I. General Information
School Name: Rutland Senior Secondary & Mount Boucherie Secondary
School District: SD#23 Central Okanagan
Inquiry Team Members: Teresa Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org, Michelle Johnson: email@example.com, Ryan Mansley: firstname.lastname@example.org, Stacey Mee: email@example.com, Mary Redfearn: firstname.lastname@example.org, Raquel Steen: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: Raquel Steenfirstname.lastname@example.org
II. Inquiry Project Information
Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Areas Addressed:
- Career Education
- Other: Leadership
- Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
- Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)
- First Peoples Principles of Learning
- Growth mindset
- Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies
- Indigenous pedagogy
- Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Students’ connections to staff in schools, beyond the teachers, and advocates directly involved in the Indigenous learning communities.
III. Spirals of Inquiry Details
Scanning: One of the first steps of our project was to do a large-scale scan of our Indigenous student body within our high school, as part of my school’s participation in the Network of Inquiry and Indigenous Education project. NOIIE urges educators across Canada to use their Spiral of Inquiry to develop better programming and systems for Indigenous learners and content. The spiral consists of “scanning, focusing, developing a hunch, new professional learning, taking action and checking that a big enough difference has been made” (Spiral of Inquiry). Our NOIIE inquiry process started with scans asking our Indigenous students Kaser and Halbert’s Spiral Playbook inspired guiding questions:
1. Can you name two adults in your school who believe you will be a success in life? Where else in the school community are you connected? Are there other adults beyond these two?
2. Where in life are you learning? What are you learning? Why is it important?
3. What is your comfort level going into office spaces such as the front office and the counselling/career centre for support? What are the barriers in using these supports?
4. What things are standing in your way of connection? Trauma, internal, external?
In our scan, our team of teachers, administration, counselors, and Indigenous advocates consulted over 220 Indigenous students at RSS and MBSS – some who were directly involved in Indigenous learning communities, and some who were not. Together, we asked them if they had two adults in the building who believed they would be a success, where and what are they learning that they deem important, and their comfortability using various spaces within our school building. The results from this inquiry scan were not surprising, in that many of the students already invested in our Indigenous learning communities lean on our staff heavily for academic and social emotional support. They do not necessarily deem academics as their primary learning, and in fact many shared that they are learning from their relatives, the land, or themselves through self-guided practices. Similarly, they felt uncomfortable accessing supports in the office spaces outside of our Indigenous wing, such as the careers and counseling centers and the front office.
Focus: MBSS: We are hoping to create a learning community that allows for deeper connections, more holistic support, and greater opportunities to learn on the land in multiple seasons.
RSS: We need to find better connections for our students to our counsellors, administrators, learning assistant teachers and adults in similar supportive roles. This will ensure that Indigenous students will have a level of comfort necessary to reach out to the supports outside of Indigenous Education and the Indigenous Learning Community.
Hunch: MBSS: Our hunch was that many of the students already invested in our Indigenous Academy lean on our Academy specific staff heavily for academic and social emotional support, and that they feel uncomfortable accessing supports in office spaces outside of our Indigenous wing such as the careers and counseling centers and the front office.
RSS: From these scans we were able to look at the data and find a focus that helped us develop a hunch. Our hunch was that our Indigenous students are quite comfortable and connected to their Indigenous Learning Community teachers and advocates, but not well connected to adults in the building beyond that. The scans further showed that there were reasons that our Indigenous students were not reaching out to or feeling comfortable with other adults in the building. Specifically, students hesitated to reach out to adults in student supporting roles because they felt they had not developed trusting relationships. The thoughts were that if students could build a connection with these adults in their own safe spaces, they would feel more comfortable going into spaces in the building and reaching out to these adults. Ultimately, the students would feel more supported throughout the building.
New Professional Learning: Regular meetings between schools have provided an opportunity for school teams to learn from one another.
Taking Action: MBSS: Based upon this scan, we decided to take action. Our learning community was born from us wanting to make space for and honour these perspectives from our students, while also finding ways to fix the cracks that they shone lights on. We will be continuing this inquiry project through NOIIE over the next two school years. Next year, we have timetabled for an Indigenous Learning community in which students will obtain their Indigenous Leadership credit alongside a credit for Career and Life education. Students will be with the same two teachers for half a day, every other day, all year long. We anticipate that this new learning community will allow for deeper connections, more holistic support, and greater opportunities to learn on the land in multiple seasons.
RSS: Quite early into this initiative we saw some success. The school counselors and administrators started joining our students in the classroom for circle, classroom visits, and joining in on field trips. Students and these adults were getting to know each other and creating relationships. Seeing how well this was going, we very quickly realized that we needed to encourage our Indigenous students to step out of their comfort zones and go into other less comfortable areas in the building. Our students were encouraged to seek out our administrators by approaching them in the main office. Students sought out our admin team for the purpose of discussing their leadership projects, creating school-wide announcements and having other conversations.
Photos (above): Pictures from MBSS & RSS NOIIE Inquiry Project activities
Checking: MBSS: It is too early in the process to be able to determine what differences have been made. Next year, once the new format for the community is established, we will check with learners regarding the impact of the changes. We are excited to monitor progress within and beyond this community through the NOIIE process.
RSS: Through these initiatives, our students are starting to feel more comfortable with their administrators. Students are starting to see the administrators as trusting adults that they can go to for support. We are celebrating success stories seeing how comfortable our Indigenous students are becoming and how they are now becoming leaders. We recently had a non-Indigenous student needing to speak with an administrator, but they were too nervous to approach their vice principal on their own. Because our Indigenous students are becoming comfortable navigating the main office space, one of our Indigenous students accompanied the non-Indigenous student to the office, introducing them to the vice principal and helping guide the conversation. This is such an incredible change from last fall.
Reflections/Advice: Our Indigenous students are still working on developing their relationships with our school counsellors and administrators. They are starting to interact with them outside the counseling and office space more often, but the vast majority still say they would still not seek out our school counsellors for social-emotional support. They do like the counsellors, just have not built trusting relationships at this time.
The large umbrella that our focus has been is student mental wellness. An area where we were able to see immediate and significant growth in this area was with time spent with Elders on the land. The students had the opportunity to go to the home of two Elders. In this space, they participated in traditional on land learning, as well as listened to the transition story of one of the Elders’ daughters. The entire day benefitted mental health through tradition and story. The student’s voiced that to learn their traditions meant healing for the whole community. Listening to the stories of an Indigequeer woman allowed the students to gain confidence of voice and inspiration to move forward with their own healing. Students expressed their calmness and feeling of healing through being on the land, being in community, being with the Elders, and having Indigenous role models (both 2 spirit and others).
Although the initial goal of connecting students with people outside the classroom community is still important and we will continue in that route, it became very obvious the significant impact of walking in the Indigenous way with Indigenous community has on the students. My hunch is, that through supporting this action on a greater level, as well as continuing to make gains with counselors and administrators, the overall impact on positive mental well-being will be that much more significant.
There has been great success thus far in our inquiry process connecting our Indigenous Learning Community students with our student support team, however, we seem to be falling short on connecting our Indigenous students outside the learning community to these supports. Our priority for the upcoming school year will be to include our Indigenous advocates in this inquiry project and share the work with them. From there, we will be in a better position to support not only our learning community students, but all of our Indigenous students as a whole. We are also looking at ways to better connect our Indigenous students to our counsellors. We are hoping to host an event for our grade nine students in the fall. The goal is to have our counsellors host the event, alongside our advocates, and invite the grade nine Indigenous students in for a lunch and meet & greet. Through these initiatives, we feel that we will be building stronger trusting relationships with our Indigenous students and the student supports outside their Indigenous Learning Community.