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​Eds,

We are excited to host a “gathering” of educators on Monday morning. We will come together in the Eagle’s Nest in the morning for some breakfast snacks. All staff are welcome to come and mingle with our visitors. Please sign in at the office and get a visitor lanyard. Our guests are invited to investigate student learning in the grade 2/3 area and the 5/6 area and are invited to explore the rest of the school if they wish. They will be with us until 11:00 or so. School officially begins at 8:30 am. I will speak briefly with all visitors after morning announcements and then you are free to move to observations. Nutrition break lasts from 10:10-10:50.

We welcome staff from Queen Victoria Public School and staff from Indian Creek Public School in Chatham. Together we endeavour to work so that learning is deeper for our students. I wish to thank the partnerships of Principal Moore and Principal Callow and the innovative educators who take the risk to engage with fellow eds. in school observation visits.

The purpose of our gathering is to again recognize that schools are learning laboratories. Having visiting teachers helps us immensely in ensuring that what we say and believe we are doing for students is evident by their metacognitive understanding. We start with the question: Are the students able to articulate their learning in meaningful ways. We ask visitors to help us with this work. We also recognize that visitors take with them learning that will undoubtedly impact work in thier respective buildings. Questions you may want to ask our students are:

What are you learning?
Why are you learning this?
What are your next steps?
How are you going to move forward?

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We have embraced student metacognition (thinking about thinking) as our methodology to learn deeper.

As I personally prepare for a school visit I really only do one thing. I take a mindful stance. Mindfulness is defined as paying attention, on purpose, non-judgementally. Of course this sounds easy. As you all may have experienced, as teachers, the non-judgementally part is the hardest. We as educators (especially at report card time) have been trained to believe that judging is our job. I ask you to take a mindful stance. Join us here at Eastwood to observe students, to dialogue and to learn together.

If you would like to take a look at our learning journey for the last couple years you may investigate our School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Well Being.​

We will use the attached observation sheets for your visit. We request that you give these observation sheets back to the host school prior to your departure as will will use these observations to grow and learn. We believe that transparency builds trust. If you wish to make a copy before leaving so you can take your notes with you the office secretary Kim or James will be happy to help you.

Looking forward to meeting all of you. Thanks for your patience and mindfulness with our students and our learning environment.

James

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When meeting as a Critical Friends Group (CFG)  it is essential to surface assumptions. Assumptions about the work, about each other. Assumptions about learning and the learners. Last July in Alpharetta, GA we started our 5 day institute experience by exploring our working assumptions for the following days.

  1. Our work products are better when we collaborate.
  2. Protocols offer equity in voice as well as efficiency.
  3. All 3 jobs: participant, presenter and facilitator require practise in order to improve.
  4. Creating and sustaining collaborative cultures is rigorous and intentional

At times when dialogue is stunted or a group is stuck it may be entirely necessary to voice your assumption in order to move beyond a hump. When it is time for the facilitator to allow time for Q and A it is important to understand that Q and A stands for Questions and Assumptions. If we had the answers we wouldn’t have the questions.  Coming together “beyond the place of right and wrong” makes for rich and fertile learning ground.  Rumi continued “there is a field, meet me there.”  At the heart of the CFG is equity of learning for presenter, facilitator and participant in a place where we can see things together.

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We are all unique, but we are not alone. I can see things you can not see and you can see things i can not. We must try to see what is there together. M. Holquist

This poster was hanging in the space that we were using in the media centre of Alpharetta High School.  Apropos of our CFG work I thought.  You?

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