Principal’s New Year’s message

Happy New Year to one and all!

Here’s hoping your holiday was safe and restful, and that you are all recharged by a couple weeks of relaxation and family time. For me and my family, we are most grateful for the time to be together, enjoying each other’s company and feeling the relief of having no homework, deadlines, or pressure to get things done. Just a peaceful, quiet time to let the silence of tranquility enter our lives.

At these times, I am also very aware that our students and families experience the holidays in many different ways. For some there has been much festivity and joy, and for others it has been less than pleasant.

Which has led me to reflect on a conversation we had as a staff just before the break, something I have been thinking about a lot and pondering for our school and community. And that is, that educators all across our system are noticing more and more children with anxiety, whether it be a generalized form, or specific anxieties about events, situations or future events.

We do a number of things at school to help with this, including MindUp and the Zones of Regulation program. In addition, we offer mindfulness activities during class, Art Therapy and counseling, and other “non-academic” programs and activities to deal with these challenges the students are presenting.

As a parent, caregiver or concerned neighbor, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help a child who’s feeling anxious? Here are some of my thoughts, and a few strategies to support children with anxiety, borrowed from Carmen Carter, Registered Clinical Counsellor in Nelson, B.C.

  1. Help the child focus on their breath, slowly in through their nose and out the mouth. Many traditions around the world use this as a technique to focus, which then helps you become present and focus less on those things which may cause anxiety.
  2. Help a child develop regular routines, including baths, stories, mealtimes, and relaxation before bedtime. Particularly for a young child, a routine is a comforting pattern they can count on which provides stability and regularity in what can seem a chaotic world. How many of us can remember the weekly meal at grandma’s house, and how that provided the anchor in your week which made all the difference.
  3. Help the child change their thinking from negative to positive. Sometimes this is as simple as helping them see the glass as half full, or recognizing there may be something positive in a situation that they are seeing as only negative. When we “beat the drum” of what is, it prevents us from seeing what might be. As Richard Bach said in Johnathon Livingston Seagull, “inside every problem is a gift”.
  4. Get your child active. Do something fun, get outside, play a game, fresh air and exercise do a world of good for a body and mind.  How often when we’re in a funk do we get outside and exercise, only to come in and realize we’re in a far better mindset than before we went out? This is a gift you can give a child.
  5. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. This goes for the boys too. Unfortunately in our culture there are a lot of messages which portray feelings and emotions as a sign of weakness. Kids are taught to “be tough”, “suck it up”, “don’t be such a baby” and the like. A caring adult can help a child work through their challenges; “I can see you are worried about that-would you like to talk about it?” usually supports the child to talk about their feelings, and is the first step in them moving on.
  6. Be a healthy role model for children by taking care of yourself, and acknowledging your own emotions when you are feeling anxious or fearful. They will watch how your handle your own stressors, and that becomes their inner voice when it’s their turn to do the same.


Hopefully there are a few things in here you have found useful. All the best for a healthy and happy New Year

Mr. Ron Sherman, Principal

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Principal’s Welcome Message 2015-16

Greetings to all staff, students and families as we begin an exciting new school year in Salmo!

I’d like to personally welcome everyone back after a very enjoyable summer of rest and relaxation! We are preparing the school for the arrival of your children, and as a parent I know a new school year is a bittersweet time. On one hand, we are excited to have our children return to their old routines, settle into classes and schedules, and be reunited with friends and school staff. On the other, there is some trepidation; will they have a good experience? Will they come home happy? Will it all be OK?

Here in Salmo we’re doing a number of things to help ensure your child has a positive experience at school. From our youngest learners, the class of 2028, to those who will leave us this spring, we hope all students experience the deep personal commitment of our team to creating and maintaining a welcoming, nurturing and respectful school environment.

Our first priority is that all students, staff and families be safe. To that end, we focus on physical, social and emotional safety through a positive school culture focused on prevention. We aim to build community, foster respect for one another, encourage inclusion, and ensure their is equity and fairness in what we do. At the elementary school, you can see that in our ROCKS program, and the Positive Behaviour Support structures we use to teach and reinforce appropriate behaviours. And, of course, our staff reviews all of our emergency drill procedures, and as a staff we also highlight students with medical needs or other needs so they are appropriately cared for.

We pride ourselves in Salmo on the fact that we are a caring school. When we first dropped our boys off for kindergarten some years ago at Adam Robertson School in Creston, we were comforted by the warm, friendly smile of Mrs. Falck at the class door, welcoming us to the class and wrapping each child in a blanket of comfort. I’m very proud to say you can expect the same for your child in Salmo. Our staff are welcoming and friendly, and are doing all they can to foster respect, fairness, inclusion and dignity in each of our students. We have a wonderful PAC and parent community, and highly value the partnership and input we receive from them. We are also appreciative of the broader community connections we have, and how school events are so well supported and attended.

