This time of year is one of my favourite times of year, as we get to celebrate some of the accomplishments of our students at events such as the Year-End Awards Ceremony, the Grad Banquet, and Commencement. I know that I speak on behalf of the staff at Rockridge Secondary when I say that we will truly miss our graduates.
When I think back to the first day of school for our Grade 12 students this past September, I not only remember how well rested they looked and how enthusiastic they were to see each other and begin Grade 12, but how much their teachers were looking forward to working with all of them this school year.
What our grads may not know is that they have been regarded as being outstanding for a very long time, in fact, throughout their entire school career. I know this because I have looked through their elementary school report cards. On these report cards, their teachers have made many lovely comments including the following:
- You “continue to be an active participant during group discussions by listening to the opinions of others and contributing your own thoughtful ideas.”
- You “enjoy challenges and are eager to learn”
- You have “taken responsibility for yourself as a learner.”
- You “treat all members of your classroom in a kind, caring, and respectful manner. You have a strong sense of what is fair and deal with issues in a way that meets the needs of all involved.”
- You “continued to tap into your creativity both technologically and imaginatively.”
- You have “demonstrated a willingness to try new things and are comfortable taking risks in your learning.”
- You have “continued to be a confident leader in the classroom and in the school.”
After reading the comments made by their elementary school teachers, I am not surprised that they have played such an integral role in making Rockridge a vibrant place to learn. Some words that their Rockridge teachers have used to describe them both on their report cards and in conversation are confident, conscientious, accomplished, just, capable, imaginative, and caring. They have made us proud of their many academic, athletic, and artistic accomplishments. They have made significant contributions to others both locally and globally.
On behalf of the faculty and staff at Rockridge Secondary School, I congratulate each and everyone one of our grads on all of their accomplishments. As an unknown author said, “I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.” To all of our graduates and families leaving Rockridge, I wish you all the very best in your future.
Best wishes to everyone for a fun, safe, and relaxing summer break.
Two teams of Rockridge students entered the “SFU Technovation Challenge” and both have had remarkable success with the app they created for this challenge. These teams were sponsored by teachers, Ms. Kashani and Ms. MacDonald. Grade 12 student, Akcinya Kootchin, describes their journey while developing their apps:
“In October of this year, I walked into our school’s Career offices only to be met by a truly animated Ms. Kashani, excited at the prospect of the latest project she had found. Although I was ignorant to the magnitude of what she had just offered me, a long record of successful volunteer placements had left me trusting in her abilities to find impeccably well fitting opportunities for every student that walked through her door. On this particular day, she was referring to the Technovation Challenge, a ‘Global Technology Entrepreneurship Program for Girls,’ and she thought that I, along with eight other girls would be the perfect candidates.
We were divided into two teams and tasked with the challenge of finding an issue close to our hearts and making an app to address that issue and alleviate the problems which accompanied it. My group chose to tackle youth mental health, while the other wanted to help incoming Syrian refugees. In each of our apps, we worked to build a visually appealing, easy to use interface that was simple as well as effective and could be seamlessly transferred to a marketplace to be distributed en masse and used by its target audience. The challenge brought together girls from all backgrounds and interest groups; those who were interested in science and technology and would develop the app, those who were interested in design, and those interested in business and, thus, was the foundation of our three part challenge. We were able to combine girls from diverse walks of life, age ranges, and skill sets, and create a product that we were all proud of. Fast forward to today, nearly eight months later, and we have placed second and first in our localized competition, Immigration and Citizenship Canada has showed interest in the app to help Syrian refugees and the mental health app has been able to move on to global semi-finals in the Technovation competition.
Though the skills we learned in terms of app development and business management undeniably provide us with a strong foundation for our lives going out into the so called “real world,” I believe that it was the lessons learned in communication, compromise, and cooperation that will really stay with us. To those girls with the opportunity to take on this challenge next year, I strongly recommend that you do. What you learn about technology, the value of aesthetic in marketing products, and how to make an effective and comprehensive plan will provide you with a knowledge base far above those of your peers. The connections you make with local businesses will provide invaluable lessons on what career you want to pursue, and might even help you get there. But perhaps best of all, after all the hard work you will be able to walk into a room full of girls that were once complete strangers with the knowledge that together you created something valuable to your community, and made some amazing friends in the process.”
