Mary Jane Shannon (MJS) is a school that is rich in its composition and cultural make up. As a staff and community, we embrace and highlight our individual differences and celebrate what we have in common. Our learners are kind, compassionate and come from a variety of experiences and backgrounds and from which we build a sense of community. Our students are accepting and understanding of their own and each other’s differences and unique strengths. As a school community, we recognize the common threads that bind us together.
“It’s relationships, not programs, that change children”
MJS plays host to numerous clubs, activities, and programs to try and meet the needs of the diverse community. We offer a variety of after school programs and along with the many student clubs and team sports, we work together to support our students to be successful and well-rounded at school and in the community. Furthermore, Mary Jane Shannon was the chosen site for L.E.A.P. (Language Acquisition and Enhancement Program) which teaches American Sign Language for deaf or hard of hearing students. This program started in 2020 and the program continues to grow every year!
In addition, MJS is host to The Nest, a room in which we have students from around the District who participate in the Social Development Program. As well, we have a Provincial Strong Start Program to develop school readiness in our pre-school aged toddlers and young children.
Everyone belongs at Mary Jane Shannon. Our students feel that the adults are supportive, open and welcoming. Our school is at the heart of the community. Students enjoy spending time at school, oftentimes beyond school hours, where they feel connected to each other and have a place where they can be themselves. Whether they are playing sports or participating in an after-school program, students love being at Mary Jane Shannon.
“My favourite thing about MJ Shannon is the people. Everyone is so nice and helpful.” - Grade 6 student
In the 2021-2022 school year, we underwent a school identity transformation and reimagined what was formerly the Mary Jane Shannon Strikers. One of our goals in this process is to create school-wide language to help with creating consistent and clear expectations among staff and students. Another intention is to develop a positive school identity while honouring and spotlighting our students’ strengths and individual identities. We worked closely with all stakeholders in the learning community, including parents, students and staff and engaged in a year-long process and have landed on the acronym SOAR (S: Supportive, O: Open-Minded, A: Amazing, R: Respectful) as our new school-wide motto. We also worked with an Indigenous artist, Deanna-Marie Point, who re-designed our new logo. We are now proudly, the Mary Jane Shannon Thunderbirds.
At a school-wide assembly on May 31st, 2022, we unveiled our new logo to the school community. The commissioned artist, Deanna-Marie Point and our School District Senior Aboriginal Support Worker, Paula James, were all present at the ceremony. Ms. James gifted a blanket to Ms. Point, on behalf of the school. Please read more about how the Thunderbirds took flight by visiting this Surrey Schools article here.
We are appreciative of our school community and those who supported us on this journey so far. Our hope is that through this school identity transformation, our learning community will deepen their sense of self and identity in a positive way.
Literacy fundamentals, such as learning how to make meaning from letters and words, is a life skill. Our students work diligently every day on having a growth mindset when it comes to achieving their reading goals. Our learners take pride in their work and Personal Awareness and Responsibility - a core competency embedded across all learning in the curriculum is at the core of supporting our students in developing their reading goals. Our learners set goals and are aware that learning takes time and patience. We incorporate social emotional learning fundamentals in our daily practice here at Mary Jane Shannon.
Our learners can engage in a variety of activities every day that revolve around developing social emotional skills.
This focus centres around learning about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), how it can be integrated into classrooms to help increase learning focus and personal awareness. Our students can use different tools and strategies to support SEL. This year, the students continue to implement different principles to encourage the positive development of personal awareness and responsibility. This year, our staff and students embarked on a collaborative journey to write school-wide norms together. Through the facilitation of our SEL Lead, the school community had an opportunity to create a list of norms so all staff, students and visitors know what to expect when it comes to each role and responsibility in shared spaces. Kindness and respect are the central values of all our school-wide norms.
Our learners respectfully participate in class meetings to practice social and emotional skills.
Class meetings offer teachers and students a forum for getting to know one another, discussing issues, identifying and solving problems and making decisions that affect classroom climate. Meetings are conducted in a circle, with a specific set of rules that govern the discussion. The teacher’s role is to create an environment in which the student’s learning, opinions and concerns are taken seriously. The student’s role is to participate as valued and influential contributors to the classroom community.
Our students engage in positive interactions where they can understand how their actions affect themselves and others.
Each class is buddied up with another class. Buddy activities are designed to build relationships in the school by pairing older and younger students for joint activities. It provides activities that help buddies get to know one another, explore academic content in Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health, Art, Music, and Physical Education, and reflect on their experiences.
School-wide building activities, such as video announcements, assemblies, sports and activities, emphasize inclusion and participation, cooperation, helping others, appreciating differences, and reflection. They link the students, parents, teachers, and other adults in the school; help foster new school traditions and promote helpfulness, inclusiveness and responsibility.
These components help students develop respect for each other and take ownership for their learning and behaviour. Read more about Surrey Schools' SEL focus here.
