Nanaimo District Secondary School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Nanaimo District Secondary School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Shawn Shahi:, Emily Magyar: (will not be at NDSS next year), Michelle Smith:, Elena Kemp: (will not be at NDSS next year), Stephen Epp: (will not be at NDSS next year)

Inquiry Team Contact Email: Shawn Shahi/

II. Inquiry Project Information

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Not applicable

Focus Addressed:

  • First Peoples Principles of Learning
  • Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Creating and maintaining authentic relationship-based connections with Grades 8 and 9 Indigenous students.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We scanned our kids, both formally and informally. In casual conversations with kids, we began to hear from them just how connected, or disconnected, they felt to adults, peers and their learning. We also created a student survey for all Indigenous Grade 8s and 9s to answer questions such as ‘how visible, and present, is Indigenous language and culture in your classrooms at NDSS?’ Furthermore, we asked students if they had staff that they felt connected to. To add to this, we completed a complimentary survey of all Indigenous Grade 8 and 9 caregivers/guardians/parents. We asked how connected they felt their child was to the school, and other questions to help guide us in making Indigenous language and culture more present, and relationships at the center of everything, in order to create a greater sense of belonging.

Focus: We selected this area because years ago we began to notice that Indigenous learners in Grade 9 were beginning to miss a lot of school; they were also having a lot of social issues, problems at home, and generally beginning to not see success at school. We began to see that working intentionally at having trust-based, authentic relationships with Indigenous Grade 8s and 9s from the very start, would allow us to really KNOW our students; this way, when things went wrong with, and for, them, we would have the kind of relationship that would allow us to work with them in a meaningful way.

Hunch: We had some hunches about things that were happening, or not happening, at our school that might been contributing to a lack of sense of belonging and good relationships with Indigenous students. Firstly, we believed that Indigenous students were not feeling a sense of belonging in our building due to a lack of relationships with adults, a lack of visible representation of Indigenous culture and language, and a lack of sense of community. Our hunches were that some teachers were not always approaching our Indigenous learners in a student-centered, trauma-informed way.

New Professional Learning: We specifically focused on trauma-informed practice and the First Peoples Principles of Learning.

Taking Action: We made food the center of everything that we did this year, and the Indigenous Education Room was very often the hub for the enjoyment of that food. On Fridays, staff and students would make a special meal together, such as French toast and sausages, or ice cream sundaes. It was the act of all working together to create something delicious that bonded us with our students and with each other. We held pizza lunches for grade 8s and 9s, which given the challenges of COVID that persisted at the start of this year, was tricky. We wanted to give kids meals, as well as time spent with each other and with us. One of the most impactful events we held was a bbq for incoming Indigenous Grade 8s. We invited other students to help us and to sit with the incoming students and their families, and get to know them. This mentorship piece was very special to watch. The amount of kids who stayed after school that day to help arrange, cook, visit and clean up, was a testament to the relationships we have created.

Checking: We do not have ‘proof’ that our actions made a difference, but the connections and relationships we have made as a team, with each other, and with our students, is evident in the way our students love to volunteer their time to help us, and mentor each other.

Reflections/Advice: What we continually learn from our inquiry work with NOIIE, is that what we intend to create for our students always becomes something we also create for ourselves and each other. We want belonging for our kids, and we also receive that. We want relationships and connection and trust and safety, and we also make that for each other. Our professional roles can be challenging, given the complexity of the lives of the students we work with, but the level of difficulty is made one hundred times easier by our trust-based relationships with each other and our kids.

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