Ms. Kashani says,”The federal government is featuring the Team "United Utopians" work on their website for World Refugee Day and "Team Fresh" has made it to semi-finals in the global Technovation challenge and are eagerly waiting for the list of finalists which is to be released this week. The finalists will be flown to San Francisco and will head to Silicon Valley to the World Pitch event where one team will win $10,000.”
Ms. Kashani and Ms. MacDonald are very proud of the students and have enjoyed their experience working with them. Ms. Kashani says, “These girls gained so much experience and knowledge from this extra-curricular challenge they signed up for. I watched them learn how to work as a team, as several of them were just acquaintances when they began. They motivated each other and found solutions to problems by reaching out to their mentors and using their own resources. Each time I think about it I’m just in awe of what these girls in grades 10-12 have created in this short time and I am positive they will continue reaching out to their communities, giving back and being passionate about it all.”
During the 2016 Rockridge Career Expo, I was able to meet some very inspiring and interesting people. Among those stunning individuals I was able to meet and listen to were Lynne, Melissa and Mark. These were three talented people with exciting insight into my interest of a career path: the fine arts.
The hour long presentation they happily delivered is one that I will never forget. It started with Lynne who is a production manager. She described her specific duties and responsibilities, as well as the sacrifices that she has made in her line of work. As I was listening to her speak, I developed a newfound respect for those who work behind the scenes. As she was wrapping up her presentation, I was given the chance to ask a few questions. I asked her “What was it that initially got you interested in this industry?” She responded with something along the lines of “Well I didn’t actually know it was what I wanted to do until I’d tried a whole lot of other things. But, the key thing for me was that I could type really fast, which got me a job working for a TV and film company, and that’s how I got interested”. After watching her presentation, I can safely say that I am not as interested in behind the stage and screen work as I once thought I was. However, I am still impressed and have much respect for those who wish to go into the production side of things. It was a presentation I was definitely enlightened and educated by watching and listening to.
The second presenter, Melissa, is a stuntwoman. She first introduced herself and then described her career and what it means to be a stuntwoman. She then showed us her demo reel, which was very impressive. I was shocked that the woman standing a few feet away from me had worked on movies such as Inception, Terminator, and The Maze Runner and that’s just to name a few! She told us about how she had this dream as a little girl to do all the stunts in movies. I respect her for following through with that dream. I thought it was very interesting that she took such a specific route in the industry. She was a very confident and level‐headed person and she definitely has inspired me to go forward and do what I love.
The final speaker was Michael. He is a writer and a university professor at Capilano University. He went around the room and asked everyone what they wanted to do and gave a tip or a way to get started to each person. Since I wanted to go into stage and screen acting, he told me to join “casting workbook”. He also elaborated into the writing side of the industry and told us about all the programs that Capilano University has to offer in the acting, directing, producing and writing areas. His presentation was helpful and engaging.
Overall the career expo went very well and I enjoyed each person who came to the event. I learned a lot about the industry and its standards. This event only proved that this is what I want to do with my life.
I am pleased to share with you the following announcement that was made on the West Vancouver School District website:
Educators at three schools on the North Shore have been recognized for their collaboration and innovation around the International Baccalaureate (IB) approaches to learning skills. Educators from Carson Graham Secondary School, Rockridge Secondary School and Mulgrave School have been jointly investigating the approaches to learning skills in relation to the new BC curriculum, and providing meaningful, iterative feedback to students on their development of these skills. The partnership is the first of its kind between the North Vancouver School District, West Vancouver Schools and Mulgrave School, an independent school in West Vancouver.
