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Board Meetings
Report


February 20, 2007


Supporting Student Success
Secondary Student/Director Conversations

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 11 SECONDARY SCHOOL VISITS



1.      What contributes to students feeling that they belong at your school?
•     Size seems to be a factor; students in smaller schools think that is a strong contributing factor to their sense of belonging and are willing to trade limited course options and extra curricular activities for this sense of community “It’s how you feel at the end of the day”
•     A system of “houses” or “clans”
•     A focus on supporting grade 9s; LINK Crew, Grade 9 Welcome Week, grade 9 BBQ
•     Peer helpers huge factor in helping grade 9s belong; lots of peer helpers make positive comments to younger students
•     Being a part of something that is made by students e.g. trailer for canoes
•     Feeling welcomed by staff and students
•     Teachers with a happy attitude towards teaching
•     Open minded teachers; easy to talk one on one
•     Teachers seems to be friends; they help students
•     Teachers create a positive environment
•     Teachers know you; they notice if you need help
•     Staff are like a blanket; warm and comfortable
•     Teachers say “hi” and have a good relationship with the students
•     Teachers try to find a way to connect with all students
•     Teachers who are passionate about their subject
•     Teachers who have a heart for kids; not counting down the days to retirement
•     Teachers who care for kids; who go further by coaching and supervising
•     Teachers in shop classes make students feel comfortable; never discriminatory towards girls
•     Most students have at least one adult they could go to with a personal issue
•     People need a reason to come to school; class doesn’t do it all the time
•     Students are at the same level; there isn’t an obvious hierarchy
•     Pictures around the school of teams, clubs, framed articles about students and staff
•     Wall of Fame which is updated regularly
•     Assembly where students are recognized for being on the honour roll, regardless of pathway
•     Awards are inclusionary
•     Lockers are randomly assigned
•     Awesome yearbook where everyone in the school has a candid picture
•     Lots of activities, not just athletics
•     Bluewater DSB is seen as backing students
•     Staff using student washrooms makes students feel more secure
•     “Skids” are the most inclusive, welcoming, friendly group in the school

2.      When would students feel unsafe in your school?
•     Lock down drills made students think about what could happen
•     If you don’t have close friends or any group to belong to
•     Grade 9 is the most difficult; natural intimidation for grade 9s
•     Entitlement mentality amongst grade 12s; they want respect but they don’t give it
•     Gay people would feel unsafe; school is a reflection of society
•     It is more acceptable for a girl to be a lesbian that for a boy to be gay
•     “Why do straight people get to decide what’s right?”
•     Most teachers ignore gay comments; others respond
•     Some racist comments would indicate students of different ethnicity might feel unsafe
•     Rural areas are seen as less accepting towards people of non which ethnic groups; they have less exposure and a lack of understanding
•     New students seem left out in some schools
•     In certain halls, change rooms,  in parking lots, in smoking areas
•     At dances when students are drunk or stoned
•     Parental pressure about marks; trying to please parents
•     Students with disabilities; negative comments have been heard and some people laugh at them
•     Having an IEP can focus attention on a student
•     Going to the resource room can result in a person being called stupid or retard which impacts their reputation in a negative way
•     Lots of students wouldn’t have at least one caring adult in the building (more that 10 but less than 100)
•     Physical plant can be unsafe; falling ceiling tiles, loose doors, leaky roof
•     Being seen in a waiting room waiting for public health nurse
•     Response to bullying can depend on who the student is e.g. their role, past history, parental involvement, family demographics