And finally, we are working hard to ensure the school experience is an orderly one. Schools are incredibly complex institutions which are governed by laws, policies, procedures and regulations, all of which operate in the background, invisible to the everyday observer. Each year, and at numerous points during the year, our staff reviews these regulations, ensuring the students are getting a high quality education comparable to any other school in the province. We also work as a team to build school level policies and guidelines such as our Code of Conduct and School Goal, which help us as a staff to keep focused on our commitments to each other and our community.  If it seems to you like a smoothly running machine, we’re very happy for that! But please know, there is a lot behind the scene that makes it so.

Your child is about to start another chapter in the story of their schooling, and we’re very pleased to be part of that with them. And I am very proud to be part of the team that will work with them over the coming months, and excited for all the great things we’ve got planned.

All the best for you and your children, please drop by the school when you get a chance!

Mr. Ron Sherman, Principal

Salmo Elementary/Secondary School

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Summer message

June 2015

It has been my pleasure to serve as Principal in our Salmo schools this year. And thank you to everyone who has made my first year a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. I have found the community to be warm, hospitable, friendly and open to new ideas, all of which have been very helpful as we do our work.

My focus coming in this year was to help create a safe, caring and orderly school, ensuring the foundations were in place for teachers to do their work and for students to learn. As a newcomer, it’s always important to assess a situation and see what’s working already before moving forward with any changes. So this focus ensured we’d have a solid base to work from, and give us the time as a team to assess where we’re at and make plans for the future.

Many of you may have attended our Community Symposium April 16th, at which we continued the vision building process which started last year. What we heard was a desire for learning to be experiential, hands-on, meaningful, and with a community focus. This is a message we hear often, and which our students also shared with the School Board on March 4th when they hosted a Student Voice conference for our whole district. We have also been grateful for the wise and helpful input from our Parent Advisory Councils, who’ve continually reminded us of the importance of community and connections with our kids as much as possible. We are building a vision for student learning with all these inputs, and welcome your contribution at any time.

Three big celebrations this year, among many that have happened. First, a culminating event of months of work took place last night when students performed in the drama production “Check Please” in the Salmo Secondary Gymnasium. Students in the Drama, Stagecraft and Music exploratories collaborated on this project, with amazing results. A video of the performance will be available shortly if you were not able to attend. Second was our Salmo Elementary Christmas Concert, which was attended by almost 400 people on December 17th. It was a wonderful show, and a great opportunity to see our community come together for a celebration of our students. And finally, many of you may have seen the beautiful canoe which was created by the Salmo Secondary boys’ group, under the guiding hand of Shamus Birkel. It is on display in the foyer off and on throughout the year, and we hope to create a more permanent display to show off this amazing creation.

I hope this gives you some idea of the new directions we’re exploring as a learning community, and stirs some excitement for our school as we move forward on our journey together. We have a remarkable team here, and are enthused to take the next step along the path of teaching and learning in this very exciting time.

All the best for a safe and happy summer break

Mr. Ron Sherman, Principal

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Deeper Learning day #2; your System map

I really enjoyed our “Deep Dive” on day #2, the extended activity where we explored the idea of school as a system, and worked from this axiom: tenacity of the status quoOur systems are running perfectly! They’re doing exactly what we’d designed them to do. Unfortunately, often, what they’re doing is part of the problem, but we can’t fix the problem because all the pieces that serve to support the system aren’t clear to us. So what we’ve got to do is get a clear picture of what our issue is, and all the things that influence it.

My first challenge was to understand that I already had a sense of what the answer was. My issue was Student Engagement, and I had phrased my question “how do we improve Student Engagement through meaningful tasks?”. The facilitators challenged me on that; if you go in with an answer already, you’re missing the point. Peel it back another layer, just look at all the structures, processes, parameters, rituals, history, politics and culture that might, in some way, influence student engagement in the classroom. As a result, you can see my scribble on the map I created: system mapIt was incredibly hard work to put aside your view, and just explore the possibilities.  All of us are fixers, we diagnose issues quickly and jump to problem solving mode. This session was a gift, we explored a concept deeply, with facilitation, for 3 hours, and then laid over top of our map a tool to think about and understand how our system might be working: Oshry's system structureWe used Barry Oshry’s Total System Theory concept of top, middle and bottom, and developed ideas about how our system has coherence, where we might have leverage to interrupt the system, and how each of our players might be making sense of the challenge.

