students, for the most part enjoy these presentations and activities, I do know that some of the teachers have not always been excited because my planning takes away often from class time that is vital and essential to our teachers in delivering the curriculum.

We have had many activities throughout the year, from the first day of school to our Remembrance day celebration, however for this post I will be commenting about the three most recent activities at Seba Beach that have been amazing opportunities.

The first is the CLICK presentation to our junior high students. This was a presentation that is put on by the Alberta Government , assisting students to determine what they apt at doing after they finish high school. The facilitator was a student at University of Alberta completing her degree in sociology, but was able to keep the students engaged and curious about the activity. The students worked, answering questions about personality, preference and choice and eventually arrived at a range of occupations. For most of the students the results were generally accurate.

The second, this was a community resource that was able to work both with our students but as well with the parents of our students in areas such as cyber-bullying and digital awareness, no name the two covered most recently.  I am referring to the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) workers that we are connected to through Edson. We have a pair of great, energetic and commuted ladies that are willing to work as much as possible with our parents and with our students to provide programs such as Parenting, Community relations, and baby sitting courses.

Finally, due to some previous relationships, I was able to use some connections to start a boys group at the school for our middle years boys. Through communication and planning with members of Native Counselling Services, I was able to arrange that three individuals would come out once a week and work with our boys on citizenship goals. One worker is Howard, I never had the opportunity to work with previously, but the other two I have had the pleasure of working closely with. One as a colleague and one as an elder. Our first session / meeting was great, the boys in the group asked many questions and learned about choice and responsibility. The students also, to integrate culture, focused on discovering the 7 First Nations Teachings. It was great to see the students working each other trying to figure out all the elements involved while looking at ones self.

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I am a strong believer in the old saying that states, “it takes a community to raise a child”. This is a truth that I have experienced, lived in and taught with, understanding that everyone has something that a child can experience and learning from. I believe that we should use our outside and partner agencies to ensure that our students, have access to the most possible resources” I also believe that there are somethings that others can convey and teacher better than I. Therefore by embracing Humility and having a willingness to learn like my students I call upon others to work with my students and myself to increase their understanding and tool kits for their future.

Changes, even small ones are noticed.

Recently I had completed a post that shed light about a decision I had made at Seba Beach which changed our options program as well provided some insight into how the schools in the western end of Parkland School Division were working together to provide more opportunities for our students.

On October the 4th, The Stony Plain Report/ Enquirer made a visit to Seba Beach when all of the schools were present for the WEST options, and rather than try to summarize what was said I have just pasted the article here of you to see.

W.E.S.T. Option benefits multiple schools

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By Lee Butler

Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:39:40 MDT AM

Entwistle School Principal Les Worthington and Seba Beach School Principal Shawn Ram stand proudly in the Seba Beach shop class. Seba Beach is home to the W.E.S.T. Option program which also includes Wabamun School and Tomahawk School.

ChangePARKLAND PARKLAND COUNTY – The Wabamun, Entwistle, Seba Beach and Tomahawk schools have continued their W.E.S.T. Option program into the 2012-2013 school year.

The initiative gives students in each of the schools a diverse variety of education and helps form a sense of community within the Parkland County School Division.

Seba Beach School serves as the main hub of the project, due to its bigger size and array of academic amenities.

Seba Beach Principal Shawn Ram explained how the W.E.S.T. Option is increasing learning opportunities for all of the schools involved.

“It provides more opportunities for the students of each school. Seba Beach used to be a full high school so we were fitted with a full shop, kitchen and home economics lab. This allows for the other three schools to come in and have some of those options that they’re going to see when they get to Memorial Composite in Stony Plain,” said Ram.

The program has been running for half a decade, with the Tomahawk School re-joining the fold last year.

It opens the doors to rural students who are picking up real-world skills from farms and acreages. W.E.S.T. Option gives them a format to apply these skills so they are properly trained and also prepared for higher levels through high school.

“It gives them an insight when it comes to career choices, especially the junior highs. They’ll be looking at things like woods, cooking, outdoor sports, first-nations, music and robotics. So the gambit is there for what can be taught,” Ram explained.

Entwistle Principal Les Worthington has seen first-hand enthusiasm from his own students about the W.E.S.T. Option initiative.

“For our kids it’s super unique and for our kids the buy-in is huge. They know it’s a unique opportunity that a lot of kids won’t get,” said Worthington.

W.E.S.T. Option allows for instructors to collaborate together. They share ideas and strategies during their time together and build lasting relationships within the school division.

Students are able to build a sense of community between the four schools that will last far into their high school years.

“It is unique for schools to come together to do a set of options. This also allows for familiarity between students and the different administrations. They know we’re administrators, and they’re comfortable talking to any of us throughout the year. If we see them in town or at sports games, we’re not unfamiliar. It brings a sense of community for the kids by coming together it shows them they’re still the W.E.S.T.,” said Ram.

Worthington is excited to give his students an opportunity they wouldn’t receive without the combined efforts of each school.

His students have been optimistic and positive about their new opportunities, even though the commute can take a fair amount of time.

“They see the bigger picture that they’re part of Parkland School Division and not just part of one small rural school. They’re part of the bigger vision and this gives them the opportunity to see that. The school division wants to provide them with as many opportunities as they can. Although the bus ride may be a little bit lengthy, it’s worth it for the opportunities that they have,” said Worthington.

lee.butler@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @Lee_RepEx1

Did you make a DIFFERENCE this year?

As many of my readers may know, June 29th marked the completion of my first year as a Principal. To say that it was a journey or an adventure would be an understatement. There are many things that I learned about being a Principal that I would never have imagined are the responsibilities and the requirements to ensuring that a school is operational.

Needless to say the meanderings in relation to that are going to have to wait for another day and for another post. This post will focus on what I would assume is not only the question on every teachers mind at the end of the school year, but is definitely on the minds of most administrators.

DID I MAKE A DIFFERENCE – WAS I INFLUENTIAL?

I suppose that some may consider these two different questions, but in my opinion they are similar if not related. I believe that by influencing the students in my school and influencing the manner in which my teachers teach or assess is making a difference. Either way this is a question that I was pondering not only on the last day of school, but throughout the school year.

So how do you tell if you have made a difference? Some individuals gauge it by the words and affirmations that are said to them, to me this is great to hear but it is not what drives my passion. I am not the type of person that expects or does his job for compliments. Some people determine their effectiveness by the amount of gifts that they receive at the end of the year. This to me is materialistic – gifts are great but at the end of a career if they do not have a specific meaning then they become clutter.

This year, I questioned my influence and in addition wondered what was thought of my first year as a Principal. I was happily pleased by two acts that I would never have guessed and which make me happy every time I share the accoloade or mention the honor. The first is a gift – however it is made up of descriptors that were given by staff and students as to what was thought when they thought of me.

One of my staff then took all of the words and using Tagxedo created this wicked image. It is in the shape of RAM, I love it, I absolutely love it and it is not only an amazing picture, but it is made of how people view me. So if I ever need a motivator or reminder of why I do what I do, I just have to look at the picture.

The second gesture that reveals my influence this year, that I don’t think can ever be topped is that the Year Book team and the Students Union agreed and instead of the front of the year book stating that this year was the year of the “Dragon” they labelled it the year of the RAM. I can not explain or convey how these two  acts not only made me feel as if I was on cloud nine, but how they motiviate me to strive to do better next year and to increase my influnce.

Thank you to the staff and students of Seba Beach School.