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Horizon looks to future with three-year plan

Posted on December 20, 2017 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times

The Horizon School board is looking at other ways of rewarding students during award ceremonies other than academics as part of their three year plan.

During their regular meeting on Nov. 28, Horizon Superintendent Wilco Tymensen presented the board members with an activity to see what they value in their own kids and the students in their schools.

They were split into two groups and presented with 10 cards such as intelligent, healthy, athletic and popular, they then were instructed to remove them until they were left with only one card.

One side was left with healthy and the other was left with independent, while intelligent was removed close to the start for both.

“I think it becomes important when we look at the three year plan that it’s not just about academics. It’s not just about marks but it’s about having a well rounded individual who is healthy and independent,” said Tymensen.

This had led them to consider not just rewarding kids who get good marks but those who work hard and show improvement.
Board Chair Marie Logan also questioned why all of the recognition was going towards the top mark earners in the schools.

“That’s a really good question. When you talk about schools, when you go to awards ceremonies, what do schools celebrate?” said Tymensen, who’s question was answered with academics by the board.

“My challenge to you is why? Your awards ceremony has always been about rewarding kids who are smart. They may have zero work ethic, they may not be trying, it just comes naturally, and you are rewarding them. On the other hand a child who works their butt off, who may have been failing last year but is now getting a 79 and has overcome all sorts of obstacles whether they be in school or at home and yet they get no recognition.”

The talk of implementing new awards isn’t a new idea by any means but there has been a lack of success in actually pushing it through.

One reason is some negative reactions from some parents who are in favour of keeping the awards based purely on the success in academics.

“When we look at our awards, how we recognize successes, our comment is often around the notion of are we celebrating and honouring what we truly value? It’s interesting because schools talk about removing honour rolls and let’s talk about other things that we think are more important. You certainly get some push back from parents, so some of our schools have done this activity to see what they truly value as a school,” said Tymensen.

While the awards are nice for the students and their families, the school board is committed to developing community minded, successful residents once they leave their schools.

“As a jurisdiction, we have one core goal. It’s not being popular, it’s not being attractive, it’s not being athletic. It’s really about giving back to society and our core goal is around ensuring that when kids leave school, we say leave school because not all kids graduate because not everybody graduates,” said Tymensen. “But when they leave, our goal is they are contributing global citizens. They can give back to society, they are successful, they are healthy and they are independent.”

The need for social activities in a school setting is something Tymensen considers crucial in order for the students to be successful individuals whenever they leave school.

He also believes that what students can learn and gain from these types of interactions can be even more beneficial for them than the academics in a real world setting.

“It’s interesting because sometimes schools will say they don’t have time for those social actives, ‘let’s get rid of the Christmas concerts, the field trips and the pep rallies. Let’s just focus on reading, writing and math.’ When you only focus on academics, you’re not creating a social environment within the school and the social environment within the school is about collaboration, it’s about creating leadership and all of those other opportunities which are as important. For us they are even more important,” said Tymensen. “Key action items are, we believe, that if we want to have successful and healthy kids we need to make sure we have strong core instruction and then we build on those. There was a time where it was all about being smart, memorize the facts, spit them back and you get a good mark. Certainly our goals become those higher complex things like problem solving, critical thinking, communicating, being able to work together, being able to read in a real world setting so those factors are really, really important.”

Moving forward though, the board realizes that they can only do so much in molding students for their future in the real world.

They hope that with their three year plan they can collaborate positively with all factions that are present within the school system whether it be teachers, parents or the students themselves.

“If kids are not successful, what are we doing about it? So the entire three year plan is framed within and we know we can’t do it alone. Parents are required, support staff are required, teachers are required, councillors are required, so we work together. Certainly when you look at our school division the numbers show themselves,” said Tymensen.

The board went on to pass the three year plan unanimously.

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