From the Desk of the Superintendent- October 2015

We are now into the month of October and the season of fall, but I want to take you back to my opening comments as a reminder of why we exist, where do we go and what do we do. We are unique because we are a Catholic school division and it is because of faith and through our faith that we create a horizon of hope. In the words of Pope Francis, “Today amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and be men and women that bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope.”

During the month of September, I’ve had numerous opportunities to share this question, “What does adulthood look like for the child who does not achieve in school?” It is a powerful question and should cause all of us to reflect. However, I would suggest the question is insufficient and incomplete. The addition needs to be about growing up into adulthood without faith, without some level of spirituality. In a recent article in Maclean’s magazine, Lisa Miller, director of clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Teachers College concluded the following:

Spiritually connected teens are, remarkably, 60 per cent less likely to suffer from depression than adolescents who are not spiritually oriented. They’re 40 per cent less likely to abuse alcohol or other substances, and 80 per cent less likely to engage in unprotected sex. Spiritually oriented children, raised to not shy from hard questions or difficult situations, Miller points out, also tend to excel academically. 

We have the ability to raise spiritually connected students in our schools, creating a horizon of hope for each and every one of them. As a mentioned in my opening comments, “Our jobs may be to educate, but it is our calling, our vocation for everyone here, no matter your role in the division, to form. To form our students to be spiritually healthy, faith filled and hopeful!”

So remember, it is not only what adulthood looks like for the child who does not achieve but also for the child who is not spiritually connected. It is a dual mandate that we must always take seriously in our role as Catholic educators.

Peace and blessings as you continue your role in our system!

Innovation: Let’s make it simple!

I just read the report on Innovation from the Conference Board of Canada which ranks Alberta as 15th overall. Given that Alberta is one of the top educational jurisdictions in the world, the stat is a little disconcerting. Innovation is defined by The Conference Board, “As a process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge—by creating, diffusing, and transforming ideas—to produce new or improved products, services, and processes.” Interestingly, nowhere in the definition is technology mentioned.

This is important and deserves attention since many equate innovation to technology. The fact is that innovation may be technology driven but in education, it is more about transforming ideas and improving practices. It is not that technology should not be in our classrooms; in fact it should be as common as pens and paper. But our way to innovation must begin with simple shifts in our ideas, our structures and our pedagogy.  So much fear of and from technology can be alleviated when we first begin to innovate with thoughtful purpose and through simple adjustments.

Simon Breakspear talks about the importance of pivoting in our practice. To me, this is exactly the beginning of innovation. It does not require a gigantic leap but rather a simple pivot that improves instruction, making it more meaningful, more effective and more efficient. We often become lost in the innovation network of the biggest and best, the newest and the most modern. That is not innovation for the average teacher nor the average person.

Committing to evolving our practice is the inertia required for the simplest form of innovation. We seek to do something better, then we do something different and innovation begins. It is that simple! System improvement is always preceded by school improvement which is always preceded by individual teacher improvement. There is no magic bullet and there is no other way for innovation to begin and eventually scale up and scale out. It begins in the classroom with a pivot in thinking and in doing! Innovation can become the normal routine when educators believe it is about transforming ideas, shifting processes and reflecting on one’s practice!

Remember…innovation is that simple! 

Moving forward with Student Learning Assessments

Last week, Holy Spirit decided to participate in the Student Learning Assessment pilot. The choice of all or none implementation was certainly not preferred but in discussing with many of our administrators and grade 3 teachers who participated last year, ALL was better than NONE! Enclosed is the message sent to all of our grade 3 teachers by our Director of Learning, indicating our participation. It provides our rationale and our steps to support this work.

Over the past number of years, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has actively embraced innovation in teaching, learning and assessment. Guided by “Inspiring Education,” the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, and what we know to be in our students’ best interests, we were quick to walk away from Grade Three Provincial Achievement Testing and commit to piloting the Student Learning Assessment (SLA) in September 2014. In our quest to find better ways to assess all students, work was begun last year for each of our grade levels to create common assessments for Literacy and Numeracy to be used throughout our school division. Grade three teachers, at that time, chose to focus on the SLAs rather than create an additional assessment for Holy Spirit.