"At the core of any innovation, the opportunity for collaboration and the sharing of ideas must exist. Our recent innovation project provided an invaluable opportunity to partner with Rockridge and Mulgrave staff, offering the opportunity to critically reflect on our IB assessment practices and ultimately, enhancing teaching and learning,” said Karim Hachlaf, Principal, Carson Graham Secondary School.
All three schools have International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programmes. Through this joint project, teachers have been deconstructing and overtly teaching and assessing the curricular skills foundational to each subject area within the new curriculum. Teachers and administrators at all three schools are excited to be able to partner to inquire into this topic, and their partnership efforts are being celebrated by the BC Ministry of Education.
“The world is changing and parents expect us to do everything possible to prepare their kids for future success. Innovation Partnership projects help us do that. It’s encouraging to see what is possible when education partners come together and focus on students. Schools, districts, teachers associations – they are all valuable collaborators. I’m looking forward to seeing these projects in action,” said Mike Bernier, BC Minister of Education.
The provincial government has awarded Carson Graham Secondary School, Rockridge Secondary School and Mulgrave School with an $8000 grant to support their efforts. Earlier this school year, Lou Marchesano, a North American leader in IB Middle Years Programme assessment, provided three days of workshops for teachers at the three schools. During the three days, partner schools held daily keynote presentations for staff about innovative assessment practices. Staff from all three schools participated in subject-specific workshops. Marchesano’s visit was collaboratively arranged to bring colleagues together in departmental teams to work as a learning community. The objective is to enhance teachers’ ability to provide targeted feedback to students during the learning process.
“Marchesano’s theoretical and practical ideas provoked thought among even the most experienced IB teachers at our school. In straightforward and convincing terms he furthered our understanding of inquiry based learning and the development and assessment of thinking skills. Our time with him left me feeling energized and affirmed my commitment to the programs we are building,” said Jennifer Tieche, Teacher-Librarian, Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, Carson Graham Secondary School.
Martin Jones, Principal of Mulgrave’s Middle School shared, “Most importantly, our goal is for this collaboration to develop a framework for the intentional teaching and assessment of core skills/competencies. Our ultimate aim is for this work to be scalable and developed so that it can be implemented in any school, IB or not, that is focusing on the skills agenda.”
Over the next three years, staff at the three schools will continue to collaboratively explore IB formative assessment. Although the project has many innovative aspects, those involved describe the largest impact as the invaluable professional learning networks that are being established across the three school district communities.
“A unique feature of our project is that it goes beyond school district boundaries and includes schools from both the public and independent sectors. We all share the commitment to further improve student learning and to meaningfully communicate their learning to students and their families. This partnership grant will further support us as we continue to collaborate and share in this meaningful work,” said Jeannette Laursoo, Principal, Rockridge Secondary School.
Many of us who have worked in the West Vancouver School District will know something about Linda Harrison, even if we haven’t worked directly with her. Such was the case for me. Long before having the pleasure of knowing and working with Linda, I was aware of the incredible work that she had been doing with students at Rockridge in her role as a Youth Worker.
When I came to Rockridge, I was truly excited at the prospect of working alongside her.
“There are students coming to school without a lunch,” Linda said to me one day. “…and I would like to have some food on hand to provide lunches for them. Do you think the Rockridge PAC would provide some funding to support this cause?” she asked. With the money that the RPAC subsequently donated, Linda purchased food such as instant noodle soups and granola bars to have on hand in her office for students who needed them. And she didn’t stop there. She and a very generous parent came together to prepare sandwiches for students in need on a regular basis.
Whether it was supporting students who raise awareness for mental health as part of the Jack.org Club, or promote diversity and acceptance with the QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) Club, Linda was instrumental in creating positive action. She helped initiate special school events such as anti-bullying day activities and she organized students to take part in the youth mental health event “Talk at the Top”. One of her favourite lines was, “I’m on it!” Most importantly, Linda listened and helped students accomplish goals and overcome obstacles that they may have believed to be insurmountable.
Linda was extraordinary in her role. I believe that it was not only due to her boundless energy, but also because she truly loved what she was doing. She cared. Linda made all the difference in her daily interactions. She will be deeply missed not only as a youth worker, but also as a friend.
