From Dreams to Destiny – July 2019
All young boys have a dream of holding a real, live bow in your hand; grasping the arrow between your index and middle fingers, pulling back with all your might and then letting go and hitting the bullseye, or so goes the dream. Often times the actual experience is that the arrow hits the ground a few metres in front of you or goes sailing by the target into a well-positioned hay bale. You try and try and try again until your fingers hurt, and you don’t think you will ever be able to hit the paper target anywhere, much less scoring a bullseye, but with time and practice (and more pain), eventually you get closer and closer to hitting the middle ring and reaching your dream of hitting the target and accomplishing something meaningful.
In some ways starting a new school is kind of like this experience. There is great anticipation and preparation for immediate success and hitting the target every time, and then your first few attempts miss the target altogether or fall short of scoring any kind of a hit. However, with commitment and dedication you persevere and with the support of your team of teachers, staff, parents and students you get closer and closer to reaching the dream and begin to see impact of your work and get closer to your dream goal.
In the first year of Maple Leaf International Academy in 2018-19 we started our year together by talking about dreams and how they drive you toward success. A quote that was shared at the beginning of the year was, “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” (P. J. Abdul Kalam). Everything that you will accomplish in life in one way or another begins because of a dream that you have had. The dream for our students and our school was established in preparation to apply for a world-class university by achieving a top-quality graduation through a combination of classroom and real-world experience.
We ended the year talking about destiny. Sometimes movies portray destiny as being something that is not in the control of a person, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars or Simba in the Lion King. I don’t agree with that idea because each of us are the ultimate person in charge of our destinies and are responsible for making our own choices along the way to reach our dreams. Even Luke and Simba had to make choices so that they could reach their target. One of the main objectives of the first year in the Academy was to establish the new directions of the British Columbia curriculum. A big part of this is to incorporate what the BC curriculum calls the six core competencies into everyday learning for students so that students are not just learning content in subject areas. Students are able to apply this knowledge so that they will have the ability and skills, or competency, to be successful in university and in life.
One way that we did this was to feature one of the parts of the six competencies to focus on as a monthly theme called “What is Your Learning Target?”. Each month students completed a specific activity connected to one of these competencies and then gathered evidence to show ways that they had grown in this competency area. They then did a short self-assessment of what they learned and what they need to further accomplish so they can meet the intended learning target. At the end of the school year, students completed a summary of each of the Learning targets in the Communication competency.
One example of an activity to help students reach their learning targets was our Maker Day, the theme was Generating Ideas from the Creative Thinking core competency. A Maker day is a learning activity where students are presented with a problem and using simple materials must build or “make” a solution to the problem. Students were challenged with generating creative ideas to solve each problem and it was fascinating to see how many new ideas they came up with to solve these problems. Students participated in three activities called the “Leaning Tower,” “Marble Drop” and “Pinocchio” and were each encouraged to use their own creative ideas to solve the problems, but of equal importance was helping others to make their ideas better. When working in groups, students (as well as many adults) aren’t always able to encourage others to make their ideas better. They usually either reject them completely, or agree without adding ideas to make the better. Being able to generate your own ideas and then help others make their ideas better is an important skill for life and an important part of the creative thinking competency. This activity was very practical way of helping students develop their ability to generate ideas to solve a problem and work with a group of others to help solve a problem.
Another example of students reaching their Learning Target was The Ignite Inquiry week which happened at the end of the first semester. This activity arose from the learning target of “Acquiring, Presenting and Interpreting Information” from the Communication competency area. An Inquiry is learning which is organized around a question which is generated by the learner and not the teacher. It should be something which the students are interested in, are able to research, and then draw some conclusions from and also provide some ideas for further learning or inquiries. We drew on the knowledge and five-step process developed by the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) in Victoria, BC and appreciated the input of the school founder and Principal, Jeff Hopkins as we designed our week of Inquiry.
Students were challenged to prepare a presentation on their Inquiry using the “Ignite” PPT format. An Ignite is a speedy-five minute presentation of no more than 20 slides where students talk about the answers to the questions which they found out from their research during the week. Some students chose an important question such as “Personal Privacy versus Country Security,” a current issue society such as “The New Technologies of Solar Power” or from an area of personal interest such as “How to Film a Movie” or “3D Printing.”
Students received awards for the Top Technical presentation (Architecture), Most Entertaining (Food Colour and Taste) and for finishing in the Top Three were able to present their Inquiry to the parents at the Parent Meeting to end the semester the next day. It was great to hear the presentations from all of our students (in English and using no script!) about a topic they had chosen and learned about with support from teachers. This activity showed students how to turn their own interest into something they can learn about and communicate to others. Inquiry will continue to be a learning method used at our school to connect BC Curriculum, Learning Targets, and student areas of interest.
Students need dreams in order to reach their destiny and make good choices along the way in order to fulfill their dreams. We asked the students at the end of the year what their ideas were to establish the destiny of our school and for them as students. As usual, when you ask students a question they come up with sometimes “surprising” answers. Ideas such as “listen to students opinions from time to time and try to solve them,” “provide more out-of-school activities,” “ learn more difficult stuff, “have more activities that help students really know this world,” and “make students be conscious to themselves” were some of the responses that students gave about how each of them, and our school can reach its destiny. The staff of the Academy will continue to help students to reach their destiny as it grows and develops each year.
This first year at our school has been a tremendous year of hard work, learning new subjects, improving English and having fun and we will carry wonderful memories with us always. All teachers admired the commitment to excellence that the students demonstrated throughout the year in every activity and it has truly been a privilege and honour to work alongside them in this first year of the Academy. It is hard work opening a new school as there are many decisions to be made and new systems set up. I am proud of the work which has been done this year and know there remains much more to keep working on to produce a high-quality school which provides students an opportunity to attend a world-class university. As I have said to students many times, while our school is small and new, it is also able to be flexible in programming and provide students with a high-degree of personal attention to help them achieve a quality graduation and prepare a strong application to their dream university.
Our story is one of students pursuing a Dream so that they can each reach their Destiny. Like both Luke Skywalker and Simba it takes perseverance and resiliency to reach a dream as mistakes are overcome, problems are solved, and difficulties are met with determination. Good luck to all Maple Leaf schools and students as you move to follow your dream and reach your destiny!