Through participation in the 2014 Grade 3 SLAs, our students and teachers were able to be part of creating a better way to assess student learning and use data to inform instruction. Although there were many challenges that came along with the 2014 iteration of Grade Three SLAs, as a school division, we were able to pull together to provide additional supports for our teachers including time set aside to collaboratively and individually score the Performance Task portion of the SLAs. At our subsequent Grade level meetings, additional effort was given to providing important feedback to Alberta Education for improving the assessment and its process.

In planning for the September 2015 administration of SLAs, Alberta Education has responded to many of our concerns. Some of the improvements this year include:

  • The SLA Teacher Dashboard was opened on September 1, allowing two full weeks for teachers to access teacher and student materials in preparation for the Assessment scheduled to begin on September 14. This includes full access to all of the assessment components for teacher preview. The SLA Teacher Dashboard has been expanded to provide access to school and division leaders. This added access will enhance the ability of leaders to provide any additional support that teachers may need with the dashboard.
  • Additional implementation supports are available through open access to SLA3 practice questions, released questions from the 2014 pilot and sample performance tasks.
  • Professional Learning Opportunities for teachers have been increased both before and after administration of the SLAs. Numerous sessions are being offered in Southern Alberta by SAPDC, including one on September 9, 2015 specifically for Holy Spirit Teachers. We will, once again host a collaborative marking day for teachers as well as additional time for marking as needed by teachers. SAPDC will offer sessions in collaboration with Alberta Education to assist teachers in analysing the digitally scored data reports once they become available. Substitute teacher costs for these professional learning opportunities will be covered through Holy Spirit Catholic Schools Learning Services.
  • Information from Alberta Education assures us that the Performance Assessment component of the SLA has been significantly streamlined and the accompanying material simplified. This includes a simplified administration guide, shorter exemplars and simplified scoring rubrics. It is anticipated that the time required to administer and mark the performance tasks will be reduced by at least half.
  • The time lines for the administration have been increased to 4 weeks for the Digital Literacy and Numeracy components and 7 weeks for the Literacy and Numeracy Performance Assessments.
  • There have been significant improvements to the Individual Student and Class Reports.

Alberta Education identifies the purposes of the SLAs to be to improve student learning (primary purpose), to enhance instruction for students and to assure Albertans the education system is meeting the needs of students and achieves the outcomes of the Ministerial Order on Student Learning. During the 2015 administration, there will be no school level, division level or public reporting of student results. The emphasis for this pilot year once again, is on improving the assessment instrument and the process of administering it. Teacher feedback will be vital to continuing to improve the Grade 3 Student Learning Assessment.

Since the SLA announcement from the Minister of Education, our Superintendent, Chris Smeaton has been working with the department to seek alternatives to all or none implementation. Unfortunately, his request to have a sampling throughout our division, which is well supported by Hargreaves and Shirley, has been denied. Given that, we believe that to opt out entirely would be a missed opportunity for our division. Therefore, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will participate in this pilot and supports earlier mentioned will be provided to assist you in your work.

I am looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday, September 98:30-11:30am at St. Basil’s Catholic Education Centre for our 2015 SLA3 Orientation Session with SAPDC.

Please pre-register at:

Should you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your continued dedication to our students!


National Principals Leadership Institute- Designing Schools for the Future

This past summer, I was invited as a member of C21 Canada to attend the National Principals Leadership Institute in New York. The invitation provided for a presentation on the work of C21 Canada as well as an opportunity to serve as a leadership consultant to school and system leaders from across North America. The theme of the institute was designing schools for the future with a target date of 2040. One of the advantages I had as a Canadian Superintendent was my intimate knowledge of the work done in my home province of Alberta with Inspiring Education. The document that accompanies this path forward, focuses on preparing students for the year 2030  to be engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit. This information assisted me in my work with participants as well as reaffirmed the work we are currently doing in my own school division.

The structure of the Institute was its greatest strength. Each morning a keynote presentation set the stage for the sub theme of the day. The keynote presenters were not directly connected to the K-12 education system and therefore, gave a unique perspective on designing schools for the future. Two panels followed, with the first addressing the keynote presentation while the second provided implications to schools.  The addition of the panel that addressed the implications in education drove home the importance of thinking beyond our own paradigm to truly design schools that will meet the needs of future generations.

