Reflections on a New Kind of School

As our first guest speaker in EDCI 338, Jeff Hopkins inspired me as he told the story of his latest project, Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. Jeff is the former Superintendent of School District #64 (Gulf Islands), but he had a different vision for what education can and should look like. He mortgaged his house (that’s dedication!) and set out to create an independent school that could help realize his vision.

The first statistic that stood out to me during his talk was the fact that he received over 400 (did I hear that correctly?) unsolicited applications from teachers who wanted to work at his new school. This tells me two things: 1) these teachers can see Jeff’s vision and want to be a part of the project and 2) Jeff must be an amazing leader. Who applies to a school that hasn’t opened it’s doors and hasn’t established it’s identity yet? Visionaries.

I appreciated Jeff’s descriptions of the learning environments at PSII. He spoke of a non-traditional room set-up…smaller spaces for students to do their work. More intimate. A small room for music. A small art room. Spaces to collaborate and participate in learning. I liken this to the small areas of a kindergarten classroom. Places where children can play and learn together. We don’t all have to do the same thing at the same time in the same space.

I had an “aha moment” when Jeff described how the students were taking apart the learning outcomes and creating projects to meet those outcomes. How meaningful! It is important for our students to take ownership of their learning. One size does not fit all and with the students determining the pathway on which their education moves, I am sure they will feel more fulfilled and more in control of their learning.

Jeff mentioned that each student had an e-portfolio as the basis for assessment of their learning. I asked him to give us a picture of what that looked like and how it complied with the FIPPA laws in BC. He acknowledged that the students are taught not to put any personal information online, their parents gave informed consent (which covers the legality of the issue), and that Google Drive was the tool used for the e-portfolios. It was exciting to hear about this as I am also developing an e-portfolio system for my students using Kidblog. I think it’s wonderful to have students giving input into building their learning plan and the assessment of their achievements. It will be interesting to see how the new BCEdPlan allows for and hopefully encourages this type of assessment as the new curriculum is implemented next year.

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your passion with the EDCI 338 class. It is inspiring to see how your new undertaking has motivated your students and it is encouraging me to think about how I can change my classroom within the public system to better suit the learning styles of my students.

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