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Blog: Friday, December 21st, 2018

Looking Back on 2018

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

As 2018 draws to a close, I think it appropriate do two things. The first and more important of the two is to extend a sincere thank you to all of us who are part of “Team #AbbySchools”. Two thousand eighteen was an incredible year for our district in many ways, and it takes everyone in our schools and departments to keep their hearts and minds focused on our most important and critical mission - to make each student successful. There were amazing events this past year, things which displayed the unprecedented commitment and skill of staff all over the district. They are truly too countless to name, as I could quickly fill this page with successes from any one school or department in the district. Suffice it to say that I remain forever thankful for all of you who consistently put children first. I do wish to extend a special thank you to members of my district team here at the School Board Office. I am genuinely grateful for the passion, professionalism and care they bring to your work every day.

The second item I would like to share is a retrospective of sorts on 2018. Some will know that every January I make some semi-bold predictions about what will happen in the exciting world of education. While some people may find it interesting, no one holds me to account about the accuracy of these predictions. Hence, I thought I would list them here again, and reflect on the extent to which they materialized. As I look at the list, it is apparent that things do tend to move a little more slowly in the education sector, and perhaps for a good reason. So, if a prediction turns out to be off base, I believe it may be that it is slightly before its time, rather than a complete bust (How’s that for covering my bases?). Here goes:

  1. Unleash our Inclusive Capacity. In progress.
    Fueled by some unfortunate circumstances south of the border, inclusion and diversity came back to the fore in 2018. The fundamental importance of our public education system supporting the principles of inclusion and the power of diversity will ultimately win the day in creating a better and more prosperous society. We can never speak too much about how important this is to our collective well-being and consciousness.
  2. New Graduation Program. In progress, and just under the wire.
    As you will know, our government just released the final details of the graduation program.It was long-awaited, and will really never be completely done. Under the circumstances, we have gotten off to a commendable start to build on what was already a world-class education system in this province. More to come.
  3. Teacher Shortage. Check.
    Of course, we all saw this coming, so it was no big surprise for our sector. My point was that we now work in a seller’s market, and school districts cannot just sit by and expect that teachers will come their way. While the shortage is predicted to decrease in the next three years, there is a lesson for all school districts about making themselves marketable to the next generation of educators.
  4. Increasing Parent Engagement. In progress.
    Not that we will ever master engaging with parents about making schools more responsive to student needs, but I think we have come a long way. With the various technologies in our schools, parents have more of a window into our classrooms than ever before. And it will continue to improve (I do lament that we are losing the art of face to face communication, however).
  5. Moving past letter grades. In progress.
    True, we have come a long way in improving communication with parents about how their kids are progressing, and are relying less and less on letter grades and percentages to do so. This is a good thing. However, we must remember that there is a “language of learning” that our revised curriculum uses and that parents need time to learn it so they can make sense of what we are reporting.
  6. School districts can reduce homelessness. Not yet.
    Maybe this was a miss, but the discourse about poverty and homelessness in our society has only increased. We have seen some positive progress in our city, but I would like to see our students more engaged with this issue.They bring new perspectives to the problem and solutions that might surprise those us who have been confounded by it.
  7. Bridge the gap between mindset research and practice. In progress.
    I did not get a chance to tackle this one this year, but one of the driving questions in any industry is how to close the gap between what they know and what they do. It is a question about change.  Education will change to the extent that we are open to new mindsets about teaching and learning. There is positive evidence of this in Abbotsford, but we are at the beginning of this journey.
  8. Fighting the opioid epidemic. In progress.
    With the alarming increase in reported overdoses, this problem has grown in magnitude this year. I explored a solution design in my last post and will repeat it here: There are no universal interventions; we must invest in system-wide approaches to this issue that must have prevention and education as its fundamental basis.
  9. Schools and artificial intelligence. Not yet.
    There are some places where our sector is using artificial intelligence to better understand and respond to their student populations. For example, the Ministry now uses AI as part of the student learning survey to provide districts with information about what students are saying to as about their experiences in our schools. I did not get to this one this year, so will save it for 2019. 
  10. Improving Literacy. In progress.
    The pointy end of personalization. Despite that fact that our children will be living in futures where problem-solving, critical thinking and mental flexibility will be at a premium, the basis of their success will be the literacies, their ability to read, write and comprehend through various media. It starts early with their parents and early in our schools, and will open countless doors for our children.

Looking at the list, I am reminded that we are all privileged to live and learn in this amazing country, province, and city. There are places on this earth where people can only dream about attending school, never mind wondering about how artificial intelligence will enhance their experiences! With Christmas here, it is undoubtedly the time to be thankful and express gratitude for the fantastic education system we have, the wonderful people who make it work, and the tremendous opportunities provided for our children.

Merry Christmas.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.