There were a variety of futuristic topics, from urban planning to innovation, which laid a strong foundation for the team planning sessions in the afternoon. Participants were divided up into teams with the end result being the design and presentation of their school for the year 2040. Given our understanding that communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are essential for student success in today’s ever changing world, the team format allowed administrators to live the experience we want in our classrooms.

The resulting projects were outstanding and more importantly doable. Although technology was leveraged in the future schools, it was not the dominate design. Common sense prevailed and a keen sense of current research on child development, teaching and learning. Innovation wasn’t simply categorized by technology but often it was by doing something different, perhaps more efficiently, more effectively or more deliberately. Multi-age classrooms, project based learning, common assessments and a mentality of learning for all where evident in all futuristic schools.

For some, including those (should be) common staples of education into future schools may be disappointing. But it seems that putting our vision of education into the Star Trek world of  teleportation is just too far-fetched. The challenge is letting technology serve us better in what we know about child development, teaching and learning. The frustration is in the knowing-doing gap; already knowing what we need to do but not doing it beyond the pockets of excellence that exist around the world. The presence of members from the C21 Canada Leadership Academy at the Institute provided some direction on moving from pockets of excellence to scaling out and scaling up. The latest publication, Shifting Minds 3.0 Redefining the Learning Landscape in Canada pursues a dual strategy of both improvement and innovation that is required to both maintain stability and enable forward momentum.

Designing schools for the future is about improvement and innovation. It is about challenging assumptions and beliefs and confronting the brutal facts. It will be messy and on a road less travelled. But it is what students deserve and what committed educators desire and that was evident throughout the Institute.

Many thanks to Lew Smith and Jann Coles from NPLI for the invitation and to all the leaders who I had the pleasure to work with during my time in New York! Best of luck in beginning your 2040 design today!




From the Desk of the Superintendent- Opening Message to Staff

Today in my opening comments I want to speak only about faith, not innovation or creativity, not common assessments or transformation. There will be other times for that but right now… simply faith. The reason I want to focus on faith is that it is our mission… that is what makes us unique. All school divisions including us, focus on the education piece but it is our existence as a Catholic School Division that makes us different.

This year is the last year of our 3-year faith plan. We began in 2013 with David Wells introducing us to our theme of “Taking Our Place at the Table.” He invited us all to come to the table. He reminded us that we are all worthy to come to the table, God welcomes us all. Those were comforting words because all of us at some point and time in our life have left God’s table; some because we did not feel welcome and others because we felt unworthy. But David pushed us a little farther in that not only did he say come to the table, but he also asked us to look around and see who wasn’t sitting with us and then asked us to go out and invite them too. Those not at our table were our lonely, our disenfranchised, our marginalized. But they too deserve to be at the table and we, as faith filled people need to invite them, go to them and bring them to the table.

That imagery led well to last year’s faith theme of “Walking Together.” For our schools, walking together was very tangible; it was visual and all students, no matter the age could understand and appreciate this idea. We walk together, sometimes in front, or in the middle, or near the end but we do it together. It reminded us that we are a community, all welcome, all different and unique but all together. Regardless of year 2 being over, we still continue to come to the table, to be invitational to all and we gather as one community, walking together in order to provide “A Horizon of Hope.”

Our theme this year reminds us of the responsibility we have as a community, to provide hope to all around us. Delphine Goodstriker, one of our elders said yesterday, “We were given a heart so that we can give.” And it is hope that we must give to our students and their families and to each other.

Hope is not the belief that all of our problems go away. Hope comes from faith, a faith where we may never understand the hand of God but we must always trust the heart of God!

It is sad that in our world there are many who have no hope and unfortunately, many of those are our students. Paint a picture of what adulthood looks like for those children who don’t succeed in our schools? Without hope, there is little chance for any negative cycle to be broken!

Pope Francis says, “Today amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and be men and women that bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope.”

Our jobs may be to educate, but it is our calling, our vocation for everyone here, no matter your role in the division, to form. To form our students to be spiritually healthy, faith filled and hopeful! This year I ask you to be reminded of our mission; a mission that calls on each of us to make a difference in our students’ lives by providing them hope. Creating a horizon of hope is not an easy task and that is why we must do it as one community, seated at one table and walking together.

