School Name: Rock City Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Kelly Inglis: email@example.com
Shauna Coey: firstname.lastname@example.org
EJ Boyd: email@example.com
Lise Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaylee Robbins: email@example.com
Katie Bernaquez: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Davidson: SDavidson@sd68.bc.ca
Lisa Blachuras: Lisa.Blachuras@sd68.bc.ca
Lindsey Kiernan: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Reading
Focus Addressed: Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Building relationships between school and home, to facilitate academic development and social/emotional growth.
Scanning: We scanned the data collected from each classroom throughout our school of 360 students. We noticed that while the majority of students could identify at least two adults who supported their learning, most of these adults were members of the school community. We also discovered that the majority of students did not have frequent learning support at home, nor did their families regularly attend school events. Our team had similarly noticed a decline in attendance at Parent-Teacher nights. Our team noticed that there was an appetite from the majority of students, intermediates included, to have their parents be more involved in their learning and their school life.
Focus: We know that learning is relational and that valuable learning happens outside the walls of our school. We know that our staff has built respectful and positive relationships with our students, but that we do not have these same relationships with our families. The historic school culture and segregated layout of our building has inhibited our families from feeling welcome in our school. Our focus is building relationships between our staff and families, to better support academic and social emotional outcomes.
Hunch: Our school culture is changing. With new administration and a large turnover of staff, there is a renewed desire to make the school more welcoming and inclusive. We want our school to be a place of community and belonging for all our families. We are concerned that our vulnerable students and their families do not feel that our school is a safe place for them to voice their concerns and receive the support they need. By inviting families to the school for fun, informative and low pressure events, we believe that we can create connections to help support the academic and emotional well-being of our students.
New Professional Learning: Our group started our professional learning with readings from Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty (2012). We began with this because we wanted our members to have an understanding of where our families’ decisions may come from and how to see situations through a different lens. Empathy for others is essential if we want to have respectful, meaningful and honest conversations with families about their children. We watched Brené Brown’s TedTalk on Vulnerability, and how it is essential for us to be vulnerable if we want to grow and create connection. In addition, we discussed some excerpts from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser’s book, Leadership Mindsets (2009).
Taking Action: Our team decided to hold a series of low pressure, enjoyable activities with the hope that parents who are normally hesitant to participate in school events would be encouraged to join in. Our first event was a daytime, school wide “Showcase of Learning”, where parents were invited to come into classrooms and celebrate their child’s learning. This event was a huge success, both in attendance and in engagement. After being encouraged by students, a Grade 2 class held another event three weeks later and had twenty-seven adults attend. The second event was a Primary Literacy Night that was attended by 55 students and their families. Held during the evening, the event included four stations: storytelling, bingo, book mark making and snacks/face painting. At the end of the evening, all children were able to take home their own new book. The event was hosted by ten teachers, the principal and the vice principal. This provided excellent opportunities to connect with families outside of the classroom. The third event offered was a parent information evening hosted by a local pediatrician, on ADHD. Every parent that was invited attended and there were requests for additional sessions.
We had planned on holding a Family Fun Night and Spaghetti dinner in April, where all families would attend. Our intent was to have a variety of games and activities available to encourage parents to play with their children. A pamphlet was to be created with a brief description of the social/emotional and academic benefits of each activity. Teachers were to circulate, model play and engage in conversations with parents. Our final event for the year was to be a school-wide family BBQ/games night. The school closure due to Covid-19 prevented our final events from happening.
Some amazing things happened for our school community during remote teaching/learning that we had not anticipated. Our staff came together in various ways to connect with our students and their families virtually. Not only did Teachers and EAs have the opportunity to speak with parents on the phone and via email, but many met with their students and their parents on Teams. Our school staff created a video with messages of love and support to our students. Grade Five teacher Chris Johnson created weekly “Funny Friday” videos that encouraged the students to participate in challenges like Crazy Hair Day, Guess the Baby Teacher, Build a Fort, Dance Like Nobody’s Watching, and Grow a Beard Like Mr. Lundine. These were huge successes, and many parents sent appreciative messages.
Checking: We believe that we have made meaningful steps towards connecting our school with families. There has been excellent feedback from our Literacy Night survey and from informal feedback from students and parents. Because of the inability to resurvey our students, we do not have any formal evidence of change.
Reflections/Advice: We came to understand that there is still so much learning to be done about our own biases and attitudes before we can move forward with building respectful relationships with students and their families. Respectful relationships are reciprocal and it is our responsibility to initiate change.
Our Showcase of Learning was very successful. Upon reflection, we thought that having a day and evening session may allow more parents to attend. We will also invite extra adults to attend the day time event so that all children will have the opportunity to have someone visit their station. We hope that this will become a yearly, school-wide event.
In general, there was positive feedback for our Literacy Night. The children were thrilled to receive their own book, and a post-event survey indicated that the parents were more likely to read with their children after they had attended the event. There were good conversations with parents and staff about non-school related topics, and the staff felt like connections were built with families. Next year we plan on having a parent session with a focus on supporting reluctant and struggling readers at home.
The parent information session for ADHD was the first time we had hosted such an event. We believe that this venue is a relaxed way to have some potentially uncomfortable conversations with families; the session was informative, supportive and non-judgmental. There was no expectation for attendance or for follow-up consultation. Looking forward, we hope to host similar sessions with other health-care providers to support mental health, physical activity, sexual health and internet safety. We are hoping that these sessions will allow parents and teachers to have more open conversations about supporting our students.
We intend for our inquiry to continue into the next school year with the hope that the school culture will transform and become the norm. We expect to have more opportunities to meet with our NOIIE group, collect data and host community building events. Despite the extraordinary events of this year, we are pleased with the outcomes of our inquiry and feel that we are creating the beginnings of an incredible school community.