Posted in Personalized Learning, Principal's Corner

Personalized Learning and Competencies

In a community of academics (neighbour to a University), it is interesting to say the least when minimizing the coAlbertaEducationFrameworkre subjects and maximizing the core competencies.

To the left is one of our favourite visuals (from Alberta) to use with our parent community as it speaks for itself.

Our team worked with the new BC Ed Plan which does a great job of honouring the core competencies.  We had numerous, ongoing staff discussions and led parent sessions in both English and Chinese on the school philosophy and the importance of the learning competencies. To highlight what was occurring at NRP and to highlight what is happening with the BC Ed Plan, I devised this document to provide a synopsis.  Perhaps this may be of use to you too!

Personalizing Learning and Competencies

A special acknowledgement to a school in UK, Glen Park, who had this fabulous template online which I adapted and altered.  You gotta love how the world helps out!


Posted in Principal's Corner, Principles of Learning

School Priorities Based on OECD 7 Principles of Learning with 6 Key Building Blocks

We are often asked what makes Norma Rose Point (NRP) School different.  It is difficult to speak to one innovation in this non-traditional setting. To provide focus for the many innovative things happening at NRPS, staff collaborated on the creation of a one-page NRP 2015-16 Priorities document.

As a reminder, NRP is based on the research presented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 7 Principles of Innovative Learning, research that guides the development of learning environments for the 21st century.

Our three priorities are:

  • To teach with clear learning intentions
  • To emphasize the learning competencies in daily practice, and
  • To establish principles and practices for meaningful communication with students and parents about student learning

Within our priorities document, we chose to embed the OECD’s six building blocks for innovative learning environments – home-school partnerships, cooperative learning, service learning, formative assessment, learning with technology, and inquiry-based approach. We have some hyperlinks of YouTube videos in the document to help our community better understand.  If anyone reading has any recommendations for new hyperlinks, please let us know.

15-16 Priorities Master


  1. To teach with clear learning intentions, the staff and students are co-creating Learning Maps and I-Charts with students to guide the “what” and the “how” of learning.
  1. Embedding the learning competencies in daily practice also takes planning and dialogue. By teaching and learning in this new way, learners develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and leadership, communication and digital literacy, personal and social responsibility, creativity and innovation and global and cultural understanding.
  1. We do not use traditional grades, we value strengths-based learning, student voice and the core competencies, and therefore continue to develop a better system that is:
  • accessible to families, anytime
  • continually demonstrating the progress of each student
  • individualized and looks different for all learners
  • emphasizes the learning competencies and de-emphasizes the grades

We plan to implement an online communication platform (Edsby) as a way to communicate to parents via a student digital portfolio. We are creating a framework of how to communicate student learning which references the learning competencies in a curricular way. This framework is informed through collaboration with educators from SD 36 (Surrey), SD71 (Comox) and SD72 (Campbell River).

At NRP, we work as a collective to meet learner needs (educators and students alike) and to realize our priorities.  With 200 new students this upcoming year and 13 new staff, working as a collective is the only way forward.

In closing, student voices (as always), highlight our priorities in this animate:

Lead Team:  Jacob Martens, Karen Noel-Bentley, Suzie Polzin and Rosa Fazio


Posted in Learning Communities, Principal's Corner

Learning Spaces and Furniture Choices

During school tours, I am asked often of our furniture choices and what furniture companies I recommend.  Here’s a glimpse of some of our furniture, courtesy of Elaine, one of our many visitors.  I have added to the powerpoint to help further showcase our learning space and furniture.

Please click on the following link to load a powerpoint pdf of our learning space with captions:

NRP Learning SpaceNRP Learning Space

Our main suppliers were: — their natural wood product is extraordinary — the curved square and rectangular tables with benches, the stages, the book bins and the hanging bamboo cloud are Natural Pod products — where we ordered the Mity Bilt tables — this includes the Nesting Flip Tables and the Conekt Tripod (three pieces combine to make one round table) — where we ordered the Portfolio and Paper Mobile Storage Units (the bins that students place their belongings/work in) — where we ordered the vary reasonably priced VP/P desks, boardroom furniture, the round tables and the espresso 2 drawer mobile pedestal locking cabinet in the Professional Offices — where we ordered the round coloured carpets and the Mediascape Lounge in the Learning Commons — where we ordered our soft furnishings

Hope this helps.

Posted in Learning Communities, Principal's Corner, Uncategorized

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I used to think that I could make a difference.  Now, I know that only WE can make a difference.

A few years ago my 3 yr old son asked me, “Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up.”  Know that my son’s world was all about fire, police and paramedics. So I said, I want to do exactly what I do now — I want to be a school principal.  He looked at me with disappointment and said, “But don’t you want to help people?  I explained that’s exactly what I get to do.

My mission statement for the past 25 years has been “to make a difference in the lives of others”.  I’m sure all of us have made a difference to a few.  But now my mission statement is to work in community with others to make a significant difference for the masses.

Everyone can dialogue, share, cooperate and go back into their own room or silo and do their own thing.  There are a lot of great innovative efforts happening in various classrooms, in various schools, in various districts.  That’s awesome, but how can those single efforts become transformative in schools.  It can only be done by working in community.  

In community means tcropped-img_31641.jpgeams of educators at a site working together to support teams of students. Every educator in a school needs to be part of a learning community, dialoguing daily with other team members to contribute ideas to create an action that the team owns — co-planning, co-teaching and co-learning together to meet learner needs.  