And so as I conclude my remarks, I leave you with two short verses from Romans: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Have a wonderful school year and God Bless!

Leadership is not about pleasing everyone!

Last week, I received a scathing comment to my blog Giving up control. While I didn’t agree with the comment, I allowed it to be published and thanked the individual for his opinion. Earlier in my leadership, I may have engaged in an argument with the individual trying to convince him that I was right and he was wrong but, I’ve long past that point in my career. Instead it reminded me that leadership is not about pleasing everyone and in fact if you try to please everyone, you will not lead any substantial change or have any significant impact.

“I don’t see how you can write anything of value if you don’t offend someone.” -Marvin Harris  

Leading requires challenging the status quo. I cannot believe that most leaders are hired to keep everything static! Leadership requires a focus on solutions not problems and moving forward not falling behind. But that does not mean that  fostering effective relationships is not also a part of leadership. You won’t move forward without building authentic relationships with your stakeholders but you also won’t move forward if you try to please everyone! It is a fine line that leaders must walk and often that line moves mid-step! This is one of the many traits that leaders must possess to be truly effective and why there is not an abundance of exceptional leaders. It is extremely difficult for any leader to deal with the multitude of opinions or polarizing expertise and so it is critical that the leader is very clear on the mission. Keeping that in the forefront will assist the leader in carrying on the work in the face of adversity.

This week, I’m serving as a leadership consultant at the National Principal Leadership Institute in New York. The focus of the institute is on designing schools for 2040 and all of the sessions drive home the need for innovation. For too long we’ve talked about school reform while business talks about innovation. Designing schools for 2040 will not be accomplished with simple tweaks or any measure of reform. Schools that will prepare students for their future and not our past will only be achieved through innovation! And innovation, the change required to make schools where they need to evolve to, will not come about without infuriating some. Everybody along the spectrum, from conservative to liberal, will have a point of view on this debate. Leaders must not only understand this but more importantly embrace it! And leaders must not simply take the easy path and settle for the middle because it pleases most. Sometimes the decision rests on the left or right or sometimes it is in the middle but the path must be on what is right, not what is popular.

It will take bold leaders to get us to this point. It will take a person who understands the importance of authentic relationships while also being prepared to stand up to the naysayers, often a very loud minority! Leaders cannot move any organization forward without reaching a tipping point but they will also become stuck in mediocrity if they wait for everybody to come onside before they begin. Create multiple feedback loops, develop a culture of collaboration and seek consultation, but don’t expect to please everyone or you won’t innovate anything! Leadership is not about pleasing or being popular, it is about doing things right and the right thing! Schools for 2040 and more importantly children of today don’t have time to wait to please everyone.

From the Desk of the Superintendent- 2015 Year End Message

This past weekend I was in Red Deer with my family, celebrating the marriage of our daughter, Jamieson. It seems like only yesterday when she was a little girl and I was the only man in her life but time does seem to fly by whether we want it to or not. She is now a grown woman, a beautiful bride and very proud to be Mrs. Darren Windle! We rejoice and are so pleased to welcome Darren into our family!

As  we get older, time does seem to fly by and when you are in education, school years are similar in that they act more like sprints than marathons! This year was no different; we began with an outdoor mass and the 100th anniversary of St. Basil in late August and here we are in the last week of school.  On June 17th, I celebrated my sixth year as Superintendent of this outstanding division. With my one year as Deputy Superintendent and five years as principal at St. Patrick School in Taber, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has been my home for twelve years. It is good to be home and I continue to be blessed to be here!

While I say that often, I don’t want my words to ever be taken as a broken record. I truly am blessed to lead this organization. The more times that I connect with people outside the division, the more I realize what a special place we have here in Holy Spirit. Phone any of our sites and listen to the welcome you receive! Walk through our buildings and notice the cleanliness. Step into our classrooms and see the incredible dedication. Enter our buildings and feel the Holy Spirit! Our school division continues to grow and change and improve because of all of you, the staff of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division. Each of you contributes to this blessed state and to each of you I say thank you!

