Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Forsyth Road Elementary is a K-7 school in the Whalley neighborhood of Surrey, B.C. It was built in 2000 and currently has 300 students, representing 206 different cultural languages. We have a strong Aboriginal population of 36 learners, 37 Special Education students and 150 English Language Learners. This rich diversity adds to the strength of our school. Many of our students and families have been at our school since Kindergarten, while 27% of our students and families move in and out of the school throughout the year. We are able to provide breakfast for up to 50 of our families daily, which we know is a valuable and important start to their day. We also have 110 of our students on our school lunch program. Approximately, 30% of our students participate in no-cost after school extracurricular programming, such as Art, Cooking, Science, Jumpstart Academy and Sarah McLachlan School of Music. Attendance Matters is a program at Forsyth Road that supports student attendance by monitoring student absences and welcoming the students and families into our building each day. We also host a Strong Start program to assist our families in supporting their transition to school for our early learners. Our students come from varied social and economic backgrounds. We embrace the diversity in our school and work to get to know individual students for who they are. As a school community, we acknowledge our differences while at the same time recognize the common threads that bind us together.
As a staff, we explored the District’s Learning by Design themes, with particular focus on the four district priorities: Quality Assessment, Curriculum Design, Instructional Strategies and Social Emotional Learning. Although all of these areas are a key focus daily in the classroom, as a school, we have a variety of inquiries based on the needs of students.
In 2014/15, the school had 3 different inquiry focuses: Numeracy, Social Emotional Learning and Technology. Over time, it was determined that technology is such an integrated part of our world that our students live in that we no longer viewed technology as an inquiry focus but simply an embedded part of our daily learning tools. We will continue to help students to become digital citizens, to be safe in a digital world and to understand how and when technology can support learning and communication. This will be an ongoing foundation within our school.
In 2015/16, Social Emotional Learning and Numeracy were the main goals that were focused on as a school. Throughout the year, staff learned about various programs, such as WITS, Zones of Regulation and Mind Up, which were implemented school wide. We completed the third year of the Numeracy Project and as a school, decided to focus on Social Emotional Learning for the 2016/17 school year as it was evident that if students were unable to self-regulate, it is difficult from students to feel safe and learn.
In 2016/17 all staff worked in small groups, based on grade level and student need, to identify student strengths and areas to work on in the area of Social Emotional Learning. Our Mission is “to provide a safe and respectful environment which fosters the development of a community of lifelong learners”.
For the 2017/18 school year, we are continuing to explore and learn more about our school, our students and ourselves in the area of Social Emotional Learning. We know if we can help students develop the ability to identify and regulate emotion, we can help them develop into responsible citizens, inside our school community and within our larger shared world.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
Linking closely to our work in Social Emotional Learning is the Personal and Social Core Competency. This is the set of abilities that relate students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society. Personal and social competency encompasses the abilities students need to thrive as individuals, to understand and care about themselves and others, and to find and achieve their purposes in the world. Specifically linked to our work in SEL is Personal Awareness and Responsibility. The includes the skills, strategies and dispositions that help students to stay healthy and active, set goals, monitor progress, regulate emotions, respect their rights and rights of others, manage stress and persevere in difficult situations.
A variety of sources inform our school plan. By consulting and collaborating with the multitude of staff and stakeholders that serve our school community, we have developed anecdotal observations of our students to identify their strengths and needs of the different classrooms and grade groups across the school.
The following characteristic were identified as strengths based on the staff observations:
- Curious, hands on, enthusiastic, playful, keen, engaged, hyper, elated
- Can identify different feelings, willing to talk about their feelings, love to play and be physically active, play well together, feel comfortable to speak with safe adult, enjoy interacting with others, resilient and authentic in displaying their emotions, appreciate one-on-one interactions with adults
Areas identified as needing extra support:
- Self-Regulation (Coping skills/Literacy)
- Ability to recognize what “zone” they are in and then to choose effective strategies to use without adult guidance. Ability to identify the size of a problem and the appropriate reaction to the problem.
- Responding to challenges outside of the school environment that negatively impact focus at school, finding ways to deal with pressure and stressors due to responsibilities at home.
- Poor self-concept in terms of academic ability.
The following programs and supports are utilized at Forsyth Road, particularly with some of our most vulnerable students:
Full Time Childcare Worker, Aboriginal Enhancement Worker, Counsellor, Expressive Arts Therapist, Girls and Boys Groups, Community Schools Programming, Attendance Matters Support.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
At Forsyth Road Elementary we are committed to learning more about teaching Social Emotional Learning. Our questions at this time are:
How can I help these children learn how to self-regulate?
What strategies/programs can I use to teach self-regulation?
What can I do as a teacher to motivate, scaffold and encourage students to be engaged in learning and take ownership of their learning by showing best effort?
As teachers work with students and classes on specific and intentional teaching of SEL strategies these questions will likely shift and change, becoming more specific over time.
4. What professional learning do we need?
The staff at Forsyth Road have a strong focus on addressing the social emotional needs of our students. We have been utilizing a variety of programs such as Zones of Regulation, MindUp, and WITS. These programs have allowed both staff and students to develop an understanding of different emotional states and the coping strategies that help us in each of these “states”. We believe that through developing an awareness of ones’ self and working on a positive mindset towards learning, our students will demonstrate increased success in their learning journeys. As a staff, we continue to learn and explore about the best ways to meet the social emotional needs of all of our students. Through staff meetings, collaboration, school wide assemblies and District SEL support, we will continue to focus on strengthening our SEL toolset.
- WITS Training (new staff have not had learning opportunity at this time)
- Social Emotional Learning District Focus Group: 3 staff are currently attending and reporting back on SEL learning tools and strategies.
- Zones of Regulation (school-wide)
- Focus on Core Competencies, including Personal and Social Competency
- MindUp: (classroom specific)
The staff at Forsyth Road continues to grow and change, so we strive to provide on-going learning opportunities around Social Emotional Learning, specifically on how to help students self-identify and self-select strategies to regulate themselves.