hero_all.jpg

students in gymnasium mimicking teacher who has her hands in the air
Photos by Christine Cousins
Feature

The Hero in Us All

Barbara Cogan
Tags: 

How do you celebrate an inclusive, diverse, welcoming school community whose students love to perform? How do you share the message that respect and caring, helpfulness and heroes are part of our school culture? How do you recognize the growth and learning that you see in your school’s ongoing Pink School initiative? Our answer was to create “Planet Pink” – a choreographed, school-wide video – and wait for it to take off!

When the climate committee at our Peel elementary school sat down to look at the “Your Voice Counts” survey data collected over three years, we were surprised. In a school rich with extra-curricular sports, clubs and activities approximately 25 percent of students indicated they still felt they lacked a voice, they were concerned about bullying and they didn’t feel safe.

Our response was to find a way to personalize the board’s goals within our learning community. Our school has approximately 555 students, enrolled in kindergarten through Grade 5, and includes ELL, ASD and special education students. Families from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds live within the setting of a local heritage district and span a wide socio-economic range.

Over time, we worked to create a culture that was meaningful, authentic, intentional and transparent, and that preserved our strong traditions.

Building a Positive Climate in Our Schools

Initially, the climate committee started with a few simple changes. Rather than once a year, monthly Pink Days were designated for the second Wednesday of every month and a Pink Pledge was recited and posted in every classroom. The students worked with a board media expert to create a video of the pledge that was shown at assemblies.

As our work began to grow deeper, we wanted to extend the focus from bullying to inclusion and acceptance. Classes began to meet monthly with their Pink Day Buddies partner class. Different grade level classes were paired to work on activities that promote inclusion, while at the same time, building capacity for staff as teachers worked collaboratively on ideas for their shared lessons.

Hero Programs

After a year, the climate committee was ready to move to the next phase. A year-long Hero program was developed under the leadership of Vice-Principal Paul Anderson to introduce and reinforce the Peel board’s six stated attributes of character – caring, respectful, responsible, honest, cooperative and inclusive. Each character trait had an influential young person, or hero, attached to it to provide a relevant and inspiring role model, e.g., Terry Fox, Shannen Koostachin, Craig Kielburger. Students learned about each of these character traits, one at a time, through a chosen hero at each of the six student-led character attribute assemblies.

Pages

RELATED STORIES

Cover for Teachers: Pillars of Democracy: World Teachers

Each new school year brings with it the excitement of fresh faces in the classroom, smiles and laughter, and the shared energy of learning

Students sitting at large desks in classroom

The point of talking about privilege is not to make people feel bad, or guilty; it is that recognizing privilege is the only hope we have of breaking down the system to make it fairer for everyone.