It was a wonderful and intense “deep dive” into schools as a system. At the end they asked us to complete the phrase “when I came, I thought I knew…now I know…”

For me, I thought I took the time to examine deeply and understand before I jumped to solution mode. I’d always appreciate DeBono’s work on expert problem solvers. Now I know there’s a whole world of layers underneath we rarely get a glimpse of, which could really help us with system change.

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Deeper Learning 2015 at High Tech High; Day 1

Our first day at High Tech High in San Diego did not disappoint. There were so many gems throughout the day, by the time we got to the screening of “Most Likely to Succeed” in the evening our brains were exhausted, we had so much to process and talk about.

When I first heard about this trip, I knew it was important to have a reason to go. Why would I fly to a different country, to a city with a different culture, to examine a school which answers the questions in the community it served? HTH isn’t the answer in my community, but what can I learn that does assist me in my work back in British Columbia? I’ve been watching this first day with that question, and a few things jumped out for me.

lobby 2The first is something that always jumps out at me, and that’s the power of a physical space to affect the way you work and think. For some kids, too much stimulation can be challenging; for me, seeing student work all around me as a demonstration of learning is a real motivator. And HTH is all about demonstrations, it’s a big piece in their assessment strategy. Demo nights are legendary here.

The second is an idea which, very surprisingly, came straight from Richard Elmore, who I met between sessions and our group had an informal conversation with before dinner. What he said I heard repeatedly throughout the day, in different workshops and sessions; transparency is the key. This has a deep connection for me, as I know the research by Fullan and others says that schools that work are ones in which capacity of teachers is built, and there is transparency of results and practice. Peers working with peers in a focused and deliberate way provide both support and pressure to improve. There is no greater motivator than internal accountability to oneself and one’s peers.

The third was in a late session I just happened to stumble upon in the Deep Dive Den featuring Ken Kay, who offered the notion that “programs don’t scale, principles scale”. Later that night, at the reception we asked him what that meant, and by way of response he asked us, Do we have a picture of what we want our graduates to look like? Learner attributes, competencies, and the like? And thankfully, we do in our province and our district. We’re moving in the direction where there is more focus on Creativity and Imagination, Resiliency and Citizenship, and in our BC Ed Plan we’ve been asked to focus on Competencies and away from content consumption. He was pleased to hear that, and his take was that these will scale, these are what you begin with in your community and build programming  that works for your community.

And the final piece for me was in the Q and A after the film screening, when the film director was asked, In all the schools you studied that were doing deeper learning, what was the one thing they had in common? His response was that there were many things, but for sure the one that was key was parent buy-in. Get your parent community talking, help them understand where things are going and why. Schools that didn’t do that faced resistance and things never really succeeded. When parents became partners in this work, there was a better chance of success.

Physical space, transparency of practice, scaling of principles and engagement of parents. These are things I can bring home to help me in my work. Lessons from day 1.


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Collaboration or mining the blogosphere?

Ah spring break. The chance to catch up on professional reading, writing in my blog, re-connecting on Twitter and the like. For me things have changed a fair bit in the last year, including my move to Salmo Elementary-Secondary School where I’ve been since August 2014.

I’ve taken a hiatus from social media for awhile, and spent a lot more time reading and connecting with my new staff. I’ve spent a lot of time with The Principal’s Companion by Robbins and Alvy, and from that have reaffirmed my belief that collaborative vision and mission building processes are key to the success of any school. And in conversation with my staff, they are also keen to work collaboratively to deepen their practice and connect with one another.

I am also keen to connect with colleagues, and develop my leadership through collaboration. It’s been a wonderful experience to have a Vice-Principal, who I carpool with and share decision making duties. Through our conversation and sharing, I feel my practice has improved and my decisions have been better. We have challenged and supported each other, added elements to the conversation, and brought our own unique perspectives to everything we do.

Now on my break, and my return to the Twitterverse, there’s a new revelation for me I need to work through. It would appear to me many of the posts out there are one way, that there is not much engagement and conversation. This isn’t something exclusive to Twitter; many of the blogs I read have very few comments, and don’t seem to stimulate a conversation. How do we connect these ideas together into a community of discussion? It’s one thing for me to put something out there for people to read, it’s another to get engaged with the conversations out there.

Maybe things have changed out there. The cynic in me wonders if we are engaging with one another to build collaborative networks, or mining the net for likes, friends, blog traffic and followers?

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Failure as a Catalyst: How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Failure as a Catalyst: How to Develop a Growth Mindset.

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