Returning Back

Week 37 (of 38) – June 3 to 7, 2019

The week is almost over and YES… I’m writing my weekly blog of reflection one day early. Why not? Most times I’m a week late with my weekly blog of reflections. Often I need time to reflect, synthesize, and realized the so what. Much has happened already this week. I wrote an EXTRA blog entry on Convocation 2019 at UNBC and it was a beautiful ceremony, day, and experience. That made an impression on me. One more week in Prince George before returning back to the Sunshine Coast and I had the pleasure of helping out and supporting my colleague with a northern initiative.

On Monday and Tuesday the UNBC School of Education hosted the 2nd Annual Northern Small Schools Think Tank under the leadership of UNBC BEd Coordinator Deb Koehn, guidance of Dr. Susan Crichton from UBCO, and supported by Dr. Leyton Schenellert from UBC and Dr. Paige Fisher from VIU. Of course, as part of the UNBC School of Education, I will support Deb Koehn and this academic team to facilitate 2-days of learning from tech work, to fetching things, to participating in Think Tank activities and announcements.

Over 40 attendees came to the Northern Small Secondary Schools Think Tank at UNBC. It’s a spin-off from the Small Secondary Schools Think Tanks hosted in the Okanagan and Kootenays. It was so wonderful to hear “the cases.” First, we heard from Rod Allen, Interim Superintendent of SD57 (and super great guy) who FaceTimed in to talk about the OECD 2030 Education Compass and focus on 3 competencies (creating new value, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, and taking responsibility), the concept of equity and “What are we willing to give up” to get it, and the importance of small schools. We then hear from last year’s case from Fort St. James Secondary School in SD91 (Nechako Lakes) and from this year’s case, McBride Secondary School in SD57 (Prince George).

The UNBC School of Education also presented “as a small school” to talk about the BEd Renewal of the Teacher Education Program. I was so happy that it was well received and that we got plenty of feedback from the Think Tank on how it can be that much better. I really appreciated it. We also heard from Leona Prince and Manu Madhok from SD91 about their school district initiatives and from Leyton Schellert from UBC about the Small School Think Tank in the Okanagan/Kootenays. But what I am still reflecting on is the whole design thinking process facilitated during the 2-days by Susan Crichton.

We started with “the case.” This year we focussed on McBride Secondary School. We listened to their story. We did some origami work with this piece of paper (as seen below) and used both sides as a tool to work and listen to our team. We went through the DESIGN THINKING process of (1) empathize, (2) define, (3) ideate, (4) prototype, and (5) test. What you see below is my ideation process. We listened to each other, in partners, as we talked about “the potential and promise” of McBride Secondary (empathizing). We wrote about the potential and promise of McBride Secondary (defining). We were then asked to design 4 metaphors of what we heard (ideating). From this, we switched partners and shared our ideas. From that, the two sets of pairs shared their best idea… and built a METAPHOR… we went from divergent to convergent.

This is our team’s (yellow happy face) maker space beauty… OUR METAPHOR for McBride Secondary School. There were 10 teams. Each team is given a “maker bag.” You have to use everything at least once in our metaphor. For example, if there are tongue depressors, you have to use at least one. There was a hot glue gun, glue stick, and scissors to help construct this beautiful beast. The staff of McBride Secondary School presented their CASE to the Think Tank delegates. It’s a small school with 56 students, an incredible outdoor space, and a community that supports. Our metaphor tried to capture these ideas… the heart on the land (love where you are)… mountains, lakes, and rivers (the environment as teacher)… student centred learning surrounded by community and staff (interconnected and held together by the fluidity and interwoven structures of policy and practice)… we are situated outside (learning doesn’t just happen in the school)… and the underpinning of this school is the community (aka. the clothespin).

We accomplished all this after the first day of two of the Northern Small School Think Tank. Admittedly. I was left hanging. I loved that we were able to bring our ideas together to harvest the BEST IDEAS in this co-creation… but now what? That was Day 2… the follow up. We had the night to digest and think about our learning experience and how we can help McBride Secondary take their next steps in their journey with their small secondary school. In the background, there is Susan (on both days) and Leyton (on day one) working behind the scenes gathering evidence from participants and identifying emerging themes and direction. By the end of the 2-days, the McBride Secondary School walked away with a MOUNTAIN OF GIFTS ranging from the design thinking papers (as seen above), poster papers, and index cards that carry pieces of information to help guide and support this school. Before the 2-days have ended, 3 more small schools have put their name forward to be THE NEXT CASE. That in itself was excellent feedback on the value of design thinking, collaboration, and the Northern Small School Think Tank.

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