School Name: Salish Secondary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Lauren Compton; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Kristen Pawar; email@example.com,
Chris Black; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Tansley Courtenay; email@example.com,
Sheila Hammond; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Jeremy Third; email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? For our first year we focused on the development and growth of cultural identity for our Indigenous students, in a new school that hasn’t had time to establish a strong sense of community and place yet.
Scanning: During the scanning phase we asked students how they are feeling about being at a new school. (Many had to leave friends and their established school communities). We asked students what they like about our school and we asked what they felt was missing. We also engaged teachers in a conversation around the transitions of our students. Some students felt well connected to the school, for others it took time, and for some, they would still rather be at their previous schools. The feelings of not wanting to be here were and still are a concern for us because the feeling of belonging is linked to success.
Focus: We selected this focus due to the newness of the school and the newness of school culture we had to work to build from the ground up. We were hoping that both students and staff would be able to build strong foundations here. Some have and some simply have not. Our focus shifted from creating a strong place (Aboriginal Makers Space) to a more intentional focus of bringing learning to all classrooms. The Aboriginal Makers Space has become a place to supplement the learning that happens in classrooms. Some of our teachers collaborated and taught enriching units to begin helping our Indigenous students feel a sense of belonging.
Hunch: Many people have worked hard to establish a rich support program for Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners because we recognized that doing so was essential. We are aware that our deficits could have negative impacts on our learners who are yearning for a sense of belonging. Teachers still need more guidance to become comfortable with ways we can create belonging in our classrooms for all learners.
New Professional Learning: Many people have worked hard to establish a rich support program for Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners because we recognized that doing so was essential. We are aware that our deficits could have negative impacts on our learners who are yearning for a sense of belonging. Teachers still need more guidance to become comfortable with ways we can create belonging in our classrooms for all learners.
Taking Action: In order for staff to begin to explore with bringing in Indigenous content and curriculum into their classes, we created a resource database on Microsoft 365 where teachers can look up curriculum documents, book suggestions, subject specific resources and lessons, and professional development opportunities.
Our Aboriginal Teacher Advocate also hosted a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session where this database was explored and discussions could be had about the successes and challenges teachers have been having throughout the year thus far.
The response was positive and teachers have been adding their own resources that they are connecting with. It is a work in progress but we had to start somewhere.
Checking: The differences we have made is hard to measure. We have encouraged staff to use the database and our supports that we have in the building. We have encouraged collaboration among colleagues and we have tried to create something that will help teachers feel more confident in taking risks in their classrooms, which ultimately benefits the students.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that it takes a lot of work to build a strong sense of identity and community within a brand-new school. It is something we face daily. As a team we were also all new to working with each other so it was a nice opportunity to collaborate with others. With the stress of starting something new and teachers highly focused on surviving the first year, I think next year will really be the year when we can start putting more focus into building strong feelings of connections for our learners. As a staff, we will know more about our students than we did this year and we will have better insight as to what their needs are for their learning communities.