Some of our learning experiences at CBE schools

Over the years, my kids have had some great experiences at Calgary Board of Education Schools. They’ve grown as people, been challenged, and have experienced things that have really influenced their loves and their learning.

A few examples:
– My two youngest had the same kindergarten teacher, a very loving and lovely person who was patient and kind beyond belief. I spent many hours volunteering in her class and loved to see her in action. On the first day of school, she had a gift for every parent It included a tea bag, a cottonball and a very sentimental message about allowing her to share in the development of our children. There wasn’t a dry eye in the class. While this was more about the parent than child, it also showed what a special teacher she is. Her focus wasn’t on seeing a perfect cut out or a kid knowing every letter. Instead, he worked to ensure our kids loved learning. She explored and marvelled with them, (usually sitting on the floor,) and shared their joy in understanding something new. Learning how to love learning in kindergarten: That’s the best start a child could have.

– Art history isn’t on the elementary school curriculum, but by the end of Grade 5, my daughter could tell a Monet from a Manet, a Gaugin from a Picasso, and appreciated the light and themes of masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Raphael. A teacher had a passion and interest and shared it. Students created their own masterpieces, and talked about medieval art as they built fortresses and catapults. They incorporated art and history into discussions about literature in Language Arts. While she has moved away from art and art classes, she loves galleries and happily spent hours and hours with me in Ottawa, London, Washington and New York. It’s the type of learning that goes beyond pencil and paper. It hit home for her. She connected. And, to this day, still goes back to art for her lessons. (She studied anatomy with an art history book in hand.)

– My daughter created her first Science Fair project in Grade 6, after a science teacher in Grade 5 really got her thinking about science in a new way. He taught students that there was more to science than books, that you really had to explore to understand. Everything they did that year was hands on. My daughter was always looking for things to bring to school to go into the latest project – whether it was milk cartons and wheels, or vinegar or other assorted kitchen staples. He had a real passion for teaching, and it got her thinking about science in a much more advanced way. Since then, she’s been to Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) three times, winning awards every year. I credit a teacher who showed her what was possible.

– I have a daughter who loves to write – she was writing books and stapling them together, complete with illustrations, at kindergarten. Over the years, she’s had many teachers who have fostered this love of writing and creating. They’ve demanded to see her work, taken extra time to read and critique and ensure she’s challenged by all of her assignments. To me, this is a requirement of teaching. That you understand your students and encourage them to do more than what is expected by curriculum. I’m happy to say at some level, this happens every year.

In total, my kids have had 18 student-years in CBE schools. (And six in Ontario.) We’ve had a few teachers that I didn’t really like, and some that simply weren’t good fits with my kids. But those have been rare. Overall, our experience has been very, very positive.

So, it’s all good right?

Maybe not. How does CBE administration impact what is happening in the classroom? I understand pay cheques, computer support and paying electrical bills. What I don’t see is how they support learning. I’ve tried to understand how PD days are spent, how teachers are learning and supported. Most of my answers go back to team teaching, support from principals and shared learning at the school level.

One year, I did see AISI (provincial funding aimed at school improvement) learning leaders supporting a robotics program at our school. but that was just one year. In my mind, the best of what happened with my kids was the result of teachers working effectively in their classrooms. What do you think? Teachers, please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear some examples of central support working for teachers. (Anonymously, if you’d like.)