The Beliefs Behind Personalized Learning

Allan Hardy, Principal
Over the past 10 years, I have used my assembly remarks to connect what we do at Greenwood with why we do it and what it means. Seeing as this is my last time before you at assembly, I hope you don’t mind if I use this approach to share a personal story, as it will help you understand a little bit about what I believe.

After my second year of teaching in 1983, I enrolled in a summer course on Special Education, which included a half-course on Gifted Education. For our final assignment, the instructor indicated we had to demonstrate our understanding of the course using any format we felt was appropriate. I wrote a short story called “Anson.” Anson was the type of student who doesn’t fit at school--if school is a round hole, he is a square peg. The story takes place in one day, with the class going on a field trip, and Anson being left behind, as he deliberately leaves his permission slip at home, seeing as he has no interest in the class field trip. Left behind at the school, he spends the day helping staff members fix things like broken copying machines and figures out how to get a personal computer going. Personal computers were exciting new things in 1983! The story ends with Anson leaving the school as the class returns happily from the field trip. Both sides tell each other they had a great day.

The story expressed what I had seen for many years as a student and was starting to see as a teacher: schools did not always do a great job helping students realize their full potential and become their best selves. I believed the source of this problem was the one-size-fits-all nature of schools and their inability to fully engage students.

The course instructor really liked the story, so much so that she asked me to be part of a book she and a professor at OISE were writing. They asked me to write more short stories for the book, Reaching The Gifted, which I did, as well as write chapter introductions and summarize some research. This book was designed to help teachers tap into the social and emotional dimensions of student learning.

Being exposed to this kind of leading-edge work at such an early point in my career was a great opportunity. As a teacher, I did my best to reach all students. I tried to give students choice in what they read or how they completed assignments. I tried to integrate things from their lives into what we were learning.

As my career evolved, I looked for opportunities to broaden the impact of my beliefs about education, which ultimately led me to Greenwood, a school whose core belief in student-centred learning meshed perfectly with my educational philosophy. For the past 10 years, I have had the privilege of working with teachers and staff to build a program that helps each student to realize his or her potential.

My hope is that Greenwood continues to build on this belief in the years ahead.    
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Greenwood College School

443 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto, ON M4S 2L8
Tel: 416 482 9811