School years don’t ever go as planned and so we have had some peaks and valleys. However, when I take the time to be very reflective on the year, I’m most impressed with how we’ve been able to walk together and move forward. In completing our school year reviews, countless examples of our faith theme were expressed by our school leaders. Walking Together was not something that was simply placed in a document, it was truly alive in our schools and lived by our staffs and students. Next year’s theme, Horizons of Hope will continue to be central to everything that we do in our division.

We congratulate our graduating students and give special blessings to our St. Mary’s Class of 2015 who will celebrate this coming week. And we celebrate the careers of those staff members who have decided upon retirement or to follow other career aspirations. May all of those leaving Holy Spirit, be blessed as they begin new journeys and walk different paths.

Summer vacation is about to begin and that has different meaning for many. For some, it will mean being able to actually kick back and relax, others will begin planning for new positions and still others will be hitting the books. Regardless of your summer’s activities, I would like to wish you well and thank you for dedicated service to Holy Spirit. Please find some time to relax, to enjoy and to renew. May God bless you during the coming months! Take care and see you at opening mass!


Leadership Counts

The following article was provided to the Lethbridge Herald and published on June 03, 2015.

Last week, one of my esteemed superintendent colleagues wrote about the importance of teacher quality on student learning. The research on this is very clear and so divisions invest heavily in providing opportunities for teachers to engage in high quality professional development to continually support improved teacher practice. However, what may be less known, and not quite as easy to tease out in research, is the importance and impact of quality leadership in schools on student learning.

The role of the principal is not just that of a master teacher who has climbed up the ladder. Principals are tasked with fostering effective relationships with students, staff, parents and the larger community. There is an expectation that they are visionary in nature and are able to lead their learning community both effectively and efficiently. They must also be instructional leaders, facilitate leadership opportunities in others, manage school operations and do so with an appreciation and understanding of multiple perspectives and varying contexts. They need to be apt at problem solving, collaborative in nature and possess both a thick skin and a compassionate heart.

Continuous improvement is part of their mandate. Great schools come about by pushing good schools to be better – not maintaining the status quo. Challenging the status quo is never easy and is often met with resistance from both internal and external critics. The role of change agent, to continually seek innovative practice and improved student learning, is never without some push back. Being a successful change agent requires that principals build significant organizational trust and practice both persistence and patience simultaneously. No easy feat for even the most gifted leader!

Furthermore, even though principals are required to be learned, it is equally important that they are constantly learning and modelling continuous growth to staff, students and parents. While it may sometimes be difficult for these leaders to be gone from the school and out of the building, principals (and those on their teams) must be fully engaged in high quality professional learning in order to support the overall school community. It is crucial that they maintain a high level of educational leadership through their own learning.

When you really look at the job description of a principal it is easy to recognize how important their role is in promoting student learning. It is a complex position that requires almost super human abilities. Yet, without them, it is highly unlikely that any school will make the leap from good to great – and that is why leadership counts!

From the Desk of the Superintendent- June 2015

June has arrived! Nine months of incredible work has led us to this point. Exams are forthcoming, field trips are in full swing and summer vacation is right around the corner! But before we talk about June though, let’s talk about the history that took place in Alberta in May. Can you believe that after 44 years of the same conservative government, we have swung fully to the left? Although I try to stay fairly apolitical in my position, I must say that I have been most impressed with the beginning leadership of our new premier. Later today, I will have a chance to hear our new Minister of Education, David Eggen.

Certainly for our school board, the announcement to restore the funding by the new government was welcome news. The previous budget process had been very difficult as we tried to slash and burn every non-staff expense we could to ensure all front line staff were maintained. Through attrition and retirement we would have been down by 3.65 FTE educational assistant staff without any permanent positions being lost or hours reduced. However, with funding restored, we will be able to advertise for additional positions to support our students and our system. Even with the additional dollars however, the budgets for transportation and especially plant operations and maintenance continue to be stretched well beyond acceptable limits. There are still some tough decisions that will need to be made but overall, we are extremely happy with the funding announcement.

Due to the funding announcement and the extension for the budget submission, the May board meeting did not include the passing of our education plan or budget. This has now been delayed until June in order to give divisions time to allocate the additional funds appropriately and based on local context. One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation to Mr. Rob Jetten from Catholic Central High School. Mr. Jetten was recognized as a semi-finalist for Alberta Education’s Excellence in Teaching Awards and is certainly deserving of this honor. Please ensure that you pass on congratulations to Rob!

