Nechako Valley Secondary School SD#91 Nechako Lakes

School Name: Nechako Valley Secondary School

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Denise Dowswell:
Jana-Rae Kadonaga:
Mia Moutray:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Other: Middle Years Pedagogy

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Growth mindset, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Building and maintaining stronger and joyful teaching teams in our Middle Years wing.

Scanning: We used a couple of the four questions to guide our own focus to better support the teaching team which in turn allows them to support SEL in their learning environments. After a long absence from formal education due to the pandemic, we noticed there was a need to spend time as a community working in an environment we had never had before. The extra pressure of the pandemic highlighted the need to create emotional bandwidth in staff to better support learners.

We focused on OECD’s Principles of Learning: #1, #2, #3, #7 and the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning: “Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirit and the ancestors.”
Also, “Learning takes patience and time.”

Focus: We selected this area because both of the teachers in this inquiry were asked to be Department Heads this school year, and both of us desired to support team building and resilience in our community in collaboration with our Vice-Principal. Also, we weren’t sure about how this year was going to develop due to the pandemic, and therefore put a stronger focus on the teaching team and professional learning in this area.

Hunch: We strongly felt that we needed to work on foundations of our program this year rather than adding something new to our plates. Knowing that both adults and young adolescents would come back from the pandemic dysregulated in September, everyone in the building was in need of grounding and connection. Both teams (one that is more intact and one that is constantly changing) have their own challenges and strengths. We did see a need to examine authentic communication and trust features in both teams.

New Professional Learning: The inquiry team decided to do a “book club” on Elena Aguilar’s “The Art of Coaching Teams”. We scheduled collaboration on what sections of the book to read and then come back together to chat about what we learnt. This regular and ongoing check-in supported commitment to professional learning, debrief with colleagues, and a desire to learn more about teams (it sparked more curiosity). We also found the collaboration grounding, which we could carry with us into our separate grade 7 and 8 teams.

Taking Action:

  • Agendas for every meeting so that team members could easily view purpose of meeting
  • Listening skills and encouragement of everyone’s voice
  • Support of each other by checking in in authentic ways
  • Respecting boundaries of each other
  • Explicitly formalized need for professional discussion
  • Being open to having tougher conversations
  • Committing to sharing the Gr. 7/8 Crew PPT slide to continue uniting our advisory time across the program
  • Celebratory CREW time with staff to create joy and connection regularly throughout the school year, to emphasize the why behind advisory or CREW time

Checking: This year, our focus was directly on the teaching teams. Students did not question authenticity of teacher relationships this year, as much as they have been in the past. For students in grade 8, there were opportunities to team/make groups with others in other crews, and for staff to understand the teaming process and its challenges as it’s important to better understand learners’ experiences when collaborating. Our teaming efforts impacted healthier working relations with other staff based on feedback and conversations. We also had more learning conversations throughout the program and with the Vice-Principal. Overall, the biggest difference was that for the first time in seven years we have no adult choosing to leave the program!

Reflections/Advice: We learnt that it is super important to be purposeful of relationships and foundations of our program. We also learnt that it is so important to pause and come back to the well being of each other, so that we can better support learners.

Our inquiry has supported stability, purpose and courageous conversations of our Middle Years program this year, which we believe benefit the young adolescents we work with.
Also, a book study with small action goals throughout the school year is a very helpful tool to structure professional learning and conversations.

This year brought us closer as a staff!

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