The 2015-16 school year is about to begin. Even though this is my 47th new school year as a student or an employee, I still get that “new school year feeling.” A sense of renewal is evident as relationships shift, new notebooks are opened, routines commence, and we take that step over the threshold to something that is strangely both familiar yet unknown.
It is an exciting and interesting time in education. We live in a world of constant change. During their time as students from their Kindergarten year to now the graduating class of 2016 has experienced world shifts that have significantly influenced us, changed our children, and caused us to reshape learning environments and how we go about meeting the needs of this generation of learners — to whom we refer as the millennials. Political, cultural, technological and environmental shifts have occurred and have had tremendous influence on educators who are working tirelessly to adapt to meet the changing needs of students.
This group of students likely has very little sense of the world that existed prior Sept. 11, 2001 and they do not understand the impact that one event has had on the way we experience our lives. Things we expect in our daily lives were just ideas not that long ago — and things that have become the “new norm” have quietly immersed themselves in our lives.
As an example, expectations of mobile technology have infiltrated the traditional learning environment, and instant access to knowledge and other people is the norm. Facebook was started in 2004 when this class of students were in Grade 2. We are now learning that the Facebook platform on which students have since relied as a means of social engagement is slowly becoming a thing of the past and we see that our youth are now moving onto Instagram and other social networking sites.
This year we will welcome kindergarten students, who will be the graduating class of the year 2029, or thereabouts. Things that are new to us these youngsters take for granted and expect. We can’t predict how the world will reshape itself between now and when they graduate. However, one thing we do know is that our public education system will be striving to understand the changing needs of these students.
In the 2015-16 school year, teachers of students in kindergarten to Grade 9 will begin to phase in a new curriculum which will be fully implemented next year. Teachers from all over British Columbia have worked together with other leading experts to design a curriculum that embraces the best that we know about learning. Transforming curriculum will assist our educators in their continuing efforts to support each of our students.
Core competencies, essential learning, and literacy and numeracy foundations, are the features of the redesigned curriculum through which students will have the opportunity to think, learn and grow in our ever-changing world. A new curriculum for Grades 10 to 12 is presently in draft form, will be phased in commencing next year.
So, yes. I do get that “new school year feeling” every year — because every year is different. I am excited to observe passionate, committed staff members throughout our district from Yahk to Slocan City and up to Meadow Creek as they focus our collective energy on supporting each new generation of students. Our communities can be proud of the accomplishments of our outstanding children and youth. It’s a new year, and a new era in public education. As a community let’s take that step together, over the threshold to something that is strangely both familiar yet unknown.
Welcome back to those who are returning — and a special welcome to those who are joining us as new students, parents and staff. I hope the 2015-16 school year inspires you and engages you in amazing new learning.
Jeff Jones is the superintendent of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake).