We believe that a sense of belonging is central to a student’s ability to learn. We also believe that the well-being of our staff, all who serve students, is a critical part of Learning by Design. The district has begun to collect important qualitative and quantitative data to determine how we can improve well-being for both students and staff. Our strategic plan includes the following steps regarding student and teacher well-being.
Bringing community and mental health supports to learning centres
The district’s Learning Centres provide students with access to counseling, career facilitation, and youth care worker support. As part of our redesign of the Learning Centres, the district wants to expand the range of mental health supports available to students through their schools, including increased on-site supports. Social and emotional learning is a critical focus to ensure that all students are empowered to achieve their full potential. For many students who face challenges in accessing community supports, the district wants to bridge these gaps through directly connecting students with resources they need and actively promoting their continued use.
Emphasizing social and emotional learning
Social and Emotional Learning is the process through which people acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; set and achieve goals; demonstrate empathy for other; establish and maintain positive relationships; and make effective decisions. All of this involves self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. For many students, SEL involves gaining access to emotional and social supports beyond the classroom, according to their personal needs. It also involves opportunities for students to express themselves, to learn in the ways that are relevant to their families and communities, and use their creative and intellectual gifts. Surrey is engaging with teachers through professional development and through group inquiries to develop strategies for integrating SEL into the wider curriculum.
Developing teacher well-being frameworks
Surrey is in the early stages of developing a framework for studying teacher well-being. When teacher well-being is made a priority, it creates a supportive working environment, builds teacher resilience, and encourage innovated practice. Teacher well-being and motivation are linked to effectiveness of instruction, resiliency, and student achievement. When teachers are cared for, the district as a whole succeeds in its mission, and Learning by Design is successful. Surrey is working to identify the needs and vulnerabilities of teachers at different career stages so that we can target resources to areas of need to reduce these vulnerabilities, prevent burnout, and ensure that our teachers are cared for and encouraged in their mission to help students achieve. Our teachers work tirelessly for our students, and Surrey is committed to supporting them in their work.
Adapting wellness programming to COVID-19 and beyond
In addition to the district’s ongoing efforts to improve student and employee well-being, Surrey Schools conducted staff surveys in April and June 2020 to understand how staff are doing during the pandemic. Teachers, support workers, principals and vice principals, and exempt staff across the district reported that maintaining connections with students and colleagues through virtual meetings and learning new ways to engage with students virtually were opportunities. Employees also face a number of challenges in adapting to the new work and learning environments. District staff reported that caring for their own families and supporting their own children’s learning and emotional well-being was a significant challenge. These insights and more help the district evaluate its wellness programming and communications as well as the district’s work adapting to the pandemic overall, such as increased supports for blended learning initiatives.