3.      How does your school promote wellness?

Cafeterias vary from all healthy food, to a combination of healthy and unhealthy to just unhealthy
In cafeterias with a combination, often healthy food is more expensive and in more limited quantities
Students are aware of the importance of revenue generation and staff job security related to cafeteria operations
Revenue is being lost because of lack of options
Breakfast programs were seen as positive
Milk machines
Vegetarian options in some schools appreciated
In grade 9 students tend to “go nuts” with unhealthy choices but it tapers off
P.E. program; more than more mandatory credit is recommended
Grade 9 PE program needs to be more engaging
PE classes need some competition but could be less competitive
Ball sports are discouraging for some who would not take gym again
Personal fitness appraisals were seen as positive
Need to expand options for fitness e.g. aerobics, cycling, racquetball
Intramurals are great
Organized events at noon just for fun; not just competitive
People can go for a run and use the showers
Better chance of making school teams in small schools
Organized teams; practice times and cost can restrict involvement
Some students knew about “Stepping Out on the Bruce Trail” which influenced student attitudes about fitness; it was good to see staff involved.  It made them seem more approachable because they were doing something
Imbalance of boys and girls in senior PE classes often influences program e.g. floor hockey vs dance
Lots of interest in dance classes
Varying degrees of access to gym and weight room facilities; in some schools only once per week; in others quite open access
“Fit for Life” P.D. program is a great way for students to develop a personal plan but some leave the course because of the need to put forth a real effort
Co-ed gym classes in grade 12 with real world athletic connections promotes wellness
Differing views about how to address mental health issues; in some schools guidance was seen as a place to go.  Other schools suggested guidance was for academics and not personal issues.  Some students would go to another adult on staff.  Some felt a “social work” type position in schools would assist.  Others thought additional time for the health nurse.  The needs were clearly identified; no consensus on how this need could be address
There is a need for more individual counselling re depression, eating disorders, family crises
Mandatory counselling appointment for all students; often students need support but don’t take the initiative to make an appointment
Important role all staff (not just teachers) play in supporting students
Students don’t think teenagers are any more depressed now than they have ever been; when students are just sad which is part of the ups and downs of life, if gets categorized as depression
“Blue cards” with contact names for students
Health nurses are great but too busy
Peer mentors are a good source of support for students in crisis and seem aware of how to refer serious matters through guidance
Sexual health clinic seen as positive and students very comfortable with the person who comes to run that clinic
Some teachers really care but the issues that students face are outside their area of expertise e.g. 3 students were considering suicide because they felt they had no purpose in life
Resource teachers approachable and will sit and work on solutions with students
Open communication about switching deadlines/expectations depending on personal situations
Two dates given for assignments; provides flexibility
Smoking still a concern; people may do it to be accepted in a group
Anti-smoking message using pig’s lung doesn’t have the desired impact because students are desensitized
Actual case studies about the impact of negative health choices would be most effective e.g. “Death by Jib” was really powerful
OSAID, SAVE
        
4.      What ideas do you have to make all students feel valued at your school?

Teachers set up groups so that people don’t get left out if they choose their own groups
Blended classes permit people to associate with new people
Events that are welcoming for all e.g. Weststock
Different kinds of clubs that anyone could join e.g. Simpsons Watching Club, Best Cheese in Ottawa Club, Get 16 People and you have a club
Find something for students to be part of
Be flexible about how and when students can be involved
Don’t have structure limit who can help out
Clubs are basically music and sports; need more diversity
SPEAK addresses a lot of issues and involves a lot of people
Anti-bullying week was seen as positive
When no teacher says the academic stream is best
Structures make it difficult for some people e.g. time limits on exams and tests which cause stress
Trend to thrift stores will help all students feel valued
COOP pictures show a variety of careers
DL students could be more involved
“Women’s Class” was seen as a positive environment
Stars at front of school with everyone’s name
Wall of Fame
Assemblies where all kinds of accomplishments are recognized e.g. best title page in computer
Ensure not only athletics get a high profile in the school
Recognize Skills Canada more
Yearbook with everyone in it
Roles for DL students; they do their work with a smile, DL students aren’t teased
Vegetarian week
If every student could meet one person outside their social circle to develop a greater understanding of others it could help
Some teachers don’t like some kinds of kids
Teachers could become more involved; when involved teachers retire it is hard to find help or teacher supervisors
A perception that teachers come down harder on students who aren’t planning to attend college or university
Certain staff members tend to favour certain students based on involvement in a particular club which doesn’t value all students
Stop the favouritism that seems to exist towards people who participate
There is a perceived difference in how less academically able students are treated
Students who fit the “ideal image” of the student get treated better
Teachers who provide e-mail addresses and support outside of school contribute to students feeling valued and shows caring towards students
Need to accept differences with students which starts with administration
Talk to students who aren’t participating and try to find activities to suit some of them
“Skids” don’t feel valued; they are outsiders
Inclusive Schools Committee had an impact when it was operational
Leadership class plans to bring in a facilitator to deal with issues
LINK Crew has made grade 9 students feel more comfortable
Getting all senior students involved or more knowledgeable about LINK Crew would help respect between junior and senior students
Pride and Prejudice announcements
Grown up gay/lesbian people to tell coming out stories to gay/lesbian students, their friends and open minded people
Make sure all grade 9s see “Confronting Homophobia”
Invite people to talk about their culture e.g. Afghani people
Have drama club do a production about different cultures
If their opinion mattered
Place for people to write down ideas; student council mailbox
Accomplishments recognized e.g. framed art
Students like to be able to look around the school and say “I did that!”
Transportation to support before and after school involvement
Love credit recovery room; teachers are amazing to help
The use of Kurzwell and Dragon Dictate is seen as supportive
Giving choices about how to present your knowledge
Presenting the program in a way that addresses different learning styles
When classes just read a book, do questions and take it up…some students feel less valued because it doesn’t reflect their preferred style of learning
Rubrics and examples of student work assist students
Relating class work to student interest
Demonstrating the benefit of the trades

