FSD Logo

FSD Logo

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Stories of Truth & Reconciliation

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development

           As we begin our journey as a division towards Truth & Reconciliation, I am anticipating it to be emotional yet reflective; not only will it enlighten us as a community, but will be one of those never-forget-life-changing-so-thankful-we-went-there-voyages that will change us not only as educators, but as people.    I saw evidence of that today at FAA (Foothills Administrator’s Association) when Dar, the FNMI Success Coach, took us back through time from colonization, to the Red River Rebellion, to residential schools and then back to 2016 where the stories of students unfold in front of us everyday.  

            While listening to the stories of residential school survivors in the documentary Stolen Children, we learned the dark secrets never told in history books about the impacts on those children who attended them as well as the seven, yes - seven, generations of people who came afterwards.  The intergenerational trauma – the loss of identity, belonging and culture - the cycle of abuse, the normal for many families, the fear of educational institutions and white people, the struggle with whether I am “white enough or brown enough”...all provided new points of view I had not considered before or felt with my heart. Until today.  I sat frozen listening to direct quotes from the Canadian government at that time explaining the “Indian problem” and justifying actions. I am left to hope it was because they did not know any better.  That is the only comfort I can give myself because otherwise, it’s too disturbing a thought...  

            I walk away from today, from Dar’s stories, knowledge, passion and wisdom more reflective than I have been in a long time; moved to the very core of who we are as people, as a community and as educators of all children.  I think about the importance of building compassion and empathy in order to relate to people who have a different story from our own, especially one seeped in fear, abuse and poverty. 

            Reconciliation starts with understanding, and understanding begins with building relationships: To listen more. To ask questions more.  To love more.  We may not be able to help an entire culture but we start with one child, one student, one family, one relationship.  We “look with different eyes and look with our heart a little more” (Darlene Cox, 2016).   As Madeline Dion Stout eloquently said, “I’d like us all to be part of a team that really makes a lasting difference for not only residential school survivors but the other little children who are having difficulties today” (Stolen Children, 2016).

            By their stories, I can’t help but think beyond students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit but to encompass all of our students.  Everyone comes to our classroom and schools with a story that already has prior chapters that describe their struggles, triumphs and characters who have either been in conflict with or in support of them.  So, the question we need to ask ourselves, as educators, is what part of the story will we play in the lives of our students?  The choice is ours to make. 

**For more resources check out the links on the right under FNMI**

Monday, 5 December 2016

Professional Learning Communities: Their Impact on Student Learning

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach from PLC Institute Conference

            Early in October, I had the unexpected opportunity to attend the PLC  Institute in Edmonton.  Along with many of the administrators from Foothills, I heard  some amazing speakers from Solution Tree deliver some invigorating and transforming messages around professional learning communities. 

Focused around the three big ideas of PLCs:  

focus on learning
work collaboratively
be results oriented

the audience was presented a variety of topics on how to develop and maintain 
collaborative teams so that we (as educators), can have a positive impact on student 
learning and close the achievement gaps in our schools. 

I took the many thoughts I had from the institute and created a modified concept map around some key messages.  I have included the map with my understandings on the following page.  How do they fit with your beliefs around PLCs?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

When Struggling Readers Thrive, Dreams Come True

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach 
ConferenceSummit 15:  When Struggling Readers Thrive Dreams Come True
Where and When:  Calgary, October 27th and 28th, 2016

“How do I teach voice in writing?”  is a common question I have had from teachers.  In fact, it was a question that arose at a recent PLC I was a part of a few weeks ago.  Fortunately, the timing of the Summit 15 Conference was perfect, as 6 + 1 Writing Traits guru Ruth Culham was there and addressed it in one of her writing sessions.  The thing to remember about voice is that it is not only the “personality” of the writer coming through, but also the tone or tenor of the piece, the audience you are writing for, and the mode/purpose of the writing (eg. narrative, expository, or persuasive). 
Here’s an example of how Ruth would do it:

To students - “You are writing a letter to someone who gave you a gift that you 
love!  How would that sound?  Let’s brainstorm some words.”  

Words that might be mentioned are excited, grateful, happy, and/or thankful.  Then students would use a number of those words in their letter.  Including those words alone will create a tone to the writing, as well as, students would have a specific audience they would be writing for.  But Ruth was not done yet.  The next stage to this voice writing piece would go like this: 

You got a gift from someone and three days later it broke.  You are writing a 
letter to the company who made the toy, stating how you feel, and that you want 
them to replace the toy.  How would that sound?  Let’s brainstorm some 

Once again, after the students have come up with some words, they use them in their writing.  Sounds easy, right?  The trick is ensuring we are intentional in our lesson design to provide clarity around what we want students to know, understand and be able to do as well as scaffold student learning; then, the ease of what we want students to know and be able to do flows into our instruction. 

Also, when teaching voice, or any other trait for that matter, consider using picture books as a way to springboard into a writing lesson.  Not only are they strong examples of good writing, but they are also short and fun to read!  A few of my favourites are Voices in the Park by Anthony Brown, One Dark and Dreadful Night by Randy Cecil  (also great for word choice), I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff (a great example of persuasive writing too) and The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.

            So, the next time you wonder “How can I teach voice in my writing program?” I hope you remember this suggestion and use it to engage your students in their writing journey.  

*For more information around writing, please visit Ruth Culham’s website at www.culhamwriting.com.