A celebration of Linda’s life will be held on April 2nd at 2:00 pm at Rockridge Secondary. Linda’s family has established a fund in her memory to support initiatives, which help students navigate through difficult times. Donations may be made at any Vancity branch, to the Linda Harrison Youth Fund, Account # 369942, Branch 21 or, alternatively, an interact e-transfer to LHyouthfund@gmail.com.
At this important time of year when many students are busy submitting university applications, and then deciding which university they would like to attend, it was helpful to recently hear Dan Seneker, Director of Enrollment Management at Bishop’s University, speak about the things that one should consider when making the important choice of which university to attend.
Mr. Seneker gave many tips on how to make the big decision as to where to go for post-secondary studies. By considering his list of thought-provoking questions provided below, one will be much better prepared to choose the right university for oneself.
“Figure out what you want in a university AND a university experience:
Do you want to:
Stand out, or hide in relative anonymity?
Get a full experience, or just that piece of paper?
Meet new people and build your network, or are you afraid of missing out on what your high school friends are doing?
Try eating in a dining hall or cooking for yourself, or is Mom’s meatloaf and Sunday dinner just too good to miss?
Figure out what type of environment you want to live in:
Remember that this is your life, and there is more to it than university classes.
Do you prefer to live in a big city or a small town?
Do you enjoy outdoor recreation or shopping malls?
Do you have passions or activities that you want to continue, such as fencing or kayaking?
Do they offer the programs that you are interested in?
How much flexibility do you want or need? In other words, can you study both biology and music?
Who will be teaching you? A Nobel Laureate or a teaching assistant?
What are the course-offerings like? Are the courses offered continuously or are they on a rotation of every other year?
What can your reasonably afford? Don’t go into huge debt, but do look at your education as an investment.
Consider all the costs – not just tuition, but also supplemental fees, living arrangements, food, spending money, etc.
Should you work part-time or not? What are the opportunities, both on and off campus?
What scholarships and bursaries are available?”
Thank you to Mr. Seneker for speaking at Rockridge, and for sharing these helpful tips. By reflecting on the questions he provided and taking the time to research post-secondary institutions for the best personal fit, one can help ensure that their university experience is positive and successful.
Rockridge student, Emmett Sparling and his friend from Calgary, Shane Mclachlan, wrote and directed Brain Maker, which is a 20 minute film about Emmett's father's inspiring story of being a cancer patient. This talented team is already getting much acclaim for producing such a remarkable film. A screening of Brain Maker will take place at Kay Meek Centre on January 30th at 6:30 pm. The following is a commentary written by Emmett about the film:
"Emmett and his friend Shane spent countless hours building a full sized Mercury Space Capsule in the driveway, transforming a couple of IPS rooms into a hospital room and an operating room, recreating a wedding, burning fish (come see the movie), walking on the moon (you really have to see the movie!) scheduling, collaborating with friends, fundraising, filming, recording, planning, making mistakes and fixing them, and, after all the hard work and long hours, having a summer they will never forget.
It all started 18 years ago. The day after Emmett Sparling’s parents announced they were pregnant with him, his father was hospitalized, and diagnosed with what was described as an inoperable malignant brain tumour. Through a network of friends and supporters he was eventually offered the chance for a risky surgery. By drawing from inspiration in his own life, he was able to overcome his fears with a unique approach - he imagined he was an astronaut. The surgery was his mission, and there was no room for failure.
Emmett has honoured his father’s story by creating a short film based on his personal perspective as his father faced something that was seemingly impossible to overcome. Half set in space, and half on earth, the film takes the perspective of his father as a cancer patient and an astronaut. A powerful poem that he wrote while he was in the hospital ties it all together.
Emmett's father has been an inspiration to so many, and Emmett hopes that this movie will be able to bring his father's story to a wider audience and inspire even more people to find their own inner strength. Already they have been contacted by people as far away as Ontario and the Philippines who are excited about the story, and have shared their own stories of how brain cancer has effected their lives.
