Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Here's What's Working


Here’s What’s Working - Coquitlam's Inquiry Hub

A few weeks ago, Gino Bondi  organized a visit for administrators and teachers working in specialized mini schools within their Vancouver Public schools to go and visit Coquitlam’s iHub school.

Coquitlam’s iHub is a specialized school within a school that operates within their Open Learning cadre which includes adult education, correspondence and online learning.  You can learn more of the specifics here: http://www.inquiryhub.org/

What I want to focus on is how the Coquitlam School District is making this pilot project work and what we at the Vancouver School Board can learn from their experience.

From the vantage point of what’s working, here is what I notice:

1. The focus was on the students. The idea of the iHub came from an identified need of a growing group of students for whom conventional school settings were not working and contrary to the idea that these disengaged students were alternative or poor learners, the understanding was that these students more closely fit the “gifted” profile, where they profoundly excelled in one area while have deficits in others. iHub grew from an identified niche of students who were not being served in the traditional form of schooling.  (And quite frankly, if you ask me, there is an ever increasing number of students where the Industrial Age school model does not work – perhaps the majority)

2. All the stakeholders heard about the idea and were invited to give their perspective.  Government, teacher and administration groups, Canadian Union of Public Employees, student, parents and public were all included in the conversation. There was no sudden, “oh by the way”, we are going to do it this way kind of approach which sometimes happens, and I am often guilty of myself within the microcosm of my school planning.  Slowing the process and carefully engaging all of the stakeholders adds up to some incredible support, engagement and ownership.

3. Committed, smart, “programs of attraction” lead the iHub.  Just so you know, for the time being, I am not planning to apply for any Coquitlam jobs, so this isn’t a suck up line, but Stephen Whiffen  and David Truss, principal and vice principal (at least when I attended the school.  Both Stephen and David have been promoted within their District since) and teachers of the program are programs of attraction.  They are excited about what they are doing, they are willing to make mistakes and make those mistakes public (in fact, it is one of their tenants in the learning process for students – make mistakes and learn from your mistakes). 

So, maybe I am not ready to bring the iHub concept into JO but these three things are what I would like to bring back to my school:

·      Are my decisions based on students and student learning?

·      Do I communicate plans and ideas to all the stakeholders involved?

·      Am I my own program of attraction?
     
    I admit, readily, that I have much to do in all three of these areas, but it was inspiring to visit a program where all three of these points were observed.