your brain on grade 8

Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters.     —  Elliot Eisner

Last Friday at W. Erskine Johnston PS we spent the day engaged in professional development around our School Improvement Plan.  Although we did devote a small part of our morning session to examining our latest EQAO scores, most of the day was spent looking at skills and aptitudes less easily measured, especially on a standardized test.  See my earlier post “nothing wrong with stilts” for a synopsis of the morning session for our Intermediate team.

After lunch we again divided up into our divisional teams for an activity around identifying those critical skills that we want all of our students to have by the time they reach the exit point for each division:  Grade 3 for primary, Grade 6 for junior and Grade 8 for intermediate.  After some initial brainstorming the teams split up and created “mind maps” to display our thinking.  Jen and I modeled one for the critical skills and aptitudes required for the Principal and Vice Principal role, and I will certainly post about that process in the future.  For now though, here is a short video highlighting some of the key skills the Intermediate division identified as crucial for our students heading to grade 9:

(Thanks to the kind folks at Thomas Tallis School (Tallis Labs) for the graphic organizer)

The process was fun and messy, with lots of play and energy. It was interesting to work together deciding which skills went where on the brain. We chose colours depending on a general feeling about the skill (purple for integrity, for example) and used plasticine and pipe cleaners to link related skills. As we wrapped up and prepared to join the other groups we all stepped back to look at our work and realized that we had not mentioned any specifically content-curriculum pieces. One of our team members reflected:

The curriculum isn’t really the important piece …  It is a means to this end.

I think that we all agreed that the content areas, while they are important, are the means through which we model and teach the skills that we feel our students need to be successful as they leave us and head to high school:  critical thinking skills, empathy, foresight, self-awareness and self-reflection, open-mindedness, etc…  The second part of the discussion, where we brainstorm the types of learning activities we need to provide to develop these skills and aptitudes, will be continued…

We are doing the same activity with our Grade 8 students next week. They will each create their own brain map and it will be very interesting to see how theirs compare to the one we created.  What skills would you add?