On January 30th at 6:30, the premiere screening of ‘Brain Maker’ will be shown at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. His father, Lawrence, will talk about his story, and you will have a chance to see behind-the-scenes footage of the intense film making summer of 2015. Emmett and his friend Shane McLachlan (director of photography) will be there to answer questions about how they sent their main actor (Christian MacInnis) to space, performed brain surgery on him, and recreated his parent’s wedding (Carrie Lehman playing his mother).
There will be a reception in the lobby after the presentations. This is also a fundraising event, and all proceeds from the evening will go to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Tickets can be bought online at www.kaymeekcentre.com"
Congratulations to Emmett and Shane for producing this inspiring and remarkable film.
At a recent Rockridge PAC meeting, Brett Stroh, who works with adults and youth experiencing problematic gaming, came in to speak to parents about the positive and negative effects of gaming, and to provide strategies that parents can use to support their child, if needed.
Brett began his presentation by speaking about the various types of games, as it is important to understand the kinds, which may be coming into the home. These include:
o "Students playing a specific role and against other people online
o Students not taking on a role, but playing the game against others online
o Games incorporating unlimited online social play"
Brett explains that games are designed to include multiple reward schedules to produce consistent high levels of motivation, such as “levelling up, discovering items left by creatures, sourcing out gold by mining, and discovering random encounters.” He suggests playing a video game with one’s son/daughter to further understand the types of games he/she are playing.
One of the things that Brett said was just because one's child is spending a lot of time playing games, doesn’t necessarily mean that one needs to be overly concerned. “Just because they are playing a game on a Saturday for 5-6 hours doesn’t mean that there is necessarily an issue, and it’s time to hit the panic button. One needs to also consider how the child is doing with school, family, friends and sports. In other words, how is the rest of the world going for them (apart from the regular 'drama')? Is gaming having a negative impact on or causing conflict in these areas of the child’s life? Is the child spending a significant amount of time obtaining or thinking about the game, or recovering from its effects?"
It was interesting to hear about some positive effects of gaming, as well. Brett said that gaming can reduce stress or social anxiety because it is a distraction. It can provide a different complex social environment where teamwork is emphasized. Students get praise and recognition based on time management skills, leadership and ability in the game. It also gives students a sense of control. Brett does go on to say, however, that it is important for the parent and child to consider options for him/her to be involved in other activities as well, so that he/she are even more connected and balanced.
If gaming is having a negative impact in other areas of a child’s life, such as school, family, friends, and sports, Brett says it’s important for parents to inquire further and work collaboratively with their child to support him/her. Some strategies Brett suggested for parents included the following:
· "Set effective limits. For example, parents might try setting a time, scheduling use for certain times of day, or making a commitment to turn off the computer at the same time each night. Encourage children to take frequent breaks and do some other activity - at least 5 min each hour. Alter the routine to break usage patterns. For example, if they spend evenings on the internet, start limiting use to mornings.
· Recognize any underlying problems that may be supporting the gaming habit and collaboratively work on resolving those. Seek assistance from professionals, if needed.
· Build coping skills to deal with stress or angry feelings.
· Balance usage with healthy activities. Boredom and loneliness can make it difficult to resist the urge to get back online. Have a plan for other ways to fill the time, such as participating in an arts or athletics activity or inviting a friend over.
· Treat the internet as a tool.
· Seek out friends and acquaintances who couldn’t care less about gaming.
· Stay connected to the offline world. Visit news-stands, book and music stores, and participate in entertainment such as museum visits, music and live theatre."
Brett emphasized these strategies really work best when parents and children develop good relationships with each other and collaboratively decide which strategies to implement, with parents monitoring their implementation.
Thanks to Brett for sharing this information with the Rockridge PAC.
As we are moving into the 8th week of school, it is a good time to follow up with our Grade 8 students to see how they are navigating their transition to High School. I had the pleasure of joining one of Ms. Smith’s English 8 classes when she and Ms. Blajberg checked in with the Grade 8’s to find out how the school year is going for them so far. Ms. Blajberg and Ms. Smith also spent some time reviewing organizational skills with the Grade 8 students. This lesson was part of a series, designed to further strengthen students’ organizational skills, work habits and study habits, all of which will likely help some students transition into High School even more smoothly.
