At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, our Diefenbaker staff was experiencing significant changes, with the school welcoming 17 new staff members that fall. This prompted a renewed staff discussion around our School Story, and how we were going to support the learners in our community as a Team of educators. Our staff first scanned students in each of their homerooms about our Social Responsibilty ackronymn S.P.A.R.K. and asked if it was still meaningful to them. We asked our students: Do you know what S.P.A.R.K. stands for? How does S.P.A.R.K. help you with your learning and social interactions? We quickly determined that S.P.A.R.K. had lost its effectiveness as a tool to support student learning and behaviour, and so we proceeded to design our new school-wide SR common language. We engaged as a staff with the SD38 Area Counselor Team (ACT) to discuss our own, personal values as educators (see attached word web), then formed our school Social Responsibilty Committee who would lead us in our conversations around our school's common values. Our main common values as a staff were: Kindness, Growth, Respect, and Belonging. We chose to support student growth and learning through a school-wide unified focus around Kindness.
At Diefenbaker, we value growth and belonging, and we will achieve this by being kind to self, kind to others, and kind to place. Kindness to self promotes a growth mindset and readiness for learning; kindness to others includes supporting others and collaborating to achieve learning goals; kindness to place supports a sense of belonging and community.
We developed our Kindness Umbrella, and Kindess to Self, Others, and Place as our three main areas of focus. We continued to work with our Social Responsibility committee to develop a series of family teams and homeroom activities, presented through assemblies and zoomblies, to work on our focus areas as a school. During our 2020-2021 school year, we have our Term 1 focus as Kindness to Self; Term 2 as Kindness to Others; Term 3 as Kindness to Place.
Kindness to Self:
- I can have a positive attitude towards learning
- I can be ready to learn
- I can recognize my feelings and emotions
- I feel good about myself and being a Diefenbaker Bulldog
- I feel good about myself and am ready to learn
Kindness to Others:
- I can be aware of others
- I can listen and respond to others respectfully
- I can offer to help others
- I can collaborate with others respectfully
- I can cooperate with others
Kindness to Place:
- I can take care of my learning environment and materials
- I can honour the story of my place
- I can be aware of my surroundings
In order to gather information about our students and their experience at school, we randomly selected Primary and Intermediate students and asked them the following questions:
Can you name two adults in this school who believe you will be a success in life?
- How do they show you that they believe in you?
Where are you going with your learning?
- What are you learning? What are the big ideas that you are learning and why is it important?
How is it going?
- What would you like to tell others about how you’re doing? How do you know how you’re doing?
Where to next?
- Tell me what the next piece of learning is for you. What do you need to do to get better at this?
In general, what we learned from student responses is that our students feel that they have supportive adults at school who believe they will be successful. Our students are also able to identify an area of learning they need to focus on and can provide examples of steps they need to take in order to achieve that goal.
Many students required examples and support to state the “big ideas” in their learning and why those ideas are important. With prompting, they were able to begin to draw connections between their learning and life outside of school. Students also demonstrated a need to be able to assess their own learning to determine how they are doing. This information will help us to develop questions as our focus.
With the information we gathered, staff discussed what focus might best meet the needs of students. We determined that focusing on the Core Competency of Thinking (Creative and Critical) would encompass the learning our students need to develop.
Core Competency: Thinking - The thinking competency encompasses the knowledge, skills and processes we associate with intellectual development. It is through their competency as thinkers that students take subject-specific concepts and content and transform them into a new understanding. Thinking competence includes specific thinking skills as well as habits of mind, and metacognitive awareness.
What we have worked on in past school years (2017-2019):
- teaching the language of thinking
- taking gallery walks to share student work
- Debriefing and sharing our learning
- Sharing photos or videos of “I can statements” in action
- Embedding creative and critical thinking in all subject areas
- Classifying competencies during and after tasks
Staff are coming together through collaboration time and meetings to discuss what they are working on in their classrooms, what observations they have made, and where to next based on the information they have collected about student learning.