Educational transformation can only happen through collaborative efforts and collective action.  So we need to eliminate the internal walls of schools to unite learners — both teachers and students.  We also need to eliminate external walls of schools by embracing community members so that they too can contribute to making a difference to a child.  In order to go from innovative to transformative, we need to travel in a bus together rather than in individual cars.

There are two proverbs that are foundational to educational transformation:

It takes a village to raise a child  AND

If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.

That says it all.

Posted in Launching a School NRPS, Principal's Corner

Launching a 21st Century School

For four years, I was a Principal within a school community that I loved.  I took a six month leave to spend time with my family and so had to leave my position at the school.  I recall commenting to the VP that I didn’t think I could get a school as exciting as the school I was leaving. Well, I definitely did!

I am now Principal of a school in the midst of being built minutes from the University of British Columbia. Norma Rose Point School will be our district’s first K-8 school, designed with 21st century learning design concepts and to Leed Gold Standard.  Most exciting is that I get to work with a staff to create a vision for this school.  Being an educational leader in this type of predicament is the experience of a lifetime.

As soon as I was posted to the school, I spent months scanning websites, reading and connecting with people that I knew would challenge my thinking.  My guiding question is how can we get from good to great?  Well, thank you to Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert — two of my mentors!  They introduced me to a book called The Nature of Learning which can be found here:

Here is the executive summary:

And this is the friendly 12 page document that I use with the staff:

We refer to the 7 Principles of Learning to guide the design of our new school’s learning environment and the 6 Building Blocks of Innovative Learning Environments (cooperative learning, inquiry based learning, formative assessment, service learning, home school partnerships and learning with technology) to challenge our growth.

In teams, the staff will devise an inquiry based on one of the six building blocks by using the Spirals of Inquiry model presented in this pdf:

If others out there have recommendations for our learning, please post!

Posted in Personalized Learning, Principal's Corner

The Child as the Curriculum — What's the Challenge?

On the month of my son’s fifth birthday, during the 2010 Olympics, he was fascinated with countries, flags and everything Canadian (hockey at the forefront of course).  At his Montessori preschool, he pinpricked every Canadian province and territory, labelled them with the capital cities and then pasted a corresponding hockey sticker for each Canadian team.  One project accommodated his most pressing passions and the result, a masterpiece to be proud of and an appetite to learn more.  My husband had it professionally framed and hung it in Massimo’s bedroom as a keepsake and a tribute to his accomplishment.

Having been a principal of a public Montessori school, I can go on and on about the elements of Montessori that I love but it comes down to one critical aspect that is most important to student learning — treating the child as the curriculum.

I recently read Shelley Blake-Plock’s post on ’21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020′, retweeted by @C_SABI_Go, and number six struck a cord with me.  It speaks of differentiated instruction and how it will become the norm rather than a sign of a distinguished educator.  She writes:

The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.

I was recently in discussion with a colleague, a supervision aide, who has a remarkable teenager and as a parent she followed his passions.  For example, when he was interested in bugs, they joined the Young Naturalist Club, went on treks with a local naturalists, read books, watched videos, etc. His curiousity was honoured which sparked even more curiosity.

Most parents follow their child’s passion — be it dance, hockey, dinosaurs, etc.  However, students enter schools and I would say the greatest challenge to teachers and support staff is the ability to personalize learning for each student.  A child to parent ratio is very different than a teacher to student ratio and the difficulty of meeting student needs within any given age group is compounded because the capacity of students differs immensely.  For instance, students enter the same Kindergarten class — some reading (even simple chapter books), others not recognizing the letters in their name.   All the reason to differentiate instruction, I know.  However, how does one educator manage?

Does differentiation occur?  Absolutely.  Is it mainstream?  Not at all.  Why and why not?  (please add to this discussion)

Some teachers would say that they don’t have the resources to accommodate.  That’s a fair enough statement.  An aspect of Montessori is a prepared environment with the Montessori materials that are self-correcting and used differently based on a child’s ability.  The same Montessori material can be used in preschool and in grade 3.  One resource accommodates years of learning.

Having acknowledged resources, I believe it starts with an educator’s statement of beliefs.  Here are a few . . .

– I can’t use this novel, textbook, resource, etc. because it’s for grade 4.

– I don’t teach the number facts to 20 because it’s not part of the math curriculum at this grade.

– What will he do when he gets to grade 3 if he learns it now?

– She already knows a lot about that topic so why foster it even more?

The above statements would not be the core beliefs of a classroom that treats the child as the curriculum.   Which brings me to the reason why I believe in iPads and technology in general, to better meet student needs.  The iPad is a storage device (with access to thousands of educational apps) and an avenue for integration of curriculum (if you have Internet that is) all in one device, no matter the age or ability level.  If you want more information about how we’ve deployed iPads at Elsie Roy please check out

I must acknowledge that the mere fact that one integrates the iPad in a classroom does not indicate differentiating of instruction.  If the same close-ended single level app is used at the same time with the whole class, I would question how much it addresses differentiation.  However, the iPad increases the likelihood and possibility that a teacher will challenge students at different levels.  Yes, this can be done through traditional means, but technology will make it more mainstream.

Every educator wants to better accommodate student need.  It’s important to respectfully challenge beliefs, share examples of best practice (here are the Innovative Educator’s tips as tweeted by @gcouros) and ensure educators have the tools to treat the child as the curriculum.