School Name: Anne Roberts Young Elementary School
School District: SD#60 Peace River North
Inquiry Team Members: Brenda Birley: firstname.lastname@example.org, Crystal Dutchak: email@example.com, Alyson VanSnick: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jillian Fox: email@example.com, Meaghan Chantrill: firstname.lastname@example.org, Elaine McEachern: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Other: Personal Awareness & Responsibility Core Competencies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? If we teach children calming strategies like yoga and deep breathing, will they be more able to demonstrate personal awareness and responsibility?
Scanning: Early on in the school year, our brand new staff in our brand new school knew we were facing more anxiety than we had in years gone by. A pandemic that brought with it school closures, proximity restrictions, fear of the unknown and more seemed to amplify absenteeism, episodes of tearfulness, panic attacks, et al.
We invited 3 classes to engage in a survey that asked students to identify: 1. two people in this setting who believe you will be a success in life, 2. what are you learning & why it’s important, and 3. how is it going with your learning.
We decided to engage the kids in a variety of activities and lessons that would give them common language and shared understandings about competence in Personal Awareness & Responsibility (see BC Core Competencies). As well, these activities would allow kids to develop strategies that foster increased personal awareness and the ability to take responsibility for how they were feeling.
6 educators (4 classroom teachers, one Counsellor and a Learning Assistance Teacher) then planned lessons that helped us all know our brains, bodies and feelings better. At the end of the inquiry, almost 16% improvement in overall satisfaction with learning was demonstrated by students, and a significant increase in the number of students who feel that there are at least 2 staff members that believe they will succeed.
We tried to honour these First Peoples Principles of Learning throughout our lesson planning:
– “Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self…
– “Learning is holistic, reflective, experiential, relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships…
– “Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities…
– “Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge (focusing on the Medicine Wheel as an anchor to our teaching)
– “Learning is embedded in …story
– “Learning involves patience and time
– “Learning requires exploration of one’s identity
-” Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared in certain situations (such as the ceremonial smudging, our Indigenous keynote for wellness days, the Jingle Dress Dance)…
• What are your next steps?
Focus: We were hoping that our students would feel less anxiety and that instead, they would feel like they had more tools in their toolbox to cope when times are hard.
Hunch: Our hunch was that if we all offered separate but complementary lessons that combined cohorts as much as COVID allows, we’d help our students evolve from Profile 3 (Personal Awareness and Responsibility), “I can make choices that help me meet my wants and needs and increase my feelings of well-being. I take responsibility for my actions.” to “I can recognize my strengths and take responsibility for using strategies to focus, manage stress, and accomplish my goals.” (Profile 4).
New Professional Learning: We learned from one another. Crystal Dutchak taught us all more about Core Competencies. Aly VanSnick & Crystal taught us all more about Brainology & Mind Up. Jillian Fox & Meaghan Chantrill taught us all more about forgiveness, kindness, compassion and empathy. Brenda Birley visited classrooms and used counselling strategies at the classroom level, and I (Elaine McEachern), offered personalized support to less than 10 kids at the top of the pyramid of interventions: 1:2 meditation (c/o Headspace) and deep breathing/box breathing strategies.
We accessed collaboration funds to plan events and lessons together. We team-taught the lessons so that all of our students and all of the teachers (in the inquiry) could learn the tools we hoped to share with the kids. I bought Headspace myself because I found it so personally useful that I knew kids would love it. I also accessed Headspace on Netflix and YouTube for free.
Finally, 4 of us were involved in the Jody Carrington (Kids These Days) book study.
Taking Action: Specific Strategies (All Team Teaching experiences were made possible by School District #60 collaboration funding @ .6/lesson x 1 Teacher on Call)
– Team Teaching 1 “Introduction to Core Competencies” (Lesson Plans available by request) so that students and teachers had shared understandings of the core comps, the profile language and how to self-assess using “I can” statements.
– Team Teaching 1 Brainology & Mind Up Introductory Lesson (Classroom Teachers then taught successive lessons independently, with support as needed).
– Team Teaching 2 Values Lessons (Kindness, Forgiveness, Compassion, Empathy)
– Headspace Meditations (Free on Netflix/YouTube (student devices) or via the paid Headspace App on teacher device) with 1-2 students in LAT office by students’ request (@ 28 sessions over 4 months), usually during recess or lunch break.
– 1 Culminating Wellness Day including a variety of wellness-themed activities including nature walks, Zentangle, bullet journaling, Maker activities, healing circles, Jingle Dress Dance & Smudging, Wellness To Me Synthesis, Core Competency Reflections, and a post-survey of the 4 NOIIE questions.
We ended up having a bit of a snowball effect. All of us did a variety
Checking: What difference did we make? We used student surveys (google forms) and Core Competency Self Assessments of the “I can” statements (Personal Awareness and Responsibility).
– All classes demonstrated growth in their personal awareness and responsibility, with 2/3 of the classes evolving from profile 3 to profile 4 and 1/3 of the cohort more fully demonstrating competence of profile 3.
– 76% of respondents in the fall indicated that their learning experiences were “good” or “very good” which improved to 88% of respondents in the spring (as well, 12 students indicated their learning was “not good” in the fall and this dropped to 1 student in the spring).
– At the end of the year, all students were able to identify what wellness meant to them. We made a wordle and some of the big words included: wellness, healthy, happy, quiet, calm, Zentangle, friends, outside, family, dog, respect, gratitude, kindness, work, sports, respect, control, alone, relax…
– The greatest improvements in students’ personal awareness and responsibility were:
-> I can persevere when times are hard (up 17%)
-> I can advocate for myself (up 19%)
-> I can show a sense of accomplishment and joy (up 12%)
-> I can plan, monitor and take steps to accomplish a goal (up 13%)
-> I can take ownership (up 10%)
However, students still indicate that they don’t feel well equipped to enact strategies to manage stress or find calm in times of stress, so that’s an area we still need to develop.
Additionally, we asked students to identify at least two adults who they felt believed in their future success. Granted, we were a new staff in a new school and many of us had just met each other for the first time. The results were humbling, with 0-17% of students identifying a teacher in the NOIIE inquiry as a trusted ally. However, at the end of the year, all members of the NOIIE inquiry demonstrated an increase in the number of students who considered them an ally, with fan favourites being Dutchak, VanSnick, Fox & Chantrill! It really exemplifies the critical importance of the connection and relationships between the classroom teacher and the students!
Reflections/Advice: In the end, we learned that you can’t spend too much time building relationships, connecting to our students and helping them navigate difficult situations. Building on attachment theory presented first by Bowlby and then elaborated on by Jody Carrington, we Primary Caregivers (teachers) taught our students to soothe and co-regulate. We did so because we know that “The more you assist a child to regulate in your presence, the less they will require someone else to regulate them in your absence.”
Classroom Teachers are a child’s safe haven. They are a place to land in times of distress. Classroom Teachers are a secure base… from which students will someday launch! We set limits, boundaries, send messages of delight and encouragement. We help our kids realize that they are capable of taking on the world. And we do so by making secure attachments via relationships so we can then teach emotional regulation. Next year, we do it all again with new students, new challenges and new opportunities, but still with the same big hearts, optimism and the invitation for even more teachers to join our NOIIE group.