Ten Reasons why CAIS Schools are Leading the Future of Education

Last week, we held our annual meeting with all CAIS Heads and Chairs, and our theme was Place, Pedagogy and Purpose.  Rather than try to tell you why I came away from that meeting full of inspiration about our schools, let me show you the theme in action in the CAIS schools I visited this month.

CAIS Schools are inspirational learning places

  1. img_6913Rundle College in Calgary has a new facility including a spectacular dining hall for their junior students.  When I say that the future of facilities is glass – you can see the impact of glass in this room with the ability to bring the outdoors in.  Very inspirational for those children to sit in round tables and enjoy their lunch.

 

img_69642.  The theme of dining halls and glass continues to Crofton House.  When I was there, I caught the choir rehearsing. Listening to those girls singing made my day! Crofton has also invested in their food services, so the choice of healthy interesting meals is also noteworthy.

 

 

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3.  One more place that uses glass to create a beautiful space is found at Mulgrave.  When I visited earlier this month, I was blown away by their new facility and how they use space to display student artwork. Our accreditation team arrived early and walked in to the sound of children singing – again, cannot tell you how amazing it is that our schools celebrate the arts!

 

CAIS Schools are passionate about pedagogy

img_69794.  At Mulgrave, their new facility includes creative learning spaces, including private study rooms.  In a world that is so busy and highly collaborative, I was inspired to see some students search for this kind of space to enjoy quiet study.

 

 

 

img_69765.  We know that the best learning happens when children have teachers who inspire them, share their passions, challenge them and listen to them, and provide regular valuable feedback on learning. I always ask to meet those teachers whom students tell me are their favourites.  Sometimes those teachers are pretty quirky!  Check out the door to one of the classrooms I saw this month – who wouldn’t be inspired by this character!

 

 

 

 

img_71756.  Learning happens everywhere.  Meadowridge has invested in their outdoor spaces that are just as creative as their indoor spaces. The accreditation team this week just had to wander into the bushes to learn about this piece of artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

CAIS Schools live their purpose deeply and with authenticity

7.  img_7095First and foremost, our CAIS schools put the needs of children first. Students are known at our schools, and teachers work hard to understand them as individuals.  CAIS schools are passionate about students.  CAIS teachers know that their influence extends beyond the academic curriculum.  At our Heads and Chairs Conference, we heard from Dr. Mark Miliron who reminded us of our greater purpose in education.

 

 

 

 

8.  img_6899Our CAIS schools are passionate about the arts and about learning.  Take a look at this Wonder Wall at Rundle and the description of how the teachers inspired their students to Be Curious.

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9.  img_6953Our CAIS schools have made a firm commitment to being Canadian.  What does that mean?  It means they celebrate diversity, history and culture.  It means that they offer Financial Assistance to ensure great students can attend, regardless of socio-economic status.  Last week, I attended an Old Boys Summit at Upper Canada College, where they have raised over $50 million to ensure a more diverse student body.

 

 

 

 

10. img_7161All CAIS schools partner with parents, and our CAIS boarding schools go the extra mile to connect with parents of students who live where they learn.

Last week, my son’s advisor sent me this photo of Jacob playing soccer.  He is a boarding student at Lakefield, and I miss him a lot!  So I feel so good when one of his teachers contacts me to show me what he is doing.  I know this is cheating – to show off my own son! – but I really see that all CAIS schools take this kind of personalized communication seriously.

 

 

Technology shouldn’t change what we teach

It is Easter morning and I carry on a tradition that my father started, and I write clues that my kids have to solve that will lead them to their Easter bunny. Last year they complained to me – and worse to their cousins – that my clues were too easy. And since that makes my brothers very happy, I ramped it up a bit this year.

One clue asked them both to figure out who inspires my husband. Kevin’s screen saver shows a slideshow of the three men who inspire him: one colleague from McGill, the principal of Queens, and the Governor General.

They first had to figure out that this screen saver existed, then they had to research their names. This was fascinating to watch because even an internet search wasn’t straight-forward. My son initially reported that the Governor General was the Queen…. It took a minute for him to realize that impossibility, given that the three photos were men. Eventually, Kevin went downstairs to help them. But I could hear frustration. Jacob came back upstairs and reported that Kathleen was completely upset, and even Dad’s help with an advanced google search wasn’t fast enough. He said to me, “There must be a better way,” then he took my iphone and spoke to it:

“Siri, who is the governor general?”

When he flew downstairs to show off, his ecstasy matched Kathleen’s anger. She started to cry. Happy Easter morning….

My first point is that technology is changing the way kids learn, and our schools need to teach kids to access information differently.

Back to Kathleen who is now crying on Easter morning and the bunny is yet to be found. I whispered to her, “See how your brother does on this next clue.”

Jacob read his clue out loud. It went something like this – If you lifted me up every morning, as we all remind you to do, your sister would not scream at you.

Kathleen smiled. She knew immediately that the clue was hiding under the toilet seat. But Jacob was miffed. It was one of those great gotcha moments.

My favorite line that morning was Kathleen’s immediate ability to stop crying and say this – “Why don’t you ask Siri?!”

Easter morning made me think about two things: Firstly, technology is changing everything and we need to adapt.

But secondly, technology is not changing everything, so we need to continue to teach thinking skills and problem solving and, of course, resilience and humour.

This Easter, my kids learned some important lessons about problem solving – and I, thankfully, regained my credibility with my brothers.

P.S – If you attended the Junior and Middle School Heads Conference in Ottawa last weekend, you can find some helpful resources on our website.

Online shopping and schooling

When I got to the cash at Michaels Craft Store to pay for a new doll bed for my niece, the clerk asked if I wanted to be on their email list.  I replied no, a little too quickly and a lot too self-righteously.  I hate that stuff.

Then she told me the price of the bed, and it was a good 50% cheaper than the ticket price.  Assuming she made an error, I tried to correct her.

“Well, if you were on the email list, you would get a 50% off coupon. But I gave the discount to you anyway.”

Now I felt guilty.  I thanked her profusely, hoping she didn’t catch my earlier smugness.

I really dislike the whole email and online shopping world, but I am a sucker for a good deal.  So do I continue to ride my high horse and refuse to enter the online shopping world?

As our schools wrestle with the future of online education, I think we face a similar dilemma.  We know that our current model of small classroom size and fancy facilities is expensive and that online learning is good for kids who need to learn how to access good information and be prepared for an increasingly digital world.  But how do you ensure deep learning from cold technology?  And what will the new learning model look like?  Can schools afford to not ask these questions?

I wish I had an answer.  (So stop reading this blog here if you think there is a simple solution.)  But there are two things I know for sure:

  1. We need to invest in exploring how to embed technology with the best of what is happening in the best classrooms today.  No excuses. We need minds focusing on what the future of education will look like.  CAIS is prepared to take a lead in this process.  Stay tuned for our strategic plan.  Our community will be asked to contribute to a survey in the new year.
  2. We need to continue to do what we do well and be better than ever.  I believe our schools need to invest in relationships with our current students and families.  At the TABS conference last week, I heard time and again the need to personalize our communications.  What is our proactive strategy to challenge and support every student in our schools?   And how does that in turn become a strategic retention program?

The future for education will, of course, lie in a blend of high technology and high personal touch. Just as I was motivated to be open to online shopping by a kind clerk who looked at me, took pity, and gave me a break, I believe our students will also need to see the whites of the eyes of their teachers and trust them to guide and inspire them towards fulfilling and purposeful lives.

The two-pronged approach will ensure our CAIS schools remain leaders in shaping the future of education.