Written by Cathy Thornicroft

Last week, St. Margaret’s hosted a screening of Greg Whitley’s feature-length film entitled “Most Likely to Succeed.”  This is a documentary that highlights the difference between schooling and educating, and challenges us to examine how we prepare our students for the 21st century. This video was provocative in asking us to define the purpose of education and to re-imagine a school that would be both engaging and inspiring for teachers and students!

There seems to be a disconnect between schools and the increasingly innovative world where we see the elimination of traditional jobs from the economy.  Companies demand more than reciters of knowledge; they want to hire problem-solvers who provide value-added in the way they think and act. Today’s workers need to be flexible thinkers able to look at challenges as opportunities.   In fact, where you graduate from, including the test scores and grades you achieve, are far less important than your ability to collaborate and engage with your co-workers and to contribute to the success of the organization as a whole.

Four key principles that this documentary touts as being essential for engaged learning are:

1. Creating a student driven learning environment that provides choice for all learners.
2. Recognizing peer review as an essential part of the assessment process.
3. Realizing students are more likely to demonstrate their “best learning” when presenting to a broader audience.
4. Empowering students to make decisions about their own learning and to define their own success.

This requires parents and educators to change their mindsets in exploring how best to engage our girls: what kinds of skills do our girls require to be successful in the future? And, what would a school structure look like that would allow them to link their passions with the curriculum and remain life-long learners?

St. Margaret’s School has been a leader in the province, successfully balancing the foundational skills (the 3 R’s, plus the 4th R: research skills) with so-called “soft” or interpersonal skills (ability to communicate, listen actively, empathize, and collaborate) that define success beyond mere test scores.  Included in those necessary skills are the ability to be creative, ask questions, engage in critical analysis, and the willingness to persevere in finding solutions to complex problems.  As stated by Tony Wagner, whose book entitled Most Likely to Succeed was the impetus for this documentary:

“Alarmingly the schools I have visited seem intent on crushing the creativity out of
students, erasing the very skills that would allow them to thrive now and in the future.”

The redesigned provincial curriculum (https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/rethinking-curriculum), with its focus on Big Ideas, Core Competencies, Curricular Competencies, and essential Content, allows our teachers to be innovative in creating an environment that is inquiry-based with a focus on concepts and content that address real-world issues and problems. Although this new curriculum is just being piloted now, at SMS, we already provide space for student perspective; to make learning personal; and finally, to provide rich feedback that deepens the learning for the next time, the next attempt, or the next new goal.

SMS is proud to say that we are providing multiple opportunities within the timetable – Explorations, Genius Hour, and Innovations – as well as different pathways to connect learning both within and outside the school – Program of Distinction (PoDs), Work Experience, Outweek, field trips, and excursions – with the foundational skills necessary to succeed.   SMS  is continually looking for that balance of innovation and tradition while being bold in anticipating the challenges and opportunities of the future with our students today.

“If school is meant to prepare people for real life, then why doesn’t school look like real life!”
Bo Adams

“We are human. We’ve always been creative.  We are natural makers. And when we create,
We come alive.”

John Spencer


Most Likely to Succeed.  Tony Wagner. 2015
Launch. John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. 2016