Archive: Mar 2017

  1. Headwaters Academy to Officially Open September 5th, 2017

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    Headwaters Academy to Officially Open September 5th, 2017


    On behalf of the entire Headwaters Academy team I would like to announce, officially and formally, that Headwaters Academy will open its doors on September 5th, 2017.  Our first two classes are full and we are looking to fill our third shortly.


    In building Headwaters Academy the team’s combined experience informed our choices for the ideal learning environment.  The promise of Headwaters Academy includes:


    • Small class sizes where children are never ‘lost’.
    • Multi-age classrooms where children can thrive at their ideal challenge level.
    • Daily outdoor and physical education utilizing our 110 acre site.
    • Constant involvement in the local and broader community.
    • A purposeful focus on entrepreneurship – our children are more likely to be ‘creating’ their jobs than ‘finding’ them.
    • An academic program that meets or exceeds all of the standards of the Ontario curriculum.


    The work of preparing our school continues.  Feel free to reach out for a tour, questions, or just to chat about your situation and children.  We look forward to sharing Headwaters Academy with this community.




    Mark Brown


    Headwaters Academy

  2. Changing the Concept of a Due Date

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    Traditional teaching practice in regards to project due dates is as follows:

    1) Set the assignment due date.

    2) Have students hand in their assignments on this date.

    3) Evaluate the assignments, put a mark on the front, and hand back.

    4)Record marks in the mark book, giving penalties or zeroes to those that aren’t in on time.

    5) Repeat the process for another project.


    From a student perspective it seems to go as follows.  Write the assignment due date in my agenda.

    1) Start working on it two to three days ahead of time (or, perhaps, the night before… often just when Mom or Dad see it in my agenda and remind me!)

    2) Get it done and hand it in.

    3) Forget about it until it comes back.

    4) Look at the mark and either show it to Mom and Dad, file it away, or throw it out.


    Most teachers, parents, and students wouldn’t see a problem with this.  But I see a problem.  Where does the student, in this process, get an opportunity to improve?  Where do they get not just teacher help and explanation, but teacher feedback about their work?  When does this work get shared in the community?  In short, what is the point?


    If this was a sporting context it would be like being assigned ‘stick-handling’, to be completed at home and shown to the coach in one week.  The coach would then give a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 on the performance and we would then forget about stick-handling until the next year.


    I have found that implementing the alternative system, within the somewhat traditional school that I work, is messy but well worth the work.  In my case I:


    1) Set the assignment.  This usually includes a conversation of who the final audience will be (right now my students are working on our 8th annual ‘What Matters’ Conference that brings in an ever-increasing number of community members and a baseline eco-study for a national museum property).


    2) Give multiple due dates (a final and interim).  This is where it gets messy.  There is only one ‘final’ due date – the date at which the projects are shared with the Museum or the community.  The other due dates are dates for feedback and somewhat ‘optional’.  But, as I tell the students – if the final date is the first time the work is shared aren’t we setting ourselves up for sub-par work that is lacking the feedback of others, or, worse yet, outright failure?  Students are constantly asking “when is it due” and for most of them the answer is “as soon as possible so we can discuss it and help you improve”.


    3) Students come in to see me early in the morning, at lunch, etc. to receive more feedback.


    4) We publish or share the work publicly.  It never has a Level 1 – 4 on the front – rather, students inherently know how well they’ve done by the reaction of the community they share it with.  Frankly, for many students, ‘how well they do’ in this system is not really a consideration.  Rather, the focus has moved from ‘getting the points’ to actually learning – and isn’t that what school is supposed to be about?

  3. Why Class Sizes in Ontario are Simply Too Large

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    Imagine that you wanted to be sure to spend just 15 minutes connecting with every student in your class.  If you had an average elementary class size of 25 students this would require 6.25 hours – more time than the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario allows a teacher to spend in front of students in a day.  Factor in recess and lunch breaks and you can see that this is impossible.


    While some people would see this as an exaggerated example and ask ‘what child needs 15 minutes every day?’ we see this as necessary if schools are to become truly student centered.  We know from our own experience that when faced with class sizes of 20, 22, or 25 students we simply cannot reach every student at an optimal level.


    Put another way – imagine a staff meeting at your workplace with 24 co-workers.  Do you feel like your voice will be heard?


    Headwaters Academy proudly maintains a teacher to student ratio that never exceeds 1:10 and is most often at 1:8.  With these ratios we are able to reach every child every day.