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Going International

June 12, 2018
The Norway-Canadian (NORCAN) partnership has come to the end of its three-year term.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has several international partnerships that are in various stages of their life cycles. Here are summaries and comments from participants.


Now concluding after launching in March 2015, the Norway-Canadian (NORCAN) partnership brought together school teams in Norway, Ontario and Alberta to examine the issue of equity in mathematics. The project involved principals, teachers and students working side by side to engage in questions like, What does it mean to be good at math? Is there such a thing as natural ability in math? or, for a student, What does it mean to ask for help?

This project has reached the end of its initial three-year term and its final report will be published in the fall.

Participants’ perspective

“We often say our students are the leaders of tomorrow. It is through programs like NORCAN that make me believe tomorrow is already here and that we educators need to take a step back allowing our students to guide not only their learning but ours as well. As we have seen through NORCAN, a student voice is a very powerful medium.”

Jeff Landry, teacher, Westwood
Community High School, Fort McMurray

“NORCAN for me was incredible. It was truly a time when I could flourish in personal growth and develop myself as a better leader. My personal experience was beautiful beyond what words could ever express, and it was genuinely a one-in-a-million experience.”

Nandini Dalwadi, Grade 12 student, Westwood Community High School, Fort McMurray

“This project brought out my leadership skills and the voice that was hidden within me. I will continue to spread the voice and share ideas within my school and city to make an impact within our global community.”

Aksh Patel, Grade 11 student, Westwood Community High School, Fort McMurray

“The opportunity to discuss governance, curriculum, pedagogy and life between three political entities has been enlightening and has made Olds High School a better place for students and staff to learn.”

Olds High School, NORCAN report

“NORCAN has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. Being with young leaders from all over has been an amazing time. Coming to Norway has been eye-opening and has given me a better lens on the world around me.”

Myranda Champagne, student, W.P. Wagner High School, Edmonton

“From staying with a Norwegian family to sitting in on classes, this exchange has given me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience another country’s school system from a student’s perspective, and to reflect on education from a constructively critical lens. I am excited to work with my classmates and teachers to create equity in our school, and to incorporate aspects from NORCAN into our classrooms. One of the most surprising realizations that came of this experience was that adolescents are the same everywhere, and Canada isn’t so different from Norway.”

Maddie Wait, student, W.P. Wagner High School, Edmonton


The Finland-Alberta (FINAL) partnership is being renewed to involve a new group of high schools from Alberta and Finland. (SUPPLIED)

The Finland-Alberta (FINAL) partnership was initiated in 2011 by the Finnish National Board of Education, the Centre for International Mobility and the Association. The foundational goal was to build capacity for principal, teacher and student leadership in the participating schools.

While the first iteration has concluded, the project is being renewed to involve new high school partners and a focus on collaborating on curriculum renewal and implementation, assessment, innovative teaching practices, student engagement and inclusive and equitable education. Selection of schools is currently under way.

Participants’ perspective

“The leadership lessons learned from our Finnish colleagues and indeed from each other are simple yet profound. We are, not surprisingly, stronger together, able to do more despite the ever shrinking resources of public education and the ever increasing pressures, expectations and demands upon public schools. Yet there is an additional, less obvious and perhaps more surprising insight.

The work of high school principals in Alberta is rich, demanding and complex. So too is the work of high school principals in Finland. Many of the issues are identical — reductions in budgets, increasing numbers of students with greater needs, less certainty about what skills students need for their future lives, etc. In Finland those issues are often met with sisu, the Finnish word encompassing extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. Herein lies the leadership lesson: it is an action mindset which enables individuals and groups to reach beyond present limitations and transform barriers into frontiers. It is more than seeing challenges as opportunities. It is seen and lived as a universal capacity which we all share, not just the gifted or the leaders or some people — all of us.”

Matt Christison, principal, Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary; and Jana Macdonald, principal, Bowness High School, Calgary

Alberta-New Zealand

The Alberta-New Zealand partnership had students from Brooks visit New Zealand schools that are made up primarily of Maori students.

This international partnership saw the formal pairing of two Alberta schools with schools in New Zealand. Both
participating Alberta schools are in Brooks: Eastbrook Elementary and Brooks Composite High School.

Teams from the Alberta schools visited New Zealand in March in order to reconnect with the New Zealand teams that travelled to Alberta last year, and also to meet with researchers from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

The three schools visited in Porirua, a suburb of Wellington, are made up primarily of Maori students and students of families from the Pacific Islands. In both Alberta schools, more than 30 per cent of the student population are English language learners.
The diversity present in the New Zealand and Alberta schools provide both teams an opportunity to compare how they work with complex and diverse school populations. Students, teachers and school leaders engage in the question, How do we develop leadership in support of transitions in learning?

Participants’ perspective

“The overwhelming feeling we got from each of these schools was the sense of whanau (family) that was apparent among all of the students as well as the staff. These are students from a variety of cultural backgrounds, yet they all take part in the welcoming haka that each of the schools presented.”

Geoff Petley-Jones, principal, and Olivia Stroeder, special education, Brooks Composite High School

“A similarity between tour representative schools and the schools we visited was the noted diversity of our student populations as well as a similar economic reality of the types of employment available and income stratification. In this common reality, teachers and school leaders are challenged to take a provincial curriculum (national curriculum in New Zealand), and transform it into something relevant to the local context. Repeatedly in the Porirua Schools we heard the need to engage in or focus on place-based learning, connecting all learners to their local community and local ecology.”

Tim Rodgers, principal and Erin Norrish, learning support teacher, Eastbrook Elementary School, Brooks

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