Check out this student-centred video on our Kindness challenge:
Our school has a staff-led Anti-racism Committee. Our staff and students work diligently and passionately to change the lens on how we view and practice equity in our learning community. The Anti-racism Committee is a standing agenda item on our staff meetings and every month, our teacher leads report out on upcoming cultural events or current offerings for professional development. There are also times when we’ve had important conversations around how we conduct our school spirit or themed days and whether they reflect social justice.
Instead of daily voice announcements over the school-wide speakers, we have once-a-week video announcements directed and produced by staff and a rotating list of leadership students. We host a Language Enhancement and Acquisition Program (L.E.A.P.) and wanted to engage the staff and students who are deaf or hard of hearing in a meaningful way. We have seen a big change in how our students are leading the announcements as they are highly involved and the messages centre around them. Below is a sample of one of our weekly video announcements.
Literacy has been identified as an area to spotlight for student growth. Reading underlies all learning and the skills needed for reading: phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and comprehension, are fundamental for students’ language development. Our focus this year was broadened to include primary cohorts, an intermediate class and students who receive targeted literacy support in smaller groups.
We have identified literacy, particularly reading, as one of our school goals. We set out to work on the following reading goals:
Read fluently at grade level
Exchanging ideas and perspectives to build shared understandings
Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources to build understanding
Teachers work together in grade groups to gather formal and informal information regarding their students' reading levels. Our aim is for students to expand and stretch their thinking around Social Emotional Learning through our reading goals. Our goal is for students to use words to identify their emotions, use a strategy or tool to help regulate their emotions.
Ultimately, our learners will engage actively as listeners, viewers, and readers, as appropriate, to develop understanding of self, identity, and community. We hope our students will be inspired and develop a life-long love for reading.
Goal #1: Read fluently at grade level
Overall, our primary (Kindergarten - Grade 3) students demonstrated growth in relation to the goal of reading at grade level. Using strategies such as sound and letter recognition activities, levelled reader books, sight word recognition and using reading, listening and viewing strategies to make meaning have had a positive impact on student reading growth.
Growth in students’ sight word recognition and reading comprehension was demonstrated in our January to April results:
Teachers use the same rubric in January and then again in April to show growth in student reading comprehension. Students are able to understand simple vocabulary, basic texts, and make connections to text. Below is a sample rubric. Yellow indicates January assessment marker and orange is the April assessment:
Our students use a variety of reading strategies such as engaging in class discussions, ask questions to make connections and recall important parts of a story in their own words. Students are encouraged to stop and talk about what is happening in their reading materials during small group discussions. Our students have gained confidence in their reading skills and showing more enthusiasm and earnest for reading times. Students are more ready to take risks when starting a reading passage by attempting to sound out words and take what they know to blend sounds together.
Goal #2: Exchanging ideas and perspectives to build shared understandings
Our primary cohort engaged in activities around visual literacy by using perspective photos as a prompt for discussion and to encourage language acquisition. Students worked with partners to share ideas and opinions to gain deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives. Pictures are powerful tools as each learner can begin a discussion at their own starting point. See the video for the highlights in this goal area.
Students showcased their learning through discussions with peers and by capturing their progress through pictures, videos and anecdotal notes, they each moved forward in their thinking around literacy. Students were encouraged to ask relevant questions to find out and clarify others’ views and to share opinions supported by reasons.
Goal #3: Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources to build understanding
Our intermediate class used multiple modalities, including written text, videos, images, and guest speakers to develop an understanding of a historical community in Vancouver’s Eastside. Through conferencing, journal writing, conversations and image inferencing, students gained confidence in sharing their knowledge shared openly their opinions.
Student voice and learning journey is highlighted in the video below:
Based on evidence of our learning goals, our next steps will include:
expanding our existing goals and have reading assessments to better gauge our students’ reading levels and measured progress. Reading comprehension is a focus that will be on-going and students continue to require support in this skillset. It will remain a priority area for our learners. The identification of where students are at is an important marker for our classroom teachers and it will help guide their next steps for reading instruction. Classroom teachers are then also better equipped to directly support their students through differentiating their instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Our hope is that students will continue to share and communicate ideas with others in meaningful ways that are also culturally relevant.
continue creating a safe and inclusive environment for all our students. Our focus will be to develop a strong school-wide social emotional education program. In the classrooms, teachers will be implementing opening and closing circle activities and making them meaningful to all the students. As a staff we will continue to meet regularly, collaborate and share our ideas and experiences.
dig deeper and continue to explore direct teaching strategies and be intentional with what strategies we are targeting. We will continue to develop the goals of explaining the role of language in personal, social and cultural identity and using personal experience and knowledge to connect to text and develop understanding of self, community and world.
Our goal for our students is to see them advocating for their needs throughout the school community and continue to S.O.A.R. through our literacy and social emotional goals. Our hope is that our students will develop a sense of safety and care that will last well beyond their time at Mary Jane Shannon.