School Name: Woodward Elementary
School District: SD#38 Richmond
Inquiry Team Members: Leanne McColl: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marie Ratcliffe: email@example.com
Lynn Wainwright: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonja Bone: email@example.com
Linda MacHolm: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nora Stogan: email@example.com
Terry Point: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Social and emotional learning, Transitions
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Working towards the goals of our Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.
Scanning: In scanning for this professional inquiry, we revisited our AESN Inquiries from both 2017-2018, and 2018-9, in which we worked with Teacher Advocates for students with Indigenous ancestry in our district. From our learning through these professional inquiries, we developed the role of k̓ʷəməyɬəm (Raise a Child) teacher, and with permission from the Musqueam Language Department, renamed our ongoing inquiry, k̓ʷəməyɬəm. We came to understand the potential of k̓ʷəməyɬəm, and were excited to continue our work in this school year.
We also scanned for this inquiry by asking the four questions to students with Indigenous ancestry. What we found was that while students found it easy to name at least one person who believed in them and thought they would be successful, naming two or more posed difficult for some.
In our previous two years, we had only 2 volunteers working with us on k̓ʷəməyɬəm. We were satisfied with that, as we wanted to be very intentional in our work, moving slowly and thoughtfully. This year, we took the step of reaching out to all school administrators K-12 in our district to see if we might expand k̓ʷəməyɬəm throughout our district. Unexpectedly, we had 17 schools respond, with 28 volunteers stepping forward, which accounts for connections with 100 Indigenous students.
Focus: Due to the nature of the dispersal of students with Aboriginal ancestry throughout our district, it is difficult for our Success Team to be able to maintain a regular presence in the lives of these students. There are some schools with one or only a few students with ancestry, while the school with the greatest number of students with Aboriginal ancestry is 22. In total, we have 45 elementary and secondary schools across the district, and all schools enroll at least one student with Aboriginal ancestry. Therefore, we believe that it is beneficial to have k̓ʷəməyɬəm at schools who enroll students with Aboriginal ancestry. As a driving question for this year’s inquiry, we asked: “How can expanding our k̓ʷəməyɬəm initiative from last year make a greater difference for students with Aboriginal ancestry in our district?”
Hunch: By having a k̓ʷəməyɬəm at a school that enrolls students with Aboriginal ancestry — more specifically someone who knows them, believes in them and can offer support when necessary — we think will make students feel greater connectedness to the school and to their education.
As an additional benefit, we also think that our Aboriginal Success team members feel more supported in their roles, more welcomed in the school buildings, and more part of a school team that is working toward common goals.
By expanding to more schools and more educators, we hope to build a community of allies in the district who could learn from one another and feel supported by one another in this very important work, of working towards the goals of our Enhancement Agreement and increasing the achievement of students with Aboriginal ancestry in our district.
New Professional Learning: In order to shape the roles of k̓ʷəməyɬəm and to see what might be useful in terms of training and preparation, we consulted other districts to find out the structures and resources that they have in place for similar advocates in their districts. It is very clear that different districts have very different models of support, according to their contexts.
Then, as a district Success team, we collaborated with one another to make decisions on how to best prepare k̓ʷəməyɬəm as they began to engage students, and how to continue to support them throughout the school year. We investigated the BC Ministry of Education Continuing our Learning Journey video modules for our own professional learning, and to see if they might enhance the learning of k̓ʷəməyɬəm participants.
Taking Action: On November 6, as a launch, we planned an introductory session for all k̓ʷəməyɬəm participants. At this session, we opened in circle to create a space of welcoming and belonging for all. We asked the questions: “Who are you” and “What brought you here?” Then, we began to frame k̓ʷəməyɬəm by looking at the 4 goals of our current Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. We then heard from a Musqueam knowledge keeper, who also works as a district Aboriginal Success Team worker, about what k̓ʷəməyɬəm means to the Musqueam people; about how we as a district were given permission to use this word for our work; and how we might respectfully apply Musqueam teachings to our k̓ʷəməyɬəm program. Then, we had the very special experience of having 3 Indigenous students share their experiences of being Indigenous in Richmond schools. Two students were recent alumni and one student was currently attending a Richmond school. Their stories were raw and emotional, and contained stories of inequity and struggle. Then, a k̓ʷəməyɬəm from last year shared her experiences with this years participants, so that teachers could get a sense of what the role could look like. Participants were then asked to brainstorm and discuss with one another as to how they might embark in this work, and how they might collaborate with the Aboriginal Success Team members who work at their schools. The discussion was framed by the following questions: “What are some possibilities for my context,” “What would be helpful to me,” and “What are my next steps?” We closed in circle, and participants were asked to share their thinking in an exit slip. Participants left the session with gifts for individual students — as a way to make an introduction to students, as well as information about each of the students, including what nations they are from and what they enjoy or are interested in. Thank you gifts for the participants were also distributed. Participants were invited to our next district Indigenous events, Community Night for Indigenous families, and Bannock and Jam, which is our annual celebration of our Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement in action.