Speaking of excellence, we are about to say goodbye to some incredible people in our division as they retire. On June 9th, the Board of Trustees will be hosting their annual retirement banquet. Although I always speak at this banquet, it is important to provide a public “shout out” to all of our retirees, congratulating them for their years of service and most importantly their commitment to students. May God bless you in your retirement with continued hope, health and happiness.

Finally, I would like to remind all of our staff of my initiative, “Superintendent Chat” held every Friday (that I’m in town) from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM. I want to especially invite those staff who may be interested in leadership positions in the future. With a maturing leadership team, we are anticipating between 15-20 administrative positions being available over the next five years. If you have any inkling of leadership please give Anisha Gatner a call (403-331-4304) and book a time to sit down and chat.

Enjoy June, it will pass by quickly! Best of luck to our students as they write exams and submit final projects. And watch for one final post at the conclusion of the school year. Take care and God Bless!

Giving up control

Traditional methods of teaching have long been successful. They are known by parents who “succeeded” in classrooms of this type, they are comfortable for many teachers and some students thrive on this type of instruction. It should come as no surprise then, when there is resistance! It is difficult to argue with a teacher, parent or student who has experienced success from traditional practice.

But there is a changing landscape in our schools and the goal of our current education system is to ensure success for ALL not just some students. Part of the changing landscape involves a different type of student in our classroom. A shrinking middle class and high levels of poverty are creating an opportunity gap and overly protective parents are spawning students with high anxiety, fear of failure and little resiliency. Compliant students (those seen and not heard) are not as common in our classrooms and teachers are expected to provide high levels of engagement. These factors and many not mentioned have produced an extremely diverse classroom today. To prepare students to be successful in this century, there needs to be a premium placed on developing a committed learner as opposed to a compliant student.

While this may a little bit general, traditional practice supports the needs of the compliant student. While they may be academically engaged- give me the information so I can get the marks, they are not intellectually engaged. They respond as consumers of knowledge rather than creators of learning. While those skills may have led to success in the 20th century and were well supported by traditional practice, the students of today need an education that is far greater in scope.  The focus in today’s classroom must be the development of competencies with a high priority on learning and not just learned!

The so-called educational purist often only sees the importance of “reading, writing and arithmetic.” I’ve never suggested that the focus on foundational skills should ever be lessened. Literacy and numeracy must be at the core of a strong education system. But a well-rounded education and one that prepares students for their future must offer opportunities for students to learn “soft skills.” Now, I know this really irks our educational “back to the basics” pundits because competencies like communication, creativity, communication and collaboration don’t measure well on a standardized exam. But just because it is difficult to measure does not mean it is not essential for today’s classrooms.

Earlier this week, I witnessed some master teachers creating opportunities for students to learn soft skills. Students were provided ownership by scheduling part of their timetable, given autonomy to choose learning activities or the choice in projects to demonstrate outcomes. And by the way, the curriculum was being covered but so much more learning was occurring. Students were intellectually engaged; they were creating; they were having fun and yes, they were learning! The learning involved not just aspects of the curriculum but the development of self-regulation, time management, leadership and collaboration. By providing some student autonomy, students were highly motivated and resiliency skills (which are often under emphasized) were being developed.

In each of my conversations with these teachers, they talked about “letting go or giving up control.” And each of them commented on the difficulty of doing this but also on how positive the change had been for the students. Remember, these are all master teachers who could continue with traditional practice and remain successful. They chose however, to go beyond their own comfort zone, give up some control and let students become a part of their own learning.

Maintaining traditional methods or giving up control is not an either/or decision, it is both/and! It is also not something that teachers can do at the flick of a switch. It requires significant planning, honest reflection on personal practice and must fit within the context of the students in the classroom. To really develop the soft skills necessary however, we can not allow ourselves to always default to the traditional. Giving up some control to develop competencies in our students should be a focus of every school improvement plan and teacher professional growth plan. The impact is not only a greater sense of efficacy for teachers but improved whole scale learning for students.