Coming back from a summer of conflicting reports, anticipation, and challenges our staff was very fortunate. In June we surveyed students, parents, and staff to hear what worked, what didn’t work, and from that we developed a plan for the new school year – see my blog for more details. Despite the challenges we faced from March on, the work we had been doing improving our inclusive practices paid significant dividends. By comparison to other jurisdictions, our most vulnerable were very well supported, by our measures they were not; we recognized that we would need to shift our traditional September foci.
We set the following priorities:
- student, staff, and parent health and welfare
- forge and foster relationships that are strong enough to withstand phase shifts/changes in learning models
- all students are supported to move from their point A to their point B
- work to create opportunities to reduce necessary screen time
- Core Competencies
- health – physical, mental, emotional
- literacy – reading, writing, communication, critical thinking
- numeracy – figures, procedures, patterns, problem solving
- learning to learn
Our teachers met at the end of August for three days of professional development informed by the work we had been doing with SET BC. The first day focused on supporting student mental health, the second with making sure we had seamless processes for learning platforms, and the third day focused on communicating student learning and relationship building. Throughout, our focus was on what works for our most vulnerable will work for our least vulnerable as well.
Pandemics can help us learn and this one has shown the resilience of our public education system. We showed that we really are a learning community. As we entered the fall, our model of teacher teaming became codified as our classes joined to become cohorts that were forced to work together to meet the needs of all students within them. We were also fortunate to have enough EA support to attach one Education Assistant to each cohort, so we had three full-time adults working with every 50 students. With our focus on health and welfare, strong relationships, and meeting all students where they are and moving them forward, our most vulnerable have thrived. In doing this, our least vulnerable have also thrived.
Throughout the fall we have significantly increased our place-based learning based on the benefits it provides all learners. By doing this, we were able to change the context to one where many of our students in grades 6 – 9 were able to find comfort and wellness. We were also able to reduce the amount of personal tech time students had. This was a significant challenge for those coming off 6-months of screen time; however, by moving outside the withdrawal was mitigated significantly.
We used our new learning and redefined priorities to adjust the way we provide some of our programs. For example, during periods of time when working on languages, students in grades 8 and 9 have been able to move freely within their cohorts between three or more teachers to get support with a myriad of needs and interests. We have also been able to capitalize on other contextual features to have our inclusion support teams more present in cohorts, often co-planning and co-teaching. This has also led to some direct teaching of the principles of inclusion and support for all within our cohorts.
Finally, with the infusion of training, support, and targeted resourcing, we have been able to shift the mindset of our students to one where they will use, in many cases, the supports that are available of their own volition. We have also worked hard this fall to identify our most vulnerable and structure universal supports for all.