On March 11, as a check-in for k̓ʷəməyɬəm, it was clear that pandemic worries were already starting to take root. Our attendance of participants, while still over half, was much smaller than at our launch event. At this event, we began in circle, and then heard from one of our district Aboriginal teacher consultants about her perspectives on the importance of relationships in education. We then revisited the notion of k̓ʷəməyɬəm from a Musqueam knowledge keeper, who also works as an Aboriginal Success teacher. Together as a group, we engaged in discussion around the questions: “What does belonging look like and feel like in schools,” “What barriers impede a sense of belonging for Indigenous students in schools,” “How can we nurture belonging for Indigenous students in schools,” and “What can I do in my context?” Then, connecting the participants with the Aboriginal Success teachers who work at their schools, we had everyone discuss the questions: “What’s one thing that I’m doing in my work with Indigenous students,” “How might we support each other in the work,” and “What is one question that I have?” Finally, we viewed an excerpt of one of the Continuing Our Learning Journey video modules which addressed the question, “How can we best support Indigenous learners?” Further, k̓ʷəməyɬəm were asked to reflect upon the questions: “What is one goal that I have for k̓ʷəməyɬəm for the remainder of the school year,” “What is one action that I might take to fulfill my goal,” “What supports do I need and how might I access these supports,” “How will I measure whether I have been successful,” and “How am I feeling about k̓ʷəməyɬəm?”
The year unfortunately ended abruptly with Covid-19. However, our k̓ʷəməyɬəm teachers at the end of the year were invited to our annual Aboriginal Achievement Ceremony, and they also were given an opportunity to send postcards of greetings (and in some cases, congratulations) to our Indigenous students to finish the year. We also asked teachers to submit a final reflection that addressed the following questions: “What was your experience of k̓ʷəməyɬəm this year,” “How did you make a difference and how do you know,” “What supports/structures might help in the future for k̓ʷəməyɬəm teachers,” and “Would you be interested in participating for the upcoming year?”
Checking: This year was very difficult to check in on the students themselves, as communication lines were obviously very limited due to the school shut downs. However, after our launch, after our mid-year check in, and then again at the end of the year, k̓ʷəməyɬəm teachers completed reflections which were submitted. Overwhelmingly, the feedback that we received was positive and teachers seemed very thankful to have had this opportunity. Most every teacher could name ways in which they took action, and it was interesting to see that the actions varied considerably. Most every teacher found it difficult to articulate whether they had made a difference, but many expressed that they felt good about their actions and about their decision to be a part of k̓ʷəməyɬəm.
Reflections/Advice: Although we were very careful to note that context was extremely important and that teachers had to decide what would work best in their settings, there was some frustration about lack of guidance for k̓ʷəməyɬəm. Teachers wanted concrete ideas for implementation, which highlights their desire to make a tangible difference. Perhaps next year, at the launch, we could present a list of possible ideas which might be effective in the role of k̓ʷəməyɬəm. There was some concern expressed around parent involvement, and how parents should be engaged in k̓ʷəməyɬəm. Next year, we will put together some parent information so that parents are very aware of k̓ʷəməyɬəm, and what it entails, and if they would like their children to be involved or not. The overwhelming highlight of our sessions together was hearing from the students themselves, and so we will definitely provide that again to k̓ʷəməyɬəm participants for next year. We also want to be very intentional about how we might best prepare k̓ʷəməyɬəm participants, and will provide an introductory package of resources for them. We are looking forward to continuing k̓ʷəməyɬəm next year.