May 30, 2021
An open letter to the Westmont Montessori School Board of Directors and fellow members of the community:
My name is Ana Ver Waddington, and I am the step-mother to Alwynn (Ollie) Waddington, a new student in the Middle School. I have been an educator for 15 years—I have visited schools in rural areas and small towns across BC with Science World’s On the Road team, I have worked in inner city schools in Toronto, and I have been a teacher at both start-up and large, traditional independent schools in Vancouver and Victoria. I currently work for the Ministry of Education as a Curriculum Coordinator.
When my husband and I discovered Westmont Montessori School in 2020, we saw a place where our daughter would really be able to be a part of a community that understood the purpose of education, a school which could develop the whole child, with individualized and personalized teaching and learning, a place which was unencumbered by the gates and boundaries of traditional schooling. From a newcomer’s perspective, Westmont is in the unique position of truly being able to blow open the traditional boxes and sorting chutes through which our previous educational system has forced our children.
As an experienced educator with expertise in BC’s curriculum, I can tell you this: British Columbia has undergone a massive shift in its ideas about the purpose of education. In the Province’s re-definition, the purpose of the K-12 school system is to graduate educated citizens who are literate and numerate, who can think critically and communicate, who care for themselves, and connect with others. Our previous curriculum was based on sets of learning outcomes, checklists of facts and subject specific skills which students needed to learn and demonstrate to become educated. Assessment methods were often in the form of tests which evaluated the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: remembering, and perhaps a few questions to appraise understanding.
The Ministry of Education now publicly up-ends these views of the purpose of education.
“Today we live in a state of constant change. It is a technology-rich world, where communication is instant and information is immediately accessible.
The way we interact with each other personally, socially, and at work has changed forever. Knowledge is growing at exponential rates in many domains, creating new information and possibilities. This is the world our students are entering” (BC Curriculum Overview).
By focusing the goals of the school system on graduates’ competencies and on qualities that reflect citizens who can help the Province meet its social and economic goals, BC has created a strong mandate for the Ministry of Education—to graduate an engaged and educated citizen.
Even with these positive shifts in the views of education and the mandates of implementing the new curriculum from the Ministry, we see large schools and districts finding difficulties in pivoting their teaching pedagogies and assessment methods towards this new way of teaching and learning. A survey conducted by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) in 2019 reported that while roughly three quarters of Grades 10-12 teachers claim that they are using the redesigned curriculum always or most of the time, only approximately 60% of teachers report that they are actually supportive of the changes in the curriculum. Worryingly, only 37% of secondary teachers feel that the redesigned curriculum aligns with their views and values of the purpose of education. A dismal 23% of secondary teachers report having received in-service or professional development on student self-assessment of the Core Competencies of critical thinking, communication, and personal and social connections.
Westmont Montessori is in the unique position to be leaders in this tidal wave of change in education in our province. The principles of 21 st century learning and the new BC curriculum are embedded, ingrained, and reflected in the plans for High School 2.0. The teaching and learning and assessment of learning fully align with the province’s values of education. You have highly trained and committed teachers, educators who care for the whole child, and a parent community who understands the importance of graduating students who will not only sit at the heads of board room tables, but will invite others to also take seats at the table.
“Twenty first century education must be predicated on living with children and young people through an experiential curriculum that is generative and life forwarding. It is education that enables students and teachers to be fully engaged in a way that enhances well-being for all members of the community of life.” Howard, P. (2018). Twenty-First Century Learning as a Radical Re-Thinking of Education in the Service of Life. Education Sciences, 8(189), 1-13.
High School 2.0 is a model of what education should be like for all children in our province. Let Westmont be at the forefront of this change, and demonstrate leadership in education. I encourage the Board of Directors to fully support and implement High School 2.0. Show your children that you believe in their futures as changemakers, and join me supporting High School 2.0.
Ana Ver Waddington