Professional development days at Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik
From Feb. 18 to 22, Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik, Iqaluit’s middle school, was closed to students while teachers, support and counselling staff were engaged in five days of professional development. The staff of Aqsarniit were joined by teachers from Joamie and Nakasuk schools in Iqaluit for five days of a certificate course called “Tribes Teaching and Learning Community” (Tribes TLC.)
Tribes TLC is a process that teaches students to internalize character education values (such as caring and compassion, responsibility, justice and fairness, trustworthiness, honesty, doing one’s personal best) by living and learning within a caring school community. The Tribes TLC process recognizes that building a caring environment in schools is a vital, on-going process that must be based on clear agreements for behaviour, mutual respect, belonging, reflection, social skills and responsibility.
Course participants learned how the Tribes TLC process, developed by Jeanne Gibbs, can be used to integrate academic content into group learning processes in which all students participate.
Tribes TLC is based on more than 1,000 studies on co-operative learning, brain-compatible learning, resiliency, school climate and human development.
In schools and classrooms that use the Tribes process, students and teachers reflect many times a day upon caring human qualities and interactions while working together on classroom academics and other school activities.
There are four basic agreements in every Tribes community. These are attentive listening, mutual respect, appreciation/no put-downs, and the right to pass/participate. The teaching of these agreements in a positive learning environment helps students develop valued character qualities.
The five-day course at Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik was structured so that participants experienced the use of many of the 168 strategies in their own groups, or tribes. The participant tribes learned, through experience, how to use and communicate two objectives for each lesson plan.
In this way, students are not drilled in specific behaviors but instead, are engaged in deep critical reflection about certain ways of being. Through the repeated practice of working with, and connecting supportively to others, children will move from an isolated focus on “me” to altruism — concern for others and society.
School districts and studies in the educational literature report that students do much better academically in classes where they work co-operatively in groups, taking the time to reflect about their learning and individual contributions as well as their group efforts. The studies show that academic achievement is dramatically improved by as much as 87 per cent and that the rate of retention of knowledge is also better.
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