Leading and Learning at the Junior School

Becky Anderson

The summer months hold such promise of rest and rejuvenation for our faculty and also provide an important time to reflect. While demonstrating excellence and commitment to student learning throughout the school year, SMUS teachers exemplify a growth mindset and engage in ongoing learning by catching up on professional reading during quieter days, and often attending conferences or taking courses over the summer.

For example, this year, under the leadership of Margaret Lincoln, our Junior School program specialist, we hosted a Reggio-Inspired Summer Institute in August. We opened our doors to 80 educators from SMUS, Greater Victoria, the Lower Mainland and across the province. Taking on the challenge of hosting meant hours of coordination, days of planning and considering all potential logistical issues, as well as bringing in relevant and noted experts. Margaret’s commitment to the conference and confidence that others would want to learn from us and with us proved to be accurate when the conference sold out in two weeks.

At the Junior School, we have a clear philosophy that emphasizes the “joy of learning in a culture of excellence” and our approach in the early years at the Junior School is one that is Reggio-inspired. This was a draw to many other educators to learn what that means to us in the context of our school. There were tours of our school, conversations and examples of how this learning is explored and supported in our Imagination Lab, and interest in the enriched environment for which we are known. We also welcomed experts from the Opal School in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver-area author and teacher Janice Novakowski.

The first day of the Summer Institute focused on Story Workshop, which is a method that guides teachers through an exploration of the relationship between literacy and the arts, and has been well researched and is used daily in schools around the world. Through the learning, the group of teachers shared stories of successes and struggles related to classroom practice. Equipped with newfound research and perspective, all felt energized and ready for September.

The second day examined the principles and practices of a Reggio-inspired approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics. A large focus of this learning was related to how materials (loose parts) inspire mathematical thinking and help students connect their thinking about mathematical concepts.

This experience emphasized St. Michaels University School’s role as a leader in early learning by highlighting what we do and reinforcing our belief in the importance of sharing knowledge. Equally important is the opportunity to connect and share with educational colleagues and recognized experts for all of us to continue to learn for the benefit of our students.


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