Think outside the box

Think outside the box

I have long liked this saying as it has inspired me in my work to find solutions to challenging situations and to dwell in possibility. Albert Einstein wrote: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”, and “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”. 

Years ago, I was introduced to the ideas of Roger Martin who, at that time, was Dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. His landmark book, The Opposable Mind (2009), resonated with me and I find myself reflecting on his idea as I think forward to the creation of STS’s next strategic plan. Martin presents a thesis that integrative thinking – the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their mind at once, and then reach a synthesis that contains elements of both, while simultaneously improving each other – allows individuals and organizations to find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. What skill could be more important in developing our students than this one?

As an educator, I am able to see the evolution of our students as they transform, evolve and grow throughout their time in the School. Even more interesting is witnessing them return as young alumni, as many have this week, and being amazed by their ideas, achievements, goals and dreams. The human endeavour is absolutely intriguing and I wonder if we ever stop considering who we want to be and what we are trying to accomplish? How do the experiences we have shape who we are as people and in turn, create the society we live in?

I have always believed that it is important to instill in our students a commitment and belief in lifelong learning and continuous improvement. I love the quote from Henry Ford that says “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”. How liberating this is when we approach new situations and opportunities from a learning perspective. We are moved to action when we see a way that we can contribute in purposeful and meaningful ways. I am astounded, on a daily basis, by the capacity of our students to generate new ideas and put them into action. Our students have a strong desire to make the world a better place and have the ability to assemble the masses in pursuit of their goals in ways that amaze me.  When something matters to them, they create the conditions to achieve their goals, galvanizing others in the process. How can and, more importantly, should schools harness this energy in authentic ways? As Alberta Education announces plans for a major curriculum overhaul, it is exciting for me to see our students already benefiting from a robust program that builds on its strong academic core with innovation and an extensive menu of co-curricular experiences. 

Ensuring our robust and rigorous academic program is a priority. Our students must be able to develop an understanding of foundational principles and skills in relevant academic coursework. Our teachers ensure students have both the knowledge and skills to thrive in the post-secondary environment and even though education is changing (as it always has) some things remain essential. A strong academic program that challenges and stimulates students within a culture of high expectations is the hallmark of an excellent School and I can assure you, STS is an excellent School.

A strong academic program, coupled with innovation and creativity, ensures our students have the competencies, knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for lifelong learning; all of which are achieved through an integrated, relevant and engaging educational program. Developing critical thinking, collaborative, communication and problem-solving skills provides the resiliency to deal with the rapidly changing context of the world today. Martin’s concept of integrative thinking and Tim Brown’s design thinking processes that focus on improving the human condition are becoming embedded in the work we are doing at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, ensuring our educational program is even stronger, challenging and robust. 

The opportunities for reimagining education have never been greater and perhaps, more important. With a burgeoning world population, technology acts as an innovative disruptor to our ever-increasing demands on our scarce resources, evolving political landscapes, diverse perspectives and globalization. Innovation is more important now than ever. Our students live in this world and their education needs to prepare them for today and for the future. I am hopeful for this future because I see what our students are capable of and I know, beyond a doubt, the solutions to world challenges will emerge from these young people. 

Isn’t it exciting to imagine a future created by our students? I look forward to engaging you in conversation regarding our new strategic plan and future direction. 

Mrs. Carol Grant-Watt
Head of School