At the beginning of the class, Ms. Blajberg asked the students how they were finding high school. While students find that high school presents them with a variety of new opportunities, including joining teams and clubs, making new friends and studying new topics, it also presents them with challenges. Some students find that there is more coursework or homework, which may prove more difficult, as well. They may also find that they are expected to be more independent, more focused and more responsible.
One of the most important keys in navigating some of these challenges is being organized, and using a student agenda or planner helps with that. Students can use their planners to do the following:
· keep track of test and assignment due dates – Ms. Blajberg suggested that students write down details of the assignment on the date it is assigned and then write down the due date on the date it’s due;
· schedule study times;
· prioritize assignments;
· keep track of after-school activities;
· record the daily schedule of classes. It’s helpful to write this out a week ahead of time so that one is organized for the week ahead;
· predict the time needed to complete a particular assignment, and then find the time to work on it in the schedule;
· include reminders for slips and forms that are due.
When students were asked, “How do you remember to bring all of the things that you need for school?”, they said, “Get the backpack ready and full of everything that is needed the night before”, and “Make a list of everything that you need to bring”.
Grade 8 students create a list of all of the things they need to place in their backpacks.
Ms. Blajberg added, “Checklists can be a student’s ‘best friend’ in terms of being organized.” She suggested that students use “post-it” notes to create a list of everything that they need for their backpack the next day. Then they can place the “post-it” note on the front door to check before they head out the door. The Grade 8’s came up with the following list of items to include on the note: lunch, pens, notebooks/binders, bus tickets, homework, extra shoes, glasses and case, money, athletic gear, wallet, go card, textbooks, water, raincoat, deodorant, laptop, ruler, eraser, phone, and head phones.
Another important tip for students to help them be organized is to try using 2 binders – one for day 1 and one for day 2. If students prefer, they could keep one binder for both days and then transfer their sheets into another binder at home when the original binder gets too full. It is important for students to use dividers to separate out the various subjects in their binder, so that they can quickly flip to the subject area they are working on.
After a quick binder check and time to organize their contents, if needed, students were well on their way to being even more organized and ready to take on the challenges of high school.
It has been said that the transition from elementary to high school is one of life’s greatest transitions. To help with this transition, Grade 8 students kicked off the school year by participating in the Rockridge Ravens’ Base Camp. They participated in a variety of sessions focussed on providing students with valuable information and skills to assist them in their transition to Rockridge. These sessions included information on topics, such as how to manage life at high school, what the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme is, and how to get involved in extra-curricular activities such as athletic teams, intramural sports and clubs. There was also a session on growth vs. fixed mindsets and how important it is to have a growth mindset. Sessions also included team building activities.
When asked about what they enjoyed most about the two day camp, the students had the following things to say:
“I liked getting the opportunity to meet all these new people,” Grace R.
“I got the chance to meet all the teachers and see what they were like,” Emma M.
“I learned about what kinds of things there were to do at Rockridge," Jaden F.
“I got to get into the school slowly, which let me get used to Grade 8 slowly,” Nathan T.
In the second week of school, Grade 8 parents were invited to learn more about life in Grade 8 at Rockridge and how students can get involved in the school. Rockridge counsellor, Ms. Maquignaz, also spoke about the various stages of adolescent development and how parents can support their child through the various stages.
An interesting tip that Ms. Maquignaz gave to parents was when their child approaches them with a problem, it’s important to listen to him/her and then ask him/her how they want to handle it. She also emphasized the importance of sleep in helping students manage all of the things that they are busy doing. In fact, she said that Grade 8 students should be getting at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Thank you to all of the parents who joined us at our information evening.
The Rockridge staff and I have enjoyed getting to know our new Grade 8 students and are looking forward to the rest of the year ahead with them!