5.      How can parents get involved in your school?

“I wish they wouldn’t…rather they didn’t know”; “I hate when my parents get involved” “it can be embarrassing
School is a place to be on our own, to develop independence
Parents can’t hold your hand; we’re preparing to be on our own
They’re busy, no one takes the time
Don’t give them more information
If you’re doing well, parents elevate the expectations and then future issues are more of a problem
Could serve as extra curricular coaches e.g. sports night run by parent
Donate money to sports teams
It’s great when parents come to be in the audience for music, sports or drama events
Parents can be advocates for their children in academic and behaviour issues
If there was an issue, students are open to having their parents involved
Appreciation for teacher’s flexibility in accommodating parent schedules was shared
Most teachers try to keep in contact with parents
Some parents feel bullied by teachers
Can’t win with a teacher; administration always takes staff side
Parents need more information about signs of depression in their children; a parent hand out with key look fors was recommended
SCCs produced a variety of comments; many didn’t see the link to students.  “SCC very involved, do a good job but not connection with others or influencing beyond the group”  “SCC talks about ‘what could we do’…many hypothetical conversations.  “SCC is seen as a puppet to the Board, saying what the Board wants them to say.” “Many people are on it but students don’t know exactly what they do” “Some parents got fed up in elementary schools with the focus on fundraising”.  Not the same support from parents being on the SCC used to be a status position but not anymore
Class trips
Parent teacher interviews:  varying views about why parents go or not
Parents who most need to come to interviews don’t come
Some parents would rather talk with teachers than read a report card
Report cards seem a little too much sometime e.g. interim report is based on a short timeframe
Report cards are of great interest to parents
What teachers say is often more valued by the parent than what the student says; this is a source of frustration
Parents more interested in marks than work habits; pressure from parents about marks
Newsletters don’t get home
Parents could support with an off site prom
Parents could assist with tryouts to provide a neutral perspective
Parent volunteers
Parents should support anti-bullying
Radio show “Behind the Scenes” are article in local papers helps to keep parents informed
Unfortunately the community often hears about bad things kids do which doesn’t give a realistic view of a school
Food drives
Synervoice (Parents get irritated but it is a good way to inform them)
Flyers in report cards
Driving students

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

Civics/Career Studies; some aspects not presented at the right time i.e. would be more relevant in grade 12 than grade 10.
Resume in course useful in grade 10
Teachers who conduct their classes with “work place” expectations are respected and make students want to be good
Opportunities for correspondence or on-line courses
More hands on learning is seem as more engaging than learning from textbooks
Course options are impacted by staff changes
Some classes are taught by teachers without expertise in their area
Important to have teachers who have a passion for their subject area but more important to have teachers who have a passion for helping students learn
Easier to talk to a teacher who really cares about your learning
Gear programs towards student interest e.g. horticulture, agri-business
First Time/Full Time conference was a great program where students got needed certification
The power of drama programs to include students, authentically engage them in their learning and to shape attitudes was a recurring theme
Math needs more links to the real world
ISUs would be a better demonstration of understanding than exams which are limiting and stressful and often only measure memory
Extra help from teachers show teachers are really committed to the success of students
Guidance focus is more on college and university; apprenticeships and work pathways are more promoted through the technology department
Textbook images should depict diverse families and not just mom, dad, 2 kid stereotype
College level classes tend to have a more pessimistic atmosphere
Some U/M classes are segregated initially; the U students can give the M students a hard time; the quality of the relationship between the student and teacher can be impacted by where you’re headed
Some teachers make you feel stupid if you ask certain questions; sometimes you get a chuckle and a quick response that isn’t helpful
Appreciation for more use of media in school program
“High school defines you...it makes you who you are”










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